When the famous seventeenth century French scientist Blaise Pascal died in 1662 his servant found a small piece of parchment sewn into his coat. At the top of the paper Pascal had drawn a cross. Underneath the cross were these words.
In the year of the Lord 1654
Monday, November 23
From about half-past ten in the evening
until half-past twelve.
God of Abraham, God if Isaac, God of Jacob
Not of philosophers nor of the scholars.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy, Peace.
God of Jesus Christ,
My God and thy God.
“Thy God shall be my God.”
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is to be found only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the soul of man.
“Righteous Father, the world hath not know thee,
but I have know thee.”
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have fallen away: I have fled from Him,
denied Him, crucified him.
May I not fall away forever.
We keep hold of him only by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on earth.
I will not forget Thy word. Amen.
That was Pascal’s record of an intense two hour religious experience that he kept secret until his death. It was an experience of God that gripped his soul and changed the course of his life. He stored his record of it in the lining of his coat, close to his heart. For eight years he took care to sew and unsew it every time he changed his coat. It was a treasured experience, something he could return to again and again.
Similarly, we can take those experiences of God that we have – transforming moments – and hang onto them as gifts from God to energise and motivate our faith.
Adapted from RC Sproul Doubt and Assurance (Baker Books, 1993) and Charles Kummel, The Galileo Connection (IVP, 1986)