I was not allowed to remain a single day longer in that Church without positively and publicly giving up the Gospel of Christ! It was evident to me that the Gospel was only a blind, a mockery to conceal her iniquities, tyrannies, superstitions, and idolatries. The only use of the Gospel in my Church was to throw dust in the eyes of the priests and people! It had no authority. The only rule and guide was the will, the passions, and the dictates of sinful men!
There on my knees alone with God I knew that the voice which had so often troubled and shaken my faith was the voice of my merciful God. It was the voice of my dead Savior who was bringing me out of the ways of perdition in which I had been walking. And I had tried so often to silence that voice!
"My God! my God!" I cried, "The Church of Rome is not Thy church. To obey the voice of my conscience, which is Thine, I gave it up. When I had the choice, I could not give up Thy Holy Word. I have given up Rome! But, oh Lord, where is Thy Church? Oh! speak!! where must I go to be saved?"
For more than one hour I cried to God in vain; no answer came. To add to that distress, the thought flashed across my mind that by giving up the Church of Rome, I had given up the Church of my dear father and mother, of my brother, my friends, and my country -- in fact, all that was near and dear to me! I did not regret the sacrifice, but I felt as if I could not survive it. With tears, I cried to God for more strength and faith but all in vain.
Then I felt that an implacable war was to be declared against me. The pope, the bishops, and priests would attack and destroy my character, my name and my honor, in their press, from their pulpit, and in their confessionals. I tried to think of someone who would come to my help. Every one of the millions of Roman Catholics were bound to curse me. My best friends -- my own people -- even my own brothers were bound to look upon me with horror as an apostate, a vile outcast! Could I hope for help or protection from Protestants? No! for my priestly life had been spent in writing and preaching against them.
How could I go again into that world where there was no room for me. Life suddenly became to me an unbearable burden. Instant death seemed to me the greatest blessing in that awful hour! I took my knife to cut my throat. But my merciful God, who wanted only to show me my own helplessness, stopped my hand and the knife fell to the floor.
At first, I thought that death would be a great relief, but then, I said to myself, "If I die, where will I go? Oh, my dear Saviour, " I cried, "come to my help!"
In that very instant I remembered that I had my dear New Testament with me. With a trembling hand and a praying heart I opened the book at random -- but, no! not I, my God Himself opened it for me. My eyes fell on these words: "YE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE. BE NOT YE THE SERVANTS OF MEN." (I Cor. 7:23)
Those words came to my mind, more as light than articulated sound. They suddenly gave me the knowledge of the great mystery of a perfect salvation through Christ alone. They at once brought a great and delightful calm to my soul. I said to myself: "Jesus has bought me," I said again to myself; "then He has saved me! and if so, I am saved, perfectly saved, forever saved! Jesus is my God; the works of God are perfect. My salvation must, then, be a perfect salvation. But how has He saved me? What price has He paid for my poor guilty soul?"
The answer came as quickly as lightning: "He bought you with His blood shed on the cross! He saved you by dying on Calvary!"
I then said to myself again: "If Jesus has perfectly saved me by shedding His blood on the cross, I am not saved, as I have thought and preached till now, by my penances, my prayers to Mary and the saints, my confessions and indulgences, not even by the flames of purgatory!"
In that instant, all things which, as a Roman Catholic, I had to believe to be saved -- the chaplets, indulgences, scapularies, auricular confession, invocation of the Virgin, holy water, masses, purgatory, etc., vanished from my mind like a huge tower, when struck at the foundation, and crumbles to the ground. Jesus alone remained in my mid as the Savior of my soul!
Oh! what a joy I felt at this simple, but sublime truth! But it was the will of God that his joy should be short. It suddenly went away with the beautiful light which had caused it and my poor soul was again wrapped in the most awful darkness. However profound that darkness was, a still darker object presented itself before my mind. It was as a very high mountain, but not composed of sand or stones, it was the mountain of my sins. I saw them all standing before me. Then in horror I saw it moving towards me as if, with a mighty hand, to crush me. I tried to escape, but in vain. I felt crushed under its weight, as heavy as granite. I could scarcely breathe! My only hope was to cry to God for help.
With a loud voice, heard by many in the hotel, I cried: "O my God! have mercy upon me! My sins are destroying me! I am lost, save me!" But it seemed God could not hear me. The mountain prevented my cries from reaching Him, and hid my tears. I suddenly thought that God would have nothing to do with such a sinner, but to open the gates of hell to throw me into that burning furnace prepared for his enemies which I had so richly deserved!
I was mistaken. After eight or ten minutes of unspeakable agony, the rays of a new and beautiful light began to pierce through the dark cloud which hung over me. In that light, I clearly saw my Saviour, bent under the weight of His heavy cross. His face was covered with blood, the crown of thorns was on His head, and the nails in His hands. He was looking to me with an expression of compassion, of love, which no tongue can describe. Coming to me, He said: "I have heard thy cries, I have seen thy tears, I have given Myself for thee. My blood and My bruised body have paid thy debts; wilt thou give Me thy heart? Wilt thou take My Word for the only lamp of thy feet, and the only light of thy path? I bring thee eternal life as a gift."
I answered: "Dear Jesus, how sweet are Thy words to my soul! Speak, oh! speak again! Yes, beloved Saviour, I want to love Thee; but dost Thou not see that mountain which is crushing me? Oh! remove it! Take away my sins!"
I had not done speaking when His mighty hand touched the mountain, and it rolled into the deep and disappeared. At the same time I felt as if a shower of the blood of the Lamb were falling upon me to purify my soul. And suddenly, my humble room was transformed into a real paradise. The angels of God could not be more happy than I was in that most mysterious and blessed hour of my life.
With an unspeakable joy, I said to my Saviour: "Dear Jesus, the gift of God! Thou hast brought me the pardon of my sins as a gift. Thou hast brought me eternal life as a gift! Thou hast redeemed and saved me, beloved Saviour; I know, I feel it. But this is not enough. I do not want to be saved alone. Save my people also. Save my whole country! I feel rich and happy in that gift; grant me to show its beauty and preciousness to my people that they may rejoice in its possession."
This sudden revelation of salvation as a gift had so completely transformed me that I felt quite a new man. The unutterable distress of my soul had been changed into an unspeakable joy. My fears were replaced by a courage and a strength such as I had never experienced. The popes with their bishops and priests and millions of abject slaves might now attack me. I felt that I was a match for them all.
Other excerpts from 50 Years in the Church of Rome: