William Wirt and the Blind Preacher – Archibald Alexander

The power of religion, in promoting happiness in this life and in disarming death of its terror, has seldom been more beautifully illustrated than in the example of William Wirt, Attorney General of the United States. When a young man, just commencing his professional career, he was distinguished for his genius, his eloquence, his fascinating powers of conversation, and his polished manners. In every circle his society was courted. Fond of pleasure, and the center of attraction of every convivial(1) party, he was living for the joys of this short life, and was in great danger of being ingulfed in that vortex of worldliness and fashion where so many thousands have perished.

While thus living, as he was on one of his professional circuits as a lawyer, he passed a Sabbath where the celebrated blind preacher of Virginia, Rev. James Waddell, was to preach. Mr. Wirt having no other way to pass the Sabbath, entered the humble church with the congregation. He has himself described, in his own forcible language, the scene which ensued. The primitive simplicity of the preacher, the subdued pathos (2) of his tones, his unaffected (3) piety and fervid eloquence, all combined, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, to touch the heart of Wirt. He felt the emptiness of his own joys, and the unprofitableness of his own life. He reflected and wept and prayed. “God be merciful to me a sinner”, which became, for many days and nights, the anxious supplication of his soul. Forsaking his thoughtless companions and his dangerous habits of gayety, he commenced a new life of Christian usefulness. True peace visited his heart, and his benignant (4)countenance proclaimed that he had sought happiness and found it, where alone happiness can be found. He became the advocate of Christian missions, and to every object of philanthropy he consecrated the energies of his noble mind.

Though necessarily called to move in the highest circles of opulence and intellect, and to encounter the temptations with which those circles are ever filled, he humbly, yet fearlessly sustained his character as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and gave his commanding influence, unreservedly and constantly, for the promotion of piety. Revered by the community, and loved almost to devotion by a wide circle of friends, he spent his days in doing good. And when the dying hour came, hope and joy beamed from his eye, brilliant with almost celestial vision, as the glories of his heavenly home were unfolded to his view. His body has long ago mingled with the dust, and his spirit has long dwelt, we trust, with the God who gave it.

Such are the effects of religion. Infidelity can show no such triumphs. Who will not utter the prayer, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his?”

(1) friendly, lively, and enjoyable

(2) evoking pity or sadness

(3) without artificiality or insincerity

(4)kindly and benevolent


The story you just read is the true account of how God brought William Wirt to the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, published in a collection of articles by Presbyterian theologian and Princeton Seminary professor Archibald Alexander (April 1772 – October 1851). The blind preacher, Rev. James Waddel was the first Presbyterian Minister in the Northern neck of Virginia. He was known as the “blind preacher Waddell” because he had periods of blindness.

Footnotes notwithstanding, it’s a wonderful account of one man’s salvation. We are told of Mr. Wirt’s character and life situation leading up to a Sunday when he “happened” to walk into a church and listen to a renowned and talented preacher. While he was attracted to the preaching (he was a lawyer), the Holy Spirit opened his heart to hear and receive the gospel message (the Lydia principle in Acts 16?). He was shaken to the core with the realization of his own sinfulness and prayed the simplest of prayers, “God be merciful to me a sinner”. He found a true peace and happiness he had never before known. As a result, his entire life was changed forever!

Dear reader, what’s your story? How did god save you? What happened on your way to the cross?


Peace in Our Time?

Peace in Our Time?

Yes, it’s possible, but maybe not the way you might be thinking.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”.    (Isa 26:3, NKJV)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NKJV)

Here we have two familiar passages talking about peace, taken from two different contexts, yet pointing to the identical source of genuine and lasting peace for our hearts and minds, regardless of our circumstances.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”.    (Isa 26:3, NKJV)

We are prompted to ask two questions;

  • What is ‘perfect peace’?
  • ·What is meant by a mind ‘stayed’ on God?

One Commentary offers this explanation:

“‘Peace, peace;’ the repetition of the word denoting, as is usual in Hebrew, emphasis, and here evidently meaning undisturbed, perfect peace. That is, the mind that has confidence in God shall not be agitated by the trials to which it shall be subject; by persecution, poverty, sickness, want, or bereavement. The inhabitants of Judea had been borne to a far distant land. They had been subjected to reproaches and to scorn (Psa 137:1-9); had been stripped of their property and honor; and had been reduced to the condition of prisoners and captives. Yet their confidence in God had not been shaken. They still trusted in him; still believed that he could and would deliver them. Their mind was, therefore, kept in entire peace.”[i]

Our second passage comes from the Apostle Paul’s final exhortation and encouragement to the church in Philippi. Paul tells believers in Philippi not to be anxious about things in this life, but instead present their concerns to God, who promises a peace that is beyond human understanding.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NKJV)

It is a peace beyond human understanding because it’s a peace that God presents to human minds and hearts. Again, one commentary offers us the following:

“The peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order. The Christian, committing his way to God, and feeling that he will order all things aright, has a peace which is nowhere else known. No confidence that a man can have in his own powers; no reliance which he can repose on his own plans or on the promises or fidelity of his fellow-men, and no calculations which he can make on the course of events, can impart such peace to the soul as simple confidence in God.”[ii]

So What? How does that apply to us? Those passages were from other times and in other places. We are here and now.

The title of this article asked if there can be peace in our time and was immediately answered with a resounding “Yes”, and here’s why.

The peace promised in both our Old Testament and New Testament passages is God’s peace, not something we can somehow develop in and of ourselves. God’s peace transcends time and space. God’s children can know ‘perfect peace’ no matter what their earthly circumstances. It’s a peace far beyond human comprehension; complete calm in the storms of life.

It’s not a temporal peace, but peace in our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Do you remember the story of Jesus taking a nap while the sea was raging? (See Mark 4:35-40). It’s that kind of peace!

How do we obtain such peace? Our passages tell us:

First, we can keep our minds ‘stayed’ on God. While there are different translations of that term, we can think of it in terms of ‘worldview’. That’s a term we do understand. We can maintain a biblical worldview, which is another way of saying that we allow God, through His book and by His Spirit living in us, inform and support how we view everything in our lives.

Secondly, instead of worrying and being anxious about the things of this world (and there is plenty to be anxious about) we can present all of our problems, cares and concerns to God, through his Son and our savior Jesus Christ.

During his last meal with his disciples, after promising the coming of the Holy Spirit and shortly before the walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus spoke these words to his closest followers:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Can there be peace in our time?


[i] Albert Barnes

[ii] ibid