When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: yet I wasalready, in so many ways, the man I would become. I think back on how cold Iwas, even then. It is hard to recall, now that I burn with this dry, feverishfire, but cold I certainly was. There was ice built around my heart, years ofit. How could it have been otherwise? The manse at Ochtermill saw to that.
I have walked and run through this world pretendingemotions rather than feeling them. Oh, I could feel pain, physical pain, but Ihad to imagine joy, sorrow, anger. As for love, I didn't know what it meant.But I learned early to keep myself well disguised. To the world at large I wasjust Gideon Mack, a dutiful wee boy growing in the shadow of his father and ofthe Kirk.
As that wee boy I was taught that, solitarythough I might be, I was never alone. Always there was one who walked besideme. I could not see him, but he was there, constant at my side. I wanted toknow him, to love and be loved by him, but he did not reveal himself. Hefrightened me. I had neither the courage to reject him nor the capacity toembrace him.
This is the hard lesson of my life: love is notin us from the beginning, like an instinct; love is no more original to humanbeings than sin. Like sin, it has to be learned.
Then I put away childish things, and for years Ithought I saw with the clarity of reason. I did not believe in anything I couldnot see. I mocked at shadows and sprites. That constant companion was not thereat all: I did not believe in him, and he did not reveal himself to me. Yet,through circumstances and through choice, I was to become his servant, aminister of religion. How ironic this is, and yet how natural, as if the pathwere laid out for me from birth, and though I wandered a little from it,distracted or deluded here and there, yet I was always bound to return to itagain.
And all the while this fire was burning deepinside me. I kept it battened down, the door of the furnace tightly shut,because that seemed necessary in order to through life. I never savoured lifefor what it was: I only wanted to get to the next stage of it. I wish now I'dtaken a little more time, but it is too late for such regrets. I was like thechild in the cinema whose chief anticipation lies not in the film but inwondering what he will do after it is over; I was the reader who hurriesthrough a 500page novel not to see what will happen but simply to get to theend. And now, despite everything, I am there, and for this I must thank thatother companion, in whom also I did not believe, but who has shown me a waythrough the shadows and beyond the shadows.
I have not preached for weeks, yet I am full oftexts. If I am a prophet then I have yet to be heard. If I am Jonah, then thefish has vomited me out but nobody believes where I have been: nobody exceptthe one who saved me from the belly of hell. Who am I? I am Gideon Mack,timeserver, charlatan, hypocrite, God's groveling, apologist; the man who sawthe Stone, the man that was drowned and that the waters gave back, the madminister who met with the Devil and lived to tell the tale. And hence my thirdnonScriptural text, for what is religion if not a kind of madness, and what ismadness without a touch of religion? And yet there is peace and sanctuary inreligion too—it is the asylum to which all poor crazed sinners may comeat last, the door which will always open to us if we can find the courage toknock.
Few suspected it, but all my life was a lie fromthe age of nine (when, through deceit, I almost succeeded in killing myfather); all my words were spoken with the tongue of a serpent, and what love Igave or felt came from a dissembling heart. Then I saw the Stone, and nothingwas the same again. This is my testimony. Read it and believe it, or believe itnot. You may judge me a liar, a cheat, a madman, I do not care. I am beyondquestions of probity or sanity now. I am at the gates of the realm ofknowledge, and one day soon I will pass through them.