The Wingfold Trilogy/The Curate of Glaston
There are times when read a book, set it down when you're done, and forget after a while what the story was even about, but the underlying message of the book remains with you forever.
This was the case with The Curate's Awakening; indeed, with the whole Thomas Wingfold trilogy. After I read it, I remembered the basics of the story, but what remained foremost in my mind was the spiritual theme. It is the story of a curate whose world is shaken by an atheist's question, regarding his preaching: "Tell me, do you really believe one word of all that?" The curate, Thomas Wingfold, comes to realize that he doesn't even know what he believes; he only claims to believe what has always been taught him. This question plunges him into the study to know, "Is Christianity true? Was there really such a man as Jesus Christ? What does he require of his followers?" Through the help of a wise little dwarf named Polwarth, Wingfold digs into the Word of God to find the answers and finds what is it to know God-- to believe Him and obey. He challenges his congregation to do the same, to ask themselves: "Do I obey His word? Have I ever, have I once, sought to obey it? Am I a pupil of Jesus? Am I a Christian?"
The following two books in the series develop this topic through a wide variety of lives such as Thomas Wingfold the curate, Polwarth the dwarf, Leopold Lingard the murderer, Paul Faber the surgeon, Richard Tuke the bookbinder, and others. In the events of their lives, they find themselves asking some of the most crucial questions in life: Is there a God? If there is, how are we to find Him? How can we share with those who doubt it? If we say we know God, does our life show it? Is our Christianity real? How does God relate to us? Does He care when our hearts ache? Can He forgive even the most heinous sins? Can any person, however benelovent and good, earn God's favor by his own works? Is God still good even when innocent people suffer? This trilogy looks seriously at these questions and answers them with the Bible as its guide. It has challenged me to think about these things and to look into God's Word to see what our Source and Creator has to say about them. It has encouraged me to look at my own life and evaluate whether I am living out my Christianity and obeying what God has commanded me in His Word.
These books contain more plot than what I have just related, but this is the thread throughout which has stayed with me, making it one of my favorite series of books.
"My dear sir, no conviction can be got-- or if it could be got, would be of any lasting value-- through that dealer in secondhand goods, the intellect. If by it we could prove there is a God, it would be of small avail indeed. We must see Him and know Him. And I know of no other way of knowing that there is a God but that which reveals what He is-- and that way is Jesus Christ as He revealed Himself on earth, and as He is revealed afresh to every heart that seeks to know the truth about Him. . . . Your business is to acquaint yourself with the man Jesus; He will be the one to reveal the Father. Take your New Testament as if you had never seen it before, and read to find out. The point is, there was a man who said He knew God and that if you would give heed to Him, you should know Him too."
~Joseph Polwarth in The Curate's Awakening, page 60