As I look back upon my life it is with great pleasure that I think about the good fortune I had being acquainted with one Sherlock Holmes. Not only because he was probably the greatest detective who ever lived but because he was among my dearest of friends. Life was never boring. We worked together on many cases and shared many adventures. Many of which you no doubt might be very familiar with, as I have taken up the task of writing up the more interesting of these paying attention to those that challenged Holmes great analytical skills and power of observation. However as I sit back and reflect I can’t help but recount some of the conversations and visitors we had in our apartment on Baker Street that did not make it into these various accounts.
One of the more interesting visits came early in our friendship when we had just met and started sharing an apartment. Our guest on that day was none other than Charles Spurgeon. Yes, the Charles Spurgeon, the very popular preacher at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, a large church in South London near the river Thames. It was approximately 10 km from our flat on Baker Street.
Do you find it surprising that Sherlock would entertain the Prince of Preachers. While not the most active of church-goers, Holmes was no stranger to God. Remember the account about the Blue Carbuncle when he sought to help Mr. Ryder remarking that he likely “saved his soul” by letting him go rather then letting him rot in prison. Or that episode with the Naval Treaty involving Percy Phelps. Holmes lost himself in the contemplation of a rose.
There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers.”
That day that Spurgeon came to visit was a foggy, cold, Autumn day. It started with my being awakened by joyous shouts and a most offensive odor. The fire was already going in the fire place and the curtains were pulled back showing that that dawn was about ready to announce itself. I staggered into the room adjoining our sitting-room and found the culprit of both the noise and the smells. Holmes was hunched over a concoction of chemicals.
He had apparently spent the night working on one of his projects and his experiments had not left the sitting-room in any condition for visitors, let alone the distinguished preacher that Holmes informed was coming once he saw me standing there. I rushed to get dressed and be presentable and was enjoying a cup of tea when Mrs. Hudson rushed up the stairs to announce that we had a guest. Though my observation skills were nothing compared to my friend Holmes, even I could tell that she was bubbling over with excitement at having such a famous person arrive at the apartment.
Moments later a middle aged, large man, with a good and neat appearance and a full beard entered. He was dressed well but not in a pompous or dandy way. His manners were humble and he showed much respect to Holmes and myself. After exchanging pleasantries Holmes offered him the chair closest to the fire that he might warm himself.
Holmes reached for his clay pipe, then offered his box of fine cigars to the man. The man reached for one and as he did Holmes with a twinkle in his eye remarked, “smoking to the glory of God”. The man paused with his hand hovering over the box then broke out into a grin.
“You caused quite the stir over these a few years back. And I imagine the issue is still not laid to rest for many.”, Holmes mused.
“Indeed!” remarked the man, “but I still contend that no Christian should bend to any Pharisaic system devised by man nor do anything in which he cannot glorify God. I bear no shame for my enjoying a cigar now and again. Why, even in the most common actions of life, like smoking tobacco, we may glorify our Creator”.
“You will get no complaint here”, Holmes remarked as he lit his pipe and offered the man a match. “Like you I enjoy a good smoke to sooth a weary brain or to relax and get the mind ready to tackle an analytical challenge. But, I do say, you really ought to coordinate your illustrations before inviting someone to join you in the pulpit”.
Changing the subject, our guest remarked, “Holmes, you have a most interesting profession”.
“I suppose that it is. I listen to a story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee. But in reality I am served well for I cannot live without brain-work. My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems to solve for what else is there to live for”?
It was after Holmes briefly touched on some of the cases he was engaged in that Spurgeon asked a most interesting question that set off an even more interesting discussion.
“As a man of reason and logic, how do you handle the great paradoxes we are confronted with in the Scriptures”?
Holmes folded his hands, closed his eyes, and leaned his head back. A most unusual behavior if one did not know him well. After some thought he leaned forward and asked, “How might you define a paradox”?
[To be continued…]