It happened that a young man was staying in Palmer's home in Savannah during a time of revival. Many services were being held and the young man's host let him know that he could pleas himself whether he attended or not. Having nothing else to do, he did attend and soon by his irritation revealed that he did not like what he was hearing. The crisis came on a Monday when, entering Palmer's study, the visitor protested, 'You preachers are the most contradictory men in the world; you say, and you unsay, just as it pleases you, without the least pretension to consistancy.' Palmer, who was working at his desk, has recorded what followed:And again:
"Somehow I was not surprised at this outbreak; for though no sign of religious feeling had been evinced, there was a restlessness in his manner which satisfied me that he was secretly fighting against the truth. I thought it best to treat the case in an off-hand sort of way, and with seeming indefference so as to cut him off from all opportunity to coquette with the Gospel. Without arresting my pen, I simply, answered, 'Well, what now?'
'Why, yesterday you said in your sermon that sinners are perfectly helpless in themselves - utterly unable to repent or believe and then turned square round and said that they would all be damned if they did not.'
'Well, my dear E-, there is no use in our quarrelling over this matter; either you can or you cannot. If you can, all I have to say is that I hope you will just go and do it.'
As I did not raise my eyes from my writing, which was continued as I spoke, I had no means of marking the effect of these words, until after a moment's silence, with a choking utterance, the reply came back: 'I have been trying my best for three whole days, and cannot.' 'Ah,' said I, laying down my pen: 'that puts a different face upon it; we will go then and tell the difficulty straight out to God.'
We knelt together and I prayed as though this was the first time in human history that this trouble had ever arisen; that here was a soul in the most desperate extremity, which must believe or perish, and hopelessly unable of itself, to do it; that, consequently it was just the case of calling for Divine interposition; and pleading most earnestly for the fulfilment of the Divine promise. Upon rising I offered not a single word of comfort or advice...So I left my friend in his powerlessness in the hands of God, as the only helper. In a short time he came through the struggle, rejoicing in the hope of eternal life."
Some, indeed, would have man to do all, though he could do nothing; and others would have him to do nothing, because all was done for him. As long as I am told that I must come to God, and that I can come, I am left to suppose that some good thing, or some power of good remains in me, and I arrogate to myself what belongs to Jehovah. The creature is exalted and God is robbed of his glory. If, on the other hand, I am told that I cannot come to God, but not also that I must come, I am left to rest contented at a distance from God, I am not responsible for my rebellion. But if we preach that sinners can't come, and yet must come, then is the honour of God vindicated and the sinner is shut up. Man must be so shut up that he must come to Christ, and yet know that he cannot. He must come to Christ, or he will look to another, when there is not other to whom he may come; he cannot come, or he will look to himself. This is the gospel vice, to shut up men to faith.
Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism (East Peoria, IL: Banner of Truth, 2005) pp. 16-18