Entering the Kingdom: Colthouse Meeting House

This month, I called at Colthouse Friends’ Meeting House. Though now in Cumbria, Colthouse was once part of Lancashire ‘north of the sands’. It was constructed in 1688, the year dissenting chapels and meeting houses could be built without the government deciding to tear them down. With its porch and lookout window over the door, it seems a typical Quaker establishment. Sadly, the doors were locked, entry proscribed. This was disappointing, but it is the risk one runs when visiting places of worship. Indeed, plucky mid-week visitors to my own chapel are likely to be disappointed by our locked doors.

On my way out of the porch, I spotted a little key safe. I popped open its cover; there were 10 numerical buttons within. I thought a moment, and tried a certain combination. Bingo. The safe opened and the key emerged. Although it did not gain us access to the entire building, we were still able to enter and snoop about, taking pictures and inspecting the woodwork. I shall confess to feeling not a little pleased with my success. A knowledge of Quaker lore proved useful at last.

Anyone can gain access to any building if he has sufficient strength, supplies of dynamite and a selection of battering rams. Nevertheless, Colthouse’s doors looked pretty strong and no amount of shoulder-barging would have sufficed to effect entry. Those same doors were equally impervious to flattery, cunning and charm. I could not have bribed them, nor blackmailed them to admit me. Rather, it was knowledge that was key to getting in. An acquaintance with Quakerism enabled me to open those ancient doors.

Likewise, heaven cannot be gained by subterfuge, strength or prowess, but by knowledge. I speak not of knowledge of formulae, esotericism and trivia, such as the early Gnostics taught. No, the knowledge that will gain entry to heaven is not a list of facts, but an intimate acquaintance with Christ the Saviour. Jesus taught in Matthew 11:27:

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

And in 1 John 5:20:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

I remember sitting in university lecture halls with trainee ministers and theologians. They knew much, but many of them, I suspected, did not know the Son. If you do not know Jesus, you will get to heaven’s gate and find it shut fast. The good news, however, is that the unknowable God now makes Himself known to all who would know Him.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12 (NKJV).