The Queen’s Question:

Can We Be Sure?



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An incident in the life of

John Townsend




Is there any way of making sure that we shall spend eternity in heaven, welcomed into the fellowship of God and not in “the second death” of eternal separation from Him?  Many suppose that this question, the greatest, that can confront one, must necessarily wait for its answer until the present life is over.  But is it so?  Must the question of eternal blessedness or misery, of heaven or hell, remain a torturing uncertainty until it is too late to make any change?


A beautiful incident in the experience of Queen Victoria is worth remembering. It is unquestionably authentic. The Queen had attended a service in St. Paul’s Cathedral and had listened to a sermon that interested her greatly; then she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” His answer was that he “knew of no way that one could be absolutely sure.”


This was published in the Court News and fell under the eye of a humble minister of the Gospel, John Townsend, an intimate fried of George Muller, whose life of faith led to the founding of his well-known orphanages.  This John Townsend was the father of “Sister Abigail,” another Christian of extraordinary faith and service.


After reading Queen Victoria’s question and the answer she received, John Townsend thought and prayed much about the matter, then sent the following note to the Queen:




“To her gracious Majesty, our beloved Queen Victoria, from one of her most humble subjects:


With trembling hands, but heartfilled love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure even now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?


These passages prove there is full assurance of salvation by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe and accept His finished work.


I sign myself, your servant for Jesus’ sake,”


                   John Townsend.




John Townsend was not alone in praying about his letter to the Queen. He took others into his confidence, and much prayer from many hearts went up to God.  In about a fortnight he received a modest-looking envelope containing the following letter:




To John Townsend:


“Your letter of recent date received and in reply would state that I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to.  I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in the Home of which He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”


                                                    (Signed) Victoria Guelph.




Whether one is an earthly monarch or an inconspicuous unknown person, the way of salvation and of eternal life is the same.  The Scripture passages John Townsend commended to the reading of the gracious Queen were these two:


“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”         John 3:16


“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”         Romans 10: 9-10


These passages and many others, in the Word of God, pledge us His Word that one who, by simple faith, receives His Son as Saviour has eternal life now and here.  The apostle John tells us that his Gospel was written “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” John 20:31.


Of such believers the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” John 10: 28-29


Salvation by faith in Christ is repeatedly declared in the Scriptures to be the present possession, not merely future, of those who believe.  Thus the Lord said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5.24


The ringing note of certainty is the dominant note of the New Testament.  And this certainty of Christian faith recons not at all on the character or the record of the good works of the one who is trusting the Son of God as Saviour; it reckons utterly and absolutely on the faithfulness of God and His unbreakable Word.  Here is the infallible Word that answers the question of Queen Victoria and of all others who would know:


“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son… And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He that hath the Son hath life; and He that hath not the Son of God hath not life.  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.”  1 John 5:9,11,12,13.