Many stories have come down to us about the French tightrope walker Jean-François Gravelet – ‘The Great Blondin’. Some of them are true but others cannot be substantiated as fact. Blondin made his name by crossing the Niagara Gorge below the Niagara Falls in America on a tightrope. He did it for the first time on June 30th 1859 walking on a rope 50 metres (160 feet) above the water, nearly half a kilometre (over quarter of a mile) long and just 7.5cm (three inches) in diameter. Later he crossed blindfold; then pushing a wheelbarrow, and once he even carried a stove, stopped half way across and cooked himself an omelette, which he then ate as his amazed audience looked on. Yet another time he crossed on stilts and on August the seventeenth 1859 he crossed the gorge with his manager Harry Colcord - clinging tightly - on his back. The railway companies laid on special trains and tens of thousands of spectators assembled to watch Blondin’s escapades - seventeen return crossings in all.
The next year, 1860, the Prince of Wales, later king Edward VII, watched Blondin cross the Niagara Gorge. After Blondin had done one crossing, he suggested that the Prince allow him to carry him over the gordge on his back. The Prince, while not doubting Blondin's ability, refused. This story is well substantiated and appeared in many contemporary UK and Canadian newspapers.
The next year, 1861, Blondin performed at the Crystal Palace in London and was paid – in today’s money – over £10,000 per performance! He then performed at other venues around the country and was met by vast crowds in Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. In Liverpool he actually pushed a lion strapped into his wheelbarrow along the tightrope. Performing until he was in his 70s, he later developed a cycling act on the tightrope. His final performance was in Belfast in 1896, and he died in London aged 75. In all his 5000-odd performances Blondin never had one serious accident!
One Blondin story, with quite a number of variations, has been repeated many times as a gospel illustration. However, it appears in no official documents of the time that I can find. It tells of Blondin crossing Niagara Gorge pushing his wheelbarrow, but before he does so he asks the crowd if they think he could safely wheel someone across in the barrow. They shout their approval, saying that of course he could. So he asks for a volunteer, and the hitherto enthusiastic crowd fall silent – not one person being prepared to entrust themselves to Blondin. Although we cannot prove that this incident actually happened, it is very clear that it could have happened! If it did occur, then it provides us with a very simple explanation of the difference between what appears to be belief and what proves itself to be real faith. Even if it did not take place, it certainly serves as a good contemporary parable!
Many people today really believe that there was a person called Jesus. They will not disagree with one of His disciples, Peter, who said that he went about doing good. Neither will they argue with anyone who says that He was a wonderful teacher. Probably they will agree that Jesus died and rose again, and later ascended up to heaven. However, although this looks like belief, it is not faith. The Houdini story has people believing, but none have the faith to get into his barrow.
Real faith is entrusting our eternal souls to Christ for salvation. One day, a man who had faced death asked the apostle Paul what he must do to be saved. He realized that he was not ready to die, and he wanted to be saved (rescued) from the penalty of his sin. The answer was ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’, Acts 16. 31.
‘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. God’s love resulted in Christ’s death for us on the cross. Faith in Him as Saviour results our in eternal salvation.
Written by a Guest Blogger.
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