The necessity of faith, as a primary element in all acceptable religious exercises, has already been noticed. A feeling of entire dependence upon God for spiritual mercy is the only right feeling, because it is the only true feeling. It is necessary, according to the foregoing view of the subject, in order to offer acceptable prayer, that man should possess a spirit of faith and dependence upon Christ. The principle upon which Christ acted in relation to this subject, as well as His instruction concerning the duty of prayer, fully confirm the preceding thoughts. He seldom performed an act of mercy, by miracle or otherwise, unless those who received the mercy could see the hand of God in the blessing: -- |If thou canst believe, thou mayest be cleansed,| was His habitual sentiment. As if He had said -- Your desire for the blessing is manifest by your urgent request; now, if you can have faith to see God in the blessing, so that He will be honored and praised for conferring it, I will grant it; but if you have no faith, you can receive no favor.
This little book could easily occupy thrice as large a size as its present volume, had I taken into account all the blessings which God has bestowed upon my faithful prayers and upon His children, using me as an instrument of His hand. But I must content myself by referring to only two cases, which had had exceptional significance and gratifying joy not only to my own heart, but to every Christian worker.
With the individuals spoken of I am well acquainted, having frequently conversed with them all on the subjects of which I shall speak. Their words in these cases may not have been exactly remembered, but the sense is truly given.
The first case, is a story, told all by itself, and the second case, is a letter of a dear girl, whose mother was a down to the bone Roman Catholic. The daughter accidentally came to our meeting and gave her heart to Jesus. The mother thinking that the worldly pleasures might drive her newly converted daughter away from Jesus, and being very anxious to get her daughter back into the Catholic parish, she gave a party to all the young people from the same parish. And there was plenty of song and dance, but the daughter did not show up. The mother with a number of the guests went into the daughter's room where the girl in seclusion was reading her Bible; the young people almost carrying her into the reception hall, sat her upon the stool in front of the piano, earnestly asking her to play for them while they were dancing. But, the girl, lifting up to God her angelic heart and voice, she began to play and sing, softly |Nearer My God To Thee,| the tears streaming down her cheeks; they were tears of joy for the saved girl, but the young people could not stand it and they ran away, while the converted girl bended on her knees in prayer for them, and her own mother's salvation.
Case 1. -- For love of the Christ: -- John Davis was the only child of a Chicago banker. The wealth and social prominence of his father had surrounded him with every comfort and luxury, and his growth from boyhood to incipient manhood had been tenderly watched over by his fond parents.
All the hopes of his parents were centered in their only child. Mr. Davis looked forward to the time when John would become his partner, and that his son might be fitted in every way, engaged the best tutors procurable to attend to his education. John had graduated with honors after four years of college work, which was marked by the thorough and earnest application on his part. His father watched his progress with growing pride and with fullest confidence in his son's ability, arranged to take him into partnership at the proper time.
Seemingly the future for John was one of brilliant promise. But John did not show an eager anticipation for the future as planned for him. A life devoted to business was to him a selfish one. Something within him was insistently calling him to a higher vocation; although apparently acquiescing to his father's plans, the prospect daily became more and more distasteful to him.
From his mother, a woman of singular devoutness and piety, John had received a careful religious training, and he could not reconcile the idea of a life devoted to self with the truths he had reverently accepted as his faith. Daily he met with examples of shamefully degraded manhood, of pitiful want, and of unhelped suffering. His soul went out in pity towards these unfortunate ones, and at such times the voice within imperiously summoned him to follow in the footsteps of Him whom he worshiped as Lord and Saviour.
On the other hand Reason urged filial obedience to the wishes of his father. That his mother would understand and encourage him should he heed the call of his soul, John did not for an instant doubt. Not less clearly, however, did he recognize the attitude his father would take to such a course; for his father, while refraining from scoffing at beliefs cherished by his wife and friends, made no secret of his own disbelief in them.
The life which would appear to his mother and himself as noblest of all would seem quixotic and senseless to his father. Besides, his father had set his heart on John's becoming his partner in business. John dreaded to disappoint him, yet stronger and stronger grew the call of that inner voice which now all but dominated him.
One evening as he sat with his parents he surprised them by saying: |Now that I have finished my college course it is time for me to choose my vocation, to strive to be of benefit to my fellow men.|
|All arrangements have been made, John,| responded Mr. Davis, |you may begin at once if you so desire. Your mother and I thought, however, that you were entitled to a vacation after your college work. However we can use you at the bank the moment you are ready,| laughed Mr. Davis.
|That is just what I desire to talk over with you, father,| returned John. |For weeks I have felt that the future you have designed for me is too narrow -- too selfish. With my Master's Call sounding in my ears, the thought of devoting my life to any business, however high its position in the eyes of the world, is intolerably repugnant.
|I know how firmly your heart has been set upon my joining you in business, and I cannot tell you how hard it is for me to disappoint you at this late hour, but Christ has called me to preach to His people. I feel and know that only in so doing shall I find true happiness and contentment.
|You surely, father, will not oppose my doing that which every fibre of my body tells me is my duty.|
The eyes of Mrs. Davis filled with glad tears, and a prayer for Divine guidance for her son went up from her heart; but annoyance and displeasure plainly showed on Mr. Davis' face. At length he said:
|I had thought it definitely settled that you were to assist me, and on the strength of that belief I have made several important changes in my business with the view of affording a proper position for you. Your decision declining to accept it will inconvenience me not a little.
|With all due consideration for your religious beliefs, I feel it my duty as your father, John, to express my disappointment of the profession you at present seem inclined to adopt. However you are entering man's estate, and it is for you to decide as to your career. I shall, however, insist upon one thing: that you take a good vacation before making your final decision.
|If, upon your return you are of the same mind, I shall not oppose you, although to speak frankly, John, I am not a little disappointed.
|Anyway a good western trip will greatly benefit you, and I shall not be at all surprised if on your return your conception of your duty has undergone important modifications.| As if signifying that he desired to discuss the subject no farther, Mr. Davis rose and left the room.
Keenly feeling his father's disappointment and displeasure, John instinctively turned to his mother for sympathy. Mrs. Davis stepped to his side and with a fond caress said:
|Thank God you have made this choice; I shall do all in my power to help you.|
|Thank you, mother dear. I believe you understand me, and know how sincere is my desire to do what I can for my fellow men.
|I do so long to lead some of them to Christ; for many are wandering in darkness, just waiting for some one to reach them a helping hand.
|In deference to father's wishes I shall take a vacation; though it can by no possibility alter my determination. On my return I shall begin active work without delay.
|I have education enough to preach the simple truths of God's love. I wish to preach to sinners, not to saints. I shall ask no salary and have no denomination. My Church will be Christ.|
After tenderly embracing his mother, during which the souls of mother and son united in a prayer to the Most High, John bade her |Good night| and retired.
The following week found John on his way to South Dakota, his plan being to make his first stop of any length at Aberdeen.
He arrived there at night and the following morning mounted his bicycle for a trip through the surrounding country.
It was a new world to him. His first thought was: how splendid the roads were for wheeling, they seemed even better than the paved streets of the city.
He cast his eyes over his surroundings. On all sides was the vast expanse of prairie, ending only in the horizon -- the fields of grass and grain, moving in the wind like the waves of the sea; overhead the blue sky, stretching out in a dome unbroken by hill or forest. The sun above him seemed to shine with a brighter splendor than he had before known.
The beauties of nature filled the soul of this city-bred youth with wonder and admiration.
He rode on and on.
At one moment the joyous song of a lark captivated him; at another, the capering of some colts, or a sleek herd of cattle quietly grazing in a nearby pasture attracted his attention; or a colony of prairie gophers which dived excitedly into their burrows at his approach, amused him with their antics.
At last he began to wonder how far he had gone.
Seeing nearby a large, well kept farm-house, he rode up to it, to procure such rest and refreshment as it might afford him, before undertaking his long ride back to town.
His knock at the door was answered by a beautiful girl, apparently about fifteen years of age. John explained his errand to her, and requested such courtesies as could be granted without putting the people of the house to undue inconvenience.
The girl expressed her regrets that her parents were away in town, but saying that she expected them home very soon, she invited him in, and ushered him into a cool, spacious sitting-room.
Mutual introductions followed and John learned that the name of his fair young hostess was Lily Long, |but,| said she, with a slight blush, |father calls me the Queen of the Prairie.|
They visited together for some little time, until Lily, exclaiming that her father and mother were coming, went out to greet them.
Left to himself, John glanced around him.
An old-fashioned piano stood in one corner of the room. He noted also an ample, well filled book-case at one end of the room.
|Music, books, and Prairie Queen. If this is a typical example of country life, I must say that I rather like it.|
Mr. and Mrs. Long greeted him heartily and gave him a cordial invitation to stay to dinner -- an invitation which he gratefully accepted.
And what a dinner it was; vegetables fresh gathered from the garden in abundance; fried chicken prepared as only a farmer's wife can prepare it; and the countless other good things which go to make dinner on the farm. To this dinner John brought an appetite sharpened by his brisk morning ride; he did full justice to the tempting viands, nor could he remember so thoroughly enjoying a dinner before.
Everything on the farm was so clean and well arranged that John began to wish he could board there instead of in town during the remainder of his visit; so when they had adjourned to the sitting-room, he informed Mr. Long of his wish, and asked if it were possible.
|But before you answer me,| he added, |I should like to make myself better known to you.|
Then he told them of his father and mother, of his own youth, and of his college life. A natural question on the part of Mr. Long as to what brought him so far West led to an explanation from John, who presently found himself telling his new-found friends his future plans and ambitions.
|My boy,| said Mr. Long, reaching out his hand, |I honor you for your choice. You are welcome to share our home as long as you care to stay.|
Mrs. Long wiped her eyes as she pressed John to stay with them, for she thought of her own son whom God had called home.
Lily must have been thinking of him too, for she said: |I am glad you are going to stay, for then I can play you are my brother.|
|I certainly shall be proud to be your brother,| John answered gallantly.
That evening when the family gathered for prayers, Lily took her seat at the old piano. Then John realized why they called her |Queen,| for never had he heard such a magnificent voice, so sweet, so soft, and so full of feeling. It seemed as though she carried them nearer Heaven with her song.
Before John retired he wrote to his mother, telling her of the home he had found, and of |The Queen of the Prairie.| This rather amused Mrs. Davis, for hitherto, John had had little to say in praise of young ladies, although he was a favorite among them.
The summer passed merrily on, and John's vacation was drawing near its close, when one morning he received a telegram telling him that his mother was dangerously sick. The message filled him with anxious foreboding, and he quickly prepared to return home at once.
Tears were on Mrs. Long's cheeks as she helped him pack, for she had not realized before to what an extent John had taken her own boy's place in her heart. His own eyes were moist as he bade her farewell, promising to return as soon as possible.
Mr. Long was ready with a team to drive him to town, and Lily was standing beside her father. She raised a tear-stained face to him, and said: |Goodbye, dear brother, we shall miss you.|
John was not ashamed of his own tears, for this little girl who called him |Brother,| had grown dearer to him than all the world. He stooped and reverently kissed her snow white brow, then sprang in the buggy and was gone.
When John reached home, his father met him at the door. Mr. Davis' face was ghastly pale; he had grown old with grief.
John's eyes asked the question his lips could not frame.
|She still lives, but the doctor says she cannot last long,| said his father in answer to his son's mute appeal.
|She is paralyzed. She will probably recognize you, but she can neither speak nor move.|
Without speaking John went to his mother's bedside, and saw that this was indeed true. His mother lay as one dead. A faint spark of recognition showed in her fast dimming eyes as he approached but other signs of life there were none.
Overcome with grief, John stood motionless at the bedside.
Then in agony he turned to Him who faileth not, he fell on his knees and prayed reverently for his mother's recovery.
His father tried to lead him away, but John continued to pray.
Then suddenly in that hour of anguish the grief-stricken man found his God. Kneeling at his son's side, he implored mercy from Him whom hitherto he had denied.
All at once Mrs. Davis spoke, |My son.|
The doctor hastened to her side.
In a moment he turned to Mr. Davis and said, |She is better, she will live.|
Dr. Gordon was an unbeliever, but at that moment he realized that something had control of life, which could act after science had failed.
He looked at John who had not yet risen from his knees, at Mr. Davis who was pouring out thanks to the God he had just found, then at the woman who had been saved at the point of death.
Like a flash came to him the knowledge of a merciful Christ, and he joined the father and son in their prayer of thanksgiving.
Mrs. Davis rapidly recovered her health, and John soon entered upon his life work. He received hearty encouragement from his father this time, for Mr. Davis had learned the Truth and found his God at the bedside of his dying wife in such a way as to leave no place in his heart for opposition to work in His service.
John's work was among the poor. He visited from house to house, preaching and praying, and extending material help when such help was most needed.
His sincerity and earnestness were the means of bringing light into many darkened lives, and the message of Christ crucified was eagerly received in response to his pleadings.
At one broken-down house he was met by a frail woman who carried a half-starved child in her arms. It was plainly apparent that in better days she had been a handsome and refined woman.
John introduced himself and asked if he could be of any help to her.
|No,| she answered, |I am afraid you cannot aid me. I am Rose Williams. My father is a man of wealth. He is living today in luxury in a neighboring city, and if I would leave my husband I could be clothed in silk and satin instead of these rags, but as long as I stay with him, my father will not help me, not even to keep me from starving. But I would rather starve with my husband than leave him to kill himself with drink, for I love him.
|Drink is the cause of all my poverty and misery. Oh, if Ralph would only let it alone.|
She ended her story in a frenzied cry which plainly showed the tension to which she had been wrought, but John's voice was low and soothing as he said, |Suppose you and I pray for your husband. I have great faith in the power of prayer. Shall we not pray together?|
Together they knelt down, and offered up an earnest prayer. Mrs. Williams spoke in low tones at first, then with great excitement. At last she tried to rise, but fell in a swoon on the floor. John placed her on a couch in the room and sent at once for Dr. Gordon.
After his examination, Dr. Gordon looked serious.
|This is going to be a bad case of brain fever, John. From all appearances it has been hastened by lack of proper food, but she may pull through if she has proper care.|
[Illustration: REV. M. GOLDEN
The Founder of the Greek-Amerikan-Christian-Association]
John saw that the service of the physician was only part of what was needed for the woman's safety.
He went out and procured bedding and food, and his mother sent over one of her maids, also a trained nurse.
Soon things were made comfortable for Mrs. Williams, but she could not rest.
In her delirium she called continually for Ralph to come home and bring her something to eat.
And where was Ralph? For three days he had been laying in a drunken stupor in the cellar of a saloon, but this evening he had sobered somewhat, and remorse for his cruel neglect of his wife and children was finding a place in his heart. He recalled the starving condition in which he had left them.
Perhaps for the first time he began to realize how dearly his wife must love him to give up the pleasure and luxury of her girlhood home for him, and there in that room not fit for cattle, this man cried out in his anguish, |Oh, God, protect my wife and forgive me.|
He started at once for home but as he neared the house his heart was filled with fear, his head began to whirl. Where was Rose? Why was everything so still?
He opened the door and was met by a little girl dressed in white and with golden curls.
How beautiful she was; she ran to him and cried, |Papa has come, Papa has come!|
Then he knew she was his own little daughter.
She led him to the bed on which lay his wife, but the only words which greeted him were, |Ralph come home and bring us something to eat.|
He called her name but she heard him not.
Again he spoke: |Dear Rose, forgive me, forgive me.|
Dr. Gordon laid his hand on the shoulder of the stricken man and said: |Ask your God to forgive you, your wife knows not what you say.|
He looked at the doctor a moment, then said in a low voice, |I did that before I started home. God has forgiven me and saved me. But tell me what I can do for my poor wife.|
It was indeed true, Ralph Williams was a changed man. The God who had heard the prayers of the father and son at the dying woman's bedside, and restored her to them, vouchsafed his mercy to the starving wife who prayed for her drink-sodden husband, and in answer to it the dulled conscience of the husband was aroused.
Slowly Mrs. Williams improved, until one morning she said: |Is this Heaven, and are Ralph and my children here?|
|Yes, Rose,| her husband replied, |Ralph and the children are here, and henceforth I will do all I can to make this home Heaven on earth.|
* * * * *
The years rolling by saw John still fighting the fight for his Maker. Out of the gratitude Ralph Williams had felt for the Divine mercy shown him, had sprung a determination to do all in his power towards uplifting others. John eagerly accepted his services, and thus the nucleus of a rapidly growing power for good was formed.
As more and more came to know the meaning of |Christ Crucified,| they entered heart and soul into the work of spreading the truth to others and soon a mightly cohort of Christian workers spread over the city. Individually and with them John labored night and day sustained by his faith and enthusiasm.
The work of directing the efforts of so many, the nightly vigil at the bedside of sick and dying, the continual breathing of the vitiated air of the lower quarters of the city, gradually sapped the strength of John, who did not know the meaning of fatigue when a call on the service of his Christ sounded.
At last an attack of nervous prostration made him realize his position, and yielding to the importunities of his parents and fellow-workers, he consented to take a vacation.
Where should he go but to the broad, sunny prairies of Dakota, to his dearly remembered friends, the Longs and Lily.
She met him with outstretched arms and a glad smile of welcome. With the glory of dawning womanhood about her she was more than ever the |Queen of the Prairie,| but by the soft light in her eyes John saw that she was still his Lily.
During the long pleasant vacation which followed, John gained strength and vigor once more, and its close found him ably equipped to take up Christ's work once more.
Mr. and Mrs. Long were doubly sorrowful at their second parting from him, for his heart had found its mate and Lily was accompanying him.
He had gained a lovely bride, and more than that, an enthusiastic helpmate.
Together they took up the work where John had left it. Ere long the erstwhile |Queen of the Prairie| was known as |Angel of the Poor,| for her womanly sympathy could often find its way into darkness which even John's earnestness failed to penetrate.
One Friday night they both came to take part in our holiness meeting, and the Spirit revealed to them that should they submit all their powers unreservedly to the will of God, He could use them to still higher and more effective purposes of the cause of Jesus. So, John and Lily, side by side, came out at the altar and offered their lives and their services to Jesus for time and for eternity, they, becoming active members in my corps, and a great blessing to the suffering humanity in that community.
Case 2. -- The following letter was received from the girl already mentioned, as the daughter of a Roman Catholic woman, who tried to drive her converted daughter, by the worldly pleasures, away from Jesus:
|Chicago, Ill., Oct.5, 1906.
I feel that I must let you know what the Lord has done for me, 'through you.'
Why I ever went to the Salvation Army meeting is more than I know, because I have always been told that the Salvation Army was nothing more than street beggars and a great deal more.
So I never went to their meetings until I went to No.4, and I do sincerely thank God that I went, because now I can see how far from the Lord I was wandering and so unintentionally because I never meant to be a sinner, but I just wanted to have a good time. But now, I can see where some of those good times lead us.
Captain, I often think how brave you must have been to go on with the work at No.4, with so little help, 'that is, earthly help.' I am sorry that I could not help you, but you see I was not brave like you. I could not talk about Jesus to those who scoffed, but I do want Jesus to help me and strengthen me to do His will. Captain, do you know there is a song that always come to me when I am in any difficulty, 'Lead Me Saviour.'
2207, 63d St., Chicago.|
It is simply wonderful, that there is no one to lead us like the Saviour, dear Jesus. Who died on Calvary's Cross for our redemption. And now, dear reader, just a word to you. This volume is written for you; if you are a converted Christian enjoying the blessings of a clean heart, indeed, blessed you are, for |Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.| But, if for some reason, if there can be a reason for not being saved, you kept back until this hour, I pray that you may go down upon your knees, at this very moment, just as you are, and open your heart to God, and let Jesus come in: and I know and you will know that the remaining days of your life will be sweet and happy; and when the roll is called up yonder you'll be there, in a robe of white with the angels in the air to meet the Lamb of God, Who will say unto all that loved Him and worked for Him, |Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord.|
[Illustration: GREEK PEASANT WOMAN]