It has pleased God to place in our hands two weapons by which we are to overcome Satan -- |the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony.| It was the narrated experiences of the people of God, and the modest declarations of the saving power of Christ, which convicted me of my need and led me to seek the grace of God. Very briefly, therefore, I will sketch God's dealings with my own soul.
I was born September 30th, 1877, at Westfield, Indiana. My parents were both ministers in the Society of Friends, and I can not remember When I first began to pray, for my mother taught me to go to God with everything, even when a very small child. When I was five and a half years of age we moved to Walnut Ridge, Indiana, where there was a Friends' meeting of more than ordinary size and activity. It was here that my conversion took place. I remember the event as distinctly as if it were yesterday.
I always prayed at the family altar, and that was an institution which was never neglected for anything in our home, and I had never omitted my evening devotions; but one summer day while playing by myself under the trees in the front yard, a great fear came upon me lest I had never had a change of heart. Though less than six years old, I had sat in the |gallery| behind my father as he preached too often to be ignorant of the necessity of the new birth. It was a perfect day, but conviction settled upon me more and more deeply, and a dark shadow seemed to take the brightness from everything. Unable to endure the heartache any longer, I ran into the house and sat down with my father and mother, waiting in silence for some time. Finally I asked them if I had |ever been converted,| told them I |wanted to be,| and immediately we knelt in prayer. How I did weep, and how badly I felt! I can see the back of that little sewing-rocker now swimming in my tears. (I wonder where that rocking-chair is now! The last I knew it was in California, having left us at an auction -- an occasion not unfamiliar to most of preacher-families.) They told me to pray, and I prayed with all my heart. If ever there was a little boy who felt that he was a great sinner, I was the boy. I remembered all the things I ever did that I knew were wrong. My boyish wickednesses, things that seem a rather absurd lot now in the light of the sins of the average lad of six that I know to-day, caused me great pain. Soon peace came, and what happiness! When I went out doors again the very birds twittered with increased gladness, and the sky seemed a far deeper blue, and the grass and flowers rejoiced with me in my new-found experience.
Would God I had retained my simple faith in Jesus! But it was not long before I wandered away from Christ, and the life of prayerfulness and obedience. For years my religious experience was most unsatisfactory. I was under frequent convictions, and knew that the Spirit was striving with me persistently, but I hardened my heart and would not yield completely to God. As I look back at those years of restlessness and rebellion, I recall with gratitude the forbearance and long-suffering of a now sainted mother. How she carried her proud, stubborn boy on her heart, and how she held onto God's skirt and tugged away until He answered.
THE STRIVING OF THE SPIRIT.
During the winter of 1891-1892 I became almost wretched on account of conviction. The Holy Ghost fairly dogged my steps and whispered in my ear at every turn. There were many things which He used to convict me of -- my unfaithfulness and aridity of soul and life. My junior year at Oak Grove Seminary is distinctly remembered as a time of continuous conviction and unrest. Now and then I would find peace and comfort for a time, but they remained only for a time. I kept up secret devotions very carefully. I never missed my daily prayers, but my life was inconsistent and God-dishonoring. The lives of real Christians rebuked me, and the mockery of my empty profession haunted me like a spectre.
In the summer of 1892 I began to seek God earnestly, and was not long in finding pardon and reclamation. No sooner was I at peace with God than I began to hunger for holiness. O, how my heart longed for full salvation! I saw much about me that was an indication that there was an experience enjoyed by some of which I was not possessed. My mother's calm, victorious life, and her constant unwavering Christian faith, convicted me. I was proud and selfish, and hypersensitive and ambitious. She was restful, contented, loving, meek. How frequently I gave way to some temptation, and how mortified I was to be so humiliated by the Adversary.
HUNGER FOR HOLINESS.
Many of the members of my father's church at Portsmouth had an experience of freedom and liberty which I craved. In July my father, my mother, and I spent a couple of days at Douglas camp-meeting. I remember so well every incident of the trip -- my deep unrest as we entered the grounds, my aversion to certain |boisterous persons| who said |Bless the Lord| so frequently, my disrelish for food, my dislike of taking a front seat in the audience. Two old sisters sat facing the preacher one evening. Their faces were full of joy, and they seemed to overflow with joy and spiritual exhilaration. I inwardly said, |I wish I had an experience like they seem to have.| I made up my mind I would seek. I can not recall a word of the sermon. I do not think I heard it at the time -- my mind was so full of an inward struggle.
CANDIDATE FOR SANCTIFICATION.
When the call was made, I went forward and consecrated myself and all my hopes and desires and longings and all to God. How in the world I had ever acquired so low a desire I do not know, but my chief ambition had been to be a professor of science in some college. But the Lord put me through a series of questions:
|Will you be my property henceforth?|
|Are you willing that people should call you a 'holiness crank'?|
|Supposing I should ask you to shout, would you?|
|I would do my best at it.|
|Will you give up all your plans and be a one-horse preacher of holiness if I want you to?|
Ah, here was a rub, indeed. Preaching was precisely what I did not relish. Anything rather than that. I had visions of small salaries, and country churches, and long, cold rides. I had seen the life of the preacher ever since I could remember. I debated the question. Then I answered, |Yes.| The audience was singing:
|Here I give my all to Thee --
Friends and time and earthly store.
Soul and body then to be
Wholly Thine forever more.|
They told us seekers to raise our hands if we meant it. I meant it, so up went a hand. Instantly faith got an answer, and the witness came, and I knew that I was sanctified wholly.
A DULL SCHOLAR
But I was a dull scholar, and had to learn many lessons after my Jordan-crossing. Owing to my failure in definite testimony, my experience suffered partial eclipse, and my last year at Oak Grove was more or less dark and unhappy. I was much helped, however, by the reading of holiness books sent me by a sanctified music-teacher, who had interest enough in me to write me real Fenelon letters and keep me supplied with holiness reading. During the summer of 1893 I was more fully established in the grace, and in the autumn began to preach.
THE ABIDING CHRIST.
I have frequently erred in judgment, and made most stupid blunders, but the perpetual spring experience of full salvation has been my greatest comfort and blessing. The abiding Christ gives zest and spice to life, and makes the ministry of holiness delightful and joyous.
GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS.
God has blessed my ministry, and given me success. It is all of Him. What a wonderful God we have! He never leaves us. I have called upon Him when preaching, and He has always answered. I have cried to Him in hours of loneliness and discouragement, and He has replied like a flash. I stood by a cot and watched a saintly mother slip away to the |undiscovered bourn,| and He did not fail me. Hallelujah! He can not only sanctify, but He can preserve, sustain and keep. Whatever may come to us, Christ will not forsake us. As we look down the vista of years to come, and remember that life is swift and serious, we can only lean hard on the Son of God and push on, confident that His promise, |Lo, I am with you alway,| can not fail. Praise the Lord!