For the next three years my brother and I worked in Missouri, in territory lying in Maries, Phelps, Pulaski and Miller counties. The country was very rough and hilly. Many of the people were very wicked -- most of them being of the type that live in a rough country remote from railroads.
A Baptist minister whom we met soon after we began work in this part of the State, is a fair illustration of the religious standard of the people. This man, who, for the want of a better name, we shall call Father B -- , a name by which he was known far and near, was called on all occasions where a minister was needed throughout a territory twenty or thirty miles in extent. He served as evangelist and pastor, and officiated at weddings and funerals. The people among whom he labored supported him quite liberally; but he used the money they gave him in buying whiskey, and spent a good share of his time in a drunken, or semi-drunken condition.
He used frequently to attend our meetings, because as he expressed it, he liked |to hear the woman preacher.| Very frequently he staggered into meeting supported by the man who accompanied him, and sometimes had to be supported after he was seated. His seat on the front bench of the small country schoolhouse in which the meetings were held, brought him so near me that the offensive smell of his breath sickened me almost beyond endurance, and I could scarcely continue my sermon. Yet this man, habitual drunkard as he was, and filthy with tobacco, was considered throughout that region worthy of financial support and of the title and office of minister.
About fifteen years before we went to that country, a certain woman, who for many years now has been a true sister in the church, had been saved in one of Father B -- -- 's meetings, obtaining, as she has always believed, a real experience of salvation. But when she saw that Father B -- -- drank whiskey and chewed tobacco, she became discouraged and took to attending parties and dances. When called before the church to give an account of her conduct, she defended herself by saying that she did not think it any worse for her to attend parties and dances, than it was for the preacher to drink whiskey and to chew tobacco. I do not now remember what action the congregation took in regard to her; but at any rate, she went into sin, and lost her experience. This sister came to our meetings, sought the Lord, and was again restored to divine favor.
Father B -- -- was a very old man when we first met him. He died before we left that part of the country. His last illness was preceded by a drunken spree, during which some rougish boys painted a barren fig-tree on his bald head. He died soon afterward. Notwithstanding the efforts of those who prepared the body for burial, his head went to its last resting-place still marked by some of the paint that portrayed him as a barren fig-tree.
But not all of the people had such a low conception of religion. God had some true children in that part of the country. My brother had already held meetings in these countries; God had blessed his efforts; and a number of souls had been saved and sanctified. Nevertheless, when we arrived, the outlook for holding meetings was not good. It was now late in the fall -- too late for outdoor meetings -- so we began holding services in small schoolhouses. The people came out in crowds. God's Spirit worked on their hearts, and numbers came to the Lord.
You must not suppose, however, that any one could preach the straight gospel very long in such a place without meeting opposition. One night while my brother and I were holding our first series of meetings, at a schoolhouse on Dry Creek, in Maries County, Missouri, a mob of about a dozen drunken men came with the intention of breaking up the meeting. When they came, the service had not yet begun. The men entered the room in a boisterous way, talking loudly, and acting in an offensive insulting manner toward every one in the room. I do not remember just how it came about, but for some reason one of the men caught hold of my brother and gave him a jerk that sent him whirling for some distance across the room. I was afraid that Jeremiah was in danger; but when I saw that he was not at all frightened, my fears subsided. There was so much noise and loud talking, however, that we could not begin the meeting, so we offered earnest prayer that the Lord would take charge of things and quell the disturbance. I tried to preach, but there was still too much confusion.
While I was standing in the pulpit, one of the drunk men near the door pointed a revolver at me, but God protected me: the weapon did not go off. The man who had pointed the revolver at me, soon went out, accompanied by his comrades and by a number of other men who wanted some of the whiskey. Some of the women went to the door to beg their husbands and brothers to come in, and stood there crying, fearful that their relatives would be killed. I went to the door and said to the women, |Come in. If there is any trouble you can do nothing to prevent it.| |We would come in too,| said one of the rowdies, |but you always begin on us.| |No,| I answered, |we will not begin on you. We shall be glad to have you come in, and we shall expect you to behave yourselves.|
Most of the men outside came in, and the meeting began. The Lord gave me the message. During my discourse, I said, |Fools make a mock at sin, but who is it that mocks God?| |No fools, no tun. You know that too,| cried one of the men. Then he began to say the Lord's prayer, but was too drunk to finish it. I paid no attention to the interruption, and continued my sermon. There was no more disturbance, and not a revolver was fired until the mob was some distance from the house. One of the men gave himself up the next day and three others were arrested. They were a shamefaced set of fellows after it was all over.
Early in December we were holding meeting on Dry Creek not far from where we held our first series of meetings in Meries county. Some grown-up boys and girls, who had been drinking freely, came to the services and created such a disturbance that Jeremiah thought it best in the interest of good order to have them arrested. On the day of the trial the two lawyers employed to defend these young men and women, ridiculed and belittled my brother, calling him |the immaculate Jeremiah,| and insinuating that he thought himself almost equal to Christ. At first I felt greatly tried, but when I looked round and saw that Jeremiah's face was glowing and that he seemed almost happy enough to shout, my burden all left me. I made up my mind that since my brother was so triumphant I, too, would throw off the burden and claim victory. The young people who had disturbed the meeting had to pay a small fine. So far as I know, they behaved better in the future.
Just a few days after the occurrence just related, we began a meeting in the Bell schoolhouse, about five miles further down Dry Creek. My brother and I were staying with different families in the district. An M. E. South preacher who lived in the neighborhood, and who had heard of our trouble with the young folks in the other district, sent word to my brother that a mob was coming that night to break up our meeting, and that we should stay away and let him hold that service. He believed that the young people opposed us because we taught holiness, divine healing, etc.; and thought that his age, and the confidence of the people of the neighborhood in him would enable him to control the mob and to hold the meeting without difficulty. He tried to send word to me too; but, as I was staying with a family who lived some distance away, I did not receive his message. Jeremiah remained at his boarding place.
I went to the schoolhouse that evening expecting nothing unusual; but to my surprise I found in the house and yard a boisterous crowd of twenty-five or thirty men, who had been drinking freely of the liberal supply of whiskey they had brought with them. They were banded together for the express purpose of having a good time and breaking up the meeting. I can give you no adequate idea of the scene that greeted me as I approached. Men were running in and out of the schoolhouse, drinking, yelling, swearing, and talking at the top of their voices. The confusion was terrible.
Soon after my arrival the old preacher attempted to begin the service. He gave out a song, which a few of those present tried to sing; but the crowd was so noisy that the preacher alternately plead with them and reproved them, but without avail. The noise increased: the confusion became so great that, in despair, the old preacher gave up the attempt to hold a meeting and began to take down the names of those members of the mob whom he knew. The men had with them a number of bottles and jugs of whiskey. Drinking, swearing, and yelling continued without intermission, and from time to time we could hear the firing of revolvers. As soon as it seemed safe to do so, I went home with one of my friends, who lived near by.
As soon as possible, the old minister had a number of the members of the mob arrested and brought to trial for disturbing the peace. The preacher's actions during the trial showed that his object was, not so much to preserve the peace, as to take vengeance. Not content with a fine, he insisted on a jail sentence.
After the prosecution had offered its evidence against the mob, the lawyers on the defense made fun of the preacher saying: |What! you! A minister of the gospel! You want to send them to jail! You should be praying for them and trying to get them saved.| His reply was, |Yes, I will do all I can to send them to prison and then I will go and grin at them (in derision) through the bars.| I do not now recall whether or not the culprits received any punishment; but at any rate, the preacher's desire for vengeance was not satisfied. It was a common report about the country that he was so disappointed and mortified over what had happened that he did not sleep any that night. The difference of spirit manifested by my brother and that manifested by the old preacher shows the difference between the operation of the love of God and of human vengeance.
Soon after we began our labors, I became afflicted with the itch, which was then epidemic in that part of the country. A neighboring high school had been closed because of this disagreeable affliction. Previous to taking the disease myself, I had met some of the saints who had it, and who had not been healed as soon as I thought they should be. I shall have to relate that through ignorance -- to my shame, be it said -- I was not as compassionate to those unfortunate ones as I should have been. I had made assertions similar to this: |If you can't trust the Lord for healing, I would advise you to use remedies. Mother says that any one who would keep such an affliction any length of time is not decent.| Many of the people were wounded because of my heartless way of talking, though I did it ignorantly.
The Lord saw that I needed a good lesson, and therefore let the malady come upon me in a severe form. While preaching in small overheated school-houses with but very poor ventilation, my body became overheated, thus aggravating the disease, and soon I was not able to be in the public services at all. My arms swelled so that I could not straighten them; and for some months, I had but little use of my hands. This affliction baffled my faith more than any that I had had up to that time, but I had no temptation to resort to remedies. The case of the lady preacher whom we visited in northern Missouri stood before me as a warning. I decided to have my battle now, and not to give way and lose my healing faith. So I held on steadily by the help of my brother and fought the battle through until God gave me victory.
It was some time before I got rid of all the symptoms. The Lord showed me that I must be willing to go into the work again with them still showing. To do so, required humility, and I had to seek the Lord for help. I met rebuffs of which only the Lord and I knew; but God was ordering this experience, and the trial lasted no longer than was for my good. To complete the lesson, God laid upon me the duty of confessing publicly the attitude I had held towards those who had the itch before me, and the way I had talked to them. I made my confession, humbly asking the forgiveness of all who had been wounded by my words. God's way is humility before honor. The going down is painful; but God's lifting up afterwards is sweet. Praise his dear name! Christ was a meek and lowly Savior. To follow his example we must go the lowly way.
While yet in sectarianism I got the impression that the devil had to be stirred before a good revival could be held. Acting on this principle, I prayed that the Lord would stir the devil in the series of meetings my brother and I were then beginning at the Tennyson schoolhouse.
My prayer was answered. One evening near the beginning of this revival nine respectable young men of Vichy, Missouri, hired horses and saddles at the livery barn and came out to the schoolhouse to attend the meeting. Two desperate characters, reputed to have escaped from the penitentiary, were present, but remained outside the house. The services proceeded unmolested; but, after the service, when the nine young men from Vichy went to get their horses, they found that some one had cut the saddles and bridles in pieces and turned their horses loose. Others found their harness cut and the nuts of their wagons gone. The two desperadoes now began walking back and forth through the yard, displaying their weapons and threatening to shoot any one that accused them of committing any depredation. As the burrs had been removed from the wagon in which I came, I had to ride home on a mule behind another person. Jeremiah said, |Mary, I hope you have learned the lesson to not pray the Lord to stir the devil until you know you are able to cast him out. It is not always necessary that the devil be stirred before a revival. Souls can be saved and even devils cast out without the devil's being stirred and the power of the enemy being put on exhibition.| I never again prayed for the devil to be stirred.
About the beginning of the new year, the affliction which I have already mentioned, rendered me unfit for public service, and for about three months my brother and I stayed at the home of Brother Baugh on Dry Creek, where we read and studied and prayed and fought the affliction that had been imposed upon us. My brother got his prayers through and obtained healing much sooner than I. He used afterward to say, |I shall thank God through all eternity for having had the itch; because when I prayed through for healing, I struck the evening light,| meaning that he was beginning to discern the unity of God's people. This remark was often followed by a happy, hearty laugh.
Early in the spring I had so far recovered from my affliction that my brother and I began again to hold meetings in the schoolhouses in the counties where we had been working, covering in all a territory about fifteen or twenty miles in extent. These meetings usually lasted two, three, and four weeks at each place, and were very profitable in the salvation of souls. There were some things in connection with our work, however, that puzzled us greatly. For instance, after we had held a good meeting in which a number of souls had been saved, and had gone on to other appointments, preachers of different denominations would follow us up, preaching against two works of grace and divine healing, and casting reflections on us as ministers, with the result that upon returning after an absence of several weeks, we would find the people discouraged, and the congregation in a bad spiritual condition.
These things made our hearts ache. We saw that in our absence the people needed some one to give them advice, encouragement, and spiritual help.
Finally my brother said to me, |Mary, I am going to write to the Free Methodists and ask them if they will send us a preacher that will preach holiness.| It was not long until we received the following letter from the Free Methodist Conference: |If you get a congregation large enough to guarantee a minister a salary of five or six hundred dollars a year, we will send you a man that believes in holiness.| As they did not say that the minister they would send would have the experience of sanctification, their letter afforded but little encouragement.
While awaiting the reply of the Free Methodist conference, my brother had visited the Tennyson schoolhouse where we had held meetings sometime before. He found that no sect minister had yet demoralized the believers, and the members were more spiritual than those of any congregation we had yet visited. This occurrence threw some light on our difficulty. My brother, as was his usual custom when he had anything of great importance weighing on his mind, resorted to prayer. As it was March and the weather quite cool, he put on his overcoat and went out to spend the day alone until he got the leadings of the Lord.
God began to show him the sin of division. Jeremiah did not see matters very clearly yet, for he asked the Lord how we could get along without any human organization. The Lord asked him what good they had done, and brought to his mind the fact that it was only the spiritual ones, those who had not partaken of the spirit of division, that God could use to any advantage. My brother then inquired of the Lord how this sin of division had been brought about, and the Lord showed him that he could find the answer to his question in history.
When my brother had an opportunity to read history, he found that every sect builder told his own story. He saw that not one of the human organizations measured to the pattern of the New Testament church, and that since the sects have human founders, they could not be the church of God as that institution is of divine origin.
My brother then went back to the Tennyson schoolhouse, and preached his first sermon on the subject of the unity of God's people. The people joyfully accepted the truth and walked in the light. Jeremiah thought that when I heard what God had revealed to him I would be rejoiced; but, to his surprise, I could not yet discern the body of Christ. I was still under the influence of the wine of Babylon.
Our meetings had been attended with excellent results. Many souls had sought the Lord. In one meeting, which lasted three or four weeks, the whole country was stirred. Many young men and even whole families got under deep conviction. After a day spent in fasting and prayer, we came together in the evening, and conviction settled so heavily upon the people and God worked so mightily that we labored at the altar until two o'clock in the morning. Almost every seat was an altar. Rain was falling, and the brush arbor in which the meeting was held did not protect the congregation; but the interest was so great that the seekers paid no attention to the water that constantly dripped through the boughs overhead. About twenty souls, I think, sought the Lord that night. During the whole series of meetings, a large number were saved.
About this time Sister Julia Meyers, now of Ima, New Mexico, joined our company, and for some months, traveled with us in the work. She had been healed before coming to us; but she got light on the one church in our meetings. The Lord had been teaching me to more fully trust him for temporal needs as well as for spiritual benefits. When Sister Meyers joined our company, I began to teach her the things that God had been showing me. I saw that she needed help. First she began borrowing money from me now and then to get what she needed. I felt that I should give her the money. Later, when I needed a pair of shoes, she began to feel that she should get them for me. She had enough money to buy the shoes, but found it a little difficult to obey the impression.
In the meantime I was earnestly praying for the shoes. God made me to understand that my prayer had gone through, and that I could have had the shoes sooner, had I prayed more earnestly. I was upstairs. It came to me, |How do you know but that the shoes are downstairs waiting for you?| In less than five minutes I was called downstairs; and, sure enough, there were the shoes. At first I did not know where they came from; but Sister Meyers was so blessed in her obedience and sacrifice that she could not keep her secret, and we praised the Lord together.
As I was preaching the straight gospel of salvation from sin, sanctification, and divine healing, it was to be expected that I should meet with opposition. I met with some very peculiar and unexpected persecutions. Falsehoods were told about me that should have shamed the devil himself. One rumor was that I was one of the famous outlaws, known as the |James Boys,| disguised as a woman. One of the truth fighters published a long account of my meetings in the county newspaper. He branded me as an impostor, saying that I taught false doctrines. He affirmed that sanctification and divine healing were not for the people of the present day, that no one but Enoch and Elijah had been sanctified, both of whom went to heaven without dying. He ended his tirade against me by saying that I ought to be driven out of the country, and that he would join a mob raised for that purpose.
A Methodist lady, who no doubt had some understanding of Bible doctrine, replied to the gentleman with an article, in which she said that the Wesleys taught sanctification, and George Mueller, divine healing. |If,| said she, |the gentleman would read more, he would be better informed. There is some hope yet for 'Tom Paine,'| referring to the fictitious name signed to his article. I did not know of this wordy battle until it was ended.
At times my brother would hold a meeting at one place and at the same time I would hold one a few miles distant. It was at one such time that I held a meeting in the county courthouse. I was assisted by a brother of the M. E. South denomination -- a young college student, with but little experience in gospel work, thought that he could not preach unless he had his sermons written out. We preached on alternate evenings. One evening he came to me and said, |I wish you would occupy the pulpit tonight. I have been away and have had no chance for preparation.| I told him that I had not had time for preparation either. |Sister Cole,| he replied, |you can preach better without preparation than I can with preparation, besides, I haven't had my supper yet.| |Perhaps you could preach better without supper,| said I. Thus I held him to his duty and did not sympathize with him very much either. That night he had to lean so hard on God that many people said it was the best message they had ever heard him deliver.
Perhaps no young preacher going out in gospel work ever felt his inability more than I. As God had promised to be my sufficiency, I leaned hard upon him and did not feel discouraged. My education was so limited, that sometimes during a sermon, while trying to explain the Scriptures, I would lack words to express myself, and would look to the Lord, taking him as my wisdom. On such occasions he would supply me with words, and by his Spirit show me how to use them. Later, upon looking in the dictionary, I would find that they had been used correctly. This experience has been repeated many times in my ministry. Thus the Lord proved true his promise to be my spokesman. When I leaned on him, I was never confounded; no, not once. Truly our God is a covenant-keeping God, whom we can trust under all circumstances and at all times.
When the Lord healed me, he bestowed upon me the gift of exhortation and with it such a great measure of the Spirit's power that when I read the Scriptures, there was a heavenly illumination upon it, and I could see a sermon in almost every verse. At times the strength of this heavenly light so dazzled me that my mind and body were well-nigh overwhelmed. I studied and preached the Word under a light whose brightness could come only from the Spirit of the Lord, and I by spiritual sight could see through the Scriptures with a vision as unclouded as the vision before my natural eyes when looking through a clear glass. Oh, it was wonderful! I have always thought that God blessed me with this divine unfolding of the Scriptures because I did not at all depend upon my own human understanding, but leaned wholly upon him at the very time that I was studying or expounding the Word. As I became accustomed to this heavenly light, I was not so much dazzled by its brilliancy, but the gift of exhortation with its accompaniment of divine power, has been mine, except for one brief time, throughout my ministry.
As I went from place to place preaching, I began to realize that I needed another gift of the Spirit -- the gift of teaching. When the Lord first impressed me that he wanted me to teach, I begged off, saying that I stammered so that it was very hard for me to read. The Lord pitied me and took another plan to get me to do what he desired. Up to this time I had great freedom and much help in exhorting, but now God seemed to have taken this gift from me, and I became as one who had never had it. The Lord showed me that I would have to trust him for ability to teach and to explain the Word, and for help to overcome my stammering, or I would have no gift at all. So I got down and cried to him like a child and plead with him for help.
When the Lord saw that I was determined to obey him, he not only gave me the gift of teaching; but, to my surprise, he restored to me the gift of exhortation and let me exercise it as in days gone by. Surely the Lord humored me. I now had two gifts instead of one. But I would not advise others to do as I did, for though the Lord has no respect of person, you may have more light than I had at that time, and it may be that the Lord would not excuse you because of ignorance, as he excused me.
Quite early in my evangelistic work I held a meeting in a neighborhood where lived a man who had been an M. E. exhorter. He had once been saved, so the neighbors said, but having accepted a false doctrine that was being taught in that part of the country, and having partaken of its spirit, he was in a bad condition when I went there. He had rejected Christ entirely, saying that Jesus was nothing but an impostor.
Sometime before I went to the neighborhood, one of his children had gotten saved, and during the meeting that I held, another one had also come to Christ. Knowing their father's condition, the children feared his persecution and insisted that I should come and visit him. They thought that if I went to the house with them he would be more considerate. For their sakes, I went. I had heard that his practise was to invite ministers to his house, and then to belittle Christ in their presence, to give them no opportunity to return thanks, and to make them feel as far as possible his opposition to Christ.
After some conversation, he took down the Bible -- the Old Testament I mean, he had no New Testament in the house -- and told me that he was going to prove to me that Christ had never come. I told him that he could not do that, because by experience I knew that Christ had come. |If,| said I, |you are going to try to prove to me that Christ has not come, you have gotten hold of the wrong person. I would stake my life that Christ has come. I have met the conditions prescribed in his Word, and he has given me the witness of my salvation, and has also healed me.|
I tried in various ways to see if there was a tender spot in his heart that God could touch. Among other things, I said, |When I first started out in the work of the Lord, I wrote to my mother saying, 'I have found many good friends. All who are Jesus' friends,' I wrote, 'are my friends.' But,| I continued, |I suppose I have now found a man who is not a friend of Jesus, and yet is my friend.| I thought this would shame him. |Yes,| he answered, |I am your friend, but not his.| I returned thanks at the table and also asked him the privilege of praying before I left. The Spirit of God intimidated him till he did not dare to refuse me. Never did the name of Jesus seem half so sweet to me as when I got down to pray before this wicked man. It seemed as though all the sweetness of heaven was wrapped up in that name. I could say but little: I could only breathe out the precious name of Jesus; and oh, how he magnified himself through His name! Although I felt the presence of infernal spirits all around me -- the very spirit that crucified Christ -- yet I felt the presence, too, of the blessed Lord, the Christ of the Bible.
Still thinking that I might say something that would touch his heart, I said, as I was about to leave, |Pray for me.| He said, |I will; and you pray for me: but not in the name of Jesus;| adding a moment later, |but I know that you will do as you please anyhow.| I felt then that unless God directly ordered it, I never wanted to go again to a place where Christ was so entirely rejected. I thought of the scripture which says that they had forgotten that they were once purged. If ever I met a man who had sinned against the Holy Ghost, this was certainly the man.
In the early years of my ministry, I sometimes found that when the Lord was burdening my heart to preach on certain subjects my sympathy stood in the way; that is, I was afraid I would hurt somebody's feelings. One night I dreamed that another minister and I were standing near a large casket containing two dead bodies. It seemed that God wanted us to dissect these two bodies, and I said to the minister who was with me, |Brother, we had better get to work before the stench fills the room.|
When I awoke I knew that God was trying to teach me something. Just a few days afterwards I went across the country accompanied by the brother, and his wife, of whom I had dreamed. Some of the congregation at the place where we were going to hold meeting on the next Sunday, were professing to be saved, and at the same time were living in adultery. Some others needed warning in regard to other sins. The Lord wanted me to preach to these people showing them where they stood; but, because of my sympathy for them, I did not want to handle the subject. The I ord reminded me that I had promised to preach his Word on any subject. |Yes, Lord,| said I, |but I sympathize so with these people! I would rather be whipped from head to foot than to preach on this subject at this time.| I preached, talking first on one subject and then another, and not coming to anything definite, entirely failing to give them that portion of the Word that they so much needed.
That night I took very sick. It seemed that I should die. I did not know what was the matter. I asked the Lord why I was suffering so; and he reminded me that I had said that I would rather be whipped from head to foot than to preach on the subject he had given me, and that now the whipping had come. When God administers correction, he always does a thorough work. I begged earnestly that he would take his hand off, promising him faithfully that I would never grieve him in that way any more; but I saw that I lacked sufficient Holy Ghost boldness to carry out my decision if I continued to sympathize with those for whom the message was intended. So I asked the Lord earnestly for help, telling him that if he wanted to use me in dissecting, he must give me the ability. The lesson has never had to be repeated.
During my earlier ministry an incident occurred which to some might seem amusing; but which to me furnished an excellent spiritual illustration. A class-leader of the M. E. South denomination came a number of miles across the country to take me to a certain place to help in a meeting. We had to ford the Gasconade river. It was winter, and the ice was frozen thick. Before we reached the river, some men had cut a road through the ice, so that people could cross on horseback. As we rode out into the stream the flowing water seemed to affect me strangely. It seemed to me that the brother who was with me was trying to pull me off of the horse and drown me. I said, |Don't, don't, it is all I can do to stay on now.| When we reached the other side, the brother broke into a hearty laugh: |Sister Cole, did you think I was trying to drown you? I saw that the water made you dizzy, and that you were about to fall off the horse. It was all I could do to keep you from drowning.|
Many times since then I have thought of this incident, as an illustration of a certain spiritual condition. When a person gets somewhat cold spiritually, the doctrines of the church become indistinct, and, spiritually speaking, his head begins to swim. At such a time he is likely to think that those who are endeavoring to help him out of his difficulties are trying to drown him; that they are in spiritual trouble themselves and that they are trying to pull him into the same difficulty.
At another time I was going to a meeting near the place of which I have just told you, and had to cross the same river. It was earlier in the fall; and the Gasconade, although badly swollen, had not yet frozen. The boy who was with me, feared that the river was too high for fording, and asked what we should do. As the appointment had already been made for me, I feared that the people would be disappointed and told him we would better go across if we could. |Shall I go across first and see how deep the water is?| he asked. I told him I thought that would be the better way. He found the water to be deep enough to swim our horses, but thought that we might get across, although we would risk our lives in the attempt. He said that if I wanted to run the risk, he was willing. God protected us and we reached the other side in safety.
The young man said to some of his friends afterwards, that he was afraid we would both drown, but that he would not let a woman back him out. |I knew,| said he |that if she drowned, she would be saved; but that if I drowned, I should be lost.| I certainly appreciated his generosity in risking his life to help me.
While holding meetings in that neighborhood, this same young man and his brother, although unsaved, befriended me in every way possible, because they knew that I had come there to do the people good. Their sisters, who professed religion, also manifested great friendliness for me. At one time when some sectarian holiness fighters tried to shut me out of the schoolhouse, the two brothers defended me like lawyers, won the case, and secured the use of the house for as long as I desired to hold meetings. Whenever I needed a conveyance, I had only to call on these young men.
I met a brother young in the ministry who had a very clear definite experience of justification and sanctification, and who had had a very definite call. He had had, however, but very little experience in tests and trials, and was therefore not qualified to be the blessing to young converts or to young workers that he might have been. As he had been so victorious in his religious experience, he thought that trials and tests were a sign of weakness, and that those who had them were spiritual weaklings. Whenever a young convert or worker had a test or a trial of faith, and needed special help or encouragement, he would think, |Oh, well it isn't worth while to bother with him; he doesn't amount to much anyway. He will not stand, and if he does, he won't ever be very useful in the Lord's cause. He is not worthy of any attention.|
God let this brother go through deep waters. He had a severe test; and when he came through, his compassion was much increased, and his care and consideration for the young converts and those in trouble was all that could be desired. He did not find any one then unworthy his consideration. He had learned that every soul worth Christ's dying for, is worth all the effort we can make, either for its deliverance or its establishment. Well did the Psalmist say, |When I was in trouble thou hast enlarged my steps.| The Psalmist got the enlargement right in the trial, just as we often do. Much of our development is obtained in the furnace of trial; in fact, I believe most of it. Let us be thankful, therefore, for the dispensation of God's grace, whether it be bestowed by trial or in sunshine; whether it comes in storm or in calm, knowing that God allows all for our highest good.
Quite early in our evangelistic labors my brother saw that I had been leaning too much on him. Frequently when God wanted me to deliver a message, I would hold back and let my brother preach instead. I was not getting the experience I should, nor being as useful in the Lord's work as I might. My brother thought that if he should leave me to work alone for a time, the Lord would have a chance to help me more. He therefore began leaving me to hold meetings alone for weeks at a time, while he held services in some nearby neighborhood. Naturally, I felt somewhat fearful about being left to carry on the work alone; but the Lord helped me and enabled me to hold a number of good successful meetings.
At one of these meetings God had been answering prayer and conviction was falling heavily upon the people. The whole neighborhood seemed stirred, and crowds were at the altar. Fathers and mothers came seeking salvation. A few, however, among them a Campbellite minister, came with the intention of causing trouble. He wanted a chance, he said to tell the people how to find Jesus. I asked him what he would tell them. |Obey the commendments.| |What commandments?| |Join the church and be baptized.| |If you have a message from God,| said I, |we will hear it; but, if you have not, we will not hear it. Souls are at the altar and their eternal interests are at stake. This is too serious a time to deliver a message not from God.| He arose and went out, accompanied by the man who had come with him. When the sinners laughed at him, he said, |If you had had such hot testimonies thrown into your faces, you would have left too.| When this same minister came to another meeting to disturb, God got hold of him and brought him to the altar. I don't think he got an experience, but he made no more attempts to disturb the meeting.
Every time the enemy undertook to hinder the work, God marvelously helped us. At one time a certain minister came to try to look me out of countenance while I was preaching. His plan was to confuse me so that I could not preach. The enemy knew that if I became the least bit confused, I would stammer so that I could hardly talk. God was present to help me. He so confounded the man that before the service was over, his head went down and I had no more trouble with him.
At different times I held meetings of three or four week's duration, preaching twice every day and three times on Sunday. I had no help in the preaching, and but very little at the altar service. There were many people at the altar seeking God and the work was very heavy. The Lord wonderfully sustained me. The fact that I went through such fatiguing experiences as these, laboring sometimes far into the night, shows how wonderfully God had healed me, and how he was sustaining me in my work.
Experience alone will show how much the dear Lord can help us physically as well as spiritually if we but trust him. Unbelief and doubts hinder God from being to us our sufficiency at all times and under all circumstances. Faith will take hold of God for things beyond the comprehension of our natural minds. The Word says, |All things are possible with God|; |All things are possible to him that believeth.| As we trust in the Lord, he will honor our faith and give us the desire of our hearts.