I was still a Methodist. The Methodist did not license women to preach; but when the preachers found out that God was using me in the salvation of souls and that I was not especially interested in building up any certain denomination, I had an abundance of calls.
God had already begun talking to my brother Jeremiah about the sin of division, and he was beginning to see the evils of sectarianism. The winter after I was healed, he had attended the Jacksonville, Illinois, holiness convention, and had met there Bro. D. S. Warner, who at that time was editor of a holiness paper, The Herald of Gospel Freedom, then published at Rome City, Ind. Brother Warner was already beginning to discern the unity of God's people, but he had not yet received enough light on the subject to sever his connection with the Winebrennerian denomination, of which he was a member. It was about the time of the Jacksonville meeting that The Herald of Gospel Freedom was consolidated with The Pilgrim, a small holiness paper published at Indianapolis, Indiana.
While at the Jacksonville meeting, Jeremiah subscribed for The Pilgrim and had it sent to me at Windsor, Missouri, as I had not yet begun gospel work.
I received only a few numbers of The Pilgrim, as that publication was consolidated with The Herald of Gospel Freedom January 1, 1881, under the name The Gospel Trumpet. At a later date, when Brother Warner had full light on the church, The Gospel Trumpet was no longer considered a consolidation of the two papers, but an entirely new publication. The first issue of The Trumpet (January 1, 1881) represented a new paper and was later designated as Vol.1, No.1. When the publication of The Pilgrim ceased, Brother Warner began to send me The Gospel Trumpet to finish out the unexpired time of my subscription to The Pilgrim.
During my brother's absence in evangelistic work I received several copies of The Trumpet. As soon as I read in The Trumpet about the sin of division and saw that the new paper opposed the licensing of preachers, my sectarian spirit was stirred. I thought that holiness would make the churches, as I called them, better. I was afraid that if people got hold of such literature as The Trumpet it would disgust them with holiness forever. I burned The Trumpets I had already received, and then sat down and wrote Brother Warner never to send me another copy. As I was traditionized, and had opposed the truth in ignorance, the Lord did not hold my opposition as a wilful sin.
After my brother had got light on the one body, he was so enthused with the truth that he wanted to explain it to every one he met. While out walking one day the next summer after he discerned the one body, he fell into conversation with a man about the Scriptures. After talking a little while the man said, |I have a paper that reads just as you talk.| Going to the house, he brought out The Gospel Trumpet and gave it to my brother, who went down the road reading as he went. He never stopped reading until he had finished the paper. At the earliest opportunity my brother wrote a letter to Brother Warner, asking him if he had enough light on the one body to set it clearly before the people. He also asked him if many were accepting this divine truth. To the first question Brother Warner replied, |Yes,| and to the second, |Yes, hundreds are discerning the one body.| As soon as my brother learned that Brother Warner and many others had the same truth that God had made so clear and beautiful to him, he rejoiced greatly. He could not rest until he went where Brother Warner was; but, as I had neglected to walk in the light, I was left alone, and that, too, in more ways than one.
Some time before I discerned the body of Christ, I had some impressive dreams. In one I thought I was in a large building belonging to some denomination. A conference of that denomination was being held just outside the door, and the ministers wanted me to come and take part. I looked toward the door through which I must pass, and I saw two large worms with their heads together, lying directly across the threshold. In order to enter the room, I would have to step over the worms and would be in great danger of receiving a deadly bite. I said to myself, |I will not run the risk for any man's notions or ways|; and, turning on my heel, I went out of another door.
I soon saw my dream fulfilled. The denomination that I had been holding a meeting for insisted that I should join their conference, saying that they would give me a license so that I could hold meetings in their territory. I knew that, according to their discipline, they could not license a woman to preach; and I said to the minister, |You don't dare to give me a license.| |Well,| said he, |I will tell you what you can do, Sister Cole; we can go to a place not far from here where you have had a good meeting, lay this matter before the people, and have them vote to give you a permit, so that you can hold meetings in any part of our district.| I did not feel at all led to take such steps; and, as I had done in my dream, I turned in the other direction. I suppose God was using this method to get me ready for the truth.
The summer before I got out of sectarianism, an M. E. South minister invited me to come to their new chapel, to attend the quarterly conference, and to help hold a series of meetings. As the M. E. South denomination did not license women preachers, women were not allowed at the quarterly conference. They had arranged, however, that several other women and I should sit in a room adjoining the conference, so that we could hear the proceedings. This was on Saturday. On Sunday morning they held their quarterly love-feast, partook of the Lord's Supper, and listened to a sermon by the presiding elder.
In the afternoon and the evening, I preached. While the afternoon service was in progress, the ministers were holding a private meeting to decide whether or not I should proceed with the meeting I had come to hold. In this part of the country was a wealthy man, a sinner, who contributed very liberally to the support of the work. This man objected to women's preaching and opposed the continuance of the meeting.
It was decided that the meeting should not continue, but the pastor of the congregation did not tell me. The pastor and his wife were both present at the service on Monday night, and both seemed well pleased. On Tuesday evening the interest began to increase, and one or two raised their hands for prayer. Just at the close of the service a note was handed me requesting me to close the meeting, as they had decided not to continue at the present time, but to wait until later in the season.
I could not keep from crying. I had called the Methodist Church my mother; and now to think that my mother was treating me in this way, made me feel very bad. I went home with a young couple who had been saved a short time before in a meeting held near this place. They felt very bad over what had happened, and we all cried together. The young people tried to encourage me as best they could.
Next day they took me to their aunt's, a special friend of mine, who had shown me kindness while I was in that neighborhood before. As we went along the road, I thought to myself, |Any one treated as I have been ought to look sneaking|; and I tried to think of everything I could to make me look that way. When we arrived at our destination, the sister was not in the room, so I hunted the smallest chair I could find, and sat down. As soon as she came in, she saw that I was in trouble and inquired what was the matter. I began to tell her, crying at the same time; but she began to laugh. Well, she laughed and I cried; but after a while I took to laughing too. I never again felt bad about my treatment at that place.
I still continued to get calls from the sectarian preachers to go and help hold meetings. I responded to these, and held two or three meetings in different places. Late that fall I held a meeting at Rolla, Mo. The preacher could hardly get an audience when he preached, so he sent for me, thinking that a woman preacher would be quite an attraction and would draw crowds. The crowds came. Although there were a number of ministers present, including the presiding elder, I occupied the pulpit, I think, during half of that meeting. Conviction came upon the people, and a number came to the altar; but not many of those who came, seemed to get an experience.
On the last night of the meeting quite a number of bright, intelligent young people, some of them college students came to the altar and some of them were getting saved. As the minister went to talk with the seekers one by one, God put it into my heart to listen to what they were saying. Not once did these preachers say, |Seek the Lord until you find him;| |There is reality in salvation;| |Never stop until you know you are saved.| Their instructions were: |Join the church;| |Get baptized,| etc. God opened my eyes right there to the awful work that these so-called ministers were doing. I said, |If they are going to help deceive souls that way and send them to destruction, I will never help them again.| That was the last meeting in which I ever helped to build up Babylon.
Collections were taken up for the ministers and for the general expenses of the meeting, but no one ever said to me, |Do you need any means?| One of the sisters, however, found out that I had a little money, and she asked me to give it to her to use in buying a little clothing for me so I would be suitably dressed to preach in their meeting. I felt that even this was too good for me, because I had failed to walk in the light.
At the close of the meeting, to my surprise, I found myself under a wrong spirit. I went to Bro. John P. Bailey and wife, who had accepted the truth when Jeremiah preached his first sermon on the church at that place. I told Brother and Sister Bailey my condition as best I could, and the three of us fasted and prayed three days. God delivered me from the false spirit, gave me light on the one body, the church, and made me glad to walk in the light as fast as it was revealed.
Bro. Jake Cruts came to ask my advice on the subject of baptism. |Sister Cole,| said he, |what do you think about baptism: is it a commandment of God? If so, what is the correct mode?| Before I could answer him, he continued, |I suppose we shall never know the right mode.| |I believe,| said I, |if we are sincere and come to God in earnest prayer, he will show us his will, even if the scripture on that doctrine has been wrongly translated.| The brother agreed with me, and I said, |Let us get down and pray.| While we were on our knees, God made me to understand that in the near future, he would make known to me his will on the subject of baptism.
I told the brother who was kneeling with me what God had shown me; but it seemed that I needed to be humbled still more. At this time I received another Trumpet in which there was an article by D. S. Warner on the subject of baptism. I said to myself, |He is nothing but a Baptist preacher anyway,| and found myself going into gross darkness. For about two hours it seemed that I was bound for hell. I cried out, |O Lord! why is it that after you have used me in the salvation of souls, some of whom no doubt are in the glory-world, I must now be lost?| The Lord made me understand that I was not responsible for not having been baptized, as I had no knowledge of the teaching of the Scriptures on this subject, but that I was responsible for my present light. He showed me that, if I would walk in the light, I should not be lost. I decided then and there to walk in every ray of light that God gave me.
As members of the M. E. Church, my parents had had me sprinkled when I was a child, and up to this time I had had no light on baptism. When I had opportunity and I was buried in baptism, God wonderfully witnessed that I was being baptized in his order.
My first text after I got light on the one body of Christ, was Jeremiah 1:6-10 and 17-19. A short time before this I had held a meeting with an M. E. South preacher, who now seemed to stand before me like an obstructing mountain. As I began my sermon, I seemed to see him in that capacity. Before I was through delivering the message, however, God had lifted me above the mountain, so that I was never again troubled in that way.
My name was still on the M. E. class-book; but God showed me that I ought to have it removed, and how to have it removed. I sent for my church letter and trusted the Lord to direct me how to dispose of it. One Sunday after a sermon had been delivered on the church of God, I rose and told the congregation about the church letter, told them that the Lord had shown me that I could not have two valid contracts for my entire service with two different parties at the same time. I said, |I have decided that the contract between God and my soul is the more important one.| Then I proceeded to tear up my letter, and God sent his mighty power, witnessing that my contract with the Lord was ratified in heaven. So much of heaven came down, and the glory world seemed so near, that I seemed attached to heaven, not by a cord, but by a mighty cable. I shall never be able to express how satisfied I was with God's church. Some sectarian preachers prophesied that I should soon be back preaching for the denominations. One of them was heard to say, |If I knew that Mary Cole would come and help us in a meeting, I would send for her; but I am afraid she won't.| I never got any more special calls from Babylon.
Shortly after I got light on the one body, however, the devil laid a snare for me. I saw the snare before I got into it, and God's Word was fulfilled: |In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird.| It happened in this way: A certain man who was starting a new sect tried to interest all he could in his project. He did not call his new religious movement by any special name and professed not to have anything to join. He would have the people come and shake hands, inferring that in so doing they were not joining anything, but were merely showing their mutual love and fellowship. In order to be an encouragement to any that might really be trying to live for the Lord, I went up and shook hands with the preacher and others. After we had shaken hands, his design became apparent. He seated me and a few others on one side of the platform and called for others to come and shake hands with us. The Lion of the tribe of Judah began to roar in my soul. I got up very quickly, and the plan was defeated.
A common remark made to me by sectarians was, |You ought to join some denomination so that you will be inside the pale of the church,| thus inferring that because I did not belong to a human organization, I was not in good pasture, but outside on the commons with poor, ill-fed stock. I understood the figure of speech very well, for I was brought up on a farm where the garden was enclosed with palings. Between these palings were spaces through which small animals could get in and destroy the vegetables -- a very good illustration of the sectarian churches surrounded by their palings, through which unclean spirits can slip in and destroy the flock. In the church of God I feel secure; because God has appointed salvation for her walls and bulwarks (Isaiah 26:1), and through these neither evil spirits, nor even the devil himself can penetrate.
I was educated to believe, and in this way I often expressed myself, that the M. E. denomination was my spiritual mother. This idea remained with me until I got light on the sin of division and was spiritually able to discern the bride of Christ. Then I saw that |Jerusalem from above is the mother of us all.| I saw plainly that if I had two mothers, one must be a stepmother. While my mother was living I never cared to have a stepmother. The prophecies of Scripture so unmistakably point to the one church, the body of Christ, that they can be but poorly explained by those who are trying to make them conform to sectarian theology. I am content with the church of God, with Christ as the door, and nothing inside but the holy throng.
Besides, in sectarianism I did not have freedom in my ministry. I could preach only as the sect ministers suggested. If God gave me more light, and I tried to give it to the people, I was likely to receive a rebuke. I remember that at one time while I was holding a meeting for some denomination, God led me to preach on holiness. In the very beginning of the meeting they had advised me not to preach on this subject. What was I to do? The Lord reminded that I had promised I would preach any part of his Word whenever and wherever he led me to do so. He now brought me face to face with the question, |What will you do?| I said, |Lord, I will obey you if you will stand by me.| The Lord assured me that he would. I preached on sanctification as a distinct second work of grace, God witnessing to the message by his mighty power. After the service, the minister who had placed the restrictions upon me, said, |Sister Cole, that is the best sermon you preached during the whole meeting.| I answered, |I knew that the things you didn't want were the things you needed.|
After the Lord had led me into the precious truth of the oneness of his people, I was much better satisfied with what God did with me and through me, with the meetings I held, and with the results attained. Although at times not as many people professed salvation now as when I was preaching for the denomination, yet those who got saved reached a settled experience, being satisfied that they were in God's order. They were not looking around for something that more nearly represented the truth. As a minister I was satisfied, knowing that I was delivering the whole counsel of God. No one ever can be satisfied who is not walking in every ray of light that God turns on his pathway.