How I Know God Answers Prayer
The Personal Testimony of One Life-Time
By ROSALIND GOFORTH (Mrs. Jonathan Goforth) Missionary in China since 1888
"They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness."—Psalm 145:7.
"Go . . . and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee."—Mark 5:19.
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON
Copyright, 1921, by Harper & Brothers
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
IT seems fitting that this little book of personal testimonies to answered prayer should have a brief introductory word as to how they came to be written. The question has been asked by some who read many of these testimonies as they appeared in the pages of The Sunday School Times: "How could you write such personal and sacred incidents in your life?" I could not have written them but for a very clear, God-given leading.
The story is as follows: When in Canada on our first furloughs I was frequently amazed at the incredulity expressed when definite testimony was given to an answer to prayer. Sometimes this was shown by an expressive shrug of the shoulders, sometimes by a sudden silence or turning of the topic of conversation, and sometimes more openly by the query: "How do you know that it might not have happened so, anyway?"
Gradually the impression deepened: "If they will not believe one, two, or a dozen testimonies, will they believe the combined testimonies of one whole life?"
The more I thought of what it would mean to record the sacred incidents connected with answers to prayer the more I shrank from the publicity, and from undertaking the task. There were dozens of answers far too sacred for the public eye, which were known only to a few, others known only to God. But if the record were to carry weight with those who did not believe in the supernatural element in prayer, many personal and scarcely less sacred incidents must of necessity be made public.
Again and again I laid the matter aside as impossible. But I know now that the thing was of God. As months, even years, passed, the impelling sense that the record of answers to prayer must be written gave me no rest.
It was at the close of the 1908-10 furlough—during which, as a family, we had been blessed with many and, to our weak faith, wonderful answers to prayer—that my oldest son urged me to put down in some definite form the answers to prayer of my life, and extracted from me a solemn promise that I would do so.
But months passed after returning to China, and the record had not been touched. Then came a sudden and serious illness which threatened my life, when the doctor told me I must not delay in getting my affairs in order.
It was then that an overwhelming sense of regret took possession of me that I had not set down the prayer testimonies, and solemnly I covenanted with the Lord that if he would raise me up they should be written.
There was no more question of what others might think; the one thought was to obey. The Lord raised me up; and although he had to deal with me very sternly once more before I really set myself to the task, the testimonies that are given here were written at last—most of them in odd moments of time during strenuous missionary journeys among the heathen.
Thus it will be seen that these incidents of answered prayer are not given as being more wonderful, or more worthy of record, than multitudes the world over could testify to; but they are written and sent out simply and only because I had to write them or disobey God.
How these testimonies came to be written iii
I "GETTING THINGS FROM GOD"
The simplicity of petition 1
II EARLY LESSONS IN THE LIFE OF FAITH
Led by a bird. Toothache taken away. Reward of seeking first the Kingdom. Financial aid. Sunday-school scholars given. Guidance in time of crisis. A prayer preparation for China. A beautiful seal on the new life 6
III "GO FORWARD ON YOUR KNEES" (1887-1894)
The key-note of pioneer years. Help in the language from the Home Base. Prayer-opened doors. Deliverance in time of peril. "Kept by the power of God." Prayer and medical work. Converts from the first. Wang Feng-ao, the proud Confucian scholar. Wang Fu-Lin, the opium fiend. Dr. Hunter Corbett's testimony. The result of obedience. From the gates of death. Lord Sandwich's testimony 15
IV A GOD-GIVEN FIELD (1894-1900)
A promise given. The promise fulfilled. Our great need. One need supplied—an evangelist. A second need supplied—a Bible-woman. Paying the price of petition. A touch of healing. A Chinaman's faith,—the locust story! A Christian woman's faith for her child. Our child died—a case of unanswered prayer. A God of deliverances 28
V OUR DELIVERANCE FROM THE BOXERS (1900)
A clear answer to prayers in the home church. Led on through dangers and trials. Safely brought through 43
VI PROVING GOD'S FAITHFULNESS (1902-1908)
God must come first. A hard proposition. In the furnace. Made willing in the day of God's power. Testimony to God's abundant faithfulness. A Bible-woman of exceptional power given. God meeting the Home message—"Retrench." Abundant funds provided. A beautiful instance of "God's wireless." A case of "While they are yet speaking I will hear." The life made easier. A child's fever restrained. Blessing in the work, converts given. A God-suggested remedy. Chinese prevailing prayer for Mr. Goforth. Women sent to us. Doors for preaching opened. Workers supplied abundantly. Kept from smallpox. We may trust Him wholly. 69
VII THE STORY OF ONE FURLOUGH (1908-1910)
Meeting a condition of petition—obedience. Six difficult doors opened. Trusting for everything. Apples sent in abundance. Fruit, the best, in abundance. A telephone supplied. A fur coat. God's wonderful keeping power, a blessed experience. Help for the children's sewing. Another case of "God's wireless." A timely offer. A daughter's guardian provided. A case of the Lord's lovingkindness—a red cloth ulster! Too many to record 89
VIII OUR GOD OF THE IMPOSSIBLE
A blessed incident from Keswick. A verse of a hymn given. A governess provided. Rain withheld in answer to prayer. Five pounds sent. Sewing and prayer. A gracious leading, and a great need supplied. An incident in Tientsin. More help with the sewing. A sewing machine supplied. A case of tuberculosis healed. Two incidents of prayer and revival. Fifty dollars sent for friends in need. Another case of spiritual "wireless." Led to a lost key 105
IX TO HIS PRAISE!
Trusting God to supply needs. His faithfulness. Prayer and dress. The restraining power of prayer—my son in the Great War. A prayer answered abundantly for one at home. Our God-given site. Closing words. All in "abide." Bible study on prayer 124
X VICTORY FOUND
Childhood yearnings for the presence of Christ. Half-hearted conflict with sin in early years in China. Pride and bad temper. Secretly criticized by Chinese women. How to live Christ as well as preach him. Heights and depths of spiritual experience. Lifelong prayer for the fulness of the Spirit. The conference at Niagara-on-the-Lake, June, 1916. A speaker's message and leaflet on "The Victorious Life." Christ accepted as Saviour from the power of sin as well as from its penalty. The joy of realizing his Indwelling Presence. All summed up in one word, "Resting." Bible-study on "The Life of Victory in Christ" 131
"GETTING THINGS FROM GOD"
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? . . . Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."—The Lord Jesus Christ.
THE pages of this little book deal almost wholly with just one phase of prayer—petition. The record is almost entirely a personal testimony of what petition to my Heavenly Father has meant in meeting the everyday crises of my life.
A prominent Christian worker, who read some of these testimonies in The Sunday School Times, said to the writer: "To emphasize getting things from God, as you do, is to make prayer too material."
To me this seems far from true. God is my Father, I am his child. As truly as I delight to be sought for by my child when he is cold or hungry, ill, or in need of protection, so is it with my Heavenly Father.
Prayer has been hedged about with too many man-made rules. I am convinced that God has intended prayer to be as simple and natural, and as constant a part of our spiritual life, as the intercourse between a child and his parent in the home. And as a large part of that intercourse between child and parent is simply asking and receiving, just so is it with us and our Heavenly Parent.
Perhaps, however, the most blessed element in this asking and getting from God lies in the strengthening of faith which comes when a definite request has been granted. What more helpful and inspiring than a ringing testimony of what God has done?
As I have recalled the past in writing these incidents, one of the most precious memories is that of an evening when a number of friends had gathered in our home. The conversation turned on answered prayer. For more than two hours we vied with one another in recounting personal incidents of God's wonderful work; and the inspiration of that evening still abides.
A Christian minister once said to me: "Is it possible that the great God of the universe, the Maker and Ruler of mankind, could or would, as you would make out, take interest in such a trifle as the trimming of a hat! To me it is preposterous!"
Yet did not our Lord Jesus Christ say: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered"; and "not one sparrow is forgotten before God"; and again, "Your heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of before ye ask him"?
It is true that "There is nothing too great for God's power"; and it is just as true that "There is nothing too small for his love!"
If we believe God's Word we must believe, as Dan Crawford has tersely and beautifully expressed it, that "The God of the infinite is the God of the infinitesimal." Yes, he
"Who clears the grounding berg And guides the grinding floe, He hears the cry of the little kit fox And the lemming of the snow!"
No more wonderful testimony, perhaps, has ever been given of God's willingness to help in every emergency of life, than that which Mary Slessor gave, when asked to tell what prayer had meant to her. "My life," she wrote, "is one long daily, hourly record of answered prayer. For physical health, for mental overstrain, for guidance given marvelously, for errors and dangers everted, for enmity to the Gospel subdued, for food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything that goes to make up life and my poor service. I can testify, with a full and often wonder-stricken awe, that I believe God answers prayer. I know God answers prayer!"
I have been asked the question: "Has God always given you just what you have asked for?"
Oh, no! For him to have done so would have been great unkindness. For instance: when I was a young woman I prayed for three years that God would grant me a certain petition. Sometimes I pleaded for this as for life itself, so intensely did I want it. Then God showed me very clearly that I was praying against his will. I resigned my will to his in the matter, and a few months later God gave what was infinitely better. I have often praised him for denying my prayer; for had he granted it I could never have come to China.
Then, too, we must remember that many of our prayers, though always heard, are not granted because of some sin harbored in the life, or because of unbelief, or of failure to meet some other Bible-recorded condition governing prevailing prayer. (See Bible Study on pages 129, 130.)
The following incidents of answered prayer are by no means a complete record. How could they be, when no record of prayer has been kept all these fifty years? Had there been, I doubt not that volumes could have been written to the glory of God's grace and power in answering prayer. But even from what is recorded here I, too, can say from a full heart, I know God answers prayer.
"He answered prayer: so sweetly that I stand Amid the blessing of his wondrous hand And marvel at the miracle I see, The favours that his love hath wrought for me. Pray on for the impossible, and dare Upon thy banner this brave motto bear, 'My Father answers prayer.'"
EARLY LESSONS IN THE LIFE OF FAITH
"I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications."—Psalm 116:1.
WHEN a very little child, so young I can remember nothing earlier, a severe thunderstorm passed over our home. Terrified, I ran to my mother, who placed my hands together, and pointing upward repeated over and over again the one word "Jesus."
More than fifty years have passed since that day, but the impression left upon my child-mind, of a Being invisible but able to hear and help, has never been effaced.
* * * * *
The most precious recollections of early childhood are associated with stories told us by our mother, many of which illustrated the power of prayer.
One that made a specially deep impression upon me was about our grandfather, who as a little boy went to visit cousins in the south of England, their home being situated close to a dense forest. One day the children, lured by the beautiful wild flowers, became hopelessly lost in the woods. After trying in vain to find a way out, the eldest, a young girl, called the frightened, crying little ones around her and said: "When mother died she told us to always tell Jesus if we were in any trouble. Let us kneel down, and ask him to take us home."
They knelt, and as she prayed one of the little ones opened his eyes, to find a bird so close to his hand that he reached out for it. The bird hopped away, but kept so close to the child as to lead him on. Soon all were joining in the chase after the bird, which flew or hopped in front or just above, and sometimes on the ground almost within reach. Then suddenly it flew into the air and away. The children looked up to find themselves on the edge of the woods and in sight of home.
With such influences bearing upon one at an impressionable age, it is not surprising that I came even as a very little child to just "tell Jesus" when in trouble.
* * * * *
Through the mists of memory one incident comes out clearly, which occurred when I was six or seven years of age. While playing one day in the garden, I was seized with what we then called "jumping" toothache. I ran to my mother for comfort, but nothing she could do seemed to ease the pain.
The nerve must have become exposed, for the pain was acute. Suddenly I thought, "Jesus can help me," and just as I was, with my face pressed against my mother's breast, I said in my heart:
"Lord Jesus, if you will take away this toothache right now, now, I will be your little girl for three years."
Before the prayer was well uttered the pain was entirely gone. I believed that Jesus had taken it away; and the result was that for years, when tempted to be naughty, I was afraid to do what I knew was wrong lest, if I broke my side of what I felt to be a compact, the toothache would return. This little incident had a real influence over my early life, gave me a constant sense of the reality of a divine presence, and so helped to prepare me for the public confession of Christ as my Saviour a few years later, at the age of eleven.
* * * * *
About a year after my confession of Christ an incident occurred which greatly strengthened my faith, and led me to look to God as a Father in a new way.
When Easter Sunday morning came it was so warm only spring clothes could be worn. My sister and I decided at breakfast that we would not go to church, as we had only our old winter dresses. Going to my room, I turned to my Bible to study it, when it opened at the sixth chapter of Matthew, and my eye rested on these words: "Why take ye thought for raiment . . . seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you."
It was as if God spoke the words directly to me. I determined to go to church, even if I had to humiliate myself by going in my old winter dress. The Lord was true to his promise; I can still feel the power the resurrection messages had upon my heart that day so long ago. And further, on the following day a box came from a distant aunt, containing not only new dresses but much else that might well be included in the "all these things."
* * * * *
An unforgetable proof of God's loving care came to us as a family about this time, when my parents were face to face with a serious financial crisis. Isaiah 65:24 was literally fulfilled: "Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."
At that time, it is necessary to state, we depended on a quarterly income, which came through my mother's lawyer in England. Unusual circumstances had so drained our resources that we found ourselves, in the middle of the quarter, with barely sufficient to meet a week's needs. My dear mother assured us that the Lord would provide; that he would not forsake those who put their trust in him. That very day a letter came from the lawyer in England, enclosing a draft for a sum ample to meet our needs till the regular remittance should arrive. This unexpected and timely draft proved to be a bonus, which did not occur again.
* * * * *
Some years later, having moved to a strange city, a great longing came to do some definite service for my Master. One day there came to the Bible class I attended a call for teachers, to aid in a Sunday-school near by. When I presented myself before the superintendent of this Sunday-school the following Sunday, and offered my services, it is not much wonder I received a rebuff, for I was young and quite unknown. I was told that if I wished a class, it would be well for me to find my own scholars. I can remember how a lump seemed choking me all the way home that day.
At last, determining not to be baffled, I prayed the Lord to help me get some scholars. I went forth praying every step of the way, the following Saturday afternoon; and canvassing just one short street near our home, I received the promise of nineteen children for Sunday-school. The next day a rather victorious young woman walked up to the Sunday-school superintendent with seventeen children following. Needless to say I was given a class.
In the autumn of 1885 the Toronto Mission Union, a faith mission, decided to establish a branch mission in the East End slums of that city. Three others with myself were deputed to open this work. Everything connected with it was entirely new to me; but most helpful and inspiring I found it. For in face of tremendous difficulties, that seemed to my inexperienced eyes insurmountable, I learned that prayer was the secret which overcame every obstacle, the key that unlocked every closed door.
I felt like a child learning a new and wonderful lesson—as I saw benches, tables, chairs, stove, fuel, lamps, oil, even an organ, coming in answer to definite prayer for these things. But best sight of all was when men and women, deep in sin, were converted and changed into workers for God, in answer to prayer. Praise God for the lessons then learned, which were invaluable later when facing the heathen.
* * * * *
The time came when two diverse paths lay before me—one to England, as an artist; one to China, as a missionary. Circumstances made a definite decision most difficult. I thought I had tried every means to find out God's will for me, and no light had come.
But in a day of great trouble, when my precious mother's very life seemed to hang in the balance, I shut myself up with God's Word, praying definitely for him to guide me to some passage by which I might know his will for my life. My Bible opening at the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel, the sixteenth verse seemed to come as a message to me: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." Going to my dear mother and telling her of the message God had given me, she said: "I dare not fight against God."
From that time the last hindrance from going to China was removed. Surely the wonderful way God has kept his child for more than thirty years in China is proof that this "call" was not a mistaken one. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will make plain thy paths" (Prov. 3: 6, marg.).
During the summer of 1887 a book written by Dr. Hudson Taylor came into my hands. In "China's Spiritual Needs and Claims" the writer told many instances of God's gracious provision in answer to prayer. The incidents related impressed me deeply. A little later, a few weeks before my marriage, when I found I was short fifty dollars of what I would need to be married free of debt, I resolved not to let others know of my need, but to just trust God to send it to me. The thought came—if you cannot trust God for this, when Hudson Taylor could trust for so much more, are you worthy to be a missionary?
It was my first experience of trusting quite alone for money. I was sorely tempted to give others just a hint of my need. But I was kept back from doing so; and though I had a week or more of severe testing, peace of mind and the assurance that God would supply my need, came at length. The answer, however, did not come till the very last night before the wedding.
That evening a number of my fellow-workers from the East End Mission called, and presented me with a beautifully illuminated address and a purse. After these friends had left I returned to my home circle assembled in the back parlor, and showed them the address and the purse unopened! Not for a moment did I think there was anything in the purse till my brother said: "You foolish girl, why don't you open it?" I opened the purse, and found it contained a check for fifty dollars!
This incident has ever remained peculiarly precious; for it seemed to us a seal of God upon the new life opening before us.
"GO FORWARD ON YOUR KNEES"
"I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron" (Isa. 45:2).
IN ATTEMPTING to record what prayer meant in our early pioneer days, other than purely personal testimonies must be given; for we were, as a little band of missionaries, bound together in our common needs and dangers by a very close bond.
* * * * *
In October, 1887, my husband was appointed by the Canadian Presbyterian Church to open a new field, in the northern section of the Province of Honan, China. We left Canada the following January, reaching China in March, 1888. Not till then did we realize the tremendous difficulties of the task before us.
Dr. Hudson Taylor, of the China Inland Mission, writing to us at this time, said: "We understand North Honan is to be your field; we, as a mission, have tried for ten years to enter that province from the south, and have only just succeeded. It is one of the most anti-foreign provinces in China. . . . Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees."
These words gave the key-note to our early pioneer years. Would that a faithful record had been kept of God's faithfulness in answering prayer! Our strength as a mission and as individuals, during those years so fraught with dangers and difficulties, lay in the fact that we did realize the hopelessness of our task apart from divine aid.
* * * * *
The following incident occurred while we were still outside Honan, studying the language at a sister mission. It illustrates the importance of prayer from the home base for those on the field.
My husband was finding great difficulty in acquiring the language; he studied faithfully many hours daily, but made painfully slow progress. He and his colleague went regularly together to the street chapel, to practise preaching in Chinese to the people; but, though Mr. Goforth had come to China almost a year before the other missionary, the people would ask the latter to speak instead of Mr. Goforth, saying they understood him better.
One day, just before starting as usual for the chapel, my husband said: "If the Lord does not give me very special help in this language I fear I shall be a failure as a missionary."
Some hours later he returned, his face beaming with joy. He told me that he realized most unusual help when his turn came to speak; sentences came to his mind as never before; and not only had he made himself understood, but some had appeared much moved, coming up afterward to have further conversation with him. So delighted and encouraged was he with this experience that he made a careful note of it in his diary.
Some two months and a half later a letter came from a student in Knox College, saying that on a certain evening a number of students had met specially to pray for Mr. Goforth. The power of prayer was such, and the presence of God so manifestly felt, that they decided to write and ask Mr. Goforth if any special help had come to him at that time. Looking in his diary, he found that the time of their meeting corresponded with that time of special help in the language.
"I cannot tell why there should come to me A thought of some one miles and years away, In swift insistence on the memory, Unless there is a need that I should pray. We are too busy to spare thought For days together of some friends away; Perhaps God does it for us—and we ought To read his signal as a sign to pray. Perhaps just then my friend has fiercer fight, A more appalling weakness, a decay Of courage, darkness, some lost sense of right; And so, in case he needs my prayers—I pray."
At last the joyful news reached us women, waiting outside of Honan, that our brethren had secured property in two centers. It would be difficult for those in the homeland to understand what the years of waiting had meant to some of us. The danger to those dear to us, touring in Honan, was very great. For years they never left us to go on a tour without our being filled with dread lest they should never return; yet the Lord, in his mercy, heard our prayers for them; and though often in grave danger, none received serious injury. This is not a history of the mission, but I cannot forbear giving here one incident illustrating how they were kept during those early days.
* * * * *
Two of our brethren, after renting property at a town just within the boundary of Honan, and near the Wei River, moved in, intending to spend the winter there; but a sudden and bitter persecution arose, just as they had become settled. The mission premises were attacked by a mob, and everything was looted. The two men were roughly handled, one being dragged about the courtyard. They found themselves at last left alone, their lives spared, but everything gone.
Their position was serious in the extreme—several days' journey away from friends, with no money, no bedding, and no clothes but those upon them, and the cold winter begun.
In their extremity, they knelt down and committed themselves to the Lord. And according to his promise he delivered them out of their distresses; for even while they prayed a brother missionary from a distant station was at hand. He arrived unexpectedly, without knowing what had occurred, a few hours after the looting had taken place. His coming at such an opportune moment filled the hearts of their heathen enemies with fear. Money and goods were returned, and from that time the violent opposition of the people ceased.
* * * * *
A few months after the above incident several families moved into Honan, and a permanent occupation was effected; but the hearts of the people seemed as adamant against us. They hated and distrusted us as if we were their worst enemies. The district in which we settled was known for its turbulent and anti-foreign spirit, and as a band of missionaries we were frequently in the gravest danger.
Many times we realized that we, as well as our fellow-workers at the other stations, were kept from serious harm only by the over-ruling, protecting power of God in answer to the many prayers which were going up for us all at this critical juncture in the history of our mission. The following are concrete examples of how God heard our prayers at this time.
We had for our station doctor a man of splendid gifts. He was a gold medalist, with years of special training and hospital experience, and was looked upon as one of the rising physicians in the city from which he came. Imagine his disappointment, therefore, when month after month passed and scarcely a good case came to the hospital. The people did not know what he could do, and moreover they were afraid to trust themselves into his hands. We, as a little band of missionaries, began to pray definitely that the Lord would send cases to the hospital which would open the hearts of the people toward us and our message.
It was not long before we saw this prayer answered beyond all expectation. Several very important cases came almost together, one so serious that the doctor hesitated for days before operating. When at last the operation did take place the doctor's hands were strengthened by our prayers, the patient came through safely, and a few days later was going around a living wonder to the people.
Very much depended upon the outcome of this and other serious operations. Had the patients died under the doctor's hands, it would have been quite sufficient to have caused the destruction of the mission premises and the life of every missionary. Three years later the hospital records showed that there had been twenty-eight thousand treatments in one year.
Again, we kept praying that the Lord would give us converts from the very beginning. We had heard of missionaries in India, China, and elsewhere, who had worked for many years without gaining converts; but we did not believe that this was God's will for us. We believed that it was his pleasure and purpose to save men and women through his human channels, and why not from the beginning? So we kept praying and working and expecting converts, and God gave them to us. The experience of thirty years has confirmed this belief.
Space permits the mention of but two of these earliest converts.
The first was Wang Feng-ao, who came with us into Honan as Mr. Goforth's personal teacher. He was a man of high degree, equal to the Western M. A., and was one of the proudest and most overbearing of Confucian scholars. He despised the missionaries and their teaching, and so great was his opposition that he would beat his wife every time she came to see us or listen to our message. But Mr. Goforth kept praying for this man, and using all his influence to win him for Christ.
Before many months passed a great change had come over Mr. Wang; his proud, overbearing manner had changed, and he became a humble, devout follower of the lowly Nazarene. God used a dream to awaken this man's conscience—as is not uncommon in China. One night he dreamed he was struggling in a deep, miry pit; but try as he would he could find no way of escape. When about to give up in despair, he looked up and saw Mr. Goforth and another missionary on the bank above him, with their hands stretched out to save him. Again he sought for some other way of escape; but finding none, he allowed them to draw him up.
This man, later on, became Mr. Goforth's most valued evangelist. For many years his splendid gifts were used to the glory of his Master in the work among the scholar class in the Changtefu district. He has long since passed to his reward, dying as he had lived, trusting only in the merit of Jesus Christ for salvation.
* * * * *
Another of the bright glints, in the darkness of those earliest days in Honan, was the remarkable conversion of Wang Fu-Lin. For many years his business had been that of a public story-teller; but when Mr. Goforth came across him he was reduced to an utter wreck through opium smoking. He accepted the Gospel, but for a long time seemed too weak to break off the opium habit. Again and again he tried to do so, but failed hopelessly each time.
The poor fellow seemed almost past hope, when one day Mr. Goforth brought him to the mission in his cart. The ten days that followed can never be forgotten by those who watched Wang Fu-Lin struggle for physical and spiritual life. I verily believe nothing but prayer could have brought him through. At the end of the ten days the power of opium was broken, and Wang Fu-Lin came out of the struggle a new man in Christ Jesus.
I shall have occasion to speak of this man again.
* * * * *
In all the cases of divine healing cited in this record it will be noted that God healed in answer to prayer either when the doctors had done all in their power and hope had been abandoned, or when we were out of reach of medical aid.
Soon after coming to China the Rev. Hunter Corbett, one of the most devoted and saintly of God's missionaries, gave a testimony which later was used of God to save the writer from giving up service in China and returning home to Canada.
Dr. Corbett said that for fifteen years he had been laid aside every year with that terrible scourge of the East—dysentery; and the doctors at last gave a definite decision that he must return at once to the homeland and forsake China. But, said the grand old man: "I knew God had called me to China, and I also knew that God did not change. So what could I do? I dared not go back on my call; so I determined that if I could not live in China I could die there; and from that time the disease lost its hold on me."
This testimony was given over twenty-five years ago, when he had been almost thirty years in China! In January, 1920, when well-nigh ninety years of age, this beloved and honored saint of God passed to higher service.
For several years I had been affected just as Dr. Corbett had been, and each year the terrible disease seemed to be getting a firmer hold upon me. At last, one day my husband brought me the decision of the doctors, that I should return home. And as I lay there ill and weak, the temptation came to yield. But, as I remembered Dr. Corbett's testimony, and my own clear call, I felt that to go back would be to go against my own conscience. I therefore determined to do as Dr. Corbett had done—leave myself in the Lord's hands—whether for life or for death. This happened more than twenty years ago, and since then I have had very little trouble from that dread disease.
Yes, the deeper the need, and the more bitter the extremity, the greater the opportunity for God to show forth his mighty power in our lives, if we but give him a chance by unswerving obedience at any cost. "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul" (Psa. 138:3).
* * * * *
During our fourth year in China, when we were spending the hot season at the coast, our little son, eighteen months old, was taken very ill with dysentery. After several days' fight for the child's life came the realization, one evening, that the angel of death was at hand.
My whole soul rebelled; I actually seemed to hate God; I could see nothing but cruel injustice in it all; and the child seemed to be fast going. My husband and I knelt down beside the little one's bedside, and he pleaded earnestly with me to yield my will and my child to God. After a long and bitter struggle God gained the victory, and I told my husband I would give my child to the Lord. Then my husband prayed, committing the precious soul into the Lord's keeping.
While he was praying I noticed that the rapid, hard breathing of the child had ceased. Thinking my darling was gone, I hastened for a light, for it was dark; but on examining the child's face I found that he had sunk into a deep, sound, natural sleep, which lasted most of the night. The following day he was practically well of the dysentery.
To me it has always seemed that the Lord tested me to almost the last moment; then, when I yielded my dearest treasure to him and put my Lord first, he gave back the child.
* * * * *
While writing the above I came across an extract from the Christian of March 12, 1914, in which the editor said:
"Speaking at the annual meeting of the Huntingdon County Hospital, Lord Sandwich referred to the power of spiritual healing, and premising that the finite mind cannot measure the power of the infinite, said he 'looked forward to the day when the spiritual doctrine of healing and the physical discoveries of science will blend in harmonious combination, to the glory of God and the benefit of humanity.'"
A GOD-GIVEN FIELD (1894-1900)
"Lord, there is none beside thee to help, between the mighty and him that hath no strength; help us, O Lord our God; for we rely on thee, and in thy name are come against this multitude" (2 Chron. 14:11).
THE story of the opening of Changte is so connected by a chain of prayer that to give isolated instances of prayer would be to break the chain.
* * * * *
A few months after our arrival in China an old, experienced missionary kindly volunteered to conduct Mr. Goforth and his colleague, who had just arrived, through North Honan, that they might see the field for themselves.
Traveling southward by cart, they crossed the border into Honan early one morning. As my husband walked beside the carts, that morning, he felt led to pray that the Lord would give that section of Honan to him as his field. The assurance came that his prayer was granted. Opening his daily textbook, he found the passage for that morning was from Isaiah 55:8-13. Like a precious promise of future blessing for that field came the words: "As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void."
For six years, however, our faith was sorely tested.
Of all places, Changte seemed most determined to keep out the missionary. And there were other difficulties in the way. A presbytery had been formed as others joined us, and all matters had to be decided by that body. Two stations that had been opened, where a foothold could first be gained, required all, and more than all, the force we then had. So for six years the door to Changte remained fast closed. But during all those years Mr. Goforth never once lost sight of God's promise to him, nor failed to believe it.
Again and again, when Mr. Goforth and his colleague visited the city, they were mobbed and threatened, the people showing the utmost hostility. But the day came, at last, when the long-prayed-for permission from the presbytery to open Changte was granted. The very next morning found Mr. Goforth en route for Changte, to secure property for a mission site. Often has he told how, all the way over that day to Changte, he prayed the Lord to open the hearts of the people, and make them willing to give him the property most suitable for the work. Within three days of his reaching Changte he had thirty-five offers of property, and was able to secure the very piece of land he had earlier chosen as most ideal for the mission.
Thus the Lord did break in pieces the gates of brass which had kept us so long from our promised land.
* * * * *
A year later I joined my husband there, with our three little children. It was arranged that our colleague should take charge of the outside evangelism, while we opened work at the main station.
To understand what it meant for us to have our need supplied, there should be some knowledge of what that need was.
We decided, from the first, that no one should be turned from our doors. Mr. Goforth received the men in the front guest room, while the women and children came to our private quarters. During those first weeks and months hundreds, nay thousands, crowded to see us. Day by day we were literally besieged. Even at meal-time our windows were banked with faces.
The questions ever before us those days were—how to make the most of this wonderful opportunity, which would never come again after the period of curiosity was past; how to win the friendship of this people, who showed in a hundred ways their hatred and distrust of us; how to reach their hearts with our wonderful message of a Saviour's love?
All that was in our power was to do, day by day, what we could with the strength that was given us. From early morning till dark, sometimes nine or ten hours a day, the strain of receiving and preaching to these crowds was kept up. My husband had numbers of workmen to oversee, material for building to purchase, and to see to all the hundred and one things so necessary in building up a new station. Besides all this he had to receive, and preach to, the crowds that came. He had no evangelist, Mr. Wang being then loaned to Mr. MacG——. I had my three little children, and no nurse or Bible-woman. When too exhausted to speak longer to the courtyard of women, I would send for my husband, who though tired out would speak in my stead. Then we would rest ourselves, and entertain the crowd, by singing a hymn.
So the days passed. But we soon realized that help must come, or we would both break down.
One day Mr. Goforth came to me with his Bible open at the promise, "My God shall supply all your need," and asked: "Do we believe this? If we do, then God can and will supply us with some one to help preach to these crowds, if we ask in faith."
He prayed very definitely for a man to preach. With my doubt-blinded heart, I thought it was as if he were asking for rain from a clear sky. Yet, even while he prayed, God was moving one to come to us. A day or two later there appeared at the mission the converted opium fiend, Wang Fu-Lin, whose conversion has been already recorded.
No one could have looked less like the answer to our prayers than he did. Fearfully emaciated from long years of excessive opium smoking, racked with a cough which three years later ended his life, dressed in such filthy rags as only a beggar would wear, he presented a pitiable sight. Yet the Lord seeth not as man seeth.
After consulting together Mr. Goforth decided to try him for a few days, believing that he could at least testify to the power of God to save a man from his opium. Soon he was reclothed in some of my husband's Chinese garments; and within an hour or two of his entering the mission gate, practically a beggar, he was seated in charge of the men's chapel, so changed one could scarcely have recognized him.
From the first day of his ministry at Changte there was no doubt in the minds of any who heard him that he had indeed been sent to us by our gracious God, for he had in a remarkable degree the unction and power of the Holy Ghost. His gifts as a speaker were all consecrated to one object—the winning of souls to Jesus Christ. He seemed conscious that his days were few, and always spoke as a dying man to dying men. Little wonder is it, therefore, that from the very beginning of his ministry in our chapel men were won to Christ. God spared him to us for the foundation laying of the church at Changte, then called him higher.
* * * * *
Mr. Goforth's need was relieved by the coming of Wang Fu-Lin, but not mine. The remarkable way God had sent him, however, gave me courage and faith to trust God to give me a Bible-woman. Those who know anything of mission work in China will agree with me that it is far more difficult to find women than men who are able to preach the Gospel; or if able, who are free for the work. But I was beginning to learn that God is limited only from the human side; and that he is always willing to give beyond our asking, if the human conditions he has so plainly laid down in his Word are fulfilled.
A short time after I had begun to ask my Heavenly Father definitely for a Bible-woman, Mr. Mac G—— came in from a tour, and his first words were:
"Well, Mrs. Goforth, I believe we have a ready-made Bible-woman for you!"
Then he told me how he had come across a widow and her son in a mountain village, who had heard the Gospel from a recent convert out of one of the other stations. This man had been a member of the same religious sect as the widow and her son. When he found Christ he at once thought of his friends, and went over the mountain to tell them. Mrs. Chang received the Gospel gladly. She had been a preacher in that heathen sect, and had gained the fluency in speaking, and power in holding audiences, so necessary in the preaching of the Gospel.
The way was soon opened for her to come to me, and she became my constant companion and valuable assistant in the women's work during those early years. She witnessed a good confession in 1900—being strung up by her thumbs when refusing to deny her Lord. Faithfully she served the Lord as a Bible-woman, until the time of her death in 1903.
During the first two or three years at Chang Te Fu we lived in unhealthy Chinese houses, which were low and damp. It was therefore thought best that we should have a good semi-foreign house built for us. The work at this time was so encouraging—converts being added weekly, and sometimes almost daily—that we feared lest the new house would hinder the work, and become a separating barrier between ourselves and the people. We therefore prayed that God would make the new house a means of reaching the people—a blessing, and not a hindrance. The answer to this prayer, as is often the case, depended largely upon ourselves. We had to be made willing to pay the price that the answer demanded.
In other words, we came to see that in order that our prayer could be answered we would have to keep open house every day and all day, which was by no means easy. Some assured us it was wrong, because it would make us cheap in the eyes of the Chinese; others said it was wrong because of the danger of infection to the children. But time proved these objections to be unfounded. The very highest as well as the lowest were received, and their friendship won by this means. And, so far as I can remember, our children never met any contagion because of this way of receiving the people into our house.
The climax in numbers was reached in the spring of 1899, when eighteen hundred and thirty-five men and several hundred women were received by us in one day. These were first preached to in large bands, and then led through the house. We have seen evidences of the good of this plan in all parts of our field. It opened the hearts of the people toward us, and helped us to live down suspicion and distrust as nothing else could have done.
* * * * *
In May of 1898 we started down to Tientsin by houseboat, with our children, for a much-needed rest and change. Cold, wet weather soon set in. Twelve days later, as we came in sight of Tientsin, with a bitter north wind blowing, our eldest child went on deck without his overcoat, in disobedience to my orders. Shortly after the child came in with a violent chill. That afternoon, when we arrived in Tientsin, the doctors pronounced the verdict—pneumonia.
The following day, shortly after noon, a second doctor, who had been called in consultation, met a friend on his way from our boy's bedside and told her he did not think the child could live till morning. I had taken his temperature, and found it to be 106. He was extremely restless, tossing in the burning fever. Sitting down beside him, with a cry to the Lord to help me, I said distinctly: "P——, you disobeyed me, and have thus brought this illness upon yourself. I forgive you; ask Jesus to forgive you, and give yourself to him."
The child looked at me for a moment steadily, then closed his eyes. I saw his lips move for a moment; then quietly he sank into a sound sleep. When he awoke, about dusk, I took his temperature, and found it 101. By the time the doctor returned it was normal, and did not rise again. Although he had been having hemorrhage from the lungs, this ceased.
Is not Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and forever? Why should we wonder, therefore, at his healing touch in this age? "According to your faith be it unto you."
* * * * *
During those early pioneer years, when laying the foundation of the Changte Church, my own weak faith was often rebuked when I saw the results of the simple, child-like faith of our Chinese Christians. Some of those answers to prayer were of such an extraordinary character that, when told in the homeland, even ministers expressed doubts as to their genuineness. But, praise God, I know they are true. Here are two concrete examples.
Li-ming, a warm-hearted, earnest evangelist, owned land some miles north of Chang Te Fu. On one occasion, when visiting the place, he found the neighbors all busy placing around their fields little sticks with tiny flags. They believed this would keep the locusts from eating their grain. All urged Li-ming to do the same, and to worship the locust god, or his grain would be destroyed. Li-ming replied: "I worship the one only true God, and I will pray him to keep my grain, that you may know that he only is God."
The locusts came and ate on all sides of Li-ming's grain, but did not touch his. When Mr. Goforth heard this story he determined to get further proof, so he visited the place for himself, and inquired of Li-ming's heathen neighbors what they knew of the matter. One and all testified that, when the locusts came, their grain was eaten and Li-ming's was not.
The Lord Jesus once said, after a conflict with unbelief and hypocrisy: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."
Our little Gracie became ill with a terribly fatal disease, so common in malarious districts—enlarged spleen. The doctors pronounced her condition quite hopeless. One day a Chinese Christian woman came in with her little child, of about the same age as our Gracie, and very ill with the same disease. The poor mother was in great distress, for the doctor had told her also that there was no hope. She thought that if we would plead with the doctor he could save her child. At last Mr. Goforth pointed to our little Gracie, saying: "Surely, if the doctor cannot save our child, neither can he save yours; your only hope and ours is in the Lord himself."
The mother was a poor, hard-working, ignorant woman, but she had the simple faith of a little child. Some few weeks later she called again, and told me the following story:
"When the pastor told me my only hope was in the Lord, I believed him. When I reached home I called my husband, and together we had committed our child into the Lord's hands. I felt perfectly sure the child would get well, so I did not take more care of him than of a well child. In about two weeks he seemed so perfectly well that I took him to the doctor again, and the doctor said that he could discover nothing the matter with him."
That Chinese child is now a grown-up, healthy man. And our child died. Yet we had prayed for her as few, perhaps, have prayed for any child. Why, then, was she not spared? I do not know. But I do know that there was in my life, at that time, the sin of bitterness toward another, and an unwillingness to forgive a wrong. This was quite sufficient to hinder any prayer, and did hinder for years, until it was set right.
Does this case of unanswered prayer shake my faith in God's willingness and power to answer prayer? No, no! My own child might just as reasonably decide never again to come to me with a request because I have, in my superior wisdom, denied a petition. Is it not true, in our human relationships with our children, that we see best to grant at one time what we withhold at another? "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter."
And one of the most precious experiences of God's loving mercy came to me in connection with our little Gracie's death. We had been warned that the end would probably come in convulsions; two of our dear children had been so taken. Only a mother who has gone through such an experience can fully understand the horror of the possibility that such might come again at any time.
One evening I was watching beside our little one, Miss P—— being with me, when suddenly the child said very decidedly: "Call Papa; I want to see Papa." I hesitated to rouse her father, as it was his time to rest; so I tried to put her off with some excuse; but again she repeated her request, and so I called her father, asking him to walk up and down with her until I returned.
Going into the next room I cried in an agony to the Lord not to let Gracie suffer; but, if it was indeed his will to take the child, then to do so without her suffering. As I prayed a wonderful peace came over me, and the promise came so clearly it was as if spoken: "Before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear." Rising, I was met at the door by Miss P——who said: "Gracie is with Jesus." While I was on my knees our beloved child, after resting a few moments in her father's arms, had looked into his face with one of her loveliest smiles, and then quietly closed her eyes and had ceased to breathe. No struggle, no pain, but a "falling on sleep."
"Like as a father pitieth, . . . so the Lord pitieth."
* * * * *
Ever-darkening clouds gathered about us during the months following Gracie's death; and while the storm did not burst in all its fury till the early summer of 1900, yet the preceding winter was full of forebodings and constant alarms.
On one occasion thousands gathered inside and outside our mission, evidently bent on serious mischief. My husband and his colleagues moved in and out all that day among the dense crowd which filled the front courtyards; while we women remained shut within closed houses, not knowing what moment the mob would break loose and destroy us all. What kept them back that day? What but trustful prayer! And the Lord heard that day, and wonderfully restrained the violence of our enemies.
We did not know then, but those experiences were preparing us for the greater trials and perils awaiting us all.
OUR DELIVERANCE FROM THE BOXERS (1900)
"God is unto us a God of deliverances" (Psa. 68:20, R. V.).
"Who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver: on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver" (2 Cor. 1:10, R. V.).
MANY times we were asked in the homeland to tell the story of our escape during the Boxer uprising, and often the question was put, "If it was really God's power that saved you and others on that journey, then why did he not save those of his children who were so cruelly done to death?"
For a time this question troubled me. Why indeed? One day when seeking for light on the matter I was directed to the twelfth chapter of Acts. There I found the only answer that can be given. We are told in the second verse that James was put to death by the sword; then the rest of the chapter is given to the detailed record of Peter's wonderful deliverance in answer to prayer (vs. 5, 12). In that day when all things shall be revealed I am convinced we shall see that prayer had much to do in the working out of our deliverance. When the first cable was received in Canada informing the home church of our party starting on that perilous journey, we are told a great wave of prayer went up for us from Christians of all denominations. The Presbyterian Assembly of Canada was meeting at the time, and one session was given up entirely to prayer on behalf of the missionaries in China. Never had that body witnessed such a season of intense, united intercession.
Later when giving the story of our escape in the homeland, repeatedly we have had people come to us telling how, during the weeks which elapsed between the first cable informing the home church of our danger, and the second cable, which told of our safe arrival at the coast, they had never ceased to cry to God to save us. Then, too, after all is said, we must believe God was glorified and God's purposes were fulfilled in the death of some as in the saved lives of others. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the Church.
It was in the month of June, 1895, that an incident occurred which has ever been linked in my mind with the events of 1900. I was about to leave Toronto with my four children to join my husband in China, when a cable was received telling of the cruel massacre of Mr. and Mrs. Stewart and others. Deep and widespread sympathy was expressed and much anxiety felt for missionaries generally in China. Many urged me to delay our return; but I felt it best to keep to our original plans, and a few days later found us bidding farewell to friends at the Union Station, Toronto.
Just as the train was leaving a lady stepped forward quickly to the window and said, "You do not know me, but I have prayed the Lord to give me a promise for you; it is this, take it as from Him," and handed me a slip of paper. I opened the paper and read, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper" (Isa. 54:17). Then and there I raised my heart to God in prayer that he would fulfil this promise to me and those dear to me; and as I prayed there came the clear assurance that the Lord heard.
Never can we forget that winter of 1899-1900. The clouds had begun to gather, and the mutterings of the coming storm were heard on all sides of us. Repeatedly we were as a mission in gravest danger, and at such times were literally "shut up to God." The temper of the people was such that any little thing angering them would have been as a spark to gunpowder.
From the time of the government crisis of the autumn of 1899, we, in company with all other foreigners in China, realized that conditions were becoming serious, yet never did we expect or prepare for such a cataclysm as took place when the storm clouds suddenly burst in the early summer of 1900.
The first indication we had of coming danger was when our mail carriers running to and from Tientsin were stopped and our mails returned. Thus, cut off from the outside world, we had to depend solely upon the wild rumors afloat among the Chinese for information. The country around us became daily more disturbed; day by day we could hear the beating of drums and the cries of the people for rain. The darkness and horror of those days, in the midst of which sickness and death entered our home, can never be forgotten. On the nineteenth of June our eldest daughter, Florence, after a week of intense suffering, was released from pain. It was while her life was still hanging in the balance that we received the first communication from the American Consul in Chefoo urging us to flee. This message was quickly followed by another still more urgent.
The question was, where could we flee? Our usual route was by river boat two weeks to Tientsin, but this way was blocked, the whole region being infested with Boxers, and Tientsin even then in a state of siege. The only possible route left open to us was southward by cart,—fourteen days to Fan-cheng,—then ten or more days by houseboat to Hankow. We faced such a journey at that time of the year with fear and trembling because of the children, the danger from heat and sun being very great. Gladly would we have stayed, but the Chinese Christians urged us to go, saying they could escape more easily were we not there.
We had with us our four remaining children: Paul, nine; Helen, six; Ruth, under three; and baby Wallace, eight months. Their faithful Chinese nurse, though weeping bitterly at parting from her old mother of almost eighty, decided to come with us. There were altogether in the party five men, six women, and five children, besides the servants and carters.
Many were the difficulties in the way of getting carts and other necessary things for the journey, but one by one all things needed were provided as we besought the Lord to open the way. There were many indications on that journey that God's purpose was to save us; one of the most striking of these happened just as we were about to leave.
The day previous to our departure a message passed through the city of Chang Te Ho, the messenger riding at breakneck speed. This messenger, we learned later, was en-route for the Provincial Capital with the sealed message from the Empress Dowager commanding the death of all foreigners. We had planned first to take the direct route south, which would, as far as we can now see, have led us to our death, for this route would have taken us through the capital. Almost at the last moment, and quite unaware of the danger on the direct route, we were led to change our plans and take a route farther west, though it made a considerably longer journey.
We left Chang Te, June 28, 1900, at daybreak. At Wei Hwei Fu, the first large city to which we came, an attempt was made to break into our inn, but as we prayed the mob dispersed and we were left in peace. On July first we reached the north bank of the Yellow River, and there for a short time (it was Sunday afternoon) we rested under the trees. Little did we dream that even then many, very many, of our fellow-missionaries and personal friends were being done to death by the merciless Boxers. At sunset the ferry which carried us across the river reached the south bank, and here we found several missionaries and a party of engineers waiting for us. These latter were fully armed and had a fair escort. After some difficulty it was decided that we should all keep together, but in reality this party kept by themselves, except that we stayed in the same towns at night. Each day that passed seemed harder than the last, the heat was intense, and the ten or twelve hours of bumping over rough roads in springless carts made even a bed spread on the ground a welcome resting-place.
Once, when Mr. Goforth had jumped off our cart to get fresh water for our head cloths, a crowd gathered round him and became very threatening, raising the cry, "Kill, kill." All the other carts were ahead, and the carter would not wait for Mr. Goforth, as he was afraid. During the few moments that elapsed before my husband was allowed to join us even the carter turned pale with suspense,—and oh, how I prayed!
Except for a few similar passing dangers, nothing special occurred until the evening of July seventh, when we reached the small town of Hsintien. We had heard during the day that the whole country ahead of us was in a state of ferment against the Roman Catholics. Scarcely had we reached the inn when the engineers and the missionaries with them who had become increasingly alarmed at the condition of the country, informed us that they were going on to the large city of Nan Yang Fu that night, but would leave us two soldiers and two of their carts. Mr. Goforth did not wish them to go, for he felt it would greatly increase our danger.
Shortly after they left us the mob began to gather outside our inn. The gate was barricaded with carts. For hours stones were thrown against the gate and demand was made for our money. A messenger was at once sent after the engineers' party, asking them to return. All that night was spent in sleepless suspense.
Early in the morning the messenger returned with the reply that they had failed to get help from the Nan Yang Fu official and were obliged to push on. As soon as the carters heard we were thus left helpless a panic seized them, and it was with great difficulty they could be persuaded to harness their animals. All this time the crowd had been becoming more dense, as we could see through the cracks of the gate, and were ominously quiet. Hints had been given us of coming danger, but that was all; none spoke of what all felt,—that we were probably going to our death.
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, I was seized with an overwhelming fear of what might be awaiting us. It was not the fear of after death, but of probable torture, that took such awful hold of me. I thought, "Can this be the Christian courage I have looked for?" I went by myself and prayed for victory, but no help came. Just then some one called us to a room for prayer before getting into our carts. Scarcely able to walk for trembling, and utterly ashamed that others should see my state of panic,—for such it undoubtedly was,—I managed to reach a bench beside which my husband stood. He drew from his pocket a little book, "Clarke's Scripture Promises," and read the verses his eye first fell upon. They were the following:
"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them."
"The God of Jacob is our refuge."
"Thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God."
"I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. . . . The Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."
"If God be for us, who can be against us?"
"We may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
The effect of these words at such a time was remarkable. All realized that God was speaking to us. Never was there a message more directly given to mortal man from his God than that message to us. From almost the first verse my whole soul seemed flooded with a great peace; all trace of panic vanished; and I felt God's presence was with us. Indeed, his presence was so real it could scarcely have been more so had we seen a visible form.
After prayer we all got on our carts, and one by one passed out into the densely crowded street. As we approached the city gate we could see that the road was black with crowds awaiting us. I had just remarked to my husband on how well we were getting through the crowds, when our carts passed through the gates. My husband turned pale as he pointed to a group of several hundred men, fully armed, awaiting us. They waited till all the carts had passed through the gate, then hurled down upon us a shower of stones, at the same time rushing forward and maiming or killing some of the animals. Mr. Goforth jumped down from our cart and cried to them, "Take everything, but don't kill." His only answer was a blow. The confusion that followed was so great it would be impossible to describe the escape of each one in detail. Each one later had his or her own testimony of that mighty and merciful deliverance. But I must give the details of Mr. Goforth's experience.
One man struck him a blow on the neck with a great sword wielded with two hands. "Somehow" the blunt edge of the sword struck his neck; the blow left a wide mark almost around his neck, but did no further harm. Had the sharp edge struck his neck he would certainly have been beheaded!
His thick helmet was cut almost to pieces, one blow cutting through the leather lining just over the temple, but without even scratching the skin!
Again he was felled to the ground, with a fearful sword cut, which entered the bone of the skull behind and almost cleft it in two. As he fell he seemed to hear distinctly a voice saying, "Fear not, they are praying for you." Rising from this blow, he was again struck down by a club. As he was falling almost unconscious to the ground he saw a horse coming at full speed toward him; when he became conscious again he found the horse had tripped and fallen (on level ground) so near that its tail almost touched him. The animal, kicking furiously, had served as a barrier between him and his assailants. While dazed and not knowing what to do a man came up as if to strike, but whispered, "Leave the carts." By that time the onlookers began to rush forward to get the loot, but the attacking party felt the things were theirs, so desisted in their attack upon us in order to secure their booty.
A word as to myself and the children. Several fierce men with swords jumped on my cart. One struck at the baby, but I parried the blow with a pillow, and the little fellow only received a slight scratch on the forehead. Then they dropped their swords and began tearing at our goods at the back of the cart. Heavy boxes were dragged over us, and everything was taken. Just then a dreadful looking man tried to reach us from the back of the cart with his sword, missing by an inch. I thought he would come to the front and continue his attack, but he did not. I had seen Mr. Goforth sink to the ground covered with blood twice, and had given him up for dead. Just then Paul, who had been in the last cart, jumped in, wild with delight at what he seemed to think was great fun, for he had run through the thick of the fight, dodging sword thrusts from all sides, and had succeeded in reaching me without a scratch. A moment later my husband came to the edge of the cart scarcely able to stand, saying, "Get down quickly; we must not delay in getting away." As I was getting down one man snatched away my hat, another my shoes; but we were allowed to go.
Ruth was nowhere to be seen, and we hoped she was with the missionaries who had charge of her at the time of attack. I saw that Mr. Goforth's strength was failing fast, for he could scarcely walk, and as men began to follow I urged him forward with the baby and the other two children, and turning faced the men, begging them to have mercy on my children, for they had begun to stone us. Some of us were black for days from the blows received then. They stopped and listened, then the leader said, "We've killed her husband, let her go." With this they ran back to the carts.
I knew Mr. Goforth could not go far. We could see a small village not far distant, and to this we hastened, praying as we went that the Lord would open the hearts of the people to receive us. Here again Paul seemed to feel no fear, but said, "Mother, what does this put you in mind of? It puts me in mind of the Henty books!"
As we neared the village men came out to drive us away, but I begged them to help us. By this time Mr. Goforth had sunk to the ground. Putting the baby in an old woman's arms, I knelt down beside my husband. The children were crying bitterly. Mr. Goforth looked as if he were dying. The women standing round us were weeping now. This was too much for the men, who came forward saying, "We will save you." One ran and got some stuff to put in the wounds, assuring us it would stop the flow of blood, and it did. This man helped me to bandage up the wounds with bandages made from garments taken from myself and the children. They helped my husband, and we followed them into a little hut, where they laid him on a straw bed and locked us in. Hot water for bathing our bruises, food and drink were handed us through a small window, and we could hear them planning how they would save us. We told them how anxious we were to hear of our friends and little Ruth, so they sent a man to inquire.
We found that these people—the whole village—were Mohammedans, and had taken no part in the attack. We felt that God had wonderfully directed our steps to that village.
All that day Mr. Goforth lay still, but looked at times so very white that I feared the worst. Never for one moment, I believe, during that day did I cease to pray for his life. And when Mr. ——, one of our party, arrived about four o'clock looking for us, Mr. Goforth at once got up as if perfectly well, insisting on walking to the cart. To me, knowing how he had looked that day, it seemed only a miracle. His only answer to my protest was, "Only pray; the Lord will give me strength, as long as he has work for me to do."
As we were leaving, the kind friends of the village gathered round insisting on my taking some old clothes to put round the children, who were almost naked, saying, "It will be chilly at night." As we went forward to join the others, Mr. —— told us how one by one all had escaped. Dr. —— was the only one beside Mr. Goforth seriously injured, the poor fellow having had his kneecap severed and the tendons of his right wrist badly cut, besides many other wounds.
All that day our friends had been waiting by the roadside, unable to proceed without carts, owing to the doctor's condition. They had joined in one petition, that God would move the carters to come. Those who know China and heathen carters will readily acknowledge that it was nothing short of a miracle—the miracle of answered prayer—that made these heathen carters come, after all they had already gone through. For come they did, five of them, all that were needed, now that our luggage was gone. We learned too, that our faithful Chinese nurse, who had charge of Ruth, had saved the child at the risk of her own life, lying upon the child and taking many cruel blows, till greed for loot drew the men off.
We soon joined the rest of the party, and by six o'clock that evening we reached the large city of Nang Yang Fu. The city wall was black with people, and as we entered the gate the wild crowds crushed against our carts. Sometimes the animals staggered, and it seemed as if nothing could save the carts from being overturned. Every moment or two a brick or stone would be hurled against the carts, and that cry, "Kill, kill," which can never be forgotten when once heard, was shouted by perhaps hundreds of voices. Yet the Lord brought us through, and "no weapon prospered."
When we reached the inn a wild mob of over a thousand men filled the inn yard; and as we alighted from the cart these men literally drove us before them into one room, which in a few moments was packed to suffocation. For probably an hour the crowd kept crushing us into one corner; then those outside became impatient at not being able to get in, and demanded that we be brought out. We managed to keep some of the ladies from going out; but the rest of us—men, women, and children—stood facing that seething multitude until relief came in the darkness. Why did they not kill us then? Why, indeed? None but an Almighty God kept that crowd back.
As soon as we had reached the city a servant was sent to the official demanding protection. It was dark when this man returned, in a state of great agitation; his story was that as he was waiting for an answer from the official he overheard a conversation between two soldiers, and gathered from what they said that the official had sent a party of fifty soldiers along the road that we would have to take, with the order that every one of us must be put to death. The official was afraid to have us killed in the city lest he should afterward be blamed; but by this plan he could say brigands had done the deed. So sure was this servant that we were all to be massacred that he would remain with us no longer, but returned that night to Honan with the report that we were all killed.
A consultation was held, and the question was, should we stay in the city and again demand protection, or should we go on and trust God to open our way? The latter course was decided upon. But for a long time the carters utterly refused to go farther with us. Again prayer opened up our way, and by two o'clock in the morning all were ready to start.
The official had sent a few foot-soldiers to guide us to the right road! (to the waylaying party). The night was very dark, and as we were passing through the gate of the city we noticed what seemed to be signal lights put out and drawn in. We all felt these to be signals to the waylaying party ahead. A short distance from the city, probably about one hundred yards, our carts suddenly stopped. Some one ran up and whispered to Mr. Goforth, "Paul and Mr. —— are missing." Search was made for them, but without success.
A veil must be drawn over those terrible hours of suspense; my faith seemed to fail me, and I could only cry in my agony, "If Paul is gone, can I ever trust God again?" Then I remembered how marvelously God had given me back my dear husband's life, and I just committed Paul into his hands and waited to see what he would do.
When all hope was given up of finding the missing ones, a cart was left behind with a trusted servant, and we went on. Then we saw God's wonderful plan for us. While we were waiting the soldiers had fallen asleep in the carts, and were not aware that the carters were taking a side road until we had gotten miles from the city and beyond the reach of our would-be murderers! The soldiers were infuriated at this discovery; but after some threatening they left us and returned to the city. Thus again we saw that God was indeed unto us a "God of deliverances."
Again and again that day we were surrounded by mobs. Many times I held up the poor, dirty clothes which the Mohammedans had given us, and the story of how these had been given quieted the people perhaps more than anything. Once the cry was raised to drag our children's nurse out of the cart; but as we cried to God for her the people let us alone, and we passed on. At another time a man snatched the remains of Mr. Goforth's helmet away from us, and tore it to pieces. I had hoped to keep it as a trophy should we ever get out safely.
We were at this time in a pitiable condition. Most of the men had head or arms bandaged; Dr. —— was unable to raise his head. What we suffered in those carts with nothing but the boards under us cannot be told. Nine persons were packed in our cart, which under ordinary circumstances would have held four or five. At noon we reached a large city, where the animals had to rest and feed. Then again we saw an evidence of the Lord's loving kindness over us.
Just as we were getting down from our carts the crowd became very threatening, and it looked now as if our hour had indeed come; but at this critical juncture two well-dressed young men of official class came through the crowd, greeting Mr. Goforth in great surprise. They had been received by him in our home at Chang Te Ho. A few words of explanation were spoken, then they turned quickly to the crowd and told them who we were and of the work at Chang Te Ho. The attitude of the people changed instantly, and they made way for us, giving us good rooms, and food was brought which was greatly needed.
That noon, as one after another came up to express their sympathy at Paul's loss, I could say nothing—I was waiting to see what God would do. When Mr. Goforth told the young officials about Paul and Mr. ——, they were greatly concerned, and promised to send men at once to search for them. These friends in need sent with us a man of the district to guide and help us, and also wrote an urgent letter to the official of the city we were to stay in that night, asking him to give us an escort and help us in every way he could.
About four o'clock that afternoon a man came running after us with the joyful news that Paul and Mr. —— were safe, and would reach us that night. As I heard this news my unbelief and faithlessness in the hour of testing came over me with overwhelming force, and I could only bow my head and weep. Oh, the goodness and mercy of God! Never had the love of God seemed so wonderful as in that hour.
"Could we with ink the ocean fill, Were the whole sky of parchment made, Were every blade of grass a quill, And every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above Would drain that ocean dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole Though stretched from sky to sky."
That night we reached our destination about nine o'clock, having traveled seventeen hours over those roads, with but a short break at noon. It was marvelous how Mr. Goforth was sustained, for he was obliged to start at once for the official's residence with the note I have already referred to. On the way through the street the mob about succeeded, several times, in getting him down under their feet; but God was with him, and he reached the Yamen in safety, being courteously received by the official, who promised us protection, and sent him back to the inn under escort.
When Paul and Mr. —— arrived that night, they tried in vain to wake me, but nature had to have her way. I knew nothing till I wakened with a start at about two A.M. Jumping up, I started to look for Paul, and never can I forget the scene! The whole party was lying on the bare earthen floor, practically without bedding or mattresses.
A word concerning the experiences of Mr. ——and Paul. The two had got down from their cart and were walking behind. In some way they missed the road in the dark, and became separated from us. During that day they were repeatedly in the gravest danger.
On one occasion, when surrounded by a violent mob, and one man had raised a club above Paul's head to strike him down, Mr. ——felt impelled by some unseen power to shout out, "We are not Roman Catholics, but Protestants." At this the man lowered his club, exclaiming, "Why, these are not the bad foreign devils, but the good foreign devils, like those missionaries at Chow Chia K'eo" (China Inland Mission). At this same place the hearts of the people seemed turned toward them in a wonderful way. One man gave Paul one hundred cash (five cents) to buy some food; another man carried the lad on his back for miles to give his feet a rest, they were so sore. This same man, when he could carry Paul no longer, ran ahead to try and find us. When they reached the inn where we had been so helped by the two Chinese gentlemen, they found that these friends had food prepared and a barrow waiting, also a guide ready to lead them to us!
Less than an hour from the time I awakened we were on the road again. The official was true to his promise, and a large mounted escort accompanied us. That day we were on the road twenty hours, reaching Fan Cheng at midnight. Here we found the engineers' party waiting for us with boats hired, but we were obliged to remain twenty-four hours in the most loathsome inn we ever had the misfortune to be in in China. It was an unspeakable relief to get into the houseboats, even though we only had bare boards to lie on, and the boat people's food to eat.
We were ten days going down stream to Hankow. One after the other became ill. When still a day from Hankow, a steam tug met us with provisions. Our children cried at the sight of bread and milk! We were not allowed to stop long enough at Hankow, as we had hoped, to get clothes and other necessaries, but were obliged to hasten on by the first steamer, which left the following morning. I was obliged to borrow garments for myself and the children from our fellow-passengers.
At Shanghai the streets were being paraded, and every preparation was being made for an attack. We learned with deep sorrow of the death of many dear friends at the hands of the Boxers. Ordered home by the first steamer, without anything left to us but the old clothes we had on at the time of the attack, how could we get ready in such a short time for the long home voyage? There was no lack of money, for our Board had cabled all we needed. The question that faced us was how could I get clothes made for six of us in such a short time, with Chinese tailors too busy to help, no machine to be had, and no ready-made clothes to be bought except for Mr. Goforth and Paul.
Again I found that man's extremity was but God's opportunity. He was true to his promise, "God shall supply all your need." Even as I knelt in an agony of prayer, beseeching God's help, and asking definitely that some one should be sent to me to help with the sewing, two ladies were at the door asking for me! These were perfect strangers, but had seen our names among the recent refugees, and God had moved them to come and offer their assistance! They worked for me night and day until we had to get on board the steamer. Never shall I forget their Christian fellowship and practical help at that time.
But in the rush to get the older children ready, baby Wallace's clothes were neglected. There was nothing for it but to take materials and make things for him on the voyage. In this connection came a most wonderful and precious evidence of God's power to answer prayer. For the first few days of the journey I worked early and late trying to make something for the little one, who had scarcely anything to wear; but as we were nearing Yokohama I realized I had almost reached the end of my strength. My needle refused to work; try as I would I could not even see where to put the needle.
Folding up my work I went down to the stateroom, and kneeling down I spread the work before the Lord. Too far gone to agonize in prayer, I could only quietly, almost mutely, just tell him how the poor child had no clothes. Rising with a great sense of the burden having been lifted, I put the work away, locking it in a trunk, then went up on deck and lay down almost insensible from exhaustion. How long a time passed I do not know, but it could not have been more than half an hour when some one came and touched me, saying, "We have dropped anchor in Yokohama Bay, and a large bundle has been thrown up on deck from the lighter for you."
"For me!" I cried. "Surely not; I know no one in Japan." Then I thought, "It is the answer come!"
Going down I found a letter from Mrs. O. E., of the China Inland Mission. She said that her little son, the same age as baby Wallace, had died four months before, and the Lord had pressed her to send his complete outfit to me for my child! Opening the parcel, I found not only everything the child could possibly need for a year or more, but much else. Had some one stood beside that dear sister and told her what I most needed, she could not have done differently. Yes, surely Some One did direct her loving hands, and Some One just used her as one of his channels; for she lived near to him, and was an open channel.
Three days later my own collapse came; but praise his great name, he was with me in the darkness and brought me through.
PROVING GOD'S FAITHFULNESS (1902-1908)
"The safest place . . . is the path of duty."
ONE of the results of our gracious and merciful deliverance from the hands of the Boxers was an increased desire to make our lives tell in the service of God—to spend and be spent for him. Our Heavenly Father saw this and just took us at our word, and led us out into the path which meant absolute surrender as I had never known it before.