TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS OF FAITH
BY MARY COLE
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.—Paul.
The history of the world consists mainly of the stories of the lives of certain men and women whose deeds have been of sufficient importance to make them worth relating. The lives of some persons have been worth narrating because of their abounding in deeds of great merit, such as the lives of Washington, Gladstone, Frances E. Willard, and Joan of Arc. The lives of others have been thought worth narrating because of their great wickedness, as the lives of Nero and Queen Mary of England.
But the church too has a history. This history differs from the history of the world, in that it does not record merely the doings of man, but the workings of God through man as his instruments. God is a jealous God who manifests himself only through those who are willing to give him all the glory. Hence not many names of the wise, powerful, talented men of the earth have been enrolled on the history of the church, since they were not humble enough to submit fully into God's hands. In the church truly this scripture has been proved: "God has used the weak things of the world to confound the mighty."
Sister Mary Cole, of whose life this book is a brief, authentic sketch, had a natural inheritance that seemed calculated to shut her forever out of a place in the history of the world or of the church. Born with a body that from her earliest childhood was racked with pain, deprived by ill health of education, she seemed naturally unfitted to fill any place in the world and doomed to be only a burden to herself and her friends. How God took her, healed her, and fitted her for his service, and how he used her as an instrument for his glory, is the story of her life.
The publication of the story of her life was so remote from her thoughts that it was only by the solicitation of some one who had been greatly helped by her faith and experience and the workings of God through her, and who was unwilling that her trials and triumphs should be lost as a part of the history of the church, that she was prevailed upon to write this brief narrative of her life and work. The story of her life would not, indeed, be worth telling were it stripped of the manifestations of God's power. As you read this simple story, you will see clearly that, as Sister Cole has herself expressed so many times, what she is she is by God's grace, and that all she has accomplished she has accomplished through God's power. If you will take at their value the oft-repeated expressions, "God told me," "God spoke to me," "God made me to understand," realizing that these words tell us something that actually happened, you will get some idea of how marvelously God can use even the weakest members of the human race.
Aside from the interest this brief history will have for those readers who have had the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with Sister Cole and who have had the privilege of listening to her stirring messages delivered under the anointing of God's Spirit, it can not fail to interest and profit all who take pleasure in reading about the dealings of God with man.
It is the sincere wish of the author and of all those who had a hand in preparing this work, that it will show some their greater privileges in the kingdom of God, and that it will help some to covet the divine help, guidance, and power that are the heritage of all God's children.
I. Birth and Ancestry
II. Early Afflictions
III. Incidents of Childhood
IV. Events During the War
V. Conversion and Sanctification
VI. Events of Early Christian Life
VII. My Call to the Ministry
VIII. Seven Years of Preparation
IX. Healed by Divine Power
X. Entering the Gospel Field
XI. Laboring in a New Field
XII. Out of Sectarian Confusion
XIII. The Evening Light
XIV. Various Experiences in Gospel Work
XV. Various Experiences—Continued
XVI. God's Care Over Me
XVII. My California Trip
XVIII. Visiting Relatives in the East
XIX. Mission Work in Chicago
XX. A Battle With Smallpox
XXI. Camp-Meetings in Various States
XXII. Caring for My Aged Mother
XXIII. Exhortation to Workers and Ministers
Birthday Lines in Memory of February 5, 1822
The Refiner's Fire
Birth and Ancestry
Like many other people of European descent, born in this country, I can trace my ancestry back to their emigration from Europe; but being so far removed from European environment, my nationality can best be expressed by the short but comprehensive term, American.
My father was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. He was a descendant of the German Hessians who were brought to this country by the English to fight against the Americans in the Revolutionary War. It is said that from his mother's side he inherited a small portion of Turkish blood. Father's childhood days were spent near some of the Revolutionary battle-fields, where he played with cannon balls that had been used during that great struggle. Perhaps his early surroundings may have developed in him the spirit of partiotism that manifested itself later when, during the Civil War, he stood by his country and defended the stars and stripes.
My mother was born in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border, but was reared in Carroll County, Ohio.
Her father, whose name was Fleming, was of Scotch-Irish descent. His ancestors came from Ireland at an early day and settled first in Pennsylvania, and later in Ohio. When Mother's great-grandfather and his cousin came over from Ireland and landed in New York, they heard a parrot talking. It said, "A beggar and a clodhopper; a beggar and a clodhopper." They had never heard of a parrot before. The great-grandfather said to his cousin, "Pat, Pat, what kind of a world have we got into? Aven the burds of the woods are making fun of us."
My mother's mother was of German descent, and could speak the German language; but she died when mother was but a small child. Very soon afterward Mother's father married an Irish lady by the name of Margret Potter. Mother's stepmother took her drams, had dances, etc.; but Mother was spiritually inclined. In her eighteenth year while attending a Methodist meeting, she was convicted of her sins. She was not saved at the meeting, but prayed through by herself to an experience. God revealed himself to her in a marvelous way and gave her the witness that she was born of him.
Mother's father was a Universalist until after she was grown. At that time, although he had never professed a change of heart, he joined the Christian church. Mother's steady Christian character was, therefore, developed without human encouragement; she got help from no one but God. Her older sister said to her one day, "Rebecca, our dear mother died a Universalist; are you going to forsake her faith?" Mother answered, "If Mother did the best she knew, that is between her and her God; it is my duty to do the best I know." Later this sister joined the Catholic Church and finally died in the Catholic home for widows.
I was born August 23, 1853, the seventh of a family of twelve children—eight sons and four daughters. Two died before the last two were born, so that there were never more than ten of us living at the same time.
The oldest child was Jeremiah. Mother said that at his birth she gave him to the Lord, and prayed earnestly that God would make him like Jeremiah of old. God chose him for the ministry, and he died triumphant in the faith. He discerned the one body, the church, from the time the truth of the unity of God's people was first preached. His body lies in the cemetery near Hammond, Louisiana.
The second child was John. He enlisted in the army and gave his life for his country. Out of this family of twelve children, God chose three for the ministry: one of these has gone to his reward and the other two remain to work for the Master.
At the time of my birth, my parents lived on a farm adjoining the town of Decatur, in the State of Iowa. Later the town was enlarged until it included Father's farm, which was sold for town lots. My parents remained in Iowa until I was a year old, and then moved to Illinois, where they remained for two years. When I was three years old, they settled in Pettis County, Missouri, near the town of Belmont, afterwards called Windsor. It was there that I spent my childhood and the years of my young womanhood.
"Misery stole me at my birth And cast me helpless on the wild."
The words of this hymn express my condition from my first advent into the world. My mother had overworked before I was born; and, as a result, I suffered bodily affliction from infancy. I was scarely two years old when I began having spasms. My eyes would roll back in my head, I would froth at the mouth, the tendons of my jaws would draw, causing me to bite my cheeks until the blood ran from my mouth, and I would become unconscious. Although I would remain unconscious for only a short time, yet while I lay in that condition I seemed as one dead. Upon regaining consciousness, I seemed dazed all the rest of that day; and not until I had had a night's sleep, did I have a clear perception of what was going on around me. Sometimes two or three days would pass before I was fully restored.
I hada number of these spansm when I was too young to know anything about them. The first one of which I remember, I begain to turn blind and did not know what was the matter; but I soon learned the nature of my affliction. I had to be very careful what I did. If I exposed myself to the direct rays of the sun or even looked straight at the sun, I was likely to have a spasm; if I drank sweet milk it was likely to have the same result.
When I quit school at the age of ten years and had nothing to occupy my mind, my thoughts centered on my suffering and the frequency of my spasms seemed to increase. After having a spasm my mind was greatly afflicted with melancholy and depression. I dreaded the recurrence of the fits, and looked forward to their coming with such abhorrence that often the fear of having a spasm would bring on the very thing I dreaded.
From the time I can first recollect, most of my life was spent in sadness and disappointment. It seemed as if my whole being were a mass of suffering and affliction. The doctor said there was nothing sound about me but my lungs. Most of my time I appeared to be nothing but a voice. So far as I remember, not one day of that period of my life was passed without pain and suffering. My high temper, of course, added mental suffering to the physical.
Many times I wondered why I could not die. My suffering was greatly increased by melancholy and mental depression. I often sat beside my mother and cried, "Mother, why can't I die? Why did I not die when I was a child? I am a trial to myself and to all around me." Mother would say, "Mary, God has a bright design in all this. We do not know the reason why you are so afflicted, but we will know sometime." With such comforting words she many times soothed my troubled spirit. God blessed me with a dear Christian mother. Her gentle, patient life—so loving and Christlike—stamped upon my soul in early childhood the ideal of real Christian character. I had before me constantly an example of what I ought to be. As I look back at those days, my association with my mother seems to have been the only bright spot in my early life.
At six years of age I began to have dyspepsia, and as a result, could eat but very little food without suffering. Up to this time and later, I could walk a mile or more; but was liable at any time to have a fit. When about twelve or thirteen years of age, other afflictions set in, such as spinal and female trouble.
In my fifteenth year I became a helpless invalid, and lay in bed for five months at one time. When I first became helpless, I thought I was dying. I knew if I went into eternity as I then was I would be lost, and suffered terrible mental anguish. My dear mother came to my bedside with comforting words: "Mary, put your trust in the Lord." I could move neither hand nor foot but could only say, "Mother, I am trying to," knowing at the same time that I was not capable of meeting the conditions—repentance, etc., I decided that I would not tell Mother nor any one else that I felt that I was lost, even if I died in that condition; but God in his mercy saw fit to lengthen out my life.
Viewed from the standpoint of mature life, those early years remind me of the experience of the Israel-ites when they came to Marah, where the waters were bitter, and where Moses put something into the bitter waters to make them sweet. In my unsaved condition, I was at Marah; but when the Lord saved my soul, he put something into the bitter stream of my life that made it sweet, and I can truly say, "My December is as pleasant as May: my summer lasts all the year." Yes, I can now obey God's Word: "Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; and in everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16). Oh, what a wonderful change God wrought! It is all through grace divine; for the promise is, "All things work together for good to them that love God."
Incidents of Childhood
The old home farm near Windsor, Missouri, where I spent my childhood and early womanhood, was heavily timbered on the west and the south. There was also a good-sized apple orchard north of the house and a number of beautiful shade trees in the yard, which gave the place a homelike appearance. The house was very ordinary—just a large front room, a large bedroom, an attic large enough for three or four beds, and a large log kitchen.
In those days, and even until long after the Civil War, the houses were lighted mostly by candles. The old-fashioned fireplace gave us both light and heat in the rooms where they were, and made very pleasant the long winter evenings. Of course, in many ways they were not equal to our modern improvements, but we had some very happy times around the old fireplace. Mother made the candles we used, in molds especially designed for that purpose. I will not soon forget how I used to watch her put in the cotton wick, tie it at a certain place, and then melt and pour in the tallow. As soon as the tallow cooled, we had candles. Sometimes when we had no candles, we used what was called a grease lamp. This was merely a saucer with a little grease in it and a twisted rag, the greater part of which lay in the grease in the bottom of the saucer. The end which extended up over the edge of the saucer was lighted, and this device served as a lamp until Mother could make more candles.
Near the house was a garden from which Mother used often to gather bouquets to cheer me in my lonely hours. These loving acts of Mother's meant much to me in my affliction. Jesus said that the gift of a cup of cold water will be rewarded. I am sure that Mother's reward will be great.
When I was about five or six years old, an incident occurred which shows that I, although greatly afflicted, was not altogether wanting in activity. Two of my older sisters and I were playing on a shed adjoining one side of the corn-crib. My sisters wanted to jump off the shed, but were a little afraid to do so for fear they would hurt themselves. They finally decided that they would have me jump first, and if it did not hurt me, then they would jump. Little as I was, I understood their scheme. Nevertheless, I jumped. It hurt me quite a little; but when they asked me if I was hurt, I said, "No." Thinking then, that it would not hurt them, they jumped but they were considerably hurt too. Again they asked if it hurt me, and I admitted that it had. "Why did you not tell us?" "Because," I replied, "you were playing off on me because I am the youngest, and I would not let you know, so that you would have a chance to get hurt too."
One morning when I was about six years old, I was going to school in company with my brothers and sisters and other children who went the same road. It was late in the fall, and a heavy rain that had recently fallen, made the narrow lane through which we were obliged to pass, very muddy. Cattle had made deep tracks in the mud, in which the water had collected and then frozen. The bubbles underneath the ice had the appearance of money, and we children ran along looking at the bubbles, and saying "I have found some money." All at once I was sure that I did see a real coin under the ice at the bottom of one of the holes. When I called out "I have found some money," my brothers came quickly to investigate; and, sure enough, there was a fifty-cent piece stuck to the rim of an old pocket book. It had lain there so long that the leather had all rotted away. I was so delighted and spent so much time in enjoying the treasure I had found that I learned but very little that day.
One of my earliest recollections is of committing these lines to memory:
"In His pure eyes it is a sin To steal a penny or a pin."
Not long after this, when I was about four years old, I think, I went with my oldest sister to one of our neighbors on an errand. My sister, who could weave, wanted me to go to the home of another neighbor near by to borrow a part for the old-fashioned loom she was using. While at the house I saw a piece of pink calico about an inch square that attracted my childish fancy. I thought how nice it would be for the little quilt I had begun to piece. As I had no pocket, I put the piece of calico into the bosom of my dress and went back to my sister holding it as if I feared it would get away.
Noticing what I was doing, she said, "Mary, what is the matter?" "Nothing," I answered. "What have you there?" "Nothing," I replied again. Right there I told two falsehoods, the first of which I had ever been guilty. They were like black spots on a white robe. My sister said, "I know you have something," and drew out my hand still grasping the scrap of calico. "Where did you get it?" I told the truth then, and she said that I must go back and tell the woman I had stolen it. She took me back; but she had to do all the talking.
The old lady wanted to excuse me, and said, "Oh, let her have it; it dosen't amount to anything"; but my sister said, "No, she shall not have it, for she did not ask for it." Oh, how awful I felt! It was about a mile to our house, and I cried nearly the whole way home. On the way I said, "Ell, don't tell Mother"; and she promised that she would not. I had experienced now what Paul meant when he said, "Sin revived and I died." It was the first time in my life I had ever known what guilt was. Reproof given at the first offense has saved me many temptations in later life. Only twice afterward do I remember of having had a like temptation.
Perhaps the influence of this incident was strengthened by a story that my mother related to me while I was still a child. This story made a deep impression upon my young heart. In Carroll County, Ohio, not far from where she was raised, there lived two families by the name of Long. The fathers were brothers. Two boys of the two families used to trap for mink and other fur-bearing animals during the winter season. As the fur of the mink at that time brought a good price, the boys were more anxious to catch mink than any other animal. One of the boys once found a mink in his cousin's trap. When he told his mother what he had seen, she said, "Go back, take the mink out of your cousin's trap, set the trap just as it was before, put the mink into your own trap, and tell your cousin that you have caught a mink; he will never know the difference."
The boy did as his mother advised, and the cousin never learned of the deception until many years later. The boy who had stolen the mink went from bad to worse until, during the outbreak of the Mormons, I think, he was implicated in the murder of Colonel Davenport of Iowa. While on the scaffold, he confessed that his first step downward was in taking the mink out of his cousin's trap and telling a falsehood about it. God's Word was verified: "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."
Parents, be careful what example you set before your children. If you set a wrong example, they may rise up and curse you: but if you teach them the good and right way, they will "rise up and call you blessed." If when parents see one of their children entering upon his first temptation to take things that do not belong to him, they would do their duty, there would be more honest children today. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
From my earliest childhood I liked poetry and could readily commit it to memory. I often learned poems that were quite difficult for one of my age. The beautiful poems I learned were like rays of sunshine on my pathway and added much comfort to a life that had but few pleasures.
I learned the alphabet at home and so made quite rapid progress after I began attending school, although I was greatly hindered because of stammering. Some of my teachers were very helpful to me in overcoming this difficulty. When Mr. Nutter, who taught our school one winter, saw that I could not recite because of my impediment of speech, he had all the classes recite with me so as to take away the embarrassment. I felt very grateful for his kindness.
One day when I was ten years old, I had a fit at school. Father thought that while I was afflicted in this way, it would be hard on my mind for me to study, and it would be best to keep me at home. During my last term at school, I read in McGuffey's Fourth Reader, studied the second part of Arithmetic, had learned to spell fairly well in the old Elementary Speller, and had also begun geography—a study which I liked very much. I was beginning to learn to write; but as I was left-handed, my movements were very slow and awkward.
Events During the War
I was eight years old when the Civil War began. The first event that I remember in connection with the war was our teacher's dismissing school one day so that we might go over to the public road to see the Union soldiers. I suppose there were at least a regiment of these troops, if not more. As I had never seen soldiers before, their fine appearance as they marched by, dressed in their uniforms, with their guns, bayonets, drums, and full military equipment, made a lasting impression on my childish mind.
At the beginning of the war, my father wished to move from the State where we were then living. Missouri was a slave State and he knew that there was trouble ahead. Perhaps father would have had his way, had not God shown mother in a dream that he would protect us, and that we would be as safe in Missouri as in any other place. Subsequent events proved that we did well to obey God, for none of our stock or property was taken. The deaths of my brother and sister were the most severe trials through which we had to pass.
In January, 1862, the Federal soldiers again came to our neighborhood and camped near the same place where I had first seen them; but, at this time, the scene excited in me entirely different emotions. Snow was on the ground; the weather was very cold; and the soldiers took rails and made a large bonfire to keep themselves warm. The sky was lit up with the flames, and to me, in my nervous condition, the scene was frightful.
That same evening some of the soldiers went down to our little town (then called Belmont, afterwards Windsor), brought back to the camp with them the hollow trunk of a tree containing a swarm of bees, and laid it down to take out the honey. Mrs. Hammond, the wife of our nearest neighbor on the east, who lived but a short distance from the camp, thinking that they were planting a cannon, became frightened and came over to our house with her two little children. She was afraid there was going to be a battle, and sought our house as a place of safety. She wanted to stay all night. Father pitied her; and in spite of the fact that the children were sick with diphtheria, he felt that he could not turn her out.
Thus we children were all exposed to diphtheria; and as my nerves were in such a bad condition, and as I was greatly frightened because of the news from the camp and the presence of the sick children, I was the first victim of the disease. The next to take it was my sister Katherine. Just before she took her bed, she got her feet wet, and therefore had the disease in a very malignant form. The doctor who was caring for her, assured us that she was better, but he told some of the neighbors that she could not live until morning. We did not know that she was seriously ill until Father, who was sitting up with her that night, said, "Katy, it's time to take your medicine." There was no answer; her gentle spirit had taken its flight.
The thought that my sister was dead was almost more than I could endure. The thought that she was gone into eternity, that I would never meet her again in this world, almost broke my heart. I wept for hours at a time. I would sit beside my mother weeping and wondering why my sister had been taken. It seemed that I could never forgive the doctor for deceiving us; and I think I never did fully forgive him, until the time when God pardoned my sins and gave me a forgiving spirit. Dear little sister Katherine! She was twelve years and six months old when she died. She was an unusual child—patient and kind—was never known to disobey her parents, and was loved by all.
The other members of the family took the diphtheria one by one, until all but my father and one brother had this awful disease. Some of us were sick for nearly two months and during this time none of the neighbors, except Daniel Douglas, our nearest neighbor on the west, came to lend any assistance. He came over and sat up a part of every other night when the sick ones were at their worst, and needed the most care. Even the woman who brought the disease to us refused to help, until she was compelled to do so by Mr. Douglas; and then she only helped to prepare Katherine's body for burial. It certainly was a sad time. Even nature seemed to cast a gloom over everything—much sleet fell, and everything had a dismal appearance.
It was during the war and sometime before Katherine's death that Mr. Hammond used to cross our orchard going to and from his work. One day Father said to one of the Hammond children, "Come over and get some apples to eat"; to which the child answered, "Oh, Papa brings us all the apples we want to eat. He gets them out of your orchard."
One day while my brother Harvey was passing through the orchard, he saw an apple caught in the fork of two limbs. Supposing that the apple had fallen from the tree and accidently lodged there, he ate it, and soon began to feel very sick. The doctor found upon examination that the boy was suffering from strychnine poisoning. From remarks that had been dropped, we thought we knew that a certain neighbor had poisoned the apple and that he had done it for spite. A visitor at our house remarked that she feared that the Union soldiers, who were then encamped near her home, would in their absence from home, get the strychnine they had bought for the rats and poison their meal or their water before they got home again. My brother suffered from the effects of the strychnine he had taken for a number of years before he fully recovered.
The husband of the woman of whom I have just spoken was a soldier in the Southern army. One time while he was out foraging, he went into a Union woman's house and asked for a pie. Finding out that she had her pies hidden under the puncheon floor, he raised a plank and proceeded to help himself. The woman, seeing her opportunity, threw the plank onto his neck and jumped on the plank. The man got a furlough, came home, and was confined to his bed for some time. It was reported about the neighborhood that he had a spell of fever.
The woman who brought the diphtheria to us sought our house as a place of refuge, because the house being "low and in a low place" the cannon balls would pass over it. After the Lord saved me, this incident came to my mind as a lesson in humility. "Low and in a low place." If we as God's servants keep humble and in a low place, the enemy may hurl his darts and shoot his cannon balls: they will go over us and will not harm us. If we don't want to be disturbed or crippled by the enemy of our souls, we should keep low at the feet of Jesus where he can continually shelter us. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
Some time after these events the Southern soldiers, commonly known as "bushwhackers," came into our neighborhood and camped in the woods. One evening as it was growing dusk, my oldest sister and the one next older than I went after water to a well half way between our house and the house of our nearest neighbor on the west. From this well both families used water. The girls had to go down a steep hill to get to the well; and as they came back to the brow of the hill, they found our dog lying dead. While the girls were at the well, the soldiers had no doubt killed the dog with a club, as no one heard a gun fired. My sisters went home with the water and then went back to investigate; they wanted to be sure that it was our dog that had been killed. They heard men in the brush near the place where the dog was lying, and being very young and not realizing their danger, they talked rather loudly and boisterously, saying that if they could see the men in the brush, they would shoot them with their fingers. The crackling in the brush indicated that the men were very near.
That night a large number of these bushwhackers entered our neighbor's house and stole bonds, notes, and clothing estimated to be worth $2000. Mr. Douglas had just been to Sedalia, where he had procured a good supply of clothing. The soldiers pointed Mr. Douglas's own gun, which had never been known to miss fire before, at his head; but it failed to go off. Our house was not molested. The next day these same men caught one of Mr. Douglas's boys, made him take off his shoes, hat, and all his other clothing, except his underwear, and turned him loose. In this condition, he had to go about a quarter of a mile before reaching home.
It was probably some time after these events that the bushwhackers came to our house and wanted Mother to cook a meal for a dozen men. Mother was hardly able to be out of bed, but my sister Mehala, thinking that they were Union soldiers, said, "Mother, I can cook for them." "Well, Mehala," Mother said, "if you can, you may go ahead." Mother helped all she could. They baked two large pones of corn-bread in the oldfashioned fireplace and fried plenty of fresh beef. Although the soldiers had ordered food for a dozen men, only two of them came. One of them took the provisions and the other guarded the house until he thought we would have no chance to report them. Then they went to the home of a neighbor and with much bad language said that Mother was Union and therefore pretended to be sick and did not want to cook for them.
During the war, things we had to buy were very high and things we had to sell brought only a trifle. Father sold corn to the Union soldiers for 25 cents a bushel. In imagination I can see the government wagons coming to haul the corn away to their camp. The beds of the wagons were somewhat like those used today, only they sloped outward on either side until they would hold more than twice as much as our ordinary farm wagons.
At that time, flour cost $10.00 and upward, a barrel, calico from 35 to 45 cents a yard, and cotton yarn from $9.00 to $11.00 a bunch. This quantity of yarn would make only about 25 yards of jeans. Mother did her own spinning and weaving until some years after the war. We sheared our own sheep, washed and picked the wool, and sent it to the carding machine, where it was made into rolls. Then Mother and my older sister, who was nearly grown, spun the yarn and wove it into jeans and linsey, and also into flannel and blankets. Mother made all the clothing for the family—underwear, pants, vests, coats, and even overcoats. I well remember the old loom and spinning wheel and the little wheel on which I used to quill for my sister while she wove. Small as I was, I had learned to knit. I knit mittens for the soldiers, for which I got 50 cents a pair at Sedalia, the nearest army post, twenty miles away.
In the early part of the war Father was a militiaman. At one time he came very near being accidently killed in his own orchard by some of his own men. Some Federal soldiers who were passing came into our orchard, and seeing Father at a distance, thought he was a Southerner. Father, seeing his danger, started to run; but one of the soldiers who was near enough to recognize him, cried, "Cole, don't run or they'll shoot you"; but Father thought he said, "Cole run or they'll shoot you." Finally they got him to understand what they meant, and his life was saved.
I am not sure how near to our home actual fighting occurred. There were no battles fought nearer than Lone Jack. A number of our neighbors, however, were shot down in their own dooryards by those of the other side. One of our neighbors who favored the South but who was willing to be anything for the sake of safety, got fooled three times in one day. When the Confederate soldiers came along, he thought they were Federals and professed to be a Union man; and then when the Federal soldiers came by he thought they were Confederates and told them he favored the South. When his own men came by again, they took his property because he had lied to them. His wife followed the soldiers pleading, begging, and crying, until they gave up the property. In his case, lies did not prove to be a satisfactory refuge.
At Cole Camp, about twenty-five miles from our place lived some Germans—good honest people, who had worked hard and had gotten quite a bit of property together. These thrifty farmers were not disturbing either side, but some men around Windsor, who called themselves "Home Guards," went down to Cole Camp, killed these inoffensive Germans, stamped their heads with their boot-heels, took all of their goods that they could carry away, while the poor wives were begging for the lives of their companions. Then these miscreants returned to Windsor and divided the spoil. One of my brothers, a mere boy, who was working for one of the "Home Guards," overheard his employer quarreling with another man over the division of the booty.
Before the "Home Guards" started on this raid, a preacher named Pierce, of the M. E. South denomination, prayed for their success. After their return, my father overheard him and one of the raiders talking. Father overheard this man tell Pierce that his brother had killed nine Germans and stamped them on the head with his boot heel. Upon hearing this the preacher, throwing back his head, laughed heartily. He seemed to enjoy the story very much. Up until this time Father was a member of the M. E. South denomination; but after overhearing this conversation he no longer professed to be one of them. It has often been remarked that war makes men wicked; but Mother used to say that usually the wickedness was in the men already and that war merely gave them a chance to put their wickedness on exhibition. Boys, of course, were especially demoralized by soldier-life, coming in contact as they did with so many wicked influences.
In the early part of the war, both Father and my second brother, John, joined the militia, which was later disbanded. Before the war closed, Father reached his 45th year and after that was too old to go as a soldier. John was quite patriotic and wanted to enlist for regular service. Nevertheless, he and my oldest brother went to Illinois to attend school. When they started, Mother said, "John, don't enlist in the army any more." "Mother," he answered, "I won't unless they draft me; but if they draft I will volunteer, for I don't like the treatment of a drafted soldier."
Soon a rumor came that a draft was to be made, on purpose, I suppose, to "beat up" volunteers. So to avoid being drafted, my brother volunteered. He had been exposed to the measles shortly before his enlistment, but supposed that when he joined the army he would get a furlough for at least twenty days. He was disappointed: next day they got marching orders. He took the measles, had to go out on duty when not able, took cold, and soon died with congestion of the lungs. His body lies in the soldiers' graveyard at Chattanooga, Tenn.
About the year 1894, I think, while my youngest brother and I were out in gospel work, the Lord greatly burdened my heart to pray for Mother's support. My brother and I were supposed to help provide for her; and at this time Mother was especially in need, although I did not know it. The Lord showed me that I should save up what I had on hands for Mother's support until I should reach home, and that if I did not I would feel very sorry.
I did as God directed. When I reached home, Mother began to tell me of the poor crops and other drawbacks and what a hard time they had had. I told her I was glad to see that she had salvation, even if she did not have much of this world's goods, for I had seen many people with much of this world's goods, but with no experience of salvation, and they were in worse condition than she. I was still burdened to pray the Lord to supply Mother's needs; not only for the present, but while she lived.
When, after about three weeks' visit at home, I started again in the gospel work, I gave Mother all the change I had to spare. As I did so, she looked at me with tears running down her cheeks and said, "Mary, I don't want to take this; the cause needs it so badly." "Mother," I said, "you are a part of the cause." She laughed and cried but took the money. Shortly after this I got a postal card from my brother at home, saying that he had news from Washington, that Mother had been granted a pension because of my brother John's death during the Civil War. For three years she had been trying to get this pension and had about given up hope of ever receiving it. Mother received $400.00 back pension and $12.00 a month for the remainder of her life. The Lord showed me that my prayer was answered for Mother's support, and the burden left me.
Conversion and Sanctification
A few years after I became a helpless invalid, I was somewhat wrought upon by the Spirit of God, but had no advice as to what I should do. I joined the M. E. Church on probation, although I was yet unsaved. The minister who received me into the church, did not inquire whether I was saved or not, nor did he ask about my spiritual welfare.
In my nineteenth year I was convicted of my sins, after the following circumstance: I was having a quarrel with one of my younger brothers. We were both high-spirited and each wanted to have his own way. While the quarrel was in progress, Mother came on the scene, and what she heard was enough to make her heart ache. "Mary, why don't you set a better example?" "Mother," I said, "he commenced on me first. If you make him behave himself, I will behave." "Mary, I am afraid you children will never stop your quarreling until you land in perdition; and if I were out of the way, you would soon be there. You act just as if you wanted me out of the way." I saw her standing there as pale as a corpse with the big tears rolling down her face. She was always pale in those days. I said, "Mother, don't break my heart." "Mary," said she, "you broke my heart first." "Mother, won't you forgive me?" "Yes," she answered, "I forgive you; but there is one higher than I whom you have offended, and you will have to ask his forgiveness."
Up to that time I was not under conviction, but the Lord now began to answer the prayer of my oldest brother, who had been praying for my conviction. That same evening I went into the garden, and earnestly asked the Lord to convict me of my sins. I remember now that he had convicted me in the past but that I had resisted until conviction left me. I said to the Lord, "I will not fight conviction now if it kills me right on the spot." The Lord took me at my word; he knew I meant what I said with all my heart. I arose from my knees, and walked toward the house, with such a deep realization of God's displeasure on my lost soul that it seemed as if the earth would open and swallow me up. I shall never forget that awful experience. I think I fully comprehended God's displeasure against rebellious souls, but in his wrath he remembered mercy, and I found myself seeking God with all my heart. I could not weep, but my heart was sincere and deeply determined to seek God until I should know that I was saved.
I did not find the Lord at once and the enemy brought discouragement against my soul. I was just about to come to the conclusion that I would seek God only a week, and that if I did not find him then I would quit. But as I walked through the front room, I noticed an old Methodist hymn-book lying on the stand. I opened it and as God would have it, my eyes fell on these lines: "And will you basely to the tempter yield?" Going to the kitchen where Mother was washing, I said, "Mother, there is a hymn in this book that ought to be torn out." She said, "Why, Mary?" After I had read the line to her she said, "Mary, can't you adopt the next line as yours? 'No, in the strength of Jesus, no, I never will give up my shield.'" I decided then and there to seek God until the day of my death, or until I found him.
My oldest brother and I went to prayer. He asked me to pray, but all I have ever remembered saying is, "Lord have mercy on me. Lord hear me." He said, "Mary, the Lord does have mercy on you and the Lord does hear you, or you could not have prayed as you have been praying." He asked me whether I was willing to live or die for the Lord; and I said, "I am willing to live, but I am not willing to die in this condition," He replied, "All the Lord wants is your will. He will not let you die in this condition when you want to get saved." But I still persisted that I wasn't willing to die in that condition.
Then the enemy tried to bring confusion upon me. The burden of my guilt was all gone and the devil suggested that I was worse than I had thought, that my heart was so hard I could not mourn for my sins any more. Howbeit, the dear Lord came to my rescue. He reminded me that my repentance was genuine, and therefore accepted by him; and that all he required of me was to exercise faith in his promises, and that if I could not do that immediately, I could begin to quote his word, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." I kept repeating that declaration and prayer all day long and until late in the afternoon.
I got hold of a little tract in which God's promises were simplified; for instance, "He is our light in darkness; our wisdom in ignorance; our counsellor in perplexity." I said, "Lord, I am perplexed: the burden of guilt is gone and I can't mourn any more, but I can't say that I am saved." Mother had said that the Lord had shown her that she was saved, and I felt sure that as God is no respecter of persons, he must show me that I was saved too. I could not be satisfied short of that; so I said, "Lord, I take thee as my counsellor in perplexity." Then I repeated, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." Before the sentence had dropped from my lips, I said, "Lord, I know; Lord, I know."
I can not tell you how happy I was. I arose from my knees, started out of my chamber and to my surprise met the brother with whom I had quarreled. "O Oliver," I said, "the Lord has had mercy on me and saved me." I shall never forget that day. It was May 3, 1871.
Up to that time I had not opened my heart to my father concerning my soul's condition and needs, as he was not living a satisfactory life himself, but when I went to the supper table, I was so happy that I said, "O Father, help me praise the Lord." Not knowing how my soul had been longing for God and a new life, he said, "Mary, what has broken loose?" I answered, "I can't praise Him enough; I want you to help me praise him." I was too happy to eat supper, and so went out into the yard and walked up and down praising the Lord to my soul's content.
I might say here, it was not fear of everlasting punishment that caused me to seek God, but a good faithful mother's love. I did not want to grieve her heart and as I could not keep from doing so without help from above, I sought salvation with this end in view. At this time there came very forcibly to me the scripture about Mary's anointing the Lord before his burial. I decided that she should be my example. I would give Mother some of the flowers of my experience, and not wait until after she was dead and buried. Had I waited to strew flowers over her grave, I would have expected to hear people say, "She is nothing but a hypocrite. She did not treat her mother right while she was living, and now she is trying to make a show." Let us take a lesson from Mary of old—give flowers to the living; but if we have no flowers, let us see to it that we do not give thorns. It was thorns that the enemies of Christ placed upon his brow in mockery.
Later I found that there was something in me that did not want to treat Mother just right—a disposition arising in my heart to disobey her. I felt that this grieved the Lord; and I went and asked him to forgive me. One day I said, "Mother, I am going to set down on paper a record of every day that I keep from getting mad." As I had a very high temper, Mother thought it very foolish for me to undertake such a record. Nevertheless, day after day went by in which I did not become angry, until a month had elapsed; I had not been angry for a month.
Just a month after I was saved, my oldest brother, who was a minister, came with a message on the subject of sanctification. He explained the doctrine to Mother and me and showed us our privilege of attaining to this grace. Before noon of that day we made a complete consecration for time and for eternity, grasped the promises, and both of us received the experience. I am sure that my consecration was made in great ignorance; but the Lord understood that I was sincere, and graciously granted me the experience. When I received the sanctifying grace, I did not think of demonstration, or of great feeling, or of anything of that kind: I simply consecrated all a living sacrifice, and reckoned myself dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I met the conditions and believed that the work was done.
Not until the tempter came, did I fully realize what God had done in sanctifying me. That evening the devil tested me in such a way that had there been any of the old Adam in me, it would have been stirred up; but, thank God! the devil found nothing to work upon. God had removed that depraved nature, the sin-principle inherited from the fall of Adam. As there was nothing but God's glory in my soul, nothing but glory could bubble up, no matter how severe the temptation. I felt so secure—just as if I were out in mid-ocean upon a solid rock, the waves dashing all around me, but powerless to disturb my security and the peace of my soul.
Soon after I was sanctified, I testified to my experience, in a Methodist quarterly meeting. The presiding elder made fun of me: he said, "The testimonies of those that claim to be sanctified, sound just like the tones of an old cracked cow-bell. There was only one good testimony made this evening; and that was by one who did not profess sanctification." My only persecution at home came from a neighbor who made fun of my prayers. Her oft-repeated expression was, "Pray like old Mary Cole." Later when her grandchild lay dying, she called on me to pray four times within twenty-four hours. After the child was dead, she said she was hurt because I did not pray for the child's healing, because she was sure that if I had done so the child would have lived.
A minister who came onto our circuit some time after this decided that those who had the experience of sanctification should not testify to it. He gave as his reason that he wanted to bring the people to a level in their experiences; in other words, he wanted to bring the sanctified ones down to lift the justified ones up, until they would all be on an equality in experience. Two sisters who were sanctified, came to me and said, "Sister Cole, we have come to the conclusion that we won't testify to sanctification this year, lest we offend the minister." I replied, "If the minister is going to oppose sanctification, so much the more will I testify to it throughout the year." I did so, and God wonderfully blessed me. These women stopped testifying to please the preacher; and before the year was out, they and the preacher were having trouble.
After I was sanctified, I was so happy and victorious in my soul, that I wanted to tell my experience to others. At one time I was talking to a lady old enough to be my grandmother, telling her how happy I was, and how I enjoyed the fulness of God's blessing. She seemed to appreciate my story greatly; but after I got through, the thought came to me that she would think that I felt myself important in trying to instruct one so much older than myself.
Although I did not know it at the time, this was the enemy whispering to me. I apologized to her for saying anything about my experience: "You must not get hurt at me because I have talked so to you, but I am very happy in the Lord." Looking at me steadily she said, "You are not worth getting hurt over." I saw the point. This was God's reproof. I learned my lesson; and so far as I know, I have never made an apology for what the Lord has done for me.
Events of Early Christian Life
One day soon after I was saved, I felt God stirring within me, and gave vent to my happy soul by praising his precious name aloud. This seemed to disturb Father, and he commanded me to be quiet. But God stirred me up more and more, until my soul seemed to roar like a lion, and I quoted the following scripture to Father: "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." This looked like disobedience to my father; but the outcome seemed to show that God was leading me, for Father calmed down and did not again interfere with my praising the Lord.
Not long after I was sanctified, I received my first light on the subject of dress. One Sunday morning while at the Methodist meeting listening to a sermon, a voice began to talk to my soul: "You profess to be sanctified, living a holy life, and yet your head-dress shows conformity to the world." These words did not come from the pulpit either: nothing was being preached against dress or worldly conformity. Sunday after Sunday the same still, small voice talked to me in this way, until I hardly knew what to do.
Finally I said to myself, "I shall not allow my conscience to be tortured in this way any more." Early Monday morning, therefore, as soon as I had an opportunity, I took the flowers off my hat, as they were what the Holy Spirit had been pointing out to me. My Mother, who was sitting by, said, "Mary, what are you doing?" I said, "I am taking these flowers off." "What are you doing that for?" she inquired. "Because," I answered, "I do not want them on." I did not explain matters to her just then. She replied, "That is just a foolish notion of yours. You will soon want the flowers on again." "No, Mother," I answered, "I never will."
So I took the flowers off and put them into the vase where we kept our winter bouquet. As I did so, the voice of God said, "If you do not want to be tempted in this matter again, put those flowers into the fire." I immediately obeyed, and from that day to this I have never been tempted to restore the flowers to my hat.
About ten years later while I was holding my first meeting at Salisbury, Missouri, I saw a number of young ladies who were dressed so saintlike, and in a manner so becoming to holy lives, that I was convicted immediately for plainness of dress. Some of the sisters who were gospel teachers, came to me at the close of the service, saying that they would like to have a talk with me. I thought I knew what they wanted to say, because God had already been talking to me on the same subject. I was not mistaken. "As you profess to be a holiness teacher," said they, "you ought to be an example in plainness of dress." I told them that I had no plain dresses. All I had were virtually a display of ruffles, flounces, "pin-backs" and "tuck-ups." They then inquired if I would be pleased to have them help me make my clothes over. I told them, "Certainly I would, but some of my dresses are so cut up that they couldn't be made over." I was very thankful when an opportunity was offered to make my clothes plain. God had already given me an understanding of his will in regard to dress; and it was not only easy for me to obey, but a pleasure also.
It was not so very long after this—while I was in my second meeting at Sturgeon, Mo.—that a minister handed me some money for my personal use. Soon afterwards his wife came and said that the Lord had shown her that she must give me something too. As this was the first money that had been handed me, I hardly knew what to do; but I accepted it. Then the sister said, "Now, Sister Cole, I will take the money my husband has given you and what I have given, and will buy the goods for a plain dress for you. I will see that it is made plain and neat, and so that it will fit you." How glad I was when I got that dress! Only once after that was I tempted to build again what I had destroyed. Then I got a dress and trimmed it with lace, but I could not wear it that way at all. That was my last temptation to try to dress in style.
About nine o'clock one evening in the month of December, of the year I was saved, Mother and I were in the kitchen. I was down on my knees mixing some sausage-meat in a vessel, when all at once I looked up and saw a very bright light, which seemed to be moving very rapidly. "Mother," said I, "what makes that light?" My first thought was that some of my younger brothers were carrying a light and trying to scare us; but when I saw that the light was so strong and moving so fast, I felt sure that I was mistaken. By this time mother was standing in the door and calling, "Mary, come quick and you can see what is causing the light." What I saw, was a large ball of fire. Starting from the west, or a little north of west, it moved southeast at a high rate of speed.
When we first saw the ball, about two-thirds of it was hidden behind the horizon, and we gazed at it until it went out of sight. Perhaps our imaginations worked upon our senses; but it seemed that sparks of fire flew back from the ball. In two or three minutes after the ball disappeared, there was a terrible trembling of the earth as if there had been a small earthquake. Probably the ball struck with such force that it shook the earth. This sight was witnessed by people in different states.
My feelings at the time of this incident made me think how poor sinners will feel in the day of judgment when they will be standing awaiting their doom, knowing that the wrath of God rests upon them, and that they are without hope. Far more terrifying things than the passing of a comet will be happening then; and many will be crying for the rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them from the presence of him that liveth and reigneth forever. I confess, that though I was saved, I trembled at seeing that ball of fire in its weird passage. I thought that if this little incident had such an effect upon one who was saved and ready to meet God, what a far more terrible spectacle would the day of judgment be to those who were not ready.
One fall, not long after I was saved, the grasshoppers came to our part of the country, and laid their eggs, and in the spring the young grasshoppers hatched out by the million. There were so many grasshoppers and they destroyed the vegetation so rapidly that people began to fear a famine. The governor of the State proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer, and many people gathered at the different houses of worship to plead with the Lord to stay the plague. Even hardhearted sinners left their work and came to these meetings. God heard our petitions, and in three days the grasshoppers were gone. Then some of the unsaved people said, "Oh, well, the grasshoppers would have gone anyway. They just stayed until their wings were grown: they would have gone without prayer." Thus they dishonored God. We had an excellent crop that year—much better than usual; but when Thanksgiving time came, many of those who were at the fast-day meeting had no time to come and thank the Lord for his mercies.
Just when the grasshoppers were at their worst, my mother was making garden. Some one said, "You would better not make garden because the grasshoppers will eat it up." "Oh, well," she replied, "I am going to plant it anyway and trust it with the Lord. 'They that sow in hope shall be partaker of their hope.'" Mother did not fight the grasshoppers at all; she just trusted the Lord.
A number of people had great battles with the grasshoppers. I remember a doctor's wife who came to her death because of overheating herself in her exertions to keep the grasshoppers from getting her garden. Near one side of Mother's garden there was a patch of fennel. Mother saw the grasshoppers in the garden but they did not seem to take anything but the weeds. Then they moved out into the patch of fennel, stripped it of all its leaves, and left only the stems standing. I do not think Mother ever had a better garden; some of her vegetables were especially fine. "They that trust the Lord shall not be confounded."
"Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain."
My Call to the Ministry
When I was about twenty-two years of age, I attended a camp-meeting held by a number of different denominations. One night, while at this meeting, I awoke and became conscious that God was calling me to get up and to go outside the tent to pray. As I obeyed the voice of the Lord, I became conscious of his awful presence and remembered what he said to Moses: "Put thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground." God then called to my remembrance how he had been leading me for sometime to pray in secret for many different persons and interests, and made me to understand that he wanted me to exercise myself in that way at this time also.
After I had prayed for everything I could think of, the Lord burdened me to pray again, although it seemed that I had no other language in which to express my petition. The Lord would in a special manner send down the glory in my soul and, at every repeated petition, fill me more and more with his presence. This was done at least three times. Then he confronted me with this question, "Will you consecrate yourself to go out as a life-worker for me?" "Lord," I cried, "I thought I consecrated myself all to you when I was sanctified." "Yes, you did, but not as a life-worker," was his answer; although, of course, this was included in the "all things" that I consecrated to the Master.
Although I realized that God was talking to me, yet I began making excuses: "Lord, I am not talented; my education is so meagre; there is no one to go with me; and, besides, I have a stammering tongue." God cut my excuses short with, "Who made man's mouth? I gave Moses Aaron as his spokesman; but I will do a better part by you, I will go with you myself." Praise the Lord! Throughout the years that I have worked for him, this promise has been fulfilled.
Again, when the devil suggested that I had no means of traveling, the Lord brought to my mind this scripture, "Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defense, and thou shalt have plenty of silver." For every excuse I made, the Lord had a scripture, until I felt as did Job, that when the Almighty speaks, "I will lay mine hand upon my mouth." So I submitted and consented to obey God.
I now suppose that I was ready to go back to bed; but the Lord began to talk to me again. He showed me that he wanted me to pray still more. As I began again to pour out my heart to him, he seemed just to pour the glory into my soul and to press it down until he saw, I suppose, that I was ready to hear his plan for me—a plan that I had not yet contemplated. When he said to me therefore, "Go preach my gospel," I was astonished beyond measure. Oh, it was all so new! I made excuses; but again he gave Scripture to offset every excuse—and all so comforting and strengthening—that I submitted to his will. I went to bed almost overwhelmed by the glory of God.
Next day I thought that as I had been blessed in learning God's will concerning me, others would be rejoiced too, to hear me relate my experience. But when I began to tell publicly how God had talked to my soul, to my surprise, it stirred up a spirit of jealousy in some and before night the devil tried to carry out his design to defeat the Lord's plan in regard to me. The devil began by starting a wicked falsehood against me and thus, almost crushing the life out of me. I did not understand the devil's cunning way and did not know how to lean on God, it was a dark hour for me. I remembered how the enemies of Moses tried to slay him when he was a child, and how the Jews tried to destroy our Savior when he was a little babe. God proved himself and protected me; he lifted me above all my persecutions and made me more than a conqueror. I had learned the useful lesson to let the Lord be my defense and not to try to defend myself.
On my return home, when I told my class-leader how God had revealed his will to me concerning my future, he said, "You are a pretty looking thing to be called to preach." I thought so too; but to excuse myself, for I hardly knew what to say, I replied, "I do not believe that every one called to preach will have to stand in the pulpit: a person may preach by his life and conduct." Mother was the only other person to whom I told the story of my call, until I began my ministry.
Seven Years of Preparation
Although God had given me a very clear, definite call to the ministry, and had made very plain his purpose in regard to me, yet he did not immediately send me out to preach the gospel. Nearly seven years elapsed between the call and the sending—years in which the Lord led me and in which occurred a number of incidents that had a very important influence on my life. These together with some other incidents connected with them, which occurred in after years, will be related in this chapter.
About the time of my call to the ministry, but whether shortly before or soon afterwards, I do not remember, I was again confined to my bed from September to March. During a part of this time I was entirely helpless; but oh, with how much greater fortitude did I bear my sickness now than I did in my fifteenth year! God in his infinite love and mercy had brought about a wonderful change. Instead of being tortured and tormented, and in desperation wishing myself dead, the nearer I approached death, the happier I became. At times it seemed that the angels were hovering over me. One night I dreamed that my time had come and that I swooned away, falling into my sister's arms. I thought I heard Sister say, "Mother, she is dying." "Sister," I asked, "do you call this death?" "Yes," was the reply. "If this is death," I answered, "I could die always; it is so sweet, so heavenly, so satisfying."
But my couch at this time was not altogether a bed of roses. I suffered greatly and was easily discouraged. I realized that I needed much help and wished that God would in some way send me consolation. The voice of God's Spirit spoke directly to my soul, "If I send you consolation in a dream, will you accept it?" I answered, "Yes, Lord, any way."
That night I dreamed that I was in Father's yard, under a shade tree. Looking around me, I saw some things that were not pleasant; but when it occurred to me to look at myself, I found that I was robed in pure white. My soul was stirred as by heavenly music. Although I had never been able to sing, yet now I felt as though I could not keep from trying. My voice rang out like the clear notes of a nightingale; and all at once I was joined by a myriad of heavenly voices. The air was full of music. Peal after peal of the heavenly anthem struck upon my ear, and in my dream I exclaimed, "Is heaven so near the earth as this? Surely I hear the angels singing! Such music I have never heard upon earth!" Then I awoke with this scripture sounding in my ears: "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him and delivereth them." Without a doubt, the angels were around me. The strength and comfort I received in my soul that night were like Elijah's meal, in the strength of which he went forty days. Even now, the thought of my experience sends a thrill of heavenly encouragement to my soul.
One evening when I was about twenty-three years old, we were having family worship, and all the saved members of the family had prayed; I felt impressed that if we should have a second season of prayer, God would do something unusual for us. As the different members of the family were praying the second time, my youngest Brother, George, ten years old, was being deeply wrought upon by the Spirit of God. He arose from his knees and started to my chair. As he was in his stocking feet, and moved noiselessly across the floor, nobody saw him. Before he got to my chair his heart failed him, and he went back to where he had been kneeling. Again the Spirit of God worked upon his heart stronger than before; he came to where I was kneeling and said, "Mary, I want to be saved too." We immediately called upon God in his behalf; the Lord wonderfully saved him; and after that he took part in family worship.
God had now given me such a love for my younger brothers that when they got into their little troubles they would come to me for help and consolation, as Mother with her large family and many cares had but little time to devote to their spiritual welfare. This small burden that God placed on me was doubtless for my good. When the boys got into little quarrels, they would come to me, and I would say to them, "Do you know the scripture, 'Only by pride cometh contention'?" "Yes." "Do you know what the matter is then?" "Yes, I am up a little." "Do you know what you have to do?" "Yes, to get down." And soon their difficulty would be settled. God wonderfully blessed my soul in thus helping my younger brothers; and all unaware to myself, I was being prepared for my future work.
I believe that I, as much as most children, always honored my father; and, after I was saved, I believe I honored him as much as God required. In the incidents I am now about to relate, I mean to cast no reflection upon the memory of my father, now many years gone to his final reward; but I tell them that they may prove a blessing to others.
My father was not living a Christian life satisfactory even to himself; and, as a result, the enemy could at times use him as his instrument. Nervous and afflicted as I was in my childhood days, I was afraid of Father when he yielded to the enemy; but after I was saved the Lord gave me much help on this line. At times however, when Father was much under the influence of the enemy, the trials were so severe that Mother and I frequently had to seek God for help two or three times a day. The Lord always came to our rescue and lifted us above the trial. When Father showed his better self, he was very dear to all of us.
When my brother Harley was about fourteen years of age, he was saved and living as true a Christian life as one would expect of a boy his age. It seemed at this time that the enemy was especially operating through Father to crush and discourage the child. God stirred up my soul to protect him and to keep him from giving way entirely. One day Harley went on an errand for Father and the mule that he rode accidentally got his ankle hurt. When he returned, Father was very much displeased, and said to my brother, "If you can do no better than that, you had better go to bed."
This was in the evening. I picked up the family Bible, walked across the room to my father and said, "We are all willing to go to bed, but we usually have family worship first. Won't you read and pray?" "You can read and pray yourself if you want to," said he. So I sat down and read, and then we knelt down and prayed; God's power came like a mighty wave from the glory world, filling the room. When we arose from our knees Father had disappeared.
A few minutes later, when one of my brothers went to the barn, Father said to him, "What is that noise at the house?" My brother answered, "God has given us the victory, and Mary is shouting." "Well," said Father, "that won't do the mule any good;" but the boy answered quickly, "Well, we weren't praying for the mule," and Father never said anything more about the injury to the mule.
At another time Harley was lying very sick, and the enemy stirred Father up to treat him cruelly. He told my brother that if he didn't get up, he would give him a good whipping. He started to get the whip. In the meanwhile, my soul was stirred to its limit; God seemed to move my very being to protect the child. I knew that he was really sick and that the enemy was using Father for his own purpose.
I went into the room where my brother was lying and stood near him. When father returned, he could see me standing by the head of the old-fashioned bedstead near one of its high posts. He knew by my looks that I was there to shield the sick boy. He ordered me out, but I made no reply. He tried to remove me by force from where I was standing; but I held on to the bedpost until finally by a strong jerk he succeeded in loosing my hold and gave me a push that threw me across the floor a number of feet away, where I fell and went to praying. God answered prayer, and gave us the victory, and Father left the room without another word. Before beginning to resist Father, I had made up my mind to take the whipping myself, rather than see my sick brother imposed upon; but God intervened, and I did not have to suffer. Every time I interfered, Father seemed to realize that it was not I, but God who was reproving him.
I was now about twenty-four or twenty-five years of age and I felt that the Lord wanted me to make a few suggestions to Father about his treatment of me. I told him that he should be careful lest he lay himself liable to the law. He answered me harshly, but it seemed that God put his fear on him, for that was the last time Father became violent toward me.
Shortly before my healing, which will be described in the next chapter, I had a very peculiar dream in which I saw the whole family sitting at the table eating. Father held in his hand an iron mallet which he began to motion in a threatening way toward Mother. I thought that he intended to take her life with the mallet. Then I thought, "Mother has been so good and kind to me that I can not bear to stay in the room and see this deed done." I started for the door. As I went, God spoke to me, saying, "Pray; ask for the strength of a Samson, if need be; and I will give it." I began praying and God answered. His strength and power came over me. I can not express how strong I felt as I went to my father, took the iron mallet out of his hand. He was like a little child in my hands. I held him until he promised he would never do so again; and all the while his face was twitching with fear, and he was trembling like a leaf.
When I was healed, God put much of his divine power into both my soul and body. It seemed that I was just filled with God and that I thrilled with his presence, until at times I was not on earth, but rather in heaven. At one such time Father began to bring false accusations against Harley. His unkind manner, as well as the false charges, showed that he was actuated by a wrong spirit. God seemed to again stir my soul to speak in behalf of the boy. At first Father did not comprehend that God was talking through me, and spoke roughly; but he soon realized that God was using my lips of clay; the fear of the Lord came upon him, and he trembled like a leaf. I saw that God had fulfilled my dream, that he had helped me to take the iron mallet out of Father's hand. So far as I know, Father never acted so cruelly toward my brother again.
I wish to warn children who read this narrative not to use this incident to their own shame. If the Spirit of the Lord should ever lead you to resist your father or mother, he will give you the power to win a victory for truth and righteousness; but, if, on the other hand, you resist your parents in your own strength, or for selfish purposes, you will bring upon yourself shame and confusion. Even if you should succeed in having your own way, either through force of will or through your parents' meekly yielding to you, God will make you feel the shame of your wrong-doing.
In my personal dealings with Father, God manifested himself and showed himself mighty in caring for me. Once as we were going to meeting, the team became frightened and hard to hold and I became so frightened that I had a spasm after we got to meeting. Father was ashamed because I had had a spasm in public. He seemed to think he was disgraced, and concluded that in the future I should stay at home. I was now saved and sanctified and enjoyed very much attending public services, so Mother and I prayed earnestly that God would put it into Father's heart to let me attend meetings again. Our prayers were answered and I had no more difficulty until sometime afterwards. At that time I had been to a meeting several miles from home and had remained over night with some friends without asking permission. As a punishment, Father again refused to allow me to go to church.
Again Mother and I sought the Lord with prayer and fasting, and the Lord soon showed me that we had gained the victory. We felt impressed, however, to spend another day in fasting and prayer. Although Father did not know that we were praying, he came to me and said, "Mary, you can go to meeting"; and from that time he never kept me at home from services.
Father owned the farm on which we lived in Pettis County, Missouri. It contained 244 acres of fairly good land and was sufficiently stocked. Although, in a financial way, father was doing as well as his neighbors, he had for a number of years been growing discontented. These periods of discontentment seemed especially to trouble him in the spring before farm work began. At such times he wanted to mortgage his farmland and to move out of the country.
Every spring for a number of years, Mother and I would get on our knees and pray earnestly to God that he would overrule Father's roving disposition and make him content to stay at home. Again and again the dear Lord was gracious and answered our petition. Things would go on well for a while, but with the coming of the next spring, we would again have the same experience.
One spring when we took to our knees as usual to pray in behalf of Father, the Lord gave me to understand that our petition would not be answered, that Father would have his own way. This seemed almost unbearable, and I cried and prayed for Father until I almost lost my voice. God answered my petition with this suggestion: "If nothing else but to go among strangers and have a hard time will bring your father to the Lord are you willing that he should go?" I answered, "Lord, from this standpoint, but from no other." From that time the burden left me. Father went, and the Lord said to me, "Now you have no excuse for not going into gospel work." Father had been unwilling for me to go, and with his going my last excuse was removed.
Father went first to Oregon, but some years later came back as far as Wymore, Nebraska, where he bought property and settled. A few years later he came and stayed with us at home for one winter.
In a meeting that my brother George, Sister Lodema Kaser, and I held in Wymore, Father sought the Lord and seemed to get a real experience of salvation.
Later he had some little difficulty in retaining his experience. He got tried at some of the brethren and thought he would leave the church, as he had formerly done in sectarianism. He found, however, that in leaving the church he was leaving God, since people can get out of the church of God only through sin. Soon after this he began to be troubled with heart failure. He lived only a few months. My sister who cared for him in his last illness, informed me that at the time of his death he was fully restored to the fellowship of the church and that for some months before he died, he showed every sign of being prepared. God assured me that Father was saved, yet as by fire. This seemed a real miracle as much of the time Father's religious experience had not been satisfactory. We serve a mighty God who works miracles: some of Father's children had been praying so earnestly for him that God would not let them be disappointed. I believe I shall meet him in the glory world.
At the time my youngest brothers were saved, and shortly afterwards I was an invalid and unable to go to meeting on Sunday. They took turn about staying with me, while my parents went to meeting. As soon as the rest of the family were gone, we would take down the family Bible and ask the Lord to help us to turn to some scripture that would be good for us. Then we would read. Whenever we came to a promise, we would ask the Lord to help us claim that promise and to get out of it all the benefit that God had in it for us. After reading, we would get down and pray asking God to help us retain what we had read and to make it a blessing to us.
When the family would come home from meeting, Mother would tell us all she could remember of the sermon, as she was anxious to get to me all the encouragement she could. As we listened to Mother's account of the services, we realized that we had had the best meeting.
This fact became so noticeable that whenever they wanted George to go to meeting, he would say, "No, I want to stay with Mary." After the others were gone, he would say, "Mary, let us read as we did the other Sunday." "George," I would answer, "I feel so weak this morning; I don't feel able to hold the Bible" (it was a very large book), "Mary, I will hold the Bible, if you will do the reading." Weak as I was, I could not refuse, and we would begin, asking God to direct us, stopping to claim each promise, and asking God to bless the Word to our good, and to help us to remember all that would be helpful to us. We continued this practise until I was healed and able to attend the meetings again. I shall never be able to tell the profit that I derived from this little Bible school.
God himself was our teacher, and through this responsibility he was preparing me for greater usefulness.
It was during this period of apparent inactivity that God gave me my first experience of divine healing. At that time I think I was about twenty-five years of age. I was ignorant that the Lord is as willing and as able to heal our bodies as he is to save our souls. I was suffering greatly with a swelling on the inside of my jaw that entirely closed my mouth. The doctor said he would not dare to lance the swelling as the tendons and arteries lay so near that such an operation would be dangerous. He prescribed a poultice, and said that the swelling would probably break in about three days.
I went home suffering greatly: I felt that I could not endure any more. I told my two youngest brothers, who knew how to pray and cast their burdens on the Lord, to call on God earnestly that he would either relieve me of the suffering or give me grace to bear it. Soon they came to my room: one said, "I prayed for the Lord either to relieve you or give you grace to bear the pain," and the other said, "I prayed the Lord to relieve you." In ten minutes every bit of suffering was gone. A sweet calm settled over my body; and to my happy surprise, I found that the swelling had broken. It was soon gone. I suffered no more pain, and next day was able to go to meeting.
About a year later I made the acquaintance of a young man to whom I soon became greatly attached. After a time we became engaged. As I had learned to seek the mind of the Lord in all things, I did not find it hard to submit the question of matrimony to his will. The fact that I had had my own way so long, made me feel sure that the Lord was going to let me have my own way about my marriage. But this consideration did not at all affect my consecration, either at this time or when I sought God for healing. When I sought God for healing, he showed me that he wanted my entire service, and that I must seek his benefits for his glory only. It was wholly for God's glory, therefore, that I sought healing.
Perhaps some of the young ministers and workers who read this book will wonder at the long period of inactivity, as some might call it, between my call to the ministry and the time when I actually began gospel work. I now look back upon this period as a time filled with blessed experiences that moulded my character, established my faith and peculiarly fitted me for the work to which God had called me. I have always been glad that the Lord had his way. This time was not lost. Like Joseph in prison, whom God was educating to be a prince, I was being prepared in God's own way for future usefulness.
During this time of which I am now speaking, God laid it upon my heart to read the many good books, which now fell into my hands, such as Phoebe Palmer's Works—"Faith and Its Effects," "Sanctification Practical," and "Tell Jesus." The last named book was especially helpful in forming my Christian character, containing as it does so many precious experiences of trusting in God. I had the privilege also of reading the works of Mrs. Fletcher, Hester Ann Rodgers, and John Wesley. For the privilege of reading all these, I give God thanks. I put the experiences of which I read to a practical test, thus proving that what God had done for others, he would do for me also. After the test these narrations of God's marvelous dealings were no longer stories in a book, but they had become my own personal experiences.
At different times I have hunted awhile for some lost article, when the Lord would come with these words: "Tell Jesus." I would tell him and soon I would find the missing article. He would even direct me to the very spot where it lay concealed. Soon after I read the book, "Tell Jesus," I took my sewing machine apart thinking that I could clean it and put it together again, just as one of my lady friends had done. I soon found that I was not skilful enough, told Jesus, and obtained help to get the machine together all right.
Sometimes when I was not near a jeweler, my watch would get out of repair, and I would earnestly ask the Lord to fix it for me, provided he could do so without my becoming fanatical or being led wrong. A number of times he answered my prayer.
One time I remember, I let my watch fall and it was greatly damaged; but I could not get to a jeweler to have it repaired. As I felt the need of the watch very much, I asked the Lord earnestly to please fix it for me. The watch soon began running. I intended to take the watch to a jeweler later; but as it kept perfect time I did not need to take it.
During all these years God was teaching me as rapidly as he could, lessons of faith and trust. In every severe trial or test, no matter what its nature, I would earnestly lay my trouble before God and he would marvelously lift me up and give me victory. At such times he would give me precious promises such as these: "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him;" "The desire of the righteous shall be granted;" "They that trust in the Lord shall not be confounded, and shall not lack any good thing."
From the beginning, my spiritual life was one of trials; but thank God, the trials were always followed by triumphs. "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In such experiences, I learned what has been verified to me again and again throughout the course of my life, that it pays to cast all our cares and burdens upon him who has promised to bear them for us; to leave everything with him; to lay ourselves and all we possess at his feet, tiusting him to care for us and to carry our sorrows. God wants just such an opportunity. He is a wonderful God, a very present help at all times. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which can not be moved, but abideth forever." "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so is the Lord round about his people from henceforth even forever."
Dear young ministers and workers, God may call you to his work and send you forth at once into the field; but do not be impatient or discouraged if the Lord sees fit to have you tarry awhile after he has called you. Remember, you are implements in the hands of the Lord. As workers called of the Lord, you should be like clay for the Master's use. Be careful, however, lest you become marred in God's hands as was the vessel that Jeremiah saw in the hands of the potter.
Do not get in God's way and so spoil his design. Remember that Jesus at twelve years old knew that he must be about his Father's business; but he was thirty before he began his ministry. Remember that John the Baptist tarried in the wilderness for a long time before he began preaching on the banks of Jordan. Remember that the disciples spent ten days in the upper room before power came upon them from on high. You know this; nor do you think that these times of tarrying were wasted. Neither will your time of waiting be lost. Abide God's time; then, when you do enter upon your ministry, you will go, sustained by his power and by his blessing.
Healed by Divine Power
I have now to relate what to me is one of the most important events of my life. Up to this time I had been a hopeless invalid. The doctors could not cure me. Under the care of some, my health would improve for a short time; but others would not undertake to do anything for me. After inquiring into my condition, they would say that it would be as easy to make a world as to restore me to health. I remember especially that this remark was made by the doctor who was attending me shortly before my healing. At the time I was healed, my case was in the hands of a specialist, who said he could give me no permanent relief in less than a year.