Chapter VII 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.