All that I know of Divine Healing and all that I have written in the preceding pages, the Lord had to teach me Himself in my own life, and I was not permitted to read anything but His own Word on this subject until long after I had learned to trust Him for myself and, indeed, had written much that is in this little book.
For more than twenty years I was a sufferer from many physical infirmities and disabilities. Beginning a life of hard intellectual labor at the age of fourteen I broke hopelessly down with nervous prostration while preparing for college and for many months was not permitted by my physician even to look at a book. During this time I came very near death, and on the verge of eternity gave myself at last to God. After my college studies were completed I became the ambitious pastor of a large city church at twenty-one, and plunging headlong into my work I again broke down in one year with heart trouble and had to go away for months of rest, returning at length, as it seemed to me at the time, to die. Rallying, however, and slowly recovering in part, I labored on for years with the aid of constant remedies and preventives. I carried a bottle of ammonia in my pocket for years, and would have taken a nervous spasm if I had ventured without it. Again and again, while climbing a slight elevation or going up a stair did the awful and suffocating agony come over me, and the thought of that bottle as a last resort quieted me. Well do I remember the day in Europe when I ventured to the top of the Rhigi in Switzerland-by rail, and again when I tried to climb the high Campanile stairs in Florence, and as the paroxysm of imminent suffocation swept over me how I resolved that I should never venture into such peril again. God knows how many hundred times in my earlier ministry when preaching in my pulpit or ministering by a grave it seemed that I must fall in the midst of the service or drop into that open grave.
Several years later two other collapses came in my health, of long duration, and again and again during these terrible seasons did it seem that the last drops of life were ebbing out, and a frail thread held the vital chain from snapping forever.
I struggled through my work most of the time and often was considered a hard and successful worker, but my good people always thought me so "delicate," and I grew so weary of being sympathized with every time they met me. Many a neglected visit was apologized for by these good people because I was "not strong." When at last I took the Lord for my Healer I remember I was so tired of this constant pity that I just asked the Lord to make me so well that my people would never sympathize with me again, but that I should be to them a continual wonder through the strength and support of God.
I think He has fulfilled this prayer, for they have often wondered these past six or seven years at the work I have been permitted to do in His name.
It usually took me till Wednesday to get over the effects of the Sabbath sermon, and about Thursday I was ready to begin to get ready for the next Sabbath. Thanks be to God, the first three years after I was healed I preached more than a thousand sermons, and held sometimes more than twenty meetings in one week, and do not remember once feeling exhausted with a single service all the time.
A few months before I took Christ as my Healer, a prominent physician in New York insisted on speaking to me on the subject of my health, and told me that I had not constitutional strength enough left to last more than a few months. He required my taking immediate measures for the preservation of my life and usefulness. During the summer that followed I went for a time to Saratoga Springs, and while there, one Sabbath afternoon, I wandered out to the Indian camp ground, where the jubilee singers were leading the music in an evangelistic service. I was deeply depressed, and all things in life looked dark and withered. Suddenly, I heard the chorus:
"My Jesus is the Lord of Lords;
No man can work like Him."
Again and again, in the deep bass notes and the higher tones, that seemed to soar to heaven, they sang it over and over again:
"No man can work like Him,
No man can work like Him.".
It fell upon me like a spell. It fascinated me. It seemed like a voice from heaven. It possessed my whole being. I took him also to be my Lord of Lords, and to work for me. I knew not how much it all meant; but I took him in the dark, and went forth from that rude, old-fashioned service, remembering nothing else, but strangely lifted up forever more.
A few weeks later I went with my family to Old Orchard Beach, Ma. I went chiefly to enjoy the delightful air of that loveliest of all ocean beaches. I lived on the very seashore while there, and went occasionally to the meetings on the camp ground, but only once or twice took part in them, and had not, up to that time, committed myself in any full sense to the truth or experience of Divine. Healing.
At the same time I had been much interested in it for years. Several years before this I had given myself to the Lord in full consecration, and taken Him for my indwelling righteousness. At that time I had been very much impressed by a remarkable case of healing in my own congregation. I was called to see a dying man given up by all the physicians. I was told that he had not spoken or eaten for days. It was a most aggravated case of paralysis and softening of the brain and so remarkable was his recovery afterwards considered, that it was published in the medical journals as one of the marked cases of medical science.
His mother was a devoted Christian, and had been converted in his childhood, but now, for many years had been an actor, and, she feared, a stranger to the Lord. She begged me to pray for him, and as I prayed I was led to ask, not for his healing but that he might recover long enough to let her know that he was saved. I rose from my knees, and was about to leave, and leave my prayer where we too often do, in oblivion, when some of my people called, and I was detained a few minutes introducing them to the mother.
Just then I stepped up to the bed mechanically, and suddenly the young man opened his eyes and began to talk to me. I was astonished and still more so was the dear old mother. And when, as I asked him further, he gave satisfactory evidence of his simple trust in Jesus, I am ashamed to say we were all overwhelmed with astonishment and joy. From that hour he rapidly recovered, and lived for years. He afterwards called to see me, and told me that he regarded his healing as a miracle of Divine power. The impression produced by this incident never left my heart. Soon afterwards I attempted to take the Lord as my Healer, and for awhile, as long as I trusted Him, He sustained me wonderfully, but afterwards, being entirely without instruction and advised by a devout Christian physician that it was presumption, I abandoned my position of simple dependence upon God alone, and so floundered and stumbled for years. But as I heard of isolated cases I never dared to doubt them, or question that God did sometimes so heal. For myself, however, the truth had no really practical or effectual power, for I never could feel that I had any clear authority in a given case of need to trust myself to Him.
But the summer I speak of I heard a great number of people testify that they
had been healed by simply trusting the Word of Christ, just as they would
for their salvation. It drove me to my Bible. I determined that I must settle
this matter one way or the other. I am so glad I did not go to man. At His
feet, alone, with my Bible open, and with no one to help or guide me, I became
convinced that this was part of Christ's glorious Gospel for a sinful and
suffering world, and the purchase of His blessed Cross, for all who would
believe and receive His Word. That was enough. I could not believe this and
then refuse to take it for myself, for I felt that I dare not hold any truth
in God's Word as a mere theory or teach to others what I had not personally
proved. And so one Friday afternoon at the hour of three o'clock, I went
out into the silent pine woods, I remember the very spot, and there I raised
my right hand to Heaven and in view of the Judgment Day, I made to God, as
if I had seen Him there before me face to face, these three great and eternal
I arose. It had only been a few moments, but I knew that something was done. Every fibre of my soul was tinkling with a sense of God's presence. I do not know whether my body felt better or not-I know I did not care or want to feel it-it was so glorious to believe it simply, and to know that henceforth He had it in hand.
Then came the test of faith. The first struck me before I had left the spot. A subtle voice whispered: "Now you have decided to take God as your healer, it would help if you should just go down to Dr. Cullis' cottage and get him to pray with you." I listened to it for a moment without really thinking. The next, a blow seemed to strike my brain, which made me reel for a moment as a man stunned. I staggered and cried: "Lord, what have I done?" I felt I was in some great peril. In a moment the thought came very quickly, "That would have been all right before this, but you have just settled this matter forever, and told God you will never doubt that it is done." I saw it like a flash of lightning, and in that moment I understood what faith meant, and what a solemn and awful thing it was inexorably and exactly to keep faith with God. I have often thanked God for that blow. I saw that when a thing was settled with God, it was never to be unsettled. When it was done, it was never to be undone or done over again in any sense that could involve a doubt of the finality of the committal already made. I think in the early days of the work of faith to which God afterwards called me, I was as much helped by a holy fear of doubting God as by any of the joys and raptures of His presence or promises. This little word often shone like a living fire in my Bible: "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." What the enemy desired was to get some element of doubt about the certainty and completeness of the transaction just closed, and God mercifully held me back from it.
The next day I started to the mountains of New Hampshire. The next test came on the following Sabbath, just two days after I had claimed my healing. I was invited to preach in the Congregational Church. I felt the Holy Spirit pressing me to give a special testimony. But I tried to preach a good sermon of my own choosing. It was about the Holy Ghost, and had often been blessed, but it was not His word for that hour, I am sure. He wanted me to tell the people what He had been showing me. But I tried to be conventional and respectable, and I had an awful time. My jaws seemed like lumps of lead, and my lips would scarcely move. I got through as soon as I could, and fled into an adjoining field, where I lay before the Lord and asked Him to show me what my burden meant and to forgive me. He did most graciously, and let me have one more chance to testify for Him and glorify Him. That night we had a service in our hotel, and I was permitted to speak again. This time I did tell what God had been doing. Not very much did I say, but I tried to be faithful in a stammering way, and told the people how I had lately seen the Lord Jesus and His blessed Gospel in a deeper fullness, as the Healer of the body, and had taken him for myself, and knew that He would be faithful and sufficient. God did not ask me to testify of my feelings or experiences, hut of Jesus and His faithfulness. And I am sure He calls all who trust Him to testify before they experience His full blessing. I believe I should have lost my healing if I had waited until I felt it.
I have since known hundreds to fail just at this point. God made me commit myself to Him and His healing covenant, before He would fully bless me. I know a dear brother in the ministry, now much used in the Gospel and in the Gospel of Healing, who received a wonderful manifestation of God's power in his body and then went home to his church but said nothing about it, and waited to see how it all held out. In a few weeks he was worse than ever, and when I met him next time he wore the most dejected face you could imagine. I told him his error, and it all flashed upon him immediately. He went home and gave God the glory for what He had done, and in a little while his church was the center of a blessed work of grace and healing that reached far and wide and he himself was rejoicing in the fullness of Jesus.
I am very sure that Sabbath evening testimony did me more good than anybody else, and I believe that if I had withheld it I should not now be writing the pages of the Gospel of Healing. Well, the next day the third test came.
Near by was a mountain 3,000 feet high-I was asked to join a little party that were to ascend it. I shrank back at once. Did I not remember the dread of heights that had always overshadowed me, and the terror with which I had resolved in Switzerland and Florence never to attempt it again? Did I not know how an ordinary stair exhausted me and distressed my poor heart?
Then came the solemn searching thought, "If you fear or refuse to go, it is because you do not believe that God has healed you. If you have taken Him for your strength need you fear to do anything to which He calls you?"
I felt it was God's thought. I felt my fear would be, in this case, pure unbelief, and I told God that in His strength I would go.
Just here I would say that I do not wish to imply that we should ever do things just to show how strong we are, or without any real necessity for them. I do not believe that God wants His children needlessly to climb mountains or walk miles just because they are asked to. But in this case, and there are such cases in every experience, I needed to step out and claim my victory some time, and this was God's time and way. He will call and show each one for themselves. And whenever we are shrinking through fear He will be very likely to call us to the very thing that is necessary for us to do to overcome the fear.
And so I ascended that mountain. At first it seemed as if it would almost take my last breath. I felt all the old weakness and physical dread; I found I had in myself no more strength than ever. But over against my weakness and suffering I became conscious that there was another Presence. There was a Divine strength reached out to me if I would have it, take it, claim it, hold it, and persevere in it. On one side there seemed to press upon me a weight of Death, on the other an Infinite Life. And I became overwhelmed with the one, or uplifted with the other, just as I shrank or pressed forward, just as I feared or trusted; I seemed to walk between them and the one that I touched possessed me. The wolf and the Shepherd walked on either side, but the Blessed Shepherd did not let me turn away. I pressed closer, closer, closer, to His bosom and every step seemed stronger until when I reached that mountain top, I seemed to be at the gate of Heaven, and the world of weakness and fear was lying at my feet. Thank God, from that time I have had a new heart in this breast, literally as well as spiritually, and Christ has been its glorious life.
A few weeks later I returned to my work in this city, and with deep gratitude to God I can truly say, hundreds being my witnesses, that for nearly seven years I have been permitted to labor for the dear Lord in summer's heat or winter's cold without interruption, without a single season of protracted rest, and with increasing comfort, strength and delight. Life has had for me a zest, and labor an exhilaration that I never knew in the freshest days of my childhood. The Lord has permitted the test to be a very severe one. A few months after my healing He called me into the special pastoral, evangelistic and literary work which has since engaged my time and energy, and which I may truthfully say has involved fourfold more labor than any previous period of my life. Besides the evangelistic and pastoral work of my church, involving most of this time, several sermons every week, there have been the following additional labors :-the entire editorial charge and much of the writing of a monthly magazine; the preparation of several tracts and volumes; the personal supervision of the entire publishing work and the responsibility for a large correspondence; the oversight of Berachah Home, with the reception every week of many callers and inquirers, and several meetings there; one or two lectures daily during seven months in the year at the Missionary Training College, requiring the most elaborate and careful thought; and many meetings and conventions in various places with God's dear children. Much of this work has had to be done at night, and through long protracted exertion covering often from twelve to sixteen or even eighteen hours of labor in the twenty-four. And yet I desire to record my testimony to the honor and glory of Christ, that it has been a continual delight and seldom any burden or fatigue, and much, very much easier in every way than the far lighter tasks of former years. I have been conscious, however, all the time that I was not using my own natural strength. Physically I do not think I am any more robust than ever. I would not dare to attempt for a single week what I am now doing on my own constitutional resources. I am intensely conscious with every breath, that I am drawing my vitality from a directly supernatural source, and that it keeps pace with the calls and necessities of my work. Hence, on a day of double labor I will often be conscious at the close of double vigor, and feel just like beginning over again, and indeed almost reluctant to have even sleep place its gentle arrest on the delightful privilege of service. Nor is this a paroxysm of excitement to be followed by a reaction, for the next day comes with equal freshness, and all this has gone on for nearly seven years, and they following close on a worn-out constitution, and twenty years of suffering. I have noticed this, that my work is easier and seems to draw less upon my vital energy than before. I do not seem to be using up my own life in the work now, but working on a surplusage of vitality supplied by another source. I believe and am sure that is nothing else than "the life of Christ manifested in my mortal flesh." Once or twice since I took the Lord for my strength I have felt so wondrously well that I think I began to rejoice and trust in the God-given strength. In a moment I felt it was about to fail me, and the Lord instantly compelled me to look to HIM, as my continual strength, and not even depend upon the strength He had already given. I have found many other dear friends compelled to learn this lesson and suffering until they fully learned it. It is a life of constant dependence on Christ physically as well as spiritually. One night, especially, I remember returning from a distant city and finding at a late hour several hours of night work on my desk that it seemed necessary to do before morning. In myself I felt at the moment physically unable to do it, and heart and brain both seemed to tremble at the sight. But I looked to God and became fully assured that it was His Work and His Will that I should do it then. I took up my pen, and in a few hours it was joyfully finished, and when it was done, instead of being exhausted I was fresher than when I rose in the morning and ready to lie down with tranquil nerves and sleep as peacefully as a child.
I know not how to account for this, unless it be the imparted life of the dear Lord Jesus in my body. I am surely most unworthy of such an honor and privilege, but I believe He is pleased in His great condescension to unite Himself with our bodies, and I am persuaded that His body, which is perfectly human and real, can somehow share its vital elements with our organic life, and quicken us from His Living Heart and indwelling Spirit. I have learned much from the fact that Samson's physical strength was through "the Spirit of the Lord," and that Paul declares that although daily delivered to death for Jesus' sake, yet the very life of Christ is made manifest in his body. I find that "the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body," that "our bodies are members of Christ," and that "we are members of His body, His flesh and His bones I do not desire to provoke argument, but I give my simple, humble testimony and to me it is very real and very wonderful. I know "it is the Lord." I know many of my brethren who have entered into the same blessed experience. I only want to consecrate and use it more and more for Him. I feel what a sacred and holy trust it is. And I so wish that my weary, broken-down and overladen brethren could but taste its exquisite joy and its all-sufficient strength.
I would like to add, for my brethren in the ministry, that I have found the same Divine help for my mind and brain as for my body. Having much writing and speaking to do, I have given my pen and my tongue to Christ to possess and use, and He has so helped me that my literary work has never been a labor. He has enabled me to think much more rapidly and to accomplish much more work, and with greater facility than ever before. It is very simple and humble work, but such as it is it is all through Him, and I trust for Him only. And I believe, with all its simplicity, it has been more used to help His children and glorify His name than all the elaborate preparation and toil of the weary years that went before. To Him be all the praise.