NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center



Is Love." What a pity it is that so much of our lives is crippled by ignorance and lack of experience! If we only knew enough we could have success from the start; but I am confident that the great purpose of this life is a school in which it is designed that we shall learn every day and that the great advantage of our present state of being is to manufacture character under trial, and this once accomplished or utterly failed in, we pass to another state of existence.

      The people were very kind to me in my first church and I was discreet and proper in my conduct and strove to be faithful in my duties, and I had a very successful pastorate of something over two years; but my mind was not yet awake to the great subjects of the Christian life.

      It would be a great thing if young ministers in their first charges would take such subjects as immortality and the matter of rewards and punishment, both in this life and in the world to come; also, what is salvation and how to get it, and many other subjects which lay at the foundation of man's needs--then work on these subjects.

      The young men should really inform themselves on these great old foundation principles, then other subjects would naturally follow. In my first years of the ministry I did not see this.

      Another thing a young minister should do. He should make the Bible perfectly familiar to himself;. he should commit verses and chapters to memory; he should read the biography of Godly and successful men; he should make himself master of his position. Young men can do it and I believe they would do it if they were directed; but there are few or no teachers.

      When my term of service drew to a close at Litchfield I found it was quite hard for me to bid good-bye to the friends there whom I had known and who had assisted me in my first work.

      I went to the Methodist conference, not knowing where I would be sent, as in that church all ministers put themselves, or are supposed to put themselves, in



the hands of God and the appointing power, viz., the cabinet, which is made up of the presiding elders and the presiding bishop.

      I prayed about my future appointment and I did not know but what I would be sent to Hardscrabble Circuit, where my opportunities would be few and where, perhaps, the steam car whistle was never heard. But God had plans for me larger and better than I had for myself. How true it is that "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps."

      After I had been a few days at the conference, and had received deacon's orders, I was approached by the presiding elder of the Mankato district, asking me if I would take charge of the Centenary M. E. Church, Mankato, Minn. The latter place was the principal city of southwestern Minnesota and the church was quite strong in membership, but was heavily encumbered with debt and I, being a single man, was considered valuable in that field. I consented to go and was duly appointed by the bishop.

      When I returned to my first charge I officiated at the marriage of one of my members, Miss Mary Matson, who had been an excellent worker with me during my pastorate there. She married Mr. Orville Buck at the home of one of my dear members, Mr. M. P. Bowen. As I stood in front of them and pronounced them man and wife, little did I think that I should live to perform, as I have up to this time, nearly three thousand marriages; but so it has been. This couple did exceedingly well in every way, and I have always taken that to be a prophecy of the good fortune of the people whom I have united.

      I packed up my library and personal effects and sent them to my new charge at Mankato. I drove across the country with my horse and buggy. I had a beautiful young horse named Ned, an iron gray, large and fine, and my buggy and harness were new and I was well equipped for the journey. As I got into my buggy to start, my parishioners and children of my Sunday School crowded around me with little gifts expressive of their love and farewell, and I found my feelings were about



to get the better of me and I hurriedly drove out of the city with my face toward my new work.

      When I reached Mankato, the first duty I was called on to perform in the line of my ministry was a marriage at one of the hotels in the city, and from that time on I was busy.

      My people met me kindly and co-operated with me fully in the work. I shall never forget many of the families there. Gardner Darr was my Sunday School superintendent, an artist with the crayon and a man well equipped for the work of teaching children.

      Then there were the families of P. L. Clements, W. P. Tompkins, William McVeigh; also Mrs. Tyner, who always furnished flowers for the church, and my great friend, Mrs. M. Crosby, and many others whose kindness and helpfulness I can never forget.

      There were some in the church who had a wonderful Christian experience, among whom were George Bradley, Mother Shannon, Sister Washburn and others. They gave me a glimpse of the wonderful life in God that I was a stranger to. They had the uttermost salvation, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and their words and conduct left a deep and permanent impression on my mind.

      In the spring of 1880 I took hold in earnest of the big debt hanging over the church. It was my first experience in such work and I wrought with great determination. Mr. O. R. Mather was treasurer of the church and he was a most noble man and helper to me. I can never forget some of his expressions, and among others was this, "I never have the word 'can't' in my book." He was a very quiet man and I never heard him pray or speak in church. He was a hard-working man and was not frequently found in church, but when there was a real service to render for God, O. R. Mather was on the ground.

      The ladies of the church and, indeed, all the people assisted me in lifting the great burden of debt. We had what we called an Art Loan Exhibition in the center of the city, for which we borrowed pictures of rare merit and curiosities of every kind, and in connection with this



display we would have entertainments and suppers. We tried by every means to get money from the people, and we succeeded and paid the entire indebtedness, if I remember correctly, something like $7,000, a large sum at that time.

      This experience opened my mind to a new phase of my calling and the gift I knew not, up to that time, that I possessed. My term of service closed at the end of the third year in Mankato and I went to the conference again a candidate for another church.



LetterUR LIFE on earth is full of temptation. I have previously said that I believe that the great purpose of this life is the perfection of character under trial. But our Lord has said that we shall never be tempted beyond what we are able to bear, and that He will, with the temptation, make a way of escape. As I look back over my life I find that this has been true. I am amazed at the goodness of God to me and at His marvelous care.

     No one could ever make me believe that there was not a personal God and that He did not watch over us individually, such as a real father might do.

     I felt that my calling was a sacred one and that I could not discharge its duties without a pure and noble character.

     I believe that the character of a minister is his greatest and most valuable asset. Just previous to the first great temptation of which I shall speak, I had a remarkable vision of the night. Before this I had never had such illumination and warning, but my kind Heavenly Father evidently knew what I was about to pass through and kindly and mercifully prepared me.


      A vision is very different from a dream. A dream is a train of thoughts or images passing through the mind during sleep, but a vision is a quick moving picture indelibly stamped on the mind.

      The vision referred to was as follows; I saw myself dressed in an odd way; I was wearing a long black coat which reached nearly to my shoe tops. I ran in a circle perhaps a half mile in diameter, so that the tails of the



Lettercoat stuck out straight behind me. And as I thus started in this race, about twenty women began to run after me.

      We had no moving pictures at that time, but God evidently understood the art of making moving pictures, for the whole scene was as vivid as life.

      There were all kinds of women--fat and lean, young and old. But I started in this race with such determination, and ran with such rapidity, that I soon distanced all pursuers and, looking back over my shoulder, I saw that all had ceased their efforts and turned around.

      The next day some of these persons whom I saw in my vision called on me and began to make me understand the purpose of their visit. I informed them that I had a great work committed to me by the Lord, and that I was determined to be a good man and not a fake.

      I found that my words were listened to with attention and respect. And now, after nearly forty years of ministerial life, I am able to look back without shame or remorse.

      I am fully persuaded that my work in the city of Omaha, where I have labored for more than thirty years, is very largely the result of that first determination to be right and to do right.

      I never went to a new church where these opportunities for testing the character were not present. Satan is evidently omnipresent and never takes a vacation. Temptations for so-called happiness and pleasure were put before me in all their attractiveness and power. They were presented under the most favorable circumstances of place and time.

      Some have held that men and women should be excused when they fell away into evil doing and stepped aside from the right path. It is said of such that they



fell under sudden temptation. In my own case I found that my mind worked more quickly and accurately at such times than at any other, and I was enabled to look forward to the results of all my actions with an accuracy that was wonderful.

      I could see the results that would follow to me and to others if I should not be my best self, and I am very much inclined to believe that it is so with people generally. God doesn't leave His children in this world to grope along in the dark, but He gives them light, knowledge and warning.

      I was very much surprised at conditions that I found in the church. I had always supposed that those who named the name of God and were members of His church were good people and pure people, and that they neither would commit great sins nor ask others to co-operate in an impure or dishonest life, but I soon found that I was mistaken.

      Many wives and mothers, and widows and grass widows, and single women and men of official standing were dishonest and impure in their conduct and in their lives. This was a great surprise and wonder to me, and as I saw this reaching out on every side, I more and more determined that I should maintain my own self-respect and the favor of my God, and I have been repaid ten thousand times over and over again. You ask, how? I answer, by my own peace of mind; by a sense of cleanness and righteousness, which to me is above price; and also by the confidence and respect, if not the honor, of many of my fellow men and the blessing and favor of Almighty God.

      I am sure that God had special plans for me in my middle and later life, and that He saw that He couldn't use me in the fields which He had marked out except that I had cleanness of heart and His favor.

      I would have been discouraged and turned back, and His spirit would have left me. Sometimes when I have been out in Evangelistic work and sometimes at home when I have attempted to help the sick and especially



made by the enemy of all righteousness to destroy my soul.

      I remember a remarkable instance of this kind which happened when my residence was at Twenty-fifth Avenue and Leavenworth Street, Omaha.

      God again warned me in the night. This vision represented me as driving my black mare Daisy, harnessed to my carriage, over a roof made of glass, and along the surface of that roof there were great holes which my horse might easily step into. As I sat in my buggy, about to drive, I said, "How is it possible for me to escape destruction here?"

      And that next evening, while watching at the bedside of a devil-possessed woman in my own home, there were such words spoken and conduct manifested as caused me to say in a moment, "Now I am driving over the roof of glass; look out." At the same instant I spoke these words in my heart, my wife, from her room below, called me.

      I never can tell to a person in this world the many wonders that God has wrought to maintain my character pure. He has dulled my mind, closed my eyes, caused me to think seriously of death and judgment, and to ponder on life's great purpose and future rewards and punishments while at the very time the hearts of others were planning sinful pleasures and using every power that they knew to further their purpose.

      I cannot explain this matter any more clearly than I have, but to me it is very wonderful. It shows me the minute care of God; His wonderful purpose in our individual lives and His great power and resourcefulness in taking care of His own. I know of many sad cases of temptation and ruin in the ministry. Some of them, indeed, many of them, sad beyond all account.

      It appears that when a minister once loses his character he is much like a woman--often there is no recovery for him.

      I was acquainted with a very sad case in this city of Omaha where a young man of uncommon talent took a pastorate of one of our churches, and his eloquence and





ability were the talk of the city. In his previous ministry in another church he fell into sin, confessed his sin, was excluded from the ministry of that church and also made his confession to God.

     The church thus made him pay his penalty and he believed that he had settled with God and was forgiven, but when he took another ministry in another church, the tongue of gossip quickly sought him out and did its worst. The church held a meeting and decided that while his case had been settled they did not care to use a minister whose robes of office had been soiled by close contact with sin, and I have never heard of him again attempting work in the sacred office.

      I have known a number of these sad cases. They are solemn and awful warnings to all ministers to be right with God and man. There are some, however, perhaps many who are hardened and brazen in their course of sin. I have known these. They are strong men and they seem neither to fear God nor regard men, and they sear the conscience and defy honor and decency. They ride over the protests of Godly people. They insult the innocent and destroy virtue and insult even the dying. This is an awful statement, but it is true, and the testimony of dying women on their deathbeds, which have been given to me, is my proof. Mark what I declare: The settlement that some ministers will have to make at the throne of God will surprise the world and will be one of the tragedies of the Judgment Day.

      I believe in the absolute truthfulness of that statement of our Lord, "Many shall say to Me on that day, 'Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name and in Thy name done many wonderful works?' Then shall I profess unto them, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.'" And He says, "There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Prior page
Next page

© 2003 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller.