I BUY A CHURCH.
DO NOT go to men to find out what God will do for me; I go to the Bible and my own experience of what God has done.
On Monday, October 12th, 1891, I bought the old United Presbyterian Church building on Eighteenth Street near California, of Dr. S. D. Mercer, for $1,000. I had no money, but told him I would pay him in ninety days-and I did it.
I prayed God for the money and I also went out and asked the people for it. I used the papers to inform the people what I was doing, and they responded liberally; many handed money to me or threw it at me on the street.
Thursday, October 15th, 1891, I held my first prayer meeting in the church. The old building was out of repair, but we cleaned it up and went to work. I had as direct a call to buy this church and start services as any man anywhere ever had from God.
On Sunday, October 18th, 1891, I preached to the people from II Chron., 16:9, "The eyes of the Lord, run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in defense of those whose hearts are perfect towards Him."
In the evening I spoke from Isaiah, 6:7, and from that day to the present I have continued my labors in the People's Church. My presiding elder asked me what I was doing. I told him I was starting my own church. He never offered a word of rebuke, but wished me well. A short time after this I handed in my ordination papers to my bishop, and at that time 1 wrote a letter to the conference, stating my kindly feeling, but also my determination to step out independently.
God talked to me and told me to do what I did. If God talked to man in Bible times, why shouldn't He now?
We worshipped in that church for a number of years, but on Sunday, November 16th, 1902, it burned down. Everything on the inside burned except the Bible, which lay on the pulpit, and the altar at which hundreds had sought God.
I did not have the church insured; I trusted God that He wouldn't let the devil burn it. That's where I got left.
But I told the devil that when he burned it it was his fault, but the next time it would be my fault. I concluded if that was the game he was playing I would protect myself.
My members encouraged me to step out and buy, a church across the street and I did so--and God helped us pay for it.
On November 20th, 1902, the Omaha Daily News at the time printed a beautiful tribute to the church and its minister as follows:
"The People's Church is a good thing for Omaha; help it in its misfortune. Here is a chance to help!
"There are hundreds of people in Omaha who believe that most of the so-called charities which demand their support are in a greater or less degree ineffective. They say, 'I would be glad to give something if I only knew that the money would actually do something to, make the world better.' Too often they make this an excuse for withholding assistance which they would be better for giving.
But we have to look no further than our own doors just now to discover a place where benevolence cannot be misplaced.
"Eleven years ago the Rev. Charles W. Savidge began his work in Omaha. He has built up a church not an edifice where the worshippers doze on velvet cushions and the light from stained glass windows falls luxuriantly on the richly carved chancel--but a real church, a church like the ones our forefathers attended when worship was more than a form and the sentiment that the lips uttered had an echo in the heart.
"There was no pipe organ in the People's Church; no congress of fashion swarmed down its aisles; no silver chimes spoke from its tower; but there was piety, homely but sincere, and the faith that conquers all things.
"The men and women who knelt before its altar wore no jewels nor costly furs. Some of them knew what it was to be cold and hungry, and shed bitter tears as they put Johnny and Mary to bed supperless; but they thanked God for their blessings and sought for means to help those who were worse off than themselves.
"For eleven years this church and its energetic pastor have been a power for good in Omaha. Their work has been among a class that other churches do not reach. It has helped those who need help; it has soothed hearts that would otherwise have broken in despair and led into the narrow way souls that no other hand was outstretched to save.
"But now it has encountered a misfortune that it lacks the wherewithal to meet. Fire has destroyed the church building. It was a simple structure, but it was their all. They have nothing left but the church Bible, scorched and blackened by the fire, and their faith in God.
"Their pastor has called on the people of Omaha to help them build another church. No second appeal should be necessary. There are few people in this year of plenty who cannot spare some amount towards this deserving enterprise and be happier for it. It requires so little, but it means so much. The Daily News earnestly hopes that
Omaha will not permit this congregation to be long without a sanctuary.
I bought the second church and paid for it without difficulty, and enlarged it and improved it and seated the same with opera chairs. I have found that God always stands by me for the thing I need, providing I go about it with faith and courage.
VISIONS OF THE NIGHT.
N MY former life I never knew anything about instruction coming from God by means of visions and I suppose there are very many people who know nothing of any such instruction.
The ordinary way for God to lead His people is by the conscience, by the Holy Spirit, the Bible, by the providences of God and by observation.
I read in the Bible of the visions of the prophets of old, viz., Jacob, Ezekiel and John on Patmos, but I never expected to have any of these myself--never thought of such a thing.
My first vision, as I have before stated in this book, was the laughable picture of my running away from the bad women who set a trap for me; after this I had no visions for a number of years. I did not need any--I was being guided by the church through my superior ministers.
But when I had fairly stepped out independently I began to have them again, for I had no guide or protector but God.
A vision is a vivid picture designed to instruct or warn. In my case these visions were never much before, but on the eve of the happenings for which they were intended.
When a great western preacher, under the permission of God, crossed my path, the visions began in earnest.
The first was a striking and wonderful picture which I can never forget.
In this vision I stood on the banks of a narrow sheet of water; it was not broad, but it was long; the waters were not clear, but muddy and lashed to a perfect fury.
The very air surrounding this water was filled with spray, or something like smoke, as if a fierce battle was raging, and such it proved to be.
When my guest, the bad preacher, arose in the morning I told him my vision. He stood with bowed head and spoke words that were a surprise to me, but which were absolutely true. He said, "Brother Savidge, that's a wonderful vision; it means trouble and when it is finished it will be worse for me than for you."
It was true; two cities, Omaha and Spokane, through their papers, were lashed to fury.
When the matter was all settled up the other preacher went to jail for two years and I had some valuable lessons for life.
Shortly after this I had another vision--of preaching to a very small congregation. I saw myself in the church preaching to a very few people--here and there in the pews before me.
Immediately after that the church split in two and I was forsaken and I found myself preaching to the small number I had seen in my vision.
Another scene passed before me shortly after this. I saw myself running through the streets of the city chased by three black hounds; they were snapping, snarling and biting at my heels. A little later I picked out these three hounds; they were doing exactly what I saw them doing in the picture.
Again, just before the election of the city commissioners, the papers of our city asked suggestion of our people as to who would make good men for the office. Several persons suggested my name; indeed, there was quite a little talk in some circles of my making some effort for the place. At one time I had nearly decided to allow my name to go before the people.
Immediately my Guide took a hand. In the picture which He drew for me He plainly showed His disapproval of the whole matter.
I was riding in a procession of buggies; they were of the Concord make and very substantial and stalwart. To these buggies were attached big, strong horses with
drivers and the procession was going rapidly. The men in the buggies appeared to be laughing, talking and swearing; they were a Godless lot. They invited me to get in and I did so. We had not gone far when I saw I was in the wrong crowd and said to the driver, "Let me out; I don't like this company." He said, "No," and the others yelled "No," too. "Keep the preacher in!" They held me to my seat, but I inwardly resolved that when we reached a boggy piece of ground toward which we were going I would jump out. I can see now the wheels slowing down. I sprang out and ran back to my work, and I told my friends I would never go in the mud buggy again.
In my judgment these visions are from God and they show His minute care and love. He watches over and cares for us constantly.
In my opinion the person who has Visions from God will also have direct messages and voices from Him. I have had several of these.
On the 24th day of May, 1896, without special thought or prayer on the subject, I was awakened from sleep at 4 o'clock in the morning with a message from God, commanding me to go and call a man by the name of R. H. Wells, who lived nearly a mile away from me. At that time he was not a member of my church, but was an earnest seeker after God. This was the message: "Go and call Brother Wells; tell him to go to the People's Church; that he will be highly repaid if he goes."
The message was imperative; it had a solemnity and authority that must be obeyed. I tried to put off the matter for a time, but I arose from my bed and had no rest until I obeyed the divine order.
I hitched up my horse and went at once, and on arriving at his house found him in bed, it being at that time about 6 o'clock in the morning.
I told him to hasten and get ready; that he must go to the church at once; that he must make no delay and that he would obtain a wonderful experience.
He made no objection, but arose at once. He told me afterwards that he stopped to black his shoes, but that
while he was doing so an angelic being told him that he must make haste.
Brother Wells adds this singular incident. He says, "When Rev. Savidge left my door that morning I was at once conscious of the presence of an Unseen Being who impressed me that something unusual was about to take place in my life.
"He remained with me and when I left my home he went with me to the church; when I delayed for a moment he urged me on."
The services opened and there was a large congregation present. I told the people of my message and that I would set out the altar and wanted all to come forward that felt God was calling them.
The brother I have named was the first to kneel at the altar. He at once engaged in earnest prayer and pleadings with God. He had not been engaged in this exercise more than ten minutes when the Holy Fire fell on him.
This brother remains faithful to God to this day and still a member of my church, and our friendship for each other is like David and Jonathan. I have heard him say many times that the experience he obtained at this time was the most profound and glorious transaction in his whole history.
Not long after this incident recorded above I was away from home about 200 miles distance. I was sleeping in my bed at night at the house of a friend; I was suddenly awakened about 2 o'clock in the morning by a supernatural sound, both outside and within the house. These sounds were like the stopping of a heavy wagon and the opening of the front door.
These sounds were accompanied by a profound impression that something remarkable was to happen in my family and I looked all the next day to receive a message, but none came; but within a few weeks I had received a second warning--my Philip died a violent death.
There was another day when I heard the voice of God, which was most remarkable. It was the day that I
first saw the House of Hope, 958 North Twenty-seventh Avenue. While standing in front of that building with my wife in the carriage with me, God spoke to me a message like this, "My son, if you will step out and buy this property I will help you." I said, "Alright." Against the advice of my friends and in the face of the opposition of my own family I bought the property and paid for it in ninety days.
Again there was a time when I heard the voice. In the summer of 1907, while riding in a carriage with my boy Robert, I was greatly depressed and uncommonly sad because my members had forsaken me. I was poor in purse and especially missed the strong human help. They had fallen on every side of me.
Mourning thus over the loss of my members, and especially the loss of strong helpers, this voice sounded as if from the sky itself: "Cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils."
I afterwards found that this Scripture is recorded in the second chapter of Isaiah and twenty-second verse. I had never remembered reading it in the Bible.
I took this message from God Himself and was greatly strengthened and comforted.
In reading the Scriptures as well as the biographies of holy persons I find that such experiences which I have related above are not uncommon.
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