N MONDAY morning, June 22d, 1896, I arose early and went to the People's Church to hold a 6 o'clock prayer meeting in order that I and my people might draw nearer to God.
While engaged in prayer a woman came running to the church under great excitement and told me I was needed at once at home. I jumped into my buggy and gave my black mare Daisy her head for home. She was a standard bred mare and was fast. That morning, so intense was my feeling, realizing something dreadful had happened, I urged her to the top of her speed.. She broke from her regular gait and went the whole distance in a run.
I can never describe my feelings during this ride; most of the time I stood up in the buggy. I instinctively felt that God was about to deal with me in a new way.
When I reached my house Mrs. Savidge came out and spoke only three words, "He is gone." When I went in the house they handed me the body of my dead baby.
He was 2 years and 24 days old at the time of his death. He was a beautiful child, perhaps the most promising of any of our children.
His mind was very bright and he was remarkable, though so young. His favorite hymn, and one he often joined in singing, was "Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty." He was a very active child--full of life.
He was also a natural tease. This was shown in his dealings with the other children and with his parents.
A short time after I left my home on the day of his death he awakened from a sweet sleep; his little nurse was dressing him while Mrs. Savidge was milking our Jersey cow in the barn, I being away.
He very frequently would have a button or two in his mouth; we did not allow him to do this, but we would find him with them in his mouth. This morning he held a little button there as I have said. One of his brothers said something that pleased him and he threw back his little head in laughter.
The trap-door of the wind pipe was open; evidently the small button dropped into the windpipe and instinctively closed; he was not able to breathe. He struggled for perhaps a minute or a little over, but had ceased to breathe when his mother rushed in from the barn.
She clasped him to her bosom and ran onto the porch and, as she looked into his face and saw that he had left us, she gave one scream that awakened the whole neighborhood.
She has since told me that she offered up to God at that time an agonizing prayer that his life might be spared, but when she saw that God had called him she ceased to pray and has never again made the sort of prayer she did that day. She leaves things more to God now.
Three day after that he had a great funeral and a friend gave him a grave at Prospect Hill. I had no money to buy a grave; I had given all I had to the work of God and to others. I had never really thought that I or mine would need a grave.
But from that on I began to think more and a short time after I bought a beautiful lot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
I now believe that every Christian, so far as possible, should have his own house in which his family should live and a lot of his own in the cemetery where they can be buried.
At the time of Philip's death I could see no reason why God should take him and no one can ever know except by experience the sorrow I felt at his sudden going away.
When I awoke in the morning that great shadow of sorrow would fall on me like a pall.
I took his little high chair up in my study and hung
his little dress and hat upon it. These were kept there for months.
Now, as I look over it all, these many years having passed, I do not wonder that God saw best to take him; his death has made me sympathize more with others.
The vacancy left in our home made room for two other children who have grown up in his place.
I would not have him back for all the world; I have great hopes that all of my children will ultimately be saved.
But they will not be saved without passing through fierce battles, nor without encountering awful dangers. But he is saved; he knew no sorrow. From the universities of eternity he is receiving his education. He will never know the blight and curse of sin.
I have thanked God a thousand times for his escape from this world of tears.
God knows best. "Let Him do what seemeth Him good."
THE BAPTISM OF FIRE.
N THE fall of 1881 I began to be convicted for a deeper work in my soul; I may truly say that I hungered and thirsted after God. But it was not for me to receive complete satisfaction at once. Twenty years had passed; I had married and my children were born I had left the church and for years had been an independent minister.
I preached with honesty and with something of divine unction. The Holy Ghost had taught me many things. The shortness of time, the importance and certainty of eternity, the awful state of the finally impenitent, the glory of heaven--all these things were made clear to me.
Thousands had been blessed under my ministry, but I still cried to God for the fullness of His blessing for me.
But I needed killing; I had to die. Human nature must come to the place of crucifixion. The Scripture says, "If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him."
I thought that Scripture referred to physical death at the close of our earthly life. But I came to see that it also meant the death of the self-life.
I had to die to myself, to my fears and hopes, to the opinions of the people, to my own family and, indeed, to everything.
And please make a note of this: We are not expected to kill ourselves no more than Jesus crucified Himself. This crucifixion I speak of is done by others with the consent and ordering of God.
I heard of a scholarly and talented minister in the west. I needed assistance in a revival meeting and sent for him.
He was a bad man. When he came to my house as my guest and, almost as soon as he had stepped in my door, my wife took me aside and told me that I had brought home a thief. I tried to argue her out of this idea, but her reply was, "You will see."
She was right. Before he went away he stole everything that was not nailed down. He split the church and left me destitute and broken-hearted.
For a year I thought and prayed and preached to almost empty seats..
But all that year I was dying and finally I lay down on a bed, folded my hands and gave the death yell.
From being a popular preacher of a sectarian church I was nobody. I didn't own a shingle on my roof; I had an old church on leased ground. The drunkards and harlots I had helped out of the ditch and for whom I had spent my last dollar forsook me.
I was in the garden of Gethsemane--poverty-stricken, forsaken, neglected, heart-broken. I thought all was gone. I prayed for death and expected it. My every hope had gone; there was not the twinkle of a single bright star in my sky. All was blackness and desolation--and that was where God wanted me.
For three days I ceased to pray. I was not angry with God, but I had nothing to say to Him. I had been in the heat of the battle, but I lay wounded and dying on the field, as it seemed to me.
I could not exactly understand my state; I seemed to be on the bosom of a great water and there was not a breath of air to fill my sails. I was waiting. I had come at last to the end of myself. Little did I think what was about to come to me.
On the morning of the 20th of September, 1901, as the clock struck four, I was suddenly awakened while lying in my bed.
And as I opened my eyes I beheld a sight on which I had never before looked.
I had long studied that text in the Bible twice spoken by John the Baptist--"He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
Now on my ceiling I beheld a crown of gold and that crown was notched and ornamented by open work and it was wreathed in flames.
The flames broke out from the open work and around the edge with indescribable beauty.
I exclaimed aloud, "Oh, what does this mean!"
I had no sooner spoken these words than the vision of the crown and the fire vanished and into the deep recesses of my soul was poured the baptism of divine life and fire.
I have often tried to write of this matter and to tell it to friends and congregations, but I am unable to describe what I enjoyed--such peace, joy and holy love; such delight I never knew it was possible for a being on earth to enjoy.
The fact is I had paid God's price and He had witnessed to it. There were three manifestatiosn (sic) of the presence of the Holy Ghost.
The first was a wonderful peace.
The second was the burning fire, which I felt especially in my feet and lower limbs, accompanied by a desire to dance and shout. I seemed to be in the grip of a supernatural power that must be obeyed and my heart was ready.
There was a third manifestation, to me remarkable; there seemed to spring from my heart a stream of water arising in a perpendicular direction, then the central stream divided. And these streams of pure, beautiful water kept up a constant flow.
The Holy Ghost says in the Scripture, "I will be in you a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." This is literally true.
There was a fourth manifestation in my heart and that was there was the song of birds so sweet that they must have been born in Paradise.
I controlled myself under these divine manifestations the best I could until 6 o'clock.
I then crept into my wife's bed and tried to tell her of my wonderful blessing. She evidently did not think
"I had no sooner spoken these words than the vision of the crown and fire vanished, and into the deep recesses of my soul was poured the baptism of divine life and fire."
that I had received anything remarkable and she simply remarked that she hoped it would last.
When breakfast was ready I had little appetite, my joy was so great.
I hitched up my horse Blackbird, a splendid pacing horse given me by Martin Wilber. I drove through the city and told, or tried to tell, the people how I felt and the people listened to me, but I am confident that many thought I was deranged.
So little do people know the deep things of God that a person that has really met God and experienced a touch of His power is said to be a candidate for the insane asylum.
Among other places I visited my friend John Carlson, the well-known boot and shoe dealer of this city.
I danced on the front porch of his store and told him something of my wonderful experience. He looked down at my shoes and saw they were nearly worn out and I suppose conjectured that I had no money to buy more, all of which was true.
He said, "Come in. If God has blessed you like that I will give you a new pair of shoes." I exclaimed with a heart full of thanks to God, "Well, glory to God, the baptism of fire and a new pair of shoes thrown in!"
When this baptism was being poured upon me it appeared to me that the Lord Jesus came and stood at my right hand and a little back of me, so I did not see His face. But His form and His dress were plainly to be seen. It appeared to me that I could almost touch Him. He made me understand many things.
He recited to me a hymn which I had often sung when I was a Methodist preacher:
"On the mountain top appearing,
Lo, the sacred Herald stands,
Welcome news to Zion bringing,
Zion long in hostile lands"
This hymn was descriptive of my previous condition, strikingly so, but the recitation of this hymn or the calling of my attention to its words was very sweet and comforting to my soul.
The Lord made me understand about my trials and sufferings, but He made me a divine promise that from that time on I should be blessed.
I cannot tell just how the instruction was conveyed to me, but I was made to understand that my hardest struggles were over, that I should have peace and blessing and temporal prosperity, that I should live to a good age and that at my death I should be saved in heaven and respected if not honored on earth.
© 2003 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller.