Finally I went to my room, locked the door, threw myself on the bed and cried, "Lord, you must show me what is the matter; I can't stand this any longer." Then the Lord began to talk to me in a loving, fatherly, encouraging way: "This is a battle between God and the devil. Are you willing to fight in it?" "Yes, Lord," I said, "with all my heart"; and almost before I could think, the cloud was all gone, the burden had disappeared, and I was as happy and triumphant as I had ever been. I don't think I had another test during that meeting.
Through this peculiar experience I learned the difference between soul-burden and condemnation and between accusation and conviction, as I had never been able to comprehend it before, although I thought I had understood this difference measurably well. Many dear souls have been troubled on these subjects, mistaking soul-burden for condemnation and accusation for conviction. A clear understanding of the difference between these soul experiences will save us from many unnecessary trials. I have been thankful ever since for God's teaching.
While in evangelistic work I had the privilege of attending meetings of various kinds in many different States. Shortly before the Gospel Trumpet office was moved to Moundsville, our company attended a camp-meeting at that place. Brother Clayton's earnest labors were beginning to show some results, but the work was still quite new. We arrived there the afternoon before the general meeting began. But little preparation had been made to accommodate the workers who would be present. My brother George had found a place to stay, but nothing had been said to me about lodging. Just before the beginning of the services, a woman came to me and asked if I would go home with her. I did not feel favorably impressed, and thought I would wait and see if I should get another invitation. The night services closed, and no one had yet offered me lodging, so I accepted the woman's invitation. I had been kept awake two nights on my trip to the meeting, and now I had to walk a mile before retiring. As we drew near the house, I felt the awful powers of the enemy coming against my soul. I wondered what kind of place I was going to, but it was too late to turn back. Although it was ten o'clock at night, we met the woman's little grandchild out playing, and the child was by no means in an inviting condition.
When we reached the house I understood at once why I had not felt impressed to accept the woman's invitation. Everything was in disorder, and the house was almost as filthy as a swine-pen. The floor was covered with sand on which tobacco-juice was freely sprinkled, and over this filth the beds had been laid down. The woman had already told me that she had a nice clean bed for me in an upstairs room, and in this I hoped to find the rest I so much needed. After eating, with considerable difficulty, a little lunch set before me, I was shown to my room, which had a more cleanly appearance than the room down-stairs. I wanted very much to lock my door; but as I could not, committed myself to God's care, and went to bed.
Vermin of different kinds prevented sleep; and not long after going to bed I heard a noise downstairs that indicated the arrival of company of no desirable sort. My heart began to sink within me. "O Lord!" said I, "why have you let me come to a place like this?" and the tears began to course down my cheeks. The answer came, "That you may have an opportunity to be partaker of my suffering." I thought to myself, "I am a poor specimen to fulfil that scripture tonight." I do not believe I slept ten minutes the whole night through. I heard the town-clock every time it struck; but during that night of anxiety and prayer I learned the lesson that I must be ready at all times and under all circumstance, to partake of Christ's suffering, and that in order to partake of his sufferings, I must be very little and very humble. Next morning, with veiled face, I made my way to the camp-ground in as round-a-bout way as I could, so that no one would know where I lodged the night before, and thus reproach be brought upon the cause of Christ.
Our next camp-meeting was at Mole Hill, W. Virginia. This was a new place, and not many attended the services; but the Lord blessed in the presentation of the Word, and we had a good meeting. It closed on Sunday. Just before the services on Saturday night, an armed mob came into the camp. Never in all my life had I heard so many awful oaths in so short a time. A number of unsaved young men who lived in that neighborhood and who were favorable to the truth, undertook to defend us and to keep the meeting from being broken up. The mob said that they had come on purpose to tear the tent down, but those who were defending us said that they should not, and that if they undertook to carry out their threat they would be "laid low," meaning that they would kill them. A number of shots were exchanged between the two parties, some of which came very close to me. You may think it very foolish, but I found myself dodging behind the canvas for protection. Afterwards I was amused at myself, but at such a time the weakness of humanity is on exhibition.
After the two parties had continued for nearly an hour, I think, I felt strongly impressed that a number of us should kneel down and call earnestly on God for protection. While we were on our knees, God made me to know that none of us should be hurt and that the tabernacle should not suffer damage. I arose from my knees with victory. Not long afterward the young men who were protecting us, got our assailants on the run. They left in such a hurry that one of their number left his hat behind. He made several attempts to come back after it, but our boys always headed him off. The strife lasted all night, and no one in the camp got any rest. At midnight a sister who for a long time had been seeking sanctification, but had not been able to get the experience, came to the Lord, made the consecration, was made happy, and began singing:
"Hallelujah for the cleansing!
The next day was a very busy day. God worked mightily. Souls were saved and sanctified, and bodies were healed. It was a day of victory from beginning to end. I had asked the Lord not to let "a dog move his tongue" against the tent. Nothing about the camp was disturbed.
Several times during my ministry the Lord has laid upon my heart a message to deliver, and has not made my burden known to the other ministers present. As such times, if one is not very true and faithful to God, he is likely to be accused of the enemy and so prevented from doing his duty. The first experience of this kind that I remember, occurred at a camp-meeting in the State of Indiana. One Sunday when a very large crowd was in attendance, a sectarian minister who seemed to be getting out of Babylon was expected to preach. The brethren thought it would encourage him and edify the congregation. In the afternoon I overheard some of the ministers encouraging him to deliver a message. God made me to understand that this man was not making the progress that he should and that he was not in a condition to deliver a message, especially at such a time. I was looking very earnestly to the Lord when he made me to know that he wanted me to deliver the message, but I knew from what I had heard that he had not made it known to the other ministers.
This state of affairs put me in a very trying place; for if I should take the pulpit, it would look as if I wanted to be too forward, thus hindering one who might have the message. The conviction on my heart was so great, however, and God's hand so heavy upon me for this duty, that I got up; but as I was stepping into the pulpit, I saw the sectarian minister with his Bible in his hand just ready to rise to his feet. "Oh, pardon me," said I. "No, you pardon me; go ahead," he replied. "No, you go ahead." "Oh, my message won't spoil." "Mine won't either," I replied. Then he again insisted upon my going ahead; and as I knew God was ordering it, I delivered the message and God wonderfully blessed my soul.
Not until the evening service did the other ministers realize that God was putting me forward to deliver the message. That night when there were not more than one-third as many present as there were in the afternoon, the minister of whom I have been speaking, rose to preach. His sermon was nothing but a message from the devil. God's ministers were disgusted. Mother Sarah Smith, who sat right in front of the pulpit and who always encouraged the ministers and held up their hands with her "Amen! Praise the Lord!" began in her usual way. I said to myself, "If I have not misunderstood the voice of God, her amens will stop and her head will go down before this message is ended." It was not long until her amens ceased. Before the sermon was ended, some of the ministers were pacing the grounds in agony because the enemy was filling the pulpit, and some of the sinners felt like taking the ministers out and giving them a threshing because they had permitted such a thing.
It was over at last. Brother Warner came to me and said: "Sister Cole, I can see now why God had you take the pulpit in the afternoon when the largest crowd was present. There would have been much more harm done, had he preached then instead of tonight." This experience emphasized to me the fact that it pays to obey God. First, be sure that God is ordering your steps, and then be true to God. He will stand by you though you have to go through fire to do his bidding.
At a camp-meeting in Michigan God made it clear to my soul that at the evening service he wanted me to deliver a message especially for the benefit of backsliders. The burden upon me was so great that I could hardly sit still until time for preaching. In the prayer just before the sermon, the brother who led made it very clear that he was sure God was going to have him deliver the message that night. I sympathized with him, of course, and did not want him to have any unnecessary trial; neither did I want to disobey God.
I submitted the matter to the Lord, telling him that if he still wanted me to deliver the message, to hold the brother back until it would not appear that I was trying to get ahead of him. God wonderfully owned and blessed his Word, and a number of backsliders were reclaimed. After the service, the brother who had thought he had the message came to me and said, "Sister Cole, I did think I had the message, but the Lord blessed you." "Yes," I said, "the Lord blessed me in obeying; but it took more grace than usual."
At a Kansas camp-meeting there was a man present who had not been living a consistent Christian life. He had done things that disqualified him for preaching. I told the Lord that I would do anything he showed me in order to keep the pulpit clean.
As is usual at such gatherings, the largest crowd was present on Sunday afternoon. I saw the minister of whom I had just spoken, getting ready to take the pulpit. It came to my mind that if I wanted to obey the Lord and to keep my promise I must act quickly. I asked the Lord to exercise his control and to give me the needed opportunity to obey. He did, and I preached the sermon that day. Very soon afterward an accident occurred in which this minister's false teeth were broken, so that he could not preach during the remainder of the meeting. Thus God's cause was protected.
To obey the Lord under the circumstances of which I have just been speaking, takes much grace, especially on the part of the minister who knows the proper attitude toward his fellow ministers and desires to show them courtesy. At different times when I have felt led to move out and deliver a message, others have got ahead of me so that I did not have an opportunity at that time. Frequently under such circumstances God has opened the way for me to deliver the message later and has made it more effectual than it would have been had I delivered it when I first desired to do so. Now, I would not advise workers or ministers to make unusual efforts to get into the pulpit, unless they knew beyond a doubt that God is ordering. But if you are certain of the leadings of the Lord, even if God does not make it plain to others, you may do as God bids you with certainty of success.
In a certain meeting I had the message, but another minister took the pulpit so quickly that I had no chance to deliver it. At the close of the service, a number of persons came to me saying, "Sister Cole, you had the message." "Yes," I answered, "I felt sure I did, but I had no chance to deliver it." "Well, maybe God will give you a chance to deliver it yet." "I think he will if he wants it delivered," I replied, "and perhaps when I do have an opportunity, the message will be stronger -- boiled down, as it were." The opportunity came the following day. At that time there were present in the meeting a minister and some of his congregation who had gotten out of the way. God so blessed the delivery of the Word that not only the minister but also a number from his congregation got delivered.
Isaiah's prophecy that the blind eyes should be opened, was fulfilled during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, and it is being fulfilled today. I have been a witness to a number of such healings, of which I will relate three.
While my brother George and I were holding a meeting in Nebraska, a lady, accompanied by her husband, came a number of miles to be healed of blindness. She was not a saint, nor do I think that she had even been professing. Be that as it may, she had heard that the Lord was healing people. She was so nearly blind that she could not see to sew or read, and could scarcely do her housework at all. At first we talked to her about her soul, and she expressed a desire to get right with God. When asked whether she would rather have salvation or healing, she chose salvation first. We all bowed before the Lord, and asked him to save her soul. She got the witness that she was saved. Although we did not make her healing a special subject of prayer, yet we asked God to do for her eyes all that he saw fit.
The following day she went home, and not long afterward we heard that she was much better. After another brief interval of time we heard that her eyes were well and that she could read and sew just as she did before they became afflicted. Her friends who brought her to the meeting for healing were very much tried when we instructed her to seek salvation before healing. They thought that she would be discouraged because we did not make a specialty of her healing. After all, it turned out all right, thus showing that God's way is best.
A brother, an old man, came to an Oklahoma camp-meeting for prayer. He had been a sinner from childhood, and at the time of which I write, had been saved but little more than a year. A number of us anointed him and asked God to heal him of rheumatism and of everything else that he saw fit. One of the brother's eyes was in such bad condition that with it he could not distinguish a person from other objects. Soon after prayer was offered, he said the diseased eye had been fully restored.
One of the workers in the Chicago Home began to go blind in one of her eyes. The sight kept failing until it was entirely lost. We had prayer, claimed the healing on the authority of God's Word, and did not doubt, although the sight was not restored immediately. For two months she could tell but very little difference in the condition of her eye; but during this time, she held steadily on to God's promise and did not doubt him. At last God saw fit to give her the desire of her heart. Her faith was realized and her sight was restored.