“I will tell you What He hath done for my soul.”
I was the sixth son of Elder John P. and Charity Bartley, and was born in Adams county, Ohio, April 26th, 1827. My father was a native of Pennsylvania, my mother of Ohio, I think; and they were Primitive .Baptists, and my father was an able minister, and much beloved.
In the third year of my life we moved to our new farm home in Shelby county, Ind, where I was brought up.
The second Sunday of .November, 1844, while sitting under my father’s preaching, at the old home church (Conn’s Creek),suddenly, as with the lightning’s death-dealing flash, I saw and felt that I was a sinner, vile and black, guilty and condemned to death. At once my head was bowed, my tears ﬂowed, and I felt undone, grief-stricken and lost. I thought my father, and all in the house, saw me as I saw myself, accursed and smitten of God.
From that awful hour, I was a poor, heart-broken mourner, and often~sought retirement, and wept in prayer for mercy and pardon, But year after year passed slowly on, yet I found neither pardon nor mercy, until I gave up all hope of salvation, and my soul was in the bitter anguish and fearful throes of a sinful, guilty, perpetual death. The darkness and horror of black despair shut me up in a horrible pit or prison, and I believed God had condemned and cast me off forever. I could not see how He could be just and justify me, for I was already justly condemned. So I felt that I must perish in my sins, and go into everlasting perdition.All my prayers, efforts and seeking failed me.
But at last, after almost ten years of sorrow and mourning, when I had been fully taught that“Salvation is of the Lord,” and my tongue had failed for thirst, He heard my dying cry, and Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, arose unto me with healing in His Wings. This happy event,. whenthe sinner was born again, was in an upper room in Cincinnati, April 25, 1854. And though I was alone, and all I saw and felt waswithin me, yet I did clearly behold and peacefully realize the Person and Righteousness of the Lord Jesus, the lovely and precious Saviour, asmy righteousness, and felt that I was redeemed and justiﬁed, pardoned and saved, in Him!
I could no longer remain as a student in the College of Medicine, but was constrained by the faith and love of Christ to go to the dear old home church of my departed parents, and tell them what great things the Lord had done for me, and how He had had compassion on me. Accordingly, the second Sunday in June, 1854:, I was baptized in the fellowship of the Conn’s Creek Church, of. Indiana, by Elder M. McQueary. I was led down into the water in awful darkness and fear; but I went up out of the water full of light and peace, and went on my way rejoicing.
The evening of the same day‘I was moved to read in the Bible, praying that the Lord would show me my duty in His house, when these words of His angel were applied to me with great power, saying:“Go, stand and speak in the temple .to the people all the words of this life.” – Acts v. 20, A fearful conﬂict arose in my soul, and went on three days and nights, during which time I vowed that I would die rather than preach. For the conviction had taken possession of my mind, that, at the next meeting, the church would enjoin it upon me to speak in the name of the Lord; but I felt that I could not submit to this, and would rather be excluded. But late Wednesday night, while in the woods trying to pray for guidance and peace, the Lord gave me to see that the church was his, and had his mind, and that I should not resist his Spirit. At once the struggle ceased, and I was as quiet and peaceful as a passive little child in the bosom of its mother. The church liberated me to preach, and appointed the third Sunday in that month (July) to hear me.“Necessity was laid upon me,” and, after the pastor, Bro. McQueary, offered prayer, I arose in the pulpit and read as a text Isaiah xxxv. 10:.“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,” &c.. But suddenly darkness shut me in, and I stood dumb before the congregation; and the horror that seized me then was. fearful; for I felt that the Lord had condemned and smitten me before them all for my awful presumption. How long I stood silent I don’t know; but I felt that I should fall, unless I sat down, and looked back for the seat, when, lo! light from On high shined in my heart, and my tongue was loosened, so that I spoke for about an hour in new and joyful strains, of the redeeming work of the Lord, while the ﬂowing tears of the dear brethren told of their comfort and love.
The next May, I and nine others were constituted in theHickory Creek Church,‘in Jasper county, Illinois, where I had located. My labors here were blessed, and a goodly number were added to the church. The church called for my ordination to the work of~ the ministry, to which I very reluctantly yielded, and the 2nd day of January, 1857, Elders R. Riggs, A. B. Nay and J. G. Jackson ordained me. But my trials in connection with the ministry seemed greater than before, and I could not feel satisﬁed that the Lord had called me to the work, and therefore I sought to escape from it. The Lord chastised me, however, until I was made willing to, obey the heavenly calling. My ministry has been largely in doing the work of an evangelist, and. I have traveled much and extensively, since 1870, embracing about twenty of the States, and have baptized in all some more than one hundred, I think, of various ages from 15 to 78 years, and from the prairies of Kansas to the sea-girt shore of Maryland, and from the mountains of Pennsylvania to the sandy plains of Florida.
The great and chief desire and object of my ministry has been the ediﬁcation iof the churches of the saints, and the comfort of penitent and mourning sinners. And the best assurance I have that the Lord Jesus has put me in the ministry and sent me to do the work of an evangelist, is, the brotherly and loving favor and encouragement with which I have generally been received by all – both the churches and the ministers. My work in the ministry has been through much afﬂiction and tribulation, but the Lord has helped me hitherto, and kept me by his power. My desire has been, the greater unity of the saints in the bond of peace.
Your brother and fellow servant in Christ,
THE GOSPEL MESSENGER
No. 1., Vol. 6.
Butler, GA., January, 1884