22 N. Fourth St., Camden, N. J., June 29, 1901.
Elder F. A. Chick – Dear Brother In Christ: – Feeling in the mood for writing, and my mind reverting continually to you, once more I address you as above, for what purpose I know not, only that I desire to hear from you, and take this means of getting a thought or two from your pen. Were you to meet me on the highway and greet me with the usual salutation, “How are you!” I scarcely know how I would answer you. No very deep trials, spiritually or otherwise, have stirred my mind since coming within the portals of the Zion of our God. My chief uneasiness is felt when I am brought in contact with the world around me. This hurts me. Imagine how sensitive the body would be were the outer or scarf skin removed, and you will have a very clear idea of my state of mind when in the course of my daily walk I am brought in contact with unbelievers, or what is worse, the adherents of popular religion. I think it would be more in conformity with the experience of the saints, were I to realize more intensely that my worst enemies are “those of my own household.” The children of God seem to talk more of their peculiar trials of mind while I have none. Surely there is a lost chord somewhere. “If ye be without chastisements, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons.” Do such Scriptures as these apply to me! Evidence seems to point that way, yet something within me thrusts them from me, and will not accept them. Both of my parents were Old School Baptists before I was born. As soon as I knew anything at all, I was taken by them to Old Baptist meetings. Every Sunday found them in their place, and of course, I with them, for none of us children were permitted to stay away unless in the event of its being dire necessity. Now, under such training as this, how could I turn out to be anything but an Old School Baptist! I sometimes fear my knowledge of their doctrine is all in the head and not in the heart, where it ought to be. In a very weak and unsatisfactory manner I will endeavor to lay before you what I hope has been an experience of grace in me, but will leave you to decide whether such is the case, or if it be but a wild fancy of the imagination.
Born in the month of April, 1879, near the village of Southampton, Pa., and almost under the shadow of the Old Baptist meeting-house at that place, such were the circumstances that no excuse could be found permitting me to stay away from every Sunday meeting, even in infancy. What tiresome, tedious, sonorous sermons those were to my boyish mind. When during the sermon I should lose myself in slumber, how rejoiced I would be upon awaking, to find them singing the last hymn. The pleasantest part of the meeting for me then was when the minister closed the Bible. To the best of my recollection, I never heard any other than Old Baptist preaching until about fifteen years old. Naturally, having never heard any other, I thought the Old Baptists were all right, but I could not comprehend them. While I thought their religion was a mighty good thing for them, it was not for me. They seemed above me, exalted to heights that I could never reach, nor did I care to reach them at that time. I was satisfied with myself as I was. My parents being blest with the gift of hospitality, our home was always open to the brethren far and near, so that from hearing their conversation I became intellectually familiar with the various points of their belief.
Children around me attended Sunday School, yet I never asked permission to go, knowing full well I would be met with a point blank refusal if I did, and knowing this, I never had any desire to go.
Just when I began to think of eternity and the life hereafter, I cannot say. I sometimes feared that I would die in the night. At such times I would not go to sleep lying face upward, thinking this position more than any other favored death, and might tempt the “Black Angel “to visit me. Such superstitions would haunt me at times, but would all vanish with day-dawn, and not for some time later would I have such thoughts again.
Desiring from early years to become a teacher, in the fall of 1895 I began attending a normal school in my native State, to prepare myself for the work. Here the rules were such that every student must of necessity attend service in one of the many churches of that vicinity, every Sunday morning. No Old Baptist church existing in that place, I was forced to attend other denominations, and here for the first time I heard other preaching. I recognized a difference in the preaching almost as soon as I heard it, not that I thought it was contrary to Bible teaching, but that it was more interesting to listen to, and more calculated to keep one from sleeping, than what I had formerly been accustomed to.
The week just preceding Thanksgiving was always set aside at the school as a “week of prayer.” During this week the Y. M. C. A. held daily meetings for the purpose of winning converts to their cause if possible. Speakers of some reputation in the religious world were procured to address these meetings, and to play upon the emotional side of every student’s temperament. The “week of prayer” in 1895 slipped by without my paying any heed to it whatever. In fact, while the Y. M. C. A. held weekly meetings throughout the year, yet I very rarely attended any of them. At least it was noticeable to me that the very students who were the ringleaders in all the mischief going on, usually made the longest prayers and the longest speeches, but failed to act it out in their daily walk and conversation. This disgusting me, I was very seldom found at their meetings.
Uneventfully my student days passed on until the “week of prayer” in the fall of 1896. The cards issued as invitations to the meetings and scattered promiscuously among the students, bore this inscription at the top: “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.” – Numbers x. 29. Suddenly a determination to attend these meetings seized me. The motive that prompted me was possibly one of curiosity, as I wanted to see what effect such meetings would have upon me. Not because I realized the need of salvation did I attend these meetings, but as I have said, simply to see how such meetings were conducted, and whether I would be in any way affected by such proceedings. Thus I began attending the sessions held in the fall of 1896, of the so-called “week of prayer.” At the close of the first meeting all who desired to be saved were asked to stand up. Immediately I asked myself, Shall I stand or not! Do I want to be saved or not! Why certainly, what sensible man would not want to be saved? Therefore I stood with the others. At the second meeting all who stood at the first meeting were requested to remain at the close and consult with the professor who had the matter in charge. Feeling that I now had gone too far to draw back, I remained in my place at the close of the meeting. When all who were not interested had left the room, the professor made a prayer and talked to us about what we should do to be saved. Belief, he said, was the only necessary qualification for salvation, and it was for us to say whether or not we would be saved. I was willing, I thought, to be saved, but how to make myself believe in something that I knew nothing about, I could not understand. However we were requested to sing a hymn. The one selected had for its theme the giving of one’s self to Christ, inviting him to enter and make our heart his home, &c. “I believe,” “I trust,” “I own,” “I want,” and other like expressions were scattered throughout the hymn. How can I ever express my feelings while singing this selection! Here my pen fails when it attempts to portray in black and white the revelation manifested in my soul at this time. Something said to me, “You are lying, yes, lying, and that in the face of a just and mighty God. You say you trust in his name. You do not. You say you believe that Christ died for you. You do not. You are standing up boldly in the sight of God and telling a bare faced lie.” Such agony as filled my soul I can never express. Hitherto my dealings had been between man and man. Now, in the twinkling of an eye, the scene was shifted, and my dealings were between God and man. He was just and mighty, true and good, holy and undefiled. But I, what was I! Alas, a poor, wretched worm of the dust, crawling on the earth, striving in vain to seek a hole to creep into away from the fierce outburst of God’s righteous indignation that had suddenly engulfed me, and was sweeping me to everlasting destruction. Yet I said it was righteous and just. I was the one that was altogether out of the way.
“And though my soul were sent to hell,
His righteous law approves, it well.”
Just how long I was in this state of anguish I have never been able to remember. How I managed to get out of that meeting and to my room, I do not know, but when I did get there I threw myself upon my bed and wept long and bitterly, much to the surprise of my roommate, who became much alarmed, thinking that the meetings had worked me up to such a pitch that I was going crazy over religion. He advised me not to attend any more of the meetings, and I did not; not because I feared insanity, but because I could get no comfort there. Gradually time wore on. Instead of getting better, I got worse, and my burden was fast becoming more than I could bear. The professor before mentioned, seeing I was under conviction, kept telling me that if I would but give myself up and believe on the name of Jesus, I would be saved. He asked me what I was waiting for! I said, ‘‘A revelation. When I see Christ and know that he died for me, then I can believe, not before.” He then accused me of stubbornness, and so we parted, and never again came together in any other relation save that of teacher and pupil. At last I thought, what would I not do to be rid of this burden? O, if only Christ was my Savior. O, if he only had died for me. “Lord, thou canst if thou wilt make me clean.” Now, to my mind, if relief were to come, it seemed to me it must come by a revelation, and that so vivid and so startling that I never could doubt my being saved. I had come to the place where I ceased to work, or to try to rise from the depths to which I had fallen. All my efforts had availed me nothing, so I ceased to do anything, and was waiting; waiting for what! For that revelation so startling and so sure that it would dispel all my gloom and save my soul from hell. While watching for this vision, I opened the Bible, and my eye fell upon these words, “Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision: and it shall be dark unto you that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets and the day shall be dark over them.” Alas, I was waiting for something that was not to come. I wanted a vision; I would have none, because the word of God coming to me with power told me I would not. Thrown down from this hope, vain as it had proved to be, I now suffered more than ever.
One night, laying upon my bed, I could not sleep. My troubles were fast getting too severe, and I verily thought they would be the death of me. They were gripping me by the throat, and I could feel my breath fast leaving me; I was dying. My mental anguish had brought on bodily suffering, and I had a raging fever. Now, surely, unless relief came, and that quickly, I should perish, and with that it seemed to me I or something within me cried, “Peace!” In the twinkling of an eye I was at rest. All my burden had gone. Hardly realizing my state, I tried to bring back my troubles, but could not. They were gone, thank God, for ever. Happy and as free as a bird, I fell asleep and slept till morning. And now again I cannot express my joy upon awaking. . The sun never shone so brightly: all nature was at her best and rejoicing with me; I felt the power of the resurrection within and around me, and that the gift of eternal life was mine through the blessed sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, who was offered up for me. Shout, ye heavens, and listen, O earth, Christ died for me. Such were my feelings at that time. Now I was not aware that there was another being on earth that had passed through what I had. Upon going home to spend a few days at Thanksgiving, I talked all the time to my parents of my feelings, and they rejoiced to see me rejoice. I soon saw that they had experienced the same things that I had. When I returned to school, I took with me a book written by our beloved pastor, Elder S. H. Durand, entitled, “Meditations on Portions of the Word.” For weeks this was all the preaching I had. I soon saw from his writings that he knew all about my feelings from having experienced the same, and I loved him. It was in this way, through hearing them preach, and reading their writings, with the understanding that I now had given me, that I came to see the Old School Baptists as the only and true church of the living God, because it all corresponded with holy writ. Knowing this I loved them because I could not help it. No other people that I have ever met could understand my feelings. Loving them, I knew I had experienced the new birth, for “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” I did not go before the church at this time. Had I been near them when in the first flush of love, I know not what might have been the consequence, but, as I have said, I was not near any of them, and when I did get back to where they were, doubts and fears had so assailed me that I verily thought I had been deceived, and as for being baptized, I had not thought of it. The very idea was absurd. Nevertheless I have always attended Old Baptist meetings whenever an opportunity presented itself, never having attended regular service in any other denomination since leaving school, but my unworthiness was the barrier that separated me from them. However, in the fall of 1900, while attending a yearly meeting, with the Welsh Tract Church, in Delaware, I lost sight of my unworthiness, and longed all at once to be baptized. This desire kept increasing in spite of the temptations Satan put in my way until the second Saturday in December, 1900, when at the regular church meeting at Southampton, Pa., I related my state of mind to the church. To my surprise they received me, and on the third Sunday I was baptized. Thus far the Lord hath led me on, as to the next step, I know not what it will be. I look to him to be my Guide. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”
This letter is far too lengthy, and I know will sadly try your patience, so will close without more ado.
Yours in hope of eternal life,
HORACE H. LEFFERTS.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 15.
AUGUST 1, 1901.