I Should like to speak of experience to-day. If I have had an experience that relates to the heaven-born son, spoken of by the Lord Jesus, then I must turn my mind back to think upon what occurred many years ago. When I call up my memory (it only takes an instant) of the times and seasons of my early trials about my awful state in nature, the “spots” on God’s earth always come to my mind. The places of my earthly abode when I felt the just condemnation from on high are not so vividly impressed on my memory as is the place where the first great flood of light shone within me (and I sometimes have thought around me). Every time I think of that wonderful day to me, that wonderful hour, that wonderful moment when that great Light came to my soul, or my being, the earthly scene comes before me. The “spot “in the road is before me now as it was more than forty-seven years ago. It was a mile from my home, my face towards the east, at a bend in the road as it skirted the brow of a hill, a rail fence to my right and a small branch of water to my left. Why must this scene come before my mind’s eye! Why is this earthly picture so indelibly written upon my memory! I have been ashamed to speak of these things to my brethren. As far as I know I have mentioned it but once, and that a week ago, to some brethren here. It has seemed to me to be savoring so much of the things of the earth, and at the same time unimportant. I had been in distress for more than a year, a little less perhaps than two years, but the Lord was teaching me all that time and I knew it not. When it pleased God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, to shine in me, I was traveling with my father and in conversation with him about the way sinners are saved. I was a believer before this, but did not know it. At this time the Scriptures were opened to my understanding so forcibly and so beautifully that the road, the fields, the sky, the clouds and the trees clapped their hands for joy; thenceforth a new life seemed opened to me. I cannot think of this time without the earthly scene coming before my mind; the picture of that place seems to be engraven upon my mind in such a way that years of care, anxiety and toil cannot eradicate the earthly scene. Why should it be so strongly written upon my mind! Was this a resting-place in my pilgrimage or a starting-point! It seems that in one sense it was a starting-place, and in another a resting-place, a glorious rest in Christ Jesus. It, to me, was more welcome, no doubt, than an oasis in the desert is to the weary traveler, a place of rest and refreshment. There are three more places and three different times, all embraced within the space of three days, which I desire to speak of. The first of these was only a few days after the one just mentioned. It was at the time that I came before the church – a small band of old brethren and sisters despised by the world. It has always been a question in my mind ever since my carnal mind considered these things, Why did I appear before the most insignificant body called a church in my surroundings? Strange action this, as judged by the natural mind. God’s providence was such that I must appear before that august body at the very time and place I did; the measure of Jehovah’s predestination could not be full without it. Every time I think of that time when I stood up and tried to tell the brethren of my sinfulness, but could not for weeping, the house, the old brethren and sisters, and the place the house was located, are all pictured in my mind before me as they were then. This picture is seen by my mind’s eye whenever I think of that eventful day. The evening of this same day I followed my father to the field where he went to feed the hogs. While he was at his work my mind was most powerfully exercised about the sermon I had heard that day. It seemed to me that all mysteries were being revealed to me, and O the beauties of God’s kingdom that shone within me that Saturday hour I cannot tell. Just then my father came up, I took him by the hand, passed under his arm, and said something about being born again; it did appear to me just then that that was the time of my heavenly birth. I was talking to father all the time while walking from the field, because I was so filled with the beauty of God’s holiness, the power of his grace to save and his willingness to call helpless sinners to himself. Now while speaking of that time and these things the picture of that field and surroundings has been before my mind’s eye of remembrance. It was in the “six acre field;” a lane passed along the west side, a draw near the north end of the lane and a walnut tree on a knoll north of the draw. This special place is unimportant to the reader, but if I have a good hope through grace it is important to me. The next day as we gathered at the water for baptism, is the other significant place, for that event is some experience by the grace of God in my pilgrimage on God’s earth. How surprisingly I was strengthened to walk down into the water that day! I felt strong in the Lord and in the glory of his might, as my father on the bank of the stream sang:
“I’m not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend his cause,
Maintain the honor of his word,
The glory of his cross.”
Just then I was so strong in the faith (even physically I felt strong) that I felt I was not ashamed of Him, but on the other hand was proud of his lowly yet high name. Yet when I call to mind this event, and try to concentrate my thoughts upon the state of my mind then, of the holy scene and fortitude that I then enjoyed, the earthly surroundings crowd upon my mind, and I think of the special little river, the special place in the river, and the different people of ray memory assembled there. In speaking as I have about these places I feel that it is a weakness, and perhaps not appreciated by many readers of the Signs, but these things have been on my mind so many years that I have ventured to speak of them. From the experience of many brethren and sisters I am led to believe that they cannot speak of a sudden Hood of light rushing in upon their soul; their experience seems to be a gradual growing into the knowledge and light of the gospel. Their morning may be like a morning when clouds obscure the sun, even to midday; to them the Sun of righteousness may arise so gradually that they cannot tell when the first rays of light entered into the deep recesses of their hearts. These cannot tell the time, that is, the day, or perhaps the year, when Jesus became most precious to them. There are others of God’s tried and taught people who can point out the time and place where the Sun of righteousness arose to them spontaneously, without any intervening cloud, and broke the bands of Satan, and set them free from the curse of the law. These love to point back to the time of deliverance; they are compassed about with songs of deliverance. Was that poet, now unknown to modern writers, wrong in his experience when he sang,
“There is a spot to me more dear
Than native vale or mountain;
A spot from which affection’s tear
Springs grateful from its fountain.
‘Tis not where kindred souls are bound,
Though this resembles heaven,
But where I first my Savior found,
And felt my sins forgiven”?
There may be a slight tendency to Arminianism in this stanza or the balance of the poem, but part of his experience stands out grandly to my mind, as –
“Hard was my lot to reach the shore –
Long tossed upon the ocean;
Above me was the thunder’s roar,
Beneath, the waves commotion.
Darkly the pall of night was thrown
Around me – faint with terror!
In that dark hour how did I groan
And weep for years of error!”
In the following verse it might seem that he thought his cries were available!
“Sinking and panting as for breath,
I knew not help was near me;
I cried, O save me, Lord, from death,
Immortal Jesus, hear me!
As quick as thought I felt him mine,
My Savior stood before me;
I saw his brightness round me shine,
And shouted, Glory, glory!”
It seems in his last verse that he has sanctified the “spot” where he first found his Savior, or, as stated below, where love divine first found him:
“O sacred place, O hallowed spot,
Where love divine first found me!
Wherever falls my distant lot,
My heart shall linger round thee.”
Now, brethren, I leave this to your judgment whether it is fit to publish or not.
In hope of immortality,
J. F. BEEMAN.
Helena, Okla., Jan. 19, 1908.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 8.
APRIL 15, 1908.