Having no hope of help from the doctor and having been taught that the days of divine healing were past, I concluded that there was no hope for me, and that the Lord intended me to be made perfect through suffering. In the spring of 1880, my oldest brother, who had been greatly afflicted with chronic dyspepsia, was healed in answer to prayer. Not until that time did I know that any one had been healed by divine power since the days of the apostles. I did not consider the healing which I have already related a healing, but a special miracle performed in answer to prayer. As he and I were the invalids of the family, we naturally sympathized a great deal with each other, opened our hearts to each other, shared all our troubles and sorrows.
During the summer of the year I have just mentioned, my brother came home and began to tell how well he was. "Jeremiah, what patent medicine have you been taking?" He looked at me, smiled and said, "Mary, if you will take the kind of medicine I have, you will be well too." "What kind is that?" "It is faith and prayer—the Lord's word received by faith." This was all new to me—just like a strange language. I asked no more questions, for I did not know what to say.
Finally, Mother, who had been listening to the conversation, said to him, "Can you eat a raw egg if I get it for you?" His health had been so poor that at times he could eat nothing but a raw egg, and frequently he would refuse even that. "Mother," he replied, "I can eat two eggs if you can spare that many, and you may cook them for me." When Mother cooked the eggs, he looked at her and said, "Mother, have you any meat?" She looked at him doubtfully, and not comprehending what God had done for his body, said, "I don't believe I will give you any meat this time." He made no reply, knowing that she did not understand.
It was October before I saw my brother again. Another swelling had appeared on my jaw, stopping my mouth so that I could take my food only in a liquid form, sucking it through my teeth. My brother again encouraged me to trust the Lord, quoting God's promises to heal the body and relating a number of instances that he had witnessed where persons were healed of fits and other serious afflictions. I told my brother that I did not doubt that the Lord had healed others, but said that I did not know whether or not he wanted to heal me. "Perhaps," said I, "he is leaving me afflicted to keep me humble. If I were healed, I might not keep saved." My brother showed me that God was just as willing to heal me as he was to heal anybody else, and that it was both my duty and privilege to trust God for my healing. "Look over your consecration," said he "and see if you are willing to be healed for God's glory alone."
I thought the matter over for some days. One day I prayed for my healing until I thought I could claim it by faith; but I soon found that the work was not done. Upon waking a few mornings later, I said to myself, "I am going to let the Lord heal me today if he will." Then the enemy whispered, "You have not enough faith yet to be healed; put it off a week or two, and by that time your faith will be stronger." Then came the voice of Jesus, "Oh thou of little faith; wherefore didst thou doubt." Dropping on my knees, I cried "Lord if it is unbelief, take it out root and branch"; and I knew he did. Then I said, "Lord, what next?" He then showed me I should pour out my medicine. God revealed to me that I was to be severely tempted, and that if I had any medicine about, that I would be sure to take it and so lose faith for healing.
God was now bringing me to a place where I must choose between trusting God and disbelieving his promises. As a first act of faith on my part, I poured out my medicine. God showed me that if I were to doubt the Scriptures: "Who healeth all thy diseases"; "The prayer of faith shall save the sick," etc, I would not stop until I should reject all his Word, die an infidel, be lost in hell, and perhaps be the means of the loss of scores of other souls.
I said to Mother, "If you ever prayed earnestly for me, pray now." So we bowed together. After she prayed, I began praying, claimed the promise in Matthew 18:19: "Lord, thou hast said, that if two shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father which is in heaven. Now, Lord, we are agreed that thou shalt heal me—soul, mind, body, and spirit as completely as is most to thy glory." As I said this, I laid hold on the healing power by faith, the witness came from heaven, and the work was done. I arose from my knees saying, "Mother, it is done! I am healed! I am healed!" I felt the virtue go through my body; and, oh, the showers of heavenly grace that filled my soul! I began to praise the Lord. Oh, it was heavenly! "My soul was joyful in glory," for God filled my soul. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet Isaiah saying, "Then shall the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out and streams in the desert" (Isaiah 35:6).
This was the beginning of a new epoch in my life, the beginning of months to me. It was the first time in my recollection that I could say I was well: the first bright hope of health that I had ever had in this world. That same day I could eat and drink without the slightest distress, anything that was fit for a sound stomach. I had never been able to do this before.
But that night the trial came. It seemed that all hell was let loose to try to rob me of my healing faith and to bring back all my diseases. Had I not poured out my medicine, I surely would have yielded. Having no other refuge, I clung to the promises of God, and rebuked the devil until 2 o'clock in the morning. Then I saw fulfilled God's promise: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you"; and there was a great calm. It seemed that the angels came and ministered unto me. My joy was full; my cup ran over. When morning came I began praising the Lord; and for several days, I walked the floor offering almost ceaseless praises to God. The story was circulated throughout the neighborhood, "Mary Cole is having a whole camp-meeting by herself. She claims that God has healed her; but as soon as the excitement wears off, she will be as bad as ever."
My appetite was now good, and my strength increased daily. Soon I was able to attend a protracted meeting held by the Methodists, of which denomination I was still a member. When opportunity was given for testimonies, I arose and told of God's wonderful dealings with me—how he had pardoned all my sins, made me his child, afterwards sanctified me wholly, and how he had recently healed my poor afflicted body. I exhorted them to get rid of unbelief and to move out for God on the Bible promises. After meeting, the preacher came to talk to me about my experience. He said he did not doubt that I had been healed, but I must not testify to it, "for" said he, "the people can not stand so much light."
I very foolishly concluded to follow the preacher's advice; and immediately the flood-gates of hell seemed to open. The powers of darkness seemed to gather to destroy both soul and body—my mind was almost reeling; intense suffering began in my body. God showed me that I had broken my contract with him in order to please a blinded preacher. My feelings were indescribable. I did not know what to do; but God showed me that if I would renew my covenant with him, resist the devil, and obey God in all things, all would be well. I obeyed God, and my faith again became unwavering; my strength began to increase; and a large scrofulous ulcer that had appeared on my face, soon went away. My blood became pure; and warmth, such as I had never felt before, came into my body. I could now sleep comfortably with half as much covering on my bed as I formerly required.
Since my first healing, I have had a few attacks of sickness but God has healed me every time. In the thirty-four years that have elapsed since I began to trust the Lord for the healing of my body, I have never resorted to doctors, nor have I taken any medicine. I have been as well as the average person, and have been able to do work as hard as God has required of me. I recommend God as a physician. At the time I was healed of my other bodily afflictions, I was also relieved of stammering. It is true I stammer some yet, at times, but not nearly so much as I did formerly; and not enough to prevent my preaching the Word.
At the time of my healing, Marion, one of my unsaved brothers, was batching near the old home place. He frequently spent his evenings at home, sometimes lying on chairs drawn up in front of the old-fashioned fireplace. On the Wednesday after I was healed, I found him lying before the fire and said to him, "Oh, Marion, have you heard the good news? The Lord has healed me." And he said, "Do you mean that he has healed you or that he has healed that sore on your face?" "I mean that he has healed me, sore and all." Then I went out of the room praising the Lord. Near the close of that same week, Marion attended the revival meeting then going on at the M. E. Church, came to the altar, and got gloriously saved. Mother went to speak to him and to rejoice with him. "The Lord has been good to you, my son, to save you." "Yes," he answered, "I thought if the Lord could heal Mary when the doctors gave her up, he could save a poor sinner like me."
In the years that have passed since the Lord so graciously healed me, I have witnessed many cases of healing. One that especially appealed to me occurred in December, 1880, at the Jacksonville, Illinois, Holiness Convention, where my brother Jeremiah first met D. S. Warner. I was not a witness to this incident, but I relate it as my brother, who was present, told the story.
A lady by the name of Sarah Gillillen, who was afflicted with a very bad internal cancer, came to that meeting. Several months before the doctors had told her that her case was beyond their skill. She felt impressed that she would be healed at this meeting, and Jeremiah, Brother Warner, and others were very much interested in her case. They sought to encourage her and to strengthen her faith as they had opportunity. Her faith in God seemed to increase rapidly.
One Sunday morning she said that the Lord had shown her that if she would get up that morning and testify to her healing he would finish the work. She got up before the large audience and began to give her testimony. A rule had been adopted that if any one testified too long, the congregation should sing him down. As Sister Gillillen testified for some time, they started to sing her down; but one of the ministers said, "Brethren, let her alone. This thing is of God." She continued her testimony; but before she got through, the power of God came down, her face shone with glory, and right then and there God finished her healing. She was made perfectly well.
Entering the Gospel Field
During the seven years that had elapsed since my call to preach the gospel, years in which God had so wonderfully taught me and so gently led me, I never doubted my call. By the help and grace of God I had been able to live pleasing to the Lord, and throughout the entire time had no knowledge of his condemnation or displeasure.
I was still engaged to the young man of whom I have already spoken; and after my healing, began to make preparations for the wedding. I was fully submitted to the Lord on the question of matrimony; but as my life had been running along in such a pleasant, even course, and as I had been having my own way in nearly everything, I felt that God was going to let me have my way in this matter also, when to my surprise, God made clear to me that I should not marry. He showed me that he had chosen me for himself, and that he had first right. He brought to my mind such scriptures as this: "Thy maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name." As I submitted, the Lord did not leave me comfortless. He showed me that I was not able to fulfil both the mission he had given me, and the life that I had contemplated.
For so long a time now since my call to the gospel work I had been at home enjoying the companionship of my mother and of my brothers and sisters, doing the little things that God had given me to do, and feeling the approval of God upon my soul, I had failed to seek God earnestly to see if he would have me move out in active gospel work. In May of the year 1882, my brother Jeremiah, who had been out in the active ministry, returned home. One day he said to me, "Mary, did not the Lord call you to preach his gospel?" "Yes," I replied. "Has he not shown you that that is your future work?" "I thought he had in the past, but it is not clear now." "Do you want to know why it is not clear to you now?" My brother then showed me that I had not been as diligent as I should in seeking to know God's will in the matter, that I had taken too much for granted that the Lord would have me continue doing as I had been for the past seven years. He asked me to pray about going with him into the work at that time. I did as he requested; but, as I was not anxious for an answer, did not pray earnestly enough, and as a result, no answer came.
It was not long until Jeremiah asked me if I had prayed about my going with him into the work. I answered that I had, but when he asked me what the Lord had shown me, I was obliged to say, "Nothing." "Well," he replied, "As you are not decided I suppose I would better go right on to the meeting of the holiness association at Salisbury and not wait for you." Seeing that my brother was not satisfied with my answer, I again went to prayer. This time I called upon God with all my heart; and the Lord showed me that I could go into the ministry and be saved or I could stay at home and lose my soul.
Doubtless no young minister, no matter how consecrated he may be to the will of God, finds it easy to take his first step in gospel work. I was no exception to the rule. Twice already when I arose in the public assembly to bear witness to God's dealings with me, my testimony became an exhortation, and God spoke through me to the edification of the people; but I had so far done no preaching, and now that I had reached the decision to go with my brother into the active ministry, I was conscious of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I was glad to go in obedience to God, and on the other I hesitated to take the first step. Besides the natural human shrinking from taking the first step, I knew how Mother would feel about my going, and felt bad to grieve one who had been so kind to me. You must understand, however, that Mother's feeling about my going into gospel work was very different from Father's opposition of which I have already spoken.
At the time I broke the news to Mother, she was going through a severe trial. It was about a week after I had my talk with Jeremiah. "Mother," said I, "if you had a child that had been afflicted with a disease that had baffled the skill of all the physicians she had consulted, and finally one physician undertook the case and performed the cure with the consideration that your child should go and work for him whenever and wherever he wished; would you let the child go?" Mother said, "I know just what you mean. If nothing else will do, you may go." "Mother, as I go out into an unfriendly world, I do not expect to have an easy time; but I believe it would not be so hard to endure the buffetings of the world, if I could look back and think that my mother gave me up gladly to the Lord, who has done so much for me." We went into earnest prayer and God gave us victory over the trial. When a week later Mother accompanied me to the train, there were no tears in our eyes. Almost five years passed before I saw her face again.
Before starting from home, Mother had said to me, "Mary, here is a little change to buy your stamps and envelopes." As I reached out my hand, my brother said, "Mary do not take that money; Mother will need it. The Lord will provide you with stamps and envelopes." I thought, "Why does he talk that way? Even if he can trust God, I can't; and he ought to let me take the money." He knew better than I. The Lord provided all the stamps and envelopes I needed. Indeed, I do not remember a time that I had to wait long to write a letter for the want of stamp or envelope. As I exercised myself in trusting the Lord, my faith grew; so that I had no fear but that God would provide everything I needed—my carfare, my clothing, and even a little money to give to the cause.
The first place my brother and I visited was Salisbury, Missouri, where a holiness convention was being held. A large concourse of people from all parts of the United States were assembled in the large new tobacco factory, which at that time had not been used. When we reached the place, the meeting had been in session for several days. A number of souls had been saved; but at the time of our arrival, not many of the people felt the power of conviction.
On the Sunday after our arrival, the minister who had charge of the meeting got up and said, "The Lord has not given me a message this morning, but he has given a message to some one here. If the person who has the message does not deliver it, he will be responsible." The pulpit was filled with ministers, and workers were sitting all around nearby. I was on my feet in a moment. I had a message from heaven—burning words that went right into the hearts of the people. God made my tongue as the pen of a ready writer. The power of God was on me in such measure that I could hardly tell whether I was in heaven or on earth. Even old men bowed themselves and wept like children, and sinners came flocking to the altar. Thank God for the blessing and encouragement that he gave me in delivering this my first public message!
As soon as the service was ended, a merchant of the town came and invited me to his home for dinner. I wondered why he should ask me to dinner; but when he began to ask me all the difficult religious questions that he could think of, the mystery was explained. I felt my inability and ignorance as I never had before, and leaned heavily on God for wisdom. The scripture, "I will give you in that hour what ye ought to say," was fulfilled.
After a number of difficult questions had been asked, my host said, "I want to ask you one more question." Supposing that this question would be so difficult that it would be impossible for me to answer, I called on God more vehemently than ever. Then came the question: "If you should die now, without a moment's warning, do you know that you are ready?" I was agreeably surprised. That was an easy question to answer. "Yes," said I, with the utmost assurance. "I wish," said his wife, "I could say that"; and a lady who was present added, "I think I would have to pray before I should be ready."
In my early evangelistic work I met considerable opposition to woman's preaching, and at nearly every meeting I had to explain the Scriptural teaching on this subject. Nearly all opponents to woman's preaching fortified themselves with such scriptures as these: "It is a shame for a woman to speak in the church"; "Suffer not a woman to teach or to usurp authority," etc. The Lord helped me to successfully drive these opposers out of their false positions and to show them that they were misusing the Scriptures.
In this connection, too, I would call attention to 1 Corinthians 11:5, which gives instructions how a woman should pray or prophesy. If a woman be instructed how to prophesy, she surely is granted the right to prophesy. The New Testament definition of "prophesy" is: "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation and comfort." If, then, a woman be allowed to prophesy; that is, to speak unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort, she is granted all the privileges that any minister enjoys.
We read also in Acts 1:14 that after the ascension when the disciples gathered in the upper room, "There all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren," which scripture proves that there were women present at the Pentecostal baptism. After the descent of the Holy Spirit upon those assembled, Peter says (Acts 2:16,17), "But this is that which is spoken by the Prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams." We see then, according to the prophecy of Joel, that the daughters as well as the sons were to prophesy. According to Acts 2:4, they all spake as the Spirit gave them utterance. Does not the "all" include the women present? Was not their speaking as the Spirit gave utterance the act of a minister in preaching?
In Romans 16:1 Paul says, "I commend unto you Phoebe, our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea." Is not the servant of the church the minister? When they used to tell me that this scripture means that a woman could serve the church only by doing temporal work, such as cooking for ministers, etc., I would answer, "If the inference of this scripture is that a woman can serve the church by doing temporal work only, the preachers are not doing their duty, because in the second verse the Lord commanded the other ministers to assist Phoebe. If then the women's only service be to cook for the ministers, the ministers, if they would obey this scripture, should certainly help the women cook."
Before going to our second meeting, at Sturgeon, Missouri, I had learned that the women in that place were not allowed to preach. On my arrival I asked some of the women if the sisters had liberty. "Yes," said they, "to pray and sing, and to testify a little." "Well," said I, "I can't sing; but I can pray, and 'testify a little.'" I learned that during this meeting a petition to license a saloon in the town had been drawn up and that a number of the women in attendance at the meeting had signed the petition. During the latter part of the meeting God's Spirit fired my soul to preach the Word, but I had no opportunity. I counseled with some of the ministers about it and received conflicting advice. Some said, "Sister Cole, you know the restrictions; you would better not preach." Others said, "Go ahead, Sister Cole: God will see you through." On the last night of the meeting, whenever I would decide to speak, God would bless my soul; but when I would decide to keep still, it seemed as if I should be paralyzed. One brother made a remark that had a strong tendency to keep me from speaking that evening: "If you get up on the last night of the meeting," said he, "it will look as if you were taking advantage of the man who has the meeting in charge." Finally, after two of the brethren had spoken for a short time, I felt clear to take the floor, and God spoke through me in power.
I reminded them of the petition to license the saloon for the purpose of damning souls, and sending them to hell, and spoke of the women's names that had been signed to the petition to license the saloon. "From childhood," said I, "I have heard that woman is the downfall of this world. She is now offered the opportunity to destroy souls, but it is a shame and a disgrace to any town that its women are not allowed to preach in the church to help save souls. Before I came to this meeting, I knew the restrictions; but I made up my mind that if I was thrown into the furnace of trial, I would go into that furnace praying for the one that had put the restrictions upon me."
The power of God wonderfully attended the message. At the close of the meeting, a wealthy gentleman, the one who had denied women the privilege of speaking, came and wanted to shake hands with me. "May the Lord bless you," said I, extending my hand. "I believe the Lord blesses you," he answered. I replied that he did. I was told later that on the next day he told certain persons on the street that doubtless that little girl was relieved since she had got her mouth off.
At the time of which I now speak, I had never heard a woman preach. My own preaching had been done by God's power and under his anointing. At about the time the Sturgeon meeting closed, I heard of a woman preacher some forty miles away, and felt quite anxious to meet her. In company with my brother, I went to visit her and found a dear saint of God who had been used much in the salvation of souls. She had taken a severe cold, which had later settled on her lungs; and at the time of our visit, her affliction had developed into consumption, and she was growing rapidly worse. It seemed that her faith could not grasp God's promises for healing.
We wanted to help the sister all we could, but I had been working very hard, washing and ironing, and was feeling quite exhausted; so much so, indeed, that I did not feel like sitting up while my brother was talking to her. As I was lying on the couch trying to rest, my brother said, "Mary, is there anything you want from the Lord?" "Nothing," said I, "unless it be rest." "Well," said he, "if you can take the Lord for it, he can rest you in an instant." The words were scarcely uttered before my faith grasped the Lord; I was rested from head to foot, jumped off the bed, and fairly bounced up and down with joy, feeling as though I had never been tired. The sister for whom we had been praying, remarked, "That gets away with my faith." "Do you doubt my having been tired?" I asked. "No." "Do you doubt the Lord's resting me?" "No; but I never saw it on this fashion."
That afternoon we took the train for Jefferson City, Missouri. After we arrived at our destination, my brother hunted a place for me to board while he went about sixty miles into the country to get a team and wagon to take us to our new field of labor, there being no railroads in that direction.
After a day or two, the lady with whom I boarded learned that I was a gospel worker. "If I can get a congregation together," said she, "will you talk to them?" I told her that I would. The people come together, and I asked some one to lead in prayer, but no one made any response. Finally they said that there was a man across the street who could pray, and asked if they should call him. The man came in; he and I led in prayer, and the Lord gave me a message. After the service was over, different ones came and congratulated me, saying, "It was a grand message; you highly entertained us," just as if I were an actress and they came for no other purpose than to be entertained. A number of those present were professors of religion; but I doubted whether there were any possessors.
For a time the woman with whom I was staying seemed quite suspicious of me, but God helped me to live so that before the week was out she had perfect confidence in me, and sometimes left her house in my care all day. I helped her what I could about her housework; and at her request, held as many as three cottage meetings during the week. God gave me favor with the woman; for when I went away she charged me only half the usual price for my board and lodging, and even gave me some presents. She did not know that I paid her all the money I had; but the Lord knew all about it, and saw to it that she did not charge me too much.
My brother had now come with a team and wagon. Accompanied by the owner of the outfit, we started on our difficult journey to our new field of labor. The roads were very rough and rocky, and we met with some hardships. We tried to camp out one night, but the mosquitos were so bad we had to resume our journey as soon as we could see to travel in the morning. Before we reached our destination, our provisions well-nigh gave out. At the end of our journey we had nothing left but a little stale bread and some bacon. Having no chance to cook anything, we made our last meal on dry bread and raw bacon.
Labors in a New Field
For the next three years my brother and I worked in Missouri, in territory lying in Maries, Phelps, Pulaski and Miller counties. The country was very rough and hilly. Many of the people were very wicked—most of them being of the type that live in a rough country remote from railroads.
A Baptist minister whom we met soon after we began work in this part of the State, is a fair illustration of the religious standard of the people. This man, who, for the want of a better name, we shall call Father B—, a name by which he was known far and near, was called on all occasions where a minister was needed throughout a territory twenty or thirty miles in extent. He served as evangelist and pastor, and officiated at weddings and funerals. The people among whom he labored supported him quite liberally; but he used the money they gave him in buying whiskey, and spent a good share of his time in a drunken, or semi-drunken condition.
He used frequently to attend our meetings, because as he expressed it, he liked "to hear the woman preacher." Very frequently he staggered into meeting supported by the man who accompanied him, and sometimes had to be supported after he was seated. His seat on the front bench of the small country schoolhouse in which the meetings were held, brought him so near me that the offensive smell of his breath sickened me almost beyond endurance, and I could scarcely continue my sermon. Yet this man, habitual drunkard as he was, and filthy with tobacco, was considered throughout that region worthy of financial support and of the title and office of minister.
About fifteen years before we went to that country, a certain woman, who for many years now has been a true sister in the church, had been saved in one of Father B——'s meetings, obtaining, as she has always believed, a real experience of salvation. But when she saw that Father B—— drank whiskey and chewed tobacco, she became discouraged and took to attending parties and dances. When called before the church to give an account of her conduct, she defended herself by saying that she did not think it any worse for her to attend parties and dances, than it was for the preacher to drink whiskey and to chew tobacco. I do not now remember what action the congregation took in regard to her; but at any rate, she went into sin, and lost her experience. This sister came to our meetings, sought the Lord, and was again restored to divine favor.
Father B—— was a very old man when we first met him. He died before we left that part of the country. His last illness was preceded by a drunken spree, during which some rougish boys painted a barren fig-tree on his bald head. He died soon afterward. Notwithstanding the efforts of those who prepared the body for burial, his head went to its last resting-place still marked by some of the paint that portrayed him as a barren fig-tree.
But not all of the people had such a low conception of religion. God had some true children in that part of the country. My brother had already held meetings in these countries; God had blessed his efforts; and a number of souls had been saved and sanctified. Nevertheless, when we arrived, the outlook for holding meetings was not good. It was now late in the fall—too late for outdoor meetings—so we began holding services in small schoolhouses. The people came out in crowds. God's Spirit worked on their hearts, and numbers came to the Lord.
You must not suppose, however, that any one could preach the straight gospel very long in such a place without meeting opposition. One night while my brother and I were holding our first series of meetings, at a schoolhouse on Dry Creek, in Maries County, Missouri, a mob of about a dozen drunken men came with the intention of breaking up the meeting. When they came, the service had not yet begun. The men entered the room in a boisterous way, talking loudly, and acting in an offensive insulting manner toward every one in the room. I do not remember just how it came about, but for some reason one of the men caught hold of my brother and gave him a jerk that sent him whirling for some distance across the room. I was afraid that Jeremiah was in danger; but when I saw that he was not at all frightened, my fears subsided. There was so much noise and loud talking, however, that we could not begin the meeting, so we offered earnest prayer that the Lord would take charge of things and quell the disturbance. I tried to preach, but there was still too much confusion.
While I was standing in the pulpit, one of the drunk men near the door pointed a revolver at me, but God protected me: the weapon did not go off. The man who had pointed the revolver at me, soon went out, accompanied by his comrades and by a number of other men who wanted some of the whiskey. Some of the women went to the door to beg their husbands and brothers to come in, and stood there crying, fearful that their relatives would be killed. I went to the door and said to the women, "Come in. If there is any trouble you can do nothing to prevent it." "We would come in too," said one of the rowdies, "but you always begin on us." "No," I answered, "we will not begin on you. We shall be glad to have you come in, and we shall expect you to behave yourselves."
Most of the men outside came in, and the meeting began. The Lord gave me the message. During my discourse, I said, "Fools make a mock at sin, but who is it that mocks God?" "No fools, no tun. You know that too," cried one of the men. Then he began to say the Lord's prayer, but was too drunk to finish it. I paid no attention to the interruption, and continued my sermon. There was no more disturbance, and not a revolver was fired until the mob was some distance from the house. One of the men gave himself up the next day and three others were arrested. They were a shamefaced set of fellows after it was all over.
Early in December we were holding meeting on Dry Creek not far from where we held our first series of meetings in Meries county. Some grown-up boys and girls, who had been drinking freely, came to the services and created such a disturbance that Jeremiah thought it best in the interest of good order to have them arrested. On the day of the trial the two lawyers employed to defend these young men and women, ridiculed and belittled my brother, calling him "the immaculate Jeremiah," and insinuating that he thought himself almost equal to Christ. At first I felt greatly tried, but when I looked round and saw that Jeremiah's face was glowing and that he seemed almost happy enough to shout, my burden all left me. I made up my mind that since my brother was so triumphant I, too, would throw off the burden and claim victory. The young people who had disturbed the meeting had to pay a small fine. So far as I know, they behaved better in the future.
Just a few days after the occurrence just related, we began a meeting in the Bell schoolhouse, about five miles further down Dry Creek. My brother and I were staying with different families in the district. An M. E. South preacher who lived in the neighborhood, and who had heard of our trouble with the young folks in the other district, sent word to my brother that a mob was coming that night to break up our meeting, and that we should stay away and let him hold that service. He believed that the young people opposed us because we taught holiness, divine healing, etc.; and thought that his age, and the confidence of the people of the neighborhood in him would enable him to control the mob and to hold the meeting without difficulty. He tried to send word to me too; but, as I was staying with a family who lived some distance away, I did not receive his message. Jeremiah remained at his boarding place.
I went to the schoolhouse that evening expecting nothing unusual; but to my surprise I found in the house and yard a boisterous crowd of twenty-five or thirty men, who had been drinking freely of the liberal supply of whiskey they had brought with them. They were banded together for the express purpose of having a good time and breaking up the meeting. I can give you no adequate idea of the scene that greeted me as I approached. Men were running in and out of the schoolhouse, drinking, yelling, swearing, and talking at the top of their voices. The confusion was terrible.
Soon after my arrival the old preacher attempted to begin the service. He gave out a song, which a few of those present tried to sing; but the crowd was so noisy that the preacher alternately plead with them and reproved them, but without avail. The noise increased: the confusion became so great that, in despair, the old preacher gave up the attempt to hold a meeting and began to take down the names of those members of the mob whom he knew. The men had with them a number of bottles and jugs of whiskey. Drinking, swearing, and yelling continued without intermission, and from time to time we could hear the firing of revolvers. As soon as it seemed safe to do so, I went home with one of my friends, who lived near by.
As soon as possible, the old minister had a number of the members of the mob arrested and brought to trial for disturbing the peace. The preacher's actions during the trial showed that his object was, not so much to preserve the peace, as to take vengeance. Not content with a fine, he insisted on a jail sentence.
After the prosecution had offered its evidence against the mob, the lawyers on the defense made fun of the preacher saying: "What! you! A minister of the gospel! You want to send them to jail! You should be praying for them and trying to get them saved." His reply was, "Yes, I will do all I can to send them to prison and then I will go and grin at them (in derision) through the bars." I do not now recall whether or not the culprits received any punishment; but at any rate, the preacher's desire for vengeance was not satisfied. It was a common report about the country that he was so disappointed and mortified over what had happened that he did not sleep any that night. The difference of spirit manifested by my brother and that manifested by the old preacher shows the difference between the operation of the love of God and of human vengeance.
Soon after we began our labors, I became afflicted with the itch, which was then epidemic in that part of the country. A neighboring high school had been closed because of this disagreeable affliction. Previous to taking the disease myself, I had met some of the saints who had it, and who had not been healed as soon as I thought they should be. I shall have to relate that through ignorance—to my shame, be it said—I was not as compassionate to those unfortunate ones as I should have been. I had made assertions similar to this: "If you can't trust the Lord for healing, I would advise you to use remedies. Mother says that any one who would keep such an affliction any length of time is not decent." Many of the people were wounded because of my heartless way of talking, though I did it ignorantly.
The Lord saw that I needed a good lesson, and therefore let the malady come upon me in a severe form. While preaching in small overheated school-houses with but very poor ventilation, my body became overheated, thus aggravating the disease, and soon I was not able to be in the public services at all. My arms swelled so that I could not straighten them; and for some months, I had but little use of my hands. This affliction baffled my faith more than any that I had had up to that time, but I had no temptation to resort to remedies. The case of the lady preacher whom we visited in northern Missouri stood before me as a warning. I decided to have my battle now, and not to give way and lose my healing faith. So I held on steadily by the help of my brother and fought the battle through until God gave me victory.
It was some time before I got rid of all the symptoms. The Lord showed me that I must be willing to go into the work again with them still showing. To do so, required humility, and I had to seek the Lord for help. I met rebuffs of which only the Lord and I knew; but God was ordering this experience, and the trial lasted no longer than was for my good. To complete the lesson, God laid upon me the duty of confessing publicly the attitude I had held towards those who had the itch before me, and the way I had talked to them. I made my confession, humbly asking the forgiveness of all who had been wounded by my words. God's way is humility before honor. The going down is painful; but God's lifting up afterwards is sweet. Praise his dear name! Christ was a meek and lowly Savior. To follow his example we must go the lowly way.
While yet in sectarianism I got the impression that the devil had to be stirred before a good revival could be held. Acting on this principle, I prayed that the Lord would stir the devil in the series of meetings my brother and I were then beginning at the Tennyson schoolhouse.
My prayer was answered. One evening near the beginning of this revival nine respectable young men of Vichy, Missouri, hired horses and saddles at the livery barn and came out to the schoolhouse to attend the meeting. Two desperate characters, reputed to have escaped from the penitentiary, were present, but remained outside the house. The services proceeded unmolested; but, after the service, when the nine young men from Vichy went to get their horses, they found that some one had cut the saddles and bridles in pieces and turned their horses loose. Others found their harness cut and the nuts of their wagons gone. The two desperadoes now began walking back and forth through the yard, displaying their weapons and threatening to shoot any one that accused them of committing any depredation. As the burrs had been removed from the wagon in which I came, I had to ride home on a mule behind another person. Jeremiah said, "Mary, I hope you have learned the lesson to not pray the Lord to stir the devil until you know you are able to cast him out. It is not always necessary that the devil be stirred before a revival. Souls can be saved and even devils cast out without the devil's being stirred and the power of the enemy being put on exhibition." I never again prayed for the devil to be stirred.
About the beginning of the new year, the affliction which I have already mentioned, rendered me unfit for public service, and for about three months my brother and I stayed at the home of Brother Baugh on Dry Creek, where we read and studied and prayed and fought the affliction that had been imposed upon us. My brother got his prayers through and obtained healing much sooner than I. He used afterward to say, "I shall thank God through all eternity for having had the itch; because when I prayed through for healing, I struck the evening light," meaning that he was beginning to discern the unity of God's people. This remark was often followed by a happy, hearty laugh.
Early in the spring I had so far recovered from my affliction that my brother and I began again to hold meetings in the schoolhouses in the counties where we had been working, covering in all a territory about fifteen or twenty miles in extent. These meetings usually lasted two, three, and four weeks at each place, and were very profitable in the salvation of souls. There were some things in connection with our work, however, that puzzled us greatly. For instance, after we had held a good meeting in which a number of souls had been saved, and had gone on to other appointments, preachers of different denominations would follow us up, preaching against two works of grace and divine healing, and casting reflections on us as ministers, with the result that upon returning after an absence of several weeks, we would find the people discouraged, and the congregation in a bad spiritual condition.
These things made our hearts ache. We saw that in our absence the people needed some one to give them advice, encouragement, and spiritual help.
Finally my brother said to me, "Mary, I am going to write to the Free Methodists and ask them if they will send us a preacher that will preach holiness." It was not long until we received the following letter from the Free Methodist Conference: "If you get a congregation large enough to guarantee a minister a salary of five or six hundred dollars a year, we will send you a man that believes in holiness." As they did not say that the minister they would send would have the experience of sanctification, their letter afforded but little encouragement.
While awaiting the reply of the Free Methodist conference, my brother had visited the Tennyson schoolhouse where we had held meetings sometime before. He found that no sect minister had yet demoralized the believers, and the members were more spiritual than those of any congregation we had yet visited. This occurrence threw some light on our difficulty. My brother, as was his usual custom when he had anything of great importance weighing on his mind, resorted to prayer. As it was March and the weather quite cool, he put on his overcoat and went out to spend the day alone until he got the leadings of the Lord.
God began to show him the sin of division. Jeremiah did not see matters very clearly yet, for he asked the Lord how we could get along without any human organization. The Lord asked him what good they had done, and brought to his mind the fact that it was only the spiritual ones, those who had not partaken of the spirit of division, that God could use to any advantage. My brother then inquired of the Lord how this sin of division had been brought about, and the Lord showed him that he could find the answer to his question in history.
When my brother had an opportunity to read history, he found that every sect builder told his own story. He saw that not one of the human organizations measured to the pattern of the New Testament church, and that since the sects have human founders, they could not be the church of God as that institution is of divine origin.
My brother then went back to the Tennyson schoolhouse, and preached his first sermon on the subject of the unity of God's people. The people joyfully accepted the truth and walked in the light. Jeremiah thought that when I heard what God had revealed to him I would be rejoiced; but, to his surprise, I could not yet discern the body of Christ. I was still under the influence of the wine of Babylon.
Our meetings had been attended with excellent results. Many souls had sought the Lord. In one meeting, which lasted three or four weeks, the whole country was stirred. Many young men and even whole families got under deep conviction. After a day spent in fasting and prayer, we came together in the evening, and conviction settled so heavily upon the people and God worked so mightily that we labored at the altar until two o'clock in the morning. Almost every seat was an altar. Rain was falling, and the brush arbor in which the meeting was held did not protect the congregation; but the interest was so great that the seekers paid no attention to the water that constantly dripped through the boughs overhead. About twenty souls, I think, sought the Lord that night. During the whole series of meetings, a large number were saved.
About this time Sister Julia Meyers, now of Ima, New Mexico, joined our company, and for some months, traveled with us in the work. She had been healed before coming to us; but she got light on the one church in our meetings. The Lord had been teaching me to more fully trust him for temporal needs as well as for spiritual benefits. When Sister Meyers joined our company, I began to teach her the things that God had been showing me. I saw that she needed help. First she began borrowing money from me now and then to get what she needed. I felt that I should give her the money. Later, when I needed a pair of shoes, she began to feel that she should get them for me. She had enough money to buy the shoes, but found it a little difficult to obey the impression.
In the meantime I was earnestly praying for the shoes. God made me to understand that my prayer had gone through, and that I could have had the shoes sooner, had I prayed more earnestly. I was upstairs. It came to me, "How do you know but that the shoes are downstairs waiting for you?" In less than five minutes I was called downstairs; and, sure enough, there were the shoes. At first I did not know where they came from; but Sister Meyers was so blessed in her obedience and sacrifice that she could not keep her secret, and we praised the Lord together.
As I was preaching the straight gospel of salvation from sin, sanctification, and divine healing, it was to be expected that I should meet with opposition. I met with some very peculiar and unexpected persecutions. Falsehoods were told about me that should have shamed the devil himself. One rumor was that I was one of the famous outlaws, known as the "James Boys," disguised as a woman. One of the truth fighters published a long account of my meetings in the county newspaper. He branded me as an impostor, saying that I taught false doctrines. He affirmed that sanctification and divine healing were not for the people of the present day, that no one but Enoch and Elijah had been sanctified, both of whom went to heaven without dying. He ended his tirade against me by saying that I ought to be driven out of the country, and that he would join a mob raised for that purpose.
A Methodist lady, who no doubt had some understanding of Bible doctrine, replied to the gentleman with an article, in which she said that the Wesleys taught sanctification, and George Mueller, divine healing. "If," said she, "the gentleman would read more, he would be better informed. There is some hope yet for 'Tom Paine,'" referring to the fictitious name signed to his article. I did not know of this wordy battle until it was ended.
At times my brother would hold a meeting at one place and at the same time I would hold one a few miles distant. It was at one such time that I held a meeting in the county courthouse. I was assisted by a brother of the M. E. South denomination—a young college student, with but little experience in gospel work, thought that he could not preach unless he had his sermons written out. We preached on alternate evenings. One evening he came to me and said, "I wish you would occupy the pulpit tonight. I have been away and have had no chance for preparation." I told him that I had not had time for preparation either. "Sister Cole," he replied, "you can preach better without preparation than I can with preparation, besides, I haven't had my supper yet." "Perhaps you could preach better without supper," said I. Thus I held him to his duty and did not sympathize with him very much either. That night he had to lean so hard on God that many people said it was the best message they had ever heard him deliver.
Perhaps no young preacher going out in gospel work ever felt his inability more than I. As God had promised to be my sufficiency, I leaned hard upon him and did not feel discouraged. My education was so limited, that sometimes during a sermon, while trying to explain the Scriptures, I would lack words to express myself, and would look to the Lord, taking him as my wisdom. On such occasions he would supply me with words, and by his Spirit show me how to use them. Later, upon looking in the dictionary, I would find that they had been used correctly. This experience has been repeated many times in my ministry. Thus the Lord proved true his promise to be my spokesman. When I leaned on him, I was never confounded; no, not once. Truly our God is a covenant-keeping God, whom we can trust under all circumstances and at all times.
When the Lord healed me, he bestowed upon me the gift of exhortation and with it such a great measure of the Spirit's power that when I read the Scriptures, there was a heavenly illumination upon it, and I could see a sermon in almost every verse. At times the strength of this heavenly light so dazzled me that my mind and body were well-nigh overwhelmed. I studied and preached the Word under a light whose brightness could come only from the Spirit of the Lord, and I by spiritual sight could see through the Scriptures with a vision as unclouded as the vision before my natural eyes when looking through a clear glass. Oh, it was wonderful! I have always thought that God blessed me with this divine unfolding of the Scriptures because I did not at all depend upon my own human understanding, but leaned wholly upon him at the very time that I was studying or expounding the Word. As I became accustomed to this heavenly light, I was not so much dazzled by its brilliancy, but the gift of exhortation with its accompaniment of divine power, has been mine, except for one brief time, throughout my ministry.
As I went from place to place preaching, I began to realize that I needed another gift of the Spirit—the gift of teaching. When the Lord first impressed me that he wanted me to teach, I begged off, saying that I stammered so that it was very hard for me to read. The Lord pitied me and took another plan to get me to do what he desired. Up to this time I had great freedom and much help in exhorting, but now God seemed to have taken this gift from me, and I became as one who had never had it. The Lord showed me that I would have to trust him for ability to teach and to explain the Word, and for help to overcome my stammering, or I would have no gift at all. So I got down and cried to him like a child and plead with him for help.
When the Lord saw that I was determined to obey him, he not only gave me the gift of teaching; but, to my surprise, he restored to me the gift of exhortation and let me exercise it as in days gone by. Surely the Lord humored me. I now had two gifts instead of one. But I would not advise others to do as I did, for though the Lord has no respect of person, you may have more light than I had at that time, and it may be that the Lord would not excuse you because of ignorance, as he excused me.
Quite early in my evangelistic work I held a meeting in a neighborhood where lived a man who had been an M. E. exhorter. He had once been saved, so the neighbors said, but having accepted a false doctrine that was being taught in that part of the country, and having partaken of its spirit, he was in a bad condition when I went there. He had rejected Christ entirely, saying that Jesus was nothing but an impostor.
Sometime before I went to the neighborhood, one of his children had gotten saved, and during the meeting that I held, another one had also come to Christ. Knowing their father's condition, the children feared his persecution and insisted that I should come and visit him. They thought that if I went to the house with them he would be more considerate. For their sakes, I went. I had heard that his practise was to invite ministers to his house, and then to belittle Christ in their presence, to give them no opportunity to return thanks, and to make them feel as far as possible his opposition to Christ.
After some conversation, he took down the Bible—the Old Testament I mean, he had no New Testament in the house—and told me that he was going to prove to me that Christ had never come. I told him that he could not do that, because by experience I knew that Christ had come. "If," said I, "you are going to try to prove to me that Christ has not come, you have gotten hold of the wrong person. I would stake my life that Christ has come. I have met the conditions prescribed in his Word, and he has given me the witness of my salvation, and has also healed me."
I tried in various ways to see if there was a tender spot in his heart that God could touch. Among other things, I said, "When I first started out in the work of the Lord, I wrote to my mother saying, 'I have found many good friends. All who are Jesus' friends,' I wrote, 'are my friends.' But," I continued, "I suppose I have now found a man who is not a friend of Jesus, and yet is my friend." I thought this would shame him. "Yes," he answered, "I am your friend, but not his." I returned thanks at the table and also asked him the privilege of praying before I left. The Spirit of God intimidated him till he did not dare to refuse me. Never did the name of Jesus seem half so sweet to me as when I got down to pray before this wicked man. It seemed as though all the sweetness of heaven was wrapped up in that name. I could say but little: I could only breathe out the precious name of Jesus; and oh, how he magnified himself through His name! Although I felt the presence of infernal spirits all around me—the very spirit that crucified Christ—yet I felt the presence, too, of the blessed Lord, the Christ of the Bible.
Still thinking that I might say something that would touch his heart, I said, as I was about to leave, "Pray for me." He said, "I will; and you pray for me: but not in the name of Jesus;" adding a moment later, "but I know that you will do as you please anyhow." I felt then that unless God directly ordered it, I never wanted to go again to a place where Christ was so entirely rejected. I thought of the scripture which says that they had forgotten that they were once purged. If ever I met a man who had sinned against the Holy Ghost, this was certainly the man.
In the early years of my ministry, I sometimes found that when the Lord was burdening my heart to preach on certain subjects my sympathy stood in the way; that is, I was afraid I would hurt somebody's feelings. One night I dreamed that another minister and I were standing near a large casket containing two dead bodies. It seemed that God wanted us to dissect these two bodies, and I said to the minister who was with me, "Brother, we had better get to work before the stench fills the room."
When I awoke I knew that God was trying to teach me something. Just a few days afterwards I went across the country accompanied by the brother, and his wife, of whom I had dreamed. Some of the congregation at the place where we were going to hold meeting on the next Sunday, were professing to be saved, and at the same time were living in adultery. Some others needed warning in regard to other sins. The Lord wanted me to preach to these people showing them where they stood; but, because of my sympathy for them, I did not want to handle the subject. The I ord reminded me that I had promised to preach his Word on any subject. "Yes, Lord," said I, "but I sympathize so with these people! I would rather be whipped from head to foot than to preach on this subject at this time." I preached, talking first on one subject and then another, and not coming to anything definite, entirely failing to give them that portion of the Word that they so much needed.
That night I took very sick. It seemed that I should die. I did not know what was the matter. I asked the Lord why I was suffering so; and he reminded me that I had said that I would rather be whipped from head to foot than to preach on the subject he had given me, and that now the whipping had come. When God administers correction, he always does a thorough work. I begged earnestly that he would take his hand off, promising him faithfully that I would never grieve him in that way any more; but I saw that I lacked sufficient Holy Ghost boldness to carry out my decision if I continued to sympathize with those for whom the message was intended. So I asked the Lord earnestly for help, telling him that if he wanted to use me in dissecting, he must give me the ability. The lesson has never had to be repeated.
During my earlier ministry an incident occurred which to some might seem amusing; but which to me furnished an excellent spiritual illustration. A class-leader of the M. E. South denomination came a number of miles across the country to take me to a certain place to help in a meeting. We had to ford the Gasconade river. It was winter, and the ice was frozen thick. Before we reached the river, some men had cut a road through the ice, so that people could cross on horseback. As we rode out into the stream the flowing water seemed to affect me strangely. It seemed to me that the brother who was with me was trying to pull me off of the horse and drown me. I said, "Don't, don't, it is all I can do to stay on now." When we reached the other side, the brother broke into a hearty laugh: "Sister Cole, did you think I was trying to drown you? I saw that the water made you dizzy, and that you were about to fall off the horse. It was all I could do to keep you from drowning."
Many times since then I have thought of this incident, as an illustration of a certain spiritual condition. When a person gets somewhat cold spiritually, the doctrines of the church become indistinct, and, spiritually speaking, his head begins to swim. At such a time he is likely to think that those who are endeavoring to help him out of his difficulties are trying to drown him; that they are in spiritual trouble themselves and that they are trying to pull him into the same difficulty.
At another time I was going to a meeting near the place of which I have just told you, and had to cross the same river. It was earlier in the fall; and the Gasconade, although badly swollen, had not yet frozen. The boy who was with me, feared that the river was too high for fording, and asked what we should do. As the appointment had already been made for me, I feared that the people would be disappointed and told him we would better go across if we could. "Shall I go across first and see how deep the water is?" he asked. I told him I thought that would be the better way. He found the water to be deep enough to swim our horses, but thought that we might get across, although we would risk our lives in the attempt. He said that if I wanted to run the risk, he was willing. God protected us and we reached the other side in safety.
The young man said to some of his friends afterwards, that he was afraid we would both drown, but that he would not let a woman back him out. "I knew," said he "that if she drowned, she would be saved; but that if I drowned, I should be lost." I certainly appreciated his generosity in risking his life to help me.
While holding meetings in that neighborhood, this same young man and his brother, although unsaved, befriended me in every way possible, because they knew that I had come there to do the people good. Their sisters, who professed religion, also manifested great friendliness for me. At one time when some sectarian holiness fighters tried to shut me out of the schoolhouse, the two brothers defended me like lawyers, won the case, and secured the use of the house for as long as I desired to hold meetings. Whenever I needed a conveyance, I had only to call on these young men.
I met a brother young in the ministry who had a very clear definite experience of justification and sanctification, and who had had a very definite call. He had had, however, but very little experience in tests and trials, and was therefore not qualified to be the blessing to young converts or to young workers that he might have been. As he had been so victorious in his religious experience, he thought that trials and tests were a sign of weakness, and that those who had them were spiritual weaklings. Whenever a young convert or worker had a test or a trial of faith, and needed special help or encouragement, he would think, "Oh, well it isn't worth while to bother with him; he doesn't amount to much anyway. He will not stand, and if he does, he won't ever be very useful in the Lord's cause. He is not worthy of any attention."
God let this brother go through deep waters. He had a severe test; and when he came through, his compassion was much increased, and his care and consideration for the young converts and those in trouble was all that could be desired. He did not find any one then unworthy his consideration. He had learned that every soul worth Christ's dying for, is worth all the effort we can make, either for its deliverance or its establishment. Well did the Psalmist say, "When I was in trouble thou hast enlarged my steps." The Psalmist got the enlargement right in the trial, just as we often do. Much of our development is obtained in the furnace of trial; in fact, I believe most of it. Let us be thankful, therefore, for the dispensation of God's grace, whether it be bestowed by trial or in sunshine; whether it comes in storm or in calm, knowing that God allows all for our highest good.
Quite early in our evangelistic labors my brother saw that I had been leaning too much on him. Frequently when God wanted me to deliver a message, I would hold back and let my brother preach instead. I was not getting the experience I should, nor being as useful in the Lord's work as I might. My brother thought that if he should leave me to work alone for a time, the Lord would have a chance to help me more. He therefore began leaving me to hold meetings alone for weeks at a time, while he held services in some nearby neighborhood. Naturally, I felt somewhat fearful about being left to carry on the work alone; but the Lord helped me and enabled me to hold a number of good successful meetings.
At one of these meetings God had been answering prayer and conviction was falling heavily upon the people. The whole neighborhood seemed stirred, and crowds were at the altar. Fathers and mothers came seeking salvation. A few, however, among them a Campbellite minister, came with the intention of causing trouble. He wanted a chance, he said to tell the people how to find Jesus. I asked him what he would tell them. "Obey the commendments." "What commandments?" "Join the church and be baptized." "If you have a message from God," said I, "we will hear it; but, if you have not, we will not hear it. Souls are at the altar and their eternal interests are at stake. This is too serious a time to deliver a message not from God." He arose and went out, accompanied by the man who had come with him. When the sinners laughed at him, he said, "If you had had such hot testimonies thrown into your faces, you would have left too." When this same minister came to another meeting to disturb, God got hold of him and brought him to the altar. I don't think he got an experience, but he made no more attempts to disturb the meeting.
Every time the enemy undertook to hinder the work, God marvelously helped us. At one time a certain minister came to try to look me out of countenance while I was preaching. His plan was to confuse me so that I could not preach. The enemy knew that if I became the least bit confused, I would stammer so that I could hardly talk. God was present to help me. He so confounded the man that before the service was over, his head went down and I had no more trouble with him.
At different times I held meetings of three or four week's duration, preaching twice every day and three times on Sunday. I had no help in the preaching, and but very little at the altar service. There were many people at the altar seeking God and the work was very heavy. The Lord wonderfully sustained me. The fact that I went through such fatiguing experiences as these, laboring sometimes far into the night, shows how wonderfully God had healed me, and how he was sustaining me in my work.
Experience alone will show how much the dear Lord can help us physically as well as spiritually if we but trust him. Unbelief and doubts hinder God from being to us our sufficiency at all times and under all circumstances. Faith will take hold of God for things beyond the comprehension of our natural minds. The Word says, "All things are possible with God"; "All things are possible to him that believeth." As we trust in the Lord, he will honor our faith and give us the desire of our hearts.
Out of Sectarian Confusion
I was still a Methodist. The Methodist did not license women to preach; but when the preachers found out that God was using me in the salvation of souls and that I was not especially interested in building up any certain denomination, I had an abundance of calls.
God had already begun talking to my brother Jeremiah about the sin of division, and he was beginning to see the evils of sectarianism. The winter after I was healed, he had attended the Jacksonville, Illinois, holiness convention, and had met there Bro. D. S. Warner, who at that time was editor of a holiness paper, The Herald of Gospel Freedom, then published at Rome City, Ind. Brother Warner was already beginning to discern the unity of God's people, but he had not yet received enough light on the subject to sever his connection with the Winebrennerian denomination, of which he was a member. It was about the time of the Jacksonville meeting that The Herald of Gospel Freedom was consolidated with The Pilgrim, a small holiness paper published at Indianapolis, Indiana.
While at the Jacksonville meeting, Jeremiah subscribed for The Pilgrim and had it sent to me at Windsor, Missouri, as I had not yet begun gospel work.
I received only a few numbers of The Pilgrim, as that publication was consolidated with The Herald of Gospel Freedom January 1, 1881, under the name The Gospel Trumpet. At a later date, when Brother Warner had full light on the church, The Gospel Trumpet was no longer considered a consolidation of the two papers, but an entirely new publication. The first issue of The Trumpet (January 1, 1881) represented a new paper and was later designated as Vol. 1, No. 1. When the publication of The Pilgrim ceased, Brother Warner began to send me The Gospel Trumpet to finish out the unexpired time of my subscription to The Pilgrim.
During my brother's absence in evangelistic work I received several copies of The Trumpet. As soon as I read in The Trumpet about the sin of division and saw that the new paper opposed the licensing of preachers, my sectarian spirit was stirred. I thought that holiness would make the churches, as I called them, better. I was afraid that if people got hold of such literature as The Trumpet it would disgust them with holiness forever. I burned The Trumpets I had already received, and then sat down and wrote Brother Warner never to send me another copy. As I was traditionized, and had opposed the truth in ignorance, the Lord did not hold my opposition as a wilful sin.
After my brother had got light on the one body, he was so enthused with the truth that he wanted to explain it to every one he met. While out walking one day the next summer after he discerned the one body, he fell into conversation with a man about the Scriptures. After talking a little while the man said, "I have a paper that reads just as you talk." Going to the house, he brought out The Gospel Trumpet and gave it to my brother, who went down the road reading as he went. He never stopped reading until he had finished the paper. At the earliest opportunity my brother wrote a letter to Brother Warner, asking him if he had enough light on the one body to set it clearly before the people. He also asked him if many were accepting this divine truth. To the first question Brother Warner replied, "Yes," and to the second, "Yes, hundreds are discerning the one body." As soon as my brother learned that Brother Warner and many others had the same truth that God had made so clear and beautiful to him, he rejoiced greatly. He could not rest until he went where Brother Warner was; but, as I had neglected to walk in the light, I was left alone, and that, too, in more ways than one.
Some time before I discerned the body of Christ, I had some impressive dreams. In one I thought I was in a large building belonging to some denomination. A conference of that denomination was being held just outside the door, and the ministers wanted me to come and take part. I looked toward the door through which I must pass, and I saw two large worms with their heads together, lying directly across the threshold. In order to enter the room, I would have to step over the worms and would be in great danger of receiving a deadly bite. I said to myself, "I will not run the risk for any man's notions or ways"; and, turning on my heel, I went out of another door.
I soon saw my dream fulfilled. The denomination that I had been holding a meeting for insisted that I should join their conference, saying that they would give me a license so that I could hold meetings in their territory. I knew that, according to their discipline, they could not license a woman to preach; and I said to the minister, "You don't dare to give me a license." "Well," said he, "I will tell you what you can do, Sister Cole; we can go to a place not far from here where you have had a good meeting, lay this matter before the people, and have them vote to give you a permit, so that you can hold meetings in any part of our district." I did not feel at all led to take such steps; and, as I had done in my dream, I turned in the other direction. I suppose God was using this method to get me ready for the truth.
The summer before I got out of sectarianism, an M. E. South minister invited me to come to their new chapel, to attend the quarterly conference, and to help hold a series of meetings. As the M. E. South denomination did not license women preachers, women were not allowed at the quarterly conference. They had arranged, however, that several other women and I should sit in a room adjoining the conference, so that we could hear the proceedings. This was on Saturday. On Sunday morning they held their quarterly love-feast, partook of the Lord's Supper, and listened to a sermon by the presiding elder.
In the afternoon and the evening, I preached. While the afternoon service was in progress, the ministers were holding a private meeting to decide whether or not I should proceed with the meeting I had come to hold. In this part of the country was a wealthy man, a sinner, who contributed very liberally to the support of the work. This man objected to women's preaching and opposed the continuance of the meeting.
It was decided that the meeting should not continue, but the pastor of the congregation did not tell me. The pastor and his wife were both present at the service on Monday night, and both seemed well pleased. On Tuesday evening the interest began to increase, and one or two raised their hands for prayer. Just at the close of the service a note was handed me requesting me to close the meeting, as they had decided not to continue at the present time, but to wait until later in the season.
I could not keep from crying. I had called the Methodist Church my mother; and now to think that my mother was treating me in this way, made me feel very bad. I went home with a young couple who had been saved a short time before in a meeting held near this place. They felt very bad over what had happened, and we all cried together. The young people tried to encourage me as best they could.
Next day they took me to their aunt's, a special friend of mine, who had shown me kindness while I was in that neighborhood before. As we went along the road, I thought to myself, "Any one treated as I have been ought to look sneaking"; and I tried to think of everything I could to make me look that way. When we arrived at our destination, the sister was not in the room, so I hunted the smallest chair I could find, and sat down. As soon as she came in, she saw that I was in trouble and inquired what was the matter. I began to tell her, crying at the same time; but she began to laugh. Well, she laughed and I cried; but after a while I took to laughing too. I never again felt bad about my treatment at that place.
I still continued to get calls from the sectarian preachers to go and help hold meetings. I responded to these, and held two or three meetings in different places. Late that fall I held a meeting at Rolla, Mo. The preacher could hardly get an audience when he preached, so he sent for me, thinking that a woman preacher would be quite an attraction and would draw crowds. The crowds came. Although there were a number of ministers present, including the presiding elder, I occupied the pulpit, I think, during half of that meeting. Conviction came upon the people, and a number came to the altar; but not many of those who came, seemed to get an experience.
On the last night of the meeting quite a number of bright, intelligent young people, some of them college students came to the altar and some of them were getting saved. As the minister went to talk with the seekers one by one, God put it into my heart to listen to what they were saying. Not once did these preachers say, "Seek the Lord until you find him;" "There is reality in salvation;" "Never stop until you know you are saved." Their instructions were: "Join the church;" "Get baptized," etc. God opened my eyes right there to the awful work that these so-called ministers were doing. I said, "If they are going to help deceive souls that way and send them to destruction, I will never help them again." That was the last meeting in which I ever helped to build up Babylon.
Collections were taken up for the ministers and for the general expenses of the meeting, but no one ever said to me, "Do you need any means?" One of the sisters, however, found out that I had a little money, and she asked me to give it to her to use in buying a little clothing for me so I would be suitably dressed to preach in their meeting. I felt that even this was too good for me, because I had failed to walk in the light.
At the close of the meeting, to my surprise, I found myself under a wrong spirit. I went to Bro. John P. Bailey and wife, who had accepted the truth when Jeremiah preached his first sermon on the church at that place. I told Brother and Sister Bailey my condition as best I could, and the three of us fasted and prayed three days. God delivered me from the false spirit, gave me light on the one body, the church, and made me glad to walk in the light as fast as it was revealed.
Bro. Jake Cruts came to ask my advice on the subject of baptism. "Sister Cole," said he, "what do you think about baptism: is it a commandment of God? If so, what is the correct mode?" Before I could answer him, he continued, "I suppose we shall never know the right mode." "I believe," said I, "if we are sincere and come to God in earnest prayer, he will show us his will, even if the scripture on that doctrine has been wrongly translated." The brother agreed with me, and I said, "Let us get down and pray." While we were on our knees, God made me to understand that in the near future, he would make known to me his will on the subject of baptism.
I told the brother who was kneeling with me what God had shown me; but it seemed that I needed to be humbled still more. At this time I received another Trumpet in which there was an article by D. S. Warner on the subject of baptism. I said to myself, "He is nothing but a Baptist preacher anyway," and found myself going into gross darkness. For about two hours it seemed that I was bound for hell. I cried out, "O Lord! why is it that after you have used me in the salvation of souls, some of whom no doubt are in the glory-world, I must now be lost?" The Lord made me understand that I was not responsible for not having been baptized, as I had no knowledge of the teaching of the Scriptures on this subject, but that I was responsible for my present light. He showed me that, if I would walk in the light, I should not be lost. I decided then and there to walk in every ray of light that God gave me.
As members of the M. E. Church, my parents had had me sprinkled when I was a child, and up to this time I had had no light on baptism. When I had opportunity and I was buried in baptism, God wonderfully witnessed that I was being baptized in his order.
My first text after I got light on the one body of Christ, was Jeremiah 1:6-10 and 17-19. A short time before this I had held a meeting with an M. E. South preacher, who now seemed to stand before me like an obstructing mountain. As I began my sermon, I seemed to see him in that capacity. Before I was through delivering the message, however, God had lifted me above the mountain, so that I was never again troubled in that way.
My name was still on the M. E. class-book; but God showed me that I ought to have it removed, and how to have it removed. I sent for my church letter and trusted the Lord to direct me how to dispose of it. One Sunday after a sermon had been delivered on the church of God, I rose and told the congregation about the church letter, told them that the Lord had shown me that I could not have two valid contracts for my entire service with two different parties at the same time. I said, "I have decided that the contract between God and my soul is the more important one." Then I proceeded to tear up my letter, and God sent his mighty power, witnessing that my contract with the Lord was ratified in heaven. So much of heaven came down, and the glory world seemed so near, that I seemed attached to heaven, not by a cord, but by a mighty cable. I shall never be able to express how satisfied I was with God's church. Some sectarian preachers prophesied that I should soon be back preaching for the denominations. One of them was heard to say, "If I knew that Mary Cole would come and help us in a meeting, I would send for her; but I am afraid she won't." I never got any more special calls from Babylon.
Shortly after I got light on the one body, however, the devil laid a snare for me. I saw the snare before I got into it, and God's Word was fulfilled: "In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird." It happened in this way: A certain man who was starting a new sect tried to interest all he could in his project. He did not call his new religious movement by any special name and professed not to have anything to join. He would have the people come and shake hands, inferring that in so doing they were not joining anything, but were merely showing their mutual love and fellowship. In order to be an encouragement to any that might really be trying to live for the Lord, I went up and shook hands with the preacher and others. After we had shaken hands, his design became apparent. He seated me and a few others on one side of the platform and called for others to come and shake hands with us. The Lion of the tribe of Judah began to roar in my soul. I got up very quickly, and the plan was defeated.
A common remark made to me by sectarians was, "You ought to join some denomination so that you will be inside the pale of the church," thus inferring that because I did not belong to a human organization, I was not in good pasture, but outside on the commons with poor, ill-fed stock. I understood the figure of speech very well, for I was brought up on a farm where the garden was enclosed with palings. Between these palings were spaces through which small animals could get in and destroy the vegetables—a very good illustration of the sectarian churches surrounded by their palings, through which unclean spirits can slip in and destroy the flock. In the church of God I feel secure; because God has appointed salvation for her walls and bulwarks (Isaiah 26:1), and through these neither evil spirits, nor even the devil himself can penetrate.
I was educated to believe, and in this way I often expressed myself, that the M. E. denomination was my spiritual mother. This idea remained with me until I got light on the sin of division and was spiritually able to discern the bride of Christ. Then I saw that "Jerusalem from above is the mother of us all." I saw plainly that if I had two mothers, one must be a stepmother. While my mother was living I never cared to have a stepmother. The prophecies of Scripture so unmistakably point to the one church, the body of Christ, that they can be but poorly explained by those who are trying to make them conform to sectarian theology. I am content with the church of God, with Christ as the door, and nothing inside but the holy throng.
Besides, in sectarianism I did not have freedom in my ministry. I could preach only as the sect ministers suggested. If God gave me more light, and I tried to give it to the people, I was likely to receive a rebuke. I remember that at one time while I was holding a meeting for some denomination, God led me to preach on holiness. In the very beginning of the meeting they had advised me not to preach on this subject. What was I to do? The Lord reminded that I had promised I would preach any part of his Word whenever and wherever he led me to do so. He now brought me face to face with the question, "What will you do?" I said, "Lord, I will obey you if you will stand by me." The Lord assured me that he would. I preached on sanctification as a distinct second work of grace, God witnessing to the message by his mighty power. After the service, the minister who had placed the restrictions upon me, said, "Sister Cole, that is the best sermon you preached during the whole meeting." I answered, "I knew that the things you didn't want were the things you needed."
After the Lord had led me into the precious truth of the oneness of his people, I was much better satisfied with what God did with me and through me, with the meetings I held, and with the results attained. Although at times not as many people professed salvation now as when I was preaching for the denomination, yet those who got saved reached a settled experience, being satisfied that they were in God's order. They were not looking around for something that more nearly represented the truth. As a minister I was satisfied, knowing that I was delivering the whole counsel of God. No one ever can be satisfied who is not walking in every ray of light that God turns on his pathway.
The Evening Light
This chapter is an article written by the author many years after she had received light on the unity of the church. It will acquaint the reader with what is meant by the expression "evening light."
"At evening time it shall be light."
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light" (Zechariah 14:6,7). The expression "evening light" suggests the thought that there was at one time morning light. The New Testament dispensation is sometimes called the gospel day. Like the natural day, this gospel day has its morning and evening.