By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
"Never Pray for Money" -- Sunday Mail -- Taking Subscriptions on Sunday -- Reading the Word.
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. Deut. 29:3.
God may lead us into special covenants for various reasons. First, in order to commit some special charge to us. Second, to fortify us against danger or disobedience. Third, to test or strengthen fidelity in us or others. If He sees fit to lead one to make a covenant peculiarly hard and self-sacrificing, it is not because He arbitrarily delights to do so, but perhaps because some need severer measures than others to get them through to heaven. Or it may be that God wants, even in this loose age, examples of fidelity and integrity. Sad that sometimes He has to search before He can find those who are made of martyr material and able to stand the pressure. The more we renounce for Jesus' sake, the more we get in return; so do not pity those who give up and suffer more than others; they are rather to be envied. While God has no favorites, yet there are a few who die out to all things but His glory, and to such He is pleased to reveal His secrets.
There is a vast difference between having a good time in secret prayer, and entering into a special covenant with the great God. The fact is, covenants are, as a rule, few and far between, while glorious seasons of communion with our Lord should be daily. It may require the latter to prepare the way for the former. Daniel fasted and prayed twenty-one days and then God revealed to him wonderful things that those who were with him could not see. Sometimes, upon one word whispered to the soul, hang untold events for weal or woe.
I will speak of a few such occasions when words of special interest and meaning were secretly spoken to my heart.
When we first opened up mission work at Atlanta, expenses were high, and we were without any income; this drove us to our knees. While others were asleep, the writer was wrestling in prayer sometimes to nearly midnight. It generally required a good part of the time to first pray through for finances, after which the way was clear to pre. vail for souls. One night while thus praying, the Lord very kindly but positively laid His hand upon my mouth and said, "Never pray for money again; see to it that you keep tender in spirit and burdened for souls and I will do the rest, and see that you have all you need." I said, "All right, Lord; I take Thee at Thy word." This was so real and made such a profound and lasting impression upon my mind that ever after, when we have been embarrassed financially and I have started to pray about it, I have been reminded of that contract and instead of praying for money. I looked around to see if I had become harsh in spirit or careless in the practice of self-denial. As soon as I had renewed my covenant and had a season of breaking up before God, invariably finances began to come in. I have proven this time and again.
Another covenant was that of not sending out mail at such a time in the week that would necessitate its being handled on the Sabbath day, excepting such as must cross the seas or otherwise cover seven days to reach its destination. Many times when tempted to break over on account of the work of God, or when hundreds of dollars were at stake demanding an immediate reply, I have found that by waiting till the following Monday, God in a very special way has protected and cared for results. So much so that had I become fearful and set aside this covenant, I would have been the loser and matters of vital importance would have suffered. "He that believeth shall not make haste."
Another covenant was that of taking subscriptions for my paper or selling song books on the Lord's Day. Frequently at camp meetings and conventions, people who have lived in the country or at some distance have driven in on Sunday, and, as it was their only chance they desired to renew their subscription for my paper or buy one of my new books. I always let them know that I do no business on the Lord's Day. Rather than sell, I have frequently given away books to those who could not get them on any other day. When they have insisted on knowing the price I have declined to tell. Then they have insisted on making an offering to the work, and, as a rule, it has amounted to much more than the regular price. In this way I have kept a good conscience, avoided the appearance of evil, and never lost, but rather, profited.
It is so easy to let down little by little, until former convictions have come to be uncertain and unreal. This was the way the Salvation Army began: At first they sold the War Cry on Sunday because it did so much good. (?) This opened the floodgate, and it was not long before they were selling books and having ice cream festivals and charging admission to "Hallelujah weddings." Oh, let us "Abstain from all appearance of evil."
Another peculiar covenant was that of taking time, upon rising, to read two or more chapters in the Word and to wait to hear what God would say, before seeing any one, or reading anything, even a headline on a paper. God is jealous for our first love and first thoughts. All earthly loves and comforts should step aside that our Lord may first speak and reveal His plan for the day. "But the room may be cold or it may be impossible to get alone!" Very well, our Lover is not unreasonable; should such be the case, He hastens to tell us more in a few moments than in whole hours when we take pains to pamper the flesh. It was hard to learn this lesson. Many times, when crowded with important mail or a piece of work around home, I have, for the time being, set aside this covenant and have proven before the day was past that what I did was a failure and had to be done over.
And still another: For years I have found it safe to recognize the voice of those who were over me, as the voice of God to me. When at camp meetings or conventions, where there were three or more services daily, I have ventured on several occasions to suggest to the committee on public worship a change in the program. Though I felt sure I was aiming alone at the glory of God, I have proven time and again that in the end it was best to hold still and quietly take everything as from God. When I have thus rested in God and humbly accepted what was given me, He has often stepped in and at the last moment changed the program or made some one sick in order to let His unworthy servant deliver a burning message that a large congregation needed to hear. It is blessed to lie low and let God in His miraculous way set before us open doors that no man can shut.
Other covenants besides these have had much to do in the health and protection of us and our children. When we have obediently kept them we have felt well nigh omnipotent. We could easily claim the holding of trains and steamers over time, or hurrying them up, defy wrecks, pestilences and persecutions, compelling all, with one simple act of faith to work together for our good and His glory. It is easy to believe God for everything when we are keeping these heart-covenants, some of which are too sacred to reveal to any one.
But when we compare ourselves with others and think that after all, there is no need to be so particular and peculiar, then we are left to ourselves and much time, energy and money are wasted. "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."