By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Long Hand-shakes -- Avoiding "Sticky" People -- Dealing With Inordinate Affection.
It is not always wise to pray with those of the opposite sex when they desire it. Why such a statement? Would it not be wicked to refuse? That depends! There is a difference between praying with and praying for an individual. He who gives himself up to soul-saving must study, not only to show himself "approved unto God," but, likewise, must study the peculiarities of human nature. It is the disposition of some souls to cover up and evade facts; they prefer to do their seeking alone, and thus profess as quickly and easily as possible. Such cases generally have a hard siege of it and sometimes, in order to more thoroughly crucify their pride, the Spirit will lead them to seek in public, or at least with a confidential friend.
But we have in mind another class, whose disposition is to lean upon others for help rather than upon God. Such a soul thinks "If I could only go to a certain place, or had a certain saint pray with me, I believe I would get a great victory." This is simply a subtle form of unbelief that depends upon the human more than upon the divine. This class would receive more lasting help, as a rule, in fighting the battle out alone with God. If they only knew it, they would develop more strength of character by taking time and learning the lesson first handed, than by seeking comfort even from the holiest man. Saintly as he may be, he cannot impart lasting consolation only as he gets it from heaven, and every other soul has the same privilege of hearing from the skies, as he. It remains then for the soul-winner to always sense the situation and at one time seek an opportunity to talk or pray with a struggling soul, then at another time, throw him off on God as one would a boy into the water; not to frighten, but as a last resort, to teach him to swim, which knowledge may in after years be the means of saving his life.
This thought is more applicable to those of the opposite sex. More than one holy man has made shipwreck because of undue intimacy with women. The writer has had some experience in associating with women of strong, winsome personality, but thanks be to God's grace, that thus far He has kept him clear and clean in word, thought and deed.
I well remember the time I incurred the displeasure and public censure of a lady evangelist, because my hand was not permitted to be held at the close of a conversation and hand-shake. Though preaching holiness, she admitted that there was one thing about her experience that she could not fully reconcile, -- a longing to love and be loved and a mania to read and write love-letters.
At another camp meeting the writer conducted a service, after which a young lady evangelist arose and said she was convinced under the searching light, that she did not have the experience of entire holiness. Then she came to the altar alone and requested that I come forward and pray for her. The other preachers looked on to see the outcome. I saw at a glance that to do so would simply make myself prominent, and have a tendency to arouse jealousy on the part of other preachers. Moreover, I saw that the seeker felt too important and was not sufficiently sick to die, so I quietly knelt down out of sight behind the seat where I was sitting. Presently one came and said, "Did you not hear her say she desired you to come and pray for her?"
I replied, "Yes, but to avoid being conspicuous, I think it better to remain here in silent prayer." The result was good, for it helped to crucify self in the seeker, set well upon the preachers, and caused my own heart to feel sweet and humble, without a reaction.
At another camp meeting a young woman thought no one could help her except the writer. Every time she came to the altar she knelt right in front of where he stood. Of course he always walked away and prayed with some one else. She finally got mad, then went to seeking God in earnest. We fear that many times preachers allow souls to get converted to them instead of the Lord. When those of the opposite sex are continually sticking to you, as a rule, it is because there is a sticky principle within you that loves and allows it.
Brethren, we cannot be too careful! Wesley said, "Converse sparingly with women; particularly young women." I know I am misrepresented by many of our brethren on the subject of purity. But I prefer to be on the safe side. I would rather be criticized than fall into disgrace. I am sorry for some of our critics and their children who have not turned out well. I am more and more convinced that no man goes wrong when away from home, who has had power over himself while at home. Bishop Hogue well said, "Many have prepared the way for their ultimate downfall by incontinence in the marriage relation."
I will relate another incident that was a lifelong lesson to me and I trust may be to the reader also. A gifted sister of a strong personality came to our home. Her gifts and knowledge of things soon brought her into high esteem and frequent counsels as to the best methods for enlarging the work. But it soon became apparent that she was being pushed forward faster than was good for her experience. A sudden reverse revealed an ugly disposition. Then came a temporary seeking and strained humility that dared not be investigated too closely lest it explode. Finally the Spirit would have me speak kindly but firmly thus: "Sister ____, there is something about you that I consider treacherous and deadly in its character. At one time it is as though it would rise up, antagonize and overpower me were it not firmly withstood. At another time it assumes such a pliable and pleasing attitude as to compel admiration. In short, sometimes when duty compels me to step to your room for a moment (she was my stenographer), I feel like screaming out, 'Snakes in this room knee deep!'"
At this she boiled over and poured out all kinds of epithets upon me, but the Spirit permitted it all, to uncover the unclean thing and bring about a thorough cure. Heart-rending confessions were prayed out, of how more than one good man had been brought under her power and in spirit made either to suffer or submit. The result of this faithful dealing was, she prayed through to a rich experience and afterwards thanked God many times that she had been permitted to associate with those who dared to withstand her.