By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor the west, nor from the south. But God is judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. Ps. 75:6, 7.
Doubtless the Psalmist wrote these words from experience, as well as from inspiration. How true! Today a man may tower above the greatest; tomorrow he may cower before the meanest.
As I grow older, and see the possibilities of obscurity and the uncertainty of popularity, I am inclined more than ever, to be considerate of others, especially of the poor. I feel like tipping my hat to every ragged, ignorant boy; for, later, when he has become a great speaker, I may he glad to find a seat in his audience. Or, when he sits as judge, I may need to ask of him a favor. Treat the boy considerately, for you may some day want him to treat you the same. Shortly after my conversion I attended my first camp meeting. It was all new to me. I was a total stranger to the campers and they seemed to think that mine was not a genuine case of religion, because I had not been cast in their mold. I received a few and feeble "Amens," and was left to stand around alone, without fellowship. It became so noticeable that an on-looker remonstrated with some of the brethren about it. One of the preachers "felt led" to tell me not to be so noisy during the altar services, while others treated me with cold suspicion. It was a great trial, coming as it did from holiness people and those who should have taken me in and if need be, taught me the way of the Lord more perfectly.
Right here is where good people sometimes make a great mistake, and become narrow and sectarian toward a stranger, or one who is not of their crowd. Suppose he does 'not pray or testify with our particular tone of voice! Or, grant that he does not dress so plainly as we. Will we ever help him by huddling together and treating him as though he were a leper?
I remember how I looked upon those ministers! "I would give the world," thought I, "if I could exhort and move the people like Brother P____." But since then the same man has come to me in despair, because his brethren had expelled him for crime.
Then there was another brother who could give such fine Bible readings. "Oh, if I could only be with that man and learn the scriptures!" thought I to myself. Since then, he came some distance to have us help pray him through from a backslidden state.
Another brother who was much gifted in song and, prayer, but passed me by when I hoped he would speak, has since spoken and asked me if I could give him a home in his old days.
He who hushed me up at the altar service, lost his reason and was in a pitiable condition the last we heard.
I did not dream at the time, nor did they, that there would he such changes in a few short years. Nor did I even fondly hope that the time would come (twenty-five years later) when the same awkward country boy would be invited to preach on the same camp ground, to thousands of hearers. Many seekers came to the altar, some of whom had passed by the lonely boy without noticing him. "It is a long road that has no turn."
Again: About twenty-five years ago, when we first went south, a noted evangelist felt it his duty to write me up in a large holiness paper and denounce me as a fanatic and crank from the north. Because of his prominence and power, this greatly hurt my influence. Other preachers and workers of less prominence took it up and of course many doors were closed against me. At the time, I thought it a great calamity, but now I see that God ordered it, to keep me from coming into appreciation too rapidly. A young preacher is to be pitied rather than envied, who is pitch-forked into prominence all at once. Very few can stand it. Many have been ruined by it.
It was the making of Joseph to be thrown into prison unjustly for over two years. It took this to ripen and mellow him.
During those fifteen years of misrepresentation, we were publishing a paper of our own, and could have said strong and hurtful things against those who were doing all in their power to crush and injure us, but we dared not do so, for we felt that God would stop defending us the moment we began to defend ourselves. When God saw that I was willing to be of no reputation, the tide finally began to turn; and later I was invited to conduct a series of services at Asbury College, Wilmore, Ky.
Now the president of this school, Rev. H. C. Morrison, took up his pen and endorsed through the same paper, him whom the noted evangelist had formerly denounced. But this comes after having patiently waited for fifteen years. Strange that about the time the unpopular man comes up, the prominent man should go down, to rise no more.
I have learned two lessons from this. One is that when we are misunderstood, if we answer "never a word,"
He who has the might,
Will sure defend the right.
Another is, that no man can become so powerful and secure, but that he can go down in disgrace. He may be mightily used of God, and in such great demand that he can set his own price and get more calls than he is able to fill; yet, unless he remains humble and holy, he will sooner or later go down. It is a fearful thought that there are men now in hell and others on the way, who once towered and soared on higher planes than many of us ever walked.
I well remember a test of grace which came to me at Hebron, Palestine. A company of us had driven down from Jerusalem and having gone up to Abraham's oak, we ate a lunch and prepared to see the city. Before doing so we undertook to take a picture of the pool of David. About the time I found the focus, a young Mohammedan came and deliberately held his hand before my camera. I motioned for him to step aside, but he simply gave a defiant grin. Then I moved and he waited until I was again ready, when he stepped up and did as before. I moved again, and this time had wife stand between me and the stone wall. Now when he saw that his plan was thwarted, he grabbed from the head of one of his comrades, a filthy fez (a red cap worn by the Turks) and with all his force, threw it into my wife's face.
Brother, what do you think you would have done in such an instance? I know what I would have done at one time, before I had saving grace.
Now, for this impudent Moslem to insult my wife thus, and for me to feel no anger or resentment, was surely contrary to my nature. Yea, it was nothing more or less than the mighty grace of God. Not until after this occurrence did we realize our danger. It then appeared that a band of robbers were in the rear, urging this young fellow on, to the intent that he aggravate us until we retaliate. Then they would have an excuse to resent it, with the result that we would be robbed if not murdered. Such was a frequent occurrence at this fanatical center, a man having been killed the day before we visited the place. I would advise the reader not to visit Hebron, until he is sure he is sanctified wholly.
Another test on a different line: I was engaged in a meeting in a large city, and was entertained in the pleasant home of a fine young couple. The husband left early in the morning, and was gone all day at his work. The front and back doors were kept locked, and no one could see in or enter without ringing the bell. The weather was intensely hot, and the rooms were so arranged that the only way to get air was to open the door which led from one room to another. I did not like the appearance of things, and requested the pastor to get me another place; but this was not convenient. Then I walked the streets in order to avoid coming in close contact with the only one in the home. Finally, I became desperate, and resolved to fight it out on my knees. I told God that I was not responsible for present conditions; that I would change them if I could, but since I could not, therefore, I demanded in Jesus' name, complete victory over every evil suggestion that was placed in my pathway. The result was that God let down so much of His presence that the atmosphere of the home became marvelously changed. Up to this time a fleshly, sensual spirit seemed to predominate. But now God's presence was in the ascendancy and the place became peculiarly sacred.
We become responsible, if we allow our minds and imaginations to wander in the least; we become responsible if we let evil suggestions get too near and hang around us, unchallenged.
Doubtless this is where most men begin to go down. They do not resolutely resist the first approach of temptation. It is worth the effort, to be able to feel that one has left a home or community as pure as he found it.
I have known men who were such slaves to lust that they closed a good meeting too soon, and went out of their way many miles to reach home, if but for a day. God help us! Such men ought to stop preaching holiness until they can get victory themselves.
Still another test: I was invited to assist in a couple of camp meetings of another organization. The bills were struck and full preparation was made to take the long journey. But when the District Elder of that particular section heard of it, he wrote a "protest," signed by several of his preachers, against my coming. I replied that I was loyal to our church, even if I did accept an invitation to assist in a camp outside her pale; and, to prove my loyalty, I would be glad to divide the time and assist our own people in any meetings, for which they might arrange. But another letter came, saying, "We decline to accept your services."
Here, again, it was nice to be sanctified wholly. At one time I would have written this good, but sectarian brother that I was going just the same; and please to let me know when God had made him vicegerent of that part of the earth. But this would be no way to prove perfect love; it would rather prove carnal pride. God wants to save us so deeply that when another manifests bigotry, we will be magnanimous enough to show a better spirit. As a rule, one will gain a greater and more lasting victory by making concessions and giving in, than by manifesting an independent air, under pretense of being led of the Lord. Oh, that we would always remember to practice this.
Well, how did it turn out? After prayer and consultation I felt clear at the last moment to abandon the trip. I realized that the Elder had fight in him, and he would simply hurt his own soul as well as any meetings I might hold within the bounds of his district. I did not have to wait long until I received an invitation from another Elder in an adjoining conference, and the result was that we had more calls and to larger places, than would have been the case had we insisted on carrying out the first plan.
A sanctified experience is an enigma to carnal men. We triumph over them by letting them trample upon us; we get our way by giving up our way; we shine the brighter by giving up our own wit and brilliancy; we run the faster, by going slowly with God; we are appreciated the more for being willing to be set at naught. Oh, the beauty of going out of ourselves and being swallowed up in God. When we commit all to him, he commits much more to us. Reader, have you ever learned these secrets? Theory and head knowledge will not do. The only way is to get a heart experience.