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Conviction -- Conversion and Call to the Ministry

By Martin Knapp


            A member of the Romish Church, but not converted. Such was the experience of Mr. Weberduring all the days of his childhood and youth. When conscience would speak to alarm him, Satanwould give the cradle of Catholicism, in which he had been placed, a nudge, and soon he would befast asleep again.

            Were such scenes confined only to the Roman Church, it would be a sad enough picture;but it is a startling fact that the churches of Protestantism are likewise replete with such members.As Mr. Moody says, "Many are as ignorant of spirituality as Nicodemus was of the new birth."The writer a few months since asked Mr. Weber, in the light of all of his experience as anevangelist, the proportion of people in the churches of Protestantism that in his judgment are reallyconverted. He answered, "If I should say but one in four, I would not be putting it strongly."

            In the spiritual tornadoes that are sweeping over the land, thank God thousands of these arebeing convicted, and we trust converted. Otherwise they remain drones in the gospel hive, thathinder, instead of help, -- worms in the gospel tree that sap its very life.

            Reader, are you, as he was then, a church member but still unsaved? If so, may you, too, beled to see your error and danger and seek the grace that giveth life.

            The chief agent as in all other cases -- that led to Joseph's conviction, was the Holy Ghost.He used, among other things, especially his mother's warning. When he was about nineteen yearsof age his relish for wickedness was such that "his mother became alarmed and threatened to sendhim to the Reform School" if he joined a show company. This was the first thing that seemed in anyway to have checked him as he was plunging madly down the abyss of dissipation and of doom.This evidently "set him to thinking" about his real condition and prospects of the future.

            The Roman Catholic Church holds clearly the atonement through Jesus, and the reality offuture reward and punishment; also a hell just as awful as Christ has pictured it.

            These truths had been vividly put before him by the teachings of the priest and as illustratedby the many impressive paintings that adorned the walls of the Roman cathedral.

            Protestantism, while she shuns her errors, might learn much from Rome in her perseveranceand success in impressing the minds of the young. The spirit of God new uses the truths which theboy's mind has "been like wax to receive and like marble to retain," though loth to practice, and hebegins to feel that he is "guilty, helpless, lost, undone," and that he has a hell to shun and anoffended God with whom he must make his peace at once. The life boat of Salvation was awaitinghim, but Satan drew his eyes from that to another craft called Reformation, and he said, "I'll enterthat, I'll reform and live a better life."

            He vowed not to drink any more beer, and told his companions that he would give themfive dollars if they caught him drinking it any more. He kept this vow, but continued to drinkwhiskey until the following March, when he became a total abstainer.

            His associates plied all their arts to prevail upon him to give up these "new notions," butthey might as well have pleaded with a whirlwind.

            For four years he had been working with an ice company at Hamilton, Ohio, but May 6,1874, he was apprenticed to Peter Hecks to learn the trade of carriage trimming. After workinghere for about half a year, while visiting the Cincinnati exposition, he saw an advertisement in thepaper for one who had experience in carriage trimming, responded and secured the place. Whenhis mother was first informed of this change she said, "You will surely be lost." Up to this time hehad made his home with his parents, and his affectionate nature had twined around the parentalhousehold like the ivy around the oak.

            No one knows the worth of a home, be it ever so humble, until he is called upon to leave it.Then some tendrils will break and bleed. The Holy Spirit used this occasion to touch the youngman's heart for good as it had never been touched before. Under this strange, sweet, and to himmelting influence, "as he was passing from the parental roof, his heart was touched with theparting. His better nature gained the supremacy. When almost out of view of his home and lovedones, he lifted his eyes toward heaven, and asked God to make him a better boy. That simpleprayer was answered. From this time we find him different. God moves in a mysterious way. Whatseemed to his mother the ruin of her boy was his making. His old associates, especially those ofthe later day who had so much influence over him for evil, were now separated from him. It is true,the distance was not great, but the dire influence of constant evil companionship was broken, andan opportunity for better influences to operate was given."

            If it be true that

      "Satan trembles when he sees
      The weakest saint upon his knees,"
      then he doubtless began to tremble now lest this captive shouldescape.

            Has he not used all that Satanic power can suggest to bind him fast? Can it be possible thathis blindfolded prisoner is to pierce the thick pall of ignorance, vice and superstition, and evennow behold that light that will turn the darkest night of sin into a day that knows no ending? SoSatan soliloquizes. In the blackness, from the lips of the youth there wings a simple prayer to theears of Him who ever listens to the faintest sigh of penitence, and has said, "Ask and ye shallreceive." An answer comes, though not the one he expected, nor in the way he looked for. He is notpardoned yet, but he will be, cost what it may.

      "Oh, where can rest be found,
      Rest for the weary soul?"

            He will seek it through the ordinances of the church of his fathers. Is not that the truechurch? So by the ladder of good deeds and devotions he will climb up into the peace and divinefavor that is beginning to seem worth more to him than all else besides. So "he attended theCatholic Church faithfully in all kinds of weather. He would kneel upon the stone floor of thechurch and try to pray, but it seemed that he could not pray. The more he tried the worse he felt. Norelief came to him, yet he would be faithful. He fought his appetites and passions the best he couldwith the light he possessed and the aid he could command. Thus he spent weary months seekinglight, but there was no one to guide him aright. He had turned his face from the evil. He must winor die in the effort." How many like him must learn, as preached by Paul and learned by Luther asGod fitted him for his life's great work, that "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,"and that the "just shall live by faith."

            Painfully was the lesson learned that

      "Nor bleeding bird, nor bleeding beast,
      Nor hyssop branch, nor sprinkling priest,
      Nor running brook, nor flood, nor sea,

      Can wash the dismal stain away."

            His condition becomes desperate. Like Pharaoh, when Israel determined to fly for freedom,Satan marched down upon him with charging hosts of doubts and fears and strong temptations.

            He worked early and late, and was soon rewarded by being made foreman, and beingindustrious he began to work in another shop at night. It was difficult to break from oldcompanions, but now he saw that they were hindering him, and they must go.

            God loved him too well to let him alone until he was saved and safe.

            The Spirit continued to enlighten him and to strive with him. One morning he arose morerestless and uneasy than usual. All of his old amusements had lost their charms. His soul washungry for something that would satisfy. He had sought in Rome's way -- in his own way, but stillhad found it not.

            Unprepared for life, for death, for judgment and for eternity! what could he do? "His oldassociations crowded upon his mind, but were repelled. In this anxiety and temptation hewandered from place to place, but nowhere could he dissipate his heart's forebodings. Hewandered across the 'Rhine,' into a variety theater, seeking rest, but finding none. In these placeshe did not yield to temptation. He had not the least idea that they were unfit for a seeker ofreligions peace. He was educated to believe that these places were no worse than those oflegitimate amusements, and that the Christian could enjoy the musical treat without any danger ofsinning, or of injury to himself. He was uneasy, but had no idea of its cause or nature. He did notattribute it to the Spirit of God, but that Spirit was leading him in a way he knew not. After hoursspent in this fruitless effort to find peace, he was attracted by a crowd of people listening to aBaptist missionary preaching on the site of the Exposition building under the archway crossing tothe Art Gallery in Washington Park. The name of this minister was Rev. Joseph Emery. It wasmere curiosity that led him to hear this man talk, for he was not aware that he was preaching theGospel, or he probably would not have gone to hear the heretic. His preaching had no apparenteffect upon him, but when the crowd began to sing lustily,

      'Almost persuaded now to believe
      Almost persuaded Christ to receive,'

      he became more attentive. His soul responded to the song, and when the
      last lines of the last stanza were being sung, --

      "'Almost' cannot avail;
      'Almost' is but to fail
      Sad, sad, that bitter wail --
      'Almost' -- but lost!'

      his soul was peculiarly touched, and looking toward heaven he said vehemently within himself, 'IWILL NOT BE LOST; I WILL BE SAVED.' In the quickness of thought the burden was rolledaway in this decision for heaven. His heart was made light and happy. He felt that he could fly.

      What a change! and how suddenly it came upon him! He had never been taught in the way of life,and did not realize what the change was, but he knew he was happy."

            Thus was Satan defeated, his chains broken, and the soul of Joseph set at liberty.

            Christ did more for him "in the quickness of thought," than Roman rites in a life-time. Fromthis day, Aug. 14, 1874, he dates his conversion. Henceforth, he will be known as the "ConvertedCatholic."

            Among all of his wicked associates he is the only one that today is saved. Let that beremembered, lest some reader say, "Like Weber, I'll quaff the pleasures of sin's cup, and after thatwill make 'my peace with God."

            Unlike many who resist the truth, "as soon as the way of salvation was made plain to him,he walked in it." His conversion was as marvelous as Daniel's deliverance from the den of lions,or the Hebrew children's from the fiery furnace.

            His deliverance was from the jaws of the lions of habits and passions, which already werecrushing his soul; from the fires of sins that nothing in the universe, except the blood of Jesus,could ever quench. For this deliverance let every reader give "glory to God in the highest!" Whatthis new experience was, in his spiritual darkness he hardly understood, but was conscious of thelong-sought, great and blessed change.

            Having enlisted under his new Commander, with all the energy he had shown in the serviceof sin, he now begins to work with Him.

            Not like some foolish persons who wait for "some great thing" did he tarry, but seized thefirst opportunities to do good. The Young Men's Christian Association, the Sunday School, and,above all, the Methodist classmeeting, were places that he loved.

            No man need be anxious about something to do for the Master after he has settled thequestion that he will cheerfully do anything that He may bid. Of all such "it is written," "I have setbefore thee an open door, and no man can shut it."

            Mr. Weber proved the truth of this. The work first given him was such as was fitted to hisundeveloped capacities.

            God did not send Moses upon his great life-work until he had been disciplined by years ofpreparatory training. The same was true of the apostles, of Luther, Wesley, Moody, and all of thosewho have been greatly honored in God's work. Mr. Weber was glad to belong to this class, andready for any discipline.

            Now we come to his first public religions work. What was it? Teaching a set of rude, wild,street Arabs from the slums of Cincinnati. He did not feel "qualified," but was too loyal to aKingly voice, -- whose whispers now he loved to heed -- to say "no," and so with Bible andJournal he began his work. At first, of course, he made blunders. Who does not? Is not failure thefirst letter in the alphabet of success?

            There was one thing he could do one thing of greatest moment, one thing of more value thanthe recital of the most elaborate, Scriptural disquisitions, or systematic, analytical explanations ofthe lesson; and that was the giving of his own, living, personal experience of the practical truths init.

            He was now in possession of something that for soul-saving work was of more value thanarchangel eloquence, "all knowledge," and all "gifts," as valuable as these may be, and this talentof a genuine Christian experience, he would use as God might lead. God set His seal early uponthe labors of the young worker, and many who belonged to his class were converted.

            Brother Weber and his early co-workers were evidently and fortunately free from that falserefinement and spurious idea of religions dignity which would confine gospel-meetings betweenchurch walls, and abandon God's great temple with "curtains of azure and dome of blue" to thecircus, medicine vender, political pedagogue, and the Salvation Army. Therefore, at their Master'scommand, after the Sunday School is over, they hasten to the "highways" and in the market places,and at their singing a crowd collects, and they unfold to them that gospel, which, like the sunshineand the free air of heaven, is at home in all places, and is for rich and poor alike. Though, likeJesus and the Wesleys in their outdoor work, they sometimes met with hisses and opposition, yetthey continued it, and much good was done.

            The influence and counsels of Mr. Thompson, the superintendent of the Elm Street SundaySchool, were heaven-sent inspirations to him in this stage of his experience. Best of all, Jesus washis companion, the Word his instructor, and the Holy Spirit his guide.

            The next great question that he had to settle was, "Where shall I make my church home ?"

            His quick perceptive powers saw clearly, to remain out on the "devils commons," withchurch membership nowhere, would be a perilous course. And then he had too much honor to tryand "tramp it" without taking a regular church train.

            As cattle turned loose the road browse through the fences a wisp of clover here and somewheat there and some timothy from another owner, so some people try to eke out a spiritualexistence by what they in a like manner can browse from different churches, and sometimes theyjustify themselves in such a course by saying, "We don't want to be tied up to any one church; wewant to be free."

            The embryo evangelist with a divine instinct preferred the freedom of the "pasture" to thatof the "roadside," and united with the St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church, Cincinnati, Ohio,November 1, 1875, on probation, and came into full membership April 9, 1876.

            Now Satan was more enraged than ever, and he so influenced Mr. Weber's employer, thathe discharged him because he had turned Protestant. Trusting, praying, often severely tried, yetlearning new lessons, nearly a year passed away, and now we come to the next great event in hislife,

      HIS CALL TO PREACH THE GOSPEL

            He had been feeling ever since his conversion that he was called to preach the Gospel ofJesus, but he pleaded ignorance and the want of means to acquire an education as the excuse for hisrefusal. Amid all these discouragements, in debt for his board, with no work available, he kneltdown in his room, alone with God. This was February 2, 1877. He had been raised as a Catholic,to believe in signs and wonders. While thus alone with his heavenly Father he poured out his soulunto God in this plaintive strain, 'Now, dear Father, I am not satisfied with thy Spirit saying, "Youmust preach;" I want something I can see and feel with my hands.' It seemed to him that the Lordreplied, 'Well, my child, what shall I place before you?' He answered, A piece of money, Lord, inthe space of one week." This hour of secret pleading and covenant was not forgotten. It wasalways before his mind. Ofttimes he would see a shining object before him, when he wouldapproach it expectantly, only to find it a piece of tin or glass shining in the sunlight. His heartwould then be sad, and misgivings would come to him. He felt that if God wanted him to preach hewould give him the sign in the form of a piece of money. At times he would take the lamp at nightto look around the room, or feel on the bed, searching every nook and corner, expecting the signand evidence of his call to the ministry.

            "The week was rapidly passing away. He went to his aunt's, who was living in Corryville,a suburb of Cincinnati, on Monday, February 5th. This aunt had become highly incensed onlearning that he was out on the street preaching and had turned Protestant. She had sent for him on aprevious occasion, and told him that he was crazy, and would go where all the crazy Methodistsgo, to the lunatic asylum, and that she did not want anything more to do with him, nor to see himafterward. After this interview he prayed for her, as he always did for all who persecuted him. Shebecame reconciled to him, especially when she saw the power of the new religion over his life, sothat she was prepared to welcome and encourage him in this trying hour. He opened his heart to hisreconciled aunt, told her of all his trials, misgivings, his financial difficulties, etc. Her heart wastouched. She invited him to remain with her until he could find a job. He accepted the invitation.On the following Wednesday, Feb., 1887, he attended service at the Mt. Auburn MethodistEpiscopal Church, where they had been holding a revival, and were now receiving the convertsinto probationary membership. This seems to have been a very excellent meeting. His soul wasaglow with peace and joy.

            "At the conclusion of the meeting he was talking with a young man who had beenconverted, telling him of his own experience and abiding hope in the Lord Jesus. While he wasthus administering comfort and consolation to this new convert, he saw something sparkling on thefloor, about twenty feet away. Then the vision dawned upon him: Here is the piece of money, thesign of his call to the ministry of the blessed Saviour. Ecstasy filled his soul; joy thrilled everychord of his heart; gladness reigned supreme. Turning his face toward heaven, his soul in itsfullness exclaimed, 'Lord, I will go.' He picked up the shining objects, which proved to be twopennies, new from the mint. He gave them to the pastor, William W. Case. He had asked for apiece of money. God gave him two, -- the emblem of a double call, to the ministry and toevangelism. They were but pennies, the smallest pieces of money, in token that the kingdom ofChrist does not consist of the riches of this world. They were new, bright pennies, displaying theglory of the mission of an ambassador of the Lord Jesus." On his way home the stars seemed todance in participating joy; all nature was gorgeously arrayed in gladness to his happy soul. Whenhe arrived at his aunt's, be told her about his prayer, the sign, and the answer. She said, "You oughtto accept it." He replied, "I will." Then and there the question of his life work was settled. Thusstep by step he was led by God into the great harvest field of soul-saving work. More and more hefelt, the love of Christ doth me constrain, To seek the wandering souls of men; With cries,entreaties, tears, to save, to snatch them from the gaping grave."

            In his call to the ministry we are struck with the young man's caution and his honesty. Inview of the great responsibility, like all whom God calls to this great work, he at first recoils fromthe call. He must know it to be of God before he can accept and act on it. How can he know? Hehad not been instructed, as we are clearly taught, that if such an impression is of God it will befollowed, --

            1. By gifts for the work.

            2. By the call of the church.

            3. By open doors for work, or preparation for it.

            As he was ignorant of these tests, and must have one that would put doubt to flight, God methim in the way described and gave the craved assurance.

            Like Mr. Moody, he received little or no encouragement from his pastor; but assured nowthat his call was of God, instead of sinking in the Slough of Despond, he mounts to the summit offixed Purpose, and plans for the needed preparation. He is wise enough to know that, if he wouldteach others, he must himself first be taught; that if he would preach to others, he must possess theGospel to be proclaimed; that if the Apostles must be with Jesus himself as pupils for three years,and then graduate with a special Pentecostal finishing course in the upper chamber, that he must,like them, seek the needed preparation of both head and heart in order to win success. Providencepointed him to the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, Ohio, and here he determined to go.

            He was now without employment and without money. Persons with less pluck would havefolded their hands and said "Impossible." Not so with him. He prayed and planned and sought themeans, and his efforts were blessed of God.

            At this point young men who are called to the ministry are usually met by several enemiessent by Satan, clad in robes of light, to prevent their thorough preparation for the work of life. Thename of the first is Gain. He says, "Follow me, and I will make you a millionaire." Many look atthe luxuries that Gain will give, and allured, turn aside. The next is Political Renown. He says,"Follow me, and I will give you political position and the applause of men." Many have listened tohim, and too late have seen their folly and lamented it. The next is Matrimony. She whispers, "Layyour books aside and heed my counsels, and I will give you a beautiful home, redolent with theperfumes that are wafted from fadeless flowers, thrilled by entrancing music and adorned bypaintings, such as only Love can paint." Thus with honeyed words she often charms her victim andhe often yields, only in later life to become the victim of deep regret.

            If a youth remains unswayed under all of the seductive wiles of these subtle tempters, thena fourth, more dangerous than them all, appears to make a final effort. His name is "Zeal WithoutKnowledge." He looks pious, talks pious, and sometimes is pious, but in infancy his brain wasimpaired and he never recovered; hence he is a perilous advisor. He says "See, thousands of soulsare being lost while you are tarrying at this preparatory work; if you love them, leave it and hastento their rescue." He ignores the fact that while persons are engaged in preparatory work they canbe winning souls, and that to go out unduly prepared is to be like a farmer who is in such a hurry tosave his ripened grain that he has not time to grind his blunted sickle knives. This enemy, strangeas it may seem, deceives some whom all the others are unable to ensnare.

            To the sophistries of all of these deceptive voices, Mr. Weber turned a deaf ear. WhenPoverty arose and said, "I positively prohibit you from putting your plans for needed preparationinto practice," he laughed Poverty in the face, and fell upon his knees, pleading the interposition ofDivine help.

            The next morning he said to his aunt, "I am going to get a job today." She asked where hewould get it. He replied, "I don't know; but God has given me the evidence, and he will give me ajob." Her only reply was, "You are a peculiar fellow." His prayer was answered. Work and goodwages were given, and Oct. 3d, 1877, he started for the university with a thankful heart, gladhopes, and $225 in cash.

            If such a young man as this lives, and proves as persistent and wise in seeking and retainingthe education that is found in the "Pentecostal upper chamber" as the head culture that is alsoessential, the time will come when his prayers will make thrones tremble and kingdoms crumble.Some with clear spiritual perceptions will begin to see that a cyclone center is forming, which,nursed in the tropic zone of spiritual and mental light and fire, will ere long sweep through theregions of drought and death with a fury that is born from above.

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