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Autobiography: Conflict and Deliverance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   



I AWOKE in the morning, shrouded in a gloom as thick and dark, and agitated with as tempestuous storms as can possibly be conceived. I had lost sight of every promise, and all the assurances that I had enjoyed were all turned against me. I believed that God had brought me there, and that it was His power and grace that was so divinely displayed in the reviving of the church and the gathering in of His people, but I felt that I was only as a rod in the Father’s hand, to be used for the benefit of His children, and as the rod was not a child, so when the Father has used it enough for the good of His children, He throws it from His hand. I thought I was that rod and not a child, and the comparison was constantly before me, yea, standing between me and every promise and former assurance. I thought the Lord was now done with the rod, which I believed was myself, and had given me this signal that He would use me no longer. I had often doubted my call to the ministry, and the vital interest of myself in the Saviour; but never before had both been presented and sustained with such an array of argument.

I went to my work, but found that I could do nothing. I would find myself standing still, my eyes on the ground looking at the image of myself, as a rod in the hand of the Lord about to be cast away. I could not think of my work enough to keep at it. I resolved that I would never again attempt to preach. I went to the house to tell my wife the state of my mind and the resolution I had made. When I arrived at the house she was engaged at her washing. I stood by her for some time without speaking, and, turning to walk away, the tears bursted from my eyes and my laboring heart gave vent to its pent-up sobs which choaked my utterance. My wife left her washing, and clasping her arms around my neck, begged me to tell her the cause of my strange agitation; but I could not speak to answer her inquiries. When I had recovered the control of myself, I told her all my feelings, and that I had resolved never to preach again. She labored to comfort and encourage me, but it was all in vain. At her request I went into the house and got my pen and sat down and wrote a poem of eighteen verses, descriptive of my condition and the oppressed state of my spirits. I have lost this poem, and as I cannot remember it, will have to omit it here. I then proposed to my wife to take her sewing, as she had now finished her washing, and go with me to my clearing. She consented and went with me. She sat down on a log to sew, while I began to fell a small tree. I had chopped but little until suddenly these Words came to my mind: “Be not faithless but believing.” I dropped my ax, and stood silently pondering over the connection of that passage. I remembered that these were the words of the risen Jesus to the unbelieving Thomas, but the chain of the account I could not remember. I said to my wife: “Come, let us return to the house.”

As soon as we arrived I got the Book and found the place, and examined the narrative, and thought I saw pretty clearly that this Thomas was a nominal disciple and not a true Christian. The thought that led me to this conclusion was what I found in the connection of the text. I saw that Thomas was not with the other disciples at the first appearing of Christ after His resurrection, and that he was not of those to whom it was said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”; hence I concluded that Christ knew that Thomas believed only from the testimony of his natural sight and feeling. For he had said: “Except I shall see in His hands the prints of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” On the next appearance of Christ, eight days after the first, Thomas was present and Christ invited him to have all the tests and natural evidences he asked for, and then informed him that there was no blessing to any man who believed from the testimony of the natural senses. But this was all the faith which Thomas had; therefore it was no blessing to him. The text reads: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.” No blessing for Thomas; he had seen with his natural eyes, and had by this natural, external demonstration, believed. There was no blessing for such natural faith, but only to those who had believed without seeing. I thought Thomas was only an external disciple, and I of the same sort of a believer, and therefore the same words were applied to me. This view of the matter not only destroyed all the comfort that the words had first brought to my mind, but it seemed to confirm my evidences that I was not a true disciple, or Christian, but was only an outward one upon external testimony, and was used only as a rod to correct the people of God. I can never describe the awful sensations that weighed down my spirits, and oppressed my disconsolate heart. No one could have made me believe at that time that I should ever preach again, or even attempt it, or think that I was any more than a nominal professor.

I mentioned this to my wife, but she argued that Thomas was a true disciple, and that the application of the words to me should give me comfort; yet I could not understand it so. I went to the field of a brother who was plowing, and took my Bible with me. I told him the state of my mind, and read the text, remarking that from the narrative I had found that Thomas, like myself, was only a believer from external manifestations made to the natural organs of sense. I read the account to him. He then labored to correct my views and to comfort me, but in vain. I viewed all attempts to comfort me, or to apply one of the promises to my case, as “daubing with untempered mortar”. I left the field and spent the day in the most awful gloom and despondence.

In the evening a message came to me with a request that my wife and I should come over to the house of the brother whom I had been to see in the field. The messenger said that old Brother Bull and wife were there to spend the evening, and wished us to come. I was impressed at once that the brother I had seen in the field had sent for old Brother Bull to come and console me. I objected to go, assigning as a reason that I did not wish to hurt any one’s feelings, nor did I wish to be plastered with “untempered mortar”. My case, I thought, was beyond their reach, and I must bear it alone, for none could help. I was only a rod, and no man could ever make anything else out of me. My wife insisted that I should go, and said: “If they can do you no good they will do you no harm.” I finally agreed to go, to gratify her.

When we had gone into the house, and the common salutations were over, the old brother began to talk to me. Said he: “The evidences of your call to the gospel ministry are sufficient to dispel every doubt and silence every fear. The Scriptures tell us that if any go into that work whom the Lord has not sent they shall not profit the Lord’s people. Your preaching, we do know, has been profitable to the church, and I do believe that the Lord has a people here that are greatly profited by your ministry. There is a young man in our neighborhood who was so powerfully arrested last Sunday that he has neither eaten nor slept since; and I have heard of several others in much the same condition. And my errand here, in part at least, is to get you to make an appointment at my house for tomorrow night, and I will circulate it.” Thus he went on talking for some time, without making the slightest allusion to any of my exercises or the state of my mind, but continued to talk of the wonderful displays of the Divine power and grace, so signally manifested in the church and vicinity—how the lambs and sheep were fed and comforted, and especially of the grace that was displayed on the previous Sunday. He, at length, paused and asked me if I would agree to fill the appointment.

I knew that he had been told about my condition of mind, and I had resolved not to say anything about it; but now I changed my mind, and answered that I had made the last appointment I ever expected to make while I lived; that I saw myself to be a rod in the hands of God, and He had used me as he did Cyrus, Belshazzar, Judas, Pharaoh, and many others, for the good of His people, in various ways. After He was done with them, for the fulfilling of His purpose, He threw them away, just as the scaffolding about a building is useful in its construction, but when the object of the builder is accomplished, it is then thrown away as of no further use; it is not of the building. So a rod is often necessary for the good of the children, but when it has been used by the father sufficiently it is thrown away as useless. Now, I view myself as this rod, and God, the Father of the family, has used me in this way; but He is now done with me, and is dropping me out of His hand. This I think I can clearly see, and am, therefore, done preaching; but I do feel glad that the family are in a prosperous condition.

They all labored long and hard to remove my views, but to no purpose; the image of the rod was so depicted before me that I could not view myself in any other light. He finally asked me if I would attend the meeting at his house the next evening, if he made the appointment. I told him that if he made an appointment for me to preach I certainly should not attend it; “but,” said I, “we have a Brother Edwards, who reaches sometimes and exhorts frequently; if he will agree to fill the appointment, and you make it for him, I will go. I am always willing to attend meeting, but I never expect to make another attempt to preach; I feel fully convinced that I have no more of that to do.”

The meeting was appointed, and I reached the place about sunset. When I came near the house I heard many voices singing, and when I went into the yard I saw little groups of persons here and there. Some were young converts, telling what the Lord had done for them; some poor disconsolate mourners were sitting on the ground with tears in their eyes, with heavy hearts, and downcast spirits, while some of the members were pointing them to “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world,” and to the promises He has given. These things had always given me great delight, and even now I was glad to see it; for I had no doubt but that the Lord was gathering in and comforting His people. But I was not one of them, and felt like I was entirely alone, and no company for any one. I stood for a minute or two, looking around, but could only feel my disconsolate condition. I entered the house, which was pretty well filled. The voices of praise were sounding sweetly, but I dared not join with them. I pressed through to the farthest corner of the room, and there I sat down, like a poor, lonely, disconsolate stranger. Here I sat, condoling my unhappy state, until the time for preaching had come. The people crowded into the house, and Bro. Edwards stood by the door opposite to me, at the farther end of the house. An old Universalist preacher, whose name was Boyd (whose head was white with age, and who had a long white beard on his face, and who would get drunk as often as he could get spirits to swallow), came pushing his way across the house, and sat down by my side. I took this to be providential, as I thought him to be the most like me, with the exception that I had always preached the truth, though it was like Balaam, and I had never been a drunkard.

My mind found many particulars in which we agreed; yet I did not love or approve my companion, but from my heart I pitied him; indeed, my mind became much impressed with a deep sympathy for him, and all other deluded and false teachers; and, for a time, I almost forgot myself in the deep concern I felt for others who were preaching, when they were neither converted nor called to preach the gospel. Finally, my mind again returned to my own case, and again the great weight began to come upon me, when, suddenly, the text: “Be not faithless but believing,” again rushed into my mind, but with a new light and power. Every doubt that had heretofore oppressed me was gone. I had no more doubts about Thomas, and I felt a full assurance that I was a Christian also, and that I was called of God to preach His gospel. I felt that I could no longer be faithless. With these assurances the promises began to flow upon my mind, and I felt that I had nothing to do with my future state, nor should I dispute with the Lord about what was going to become of me after death, nor in what way He chose to use me here in this world. My business was all here now, and I should be actively engaged, and earnestly inquiring what He would have me to do, not troubling myself about the whys and wherefores, only to be sure the Lord required me to do it, and that was enough for me to know. The Judge of all the earth will do right, there is no unrighteousness with God, who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” I had been often disputing with Him about my little hope and little gifts; all those things now looked to me to be wrong. These things belonged to God, and He would do all things right. I thought then I should never again find fault with any of His ways. This was unspeakable comfort to me. I then felt as if the Lord had said to me: “Go thou and preach the gospel.”

I believe I never had a better evidence of my call to preach the gospel than at that time. Brother Edwards was still speaking, and I could scarcely hold my peace until he had finished.

My mind was so engaged with these heavenly contemplations, that I have no knowledge of what Bro. Edwards said, or the subject of his discourse. My text under consideration was: “Be not faithless but believing.” I clearly saw my error in the application of these words to Thomas, and also to myself. The unbelief of Thomas was neither respecting his own personal interest in Christ nor his call to the ministry, but in regard to the resurrection of the identical body of Christ. When the other disciples had told him that they had literally seen Him alive, in the same body as before His crucifixion, he was faithless; he could not believe that the body whose hands were nailed to the cross, and whose side was pierced with the spear, and then laid in Joseph’s tomb was raised from the dead in the same identical form. He thought the other disciples had not scrutinized Him closely; and he resolved not to believe unless he could see and feel that it was so.

The Saviour well knew that men would rise up in after-times, denying the resurrection of the body, and teaching that it was in some other body that the dead would arise; so He withheld this faith from Thomas in order to lead to a full and thorough demonstration of the identity of His body by the most conclusive testimony; and to leave upon record an evidence to fortify the faith of God’s people in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. It is the body that dies, and if that same body does not rise, then there is no resurrection of the dead. This being a very important doctrine, it was necessary to establish it by the strongest and most unquestionable evidence. The incredulity of Thomas led to just such an investigation of the matter as would forever silence every reasonable objection. When the Saviour said to Thomas: “Reach hither thy finger and put it in my side, and thrust thy hand into my side, and be not faithless but believing,” Thomas doubted no more, but in language of confirmed faith cried out: “My Lord and my God.” Then Jesus said: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me”—that is, closely examined the evidences of the identity of my body—”and believed” that this is, indeed, the very same that was nailed to the cross, so those who, in future ages shall read this when their faith is tried by false teachers, will find themselves blessed even as you are blessed, although they cannot have the personal evidence that you have now. These views then seemed to me glorious, and I saw clearly the propriety of this evidence being external, and tangible to the natural senses.

Such were my views of faith as a gift of God, a fruit of the Spirit; and I adored His wisdom in bestowing it in all its varieties and degrees, for the good of the saints, both collectively and individually. The wisdom, the condescension, the power, faithfulness and truth of God seemed unfolded in more glorious excellency, and in a brighter manner than I had ever before seen them.

I date this as the time when I learned to “live by faith and not by sight.” Before this, I lived by sight and feeling, and consequently was either in the garret or in the cellar. When my sight was clear, and there were no clouds to obscure my sky, my feelings were high and I thought all was well. These feelings and flights are cheerful things, but they are often of short duration. When the cold storms of life gather over us, then we lose sight of the sun, and darkness environs us, and we conclude that all is gone for ever. Unbelief prevails for a time, and Satan, the world, and the flesh, unite to weaken our hope and hide all the promises from our eyes. Such trials of hope and despair had encompassed me, and still they linger to trouble my spirit. But from that time to this, a period of about forty-five years, although I have passed through deep waters of affliction, sore trials and persecutions, many of which before that time I had not known, yet my confidence has been unshaken, inasmuch as I have, at all times, felt resigned to God’s will. Let my destiny in time or eternity be what it might, all things would be done well by Him.

When Bro. Edwards closed his sermon, I arose and began to sing the hymn: “When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,” etc. As I sang I made my way through the crowd, and as I passed, many others joined in the song, and some of the members who had known the previous state of my mind, burst into tears of joy, for they saw my fetters were now off. I reached the stand, and when the hymn was closed I read the text: “Be not faithless, but believing.” After a brief statement of my trials of mind, I began speaking on the text; and such light and liberty in speaking, I believe I never felt before. Great was the effect among the people. I believe I never saw as many tears shed on any occasion. Saints and sinners, old and young, sat with flowing eyes, and deep sobs were heard. Soon after I had begun speaking, old Sister Bull arose from her seat, in a flood of tears, and caught me by my hand, and without uttering a word, stood trembling and sobbing for a time, and again resumed her seat. This may be considered disorderly, but it had no effect upon me, either to confuse or excite my mind; I was calm and well composed. When I closed my discourse, the young man mentioned by Brother Bull as being so arrested the Sunday before, came trembling and sobbing, and kneeling by the chair where I stood, cried out: “Pray for me, a helpless sinner.” Immediately there was a general move in the house, and near half the people came and knelt before me. All were orderly and perfectly solemn. I stood silently looking on, until all was still.

I then said: “My dear friends, you request me to pray for you as helpless sinners. I am as poor and helpless a sinner as any of you. I can only pray for myself, or for you, when I have the spirit of supplication granted me. I can do you no good; you must not think that my prayers can save you, or move the compassion of Cod. I am as poor and unworthy as any of you; but I do know that there is forgiveness with God. While I am authorized to preach both repentance and remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ, I feel willing to ask of God, in the same Name, for the manifestation of that forgiveness to all of us, and, in accordance to His will. Let us pray.

After prayer, we sang God’s praise in hymns and psalms. The season was solemn indeed; to many it was truly joyful, and to some a time of rending of hearts and not of garments. I believe I learned more by that hard conflict, and my deliverance, than by all my high excitement of pleasing promises. Still, pleasant feelings are very desirable, but they are often of short duration; and their lessons are not so deep and abiding as those we learn by painful trials.

Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring us to His feet—
Lay us low, and keep us there.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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