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Written by J.H. Oliphant   



I think I had serious thoughts from my earliest recollection. I reasoned out the greatness of God by observing his works when I was young. “Dreams come from a multitude of thoughts.” I dreamed of God and serious things often, perhaps because I thought of him, but weeks would intervene that I was not concerned about these things; again, for weeks they were my thoughts much of the time. It stirred me to hear of the death of a comrade, and I would resolve to do better, only to break my vows.

I could not date my first conviction nor my first relief of mind. I have wished I could do so. In the two dreams named, my conviction was deepened, and the matter was made to appear of the deepest importance, and I wished to be led by the Spirit. At times, I hoped these things were of God, but as I thought of the greatness of God it seemed impossible that I, so vile a sinner, should be noticed by the Lord. I loved preaching that described the work of the Spirit in leading men, and I found I could apply much of their preaching to myself, and was sorry to note that they seemed to go beyond me, and often I have preached as I then loved to hear it. If we can recall the preaching we loved, then we ought to do the same kind of preaching when we are sure there are present those who have the same kind of exercises we had.

When I listened to preaching, if it was only theoretical, I would tire of it, but when they spoke of things I felt, it seemed I never would tire of it. Such preachers were dear men to me and I longed for their return to us.

At one time, E. D. Thomas used the text, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.” His words described me. He declared that those who did this were blessed. He cheered me and solaced me. I felt like I never would tire and was sorry to have him close. I have often used this text, and at times to good effect. As I review these things I think they show that I was spiritually alive. Dead men do not hunger, nor do they love. I went home with a glad heart, thinking, some day I will be filled, but as I now see it, I was blessed then, though it seemed too good to be true.

This was in 1869, and it was a good time in the church. I could see in others a change, and it was a sweet sight to me. This was on my mind early and stayed with me till late at night. Nothing was so good, as I could see, as the Savior. One evening in August, the folks came home from meeting and one said to me, Your brother joined today. I thought, others can find him precious, but not I. I was in a little store and felt so distressed I could not stand, so sat down and laid down. I saw religion as worth more than all the wealth of earth. It seemed it was not for me. It seemed election had left me out, and I was afraid of election. A few days after I went away from the crowd. I stood there alone and all at once the whole burden was gone and my soul seemed to be in a flame of love; for a few days I was easy in mind.

During this period of my life, I dreamed of a terrible storm. The cloud was black as night and wreathed with lightning. The roar of thunder and keen lightning was an emblem of the wrath of God. I looked on the awful sight with fear and trembling. I saw it as serious to be exposed to the just wrath of God, and I looked for the curse of God to fall on me, but instead, there was a rift in the cloud, and the Savior was in the rift. His face was calm and sweet. He spoke “and his voice as a dulcimer sweet” spoke peace and pardon to me. I waked and found it was a dream, but I was glad to have the dream. It showed I had been thinking much of the Savior; that he was in my thoughts, and it is good even to think on his name, and he puts their names in his book. I am glad the Lord knows our thoughts; while he sees evil thought, he also sees secret thoughts, and that we think of him every day; that we love him or wish to love him, and this is more than the ungodly do.

I was baptized in August 1869. My wife went in, too, and was baptized. Many witnessed it, and as I came up out of the water it came to me that I will preach to these people, and I did. It is a high claim for one to pretend to think he is called of God to do this. It seems too much for me to make, but I do hope I am in my duty when I am in this work. When I first -thought it duty, I thought it would be easy to do it, but in a few days I felt it was serious for me. I was ignorant and unworthy, and am still. My wife opposed it. In February 1870, my wife was so bitterly opposed to it, she declared death would be preferable to her. We talked and reasoned over it. I reminded her of God’s goodness to us in so many ways, that we are dependent on the Lord in every way, both in time and eternity. She left the room in the dark night and laid down on her face. I pursued her and she said she preferred death to this. I told her I would give it up, but soon she became willing and submissive, and for fifty years she has been loyal to the cause.

I have as much reason to believe I am called to preach as I have to believe I am a Christian. At times I feel assured of it, and again I am in doubts, but I have been preaching fifty years, nearly fifty-one. I know of the trials and discouragements of I the way. The worst trials are in the strife and trials among our people.

Elder L. Potter was asked for his call to the ministry in a make-fun way by a preacher. Elder Potter told him if he would answer four questions he would do as requested.

Tell me first, Is it every man’s duty to preach?

Second, Is it any one’s duty?

Third, Is it your duty?

Fourth, How did you learn it was your duty?

I was baptized in August 1869. In September; wife and I went to the association. Religion was talked of all the while, and this subject was on my mind much of the time. Many churches were destitute of preachers and this fact was talked; some talked of praying the Lord to give the churches, preachers.

While on this trip the subject was much on my mind. I felt bitterly unworthy and incompetent to think of so great a matter. Also, I knew it was my duty to provide for my family and, how, can I do both? Was an important question to me. My wife was utterly opposed to it. I read the Bible much and studied it as well as I could. At night it was the last thought I thought of and in the morning it was the first.

Some days I felt dutiful and willing to do it, other days I was rebellious and not willing to do it. I noticed that when I felt willing and obedient I was happy and cheerful, and when I was full of rebellion I was unhappy and sorrowful. I read the place in Isaiah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.”

Often it seemed to be to rue and encouraged the feeling of duty. I went to a meeting from home, and it was the first time I had left wife and family to go to meeting.

While I was preparing to go my wife wept, said it was the beginning of a hard life. I returned Sunday evening. The subject was on my mind with great weight and I told my wife how I felt. She said death was preferable to her, and I was full of grief and looked at the grave as a sweet asylum from the troubles that beset me.

I bad been asked to pray in meeting, and told my wife I could not longer refuse, and she consented to it. This was February 1870. At night meeting I was called on and did. It was a poor effort, but a burden was gone and I had sweet rest of mind.

My mother and father came to our home and urged me to pray, and I did it as best I could. It was the first prayer in my home, and I felt a burden gone this time again. Also, I gave thanks at the table which gave rest to my mind. It was a task to preach in the presence of some of our able ministers. I see, now, I was wrong in this, they were my best friends; also, it was a cross to preach in the presence of father and mother who loved me. So I know now they prayed for me and loved me. I was their pastor twenty years and often saw tears of joy in his eyes under my efforts. If we comfort and feed the people of God in our efforts, it is evidence of a call to the ministry.

In May 1870, I was called to the care of four churches—fifty-one years. Moses Hodge, of near Bedford, Ind., was the first to offer to give me money which I refused to take, but saw I was foolish later on.

I often think of the dear men, who, fifty years ago, loved me and cheered me on the way, made excuses for my failures and helped me care for my family; but they are gone and I, too, am near the crossing.

Our preaching ought to discourage sin and it ought to be a defense of the doctrine of grace.
It is a long time since these things, and I often recall the faces of those I served. They were kind and true to me; they were sweet friends, and I could never tell how dear their memory is to me. They heard the words, “Come ye blest of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

I believe a happy and blest eternity awaits the children of God, and “I reckon the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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