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Written by T.S. Dalton   

 

C H A P T E R  IX.

At one time one of our neighbors (a very religious man) concluded to have a Sunday School at a school house in the district. We boys went over. I had a suit of clothes (that is pants and shirt), that my mother had spun and woven and made with her own hands of cotton goods. My shirt was intended for white, mixed, with suspenders of the same material sewed fast to my breeches; and a little homemade straw hat. I felt very proud of my outfit, more so, I doubt not, than many boys now in their fine store suits.

After we had formed the class we read a chapter in the Bible, verse about. Then our teacher concluded to ask some questions, and began at the head of the class and asked the first boy, "Who was the father of Zebedee’s children?" The first boy said, "I don’t know." The second said he didn’t know, and so on down the class until it reached me, and I was just itching for it to come to me. He said, "Tolbert, can you tell us who was the father of Zebedee’s children?" I spoke up very quickly and loudly, for I was getting tired of that business, "I guess the old gentleman was himself, sir." At this the whole school burst out in a roar of laughter. I got up and said, "Come on, boys, there is nothing for us in this foolishness." Thus ended our Sunday School; and for some cause or other, I have never had much faith in Sunday Schools since that time.

Once a number of us attended a protracted meeting at a Methodist meeting house, some three miles from where we lived, and near where the little town of Cedar Hill now stands. They were having a roaring time, and when they called for mourners, I saw one very bad fellow go up, who took on manfully. I was watching him intently, and after a while they dismissed so all could go home that wanted to. The boys hunted me up and said, "Come, Tolbert, let’s go." I said "Hold on, boys." Some of them said, "What are you waiting for?" I said, "I am waiting for that fellow to come through, so I can kill him. He is a bad fellow; and if he is not killed as soon as he gets through, he will lose it."

The boys laughed all the way home over what I said about the poor fellow. I told them my object was to help the poor fellow on to the good world. The poor fellow came through after we left, and shouted a great deal, they said; but it only lasted him till near Christmas, and he went back worse than ever; so you can see, my friends, that my motive was a good one.

I have given these pranks in my life to show to my readers that I was simply a natural boy, and had all the propensities and mischievous dispositions of other boys, and doubtless much worse than a great many; and my reasons for doing so is to show that I am not at all disposed to hide my faults, and try to make my virtues shine so brightly as to prove that I have no faults. It has often been said that a man cannot write a history of his own life, he will leave out his vices, and show up his virtues. I assure you I have no disposition to do that, and while I confess that there are many other vices I have been guilty of in my life, which we could, and would readily write (while we are ashamed of many of them), yet we are not disposed to try to hide them, either from God or man; but we feel that these we have given will suffice to show you that we were fully steeped in sin, and we are not disposed to want to tire you out reading our vices.

In our next chapter we want to tell you in our own simple way what we have hoped for years was the work of the Lord in bringing us out of the darkness of sin, to a hope in the dear Saviour, if we may claim it as a hope at all. It has always seemed very small to me, and I have often wondered if it would do to risk when I come to death’s door. But, my brethren and kind readers, whether it will do or not, it is all I have; and I am getting old now, and am well assured that it is all I will ever have, and so shall have to risk it. It has been a succor to me now for over forty years, and I could never be able to tell the number of times during that period that I have gone back in my mind to the spot where I hope the Lord relieved me of that burden, and made me rejoice in His dear name; and, like one of old, I feel to say every time I go there, "Hitherto has the Lord helped me." And now in my old days, having passed through the fire of trial and affliction, for over forty years, like Job I feel to say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." I have nothing else in which to trust.

I hope my dear readers will think enough of me to throw the mantle of charity over the imperfections of my language in this work, and read it for my sake, and for the sake of the love I have for you, and the cause of our blessed Lord. Hoping you may be able to glean some crumbs of comfort from it that may do you good, and encourage you to press on in the cause of the dear Master, I shall send it forth, hoping the blessings of the dear Lord may attend it, and make it to glorify His own dear name.
 
C H A P T E R  X.
Now, dear readers, I want to give you a short sketch of what I hope had been the dealings of the Lord with me, in bringing me out of the dark thraldom of sin and pollution and translating me into the Kingdom of His dear Son. When I was a mere boy, one evening about a half an hour before sunset, I was brought to see what a guilty rebel I was before God. I had some remorse of conscience before this, but here was my first view of the truly corrupt state of my poor heart.

I had heard people speak of others that were so wicked as to deserve damnation, but it never impressed me that I was one of that kind until at this time; now I knew I was one that was truly fitted for eternal damnation.

The tears began to flow from my eyes; my wonder was what it could mean. It appeared to me that I was going to die; and I knew that if I died in the state I was then in, eternal woe and misery was my sure doom, and I began to cry in the anguish of my soul, "God be merciful to me, a poor lost and ruined sinner."

Should any one have asked me at that time what was the matter I could not have told them for my life; only I was a poor guilty wretch in the sight of God. I thought I must keep that all a secret, for I thought it would never do to let my people know how vile I was or they would disown me entirely. I was in this great sometimes seek wild company to try to drive away these feelings; but as soon as I was off to myself again they would return, it seemed to me more dreadful, and more terrible than before. The very breathings of my soul, by day and night, were that God would have mercy on me a poor wretched sinner; yet I could not see how such a thing could ever be.

I never can describe my feelings when I left home late one evening, and as I left the old house I looked back at it as long as I could see it; and as it went out of my sight, I thought I never would see it again; for before the morning sun should arise I would be in eternity. I wandered until at last I came to a schoolhouse, where there was a protracted meeting in progress. I stopped to hear them preach; and when they called for those who desired the prayers of the Christians to come forward, I thought if there was one in the world that needed their prayers, I surely did. I went forward, and they prayed for me, and tried to instruct me; but it all did me no good; it rather seemed to add to my pain, and when they closed the meeting for the night, I was more wretched it seemed than ever. I thought, "Now I know my doom is sealed forever." I had gone perhaps a half mile from there, when it seemed to me I could go no further, right there I must surely die. I got no my knees under some bushes in a small basin in the land and tried as I thought to pray for my last time. It seemed that my prayers would not ascend above my head, but fell to the ground as empty sounds. I arose from my knees feeling that my case was sealed forever. At this thought I fell upon my face in the leaves, and buried my face in my hands, and this was the last move I remember to have made. It seemed that I lost sight of myself, and there has ever been a time that I cannot account for. But while lying there on the ground, there was presented to my eyes one of the most beautiful sights I ever beheld. There was Jesus hanging on the cross, and the blood trickling down from His side, and something seemed to impress me with the thought that my sins had nailed Him there. And by some means I was caused to look again, and my mind was impressed at this time with the thought that Jesus died that I might live.

Just at this time a bright light flashed all around me, my burden of guilt and condemnation was gone, and my whole being ran out in praise to God for what he had done for a poor guilty wretch like me. I started home full of joy, and verily believed I was done with trouble forever. But before I reached home the devil told me I was deceived, and one great trouble with me was I had told an old man on my road home, and he had rejoiced with me, and told me that he had been watching me for some time and knew that the work was going on, and he knew the Lord would finish it. This was really the first time I had thought about what it all meant, and felt to rejoice that the Lord had made me one of His children.

But when the devil met me and told me I was deceived, I believed him; and oh! the trouble I then had because it was all a delusion, and I had gone and deceived that good old man. From that time to the present I have been up and down, but it seemed most of the time down. I so often fear that my hope will not do, that surely I must be deceived; and at other times I seem to rise in glory.

Now, dear readers, whether this is truly a hope in the dear Saviour, I am not prepared to say, but one thing is sure, it is all I have, and if I were called to die today, I can’t make it any better or any larger. One comfort I have had as I have journeyed along life’s pathway is, I have often told it to some that I felt sure were the true children of God, and they have told me that it corresponds, in the main, with theirs. So by this means I have been encouraged along my pilgrimage now for over forty years, in the midst of doubts and fears; and when I sum the whole matter up, Jesus is my hope. Take from me Jesus and His righteousness, and I have nothing left to hope on; for my righteousness is but filthy rags in God’s sight.
 
C H A P T E R  XI.
On the very same night that my burden left me, I felt an impression to go and tell others what a dear precious Saviour I had found, and to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus to others; but I felt that it was too great a task for me.

After a while I became so troubled on the subject I felt that death would be a relief to me; and really I was so wicked and so rebellious that I went far enough to arrange to take my own life; and was very much tempted to do it, rather than expose my ignorance before the world, and bring reproach upon the cause of my dear Master. But by some means I hardly knew how, I was prevented from carrying out my plans.

My trouble increased on the subject of preaching, and I was still stubborn, and I resolved at last to die rather than try to preach. Often I would be walking along and the first thing I knew I would be preaching to myself and throwing my arms, and sometimes talking out. When I would come to myself, I would look all around to see if anybody had seen me. I would be so ashamed of myself that I would often cry about it, and think I surely could do better than that. I wanted to be a member of the church, but felt that I was not fit even to be in company of good people. I had tried the doctrine of others and there was nothing in that for me. It was simply husks, and I could not fill myself with it; and I was not fit to be an Old School Baptist, so I knew not what to do.

The Old Baptists were all old people and I was young, a mere boy, and I thought they would not want me; but at last I ventured to tell them how I felt and when I was done, I looked around and the dear old eyes were bathed in tears. I wondered why it was, for I felt like I had not told anything. But an old brother spoke up, saying, "Brethren, he has told it all. I move that he be received." Another said, "I second the motion"; so I was received and my baptism was set for the next morning.

After I left the house I felt glad to have them receive me; but yet I was not worthy of it, and all through the night I felt just like I had done wrong, and deceived them.

Next morning I felt like I must go and tell the old brother that was to baptize me not to do it, for I was not fit, and deceived them; but I could not tell him to save me, it seemed as if my tongue would cleave to the roof of my mouth. So I went into the water with him feeling perhaps it was wrong. But when he raised me out of the water I felt my burden had left me, and I would not have it back for anything. Oh! I felt so happy. I went back to church, and when they began to sing some sweet old song, I thought it was truly a heaven on earth. The day I was baptized was, and is yet, one of the sweetest days of my life; and I have often thought if I could feel that way I would love to be baptized every day of my life.

But this lasted me just a little while, until my mind was exercised on the subject of preaching again. I found that I still had that old stubborn nature about me, and I vowed I would never try to preach. My health gave way, and soon I became so diseased that my friends, many of them, almost despaired of my life. I had spells that would throw me prostrate to the earth. Oftentimes I would select men that I thought could preach, and tell the Lord about them; but still it gave me no relief.

I thought I had succeeded in keeping this matter all a profound secret. I really thought no one knew, not even my old mother; but one day I was lying on the bed in the room and mother sitting near the middle of the floor, when I turned over, hardly conscious of what I was doing, and groaned heavily. Mother looked at me and said, "It is strange to me that any one will just go on until the Lord kills them before they will do their duty." It took me but a minute to get out of that house, and it was late in the evening before I went back. I wondered what made her think of such a thing as that.

Our meeting came on, and the old minister came to me and said, "Now, Brother Dalton, we think you have a gift, or that God has put on you a duty to perform, and I am going to make you this proposition: If you ever felt like you had to preach, get up and go into the stand; if you never felt that way, just keep you seat, and we will take you action in the case to be true." I hesitated a moment, and these thoughts flashed through my mind:

"If I sit here and refuse to go, I tell an untruth; if I go, it can be but a miserable failure. So God being my helper I will try to do my best; and if I fail, I am nothing anyway. If God designs for me to speak in His dear name He will help me." So I arose trembling, and walked up into the stand. I had no idea how many people burst out crying as I walked up. The old minister followed me and gave me a hymn book, and told me to do just as I felt like and all would be right. I got up and let the book fall open as I arose and it opened at this hymn:

"In all my Lord’s appointed ways my journey I’ll pursue; Hinder me not, ye much loved saints, for I must go with you."

I read it, the brethren sang it, and I got on my knees to try to pray, thinking all the time that when I was done trying to pray I would sit down and let the old brother preach.

But as I arose from my knees, without thinking what I was doing I quoted this text, "For if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." The next thing I remember, the congregation, a great many of them were crying, and I sat down.

God for this gift to feed my poor soul." I felt perhaps I had ruined everything; but that day the church voted to give me written license to exercise a gift publicly wherever God in his providence might cast my lot.

About one year after this I was ordained (but against my will or wish) to the full functions of the gospel ministry by a presbytery composed of Elders W. A. Bowden, William Howard, W. W. Worrell, T. F. Harrison, and S. S. Nix. Since then I have been all the while engaged in trying to preach; and with poor old Brother B. F. Casey I can say, "Whether my preaching has ever done any good or not it has done me good, for it has been a great relief to my feelings."

All of my efforts to preach have been purely from a feeling sense of necessity, for like Paul I feel to say, "Necessity is laid upon me, and woe is me if I preach not the gospel." I know it has never been according to my natural will, but all the while opposed to it, so I feel sometimes to say, I am assured that "A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me," and I preach from a feeling sense of duty, and not to excel, or be counted a big preacher. I know that while I have tried to apply myself and learn all I could, or what my poor limited mind would allow, yet I have studied harder to learn how to quit trying to preach, than I ever did to learn how to preach. But I have been thoroughly convinced for several years that I will never quit it until my body is cold in death, and I trust in my dying moment God will allow me to preach the blessed name of Jesus to those who may surround me, until my last breath is spent, and then allow me to wake up on the other shore chanting His divine praise for what He has done for a poor old sinner like me, in bringing me into His fold and allowing me to enjoy the sweet fellowship of His dear people on earth, and at last in heaven to sit in full view of Him who died for me that I might live with Him in that goodly land.

Oh! my precious brethren in the Lord, can such be for a poor old worn out sinner like me? Too good, too good!

God bless you, my dear readers.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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