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Written by John R. Daily   

ZION'S ADVOCATE - August 1905

The following is chapter six of our new book, "The Pilgrimage of a stranger." This work is not a dry recital of the uninteresting incidents of our poor life. From many of the incidents and circumstances related moral and spiritual lessons are drawn.

My pharisaical religion became very troublesome to me. It was so hard to keep. Resolution after resolution was broken. I tried to think my good deeds would overbalance my bad ones in God’s account, but all the time had great fears that the bad ones would be far in excess. One day I saw clearly that my efforts to live right, up to that time, had been an utter failure, and I formed a renewed determination to turn from my sinful career and live a holy life. I was really happy with the thought that I could do so. But soon I found that "it was not in man that walketh to direct his steps." It began to dawn upon my benighted mind that I was a vile sinner. At times my guilt appeared as a thick cloud over my mind, and at other times I sought to banish such dreadful thoughts from me and to seek relief in the thought that I was not so bad as many others and that God would yet find me worthy of his favorable notice.

At a regular meeting of Little Flock church in the fall of 1869, John T. Oliphant was ordained to the ministry. In the afternoon of that day there was a total eclipse of the sun. I knew the nature of the event, of course, but it was to me a fresh lesson of the sovereignty of that great Being who established the laws of nature and perpetually reigns in the exact execution of those laws.

All matter in the material universe is controlled by physical laws which are never disobeyed. That government shows the wisdom and power of God, but it gives no opportunity for a display of his justice and mercy. In order to display these qualities as well as his wisdom and power he established the moral government by creating man and placing him under moral law. This law is not like that which governs the material elements, for its subjects are not compelled by an irresistible force to obey it. If they were compelled to obey it no disobedience would be chargeable to them. The disobedience of the subjects of God’s moral government is not the result of an irresistible cause, such as the wreck of a train or explosion of a boiler, for if it were no blame could attach to the transgressor.

I did not understand this important distinction between the physical and moral laws that govern the two kingdoms. Had I understood this, many questions that were puzzling to me would have been plain. I could see, however, that the sun was not to be blamed for the darkness that resulted from the eclipse as I was for the sins I had committed and the darkness into which I was plunged. This knowledge was no aid to me in my condemned state, neither would a greater degree of knowledge have assisted me in my distress.

In the night of the 27th day of February, 1870, I dreamed the day of judgment had come. Dark clouds seemed to cover the skies and thunders appeared to roar as a threatening omen. I expected to see the Saviour appear, and my heart was filled with terror at the thought of being banished forever into endless despair. I thought I started to run from the wood lot in which we lived to a field on the east, in which I saw a company bowed in prayer led by a pious old neighbor by the name of George Evans, who was a leading member of the United Brethren church. I started to join them but something seemed to say, "You are not fit for such company," and I turned away. Just then I awoke. To be sure I was glad it was only a dream, and that I was allowed a short respite, but I fully believed this would be my inevitable fate.

The following day I went to a public sale at my cousin, Thomas B. Lucas, one mile north of where we lived, who was selling out to move to Colorado. It was a sad, sad day to me. Toward evening Father told me to hurry on home and build a fire. He and Mother had gone to the sale on horse-back and I had walked. I did as he told me, and as I sat by the stove that was fast heating, I mused over my sinful state and the dreadful dream of the preceding night. A picture of the resurrection of Jesus hung upon the wall. In it Jesus was represented as standing near his sepulchre facing the beholder, while the Roman guard were lying as dead men upon the ground and the angel was seated upon the stone that had closed the tomb. I looked up at that picture and saw the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus. and his sweet face, which seemed to beam with the radiance of meekness and love. I thought of my life of sinfulness, and concluded that those wounds had not been made for me and felt that the look of love only spoke my condemnation, I left the house intending to try to banish those dreadful feelings by cutting some wood. I took up the ax but paused with a sad heart and downcast face. I stood in this attitude for a few moments, then sat down upon a log, covered my face with my hands and cried, "Lord, have mercy if thou canst!" My burden of guilt and condemnation all left me, and in my mind, by real faith I trust, I saw Jesus hanging upon the cross, and I fully believed he had died for me. I arose and began singing that hymn which has ever since been so dear to me,

 

"Oh, how happy are they
Who their Saviour obey,
And whose treasures are laid up above;
Tongue cannot express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love !"

I know I was happy then. I am sure that I loved Jesus and his people, and John says, "He that loveth is born of God." What sweet comfort that text has afforded me along the strange pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of a stranger sure enough ! Life here would be heaven were I always as happy as I was then.

 

"Twas a heaven below
The Redeemer to know,
And the angels could do nothing more
Than to fall at His feet,
And the story repeat,
And the Savior of sinners adore!

"On the wings of His love
I was carried above,
All the sin and temptation and pain;
And I could not believe,
That I ever should grieve,
That I ever should suffer again."

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.