Personal Experiences of God
Mary R. Denman(Episcopalian)
"There came a time when I realized that I did not love God with all my heart, as I was taught every Sunday it was my duty to do."
When my pastor asked me, at the age of fifteen, to be confirmed, I said, "I would like to do so, but have not met with a change of heart." His answer was: "Whence did the desire to become a Christian originate? Certainly it did not come from the Evil One." Hence he advised me to join the Church. I have always been glad that I followed his advice, for when tempted as a young lady to go into the gayety of the world I felt the restraint, particularly during the season of Lent. As a Church member, when the communion season came around, I must partake of the Lord's Supper, and in some way I always tried to prepare my heart to receive it. After I was married I tried hard to induce my husband to join the Church, as I had done, but we were of the world and worldly.
There came a time when I realized that I did not love God with all my heart, as I was taught every Sunday it was my duty to do. I was simple-minded enough to go on my knees and ask God to teach me to love Him with all my heart. He took me at my word and taught me to do so. Soon after this, upon my return to New Orleans, I thought the church members had changed, for they all seemed so willing to talk on the subject of religion. The change was with me. This I consider was the date of my conversion. I was soon tested to know if I loved God with all my heart. He took to Himself a precious daughter when she was only about four months old. This affliction I bore cheerfully, feeling that God would bless it to my husband, which He did, and when, six years afterward, He took him to Himself, I claimed the promises given to the widow. He has been true to His promise for over twenty years.
I still had a longing in my heart for something more satisfying. While in this state of mind, I learned that a number of Christian people were coming to our city to hold a series of meetings. They were called "higher-life Christians". I heard one minister in these meetings tell of the "Rest of Faith" he had in his soul. My spirit responded, "That is what I want"; and, knowing that God was not a respecter of persons I believed He would give it to me if I would meet the conditions. I sought and found this grace. I delighted in this new joy, and, desiring to meet with Christians who enjoyed the same blessing, I was invited to go to a camp-meeting. My answer was, "No, I am not a Methodist." But the friend said, "This is not a Methodist camp-meeting; it is a national one, where all denominations meet." I concluded to go with my friend, she making all arrangements for me. I praise God for Sea Cliff camp-meeting.
Having the great joy of the Savior in my heart I did not feel the need of having the roots of bitterness taken out. But I soon saw there was something more for me, and that God was talking to my heart and questioning me, to see if my will was in subjection to His. One test was, "Would I establish the family altar on my return home?" I was in the habit of praying with my children, but establishing the family altar would involve the cross of praying before visitors, and some very worldly ones. I had said "yes" to this, when in the night came deeper questions, preparing me for temperance work. "Would I speak for Him before large congregations if my children and every friend on earth turned against me?" This I could not answer, for I felt it would cut me off from all my earthly supports. Still I found it must be answered, or I would never know peace again. I called Sister Amanda Smith, the colored evangelist, who was in the next tent. She, being awake, put a blanket around her and came to my bedside and prayed with me, making very clear to my mind that God would not ask any thing of me that He would not give me strength to perform. When my will was broken a wondrous peace came into my soul.
I have often been asked, "Has this peace remained all these fifteen years? And how have you kept it?" My answer is, by saying "I will" to God, and then doing His bidding. Very soon I was called to work for Him in the temperance cause. I began by being willing to lead in ladies' prayer-meetings. After seven years' constant work for the Master when the women would not release me, the dear Lord did, by laying me by with paralysis. But oh how wondrously He has healed me since in answer to prayer! How could I let go my faith in the Almighty arm which did and continues to do so much for me?
I do not say that I have been freed from trial or temptation. These I never expect to be free from while in the body: But I can say, with St. Paul, "that with the temptation a way of escape" has always been made, and I have not lost the deep peace in my soul. I do not remember that I have ever felt power in myself to stand alone, and therefore have always looked to and expected my precious Savior to keep me. He has never forsaken me. There was a time for about two days when Satan tried to make me think I had not received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, because I had not had just such an experience as another dear friend. But just as soon as I got quiet before God, the Holy Spirit carried me back in mind to that night on Sea Cliff camp-ground, and I have never doubted since. I do not always experience the same joy, but it is there, down in my heart, like the water in the bosom of the earth waiting the opportunity of the driven well. If I were to be disobedient to His loving command, and leave Him, and look for my pleasures in other fields than He lays out for me, I should expect to lose my peace. But why should I do so, when He is my all and in all?
NEWARK, N.J., October 12, 1887
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