AN OPENING TESTIMONY
JUST when in my early life I became a Christian, I do not know. As far as I can think backward, I have the remembrance of believing in Christ and of having some measure of desire to be His true disciple. The time, however, when I entered into the experience of assurance may easily and definitely be recalled. This was after I had left Princeton College, when I was living in Attica, in western New York, and was engaged in business. There, one memorable day, I was led to accept for myself the testimony of God’s Word concerning the substitutionary work of Christ; and then learning the secret of fixing my faith, not upon inner evidence of any kind, but upon the great outward evidence of revealed and established truth, I entered into a rest, which, thank God! has never since been broken.
This experience of God’s grace and love awakened in my heart an altogether new longing to know and understand the Holy Scriptures. It was a natural as well as a logical conclusion at which to arrive, that the Word which had so blessed me in one aspect of my spiritual life would equally bless me in other aspects of it. Hence, I began to read and study the Bible with a new avidity. But I soon found that I needed help, in order to know how to study. It was thus, the next summer, that I was led to attend the Conference of Believers, which was held at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. This Conference greatly helped me. At the same time, it revealed to me my ignorance, and to a degree that was not a little discouraging. I needed, evidently, not only further help, but also, help of a more personal kind. Thus, the following winter, I asked the secretary of the Conference, Dr. William J. Erdman, to visit the village of Attica, in order to give there some Bible Readings, and to be my teacher while resident in our home. Dr. Erdman accepted the invitation and became our guest. The intercourse which followed began a sacred friendship, which lasted until his death and which meant to me an ever increasing spiritual blessing.
Dr. Erdman, in undertaking to teach me, took—as it then seemed to me—a strange course. He began his expositions of the Word, not in the New Testament, but in the Old; and he chose as his subject of exposition the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Daniel. The subject was certainly interesting, but, at first, it did not appear to me to be altogether practical. My teacher, however, proved wiser than most instructors would have been, for I would add that that exposition led to the changing of the whole current of my life. Before the Doctor had finished his explanations, I was brought to see that the great objective which God, in the present age, had set before Himself and the church, was the coming of Christ, and that in that coming the hope of both the church and the world was bound up. This perception did more than give to me, as I believe, the true key to the interpretation of the Scriptures; it led me to perceive the relative worth of things, as between those which were earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal. And it was thus that it came to pass, among various influences, that God eventually constrained me to dedicate my life to foreign missions. This I did, for one reason, that I might do all that in me lay to hasten the accomplishment of those providential events, the fulfillment of which would make possible the coming of the King and His kingdom.
The experience which I had with Dr. Erdman directed me into a careful study of the prophetic Scriptures, and for a considerable time afterwards I found this part of the Word the most interesting and helpful of all its various topics. The time came, however, when I discovered that prophetic study had become somewhat of a snare to me. I had reached the point where my interest was centering in what I may call the curiosities of the Scriptures, and where I was more anxious to learn about the things which were new than to put into practical use those which were old. This discovery produced, though only for the time being, a reaction from the study of prophecy. I now realized, whatever events were to take place in the days to come and however important these were, that there were also present days to be faced, with their pressing opportunities and obligations. Hence, it became my longing to know what sort of a Christian God would have me be, what kind of service He expected me to render, and what were the privileges in Christ which He had set before me. Such considerations as these led me into a new reading of the Old and New Testaments, but now, with a wider view and a more personal application. As a result of this experience, I began to study the great fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; and, later, I came to the contemplation of such experimental themes as those of prayer, praise, consecration, sanctification, etc.
It was in this way that I finally undertook a close, and, what has turned out to be, a long study of the Scriptures concerning the subject of miraculous healing. This topic was almost thrust upon me, for the experience of my personal and family life demanded it, and besides, some close and esteemed friends earnestly urged it upon me. Thus it was, at different times, that I read and reread the Scriptures with this one subject in mind, marking on the margin of my Bible every reference to it. As I write, there lies before me an analyzed Bible reading, which was worked out as a result of this course of study, and which has noted within it every important passage in the New Testament referring to God’s healing of the body. And it is fitting that I should add that I shall never cease to be grateful to God that I was thus led to face this part of Scripture testimony. What prophecy did for me in one direction, this doctrine did in another. Among other things, it brought God nearer to me and myself nearer to God; and, above all, it impressed upon me the truth that the Christ in heaven has all power upon earth, and His present interest in the members of His body is as close and compassionate as it was when He was on earth amongst men. As for the general result of my study, it was a simple and blessed one. I argued thus: If Jesus were on earth and I needed Him for healing, I should go to Him for this even as others went to Him; as He is not on earth, I cannot go to Him in person; nevertheless, I may reach Him by faith where He is in heaven, and, since He is not changed in character, I may expect Him to heal where there is need, even as He used to heal. At a later period and after further study of the Word, I was forced somewhat to modify my conclusions as expressed in the last clause of this statement. I am constrained to add, nevertheless, that the proposition as a whole seems to me as true today as it did when I first formulated it.
The conclusion concerning miraculous healing which I had now reached, brought me into an attitude of mind and heart where I desired to make practical application of my new-found privilege. As time went on, therefore, I looked more and more to God for health, and also, for healing when health had failed. And I would gladly and gratefully testify that God did not disappoint me. On the contrary, in many instances, He heard my prayers and gave gracious answers to my petitions. As a child, I had been sickly and weak; and, as a man, I was far from strong. But the Lord, in a new way, sustained me in the midst of a heavy and an increasingly arduous life-service; and, often He gave me to see His power in restoring myself and others from serious sickness.
It is not strange, in view of the above, that my faith in God as a strengthener and healer, as the years passed by, was both confirmed and increased. For the same reasons it is not strange that I now write in deep sympathy with those persons who hold the doctrine of miraculous healing. Yea, I confess that it is my present, deep conviction that Christ does strengthen and heal, and that He is more often ready to do the one and the other for those who put their trust in Him than most Christians realize. For this reason, it is my object in writing this book to do what I can to influence Christians to remember this almost forgotten truth, and to return to what, it seems to me, is the scriptural attitude in respect to it. It is my ardent hope, therefore, that my words may be used of God to induce not a few of His children to place an altogether new confidence in Christ as One who cares, not only for the soul, but also and as tenderly, for the body; for I am convinced that the man who sees to it, in all respects, that “the body” is “for the Lord,” will make discovery, sooner or later, of the fact that “the Lord,” in His turn, is most truly and blessedly “for the body.” And I think that it will generally be admitted, in this world of suffering, that this is a consummation which is greatly to be desired.
But I must not end here. As I desire to be entirely frank from the beginning, I would state that I have an additional motive in writing this record and exposition. It seems to me that there is special need at the present time and that there will be increasing need as time goes on, for Christians to hold all truth in careful equipoise. Satan, in seeking to destroy the peace and usefulness of the children of God, has many methods of attack, and none is more effective than when he attempts to lead them into unbalanced and extravagant positions. This last is particularly true when he is able to approach them along the line of self-interest, where he may tempt them to take up with given theories because it is personally profitable to do so. The mere statement of such a possibility shows that there is a peculiar danger to the Christian in accepting and holding the doctrine of miraculous healing. That God will maintain him in health and strength, that He will immediately heal him if sick, is a prospect which appeals to any man, whether he be spiritual or otherwise. It is here that Christian Science and the Emmanuel Movement have found their place and power; and, I believe that it is here also, in part, that the doctrine of miraculous healing, especially as it has generally been taught, has made its appeal to the hearts and lives of the children of God. There appears on the very face of this question, therefore, a look of danger, to which every true disciple of Christ needs to give heed. Any doctrine may easily be distorted; but here is one which, in the nature of the case, may readily be thrown into large disproportion by one who holds it and enjoys its benefits. And this, it seems to me, many persons have done and are doing, and with serious consequences.
As to the seriousness of the matter, it is to be remembered that the occupying of any super-scriptural position will eventually lead one, if he, is honest, into discouragement and despondency; for such a person will never be satisfied unless he fully and constantly attains to what he believes is his privilege in Christ, and, if he holds something to be a privilege which God has never provided as such, the non-attainment of it must necessarily produce reaction, with disastrous spiritual results. Such an experience will mean that the man of God will conclude, either that God for some reason has forsaken him, or that he himself in some particular has forsaken God, when as a matter of fact neither the one nor the other may be true. I have seen many such cases in connection with the doctrine of miraculous healing, some of which have been unspeakably sad, where, because of the holding of an unscriptural and unworkable theory, the saint, in spite of a complete life-consecration, was living in the darkness of despondency, amounting in some cases to despair. The only correction of such an experience, is to come down from the unwarranted scriptural position which has been assumed, to solid scriptural ground, and there to abide. Such a course may not make for a sense of peculiarity or for an extra reputation of sanctity; but it will certainly lead to heart-rest and a true testimony before God and man.
I am writing, therefore, with a desire to lead such Christians as may read these words and may need help to what, I trust, is a rational conception of the doctrine of miraculous healing. Having confidence that God has granted to me, both from Scripture and experience, some measure of understanding of this important subject, I would humbly seek to pass on whatever I know, in the hope that it may be for the comforting and strengthening of some of Christ’s dear servants. May I assure my reader that I shall be in constant prayer as I write, in order that I may not lead others astray from the truth; and I fervently trust that the reader will be in a like spirit of prayer. I make no apology for the personal and familiar form in which I put my words. I choose this intentionally, because it best suits my purpose, and also, because I wish what I say to be not so much an argument, as what the title-page specifies, a personal testimony. Whether the testimony may rightfully be considered an argument, it will be for the reader to decide.