Elder T. S. Dalton's Experience of Grace
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 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 in him." I have nothing else in which to trust.
When I was a mere boy, one evening about half an hour before sunset, I was brought to see what a guilty rebel I was before God. I had some remorses 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 anyone 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 trouble for about ten months, almost without any cessation. I would 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 forget nor 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 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 I could go no further. Right there I must surely die. I got on 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 there 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 has done for a poor guilty wretch like me.
I started for 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 I thought 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 above my troubles, and hope by the grace of God to reach a home 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.
---Elder T. S. Dalton, 1846-1931