Elder Baxter Hale
Dr. Day's Hospital,
Jacksonville, Ill., Jan. 3, 1915.
Dear Kindred in Christ:
This sad and lonely Sunday morning while lying on my bed, having undergone an operation for tuberculosis of the spine by the kind and skillful hand of Dr. J. A. Day, and suffering in body, I can rejoice in the Lord and say in the language of Job 13: 15, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him."
I was born in Russell Co., Va., November 5, 1874. Before I was two years of age we moved to Wise Co., Va., and there lived until I was fifteen years old. While there many serious thoughts of death and eternity would pass through my mind. Often, while dear old Elder Morgan T. Lipps would be preaching in father's house, as he often did, I would see father and others shedding tears. I wondered why or what would cause them to weep.
I often got hurt and would cry over childish things, but if I could only get to mother's arms it was a great relief to me. But when, later on, my poor heart was burdened with sin, mother could not relieve me. While it pleased God to take mother home to heaven when I was but nine years old, I can still remember her kindness to me, especially when I am in such condition as at present, having to depend on others to care for me. We have good, kind, attentive nurses here that we highly appreciate, and a good building well arranged and nicely furnished, yet it is not like the trundle bed that mother placed beside the fireplace that I might be in the most comfortable lace in the old log cabin with mother's kind hands to care for me.
Dear Christian friends, pray for me. I must close for today. Monday morning, Jan. 4, 1915. After a kind "good morning" by the nurses, and a nice breakfast, I feel somewhat refreshed, and wish now to tell my brethren and friends a little more of my past life.
We moved from Wise Co., Va., to Grange Co., Tenn., while I was in my fifteenth year, where I soon had many young friends. Some were quite good, moral boys, and others were not so good and loved strong drink and card games and other such things as wild, reckless boys would call fun.
After I had gained some knowledge of vocal music, I accepted a position in the Methodist church as leader in their song service. I would go to Sunday School and take part with them, and afterward go to some secret place to spend the remainder of the day in card playing or some other disgraceful way, which we called fun, feeling and knowing that I was going against the will and advice of a Christian father, and showing disrespect to the good mother who dandled me on her knees when I was only a babe.
I went on fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, dead to the knowledge of God and alive to sin and wickedness, dead in trespasses and sin, without God and without hope in the world, not realizing that I needed a Savior, until I was in my nineteenth year. I often went to a small town, one- half mile from home, and there waited in my friend's store until the customers all left. Then we would engage in our games, sometimes until break of day, and father at home suffering with the same disease, as I now believe, that I am suffering with here in this hospital, needing my company that his mind might be at rest about his baby boy. Oh, dear friends, what an awful condition I was in! But I praise God today for he moment, when I was engaged in one of these games, that it pleased God to show me the sad condition I was in. Trembling and shaking, I arose from the game and started home with a heavy heart. I stopped at times on my way and got down on my knees and tried to pray. When I reached home I went into my bedroom. It being dark I knelt by my bedside and begged God to forgive me, for I knew I had done wrong. So, dear ones, I have a hope that on that night the Lord began a good work in my poor, sinful heart.
Now, after a sad, yet pleasant day, with my good wife and oldest daughter, and some good friends, I must close. Tuesday morning, January 5, 1915. After a nice, good breakfast, and as the beautiful light of the morning appears, I note a large tree stands out from the building, with its branches reaching out close to my window. A beautiful gray squirrel comes near, playing and chattering, as if to say, Cheer up, God is still reigning to give us the sweetness and the sunlight of another day. Yet, my mind is turned back to the time of darkness when I was afraid that God would not hear my prayers.
Soon after the dark night above mentioned, I began to attend a protracted meeting at the Methodist church spoken of before, conducted by Rev. Mort, as he was called. I often got in such condition as to leave my company and seek the secret places in the lonesome forest. I sometimes listened to the call and pleadings of the workers in the meetings and would go to the mourners' bench, hoping to get relief from my troubled condition. It seemed to do me no good, but I attended during the four week's service, and conducted the song service, trying to believe the preaching. This same preacher commenced a meeting near Tatespring, Tennessee, and I attended there. Father often asked me if I was sick, but I would tell him, "No," and get out of his presence as soon as I could. I had a place by the manger in the old log barn where I would get on my knees in secret, and beg the Lord for mercy and to spare my life.
On one bright, sunshiny morning I got ready to go to church. My brother next older than I, said, "Baxter, if you will wait a few minutes I will get ready and go with you." I, desiring to be alone, told him I would walk on slowly and he could overtake me. So I started and as soon as I got out of sight of the house, left the road and turned into a neighbor's lot where I could keep some cedar trees between me and the house until I could reach a thick cluster of cedars and shrubbery where I desired to pray. The large stones that stood above the surface of the earth, and the evergreen trees, and the birds and insects with their noises, all seemed to be crying, "Guilty, guilty, guilty sinner." At last I thought I would make my last effort to pray, and I do not know whether I bowed on my knees or not, but something came over me that gave me relief, and I was laughing instead of mourning, and the stones looked pleasant and the trees looked bright. The birds and insects and all nature seemed to be singing praises to God.
I went on to the church and my brother was standing outside by the door. As I walked up he looked pleasant and said, "Which way did you come?" I made some excuse, and just then the preacher came to the door and said, "Well, Baxter, you look better." I answered him that there had been nothing the matter with me, and walked away, vowing within myself that I would never tell what had taken place. I returned home after meeting with my brother. I went into the yard whistling, and when I went into father's room he said, "Son, you are feeling better, are you not?" I said, "I have not been sick."
I went to the barn and wept, but not as I had before. I wanted to tell father all about what had happened, but something seemed to say, "It won't do to tell it." So I went on. Church members would call me "brother," and my associates outside would say, "He has religion," but I would deny it and say, "Not me." In order to show them that there had been no change in me, I entered into their fun again. But, dear brethren, it was no fun for me, for all the enjoyment of card playing, drinking, dancing and such like was gone. When I engaged in a game in the same old storehouse I felt as though the floors would sink through with me, and the parties I was playing with said, "What is the matter with Baxter?" I threw my cards on the table and said, "I will never play another game of cards," - and I never have.
I got into such a condition I thought I could not stay at home, so I prepared to go back to old Virginia. I well remember what father said to me the morning I left. "If you cannot stay with me and be satisfied, you will have to go, but the Lord go with you." I went into Wise Co., Va., never expecting to see home again. I thought I would go there, no one would know anything of my troubles and it would be all right. When I had worked awhile someone said, "Baxter is surely a Christian, he doesn't drink and swear." I did not stay long there, but took work in the coal mines among people of other nationalities. They would ask me what made me so good and I'd soon look for another job. So I left the coal mines and went into Kentucky where my only sister lived. While staying there I often waited until after the others had gone to bed, then I would go into my room, kneel by my bedside and beg the Lord for mercy and pardon. I did very well until my two older brothers came from Tennessee and told me of father's condition. I thought I never could go back and live. I sought a hiding place to pray and sometime afterward found myself near the river in a thicket of laurel, with my sister, her mother-in-law and my brothers, and I was begging the Lord to take me from this world or reconcile me to go back home.
I left there and went back to Virginia, and went to work in the iron ore mines. My work was far back under the mountains and all along in my room the top was so low that I could not stand straight, but had to go bowed down or on my knees or lying down to do my work. This, dear brethren, was a miserable place to stay all day long alone, yet I enjoyed many sweet moments in there. I sang the good old songs and sometimes I felt the presence of Jesus. My mind would go back to the place where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart was removed and I would find myself praising God. The dear Lord's arm is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear, and his mercy endures forever. I feel that his rich mercy was all that saved my life in the heart of that mountain.
After toiling there for more than a year, one morning while lying on my side, mining the dirt from under the ore, I moved backward and turned on my back, with my face toward heaven to rest my tired arms, thinking of father at home needing my help, and what it was that was keeping me from home. All at once something fell by my side, just caught my hand a little and brushed my shoulder and knocked my lamp off my cap. When I found my matches and lamp and had my light burning again, I found that the piece of ore that I had been working under, which would weigh over a ton, had fallen. I turned my eyes toward heaven, and said, "Praise God for sparing my life." Something seemed to say to me, "Blessed art thou, go home to your father."
I turned and went out, leaving my tools in the mines, went to the office and got my pay that was coming to me, told the clerk where the tools were and that I was going home. When I arrived at my boarding house there was a letter from home, stating that if I ever wanted to see father alive I should come home at once.
I pondered for awhile, the language of David in the 139th Psalm came to me, "Though I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." I soon was on the way home, and when I arrived was received with great joy, and praise went up to God from father for keeping and preserving the life of his baby boy for three long years and bringing me home again that he might see my face again while he lived on the earth.
Soon my troubles were started again with the same temptations before me that I left three years before. Some one would say, "Come on, Baxter, let us have a game." I would say, "No, I have quit." Some would say, "Let us have a drink." I would reply, "No, I have quit." I soon started to Sunday School and became a member and had my place among them the same as before I first left home. Father never forbade me going to Sunday School, but he would often tell me his objections to them. But I went on thinking them all right. One evening, while Elder Hiram Cooper was visiting father, I went into father's room and he called me to sit by his bedside, and said, "Baxter, I have asked all the other children, and they gave me an evidence of their hope in Christ. Now, I want you to tell me before I am called away, how you feel." Oh, dear brethren, a trying moment to me! I did not want to be untrue to father in his last days, so I answered him and said, "I do not know, papa, but I will say I always ask God to help me to do right in all I undertake." Father raised his poor, trembling arms, and clasped his hands and said, "Thank the Lord, he has a praying heart, I am ready to go home." Brother Cooper and he wept until I left the room.
Now, this evening, as I lie on my bed, after my fellow-laborer, Elder Stuart Flanigan, of Springfield, Ill., has been in to see and comfort me and cheer up my poor soul in coming from his home here to visit me, and after a few kind words and good night by Mary and the doctor and nurses, I will close for today.
Thursday morning, January 7, 1915. A fairly good night's rest, and a nice breakfast and the beautiful sunshine, make our hearts rejoice and feel refreshed to start another day's journey toward the end of this life of pain and sorrow and suffering.
Still my mind runs back to father's bedside. I stayed with him and did all I could for him. While at home I was married to Miss Alvenia Smith. She was a member of the Primitive Baptist church with father and stepmother. We lived with father until it pleased God to take him home to rest. During the evening before he passed away, he was lying with his face toward heaven, his lips were moving, his hands raised, and I stood by him and asked him if he wanted something. He said, "Son, just let me be, I am at rest." All was done that we could do for him. Our good friend, Dr. Pierce, standing by his bed at the moment of his death, said, "Baxter, a good man has gone, do not grieve after him, but pray that you may be prepared to meet him in eternity." I have been trying to pray that prayer this morning, and my heart rejoices in the sweet hope that I will meet him beyond the grave. But my eyes are filled with tears of sorrow, that I can not tell him the feelings and hope of my heart this morning.
After father's death I went on to Sunday School at the Methodist church and attended protracted meetings, worshipping with them and serving as their leader in singing until they hired Rev. Jones. While he was holding his first protracted meeting I never missed a service. All the time I denied that I had ever had any change, or thought of trying to live a Christian life until one day I was on the floor, trying to lead the singing, and the preacher was in the stand and called for mourners. Eight of the boys and girls had come forward and bowed around the altar, and the preacher made a request that any desiring to be prayed for come and give him their hand. One of my best boy friends started from the back of the house. I saw the tears running down his cheeks. I had all confidence that he was earnestly desiring the prayers of God's people. I stood in the altar, with my song book in my hands. He walked up and reached his hand toward me first, then to the preacher. I could not lead the remainder of the song, but stepped over to the second seat by the side of the stand, trying to hide my tears. The preacher did not ask me to start a song, but began singing "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord." The language of Paul to Timothy (II. Tim. 2: 19) came to my mind. "The foundation of God standeth sure having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His."
I do not remember how I got there or what I said, but when I saw myself again, I was in the stand talking, and I quit and looked around. Brother Jones was sitting down on a seat out of the stand, and as I went out he arose and said, "Brethren, I am always ready to take a lower seat when a preacher comes." I wept and desired to be out of sight of human faces, but I could not hide what I had done and said. Then Brother Jones and many others said, "Baxter got through today."
Friday morning, January 8, 1915. I told Brother Jones that I did not know what I got through, or whether I had any religion or not, but I was determined to live a different life to what I had ever lived before. I went home and my wife having stayed at home that day had a nice dinner ready for me. When I sat down to dinner I could hardly keep from thanking God aloud for his blessings, but soon after dinner a neighbor girl who had been at meeting that day came in and told her the whole story. I had left the house when she came in. When I returned my good wife met me with an expression of love in her face and tears of joy in her eyes, and said to me, "The Lord bless and keep you in the way of all truth and right." When the evening came, we sat before the fire and sang, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe."
She told me her experience and it was much like what I had felt, but she was not disobedient to her vision. She went home to her friends and told them what great things the Lord had done for her soul. So we sang and prayed and praised God very nearly all night. Our lives began in the Christian race together, being made manifest to each other. She would go with me to the Methodist church and I with her to the Primitive Baptist church. I wanted to join the Methodist church, yet I wanted to be with my wife. I had a place among the Methodists I did not want to give up. Brother Jones told me if I would go with him he would see that I got a good education and be prepared for the ministry, and then he knew where he could get me a place that would pay me nine hundred dollars a year for preaching. I told him I never expected to be a preacher.
He made a visit to my home and we had quite a talk, with some disagreements. When we got to church that evening I was farther from being a Methodist than I had been since I first started to Sunday School, but yet I went on. Just before meeting at the Old Baptist church, when they were looking for old Brother Hurst down, I told my brother who belonged to the church that if they would let me I would bring my class down from Mary's chapel and sing for them while they washed feet. He told me to bring them on. I instructed the class the next morning at Sunday School how to seat themselves in the Old Baptist church and we would show them how to sing. Our class was the banner class in Grange County Song Convention. We had won the flag over several other classes of the county in Old Time music. Accordingly, I seated myself a little in front of the class and over several seats to the side. Dear old Brother Hurst in his sermon told a great deal of my experience and sometimes I could hardly sit in my seat.
When they were getting ready to wash feet, my brother, Sampson, said, "Baxter, start a song that everybody can sing." I started a good old song.
"Oh, the night of time soon shall pass away,
And the happy golden day will dawn,
When the saints shall sing unto Christ their King
In the golden, glad array.
We are watching for the light
For the new Jerusalem to come,
We are waiting for the Christ,
Who will call His children home."
When we were through singing, I saw the tears running down the old brother's cheeks. He opened his mouth and sang, "When I can read my title clear." This was one of the songs we sang when we won the banner, and the class sounded every part. I soon forgot the leadership of the class. When the song closed I was standing talking to Brother Hurst and the church. The best I remember, I had not more than told my story until I looked down the aisle and one of my old school teachers and a close friend, Jeff Wheetly, was coming with his eyes full of tears and his heart full of love to God, and reached his hand and said, "I am just like Baxter, I want a home among these people, and I love this church." The church received us that day and we were baptized the next month. Dear brethren, that was a happy day that I will never forget. When I arose from the watery grave, rejoicing in the Savior's love, I felt my duty all performed, and my burden all removed. But only my first duty in the house of the Lord had been done.
Saturday morning, January 9, 1915. After a good night's rest and a good breakfast I feel stronger, yet am troubled that I cannot attend the regular meeting at Little Flock Church near Chandlerville, Ill., where I have been serving for the past ten years as pastor. But, may God be with them! I lie here in bed with a sad heart trying to look on the bright side of life.
I wish to record a few more things that occurred while we yet lived in Tennessee. Soon after I had joined the church strong impressions would come to me, either in dreams at night, or in my meditations in the day, that I must go before the public in defense of the truth. I would plead my inability and unworthiness, and beg the Lord to rid me of such thoughts. Different passages of scripture would come to my mind and I thought about them and looked them up and read them. Sometimes I could get rid of them in a short time and sometimes I would lie awake until late in the night. It would be two or three days before any interpretation or thought of relief would come. My trouble grew worse and worse, and I often sought a hiding place that I might be alone and try to pray the Lord to rid me of the weight and thought of having to preach. I felt I was not prepared and knew I could not prepare myself. I had found in my experience that all my help and strength must come from God.
One bright morning I went out to plow corn near my brother's house, when this scripture came to my mind, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few." My thoughts ran back to the time when Grandpa Lipps used to preach in father's house. Soon there seemed to be before me a very large beast. I have never seen one like it. It was the prettiest beast I ever saw and was in a very narrow path. I looked to my right and there was a field of corn, and a fence between me and the corn. I followed that beast around he cornfield, looking at its beauty and all at once it fell. I saw the blood run down the hill from it, and watched it all vanish. When it was all gone I raised my head and I was in the field. Grandpa Lipps, Uncle Tommy Harris, Daniel Rinee and Hiram Cooper, all Old Baptist preachers, and many others I did not know, were all around me and we were all at work. I can in my mind, yet, seem to see the beautiful heaps of corn in the field and we were all singing the same song.
When this had all passed and my thoughts returned, I was standing between the plow handles about midway the field. I started my horse and went on, and something seemed to say to me that the great beautiful beast, which is the beauties of this world, will fall and fade away; it cannot live in the narrow way.
"But the field of the Lord is bright and fair,
And it's sweet to my soul to labor there."
Before I got back to the end near my brother's house I heard the neighbor's dinner bell. I went to the house and it was 11:30, so I unhitched my horse and went home, wondering what it all meant. I could not believe or understand that God would call such a poor, unworthy, weak, uneducated one as I to preach the unsearchable riches of his grace. I went on in gloom and sorrow.
The next year I moved to Brother Cooper's farm, and often wife and I would sing and bow on our knees and pray aloud before retiring. What a relief to my poor soul, when, one evening after we had prayer, some one knocked at the door. I opened it and there stood Brother Wheetly. I could hardly speak to ask him in for I feltthat he had heard me. He came in and we sang, and talked about our experiences, and praised God until he went home.
The next year I moved back on the home place with the thought of staying there. During that year Elder Cooper would ask me to offer prayer sometimes, and sometimes I would get to feeling that I wanted to say a word. But my efforts were so weak I resolved in my mind never to try again. The church had liberated me to speak in public wherever God might direct and my lot be cast. In October 1900, we sold what we had and came to Jacksonville, Ill., landing here in the morning of the 28th day. After pleasant visits by dear friends and a very good day, I will close for today.
Sunday morning, January 10, 1915. Another bright morning appears and life is made brighter with the thoughts of getting better and being able to go home, and being out again in a few weeks. In Illinois I soon found a place to work, and a house to live in, about ten miles north and west of Jacksonville, on John Branner's farm. I commenced work for him November 1, 1900. In a few days he came to where I was shucking corn and he told me about an Old School Baptist church being about two and a half miles from where I lived. I asked him if he cared if I went to meeting. He told me to go if I liked. I walked across a field and as I passed by a house I enquired the way to the Baptist church. I was informed by a young man. Soon after I reached the church an old man came up and said he lived at the place where I enquired the way. He told me he belonged to the church, and the pastor was gone away and there would be no service until the first Saturday in December. I went back at that time, and Elder Silas Hughett preached. I soon found they were Primitive Baptists. I went back on the third Sunday and heard Elder W. R. Dyer, the pastor of the church. I attended regularly, doing very well until in May, while engaged in the service of feet washing, my mind was caught away from the things of nature and carried up to a higher plane. I shouted aloud and praised God for the blessed privilege of being permitted to meet with the dear people of God, and sing the dear old songs, and worship with them in the plain old fashioned way.
After service, Elder Dyer requested that I ride with him in his buggy to Brother Orr's for dinner. As we rode along he enquired if I had ever talked any in public. I told him the church in Tennessee had given me license, but I did not make the attempt very often until I left the state, for I thought they had done wrong. He talked to me of the power of God; that he was able to take poor, unlearned fishermen as was Peter and James and make good ministers of the gospel out of them, and his power is always the same. He assured me that if the Lord had begun a good work in me, he would perform it. The thought in my mind was, Am I the one to do this work? I began to pray the Lord to give me a brighter evidence of his calling and my mind would run back to the vision of the harvest.
The next year we moved to southwest Missouri in Webster county. Soon after I heard of an Old Baptist church about fifteen miles away in Wright county. My own brother, Sampson, and I went over to meeting and when we rode up near the house we heard them singing, "Am I a soldier of the cross?" I remarked to Sampson, "They are Old Baptists." We went in the house and Elders Cooper and Will Taylor were there. Elder aylor preached and O how my heart rejoiced that I had found another place where I could feel at home in service with them. We remained over until the next day and meeting was announced for Monday and night. Brother and I returned home Sunday evening reaching home a little after dark. The sleet was so heavy that many of the limbs and small bushes were bent to the ground. We went to bed but I could not sleep, so I arose in the morning at 3 o'clock and told my wife I was going back to Wolf Creek church. She wanted to get my breakfast, but I said, "No."
I rode six miles, left my horse, and took the train to Mansfield, then walked three miles out to the church. At the close of the meeting Elder Taylor baptized five of the dear children of God who had come seeking a home with the church of God. I returned home rejoicing and told my wife all about the meeting. Soon after that we decided to get our letters from Tennessee and cast out lot among them. Elder John Taylor, our pastor, often called on me to take part in the public service, and I would try, but my efforts were so poor, I would vow in my heart never to try again. We lived there about seventeen months and came back to Illinois.
Now, with an earnest prayer to be remembered kindly by all, I close for today. Monday, January 11, 1915. On returning to Illinois I located near Little Flock church, in Cass county, and went to work for Nathan Cayce on the farm a few weeks later. Two funerals were to be at the church on Sunday, and the two Elders Witty were to preach. I went over. I had met Elder Jack Witty before I went to Missouri. They insisted that I go into the stand with them and that I introduce the services, which I did. After the funeral was over, some one suggested that we have meeting on the second Sunday in the next month and Brother Tom Witty agreed to be there. As I went home I tried to pray asking God to relieve me of the burden I felt was upon me. They had not had any regular meeting at the church for some time, so something seemed to say, "You must go and preach for them." Oh, dear brethren, such a weight on my poor heart! I wept and prayed to be relieved, but no relief came until I yielded to that impression, and said, "I will do the best I can." I have been going as regularly as I could ever since.
Seven years ago, I moved to where I now live on Eddy Smith's farm near Indian Creek church, where I heard my first sermon in this state. Afterward we sent to Missouri to get our church letters and placed them in the Indian Creek church. I felt that the brethren there knew I had all the liberty that I ought to have.
We went on until October 1909, and while in the conference meeting, to my surprise, there was a motion made and seconded that the church call help and ordain me to the full work of the ministry. The faithful old moderator knew that all the members were not present, so he held it over until the next meeting. After the meeting I went to the one who made the motion and told him I wanted him never to say another word about it. I thanked the moderator and told him never to let it come before the church again, for he knew that I should not be ordained. He assured me it would work out all right. I went home and the more I thought about it the heavier the burden became. In November the moderator was not able to be at the church and I told the brethren I did not want it to come before the church until the moderator could be present. In December the weather was so bad we could not get to the church. My trouble grew worse all the time until I had no mind to do my work.
One morning I went out to shuck a load of corn and worked as I thought until I had my load, then drove to the barn, but found that I scarcely had the bottom of the bed covered. I went to the house and Sister Smith, the mother of the man who owned the farm, asked me, "Brother Hale, why is it you want to give up the place?" I replied in astonishment, "I do not want to give up the place." She told me that I had told Eddy that I would not be there to run the farm another year. I broke down and left the house weeping. I knew my mind was gone and I could not work. I was no comfort to my family. I vowed I would never see the church again, but when the meeting day came I got ready and we all went to church. I did not go into the stand and when the time came the moderator said he had some letters to read to the church. He had word from the members who could not be there, and all were there who lived close enough. Some of the letters stated that they knew me and thought I should be ordained. Some said they were not acquainted with me, but were satisfied with what the church did. The motion was put before the church and all voted for my ordination. Due to the weather and roads it was proposed to have the ordination in May if that suited me. I told them that was all right with me, so that was the time agreed upon.
I went home that day feeling I was condemned for death. I knew that I was not worthy, neither could I feel that I was qualified to take the full work of the ministry. During the next week I would try to work, but could not think of what I wanted to do. I went to the house one day and asked my wife if she would go with me to California. She, weeping, said she would go anywhere with me, but she said, "Papa, you know it will take everything we have to get us there, and I know it is not the best." I told her my health and mind were both gone and I could not live here and left the house with my eyes full of tears and my heart broken with sorrow. I went away out of hearing from the house and begged the good Lord to take my life. I did not want to live in that condition. I returned to the house, picked up my gun and started out, not knowing where I was going. Wife met me and taking old of the gun, said, "Papa, where are you going?" I broke down again and crying, let loose the gun, and walked out telling her I was going to one of the neighbors. I went to a piece of timber and there begged the Lord to relieve me in some way, even if it were to take me from this world.
I was shown a beautiful vineyard and the laborers were all singing, all seemed to be in harmony; but after awhile confusion arose and there were but few that sang the same song, and the words came to me, "Lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily besets you and run with patience the race that is set before you, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith," and "My grace is sufficient for thee." I said, "Lord, help me, I will do the best I can." "I will submit to the will of my brethren, and I want to do the will of my God." Thus, dear brethren and friends, I have passed through many dark hours of sorrow since then and many sweet seasons of peace. The pathway in nature is dark, but the grace of my God is always sweet.
Tuesday, January 19, 1915. A week ago this morning my mind seemed to be relieved from writing, and I turned to reading. I have read the New Testament through and now will write some more of my life. The ordained help called for to ordain me came to our meeting at the time set, and on Saturday before the third Sunday in May 1910, I was ordained to the full work of the ministry. Many times I feel that I have not done what God impressed me to do and I feel that I have been chastened by the hand of the Lord for my disobedience. Ofttimes I have left my home and loved ones crying after me, "Papa, you are not able to go." I would say good bye with a heart's desire to serve my God and his people, and turn my head to hide my tears, and go, as I trust, to serve my God and to comfort his people.
When I went into the homes of my brethren they told me to enjoy their comfortable homes as my own, for which I would feel thankful, but my thoughts would go back to the poor comforts of my dear companion and little ones at home. I have often left their presence to hide my tears and pray God to reconcile me with my poor lot here upon earth, and when I felt my messages delivered I could never get home quick enough.
At home I labor with my own hands to provide for those of my own household until the time comes to go again. Sometimes I say, "I ought to stay and labor at home," but my dear companion will say, "I would rather see you go." That means much to me for I know she enjoys my company at home, but I feel that she was given me of the Lord to help me bear my burden.
So, today, while here in this lonesome place, I pray to God that I may again be able to work for their support, but if not, to reconcile me to his will, and may his grace be bestowed upon them. Dear brethren, farewell. These are a few of the troubles and joys of the life of a poor sinner in this world.
Carlinville, Ill., March 11, 1922.
Dear Kindred in Christ:
Starting again where I left off writing on Tuesday, January 19, 1915. The Lord has heard my poor, feeble prayers and blessed me that I might go again and labor for the support of my family and travel among the dear people of God. I have fulfilled the vow that I made when I went on the operating table that if the dear Lord would spare my life I would serve Him the best I could the remainder of my days. But, dear friends, I, like the children of Israel, have broken the vow and today I am lying on the bed at my home suffering from a very badly broken knee.
I was kicked by a horse Friday, March 3, and the Lord only knows what I have suffered. The doctor tells me I will be a cripple for life. As I went from Doctor Day's private hospital and took up the occupations of life, I went on attending Little Flock church and baptized a few, and the church seemed to revive. We had some very good services for three years, until I was compelled to take a position against one of the members on a doctrinal line, he taking the stand that all we do, both good and bad, was just what God's will was for us to do. Our home churches took up the case and I was released and he excluded. So I vowed I would not take the care of another church. They then called Elder D. M. Masters. went on to my home church with Elder Dyer until his death, sometimes visiting other churches at their requests, doing the very best I could to stand on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Being in fellowship, and having as a good old father to instruct me, Elder William Dyer, and along with him Elders Giles Reeder, D. W. Owens and Allen Murray, (all have gone home to rest from their labors) I enjoyed many sweet and comforting moments in their company. I received much good advice given by them which I hope to never forget. When Elder Dyer was called away our church was without a pastor, so they called me and Elder Modlin jointly to the care of the church.
Sunday morning, March 12. As I lie here on my bed and watch the rising of the beautiful sun, I can feel to praise God for his blessings. I feel a little improvement in my limb. I can move it a little and the doctor gave me much encouragement about it, yesterday. I think they will take me to the hospital for an X-ray of my knee tomorrow. This is the time of our meeting at Concord church, and a dark place comes in my poor life because I am not able to be there.
So now, my mind turns back to Indian Creek church. Elder J. A. Modlin and I worked together two years, then they called me alone. But dear brethren, I never was worthy nor competent to fill the place that the dear, old father in Israel had filled for thirty-five years. Through all the troubles and the divisions that have come among our people, Indian Creek has never had a division and they have always been ready to encourage and help me bear my burdens, as well as my fellow-laborers.
Elders S. Flanigan, J. A. Modlin, D. M. Masters, W. A. Chastain, A. J. Conlee, J. A. Conlee, L. E. Sutton, L. E. Frazee, G. W. Murray are the ones closest to me, while I have had many others of other states who have been equally as close in fellowship and spirit. I have visited among all their churches with much joy and fellowship, for which I can praise God. While my efforts to preach have been very weak, it is, and has been, a great strength to me to have them visit my home church and to hear them speak the wonderful works of God according to my own understanding, which I trust God has given me.
Monday morning, March 13. I suffered yesterday and last night more than I had for four days, yet I passed the day very well. I had thirty of my brethren, friends and neighbors to see me and they did everything they could to comfort me. I thank the dear Lord for friends and brethren. Some, as they went from my bedside, would leave a gift in my hand to help me and I especially want to speak of one who does not belong to any denomination. After he had spent the afternoon talking to me and telling me a few funny things that occurred during the six years he was in congress, the conversation became sacred, and as others had taken their leave, he drew his chair close to my bedside and said, "I want to help you," and as he did so laid ten dollars on the side of my bed. Dear ones, my heart was filled with praise and thanksgiving to God, for I believe that God has filled his heart with love for me. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
I moved from Morgan to Macoupin county in March 1918. I often had requests to take the care of churches, but would refuse. What a burden it seemed to me to take the oversight of the dear flock of God! I knew I was not able to do as an under shepherd should. Often my dear wife told me it would be easier and better if I would just take the care of four churches. I was not looking at the easy part, but only desired to get away from the full care of the churches as their pastor. I here desire to beg my brethren's forgiveness for the way I have treated them, especially Liberty Mosquito church, near Mt. Auburn, Ill., and the church at Hindsboro. I know it was not because I did not love you, but because I felt unworthy of a place among you. I felt disqualified to do a pastor's work.
After awhile, when it pleased God to bring dear Elder Owens down to his last days he sent a special request to me to come over and help him. Accordingly, I went, and he told me he needed me as the brethren of Macedonia needed Paul. When he told me that, my heart was broken and my eyes filled with tears. I said, "Not me, surely, not me." He said, "Yes, Brother Hale, I need you, emphatically you, for I am broken down and the brethren want you." The last time I was there, just before he passed away, he said, "Brother Hale, take care of Mt. Gilead church." So, after he was gone a request came and I went, but made every excuse I could reasonably, though did not say that I would not accept. I sought a pastor for them but failed, and I finally accepted their call. I moved over into the north part of the county in February 1921, near Concord church. When I was not there, Elder Modlin, their pastor, requested the church to release him and call me, and so they did. I could find no reason for not accepting only unfitness, and they would not accept that, so this made me three churches, first Sunday at Mt. Gilead, second at Concord, and third at Indian Creek.
At this time I declared I would not take another church, yet sometimes I felt that it was a sweet and happy place to be. When dear, old Sister Knowles, seventy-eight years old, came forward at our meeting at Mt. Gilead and dated her experience back to her thirteenth year and asked that I baptize her, I, with joy, told her I was at her service. The next month I baptized her and when we went back to the church, her little great granddaughter, thirteen years old, came and gave me her hand and told us her desires. I baptized her the next month. So I get a little encouragement along the way, in spite of my very rebellious nature. I confess I am a disobedient servant.
Last November, a call came to me from Prairie City. I went over there and found they had searched for a pastor but all in vain. Again, I began to make excuses, but found none acceptable to them. They had called me to their care on the fourth Sunday of the month. This I accepted, yet in my poor, sinful heart, I would declare that I would give them all up and quit.
Last month, just before the meeting at Concord, I told my wife I never would go again; I would stay at home and work for her and the children until we got in better circumstances financially. But with the burden of my poor heart and the encouragement of my good companion, I went on feeling in my heart, I will go this time, but never again. Until Friday, March 3, I was hunting for excuses, and found myself thus engaged that morning when I arose. I was wishing I might not have to go to Mt. Gilead church. Very suddenly I found an excuse for not going. A horse kicked me, unjointing my knee, and I fell behind her. She yet kept kicking. I could feel the breeze from her hoofs as they would pass my head and hit the wall back of me, but God in his great power did not let her hit me any more. So, by his exceeding mercies I am yet alive.
Tuesday morning, March 14. Dr. Hiffey was here yesterday. He said he believed I was getting along well, but wanted me to have an X-ray taken. They made arrangements to take me to the hospital today, but it rained so last night and is yet raining this morning that the ambulance cannot come. I took some medicine to ease the pain and get some rest. After ten last night I rested very well, but it is not like natural rest. I hope in a few days or weeks that I can rest.
Dear children of God, how long, how long, till we reach that sweet land of rest? As the storm rages and the rain falls, and the clouds shut off the brightness of the morning sun, yet I can see a ray of light shining in my heart telling me the storm will soon be over and the sunshine of God's grace will drive back the dark clouds of suffering, and pain, and sorrow, and shine above the brightness of the morning sun. Earthly ties are many to me, for I just now finished reading the letters of love and sympathy from some of the dear saints of God saying they are praying for me. O dear saints, I am not worthy of your prayers. Yet, as I told dear, old Brother Weller yesterday, as he laid his gift of fifteen dollars in my hand, though I am unworthy to receive, yet I know it is freely given. God's grace has been sufficient and will be sufficient for me, but I am so weak.
Dear saints of God, I do hope you will pray for me, for I need your prayers, and if it pleaseth God to answer them in my behalf, and I am ever restored to health again, I hope that I may never get so low as to say I will not go into His service. It is not the way my brethren have treated me that has caused me to neglect serving them; no, many times, no! It is because of the sin that is in me and the weakness of the flesh. So may God's grace keep me and guide me through this world that I may not become a castaway, but that my life may yet be of some comfort to God's dear children. O, children of the living God who are out of the church, come in and let us walk together while it is day, and praise the Lord while we live.
So I close.
Sunday, March 19, 1922.
Dear Loved Ones:
It is raining this morning and I can see the lightning and hear the sound of thunder. As I lie here and meditate on the things of the past, and of my present condition, my mind runs back to the time when I lived near Gillespie, Ill. The doctor came and told us there was no other hope for our dear girl, Lena, than to go to the hospital and be operated on for appendicitis. We agreed and she wanted to go. So we, with Doctor Jones, started for the Baptist hospital in St. Louis, leaving home with sad hearts. She cheerfully said to her cousins and brothers and sisters, "Good-by, kids," and we drove away from home. We arrived at the hospital about 11 o'clock, August 3, 1918. She went on the operating table about 1 o'clock and went through the operation nicely, awaking in good spirits. On Monday about 2 o'clock she became very restless and we could do nothing that would comfort her. About 5 o'clock I was just out of the room and the nurse came and called me. I rushed to her room to find an entirely different expression on her face. She said, "Papa, I have been with Jesus and he said, 'Lena, I want you to go home with me.' Papa, I am ready to go. When I was at Hopewell at meeting last month I could hardly keep from joining the church. I wanted to join and be baptized, and now I wish I had; but papa, I know it is all right, for a while ago we . . . . . and Elder Modlin baptized Mary, . . . ." She told the nurses and the doctor who operated on her. The nurse would shed tears, but the doctor called it a very ugly dream. She said, "Papa, send for mama, I want to tell her." I phoned her mama, and when she came she told her the same sweet story. On Wednesday morning, August 7, the morning she took her leave to go home and live with Jesus, she called me again, and said, "O, papa, isn't it a pretty morning? It's the brightest morning I ever saw. Everything is so bright before me." These were her last words, and she passed away in peace. Dear friends, I could but say, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Dear friends, I feel today that I have that sweet hope that when I leave this world of sin and sorrow, suffering and disappointment, that we will meet and be with Jesus, and sing the same song of redemption through Jesus' blood. What a meeting! What a meeting that will be, when we all meet around God's bright throne.
Monday morning, March 20, 1922. Have had a good breakfast at home at the hands of a loving companion and children. My rest was not so good last night, but can see a little improvement in my limb. The weather and roads were so bad they have not taken me to the hospital to have an X-ray, yet. I only get a few hours rest when I take medicine to ease the pain. Doctor says I just have to endure it. He is good and kind to me, sometimes walking a mile from the hard road to get to see me. I appreciate his kindness, but oh, dear loved ones, it is not like the kindness of the Great Physician who gives ease to the troubled soul. This morning I feel to praise the Lord, the Great Physician, and say there is a balm in Gilead, enough to cure a sin-sick soul.
March 25, 1922. I am yet in bed, but see a great deal of improvement in my limb. Many good friends have been to visit me since I wrote last, but many dark clouds of sorrow have come over me. My landlord, Mr. Oliver V. Conlee, the one who was so good and kind to me and gave me a place to live on his farm, passed from this time world to eternity, March 21. The last words he said to me when I carried his grip to the hospital where he died, after I had said, "Oliver, put your trust in the Lord and he will do what is right and take care of you," were, "Mr. Hale, I am perfectly satisfied about that. That is not bothering me at all." These words and many others give me reason to believe he was a Christian man. When I came to rent his farm, I said, "Mr. Conlee, farming is a secondary matter with me. I may leave the corn planter or binder setting in the field and go in the service of my Lord. You may think I ought to be at home, but I want to put the service of God first, then I am ready to serve you the best I can." He answered me with a smile and said, "That is all right. I want you and your family on my farm for a number of years, and if you work as they tell me you do and you don't make a living and some money besides, I will give you some." So, dear ones, you see that I have lost a good friend and, I believe, a brother in the Spirit.
He leaves a wife in possession of his estate for her lifetime. The next day after his burial she came to my bedside weeping and told me his desire to see me was great. She called the doctor the morning of the funeral and asked if they could not get me to their home, but he thought it not best. His kind brother offered to help carry me on the stretchers one-half mile to the house, but all considered it best to not take me. So I lay on my bed at home mourning with them, realizing my loss was great. I truly sympathize with the widow, the three daughters, and other close friends which are many.
This is the day of our meeting at Prairie City, and I mourn within me that I cannot be present with them. May the Lord give them a good service. As I lie here on my bed at home this rainy Sunday morning, seeing my dear wife and children going about their work, and hearing their voices talking and some of the little ones singing merrily, it makes my heart leap for joy and praise to God who gives me these loved ones to comfort me and lighten my burden and brighten my poor, sinful life.
The doctor was here yesterday and told me I was doing fine and would soon be able to get out on crutches, which is a great encouragement to me. I must not close this writing without telling you that my first grandchild was born to my oldest daughter, March 21. Her name is Lola Elenor Lucas. We hope she has been given to brighten our lives in our later years. While we have so many things to live for, the brightest and most joyful of all is a hope that anchors beyond this vale of tears, whither the forerunner for us has entered, even Jesus, the high priest of our profession. His is the only name given under heaven or among men whereby we must be saved, and in him, and in him alone, we feel our eternal salvation is secure. I can only say spiritually it is the grace of God that makes me what I am. Dear friends, if you never hear from me again, it is my great desire that I may live in peace with all men as much as is possible, but above all things, that I may die in peace with Jesus. I ask all who may read this to please cast the mantle of charity over my imperfections and pray for me, a sinner saved by grace, if saved at all.at t h