The following are selected from a list of incidents recorded by Thomas Graham, the noted revivalist preacher, of the Erie Conference of the M.B. church. After his death they were found entered, under the above heading, in a small pass-book, as facts worthy of preservation, from an experience of almost fifty years in the ministry:
When the Rev. Mr. Knapp, a regular Baptist minister, was holding a protracted meeting in Erie, he was interrupted by one Gifford, a Universalist preacher. Mr. Knapp felt his patience tried. At the conclusion of his sermon he prayed publicly that if said Gifford was within reach of salvation that God would have mercy upon him; but if not that God would take away his speech, so that he might deceive the people no longer. And Mr. Gifford went out of the house that night a perfect mute, nor did he speak another word for more than four years. He said himself he believed he could speak if he could will to do it. He carried a slate about with him all the time, on which he wrote what he wished to say. All physicians who examined him said there was no disease of the organs of speech. It was a direct visitation in answer to prayer. He went to New York, Boston, and other places, to consult the best physicians; but it was of no use.
When Rev. George Howe was holding a protracted meeting, at which many were converted, the family of a noted infidel experienced religion, which affected him much. Returning home one evening from meeting, he seemed more than usually melancholy; and after going to bed, he began to abuse his wife for letting the children have a certain rope to play with that day, for they had now lost it. She remarked to him that it was not lost, that she knew it was in a certain place which she designated. Apparently he became satisfied, and she fell asleep.
That night one of the members of the Methodist society in the neighborhood came to two others of the brethren, stating to them that he was impressed with the idea of going to this infidel’s house, and wanted them to go along with him. They all started off immediately. They came to the infidel’s door and rapped, but received no answer. After waiting some time, they opened the door, and coming in, found the man of the house with the said rope around his neck, and in the act of putting it over a beam to hang himself. Immediately he dropped on his knees, and cried for mercy, and before they left him he was happily converted to God. His name was John James. Ten minutes more and he would have been in eternity.
When Revs. William Swazy and John Chandler were holding a quarterly meeting in Greenville, Mercer Co., Pa., they gave an opportunity for seekers of religion to come to the altar on Saturday evening. Many came. One young man, who was almost induced to go, held back. The thought, however, that it “was now or never” haunted him, so that at last he arose and went part way down the aisle, with the intention of going forward; he stopped, however, and going back resumed his seat. Still this idea troubled him. He arose and went part way a second time. A third time he arose and went down, but instead of kneeling down at the altar, he went out of the house, intending to go home; but being impressed with the idea that it was “now or never,” he turned about and came back, and stood at the altar, and looked on the scene for a short time; then clinching his fist, and shaking it in the air, he shouted: “God Almighty, I will not! “ and left the house.
From that moment he said his feelings left him. He walked on home; but as he stepped on his own doorstep and put his hand to the door to open it, he said a light shone around him, and a voice distinctly said: “He is joined to his idols, let him alone;” and, shrieking aloud, he fell on the pavement. His neighbors came and carried him in. They sent for Swazy and Chandler, who came and offered him the consolation of the gospel, but without avail. His reply was: “It is too late! Too late! Too late! “ And continued thus to exclaim until about sunrise the next morning, when his spirit took its flight to God, whom he had refused and insulted.
Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893