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Chapter 2: My Conversion
Joyful in Christ
It seemed to me that everyone must be at peace with God and animated by His Spirit. Everything that my eyes rested upon seemed to have undergone a change. The trees were more beautiful and the birds sang more sweetly than ever before; they seemed to be praising the Creator in their songs. I did not care to talk, for fear this happiness might pass away, and I should lose the precious evidence of Jesus' love for me.
As we neared our home in Portland, we passed men at work upon the street. They were conversing with one another upon ordinary topics, but my ears were deaf to everything but the praise of God, and their words came to me as grateful thanks and glad hosannas. Turning to my mother, I said: "Why, these men are all praising God, and they haven't been to the camp meeting." I did not then understand why the tears gathered in my mother's eyes, and a tender smile lit up her face, as she listened to my simple words that recalled a similar experience of her own.
My mother was a lover of flowers and took much pleasure in cultivating them and thus making her home attractive and pleasant for her children. But our garden had never before looked so lovely to me as upon the day of our return. I recognized an expression of the love of Jesus in every shrub, bud, and flower. These things of beauty seemed to speak in mute language of the love of God.
"Ah," thought I, "if He so loves and cares for the flowers that He has decked with beauty, how much more tenderly will He guard the children who are formed in His image." I repeated softly to myself: "I am a child of God, His loving care is around me. I will be obedient and in no way displease Him, but will praise His dear name and love Him always."
My life appeared to me in a different light. The affliction that had darkened my childhood seemed to have been dealt me in mercy for my good, to turn my heart away from the world and its unsatisfying pleasures, and incline it toward the enduring attractions of heaven.
Soon after our return from the camp meeting, I, with several others, was taken into the church on probation. My mind was very much exercised on the subject of baptism. Young as I was, I could see but one mode of baptism authorized by the Scriptures, and that was immersion. Some of my Methodist sisters tried in vain to convince me that sprinkling was Bible baptism. The Methodist minister consented to immerse the candidates if they conscientiously preferred that method, although he intimated that sprinkling would be equally acceptable with God.
Finally the time was appointed for us to receive this solemn ordinance. It was a windy day when we, twelve in number, went down into the sea to be baptized. The waves ran high and dashed upon the shore; but as I took up this heavy cross, my peace was like a river. When I arose from the water, my strength was nearly gone, for the power of the Lord rested upon me. I felt that henceforth I was not of this world, but had risen from the watery grave into a newness of life.
The same day in the afternoon I was received into the church in full membership. A young woman stood by my side who was also a candidate for admission to the church. My mind was peaceful and happy till I noticed the gold rings glittering upon this sister's fingers, and the large, showy earrings in her ears. I then observed that her bonnet was adorned with artificial flowers, and trimmed with costly ribbons arranged in bows and puffs. My joy was dampened by this display of vanity in one who professed to be a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus.
I expected that the minister would give some whispered reproof or advice to this sister; but he was apparently regardless of her showy apparel, and no rebuke was administered. We both received the right hand of fellowship. The hand decorated with jewels was clasped by the representative of Christ, and both our names were registered upon the church book.
This circumstance caused me no little perplexity and trial as I remembered the apostle's words: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing Godliness) with good works." The teaching of this scripture seemed to be openly disregarded by those whom I looked upon as devoted Christians, and who were much older in experience than myself. If it was indeed as sinful as I supposed, to imitate the extravagant dress of worldlings, surely these Christians would understand it and would conform to the Bible standard. Yet for myself I determined to follow my convictions of duty. I could but feel that it was contrary to the spirit of the gospel to devote God-given time and means to the decoration of our persons—that humility and self-denial would be more befitting those whose sins had cost the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God.
(Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 18-21)