Chapter 6: Advent Experience
With carefulness and trembling we approached the time* when our Saviour was expected to appear. With solemn earnestness we sought, as a people, to purify our lives that we might be ready to meet Him at His coming. Notwithstanding the opposition of ministers and churches, Beethoven Hall, in the city of Portland, was nightly crowded; especially was there a large congregation on Sundays. Elder Stockman [a Methodist minister] was a man of deep piety. He was in feeble health; yet when he stood before the people he seemed to be lifted above physical infirmity, and his face was lighted with the consciousness that he was teaching the sacred truth of God.
All classes flocked to the meetings at Beethoven Hall. Rich and poor, high and low, ministers and laymen, were all, from various causes, anxious to hear for themselves the doctrine of the second advent. Many came, who, finding no room to stand, went away disappointed. The order of the meetings was simple. A short and pointed discourse was usually given, then liberty was granted for general exhortation. There was, as a rule, the most perfect stillness possible for so large a crowd. The Lord held the spirit of opposition in check while His servants explained the reasons of their faith. Sometimes the instrument was feeble, but the Spirit of God gave weight and power to His truth. The presence of the holy angels was felt in the assembly, and numbers were daily added to the little band of believers.
On one occasion, while Elder Stockman was preaching, Elder Brown, a Christian Baptist minister, whose name has been mentioned before in this narrative, was sitting in the desk listening to the sermon with intense interest. He became deeply moved, and suddenly his countenance grew pale as the dead, he reeled in his chair, and Elder Stockman caught him in his arms just as he was falling to the floor, and laid him on the sofa behind the desk, where he lay powerless until the discourse was finished.
He then arose, his face still pale, but shining with light from the Sun of Righteousness, and gave a very impressive testimony. He seemed to receive holy unction from above. He was usually slow of speech, with an earnest manner, entirely free from excitement. On this occasion his solemn, measured words carried with them a new power as he warned sinners and his brother ministers to put away unbelief, prejudice, and cold formality, and, like the noble Bereans, search the sacred writings, comparing scripture with scripture, to ascertain if these things were not true. He entreated the ministers present not to feel themselves injured by the direct and searching manner in which Elder Stockman had presented the solemn subject that interested all minds.
Said he: "We want to reach the people; we want sinners to be convicted and become truly repentant before it is too late for them to be saved, lest they shall take up the lamentation, 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.' Brethren in the ministry say that our arrows hit them; will they please stand aside from between us and the people, and let us reach the hearts of sinners? If they make themselves a target for our aim, they have no reason to complain of the wounds they receive. Stand aside, brethren, and you will not get hit!"
He related his own experience with such simplicity and candor that many who had been greatly prejudiced were affected to tears. The Spirit of God was felt in his words and seen upon his countenance. With a holy exaltation he boldly declared that he had taken the word of God as his counselor, that his doubts had been swept away and his faith confirmed. With earnestness he invited his brother ministers, church members, sinners, and infidels to examine the Bible for themselves, and charged them to let no man turn them from the purpose of ascertaining what was the truth.
Elder Brown neither then nor afterward severed his connection with the Christian Baptist Church, but was looked upon with great respect by his people. When he had finished speaking, those who desired the prayers of the people of God were invited to rise. Hundreds responded to the call. The Holy Spirit rested upon the assembly. Heaven and earth seemed to approach each other. The meeting lasted until a late hour of the night. The power of the Lord was felt upon young, old, and middle-aged.
As we returned to our homes by various ways, a voice praising God would reach us from one direction, and, as if in response, voices from another and still another quarter shouted: "Glory to God, the Lord reigneth!" Men sought their homes with praises upon their lips, and the glad sound rang out upon the still night air. No one who attended these meetings can ever forget those scenes of deepest interest.
(Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 48-51)