MEETING GOD IN THE WAY
“HUSBAND,” said Mrs. Gregory, when they were alone in the seclusion of their cabin, “what are you going to do about this truth of the Sabbath?”
A rap announced a “short call” from Mr. Spaulding.
“Brother Spaulding, I am so glad you came in,” said Mrs. Gregory, “for my husband and I have just been talking about a matter of personal duty, and I want to take you into our confidence.”
Mr. Spaulding glanced about the stateroom somewhat nervously, instinctively detecting that the matter of “personal duty” was one which, above all others, he would at this time avoid. His distress was apparent, particularly when he saw lying near, Harold Wilson’s Bible, which in the young man’s haste had been left behind.
“Perhaps you have not long to stay with us,” continued Mrs. Gregory, “so I will come at once to my point.”
Mr. Spaulding’s eyes seemed to be riveted on a Scripture text which, as a motto for the voyage, Mrs. Gregory had pinned to the side wall of the stateroom.
“You see, Brother Spaulding, husband and I have been taken through a through ‘the valley of the shadow;’ and as I consider all the circumstances, I am profoundly convinced that it was to teach me to be willing to bear my cross as the Lord Jesus would have me.
“I have been bitterly opposed to the idea of observing the true Sabbath of the Lord, although ever since I was a child, I have heard something ever telling me that Sunday is not the Christian’s day of rest. Yesterday that bitterness nearly cost me my life, and only the heroic act of a Sabbath keeper saved me. However, I have come to see what God wants me to do, and I mean to do it.
“Husband also sees. He too is convinced that the things spoken yesterday, and at other times also, are truth which calls for surrender on our part. My question is — and here I am treating you indeed as a confidential friend — Do you not think we should both come out at once and openly take our stand in favor of the Sabbath? You are an ambassador for Christ, and I want you to give me your sincerest thought.”
Little did the good woman know that the day before, at the very time she was precipitated into the sea, Mr. Spaulding was seeking to persuade her husband that Harold Wilson was a menace to the Christian belief of a vast majority of the passengers, and that Mr. Anderson was one who should be shunned by both ministers and people.
Mr. Gregory sensed the embarrassment of the situation, and sought to alleviate Mr. Spaulding’s distress.
“Brother Spaulding,” he said, “do you not regard it as remarkable, in view of what we were discussing at the time of the accident, that Mr. Wilson should have been the one to save my wife’s life? And mark you, he himself has said that the truth which has recently come to him was what gave him inspiration and faith to jump overboard and effect the rescue. Do you not look upon it as remarkable?”
“Yes, Brother Gregory, I do; and I confess myself reproved for what I said.”
“But you must answer my question, Brother Spaulding,” Mrs. Gregory insisted. “Do you not think we should both keep the Sabbath, even though it cost us everything we have in the world, when we have come to understand that God is calling upon us to do so?”
Mr. Spaulding Acknowledges His Error
“Mrs. Gregory, you have placed me in an exceedingly trying position, yet you have done so unwittingly. You may not be aware that I have been strongly opposed to the seventh-day Sabbath idea, and have regarded it as a delusion, something that was calculated to hinder the progress of the gospel in this time of great world evangelism. But to be perfectly frank, I will say that it is everyone’s privilege and duty to obey his conscience.”
“Brother Spaulding,” queried Mr. Gregory, “do you feel absolutely confident that you are right in the positions you have taken regarding the Sabbath? For instance, are you ready to stake your salvation on the thought that the Sabbath is not to be kept, because the law is abolished? Really, didn’t Jesus honor the Ten Commandments, and die to satisfy their claims? Does not the story of Calvary show that the law of the new covenant, the law written in the heart, is the law proclaimed from Sinai? Before God, tell me. Let us be honest with our own hearts.”
“Well, Brother Gregory, I don’t know how to analyze my position. When I read such Scriptures as Matthew 5:17, 18; Romans 3:31; 8:3, 4; James 2:8-12; Matthew 19:17, and other like passages, there does flit through my mind a bit of doubt. No, I cannot truly say I am absolutely confident.”
“Another question then,” continued Mr. Gregory: “Ought we not to regard the example and teaching of Jesus as vital?”
“Yes, I believe we ought.”
Mr. Spaulding began to relax, and a spirit of freedom which he almost unwillingly enjoyed began to take possession of him.
“Well, that is my opinion too,” continued Mr. Gregory; “and for a long time, I have had in mind that if I would yield my pride, and freely follow the Saviour’s plan, I would be a Sabbath keeper. He certainly was, yet not as a Jew; Jesus was the Universal Man, and therefore His Sabbath keeping was of universal import. He is my example, and I see no way to escape the conclusion that I should do as He did.”
A Child of Apostasy
“You told me, Brother Spaulding, that you had been connected with one of the seminaries conducted by your people, and that you taught church history. Tell me, please, has not your study shown you that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment was kept by the apostles and by the church generally for hundreds of years after Christ? Is it not true that the early church was influenced by the forms and ceremonies of ancient pagan sun worship, and that gradually she adopted the customs of the time, Sunday observance being one of them? And, to make a long story short, was it not the church, fallen and corrupted, seeking for worldly position and power, that, in the fourth century, actually substituted Sunday for the Sabbath, and compelled the recognition of it by law?”
“Brother Gregory, you are down to real heart work now,” was Mr. Spaulding’s reply, “and I am going to be more than frank. I am going to tell you what I have never breathed to a soul before; namely, that all you have said and even more is true. Without any doubt, Sunday as a day of rest is only a child of apostasy. There is not a snatch of evidence, in any of the writings of the fathers, to prove that it has any claim to divine sanction. I know all this.
“But I have looked at the matter from another angle — I have given respectful consideration to the thought that as Sunday was the day of the resurrection, we could properly celebrate that glorious event by worshiping on the day which witnessed it. I must say, though, that if I were on my dying bed, I should not want to make any strong claim for the practice. Certainly God never commanded it.”
“Then tell me, Brother Spaulding,” said Mrs. Gregory, “how in the world could you stand before the people week after week and teach something of which you were not absolutely sure? Don’t you believe the Bible?”
Only Playing With the Bible
“Sister Gregory, let me bare my heart a bit further. You have now suggested the real difficulty of the whole proposition. I believe I have been playing with the word of God. I recognize that there has come into my life a something which has undermined my old-time confidence. The Bible has ceased to be a really authoritative divine Word. I have treated it, in a measure, as though it were from men rather than from the Lord; and on that account, I have argued just to carry my point, and not to find the truth.”
“I have done the same, to some extent,” said Mr. Gregory.
“Well, are you both intending to continue that course?” asked Mrs. Gregory. “It seems to me that God is trying very earnestly here to-day to help us all to change.”
“And become Sabbatarians, Sister Gregory?” Mr. Spaulding questioned.
“I didn’t say that, yet maybe that is what any true and complete change would mean. You know, Brother Spaulding, that if we do take God’s word as an inspired oracle and as our only guide in living, there is no escaping the fact that we are under absolute moral obligation to obey the fourth commandment. Isn’t that so?”
“Certainly,” was the answer. “There is not a hint of any other day divinely set apart.”
“So far as the Bible is concerned, then, the Sabbatarians are correct, are they not?”
“Yes, without doubt. But, oh, the idea of keeping a day different from what almost the entire Christian church observes! It is that that hurts me. Why, one actually becomes the laughingstock of society. I myself have called the seventh-day people ‘Christ killers’ and ‘fanatics.’ “
“You certainly have, Brother Spaulding,” said Mr. Gregory. “Those were the terms you were using yesterday when we were interrupted by the cry, ‘Woman overboard!’”
“Well, I never knew before that ministers of the gospel were so unwilling to yield to what they knew to be right. And do you mean to tell me that there are others in the pulpit who talk one thing and believe another?”
“Wife, you must be patient and charitable in this matter, even though you learn of what seems to be dishonesty. I don’t like to call it that; rather, I would call it confusion, resulting from long years of training in the wrong direction. As Brother Spaulding has said, he has scarcely been able to analyze his own views. We have gone on, however, teaching many times what we have not known to be true, even though we have not taught what we have known to be false. It is perfectly safe to say that the majority of the ministry of today occupies this position. But the circumstances of this trip, — the contact with Harold Wilson and his marked Bible, the attitude of Captain Mann, the work of Mr. Anderson, the discussions among Brother Mitchell, Brother Spaulding, and me, and finally, the providence of yesterday, which has spoken so pointedly to my soul, — all these have caused me to see that I must take an entirely different course, and I purpose that everybody aboard this vessel shall know what God has done for me.”
It was thus that Mr. Gregory, led by the Spirit of God, finally and fully committed himself.
“Before you go, Brother Spaulding, won’t you take the Bible there and read for us? Read the fortieth Psalm, please.”
Mr. Spaulding gladly acceded to the request of Mr. Gregory, and picking up the marked Bible, turned to the Psalm indicated and began to read. Slowly and feelingly he read, a great tenderness taking possession of his heart. Scores and scores of times during his ministry he had read this same Scripture; but never before had its voice seemed to speak so directly to him, or its message appeared so sweet. He reached to eighth verse, and this he found underscored. In the margin was written the following:
“God’s will is God’s law. To do His will — to keep His law — is the true and only object of life. Ecclesiastes 12:13. Not wealth, not health, not happiness, not salvation, not philanthropy, but doing God’s will. He who delights in the will of God has found the climax of all holiness, and will surely be instrumental, as Jesus was, in leading others to love and serve. This is the revelation of God in man and through man. — Mother.”
Mr. Spaulding stopped. The word “Mother” at the close of the note aroused in him a peculiar interest.
“What does this mean?” he said. “who is the mother who wrote this comment?”
While the words were on his lips, there was a light rap at the door. In response to the usual “Come in,” Harold Wilson entered. He had missed his Bible, and had come for it.
“Sit down, my boy,” said Mr. Gregory. “We are just about to have prayer with Brother Spaulding.”
That sounded strange to Harold; and what was stranger, his Bible was in Mr. Spaulding’s hand. What did it mean? Mr. Spaulding soon satisfied Harold’s curiosity by explaining the circumstances, and then, in a gentle and fatherly way, so unlike his usual demeanor, said: “Son, what is the meaning of the word ‘Mother’ signed to this note here? I am interested, because the note sounds so much like the words of my own mother, who was accustomed also to mark her Bible.”
Gladly indeed did Harold relate the story of his faithful mother, of his effort to escape her influence and teaching, of the marked Bible which he found at sea and later threw away, of his life in sin, of his trial and sentence, of the marked bible at the Oakland pier — marked by request of his mother while she was on her deathbed — of Mr. Anderson’s acquaintance with the dear mother, and of Captain Mann and his experience. All this and much more seemed to Harold a chapter stranger than fiction, and he told it as only one who believes in an overshadowing Providence can.
“And that’s why I am trying to follow my Saviour,” said Harold. “My mother’s prayer has been answered through Mr. Anderson. The verse you have just read is my special guide, and I wrote my name under the word ‘Mother,’ so I could say in my heart that I was indorsing her message.”
Mr. Spaulding prayed. The Spirit of God was there to indict. As he prayed, his heart broke before God. Mr. and Mrs. Gregory shared fully his blessing of spiritual uplift, and amens sought to find expression through lips too tender to articulate. When he prayed for Harold, “the hero of faith” of the day before, and for Mr. Anderson, “the devoted brother who sought truly to reveal Christ,” Harold’s cup was full.
The prayer ended, Harold quietly withdrew, and Mr. Spaulding also hastened to his stateroom.
But before the gong called Harold to his work, he went to Mr. Anderson’s quarters, and told him what had occurred in the stateroom he had just left.
“Thank God,” said the minister, “the day of miracles is not past.”