OUT OF WEAKNESS MADE STRONG
BY: A. B. SIMPSON
Again and again, while climbing a slight elevation or going up a stair
did the old suffocation agony come over me.
For more than twenty years I was a sufferer from many physical infirmities and disabilities. Beginning a life of hard study, at the age of fourteen I broke hopelessly down with nervous prostration while I was preparing for college, and for many months was not permitted by my physician even to look at a book. During this time I came very near death, and on the verge of eternity gave myself to God. After my college studies were completed, I became the ambitious pastor of a large city church at twenty-one, and plunging headlong into my work, I again broke down with heart trouble and had to go away for months to rest, returning at length, as it seemed to me at the time, to die. Rallying, however, and slowly recovering in part, I labored on for years, with the aid of constant remedies and preventatives. I carried a bottle of ammonia in my pocket for years, and would have taken a nervous spasm if I had ventured without it. Again and again, while climbing a slight elevation or going up a stair did the old suffocation agony come over me. God knows how many hundred times in my early ministry when preaching in my pulpit or ministering by a grave it seemed that I must fall in the midst of the service or drop into that open grave.
Two other collapses of long duration came in my health, and again and again during these terrible seasons did it seem that the last drops of life were ebbing out, and a frail thread held the vital chain from snapping forever.
A few months before I took Christ as my Healer, a prominent physician in New York told me that I had not constitutional strength enough left to last more than a few months.
During the summer that followed I went for a time to Saratoga Springs, and while there, one Sabbath afternoon, I wandered out to the Indian campground, where the jubilee singers were leading the music in an evangelistic service. I was deeply depressed, and all things in life looked dark and withered. Suddenly, I heard the chorus:
My Jesus is the Lord of lords:
No man can work like Him.
Again and again, in the deep bass notes, and the higher tones that seemed to soar to heaven, they sang:
No man can work like Him.
No man can work like Him.
It fell upon me like a spell. It fascinated me. It seemed like a voice from heaven. It possessed my whole being. I took Him also to be my Lord of lords, and to work for me. I knew not how much it all meant; but I took Him in the dark, and went forth from that rude, old-fashioned service, remembering nothing else, but strangely lifted up.
A few weeks later I went with my family to Old Orchard, Maine, chiefly to enjoy the delightful air of that loveliest of all ocean beaches. I lived on the seashore while there, and went occasionally to the meetings on the campground, but only once or twice took part in them, and had not, up to that time, committed myself in any full sense to the truth or experience of divine healing. I heard a great number of people testify that they had been healed by simply trusting the word of Christ, just as they would for salvation. It drove me to my Bible. I determined that I must settle this matter one way or the other. I am so glad I did not go to man. At His feet, alone, with my open Bible, and with no one to help or guide me, I became convinced that this was part of Christ’s glorious gospel for a sinful and suffering world, for all who would believe and receive His word.
That was enough. I could not believe this and then refuse to take it for myself, for I felt that I dare not hold any truth in God’s Word as a mere theory or teach to others what I had not personally proved. And so one Friday afternoon at the hour of three o’clock, I went out into the silent pine woods – I remember the very spot – and there I raised my right hand to heaven and made to God, as if I had seen Him before me face to face, these three great and eternal pledges:
1. As I shall meet Thee in that day, I solemnly accept this truth as part of Thy Word and of the Gospel of Christ, and, God helping me, I shall never question it until I meet Thee there.
2. As I shall meet Thee in that day, I take the Lord Jesus as my physical life, for all the needs of my body until all my life-work is done; and, God helping me, I shall never doubt that He does become my life and strength from this moment and will keep me under all circumstances until all His will for me is perfectly fulfilled.
3. As I shall meet Thee in that day, I solemnly promise to use this blessing for the glory of God and the good of others, and to so speak of it or minister in connection with it in any way in which God may call me or others may need me in the future.
I arose. It had only been a few moments, but I knew that something was done. Every fiber of my soul was tingling with a sense of God’s presence. I do not know whether my body felt better or not – I know I did not think of it – it was so glorious to believe it simply, and to know that henceforth He had it in hand.
Then came the test of faith. The first struck me before I had left the spot. A subtle voice whispered: “Now that you have decided to take God as your Healer, it would help if you should just go down to Dr. Cullis’ cottage and get him to pray with you.” I listened to it for a moment. The next moment a blow seemed to strike my brain, which made me reel as a man stunned. I cried: “Lord, what have I done?” I was in some great peril. In a moment the thought came very quickly: “That suggestion would have been all right before this, but you have just settled this matter forever, and told God that you will never doubt that it is done, and you must not attempt to do it over again.” I saw it like a flash of lightning, and in that moment I understood what faith meant and what a solemn thing it was inexorably to keep faith with God. I have often thanked God for that blow. I saw that when a thing was settled with God, it was never to be unsettled or repeated. When it was done, it was never to be undone or done over again in any sense that could involve a doubt of the finality of the committal already made.
I think in the early days of the work of faith to which God afterwards called me, I was as much helped by a holy fear of doubting God as by any of the joys and raptures of His presence or promises. This little word often shone like a living fire in my Bible: “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” What the enemy desired was to get some doubt about the certainty and completeness of the transaction just closed, and God mercifully held me back from it.
The day after I started to the mountains of New Hampshire. The next test came on the following Sabbath, just two days after I had claimed my healing. I was invited to preach in the Congregational Church. I felt the Holy Spirit pressing me to give a special testimony. But I tried to preach a good sermon of my own choosing. It was about the Holy Ghost, and had often been blessed, but was not His word for that hour, I am sure. He wanted me to tell the people what He had been showing me. But I tried to be conventional and respectable, and I had an awful time. My jaws seemed like lumps of lead, and my lips would scarcely move. I got through as soon as I could, and fled into an adjoining field, where I lay before the Lord and asked Him to show me what my burden meant and to forgive me. He did most graciously, and let me have one more chance to testify for Him and glorify Him. That night we had a service in our hotel, and I was permitted to speak again. This time I did tell what God had been doing. Not very much did I say, but I tried to be faithful in a stammering way, and told the people how I had lately seen the Lord Jesus in a deeper fullness, as the Healer of the body, and had taken Him for myself, and knew that He would be faithful and sufficient. God did not ask me to testify of my feelings or experiences, but of Jesus and His faithfulness. And I am sure He calls all who trust Him to testify before they experience His full blessing. I believe I should have lost my healing if I had waited until I felt it.
Well, the next day the third test came. Nearby was a mountain three thousand feet high: I was asked to join a little party that were to ascend it. I shrank back at once. Did I not remember the dread of high altitudes that had always overshadowed me, and the terror with which I had resolved in Switzerland and Florence never to attempt it again?
Then came the solemn searching thought, “If you fear to go, it is because you do not believe that God has healed you. If you have taken Him for your strength, need you to fear to do anything to which He calls you?”
I felt it was God’s thought. I felt my fear would be, in this case, pure unbelief, and I told God that in His strength I would go.
And so I ascended that mountain. At first it seemed as if it would take my last breath. I felt all the old weakness and dread; I found I had in myself no more strength than ever. But over and against my weakness and suffering I became conscious that there was another Presence. There was a divine strength reached out to me if I would take it, claim it, hold it, and persevere in it. When I reached the mountain top, I seemed to be at the gate of heaven, and the world of weakness and fear was lying at my feet. Thank God, from that time I have had a new heart in this breast, literally as well as spiritually, and Christ has been its glorious life.
The Lord has often permitted the test to be a very severe one. A few months after my healing He called me into the special pastoral, literary, and missionary work which has since engaged my time and energy, and which has involved much more labor than any previous period of my life. And yet, I desire to record my testimony to the honor and glory of Christ, that it has been a continual delight and much easier in every way than the far lighter tasks of former years. I have been conscious, however, all the time that I was not using my own natural strength. Physically I do not think I am any more robust than ever. I am intensely conscious, with every breath, that I am drawing my vitality from a directly supernatural source, and that it keeps pace with the calls and necessities of my work. I believe and am sure that it is nothing else than the life of Christ manifested in my mortal flesh. I do not desire to provoke argument, but I give my simple, humble testimony, and to me it is very real and very wonderful. I know “it is the Lord.”
OUT OF WEAKNESS MADE STRONG [A. B. Simpson] 1