SHORTLY after my arrival at Kwangning one of the missionaries said to me: "Reports have come to us of the meetings at Mukden and Liaoyang. I thought I had better tell you, right at the beginning, that you need not expect similar results here. We're hard-headed Presbyterians from the north of Ireland at this place, and our people take after us. Even our leaders won't pray unless,. you ask them to individually. And as for women praying--that's quite unheard of!" " But I never ask any one to pray," I replied; "I only expect a man to pray as the Lord moves him." "Very well," said the missionary, "be prepared for a Quakers' meeting.
The following morning, after I had given my address, I said to the people: "Please let's not have any of your ordinary kind of praying. If there are any prayers which you've got off by heart and which you've used for years, just lay them aside. We haven't any time for them. But if the Spirit of God so moves you that you feel you simply must give utterance to what is in your heart, then do not hesitate. We have time for that kind of praying. Now the meeting is open for prayer." Immediately eight men and women got up, one right after the other and prayed. The missionaries were astounded. They confessed they had never seen anything like it. After the evening address, that same day, over twenty men and women followed one another in prayer. Next day even the schoolboys and schoolgirls were taking part. On the third day the eagerness to pray was so great that no one could get started unless he began his (prayer) before the one preceding him had said "Amen." Once a lady missionary whispered to me: "The men are praying so rapidly that the women can't open their mouths. Won't you tell them to hold back for a little while and give the women a chance?" I replied that at the close of every address I, as far as possible, committed the control of the meeting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and therefore did not feel justified in interfering. Presently, however, a woman did get started, and for fifteen minutes or so the men had to hold their peace. After one such meeting a visiting missionary was heard to remark, "I've never heard such praying as that before. Why, it just seemed as if it had suddenly dawned upon those people that a way of access had been opened to the Throne of Grace, and they were eager to get in all their confessions and petitions before the day was closed."
After the evening meeting, on the third day, a few of us missionaries were conversing together. "I can't understand how it is," said one, "that our Chinese leaders are so silent these days. So far all the praying has been done by the ordinary church members. In the prayer meetings that were held before Mr. Goforth came the leaders didn't hold back at all. Why, then, should they be so silent now?" "I think you can count upon it," I said, "that there is a hindrance among your leaders. It is sin that makes them dumb." Immediately one of the lady missionaries took me up. "Oh, come now, Mr. Goforth," she said, "you surely don't expect us to believe that there are such sinners among our leaders as there were at Mukden and Liaoyang. Why, we would be ashamed of ourselves, if there were."
On the fourth day we began the afternoon meeting about four o'clock. Following my address the same deep intensity in prayer became evident. After prayer had continued for about half an hour a strange thing happened. More than half the congregation went down on their knees. Strange, I say, because it was a Presbyterian Church, and the people had always been accustomed to stand while praying. Feeling, however, that it was the direction of the Spirit, I intimated that they might all go down on their knees if they wished--and they did.
Then an elder stood up and said to another elder, who was seated on the platform: "In the session meetings it was always my bad temper that was the cause of trouble. Please forgive me." And the elder who was thus addressed cried back: "Please don't say any more. I'm just as much at fault as you are. It's you who should forgive me."
A few minutes of silence followed, and then a man rose from his knees and in a clear voice, though he was bordering on tears, began, to pray. For several days I had been taking note of the man, although I did not know who he was. He had a strong, intelligent face, upon which anxiety was plainly written. "0 God," he cried, "you know what my position is--a preacher. When I came to these meetings I determined that, come what would, I would keep my sins covered up. I knew that if I confessed my sins it would bring disgrace not only upon myself but upon my family and my church. But I can't keep it hidden any longer. I have committed adultery. But that is not all. In one of the out-stations a deacon committed a horrible sin which hindered Thy cause. My plain duty was to report the affair to the missionary, but the deacon bought me a fur garment, and I accepted it and it sealed my lips. But I can't wear it any longer." With that he tore off the garment and flung it from him as if it had been the plague. Then he continued to pray with glowing intensity until the whole audience was swept as by fire. Even the smallest children began to cry out for mercy. The meeting did not break up until ten o'clock that night, having lasted six full hours.
At this meeting there was an unusually large number of outsiders, their curiosity doubtless having been aroused by the strange rumors that were current throughout the district. As their numbers kept increasing, Mr. He became alarmed and herded them together near the door, so that if they got obstreperous he could rush them out. But his fears were groundless, for no sooner had the movement begun among the Christians than they, too, came under conviction, got down on their knees and began crying for mercy.
The text comes from a chapter of By My Spirit.