The following further account of meetings held by Mr. Goforth at Changtefu will, we feel sure, call forth the thanksgivings of our readers.
The first meeting was held on Saturday evening, November 7, when Mr. Slimmon, who had led the singing at the Weihui meetings, gave an account of what transpired there. It was Wednesday evening, however, that the complete breakdown came, and from that time forward the note was “VICTORY.” The morning meeting was opened with a hymn, prayer and another hymn. Then Mr. Fan, of the girls’ school, came forward and asked to be allowed to say a few words. He then proceeded to tell how, when he reached the school grounds in the morning, he had heard a great sound of weeping. The Spirit’s power had come upon the girls, and the sense of sin was overpowering them. He tried to commence work as usual, but the bell rang in vain. He went to report to the Principal, and was advised to let the Spirit complete the work He had begun. This was done. With the conviction of sin came the desire to confess it, and until this was done, there was no peace of mind; so one and all confessed to one another and to their teachers and to God and asked for forgiveness. Such was the story Mr. Fan had to tell. When he had ﬁnished, two other men came forward to the platform and made confession of sin; one of them with bitter cries breaking down, unable to proceed.
An opportunity was then given for prayer, and thereupon ensued such a scene as never before had I seen. A man started to pray, had not said more than half a dozen words when another and another joined in, and in a moment the whole company was crying aloud to God for mercy. All the pent up emotions of a life time seemed to be pouring forth at that time. All the sins of the past were staring them in the face, and they were crying in anguish to God for mercy. Nothing in my mind can more fitly describe the scene than to compare it to the suddenness and violence of a thunderstorm. It starts with the patter of a few drops, then comes the downpour, lasting half an hour or so. But while it lasts how terrible it is. So it was here with this storm of prayer; it started with the one or two, and then came the burst from many hearts, all the pent up emotions so long held in check. There was no restraining it and no attempt to do so. Think of the Chinese, so afraid of “losing face,” of showing his real feelings, of betraying his secret thoughts. But now there was no thought of “face” or of who saw or criticised. The one thought was, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Each man and woman was face to face with God, a righteous God, and what mattered what friends or neighbours thought or said?
The afternoon meeting was much quieter, but one felt that the Spirit was now having His way. After the address there followed prayer and individual confessions. On Wednesday evening, after the opening services, an opportunity having been given for prayer, again came an outburst similar to that in the morning, but perhaps not so prolonged and intense. Wednesday and Thursday were the days of greatest storm, when the volume of prayer was most demonstrative. Afterwards there was intensity, there was sobbing, but there was more quietness. As the days passed there was added confidence in tone, due to the increasing knowledge of the power of prayer. As men and women came under the power of the Spirit, confessed their sins and received a new sense of pardon, peace and power, their desire to see others receive a similar blessing was especially manifested in their recourse to prayer and their entire reliance on the Holy Spirit to confer that blessing. Sometimes one who had wandered far away from God, and now came back to Him publicly, confessing his sin, would ask for the prayers of the people. At once, as with one heart and voice, all would respond. Again, the cry of a son or daughter for a father’s or a mother’s salvation, the appeal of an anxious one for prayer for relatives, the yearnings of a helper for the people of the district over which he had been placed as shepherd, each brought its response in a volume of prayer from the congregation. Never did we realise the power of prayer as we did at that time.
The whole atmosphere of those days was one of prayer; especially do we think with wonder and gratitude to God of those afternoon and evening prayer meetings amongst ourselves. We would ﬁrst spend a little time in talking over the situation, the subject and persons for which special prayer should be offered, and the answers already received, and then we would spend the rest of the time in prayer. Looking back on that time now, and recalling the great number of deﬁnite petitions presented, and deﬁnite answers received almost immediately, one cannot but “praise God for all His goodness and His wonderful works to the children of men.” We would go direct to the general meeting from our knees, and oh the gladness and the glory of it, as we saw one after another of those for whom we had been praying, going forward to tell how God had met with them and brought conviction of sin to their hearts.
We, however, were not the only ones who learned to pray in those days; our Chinese Christians not only learned their lesson, but how to work as well. They had their prayer circles as well as we, and kept us informed of all that they were doing to bring in those who had grown cold or were special hindrances to the work. Many a case was reported of their sending out letters or special messengers to friends, relatives or neighbours who had not thought it worth while to come to the meetings. In special cases they sent out deputations of three or four men and persuaded some who were nursing grievances against the church, or had fallen into sin, to come to the place of meeting. Then they took them apart, prayed with them, asked us to pray for them, followed them with their prayers into the meetings until the Spirit had brought them back to God. Talk of the enthusiasm and hard work done to bring in voters on an election day; just as great zeal did these Chinese Christians display in the endeavour to bring as many as possible into right relationship with God.—The Chinese Recorder, February, 1909, pp. 111-113.