“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing…” Psalm 92:12,14 NKJV
His Evangelistic Witness
[This unnamed senior citizen] visited every family, prayed in every house, and talked personally with every man, woman and child, of a suitable age, in a circle of five thousand inhabitants, and many were awakened by his words. He established and maintained also, a weekly union prayer meeting, changing from house to house in a circuit as large as he could extend it. And this was the beginning of a revival which embraced all the churches, and almost every family in the town in its blessed sweep. And all this was after he was eighty years old, and so infirm that his children thought it unsafe for him to keep up his home and live apart from them…
[When Boardman visited him, the elderly brother testified:]
“Ah!, for twenty years now I have thought it would be nothing to die, but gain. But I did not know [when]. My peace was made. I had learned also that Jesus was my surety and trust for purity and spotlessness as well as for pardon. I was ready — all ready, and waiting. And I thought that at the word, in a moment, when the summons should come, I could joyously strike tent and away. But no. I find it very different. Not so easy as I supposed.
“[Instead, aging has been] pulling down this old house rather piece by piece; and as the old frame gives way, torn brace after brace and timber after timber, apart, it is terrible. And yet even in this, thanks be to God, my Saviour is with me. He does not forsake me, and his grace is sufficient for me. Sometimes the cry will rise up, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, again, always the cheerful words, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done,’ well up after the others, and all is hushed and peaceful.”
So this venerable man conversed, while I sat charmed at his feet. [He visited door-to-door] Five thousand people after he was 60 years old, and twenty-five hundred more after he was 82. What was the power? I asked him. He told me. Let his words to me, as well as I can remember to repeat them, reveal his secret to all.
“I was converted young, in the place of my birth. For forty years I was a member of the church, and a Christian, too, as I verily believe, without ever having been the means, so far, as I know, of the conversion of one soul, and that, too, through all the prime and vigor of my youth and manhood, from twenty to sixty. Sometimes, when I think of it, I am overwhelmed with grief and shame. But I knew no better. I lived as others in the church did. Kept up all the duties of religion at home and in the church; kept Sabbath, prayed, read my Bible, went to the Lord’s table, fasted when fast days were appointed, and sometimes when they were not, and often enjoyed the communion of the Spirit and the fellowship of Christians, and the adoption and heirship of a child of God; the Spirit witnessing with my spirit that God was my Father; thankful in prosperity, sustained in adversity, and comforted always by a good hope of glory; and yet, as I said, never in all that forty years, so far as I know, the means of saving one soul…
His dynamic renewal
“At last, when I was sixty years old, God was pleased to visit the people of Utica, [NY] where I lived, in such power as I had never before seen. Hundreds and hundreds were converted — some from amongst the most hardened and desperate of the people, and others of the most moral and regular. There was a great shaking, too, amongst Christians. Scores gave up hope; concluded they had been deceived, and came out and took the position of newly awakened sinners, inquiring what they should do to be saved. I myself was seized with conviction — not that I was not a Christian, but that I was a useless cumberer of the church; a barren fig-tree in the garden of God; worse, it seemed to me, than any unconverted sinner in the world. Forty years of the prime of my life spent in the church and in the nominal service of God, and yet nothing done for the cause; not one soul won to Jesus. 0h, the thought was too bitter too bear. It bowed me down as the sturdy oak bows under the power of the tornado. Sometimes it seemed as if it would kill me outright; and then when I thought to make amends by a life devoted earnestly to doing good, then Satan taunted me with the idea that it would be a mockery to offer the decrepit and broken remnant of a misspent life to God, and ask him to use me in my old age to save others.
“But he could not keep me from making the offer of myself to the Lord. Now, however, the struggle did but just begin; for in my first attempt to benefit others, my own heart, or rather want of heart, was revealed to me, and in the next effort the conviction of my utter unfitness was deepened, and so on and on, until the weight of my burden was not so much my past barrenness as my present unfitness to do anything more than I had done in the past.
“Then came the temptation to stop, and say, ‘Ah! I am not fit to do anything for God; I was not made for it; and if I was, I have lived so long without using and improving my talent, that it has grown rusty — too rusty ever to be used.’ Satan here again, often taunted me, saying, ‘Too old to change! Fool to think of it!’ But he did not stop me. My convictions were too deep; my burden too great; I could not stop. The thought of it was worse than the thought of death. And then something whispered hope to me, and I determined never to stop. Then I cried unto God, in my distress, to give me His Spirit and strengthen me for His service. But I cannot tell you the hundredth part of my struggles and troubles.
“Resolutions proved vain and cries for the Holy Spirit no better; at last, one day, for the first time in my life, I saw that the work of making my heart right, and keeping it right for the work of the Lord, was Christ’s, by his own presence in the power of the Holy Spirit not mine at all. Christ’s to save, mine to trust and to serve.
“From that hour I left the Saviour’s work in His hands to do, and looked to Him to do it, in the fullest confidence that He would; rejoiced that it was in such good hands — so trustworthy, loving and true — and I was not disappointed. From that hour I found it easy to wear the yoke and to bear the cross [Matt. 11:29; Luke 9:23]; and to the praise of God’s own condescending love be it said, He has blessed me in His service and prospered me in the work given me to do. Jesus has been with me every day, now these twenty-two years; and every day I have done, in my imperfect way, just the work of the day, as my Saviour has laid it out for me.
“And one thing I can tell you, my brother, if I have been the instrument of good, it has been the Lord with me and this Lord within me who has done it, and not I. If the truths concerning Jesus has been in me, a well of water springing up into eternal life, and a fountain from which streams of life have flowed forth, I have been no more than the earthen pitcher which carries the water, or the iron pipe which conducts it. The power is of God. To God be all the glory. He alone is worthy to receive honor and power, and might and dominion; and He alone shall have it forever and ever, Amen.”
Such was the story of this aged disciple, ten times over more touching and impressive from his trembling lips, and sunlit tear-bedewed face, and speaking eyes, than from the cold pen that writes it.
[“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day ... while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16,18 NKJV]
An excerpt from The Higher Christian Life, Part III, ch. 6. by William E. Boardman (Henry Hoyt Publishers: Boston, 1858). https://www.clcpublications.com/shop/the-higher-christian-life/
Resources to equip believers to share the gospel include the app “God Tools” by Cru, the downloadable PDF lessons “Dynamic Basics” and “Dynamic Sharing” from DynamicChurches.org and our evangelistic web site: GoodNews4you.ca
Title, introductory Scripture, headings, bracketed text, and italics added. – JBW
Discover great tools for Bible study, including access to Hebrew and Greek vocabulary, at www.BlueLetterBible.org