WASHINGTON, D. C., January 1, 1912.
Prof. GEO. S. ORMSBY,
MY DEAR SIR: I acknowledge with pleasure your letter of 21st ultimo, in which you remind me of our meeting in this city some years since and of our conversation of Oberlin and of the "mighty man of God" who was President of the college in the long ago. You recall a poor attempt I then made to describe the man, the conditions which called for the prayer he uttered and the striking climax of the instant event, and ask that I put in writing so much of the story as may yet remain in memory.
There is no memorandum within my reach by which I can with certainty give the exact date of the occurrence; but marshalling such general facts as remain in mind, which fix the milestones of my pilgrimage of near 76 years, I conclude that it was probably when I had reached my 16th year or the summer of 1852.
From an early day in the springtime of the year the skies had withheld the rain; indeed the curtain of the clouds was seldom drawn across the face of the sun. The summer was passing-eyes had become wearied with looking toward the heavens for relief. The meadows gave little hope of providing provender for had ever trod the earth. In such moments standing in the midst of the platform pulpit, his foot advanced, his head thrown back, he looked in attitude and demeanor a Jupiter not dispensing the rains nor guiding the thunder-bolts, but Heaven's chief herald ordering the trumpet blast that should rend the hiding-places of all the living and of all the dead, and when he looked upward to pray, one could fancy he heard an echo of the voice of the prophet of Galilee saying "Our Father"--and so that day he spoke with the Father. And first, as always, remembering the great body of students sitting before him, he commended them to Heaven's care, and especially that their feet might never stray from the straight and narrow path. Then giving liberty of speech to the chief burden of the hour, he spoke of the cloudless sun, of inanimate nature, instead of her summer garb of glory, wearing the habiliments of woe; of leaves shriveled and falling;. that no flower reflected the smile of the Eternal to give his children joy, that the night was a glad shelter from a sun whose rising gave no promise of good but whose darkening shadows gave merciful relief to eyes weary of looking on "the abomination of desolation." Then he spoke with the Father of living things, the work of his own hands. How the wild things of the woods forgetting their fear of man, sought his habitation; that the creeping things whose day is night, wandered abroad in the morning to be trodden under foot of man and beast. He told the All Merciful of the cattle wandering over fields "which yielded no meat" looking reproachfully into men's faces as if to inquire for what sin of theirs they were so surely afflicted and voicing the universal cry of things animate and inanimate, his cheeks moistened with tears, he exclaimed "even the thirsty earth opens its mouth wide and cries to God for water." He told of the prophet's joy, when the cloud no greater than a man's hand challenged the sun, and with filial confidence bespoke the coming blessing.
The Amen had not ceased its echo, the suppliant still stood at the desk, when with a crash and a roar resounding from the roof of the great church, a flood of rain descended. In broken accents he said "The Lord heard whilst we were yet speaking." And the choir with every voice in the congregation attuned to song, burst forth with Luther's glad anthem "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
In later years I have now and then related this incident of the long ago, to ears, some in a receptive and some in a critical mood. The younger auditors no doubt wondered how so much of memory could remain after the lapse of many years, and some inclined to raise a quaere about miracle and special providence.
Perhaps in those days the Christian peoples dwelt too much on a "Wrestling Jacob." Perchance in these later years our vision is so occupied with the "Eternal plan" that we lose touch with the Father's hand. However this may be, you and I, who are upon the borderline, know how vividly old time memories come to those who sit in the lengthening shadows of the present, and how pleasant to us are all the gleams of the past which speak of God's goodness though dispensed with a chastening hand.
Wishing you all happiness in this New Year. Faithfully yours,