Brother Samuel B. Luckett of Crawfordsville, Ind is one of my favorite writers from our history. He had a wonderful gift of expression. I always feel like I've been fed after I read one of his articles. Below is his experience.
Messenger of Peace--April 1917
Brother Luckett's Experience
he interest and wonder I felt when told that a Supreme Being made the great world and all things in it, even the people, will not fade while memory lasts. I was a motherless child, and five years old, when taught this truth by a kind-hearted aunt who then cared for me.
wed by this new knowledge, I wonderingly asked-"Where is God? Where does he live?"
nd the answer amazed me more than ever-"God is everywhere; in the sky, in the sea, and in the mountains and woods; in the cities and in all the countries upon earth."
ith childhood's boundless faith I did not question my aunt's knowledge, but became fascinated with this strange news and the thought of such a Being, I cried out-"Oh, then, God is in this town, he is in this room; and oh, auntie," I continued with glee, "He is in my little finger," as if that were the extreme of littleness and farthest removed from the lofty skies.
y teacher gently rebuked me, telling that God was a most wonderful and mighty Being, and that everyone should speak of him with reverence and fear.
his touched me deeply, and the impression has never been erased. How dear to parents should be the privilege of being first to impart these truths to their children! I must have been born with the imprint of natural religion, so eager was I to learn more in this new field.
he Universalists were building a house of worship in the little town, and I took a keen interest in every movement made. When a pastor was secured, his visits and conversation at our home were the charm of life to me, and no one called him "brother" with greater zest than myself. I cannot remember that my sins troubled me in that early day, but refer to it as my first faint view of the great mystery of religion.
t eight years of age I was placed in school at the county seat (Corydon, Ind.), which enlarged my view of religious things. I felt it imperative to "attend church", and being under the care of a devoted Methodist lady, it seemed proper to go to her meetings. About this time I learned, child as I was, that I was a sinner-an unsaved, guilty sinner before the Lord. I tried to put away this feeling and made many efforts to do better and live better, but could not stifle the stings of conscience. I felt no desire to go to a public mourner's bench, or to tell my distress to any human being; but oh, how often did tears and prayers bear witness to my inward pain.
he weeks became months and the months years, but my feelings changed not. I continually desired some token of forgiveness, and prayed and waited, often wondering if my prayers would ever be answered. Like Job, I sought the Lord by going forward and backward, upon the right and left, but in vain. I attended every meeting that I could, and the Sunday school was a delight to me. The library was kept in a box or chest against the wall, and many were the plain little books I obtained as a reward for reciting from memory verses of scripture. The little books were mainly narratives of good and happy children, and a hundred times I cried bitterly over them. I loved the plain ways of worship of that day, but my four years at Corydon were unblessed with the hope that I was a child of God.
y next change in religious surroundings was when our father gave us a Catholic stepmother and a home in a neighborhood wholly Catholic, and I felt to some extent the new influence around me, supposing everything was religious that claimed to be. I may not have heard of the pope, the great head of their church. I am sure I was ignorant of its record of persecution, its claim to infallibility, and its enslavement of the minds of men. The priest in charge of the parish school gave me special notice sometimes. He told me I should be his "coadjutor" (a new word to me), and once near the holidays he told me about Christmas and the Savior. He said the word Christmas explained itself; that it was Christ's mass referring to this service in the Catholic church. He told me also of the Savior's birth, of wise men, of Herod's wealth, and of the flight of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus into some country- the name of it, however, he could not tell.
told him it was Egypt.
hy," he said in surprise, "you know these things better than I do."
mention this to show how lightly Catholics esteem the Bible. It is a book, seldom, if ever found in Catholic homes. If they knew the scriptures how could they respect the service of the mass? The Bible says, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;" "by his blood he entered once into the holy place;" "but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin; after he had offered one sacrifice forever." How plain! One sacrifice forever, and yet Catholic priests claim they may offer up every day this same divine victim to God, the same in substance as the sacrifice of the cross, though bloodless, as a means of applying its merits, through all ages, for the sanctification of men.
he Catholic church is the mightiest and most enduring of all earthly kingdoms. No empire ever exercised such power, and the blood it has shed in its dominion over men, is most terrible to think of. It dazzles the world with a royal throne, and kings and nations have trembled before it. But what has it for the broken-hearted and starving poor, who no longer have confidence in human help? Its claim that we may appease God for our sins by eating coarse food, sleeping hard, wearing irritating clothes, or other bodily discomfort, is husks indeed. Its priests claim to forgive sin in this life, and even to rescue sinners after death from ah imaginary purgatory; and they require their followers not only to pray for the dead, but to the dead.
used none of their prayers, but, childlike, I did learn to bless myself as they do before prayer. This is done by making the "'sign of the cross", touching the forehead with the right hand, then the breast and left shoulder, and lastly the right shoulder, saying, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." Catholics not only bless themselves at prayer, but before each meal, and at the approach of storms or other danger. "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads." -Rev. xiii. 16.
hat Catholics pray to the dead, I had abundant opportunity to know. I spent a winter in the home of a prominent Catholic family when prayers were said every night, the energetic mother leading, and the father, children and servants uniting in a response. A string of beads called a rosary was used to count the prayers. The good old mother, holding the first bead in her fingers, repeated the words, "Hail thee, Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." That was all, and then the others responded with the words, "Hail, Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen." The prayers were both to Mary, as mother of the Deity. Precisely the same words were said nine times over, as the leader passed that number of beads through her fingers. The tenth bead was larger, indicating that the Paternoster, or Lord's prayer, must be repeated once. This order of prayer was observed until fifty-four petitions at one kneeling were offered to a woman long since dead, and who while living was a frail, perishing mortal, dependent on God for every breath and blessing of life. No scripture was read, no hymns sung, no heart longing uttered; but back and forth these petitions to Mary, with the cold formality of handling the beads.
ut the Bible says God is not "worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything;" while Jesus himself told his disciples not to use vain repetitions as the heathen do." And praying to the dead, we all know, is worse than idolatry.
ur Catholic neighbors were kind, good people, but seemed to glory in the rule of the pope and priests, and all the lamentable delusions of their "church." Its outward display, its winning spirit and garb of piety fascinate all classes, and I often wonder that I, a weak child, distressed with sin, and without a guide on earth, did not fall wholly into its embrace. I went as far as I could, and if I imbibed any of its poison the Lord has said, "If they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them."
n contrast with the prompt show of religion around me, an incident occurred while in that neighborhood, which I can never forget. Coming into the room one day, I saw upon the table a little book having on the cover in large print the title, "The Way for a Child to be Saved." I was startled by the words beyond describing, and my heart almost ceased to beat under the sensations that came over me. I was a "child" lost and helpless, and here, at an unlooked-for moment, I had found the way of deliverance. I feared to remove my gaze, lest the words disappear. O how bright and sweet they were at that moment! There was nothing in human knowledge so dear to me as how to be saved, and now, I thought, this knowledge will be mine. As to how or why this book was there, I have no remembrance, but it came to me as the "little book out of the angel's hand" to the disciple, and, as it were, figuratively, like John, "I ate it up." Its directions were plain and simple. The seeking child must engage in close self-examination, and study carefully his whole life, marking well every sin it was possible to remember; then go to some secret spot, and naming each sin, confess everything to God, and implore forgiveness for Jesus' sake.
he public road passed between our home and the river bank, and then turned from the bank to a bridge over a deep ravine, leaving next to the river an almost impenetrable thicket of brushwood, vines and small trees. This, I thought, should be my bower of prayer.
o one on earth knew my situation. The highways, the woods, the very air was Catholic. My stepmother was one and wanted me to be one; my father was indifferent to religion; for the rest, my brother and sister would have smiled at what I had in view.
hen night had come I stole from the house and went resolutely to the spot I had chosen, and no partridge on the mountain could be better hidden. The stars above, and the broad Ohio below me alone witnessed my confession and call for mercy in the dark, dreary place. O that I could have said, as Jacob did in the darkness of stony Bethel, "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." But God is sovereign, he shuts and none can open, he openeth when he will. Blessed be his almighty name! That little scene was in strange contrast with crowded halls where brilliant speakers beg men to accept the Savior; to let Jesus save them." Perhaps stranger still was the attempt of a guilty soul to name all its sins; I could not specify them. They ran together like the stars over my head, making one burden of distress. I felt to be all sin; every faculty within me was corrupt.
cannot remember all my feelings at that time, I only know that the assurance of pardon came not to me that night for all my strong cries and tears; but this did not lessen my desire, nor cause my soul to draw back. I felt that I must pray while I had breath. I went more than once to that quiet spot, where at least I felt to be alone with God. It was better to me than anything I had found in the Church of Rome.
oon after this event my father moved to Missouri, locating near St. Joseph, where new surroundings awaited me. The Missionary Baptists were numerous, and held meetings in a nearby schoolhouse, as then (sixty years ago) houses of worship were scarcely known. The meetings were well attended, there being no rival attractions like we have today. I went with the rest, trying to glean some handfuls for my hungry soul, and being over-persuaded, I united with them, feeling I had few requisites for membership.
ut there came a time when, I believe, I could say with the tried Jacob, as he saw the wagons that were to carry him from a famishing land to a home of honor and abundance, "It is enough." The sweet experience of acceptance with the Lord came to me in a way so unusual, so wonderful, that I hesitate to tell it to another. It was at a night meeting that the pardoning, loving kindness of the Lord was revealed to me, not by sermon, book or prayer, but a vision of my long departed mother. The wonder and rapture of that moment! My sainted mother, so young and beautiful when she died, came to me as a messenger from heaven, filling and overflowing my trembling soul with peace like a river, and joy in the Holy Redeemer. And though she spoke never a word, a thousand words could not have made clearer to me what I am writing. The angel form did not enter the room by open door or window, but directly through parted roof and ceiling, and suspended above me with arms extended and a look of ineffable love, gave me to realize, as from the Lord, the glory and certainty of an inheritance with the saints in light that shall never fade away, It was too enrapturing to last. Or ever I was aware my soul was made like the chariots of Amminadab, and ever I was aware, the angel messenger was gone.
ow often since then has my spirit, in despondent hours, returned to that celestial scene, when heaven seemed so near and the Savior so precious to a wandering child. Now will the reader call me a dreamer- strong in imagination, but weak in judgment? It does not matter, and it would seem only just, since none have been more skeptical as to visions than myself. But should it provoke a smile to tell a vision, since in all centuries of time God has spoken to men by dreams and visions and angelic forms? The Bible says, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" If God let down from heaven a vision of a sheet full of living creatures to show his cleansing power, it is no more strange that he should send from that sweet abode the one best suited to bear witness of that same cleansing power to my troubled soul. The vision I saw came as unexpected and sudden as the lightning's flash, but its effect will be with me forever.
he pastor who baptized me, received my companion also, after we were married, and the church was a pleasant home at first, for the pastor believed and preached salvation by grace. But there came to us young evangelists, and their repeated visits led to scenes of excitement and disorder that we could neither engage in nor approve. The result was we quietly withdrew, without asking for a letter of dismission. My crooked path that led me among Universalists, Methodists, Catholics and New School Baptists was ended, and I was a stranger without the gates. In my round among the "churches" I had not heard of the Primitive Baptists, but there came at last some faint knowledge of them. "Lo, we heard of it, at Ephratah; we found it in the field of the wood."
or good reasons we returned to our childhood home to live. We were not long there until the Presbyterian minister invited us to unite with his church. We respectfully declined, telling him there was a Primitive Baptist church in the country we -would join if they would receive us. We soon went to this church, and with diffidence asked for a home with them. We were kindly received, and I felt that after all my spiritual wanderings I could now say, "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
any years have passed since that day, and while the changes in religious methods within that time are nothing less than a revolution, the plain, old style church remains the same. For one, I can say it has cost me too many tears, and prayers, and heart-longings, to turn from it now to something more pleasing to the eye and pride of life. As it was said in the falling away of the seven churches, there are a few names left that have not defiled their garments; so may the God of the patriarchs reserve to himself forever his thousands that will not bow to Baal nor kiss his image. May grace, mercy and truth from the blessed Father rest in abundance upon all who love his holy name. I remain, I hope, a brother of all the Lord's humble poor.
S. B. LUCKETT.
Submitted by Elder David Montgomery