The Life,Ministry, and Message of John Alexander Dowie
Editor's note: Because of the interest in the connection between John Alexander Dowie's ministry and that of Martha Wing Robinson, the subject of Radiant Glory by Gordon Gardiner, printed below is the full testimony of Martha Wing (Robinson)'s healing from Leaves of Healing, November 17, 1900.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MISS MARTHA WING
524 West Thirteenth Street
November 6, 1900
Dear General Overseer:
For some time I have felt that I ought to testify to God’s wonderful goodness to me.
I was at Zion Home over a year ago and again last winter at the All-Night of Prayer, but have never given either verbal or written testimony for Zion. . In regard to the latter, I have, perhaps, been a little cowardly. I did not for a time feel that it was an easy thing to send in a testimony for publication. I hope God will forgive any feeling that may have stood in the way of anything that is for the furtherance of His work.
At the time I first heard of God’s work through Dr Dowie, in (November 1898) the fall of 1898, I had been a helpless invalid for two years, and unable to work (my occupation was school-teaching) for four.
Among the wages Satan gave me during my illness were stomach, liver and kidney trouble, palpitation of the heart, continuous and severe headaches, female weakness with a partial paralysis of all lower organs, all resulting in a diseased state of the nerves that kept the entire flesh of my body in constant pain, resembling inflammatory rheumatism, especially at nerve centers, such as wrists and ankles.
I was also subject to severe attacks of pain in the sciatic nerves so that often I could not move for hours at a time, and had similar attacks in the large nerves of the shoulder.
After a time the vitality of my body became so exhausted that any extreme pain or severe nervous strain would cause a sudden anesthesia of the nerves, so that in a few minutes from the beginning of the attack my whole body would become cold and stiff, so that I could not much as bend a finger.
I always, however, retained perfect consciousness, directing those about me what to do so long as I could speak, the muscles of my lips and face being the last affected.
Through all this worn-out condition of the nerves, I have much reason to be thankful that I was not “nervous” in the usual sense of the word.
My illness all through was manifested by physical pain and exhaustion, and not by any lack of nerve control. I feel that in this way I was spared the extreme of misery and suffering.
During my illness I tried allopathic and homeopathic physicians.
I spent three months in Mercy Hospital of this city, taking massage and electrical treatment under the care of Dr Middleton, one of the best physicians here.
He was very kind to me, but from the first gave me little promise of help, and stated to my mother a year after I put myself under his care that his attendance on me had never helped me in the least.
I was not, except at intervals, confined to my bed, but the last two years before my healing I was compelled to spend about eighteen hours of the twenty-four in bed.
If, during any emergency, I “wound up” my nerves to greater exertion, or remained out of bed longer than usual, a severe relapse resulted. In a short time I could so exhaust my powers that weeks would elapse before I regained what I had lost.
As an instance, at one time getting some Christian Science nonsense into my head, I thought to believe myself back into health, and for a few days rallied all the strength I had in the determination to be well.
The first and second days I pulled through, but suffered intensely at night. The third night, after the greatest exertion I could not sleep, and for weeks the sense of exhaustion never left me for a moment. It resulted in my consenting to go to the hospital for three months, there remaining in bed for eight weeks, but I failed to get rested.
As soon as I arose from bed I again failed rapidly.
I had several such relapses from foolishly overdoing in the presence of other, rather than yield to my weakness, for I could not learn the lesson of complete inactivity, the only condition in which I could keep comparatively free from the acute pain and nerve exhaustion.
When I first heard of Dr Dowie, I was staying on a farm with my (Ada’s) sister.
My mother, on her way to Chicago from Davenport, came to see me and told me what she had heard of Dr Dowie and Zion through a Mrs Penley (Nov 9-15) of this city, who had been taken to Zion Home dying and had come home well.
Although I had heard of Mrs Penley’s prolonged and serious illness, and had expected her to die, when my mother told me that she had been healed at Zion, I said flatly that “if Mrs Penley had been healed by that means, she was never sick.”
Since my own healing, I have know many of my friends to say the same of me, so utterly is God’s power and willingness discounted in the mind of the average Christian.
I was a professing Christian and had consecrated myself to God. I had joined the Methodist Church when a child, and had always made what I regarded as a fair profession, observing Church rules, being really sincere in my service.
But from my first entrance upon the Christian life I felt that there was something higher and better than I had ever myself experienced, or seen in the professing Christians about me.
As I grew older I saw the necessity of absolute consecration to God. I had many hard battles over it, and Satan invariably conquered.
These times of spiritual anguish and struggle were always succeeded by long periods of coldness and indifference, when my religion was scarcely more than an outward form.
Each time I drifted farther away, until the winter of 1897-1898 I found myself, under atheistic reading and influence, dangerously close to infidelity.
I hardly know what turned me back, except that God’s Spirit must have still been calling me; but I have had deep conviction that if I had not yielded to God then I should have been lost.
Startled at my own spiritual condition, I deliberately faced the circumstances, and recognizing the fact that my drifting and sin were the direct result of my refusal to consecrate myself, and especially all these years to give up one thing which God asked of me I “sat down and counted the cost,” saw the paths were sharply defined, and that either I must be all for God, or Satan would have all.
I had done the same thing many times before, but this time I willed to be God’s. I put myself into His hands, and promised to live for Him if I were so permitted, or die if He willed, for I did not then know Him well enough to understand that my death was not His will.
Knowing my tendency to go back, I asked God to give a “seeking spirit” to search until I found Him. I did not feel then that I was answered, for it was weeks before I felt God’s presence; yet I know I was answered, and for weeks I spent my time in a deliberate searching for what I had once thrown away.
It was the spring of 1898 that I went to stay with my sister on the farm. I spent most of the time I was not in bed, in a hammock under the trees. I spent the time alone with God. (Arrived in SS June 10, 1898 – Nov 24.)
I had my first personal experience in Divine Healing that summer. One night, lying awake with pain and fatigue, I faced the future and saw possible years of invalidism before me, and the horror of it came over me worse than it ever had before.
I was trying to be resigned to God’s will, as I understood it then, but I very often asked God to hasten my death, which was shutting me out from service to God. I sat up in bed and prayed earnestly, something like this: “My Father, heal me and let me live for Thy service, I know it cannot be Thy will that I should drag out my life a useless burden to myself and to every one else. It is all nonsense for me to try to make myself believe that I can glorify Thee by my miserable sickness. Give me health, and let me work in Thy vineyard and stone for my years of idleness.”
There was no “if” in that prayer, and I was instantly and perfectly healed of a serious organic trouble from which I had been intensely suffering.
This ought to have taught me that God would do all the rest for me. But I was ignorant of His will and full of a false theology and teaching, and instead of seeking further and testifying to His goodness, I kept silence.
I even allowed my sister to wonder at the change in me and attribute it to all kinds of impossible causes. I did not wish to seem “queer” and “fanciful” (by believing that God really answers prayer.)
Although I was daily learning more of God, I could not believe the evidence of my own senses, and would persuade myself that this marvelous change could not last.
Of course, the inevitable result was that I lost my healing: but I had it long enough to have tested its absolute reality.
When, some weeks later, I felt the old symptoms returning, symptoms which I had suffered more or less since childhood, I said in my ignorance, “There, I knew it must surely return. Suppose I had been so foolish as to have told how I happened to be free from the trouble.”
I sometimes wonder how God ever thought it worth while to enlighten such stupidity. But He was merciful, and brought my mother with her message about Zion.
I believed myself to be, as I have said, at this time a consecrated Christian. I had yet to learn that Consecration does not mean using myself for God, but it means permitting Him to use me; that it does not mean thinking right thoughts for His service, but letting Him think for me. So instead of asking God’s opinion of Dr Dowie, I presumed to have my own opinion and not only refused to investigate, but so opposed the work that my mother went to Chicago and remained three months without going to Zion Tabernacle or Home.
Meanwhile I returned to Davenport, having lost the healing which I had received, and again badly overdid. I was getting discouraged, and especially after a severe relapse at the holiday time, from which I never even slightly recuperated until God healed me.
I suppose because I was really sincere in my desire to serve God, He gave me another chance.
Mrs Penley visited me with Leaves of Healing, and I read it, partly out of curiosity, and partly in order to tell her I had done so, and because, down in my heart, there was a little hope.
The testimonies were so miraculous I found them incredible. I was fond of saying that the days of miracles were past. I prided myself on sufficient sound common sense to keep me from believing any exaggerated “wonder tales.”
But the winter, for the first time in our lives, my sister and myself had prayed together, and I was learning more and more the necessity of taking everything to God.
As I read the testimonies, and saw that they were said to have been given in the presence of hundreds and even thousands, my common sense told me that such a tremendous fraud could not be long carried on. The people could not all be deliberate liars, I thought, nor could there be gotten together such a large number of marvelously stupid people.
But I was afraid of getting into something absurd and fanatical. My skepticism and slowness to believe all through stood in the way of God’s work in me.
After reading the sermon, “Sanctification of Spirit, Soul and Body,” I said, “Dr Dowie is a good man. He may be mistaken, but he is not a deliberate fraud.”
It began to dawn on me that I might be mistaken myself; that God was trying to teach me something that I was putting away from me without looking to Him for guidance.
My sister and I took it to God in prayer. We asked that I might do exactly what God willed in the matter. I asked that I might accept all the true and reject all the false (if any).
I then sent for reading matter. I carefully studied and prayed, looking to God for full light. It was my intention to be strictly impartial, but so prejudiced had I been against all so-called “faith cures” that I combated every point not in accord with my own ideas or early teaching.
I would search the Bible through and through, trying to disprove statements Dr Dowie made in his sermons, and only succeeded in proving them.
When I saw the evidence plainly in the Bible, often not even then being able to fully believe in my own heart, we took it to God and asked for full light to accept any truth He wished me to.
After I had spent a week or two in this deliberate search for knowledge (nearly all the time I was out of bed I was seeking for the truth in God’s Word) I had a good deal of conceit taken out of me. I found that instead of knowing the Bible as well as I had supposed I did, I had only a mess of false theology which I called Bible knowledge; for, with any other Bible students, I had made the Bible fit the facts of experience and practice, instead of trusting God to fit the facts to the Bible.
Having awakened to my own ignorance, I was willing to be taught, and under God’s direct guidance I began a new and prayerful study of His Word. Those weeks were a revelation to me of how God will open the understanding to the truths of the Bible if we will trust Him instead of ourselves.
I had sent for the fundamental sermons in pamphlet form, and as I studied in the way I have said, I became convinced through and through of the truth of Dr Dowie’s teaching, because I found it stood squarely on God’s Word.
My convictions concerning Diving Healing, after this study, were deeply founded.
I feel that it was my firm stand on this matter which enabled me to go the full way through all the discouragement Satan brought to bear upon me, for I still had very much to learn.
Having fully decided to give my body to God, I sent to Dr Dowie setting a time for prayer. My sister and myself prayed at the same hour.
I was not helped.
I prayed and studied further, and again sent for prayer, and again apparently God did not hear.
Knowing that He would hear me, I claimed the promise, “Seek and ye shall find,” and went on seeking, determined not to give up until I found.
I learned very much about prayer during the following period.
I learned that lying all night and clamoring after God in tears and anxiety was not prayer, and the abuse of my physical nature brought on exhaustion and violent headache. Hezekiah’s description of his “soul chattering like a crane” always reminds me of that stage of my experience.
When I found my prayers and even Dr Dowie’s unavailing, I realized, although I was truly given to God, that I yet lacked something.
I asked God to show, and then Dr Dowie’s teaching on Repentance began to give me increased light. Repentance, as Zion teaches it, was unknown to me.
I then asked if any sin stood in my way, and promised if there were, I would gladly and instantly confess.
I thought I meant what I said. When God clearly and distinctly chose from my past a seemingly small thing which I had done and said, “confess this sin,” it seemed to me that the one thing which I could not do had been given to me.
Instead of going instantly and gladly with the confession, I struggled over it for nearly three weeks, seemingly losing all the ground I had gained.
I begged that I might keep this thing silent, and I would tell anything else.
I got so I could not pray. It was like the old struggles over consecrating myself to God. It came to where it was a question of giving up all or obeying.
At last I yielded and made the necessary confession, and after I had done so it seemed so easy, and my relief was so great I could not forgive myself for the delay, nor fail to regret the loss of the blessing which instant obedience brings.
I thought that now all was right.
I looked into the past and my own heart under God, and felt that all was clear before Him.
But He was not through with me. When I again set a time for prayer, and apparently God did not answer, I began with greater humility than I had ever yet known to search further for that weakness or sin in me that so delayed the fulfillment of God’s will.
I asked God to show me myself s He saw me, and in answer to that prayer He gave me such a glimpse of myself as I shall never forget.
For the first time I felt my need of Christ’s atoning blood.
I saw the meaning of His death for our sin.
I saw that all my consecration and obedience – if it were possible to be perfect in this – were not sufficient to cleanse my heart.
I saw that what I had regarded as an upright, and even Christian, life was very dark in God’s eyes.
I know now that this revelation was what I needed to bring me into the right attitude toward God.
By this time I knew there was so much to learn that the only thing for me to do was to keep on seeking step by step, as I had been doing, trusting God to take me the full way.
Meanwhile during these two months I had been growing physically worse. Instead of regaining any strength, or recovering from the severe relapse caused by over-exertion at the holiday time, I had been growing steadily weaker, and suffered much.
In addition, my liver trouble, from which, the latter part of my sickness I had been comparatively free, returned in a severe form. My side was swollen so that my clothes would not meet within two inches under my loose-front wrapper.
I was compelled to lie in one position, slightly on my left side, because of the extreme sensitiveness and soreness. Every movement was painful.
It seemed as if Satan had chosen the one thing that might tempt me. It was the only trouble which had at any time been consciously relieved by medicine. Medicine had, in a measure temporarily relieved me, and it came to me again and again that it would be wiser to take a little of the medicine which had benefited me, than to run the risk of being entirely confined to my bed, and perhaps alarm those who had the care of me, and so lead to a physician being called against my will.
I am glad to say it was not at any time a real temptation to me, for I recognized from the first that absolute dependence on God was the secret of the prayer of faith.I determined that death was preferable to disobedience, although I had no fear that God would fail to keep His promise to me.
This condition of my body had lasted for some weeks, and I finally became so ill I saw that I should be confined to my bed.
I knew that in my weak condition I was unable to endure one of the severe attacks of pain to which I was subject.
The probability of a doctor being called grew stronger.
My sense of absolute helplessness brought a fuller surrender than I had yet known. Unconsciously, I think, I had still been clinging to myself, my own faith and prayers.
I threw myself on God and left the responsibility to Him, knowing He would not permit me to be tempted above what I was able to bear.
In this frame of mind I rose one afternoon at 3 o’clock for the purpose of having prayer with my sister. It was with difficulty, because of the pain and soreness, that I knelt.
As we prayed a singular sensation passed over my side as if something rolled slowly away from it. I rose to my feet with perfect ease and without pain. I did not know what had happened, and put my hand to my side. To my amazement I found there was no soreness. It was not even sensitive to heavy pressure. The swelling and pain had also left instantly, and my clothes fastened loosely about me.
From that moment in February 1899, the healing which occurred had been perfect.
Stomach, liver and kidneys are in a healthy condition.
This was very wonderful to me, as I had no recollection of a time when my side was not sore and sensitive to the touch, or was free of pain.
Of course this wonderfully strengthened me physically and increased my faith, but I was far from being perfectly healed, as these troubles were only a part of my many ailments.
I went on seeking.
All this time I was asking for a full healing away from Zion Home.
In the first place, humanly speaking, it was impossible for me to go. I thought if I could not get my healing at home, I could not have it at all.
I knew, of course, if my faith were strong enough, and my life right, I need have no one pray for me.
I had not the means to go to Zion Home, and there were several obstacles which seemed insurmountable. Also, I really wished my healing at home, as I thought that would do away with all theories of hypnotism, etc.
God knew so much better than we did, and a chance remark of Mrs Penley’s “If God wants you to go to Zion Home, He can take you there, no matter if it is impossible,” set us on a new line of thought.
We saw that we were again taking matters into our own hands; that we ought merely to ask God to do it His way, nor ours; that if He wished to heal me in my home, He would do it, but if He wished to have me go to Zion Home, His way was surely best.
I saw I ought to have no choice in the matter, provided God’s will were done.
We took it to God, asking Him to do His will. Within three days of our first prayer in this way everyone of the “insurmountable obstacles” was removed without the slightest effort on our part.
The way opened distinctly for me to go to Zion Home, and the guiding hand of God was manifest.
A week later I was in Zion Home, arriving the week of Mrs Ruby’s healing, in April 1899.
I looked for an immediate healing. I was conscious of a clear physical strengthening in the first time I was prayed with, so that I was enabled to attend services by riding to and from Central Zion Tabernacle.
But because my healing was not perfect at once, I began to worry, I supposed that I could remain at the Home but one week, and it seemed to me the worst thing that could happen would be to go home unhealed.
It seemed strange that I should have trusted God for so little, after having been led so far.
It seems to me that I could surely have left it all with God. Instead, I lost time and blessing through impatience.
I had to be given the lesion over and over again, of letting God plan things, before I could learn it.
For more than a week I stumbled along, more and more confused.
Then I realized that I was going back on all my hard-learned lessons.
I saw others about me healed, while I gained nothing. I knew God was no respecter of persons. The healing was for me. Evidently there was something yet lacking in myself.
From the first, the intimacy with God in Zion filled me with wonder and longing.
I had truly given myself to God. I know that, from the moment of acceptance of redemption for the body, my one object was not a selfish wish for healing for my own pleasure, but a desire to be enabled to serve God better.
I intended to use the health He was going to give me for Him, and aside from this I was really not anxious to live. Life in my sickness had become a great burden to me, and I was not afraid to die.
But when I began to love God, I wished to live for Him. Yet I know now that my healing all through had been a sort of primary object, a thing to be sought separately.
Much in the same way, years before, I sought for “a genuine spiritual” experience, as my privilege through the acceptance of the Atonement, forgetting that Jesus Himself was the Atonement, and what I needed was Jesus Himself in my heart.
So I was seeking healing as a separate spiritual experience. Gradually my need dawned upon me. I saw that God was more real to many of those about me than He was to me; that Jesus was more real; that the Holy Spirit was real.
I began to wish for what I saw they had. I found I was too anxious for healing. I came to where I saw I must simply be true and obedient, waiting in faith upon God.
John 14:21 helped me much at this time.
I claimed the promise of the manifestation of Jesus Himself to me, and seeing more and more that Divine Healing was a part of the redemption, I knew that with the coming of Jesus into my life there would come with Him all the riches of His grace.
I stopped seeking for any special thing or experience, and prayed that I might know Jesus.
As I prayed, the desire to know Him for Himself grew stronger. I got to where I felt that if I could have Jesus in my life the other things did not matter in the least.
I did not care whether I was healed at Zion Home or not, provided it was according to His will.
And as He led me into that rest in Him which makes anxiety impossible, so that I almost forgot my body in the joy of a closer acquaintance, I awakened to the fact that my health and strength were coming rapidly.
One ailment after another disappeared, one or two instantly so that I knew of the change at the moment. Others passed away so quietly that I became conscious of my healing by the gradual but complete departure of pain while my body grew stronger.
God is able to do abundantly more than we ask or think. He not only kept me at Zion until I was healed, but enabled me to remain under its teachings several weeks longer, as I remained at the home of Mrs Congdon as a guest.
Toward the last of my stay I was employed at Zion City Bank for about a fortnight, working very steadily, and thoroughly testing my new strength.
To me one of the most wonderful parts of my experience came directly after my healing. My muscles were, of course, new and undeveloped, yet I felt no fatigue upon exercising. Instead a singular lightness and strength, or which I have since heard others speak, sustained me until the natural strength, through the development of muscle had been gained.
Even when the continuous gift of this Divine strength was no longer needed, I have had the same experience in time of much physical exertion, when it seemed as if I were in danger of overdoing, and have gone to God for sustaining strength.
Through the last year I have held a busy and responsible position as General Secretary of the Lend-a-Hand Club of this city, and the work at times has been very heavy, calling for considerable evening work in addition to that of the day’s duties.
All winter and spring I have added to my other cares, study and attendance at a short-hand class.
As a member of Zion, and the Conductor of the Zion Gathering here, I have given all the time possible to God’s work.
I have kept in excellent health throughout, although I have had hardly a moment’s leisure from the time of my healing in May 1899, to September 1, 1900, when I resigned my position in the Club because of the objections to my active association in the Zion work.
A few of the officers and members began to be anxious lest I should spread Zion truths among the girls who take advantage of the noon-rest attractions furnished by the Club.
A few times during the last year Satan has attempted to bring upon me his old power. I thank God that the healings have been clear and distinct, and usually instantaneous.
I am so thankful to God that He took His way and not mine, and took me to Zion Home.
During the weeks I was there I thoroughly looked into and studied all parts of the work, and I know it is of God.
Now, when in my work here in Zion, as frequently happens, some absurd and malicious story in regard to Dr Dowie, our God-sent leader, or some part of the work at Zion comes to me. I can answer from personal knowledge.
I have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand.
I can say “I know, not “I think.”
I am glad that my witness can be one of assurance, not only through my personal knowledge of God’s work through Zion, but, better still, the facts of the new relation of my own life toward Him.
“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him,” even my whole spirit, soul and body.
Of course, in common with all other members in Zion, my word is often doubted although upon any other subject my witness would be taken without a question of my sincerity, or intelligent comprehension.
It took some time to understand and properly adjust myself to the fact that a low newspaper fabrication, which I personally knew to be false from beginning to end, should be taken as more reliable authority than my own word in the matter, by those very persons who would not think of questioning my truthfulness or any other subject. Certainly the “preaching of the Cross is foolishness” to those who do not wish to believe.
There is a question frequently asked me, which I feel like taking the opportunity of answering before closing my testimony. It is this: “But why, even granting these facts of your healing to be true, need you have severed your connection with the Methodist Church (which certainly needs consecrated members) and have entered a new,” and it is usually implied, “an ‘upstart’ Church, which is only making divisions among Church members?”
I always believed, even in my old careless Christian life, that it was the duty of a Christian to be affiliated with the Church which stood nearest to God in its teaching and practice, so that he might have full opportunity to live up to his own convictions, and a free field of labor.
Some years before I heard of Zion my own investigation of the Word of God upon Baptism, having once had my attention called to it, convinced me beyond any doubt that I had never been baptized. I said then that if I ever found a Church which taught and practiced true Baptism, and was in other respects equal to the Methodist Church (at the time my eyes were too blinded to see clearly how far away from the early teaching and practice it had fallen), I would not hesitate to enter the truer Church.
When I saw in Zion the Fulfillment of God’s promises, the preaching of a Full Gospel, the power of His Holy Spirit doing mighty works in the spirits and souls and bodies of those who came into the light in Zion, I did not stumble for a moment.
I was as sure that God wanted me to go into fellowship with this great movement as I would once have been that He would call a converted Roman Catholic out of His Church into the fuller light of the Protestant Church.
I have not, however, looked upon my becoming a member of Zion as the simple fulfillment of a duty.
I have counted it as a privilege and a joy.
God in His mercy has brought me to a knowledge of Zion and has opened by eyes to see that the work is His. I know that there could not be a greater sorrow to me than to have been compelled to stay out of Zion.
It is a strange thing to me that any one who has received the light in Zion can endure to shut himself out from its fellowship, and I thank God that I have been permitted to become a member.
But although these were my reasons for entering, I did not see all that God meant by Zion. I did not understand what Zion really was. There has come to me, little by little, a realization of the wonderful work God intends to do through this Church raised up on these last days.
I thank God, as I have a thousand times, that I am a partaker in the great work now going forward which is preparing the world for Christ’s coming.
This past year has been the happiest of my life. It has had its mistakes, and I am sorry to say its sins, which, looking back upon, seem inexcusable, in one who is under the white light of Zion.
But, thank God, Zion has taught me not to leave unrepented of what I would once have called the little sins, to become a barrier between myself and God.
There are many things to learn all the way.
Needed lessons come daily, but I am no longer unwilling to learn.
Divine Healing has proved such a Beautiful Gate to a fuller knowledge of God and His love.
It is the entrance into heights and depths of His love such as some of us had never dreamed of.
I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depths, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Miss) Martha Wing