Guest blog by Phoebe W. Palmer (1807-1874) — from a letter to Timothy Merritt, editor of the Guide to Christian Perfection:
And now let me give you matter for special thanksgiving, by referring to one of the witnesses, who gave in a delightful testimony of the power of our Lord and Savior to "wash and keep us clean." She is the wife of Prof. Upham, and for several months has been enjoying the witness, that the blood of Jesus cleanseth. H
er experience is remarkably clear and instructive. It furnishes further assurance of the utility of meetings for testimony on the subject of holiness. This lady, as she has since told me, found herself under rather unlooked-for circumstances at a Methodist meeting, and, from a little maid in Israel, heard an unsophisticated testimony of the power of Christ to save from all sin. The testimony was from one who could say, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." Had the learned disquisitions of a theologian been brought to bear thus unexpectedly upon her mind, however truthful his position had been, Mrs. Upham, not unacquainted with theological warfare, might have been better prepared for resistance; but truth
, unfettered by adornment, with the sharpness of the two-edged sword, penetrated her heart, and she left the place deeply conscious that a further work must be wrought in her heart before she could stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Conceiving that what she had heard was Bible truth, she set herself, as far as circumstances would permit, to searching the Scriptures, in order to assure her heart before God whether she might indeed expect salvation from all sin in this life; not for a moment doubting but that, if such were her privilege, the Lord would make it known to her through his word and bring her into the enjoyment of that state. For weeks she continued in this employ; while clearer light with every day shone upon the word, leading her to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. While passing through this process, her husband often pleasantly inquired, "Well, wife, how comes on Christian perfection now?" and as her confidence from her Biblical investigations gathered strength, she daily expressed her belief, her increasing belief, in the doctrine, until, with a full heart, and with her eye upon the word of God, she exclaimed, "O, husband, IT IS ALL HERE," As intimated, it was only for her to be assured that the Scriptures presented it as her privilege to be saved from all sin in this life, in order to enter upon the enjoyment of this blessed state. I think she said to me that she never thought of doubting, the faithfulness of God in fulfilling his promises at once to her, so soon as her faith was settled scripturally, as a preparation on her own part for this reliance. According to her faith it was done unto her. She no sooner found the doctrine in the Bible than she at once received the blessing in her heart.
But this is not all: I have something to relate relative to her distinguished husband, which will raise the note of praise yet higher. Ever since Mrs. Upham's mind became interested on the subject of holiness, he had been in an inquiring state. On the 24th of December, Mrs. Upham came to the Tuesday meeting, which she very much enjoyed. She afterward expressed a wish that her husband might be permitted to attend, during his visit to this city, which was of course acceded to.
On the intervening Thursday, Prof. and Mrs. Upham, with some other Christian friends, supped at sister Lankford's. It was truly a pious visit; and the interview I shall never forget. During the evening the Professor asked very many questions, involving some nice points, most evidently with the single aim to elicit light on the doctrine and experience of holiness. The enlightening and hallowing influences of the Holy Spirit seemed to be very present, both with the questioner and the questioned; and when, at the close of the lengthy interview, he was called upon to pray, in defiance of former prejudices in reference to females exercising before men, he called upon the female friend whom he had questioned during the evening to pray. She had heard of his views on this point, and the cross was heavy; but she saw that, in order to carry out the principles of holiness, no other way remained, and she led in prayer.
After her return home, until about midnight, she continued to plead for him with groanings unutterable. Her mind seemed to take within its comprehensive range how the entire sanctification of such mental energies as the Lord had bestowed upon him might promote the cause of holiness, when wholly enlisted. And she well knew that it was not possible for any one to live in the enjoyment of the blessing of sanctification, without feeling it as a consuming fire shut up in the bones, enlisting all the powers of body and mind in its promotion and with desires inexpressibly intense: did she long that an understanding acknowledged to be so clear in philosophical truth, might concentrate its energies in presenting to the world the principles of holiness; for well did she know that the more closely it was examined, the brighter it would shine. If time would permit I should love to tell you how Satan tried to withstand her, for it was a season of wrestling with principalities and powers, never to be forgotten; but I may not extend my communication on this point, further than to record a most solemn vow, which was uttered in this hour of extremity. "If thou wilt do this," said she, in her importunity, "I will, through thy grace, be more truly 'instant in season and out of season,' in urging the subject of holiness on persons of this description, and will henceforth regard the granting of this, my desire, as a special subject of praise through time and eternity." The high and holy One at that moment condescended to assure her heart, that her prayer had in truth come up in remembrance before him. Had a voice from the highest heavens fallen upon her ear, saying, "Thy prayer has been heard, and thy vow shall be in perpetual remembrance before God, the desire of thy heart shall be granted;" she could not have been more confirmed in the persuasion that she should have the thing she had desired of God. Yet, though so fully assured that it should be granted, the bestowment was in prospective, and she retired to her couch so burdened for the bringing forth of her desire, that the whole night was spent in strugglings for deliverance; even when the bodily powers had yielded to broken slumbers, the spirit remained conscious in its unutterable groanings. Before morning dawned she was again in the attitude of a suppliant, and in her earnest implorings she said, "Let it be now, that he may have such perceptions of the way of faith, of its simplicity and power, as he never before had any conception of." It was suggested, "He is probably asleep, and it is inconsistent to ask that he may be so signally blessed just now, when his mind may not be in a state to receive the blessing." The response of her heart was, that whether he was now waking or sleeping, his spirit was doubtless in a state of preparation; for the power of the Holy Ghost, which had been operating on her heart, as if it were almost apart from herself, must have influenced his heart simultaneously, and still she cried, "Let it be just now." As ever, her heart fled to the blessed WORD for a foundation upon which to rest her faith, when yet again, as in former emergencies, she was enabled to say, "And this is the confidence that I have in thee, that if I ask anything according to thy will thou hearest me, and if I know that thou hearest me, whatsoever I ask, I know that I have the petition that I desire of thee." She laid hold, and kept steadfast hold on the promise implied in this wonderful portion of the word, and now began to say, "I have the petition I desired of thee," and prayer was turned to thanksgivings to God for the reception of the thing desired. Many temptations had she during that day to give up a faith which the enemy suggested was so venturesome. Hour after hour she waited the expected arrival of Professor Upham to announce the victory of faith, and as the moments succeeded each other, without bringing any sensible assurance of the effect of her faith in his behalf, the trial became more severe. She well knew that the blessing could not be enjoyed without exerting upon the mind a pervading and all-controlling influence, and "if you had not believed in vain," said the deceiver, "the object of your faith and prayers would have been moved to hasten to you with the confession of how great things the Lord had done for him." But the whole of that day passed, and it was not until near the close of another that she again saw Professor Upham. The struggle which was endured in holding fast her confidence, two or three hours previous to seeing him, can never be forgotten. It was, indeed, terrible, but grace empowered her to endure. On seeing her the professor said, "At about such an hour yesterday morning I received such clear views of faith, of its simplicity and power, as I never before had a conception of. It was the full assurance of faith."
The hour named was precisely the time the sister had claimed the blessing for him, and he also stated, that, during the hours of the night preceding this transition, his spirit had been under an unusual influence, and in wakefulness had been progressing toward that point of light and power upon which it had now entered. "O," said he, with intense ardor, "faith hath power in it."
He since delights in calling the state of blessedness upon which he has entered, "HOLINESS." Since his return home we have received a letter from him filled with assurances of his identity with the blessed theme of full salvation. He says, "On this point, namely, whether I love God fully, entirely, I can say, with the devoted Mrs. Rogers, Satan has ceased to tempt me and my soul is entirely at rest. If I am not mistaken, (and how can I be mistaken, when I have a consciousness of it as deep and as distinct as of my own existence?) my soul has panted after God until it has found him, and has entered into the inner sanctuary of the divine love." Relative to promoting the cause of holiness, he observes, "I feel as if I had nothing else to live for. I consider myself consecrated and pledged for ever." I have thought that some profitable communications for the "Guide" might be expected from either Professor Upham or his gifted lady. Such talents, consecrated and pledged to the promotion of holiness, may surely be expected, through the blessing of God, to tell advantageously on the cause; but I well know that brother Merritt truly feels that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."
— edited from Faith and Its Effects (1848) XXVIII.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is taken from a letter addressed to Timothy Merritt (identified as "Rev. T_____ M_____), the original editor of the Guide to Christian Perfection (later the Guide to Holiness). I have supplied the names — though I am a bit less sure of the identity of "sister L_____" as Sarah Lankford (1806-1896) than I am of the others. Upham's own account of his spiritual journey — and the influence of the Methodists on him — differs a bit, and can be found here: The Testimony of Prof. T. C. Upham.