How long a time I lived the Christian life without discovering the secret of true joy and constant victory! But at last one day the secret was imparted to me, and life became a changed thing. And because of the wondrous change it brought to my own life, the desire grew strong within my heart to impart the glorious secret to others.
But how unworthy I felt and feel increasingly to pose as a teacher of others, until I recall that it has so often been His weak and unworthy ones that He has been pleased to make the object of His grace, so revealing to others what He can do for the “Chiefest of Sinners.”
Not that I considered myself the Chiefest of Sinners. Not at all. I felt myself to be a very satisfactory and commendable Christian indeed, and it has been only since I learned the “Secret” that I have discovered myself to be such a great sinner at heart.
But now for the Secret. It is very simple, and when you here it you will say that it isn’t any secret at all. For the whole blessed experience that came to me was bound up in two words, “Just Himself.” Just Himself; not the blessing, nor His gift of power, nothing but Himself.
There came the time that as a child I knelt with other children in a special service and gave my heart to God. I think perhaps I belonged to Him before that time, but that was my first public acknowledgement of Him. Then came a later time when I was a little girl, just on the threshold of young womanhood, I made a fuller surrender to Him thinking that by so doing I would inherit a blessing which should guarantee me against all future sin. I seemed to feel a newness of life for a time and rejoiced in it and held on to it desperately; but at last I slipped, and mistakenly said to myself that the experience I had was only a myth. This made my heart grow cold and hard.
Then followed several years of spiritual barrenness and hardness of heart during which time I found the world to be alluring and gave myself to worldly ambitions and pleasure. But just as I became twenty the Lord spoke to me unmistakably, and very humbly I crept back to His feet. There were many friendships to be broken, many things of the world to be discarded; but one by one I was freed from the glittering entanglements of sin and ambition that had held me so long, and in Him I was free. Free to give Him all my talents, all my time, all my life. But I had not learned the Secret yet.
I lived the Christian life for many years following this experience, the Lord graciously teaching me and deigning to use me, but the Secret was still not mine. Then came a wonderful day - it is engraven in my heart - when, as I looked out across the sea from the book I was reading, I begin to consider that the saint about whom the book was written knew his Lord in a personal, real way. This was not my experience, and a great longing rose in my heart to know Him like this - and yet ... For I was being honest with myself, and I knew, when the thought of Jesus came to me and the possibility of a closer walk with Him confronted me, that some things in my life wouldn’t be pleasing to Him. Indeed, I couldn’t quite imagine Him entering into them with me, and the words flashed across my mind, brought by His Holy Spirit, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
And then the struggle commenced, because there is no use denying that there were some things I loved better than the possibility of such a walk with Him. Oh the shame of it! But I was still being very honest. They were such trivial, foolish things when compared with the incomparable privilege which He was offering me. And at last, feeling battered by the conflict but very victorious, I came to my Lord and held out the little trophies to Him, saying from my heart, “Dear Lord, I want to walk with thee, I want to abide in Thy presence, to be altogether Thine, and to love Thee wholly. And because I know You cannot walk with me while I pursue those pleasures, I give them all to Thee today.” And then a wonderful thing occurred. He became suddenly very real and very precious. I shall always love that little town in Northern Wales with a peculiar love, for it was there I learned to walk with my Lord. I shall never forget the ecstasy of my heart as I walked its sordid little streets and talked with Him. Sometimes I felt I must put out my hand and touch His garments, He seam so near. And looking up into His face I would find myself saying again and again, “But Thou - Thou art so blessed, and so beautiful, and I never knew Thee like this before.”