The Life Story of Rev. Paul Rader as Related in His Own Language
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, … but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:8, 9).
Written very clearly upon my mind is the memory of the night I was converted when a boy of nine years. My father was then a Methodist missionary in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a real revival was in progress. I remember that a few soldiers from the nearby fort were at the altar and more grown folks, but no other children. Being the preacher’s boy and still young none thought I needed to be talked to, and the service was nearly over before a dear man, Brother Corey, came and found me. He asked me some questions, but I found no peace. I remember that the cloth was worn off of the top button on his vest and I said to myself, “God sees what I have done as plainly as I see the uncovered metal of that button.”
I arose when the rest did and with a sad heart went home. My father had been watching me and when I got to my room and was on my knees beside my bed, he came in. Oh, the joy of confession, and the simple way in which father showed me that my sin was covered, forgiven and forgotten. The joy and peace that came to my young heart as I believed became my yard stick by which I was to measure God. He was thereafter my own Jesus, the Author of peace.
First Preaching Experiences
The days I spent with my father as we traveled together, while he preached to the men of the plains, hundreds of miles from any railroad, gave my soul a firm grasp of the simple Gospel as he saw it. I never could forget his plain talks to the Indians, and his simple illustrations that made their way into darkened minds and hearts. There came to me a great desire in those days to preach the Gospel. I had a soprano voice and used it to sing the Gospel when my father or other ministers would ask me, but in the summer of my sixteenth year I got my father’s consent to preach the Gospel.
I had been offered a chance to preach in a lovely mountain resort, but father gave me my choice between this and a place where no man had preached and where there was no church, just a small school house, so I took the school house. My congregation the first Sunday consisted of the lady who ran the boarding house and a deaf woman, but Jesus was there and I have a large quilt still preserved covered with names of folks who were saved in that school house that summer. I didn’t get any salary, but I broke two broncos a week and got pay for that, and when school time came in the fall I took back home with me a fine milk cow and a driving horse, besides some money for horse breaking.
Side-Tracked by Evolution and New Thoughtism
God continued to bless me through my school years and during the summers in this kind of work. He was very real to me through all my young manhood, and I was conscious of His leadings. I cannot take the space to tell of all my early experiences and joy in preaching, but the years were filled with blessing. I can remember the day when doubts about the Bible began to make their way into my heart. I was taking extra college work in a denominational school and the professor of literature was lecturing on the book of Job. His statements went through my heart like a knife.
I stayed at the close of the class, and with cutting sarcasm he gave me to understand that my simple faith in the Bible came from my ignorance. He could not have struck a worse chord in my nature than to call me ignorant. My Southern blood boiled, and for weeks I struggled in the darkness and at the close had set my teeth on a decision to know everything that such men as the professor held against the Bible.
The devil told me I had been blindfolded and childish. My decision came I know now from a wounded pride, and all the bitterness that came into my life afterward had its start in that pride. I did not know that God could remove pride or did not want to know. I had heard many preachers and evangelists like some in our day rather boast of the fighting stuff that was in them. I thought it was the good evidence of good family blood.
I saw that the evolutionary tendency of thought voiced by the professor was “a tree to be desired to make one wise,” and I began to eat. I read the books he gave me, and a new light burst through literature. I found the new thought more to be desired than strong drink and the habit for such reading grew greatly. I did not throw away my faith, but I let in this strong draught of poison that began its deadly work. I struggled to keep my faith, but faith fainted and grew sick.
From that first day of doubt a wabble appeared in my nature. I did not have the old-time armor against sin, the devil could shoot from many angles now and find a hole. I had a double mind, and, true to Scripture, became unstable in all my ways.
When faith wabbles failure is inevitable. I tried to preach as before, but lo, I had entered into the poisonous current of the new natural religion of our times, that offers no other-world salvation, but sings the praises of this world and this world alone. It has eyes only for the life that now is. It believes in salvation by evolution, instead of salvation through the revolution of regeneration. It stands for man-made religion as against super-natural religion, and between the two I was trying to stand. As well try to escape being hit by an automobile at night by stepping between the two head lights.
I came to feel because of the loud bluster of this new school of thought and their ipse dixit that they had science in certainty and history in solid phalanx on their side, but I came a great while later with heavy heart to see that what appeared to be a solid wall was in fact a lattice fence overgrown with the philosophical thought-vine of man—the product of rebellious hearts against the plain revelation of God. I came to see that even in the 20th century we had not attained the mark of former centuries in culture, spiritual fervor, political justice or governmental efficiency, and to look with doubt upon our material boasts. The drift of the evolutionary religionists was all toward social service, toward man’s best efforts for himself and his kind, instead of accepting God’s best efforts for man on Calvary.
I came slowly to see that other institutions were far better fitted for this social service than the church, and were doing it in a highly efficient way without a mention of religion. The same force that was behind good roads, pure water and pure food was doing all that natural religion was asking and enticing the Church to do, but doing it far better. I had come to the philanthropic end of the natural religion road, and there with more sin abounding there was no salvation. It was man trying again to lift himself by his own boot straps.
The Chastening Rod
I then gave up and quit preaching. The devil had beaten me. He had run me up a blind road that leads to nowhere, and all along the road were left marks of my defeat. I vowed I would never preach again. I had thrown myself into social service and reform work, and all this with a fight still going on down deep that whispered of the sweet faith of my early God. It never came to the surface, it was buried under many a defeat and many a doubt, but its faint voice could be heard in the quiet hours.
Gradually I began to open my eyes. I saw that supernatural religion was not a blind road. A letter from my father shook me to the depths, and I reformed and resolved. I said I will preach past my doubts. I turned to the old road of supernatural religion, I was sure that it was right and I forced myself to preach, but while my head was somewhat changed and my heart also, yet there was a work which God wanted to do in my own soul, and I was side-stepping the issue by preaching at times, thinking that some good work would square me again with God.
At this time my father whom I so dearly loved died, and very much other trouble followed. I tried harder to preach, but the wabble was still in my nature, and instead of turning to God with all the trouble that came I turned to my own resources and business. I hated to admit that I had been shorn of my locks, but I saw I was not at a place of power with God. I shook myself as Samson of old, and also the devil shook me. Before I could ever trot square with God I knew there must be a great heart-reckoning. I knew pride must have an awful fall. I knew I must face the past, but pride and the self-life shrank terribly from such a reckoning.
Restored, Forgiven, Cleansed
Two years and a half ago God found me like Peter, a believer, a backslider, a hypocrite without backbone.
I was walking on the streets of New York when God spoke to my heart in the same tender pleading way, just as He used to do when I was a boy. I almost ran to my room and dropped on my knees beside the bed. I wanted him. I uncovered my heart and went in for the awful reckoning. My confession ran out like water. I went to the very depths with Him. I first dealt with the past and all its sin and told Him that I could face it in His strength and make right my wrongs.
When that was forgiven and settled and I was sure of it, I asked Him for a clean heart and an obedient heart given over entirely to Him—where pride and self would not be on the throne, but He alone would be there. He gave me a look at myself, and the awful things of my own heart that had caused all the wabble and doubt and failure came in clearness to my view.
Three days and three nights the fight with self lasted. At four o’clock on the third morning I took the splendid Bible given to me by Dr. Jennings some years before, and threw it in the air above the bed, letting it light and settle to stillness. I had promised God that when the old Book became still on the bed, I would give up and obey Him at any cost and nestle down in His blessed hands and be still. Soul rest was mine at that very moment and He filled me with His Spirit.
“And round my heart still closely twine
Those chords which naught can sever,
For I am His and He is mine,
Forever and forever.”
While alone in my room with Him He opened up His Word to me and banished my doubt. I saw the second coming of Jesus. I came to know Him there as my sanctification. I also saw very plainly in His Word that He is the same yesterday and today and forever, and that He still can and does heal the body.
Preaching with the Old-Time Fervor
I walked out onto the street that night and preached with the old boyhood freedom and joy. Christ seemed to stand up on the inside of me as my very life and wisdom and words. My heart fairly burned, as it does yet in preaching, with the joy of His presence. I came by His leading hand from place to place, through much prayer and waiting for His command, to Pittsburg. It was far from my wish to stay in Pittsburg, but He said stay and I did. It seemed far from the way of natural wisdom.
My wife had suffered greatly from tubercular trouble in the glands, and had been operated upon, and was in no condition to be transferred from the comfort of the Pacific coast climate to Pittsburg with its valley air and dense smoke. I told the Lord all about it in prayer. I could not bring myself to ask my wife to make the change. I could only cry to Him to open the door and Himself lead her as He had led me. He did, and healed her. She has never had such robust health as in these past two years and a half. I preached at the Gospel Tabernacle of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Pittsburg, going out from there to conventions and revival meetings at times, until the Lord led me last November to launch forth in a little wider field of evangelism.
Call to The Moody Church
I finished the campaign in St. Paul in the first week of November, and came on to Chicago to open another campaign in the Fourth Baptist Church on the night of November 8. Dr. Simpson was preaching at The Moody Church on the morning of that day. I was asked by Brother E.Y. Woolley to lead in prayer that morning, and after the prayer while a hymn was being sung he came to me and asked if I could preach the following Sunday morning. I told him I would.
The next Sunday morning I preached my first sermon in The Moody Church. Rev. Wm. P. Nicholson was supposed to open his campaign that day but was delayed a week. While he was in The Moody Church I was preaching at the Fourth Baptist. I was asked to preach in The Moody Church for ten days, including the week of prayer which came at the close of my campaign on the west side, and that ten days God spread out into weeks, and the showers fell, and the call to be pastor of The Moody Church came, and here I am. His ways are not our ways. Praise His precious name!
I write only in the outline. My nature was intense and all my experience also. The years passed over were crowded full of the experiences and much travel and study. When I think of all that has been crowded into those years, I marvel at the mercy of God and His goodness to me in spirit, soul and body.
Being pastor of The Moody Church was farther from my thoughts than it was from the thoughts of the members of The Moody Church. I am here by His leading and by His grace. I shall meet each task assured that “Nothing is too hard for Jesus. No man can work like Him.”