A Bible Conference in a Pullman Car

Some years ago my family and I spent several months among the Laguna Indians of New Mexico in missionary work. It was a time of great blessing to our own souls and we enjoyed to the full the association with these warm-hearted people of the mesas. Living conditions, however, were not exactly what we had been accustomed to, and because of this, in all probability, I evidently picked up a toxic germ that caused me considerable trouble later. For some weeks afterwards when I was in Minneapolis to give a series of addresses, I found myself in a very peculiar physical condition which made it exceedingly difficult to carry on. Finally, just after a meeting, I tumbled over, and when I came back to consciousness found I had to go to bed at once as I had all the symptoms of a second attack of typhoid fever. Seven years before I had gone through a siege of this disease, and hardly expected a repetition, nevertheless, such it proved to be. I was a long way from my California home, but for six weeks was most kindly cared for by a dear Christian family until, becoming convalescent, I felt able to start west again. Being still too weak to sit up long, and only strong enough to walk about as I held on to something, I engaged an entire section in the Pullman and had my berth made up day and night. In the day-time the curtains were drawn back and I was able to recline restfully upon the mattress and pillows, feeling much to my amusement something like an oriental despot on a divan.

On the first morning out after partaking of breakfast, I was lying on my improvised couch reading my Bible when a buxom German lady came down the aisle. As she was passing my berth she suddenly stopped and exclaimed, “Vat! You haffing vamily vorship all by yourself? Vait a moment, I go und get mein Beibel and ve read togedder.” So off she went and shortly returned with a large German Bible— planting herself on the side of my berth. “Vere you reading?” I indicated the passage, and soon we were enjoying real Christian fellowship as we compared the two translations and talked together of the precious things of Christ. She proved to be a very intelligent Christian who loved the Lord sincerely and delighted in His Word. It was not long before a tall, fair Norwegian came down the aisle. Noticing how we were engaged, he exclaimed, “Ah, reading the Bible, eh! Vait a moment. I tank I go and get mine too, and yoin with you,” and so away he went and came back with his Norwegian Bible. The berth opposite mine was empty so he sat over there, and we had a three-cornered conversational Bible reading which soon attracted the attention of several other passengers who crowded in to listen to what we were saying.

About this time the Pullman conductor passed through and observed what was going on. I learned afterwards that he went through all the other sleeping-cars and told the people that if they cared to attend a religious service there was one going on in our car. The result was that more people crowded in than were able to hear all that was being said, but raising my voice as loudly as I could in my weakened condition, I attempted to preach the gospel and, in answer to many questions from my fellow-passengers, to open up important lines of truth for the establishment of believers. As a result of the fever, I found myself mentally very weary, so after talking for an hour or two I was obliged to tell the people that I must have a little sleep before continuing. As I opened my eyes following my nap, I noticed my Norwegian friend was watching closely, and suddenly, to my amusement, he began shouting out, “He’s avake! He’s avake!” and again the people started to gather about.

Most of the time was devoted to an effort to expound the Epistle to the Hebrews. We rejoiced together as we contemplated the glories of our blessed risen Lord, He who though the eternal Son, the Beloved of the Father, stooped in grace to link Himself with our humanity and by His suffering and death became in resurrection, the Captain of our salvation. I found that many were not very clear as to the Person of Christ, and it was a Joy to see them drinking in the truth set forth so graphically in the first two chapters of this Epistle. As we went on to take up the subject of His High-Priesthood and His intercessory work on our behalf in Heaven, it was evident that we were dealing with things new to many, and when we considered the perfection and finality of His one offering on the cross, there were many questions which we tried to answer from the Word itself. I would not dare to say how many entered into the full assurance of faith because of our study together, but I am certain through the appreciative way they expressed themselves, this was true of several at least of that company. Then some time was devoted to answering questions on various other Bible themes. What struck me, was the real interest that some showed who did not even make profession of Christianity, but evidently thought much about so-called religious subjects. I hope that I shall some day meet in Heaven at least one or more of the passengers who were brought to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour because of the gospel messages they heard on that train on the way to California.

This kind of thing went on morning and afternoon each day until we were nearing Sacramento, California. At this junction city the train was to be divided; part of the cars going on to Oakland and San Francisco, and the others down the valley to Fresno, Turlock, and other points. Many of my newly-made friends were ticketed for the valley route, and so they came one after another to express their appreciation and to thank me for the unfolding of the Word of God to them.

The German lady was particularly voluble in her gratitude. “My!” she exclaimed; “It has been just like a camp-meeting all de vay! Mein soul has been fed and many things I see now I did not see before. But brudder,” she asked, “vat denomination do you belong to? You haf not told us yet.” I smiled and replied, “I belong to the same denomination that David did.” “Vat vas dat?” she inquired, and added, “I did not know that he belonged to any.” “Well,” I answered, “he says, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear Thee and of them that keep Thy precepts’ (Ps. 119:63).” “Ya, ya,” she cried, “dat iss a fine denomination to belong to.” This gave me an opportunity to unfold in the little time we had left, something of the revelation of the mystery of which the Apostle Paul speaks in the letters to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and in other epistles. It seemed to be new to some that all believers in this dispensation of grace are members of the Body of Christ and, hence, members one of another, whether they be linked up with some local organization or not. I suppose we must have represented perhaps a dozen different groups of Christians looked at denominationally, but we found that the things on which we agreed and which were precious to all our hearts were far greater than the things that separated us because of different theological opinions or diverse conceptions of church government, or the Christian ordinances. I did not ask any of them what organization they belonged to, nor did anyone inquire further as to my own particular fellowship. As we drew near the station at Sacramento, we bowed our heads together and thanked God that through His infinite grace we had been washed from our sins in the precious blood of Christ, and were now members of that new creation of which He is the risen exalted Head.

In the years that have gone it has never been my privilege to meet again one of my fellow-passengers on that memorable trip, but I fully expect to see and recognize many of them in that glad day when our Lord Himself will “descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”

It may be that some who traveled with me at that time will see these lines; if so, nothing would please me better than to hear from them.