This Week in Texas Methodist History July 5
W. B. Carter Receives Salvation While Riding Black Mule,
When is the last time you heard one of your fellow congregants testify about his or her conversion?
It’s probably been a long time. For 19th century Methodists, though, stories of personal conversion were not just common, they were an expected part of revivals. The arc of the story is simple---first a feeling of despair over one’s great sin and the consequence of eternal damnation as a result of that sin, then a period of struggle followed by surrender. The final stage was elation, joy, and a desire to tell others so that they could also experience the happiness.
The conversion experience was so profound that the converts repeated their stories often and in public. Here is one such account, probably from the 1880s, as recorded by John E. Green. . .
Many a mean man and not a few wicked women have I known to be checked and changed by the power of the Gospel. A remarkable case was that of W. B. Carter, a big, burly fellow from Milam County who, while in the fervor of his first love, attended a great meeting we were holding at the historic Chappell Hill and Belleville camp ground where I have often worked in revivals and where I have had some of the happiest times of my ministry. Carter was earnest and enthusiastic. He made himself agreeable to everybody and all soon learned to love him. One morning at a prayer and praise meeting feeling was running high, almost to the “popping-off point.” Brother Carter arose with tears of joy running down his face and said, “Brother Green, I got more to be thankful for than anybody. I was too mean to live, meaner than the devil wanted me to be. From bad to worse I went until recently. I live a little way out from Cameron and several miles out beyond my place there is a country church where the Methodists were having a big meeting. I didn’t care anything for religion, but went to that meeting fro fun. I was riding a little black mule. After a few nights I felt a mean feeling creeping over me, and the first thing I knew I was at the mourners’ bench and there I felt sill meaner. Every time I would go to the altar, I’d get meaner and meaner. I was discouraged and said, “I won’t go any more, I get not better, but worse,’ One night I was riding home between two men on horses. One was a Baptist and one a Methodist, but both mighty good men. A half mile from the church we got to a ravine where the limbs of trees reached across the road, making it so dark I couldn’t see my hand before my eyes; I was in the dark more ways than one and I was so miserable. Then one of the men said, ‘Carter, you don’t have to go to the mourner’s bench any more. Just surrender fully now and trust the Lord this minute and He’ll save you right here.” The truth was made plain. I trusted Jesus. I got happy and shouted, “Glory!’ and my mule ran away. I couldn’t quite shouting and that mule wouldn’t quit running, but the Lord didn’t let the mule hurt me. I held on to the Lord with one hand to the little black mule with the other and ran several miles shouting.”