Excerpts from Mrs. Paull's journal, quoted in her memoir, reveal her spiritual struggles and awakening, prefacing her work as a writer of religious and inspiriational books.
The Story of a Busy Life
Recollections of Mrs. George A. Paull
J. R. Miller, D. D.
New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company
"THERE is just one thing to keep me from being blissfully happy, and strangely enough it is the last thing that I ever imagined would trouble me. I wish I could make up my mind about the reality of God. Though I believe in a vague sort of way, I have hours of anxious self-questionings, and cannot bring myself to the intense realization of the truth which I feel to be necessary. I am groping blindly, and though I am trying to see God, yet a cloud is before my eyes, and I cannot even believe that he is behind it. . ..
"I am sure there is a life into which have never entered-a life of love to God as real and as earnest as is my human love, only far greater. If I could once feel with all my heart that God is good and great and infinitely loving and pitiful, then I might love him; but my most earnest efforts do not seem to bring him near me. What shall I do ? . . .
"This morning I prayed a strange petition. It was like an aimless cry into space, I had so little feeling that my cry was heard or would be answered. I prayed that God would make me believe in him and would give me faith to pray. It was a half-hearted prayer, but if God hears the faintest call, it may be that an answer will come. . . .
" I cannot be satisfied to go on as I am. I do want to be good, and I enjoy praying morning and evening, because that seems like a step in the right direction; but I must not stop here. I know that if I ever do become a Christian, I shall love God with all my heart and soul, and shall want to give my whole life up to his service. But will that peace ever come to me? Perhaps it is to be my punishment for years of unbelief that I never shall be allowed a firm and tranquil faith. Could there be a sadder prospect than a lifetime of unrest?. . .
"My prayer has been answered. I realize God as I had never thought it possible. But I am oppressed with a sense of his presence and his greatness. It terrifies me and makes me more unhappy than I was before in my unbelief. Oh, how do people become Christians? It sounds so easy: it is nothing but a complete surrender of everything; and it surely seems as if it would be a very easy thing to acknowledge God's right to everything, when, whether I acknowledge it or not, all things are in his hand. I cannot love him, though. I cannot see how there can be love where there is such fear. 'Perfect love casteth out fear,' but my only feeling is that of terror, when I realize that I am wholly powerless to draw a breath by my own strength, and that at any moment if God willed it so, this mysterious thing which we call life might cease and I should be swept out into an eternity of darkness. This thought clouds all the brightness of a life that otherwise would be perpetual sunshine. . . .
"Underneath all that I say and do is an unrest which will not be quieted. I ask myself what I would give to purchase peace. It seems to me as if it would be a very easy thing to sacrifice my ambition, myself. If I thought God demanded of me a complete surrender of every gift for his service, and called me to a life of rigid self-sacrifice and work, I do believe I could lay aside all my own bright plans for life, and gladly obey, to purchase immunity from this terrible fear of God. But there is one thing I would not give up. I could not give up my earthly love, not though I knew it would bar me from an eternity of happiness. I know God is all-powerful. If he will, he can lay his hand on my most precious treasure and snatch him away from me, but I could never give him up. How will this struggle end ? I was far happier when I took no thought of God, and believed that I held my life in my own hands, than I am now. . . .
" Last night it seemed as if all the unbelief and wrong-doing of my life rose up before me, and I felt how black and sin-stained my heart was in God's sight. I dared not pray at first. I could not ask for forgiveness knowing that I had an idol in God's place, which I would not, could not, dethrone, and a great sob escaped me in my despair. I am so wretched; what shall I do ? At last I determined to tell God about it and to commit myself to his love and forgiveness. As I did so my heart grew lighter, I could sleep, and this morning when the glad sun streamed brightly in, the horror of great darkness that came over me last night seemed more like a dream than a reality. I knelt down and asked God to take me just as I was, with my heart full of fear and unbelief, and fill me with his love. As far as I knew my own heart, I was not holding back anything, but surrendered all I had to him."
[Her biographer then writes: "Some time later came to her mind the full blessing for which her heart had been so hungering, through the very surrender to Christ which she had foreseen from the beginning as the one secret of perfect peace. Let her tell the story herself : -"]
" It is with a heart overflowing with love and gratitude to my Heavenly Father that I record his great mercy to me. I have come into the place where my peace flows like a river. Some time ago I had occasion to write a business letter to Dr. John W. Dulles, of the Presbyterian Board of Publication, and in reply received a letter from Dr. J. R. Miller, who had recently entered the editorial office of the Board. Enclosed in the letter was a leaflet, and without even glancing at the title, I put it in one of the pigeonholes of my desk among some envelopes. I had not seen it since until this morning when as I was moving some papers it slipped to the floor from its hiding-place. I picked it up and glanced carelessly at the title. I had no intention of reading it, but something in the opening sentences attracted my attention, and standing just there where I was, in a patch of bright morning sunlight which streamed through the parted curtains, I read the leaflet to its close. The title was - ' God's Will in our Prayers ' - and as I read the short pages I felt full restfulness and peace coming into my soul. It was as real a feeling as any physical sensation, and when I came to the close of the last page I felt that every vestige of doubt and fear had disappeared, and that I had come into a light that would never fade away.
" Everything was so clear to me then! I knew that I loved my Saviour supremely, and that he had washed me from my sins. I knew that I did not deserve the blessedness that I experienced, but I loved him all the more for his unmerited mercy. I had been thinking that I must love my husband less before I could love God with all my heart; but it is not so. God has given him to me to love, and I do love him as dearly as ever, but I love God more.
" I do not think I shall ever forget those moments. The sunlight dancing on the carpet, the idle curiosity which prompted me to glance over the leaflet, the peace which flowed into my soul and diffused itself through all my being, - all are imprinted on my memory too indelibly ever to grow dim with time. I knelt down, and gave myself to God with a glad consecration of every faculty and power. It was a delight to kneel there with the sweet assurance of acceptance. I never imagined as possible to me anything so restful and satisfying as this peace which verily passeth all understanding. How can I ever be grateful enough for it ? . . .
" I wish God would give me something to do or to bear for him. My life is such a useless, selfish one, and I long to spend and be spent in my Master's service. I grudge the time I spend in writing, or in anything besides reading. prayer, and meditation. I can understand how to some women it must seem like a glorious thing to go into a convent, and, shutting one's self away from the world, live only for God and in communion with him. Of course it would not do for every Christian woman thus to shut herself away from the active duties of life, for these must be attended to, but there is, in a cloistered sisterhood, much to tempt one."
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