The writer has pondered and prayed long before summoning the courage to give it, but many details later on in this record, can be better understood after knowing something of one, who for forty-nine years, was Jonathan Goforth's closest companion and the mother of his eleven children.
I was born near Kensington Gardens, London, England, on May 6th, 1864, coming to Montreal, Canada, with my parents three years later. From my earliest childhood, much time was spent beside the easel of my artist-father, who thought that I should be an artist. My education, apart from art, was received chiefly in private schools or from my own mother.
In May, 1885, I graduated from the Toronto School of Art and began preparations to leave in the autumn for London to complete my art studies... Those of you who have read thus far may wonder how I could have been the one of God's choice for such a man as Jonathan Goforth. The foregoing, however, is but half the picture. Here is the other side.
When I was twelve years old, I heard Mr. Alfred Sandham speak at a revival meeting, on John 3:16. As he presented with great intensity and fervour, the picture of the love of God, I yielded myself absolutely to the Lord Jesus Christ and stood up among others, publicly confessing Him as my Master. On the way home from that meeting, I was told again and again how foolish it was for me to think I could possibly be sure Christ had received me. So early the next morning, I got my Bible, and turning the pages over and over, I prayed that I might get some word which would assure me Christ had really received me. At last I came to John 6:37, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." These words settled that difficulty...
Then another difficulty arose. I was told I was too young to be received, and again I went to my Bible and turned the pages to see if there was any message to meet that problem, and I came, after searching a long time, to these words, "Those that seek me early shall find me" (Prov. 8:17). On these two texts I took my stand and have never doubted since then that I was the Lord's child.
From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other—an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself.
In the early part of 1885, when still in my twentieth year, I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to marry, He would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service. I wanted no other. One Sunday in June, of that year, a stranger took the place of our Bible-class teacher. This stranger, Mr. Henry O'Brien, came to me about the hymns, as I was the organist. Three days later, two large parties were crossing the lake on the same boat, one, an artists' picnic, bound for the Niagara Falls, the other, bound for the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bible Conference. I was with the former group, but my heart was with the others who were evidently having a wonderful time of spiritual conference. That evening, both groups returning on the same boat, I was sitting in the artist circle beside my brother when Mr. Henry O'Brien touched me, saying, "Why, you are my organist of Sunday last! You are the very one I want to join us in the Mission next Saturday. We are to have a Workers' meeting and tea, and I would like you to meet them all." I was on the point of saying this was impossible when my brother whispered, "You have no time. You are going to England." Partly to show him I could do as I pleased, I said to Mr. O'Brien, "Very well; expect me on Saturday."
As Mr. O'Brien turned to leave, he called one who looked to me to be a very shabby fellow, whom he introduced as "Jonathan Goforth, our City Missionary." I forgot the shabbiness of his clothes however, for the wonderful challenge in his eyes!
The following Saturday found me in the large, square workers' room of the Toronto Mission Union. Chairs were set all around the walls, but the center was empty. Just as the meeting was about to begin, Jonathan Goforth was called out of the room. He had been sitting across the corner from me with several people between. As he rose, he placed his Bible on the chair. Then something happened which I could never explain, nor try to excuse. Suddenly, I felt literally impelled to step across four or five people, take up the Bible and return to my seat. Rapidly I turned the leaves and found the Book worn almost to shreds in parts and marked from cover to cover. Closing the Book, I quickly returned it to the chair, and returning to my seat, I tried to look very innocent. It had all happened within a few moments, but as I sat there, I said to myself, "That is the man I would like to marry!"
That very day, I was chosen as one of a committee to open a new mission in the east end of Toronto, Jonathan Goforth being also on the same committee. In the weeks that followed, I had many opportunities to glimpse the greatness of the man which even a shabby exterior could not hide. So when, in that autumn he asked, "Will you join your life with mine for China?" my answer was, "Yes," without a moment's hesitation. But a few days later he said, "Will you give me your promise that always you will allow me to put my Lord and His work first, even before you?" I gave an inward gasp before replying, "Yes, I will, always," for was not this the very kind of man I had prayed for?
A few days after my promise was given, the first test in keeping it came. I had been indulging in dreams of the beautiful engagement ring that was soon to be mine. Then Jonathan came to me and said, "You will not mind, will you, if I do not get an engagement ring?" He went on to tell with great enthusiasm of his distribution of books and pamphlets on China from his room in Knox College. Every cent was needed for this important work. As I listened and watched his glowing face, the visions I had indulged in of the beautiful engagement ring vanished. This was my first lesson in real values.
By the end of the next two years, which were given to the work in the East End slums, art had practically dropped out of my life, and in its place had come a deep desire to be a worthy life-partner of one so wholly yielded to his Divine Master, as I knew Jonathan Goforth to be.
From Goforth of China by Mrs. Rosalind Goforth.
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