PHILADELPHIA, Pa, Sept. 12, 1890.
DEAR SISTER JONES: – A sister kindly permitted us to read the letter she received from you. My wife read it several times, and enjoyed it so much that she now insists that I write to you, hoping thereby that she might also some day receive a letter from you, so you will please consider this letter as coming from us both, and if in your heart you can feel it worthy an answer we will be glad indeed. We feel, dear sister, that such letters as yours are to the Wayfaring children of our heavenly King as precious seed sown, yielding their fruits in due season (the peaceable fruits of righteousness). They are joyful tidings to the poor, because they are the outpouring of a heart filled with the sweet love of our dear Savior, and O how richly we are blessed when we do have his exceeding precious love shed abroad in our hearts. None can fathom the depth or height or breadth of Jesus’ matchless love to the people of his choice, neither can any comprehend the love of the Father for his only begotten and dearly beloved Son. Through the riches of his boundless grace we are given (by the light which has shined in our hearts) the knowledge of the glory of the Father in the face of our dear Redeemer, and as you well know, dear sister, it is only through the righteousness of Christ that we are enabled to look upon the Father, for we could not, dare not, look upon the glorious dazzling brightness of his face while living in this polluted tenement of clay. You remember the psalmist, in praising God for his omniscient providences, said, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; I cannot attain unto it. Daily I think we realize this in our experience, especially when the troublous waves of affliction and temptation have cast us down upon the merciless rocks and shoals of the sinfulness of this world, and the loving hand of the precious Savior has lifted us up and delivered us out of them all. This reminds me that in our sister’s letter you requested that I should say something on some words of Scripture which have lately been upon your mind: “Lead us not into temptation.” I would hardly dare say to you all that is in my mind on this deep and mysterious subject, lest I should darken counsel by words without knowledge, and now as your pure mind is exercised on the subject you will no doubt be led sweetly into a satisfactory contemplation of the truth. Just as much as is clear in my mind I will gladly give you, hoping you may obtain a little food for wider thought. I hope I am thankful to my dear heavenly Father that he has restrained me from writing to my brethren in a way that will advance theories the result of carnal reasoning, and my prayer is that whatever I may write, either for publication or privately to the saints, may be through an impression directed by the Spirit of truth. I feel impressed to write to you, therefore I write. It appears that your mind is pervaded with a fear that you might charge God unjustly when you even think that he leads his dear children into temptation, and now my heart’s desire is that the Lord will direct my pen, that such impression maybe removed. In order to contemplate any of the words used by our Savior in the form of prayer given to the disciples, and saying, “After this manner therefore pray ye,” it is well that we understand something of what true prayer is, for only those who have been brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light can know that there never has been, nor ever can be, a prayer offered acceptable to the Lord by one who is heart-whole; true prayer can only come from a crushed, broken heart and a contrite spirit. The supplicant having nothing, utterly prostrate, asks for that which he or she is in dire and dreadful need, with a deep sense of unworthiness, destitution and dependence, with a sure knowledge of the only source whence help cometh, and an abiding faith that it is only through the merits and righteousness of our Intercessor, Christ Jesus, that we dare ask at all. It seems to me at this moment that there are only two forms of worship that the children of light can offer to their Lord and Master: first prayer, then praise. When prayer is in the heart we may be well convinced that praise is there also. You remember the beautiful words of the psalmist where he asks a question, saying, What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? and answers it, saying, I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. Indeed, what else has the poor, needy child to render except the cup of salvation, which has been given him by that same glorious Lord who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and who declared, Ask and ye shall receive? Now, dear sister, when one is in the condition of a poor, trembling, needy, perishing sinner, asking for the one thing needful, there is not in that crushed, broken heart a thought, a murmur or a charge of God being unjust, but his whole heart’s desire is that he may follow the Lord all the days of his life, to behold his beauty and inquire in his temple, and knowing by sad and bitter experience his utter weakness and inability to resist temptation, he humbly asks his Father to lead him not into temptation, for the whole absorbing desire of that heart is that he may walk uprightly before him, and also worthily.
Now, as to whether God does lead his children into temptation, I will just offer a few thoughts for your consideration. You said truly in your letter that we never can get beyond the everlasting arms, and also you spoke sweetly of his promise, I. will never leave thee nor forsake thee. The sweet singer of Israel said, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? &c. (Psalms cxxxix.) Now the pleasing thought that I want you to consider is, that he never leads us anywhere where he is not himself present, for he never leaves us, and we never suffer temptation or affliction but he suffers also, for in all our afflictions he was afflicted. He found Jacob in a waste howling wilderness, and he led him about and instructed him. As you well know, it is in the nighttime of our experience, when assailed by divers temptations and sore afflictions, that we receive instruction. Night unto night sheweth knowledge, and when he also leadeth us out into the bright sunshine, day unto day uttereth speech. How necessary one is to the other, and how consoling that he leadeth us all through our journey, and instructeth us. As I said before, the desire and prayer of our heart is that we be led not into temptation, but in the same prayer we also breathe, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Another quotation and I must close, lest I weary you. “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death.” The guide, being always present, always leads, for that is the office of the guide. O that I had the substance of that beautiful prayer more constantly in my heart, as I feel sure you have. You have many cares, and with them a precious Lord to sustain you.
We will be delighted to hear from you. My wife sends christian love.
Your very unworthy brother,
B. F. COULTER
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 23
December 1, 1914