Philadelphia, Pa., Feb. 9, 1901.
Dear Brother Beebe: – The brethren say to me sometimes, “I have written to you in my mind, but did not put my thoughts on paper.” And I tell them I cannot see the fruitfulness of such missives. I tell you this because I have at different times lately desired to write you, and have not fulfilled my desire. In December last I wrote you a part of a letter and destroyed it when about half finished. I censured myself for that act, because my conscience told me it was no more my letter, but yours. So now I will try to clear my conscience, and write you a letter, not taking into consideration whether it is a good or a poor letter. Do you ever sit down to write without an idea in your mind what the subject of your letter will be! I do often, and it is just that way with me to-night. The hopper appears empty, and it seems useless to start the mill wheels. But sometimes the vision cometh when least expected, and indeed I think always so, for it is when we are full of vain thoughts, and our soul is empty, that the Lord performs a marvelous work in us, in turning our worldly wisdom to naught, giving us in its place, “beauty for ashes.” If the Lord puts the desire in our heart to communicate with a certain brother, or to visit a sick sister, the admonition is not a vain thing with him. If we make excuse, saying, “I have not time; when it is altogether convenient then I will do so,” for our disobedience he will pour out upon us leanness of soul. But in doing the commands of the Lord our reward is in the work. In telling you these things, my brother, I am writing my own condemnation, for I am very neglectful, and altogether an unprofitable servant in the Lord’s vineyard. To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, is a good thing, but to neglect to do so deserves the direst punishment. I think I hear you say, Well, we must of necessity be moved by the spirit of divine grace iu order to do any good thing. Yes, that is true, for neither the power nor the inclination to do good is in the fiesh, yet we are not excused for disobeying the law, even when we are too weak to keep it. Neither does divine grace make us strong enough to keep the law, but it keeps it for us. I cannot think of any greater punishment (for neglect of the Spirit’s promptings) than leanness of soul. Many sad experiences have taught me this. I have more leanness of soul than my brethren because I am more neglectful. I long so much for a meek and quiet spirit, for such a spirit is always obedient. One of the poets puts it in this way: “Love is the fountain whence all true obedience flows.” Yes, and I am inclined to believe that the love of God shed abroad in the heart begets every christian grace and virtue. I so often wonder (if it is true that I have a good hope through grace, which I so fondly hope I have) why I do not walk more circumspectly? Why my mind is not always on divine and heavenly things! Why I am so weak in the faith! Yet in my abundance of infirmities I find some encouragement all through the Scriptures. I remember how Jacob after he “had received the blessing, went halting all his days; he never walked upright again, Job said, “I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister. And where is now my hope! as for my hope who shall see it!” Yet Job maintained his integrity. The psalmist says, “Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak,” Is it not enough to raise my failing hope, to feel a companionship with such worthy men! Like Paul, “I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” But not always do I glory, for my sins seem to swallow me up, and carry me away as an avalanche, my hope seems to be gone, and I am in a strait. Yet I cannot say there is ever a moment that I do not desire and long for the courts of Zion.
Brother Beebe, do you sometimes feel that a desire for heavenly things is about all you can lay claim to as a foundation for your hope! It seems that way to me. I wonder if that is not what the apostle meant when he gloried in his infirmities that the power of Christ might rest on him! A knowledge of our infirmities implies the knowledge of a power which we desire shall undertake and overcome for us. For I know that when the power of God rests upon me, then am I strong when I am weak. To follow the dictates of our fleshly mind, we want to be strong, and think we are strong, and fully capable to undertake for ourselves. While on the other hand, in following the dictates of the spirit of Christ within us, we want to be weak, altogether helpless, and glory in it, because in our knowledge of the power of God we recognize his omnipotence. I feel that a desire to be righteous is an evidence of righteousness; that although our outward man daily perisheth in his corruption, and we are fully conscious of such daily death, yet at the same time the power of an endless life worketh mightily in our inward parts, manifesting in us the life of Jesus, by which we glorify God in a simple desire to worship him, having no confidence in the flesh. Do not you often find your heart saying, “O that I might love him more and serve him better?” Every one of the Lord’s people will admit that they desire to be followers of Christ, although they may not be able to discover another ray of evidence that they are true followers. To profess religion, and have his name on some church book, does not constitute a follower of Christ, although many of my neighbors fully believe that such accomplishments are about all that is requisite. The great trouble and concern of the true followers is whether they honestly and simply possess what they confess. I am glad to know that the truth never shines less brightly because men go about deceiving and being deceived. The beauty and glory of our gracious Redeemer is not marred by those who take his name upon their lips, while in their hearts they are far from him. “An holy nation “is none the less holy because traditions and heresies and all manner of evil imaginings have crept in among them. In and about every building in course of erection is necessarily much rubbish, which, when the building is finished, is swept away, and it is found the building is not contaminated thereby. We are glad to know that all things of time perish with the using, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ is eternal, its subjects are “an holy natiou,” as with one voice they proclaim the honors of their King, as with one voice they declare, “I am a worm and no man,” but Jesus is all in all. He is their very life, and is declared to be “Their Sun and their Shield.” They are holy because he is holy; they are alive for evermore because he is alive for evermore; they are clean every whit, because his perfect righteousness is imputed unto them.
Brother Beebe, I find myself running on about things which you know so much more about than I do. Yet your broader knowledge makes you more generous and considerate of those who swim in shallow water. This makes me bold to expose the small measure of the rich things of Christ’s kingdom which has been vouchsafed unto me. Anyhow I have relieved my mind, and I sincerely hope you will not be greatly fatigued by reading this long drawn out epistle. You know it takes a great many words and many sheets of paper for some people to say a very little. So you will please accept this, not for its intrinsic value, but for the high esteem in which I hold you.
My wife joins in love to you and sister Beebe.
Affectionately your brother,
B. F. COULTER.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 6
MARCH 15, 1901.