Dear Children Of God: – The holy Scriptures are a divine store-house of heavenly treasures and a pure fountain of spiritual health and peace, but the Prince of the house of David has the keys, and he must set before us an open door. But he first prepares the Souls of his saints for the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, and then he opens to them the sealed fountain of his love. The Lord does this in the way that nature would not choose, and that man’s wisdom would refuse as impossible. For the way of the Lord of life and peace is through fiery trials and great tribulations. His word to us is, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” In this furnace of suffering he purifies and refines his chosen ones, whom he loves, that they may know the power and preciousness of his perfect love and worship him in the beauty of holiness. This love casteth out the fear which hath torment, and it uplifts the children of God’s love above the rage of their enemies, who reproach and persecute them, Through such tribulations and afflictions, unto which God has appointed us, as Paul affirms, he ministers to us patience, experience and hope, which maketh not ashamed, because he sheds abroad his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. Thus the sufferings of Christ are fulfilled in his members, his brethren, who are baptized with him into his death, and also quickened and raised up together with him, made partakers of his divine nature, saved by his fife, and serve God in newness of spirit.
The carnal and legal religionist would condemn all who are thus exercised, afflicted and tried as suffering the displeasure of God, as the legal and false friends of Job condemned him, and would say, If you will live as you should, and be obedient to the commandments of God, you may be at peace with him and enjoy his smiles. All worldly wisdom and legal religion says, Serve God, and he will then reward you with salvation. This way that seemeth right unto man, passes by the poor and suffering, the needy and helpless, the sick and lame, who are without goodness and strength, and who bemoan their leanness; but it flatters and pleases him who thanks God that he is keeping his commandments, doing much good, and so receiving the rewards for his obedience. This one is without chastisement. He is a stranger to the truth that the true child of God, who in heart both fears and obeys him, yet is called to walk in darkness and have no light, and that the loving voice of the Father bids this tried child to trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God. It is a strange doctrine to the self-righteous religionist, who pleases himself, to be told that the only way of perfection and obedience is through suffering and loss of all things, and the only way of life is through death. In this way the holy Son of God himself learned obedience, and entered into the perfection and power of endless life and eternal glory. Thus, too, must we follow him in his steps, die his death, and rise up with him in his holy life.
Now, my dear brethren, in him and in his righteous life is all true obedience, righteousness and salvation; nothing else is salvation; nothing else will God accept. This, this only fulfills the holy law of the holy God. We must be in Christ, and he in us, and his suffering obedience for our sins unto death, and resurrection unto life for our justification unto righteousness, must be wrought in us and be ours, or else we have no obedience, no righteousness, no salvation, no life; nothing but sin and death.
To be brought into this oneness with Christ and fullness in him, we must suffer with him and bear his reproaches; we must drink of his cup of sorrow and woe, and be baptized with his baptism of death. There is no other way into the perfection of God in Christ Jesus. God has ordained this way, and predestinated his chosen people to be conformed to the image of his suffering and dying Son, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” The Spirit’s witnessing evidence with our spirit that we are the children and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, is, “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” To every one of us, my dear brethren in Christ, God gives to believe on him, and also to suffer for his sake, for the trial of our faith, that it may be found unto the praise and glory of God. Through such revilings and persecutions for the sake of Christ and his doctrine, which many brethren, with myself, have been called to suffer in these latter times, Christ has been made exceedingly precious to me, and he has thus prepared me to understand and with deeper comfort than ever before enter into the precious Scriptures, which faithfully record the reproaches and persecutions which the dear Son of God and his devoted followers were called to endure for the truth’s sake. With new and warm interest have I just read the Acts of the apostles, and my heart is more tenderly united with them in their persecutions and sufferings, doctrine and fellowship in the gospel of Christ. And with sorrowing love and clinging faith I have followed in the sacred footsteps of Jesus from the manger to the cross. In all his life, and in all the lives of his true disciples, there came continual reproaches, false accusations and deadly persecutions, for the purpose of destroying them. All this was brought against them, not because they were dangerous or bad men, but for the doctrine they taught – the truth of God. For they were all men of God, whom he sent, and they spoke the words of God, and he was with them. To God they ascribed the kingdom, the power and the glory.
The one startling and most prominent fact in the fearful persecutions against the Son of God and his church, as plainly shown in the Scriptures, is, legal religionists were their persecutors. Never before had this fact so deeply impressed me as now. Persecutions against me from the same legal spirit made me go and tell Jesus, and turn to the sacred oracles for comfort, and he opened my eyes to see that I am brought into the fellowship of his sufferings for the truth’s sake, and he tells me to “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
In spirit I have been drawn near to Jesus when he was falsely accused in the temple, and in Pilate’s hall, and on the cross, and legal religion incited and led to it all. With deep emotion have I heard the dying sermon of the faithful Stephen before the priestly council, who gnashed on him in their legal rage and stoned him to death. I have followed Peter and John, when brought before their persecutors, and heard the charges and threatenings against them. At Antioch I have witnessed the controversy between Paul and the legal preachers, and in Jerusalem have I rejoicingly heard the final decision of the apostles and church upon the doctrine in dispute.
With deep sympathy and intense anxiety I have journeyed with Paul in his gospel ministry, persecutions and perils, until he was dragged out of the temple, fearfully abused, and forced to appeal to Caesar to escape death. And to my amazement, it was shown me that all this raging and death-dealing persecution against Christ and his brethren arose from the self-sufficient spirit of legal religion, and was relentlessly waged by the most strict and zealous religious people, who were the professed moral worshipers of God. They expected to obtain salvation by their obedience and good works. But the doctrine of Christ and the apostles was, that salvation is by the mercy and grace of God alone. This greatly offended the legal and self-righteous worshipers, and for this doctrine of God’s sufficient and sovereign grace (not of works) in salvation, the legal religionists hated and persecuted Christ and his church, as we have seen.
As it was then, so it is now. Principles never change. There are only the two principles: law and gospel, works and grace. Salvation is of one, to the exclusion of the other. My beloved Lord gives me the comforting assurance that I am made to suffer persecution and be spoken against for his sake. If I could have fallen from grace into conditional rewards for works, and so divided salvation into parts, and held that it is both by grace and of works, as all do who hold to conditional salvation in part, then I would have been approved and spoken well of by them. But the reproaches of Christ are far more precious to me, and my choice is to suffer for his sake. Paul says, “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” All persecution against the children of God arises from the legal religion of the flesh, for all fleshly religion is legal; it is based upon rewards and punishments; the love of God is not in it; the exaltation of Christ and the glory of God is not its purpose; but its highest aim and supreme end is the self-happiness and self-glory of the religious man. Take this away and he would not worship or be religious, for there would be no active incentive or prompting motive to his morality and religion. His is strictly a religion of works and rewards. His religious works are all performed to obtain salvation. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” This the legal religionist accepts; to him this only seems rational and good; his religion consigns the grace of God in salvation to eternity, and sets up instead the works of man for salvation in time. Works honor and glorify man, and this is quite suitable and self-pleasing. It is therefore very popular, for it comes near to man’s strong love of self, and presents to him a powerful motive to join the so-called church and be religious. It will pay him to do this, he will be happier, more respected and honored, and so multitudes embrace this religion. There is no offense in it, but the world esteems it and is pleased with it, for it is the pride and glory of man.
The gospel of the grace of God is not so; in it man is cut down and abased as less than nothing, but the Lord alone is exalted, and his is all the power and glory. Salvation by free grace only is therefore a religion of suffering, of cross-bearing and of the loss of life. Here man is nothing, that Christ may be all in all. The cross of Christ is an offense therefore, and the legal religionist can never love it nor embrace it, and so the religion of grace is very unpopular, has but few friends, “a small remnant,” a “little flock,” “a sect everywhere spoken against ” They are called “Antinominians,” “Extremists,” “Fatalists,” “Let us continue in sin, that grace may abound,” and many other hard speeches, by legal religionists. So the prime object of all legal and flesh-pleasing religion is, that the offense of the cross might cease, and ceased it has among all conditional religionists; for conditional salvation, salvation by works, has ever been a popular religion in the world, both among the Jews and the Gentiles; therefore if Christ and his apostles had taught this doctrine, the Jews would not have crucified him, neither would they have persecuted his suffering followers. And so at this present time it is solely because the remnant according to the election of grace ascribe all dominion and power, salvation and glory, to God and his grace, to Christ and his death and life, that we are falsely accused, reproached and persecuted, and our names are cast out as evil. It is in this way that our God sifts and tries his people, and separates his own elect from false and carnal religionists, who are of the world, brings his dear children through suffering into a peculiar and blessed nearness to himself in the risen Christ, and keeps them by his power through faith unto salvation, that they should show forth his praise. “Trials make the promise sweet.” Therefore, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil
spoken of, but on your part be is glorified.” O how preciously true this is! We bless and glorify God for his eternal power and Godhead, his sovereign purpose and grace, but for this he is evil spoken of on their part, his sacred truth is slandered, and his reverend and holy name is reproached by them. “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God!”
In the deepest trials and sufferings of the obedient Son of God in the wilderness, and in the garden, God sent his angels to minister to him. So when Stephen was cruelly abused and being killed for the testimony of Jesus, his face shone as an angel’s, and the Lord opened the door of heaven to his tortured servant, and he saw Jesus in his glory standing on the right hand of his Father. So it is in all the evil that men think to do against the Lord’s Christ and his church. And Joseph’s words to his humbled brethren are the divine key to open and reveal the holy purpose of God in all the afflictions, trials and persecutions that shall come against the children of his love: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.” Nothing great or small can escape his notice. “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear! the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.” In this God reveals his power and love to his chosen, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” Bless his holy name.
In the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, yours,
April 12, 1904.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 73., No. 2.
JANUARY 15, 1905.