Crawfordsville, Ind., Dec. 3, 1901.
Elder J. K. Womack – My Dear Brother: – When your last brotherly letter came I was very busy, and now I am bad off with bronchitis, so that I am too weary and dull to write, but will tell you that I was glad to get yours. You write sadly, much as I feel, and would give an unpromising answer if asked, “Watchman, what of the night? what of the night?” But Peter said, “Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” Is not this true in your experience? The Lord says, “I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” What a rich mercy that he hath chosen us at all! and how divine the blessing that he hath refined us, even though it be in the fiery furnace. Would those who would limit the Holy One in his counsel and purpose, admit that he foreordained the furnace of affliction in which he chose his people? If they admit this, then they must admit as well that his predetermined purpose embraced the ungodly conduct of the persecutors of his people, for they largely make up the furnace of affliction. So it is written, “The Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him.” The Lord hath commanded it so. There is no escape from it, therefore. How gladly we would have it different, dear brother, for we find it very trying and humiliating to be thus surrounded, and to find ourselves in such a heated furnace. But should any deny that the God of the eternal purpose, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, has thus foreordained and commanded that our adversaries should be round about us as a furnace of affliction, for the trial of our faith, then they must also deny that the Lord hath chosen his people at all, because as certainly as he chose them it was in the furnace. Not a pleasant place, is it, to be in? Then how about always walking in the light and escaping affliction by good works of obedience? What saint has ever done so on earth! It will not do, my brother, because revelation and experience alike contradict it. This teaching is phariseeism, and it agrees with the mocking words and teachings of poor, afflicted
Job’s miserable comforters. The good Physician says, “For the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” So here is hope for you, and for all the poor in spirit and contrite in heart, who have no righteousness to plead, nor merit wherewith to buy the Lord’s mercies and blessing, which they so much need. These must come to the throne of grace, that they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, which is all the time, for they can never claim the least crumb of favor and blessing as a reward for their good works in serving the Lord. But they must humbly confess with Paul and say, “For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. * * * O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Here is promise and hope for you, dear brother, for you can say again with Paul, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“In the world ye shall have tribulation,” says the Prince of peace. But to offset this he also says, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” He overcame it for us, and his victory is ours in him. Yea, dear brother, “So by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Therefore, the obedience which God accepts and blesses us for is the perfect work of Christ, his beloved Son, for us. No other obedience under the shining sun is at all meritorious in God’s account, but the “finished “work of the suffering and obedient Lamb of God possesses infinite merit; yea, more valuable and precious in God’s esteem than all the glories and riches of the boundless universe.
O, then, why should the saints not be always swallowed up in the contemplation of our Lord’s perfect work of finished redemption, and say, with a poet, “We only wish to speak of him who lived, and died, and reigns for us! We’ll talk of all he did and said and suffered for us here below; the path he marked for us to tread, and what he’s doing for us now.” For if our souls were thus inspired with his love, and satisfied with his grace, there would be no desire or room in our minds and hearts to make a blowinghorn of, or sound a trumpet before us to herald what we are doing for the Lord. Far more honoring is it to him, and in line with the primitive saints, to ever be testifying, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” Thus moved and filled with the mercy and grace of God toward us, we should be “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Thus grace is all in this full salvation of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, speak we of obedience to our Lord, it is the obedience of faith and love, and these are the fruit of the Spirit, and the gift of God’s grace. So, after Paul labored more abundantly than all the apostles of Christ in preaching the gospel, he disclaimed the least ability or merit of himself, and said, “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” If all the preachers in your country had thus taught and preached, and ever magnified the grace of God, as did Paul, think you, brother Womack, that there would have been such a contention and distress in all that country as has confused and scattered the sheep of the good Shepherd? I tell you, nay; for it would have comforted and united in fellowship all the poor sinners saved by grace. This simple truth cannot be disguised, or denied, for all know that the gospel of the grace of God, when believed and preached and walked in, has never yet made a contention and division among the Lord’s people who are saved by grace, and it never will. What, then, has made all the confusion, mourning and sorrow among you all? Read Acts xv., and Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, and you shall plainly see that then and there the doctrine and principle of conditions was first introduced among the believers in Christ, as an addition to the grace of Christ; and it was the propagation and insistence of this principle, which denied the sufficiency of the grace of God in Christ, that made all the trouble in those churches then. In proof of this the apostles in counsel said, “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” Not the least intimation then about two ways or principles of salvation, or two salvations; one by grace, the other of works; one everlasting, the other in time; but the only dispute was the doctrine and principle of salvation; and the decision of all the apostles and the church was, as above. The other party were the advocates of conditional salvation in part for believers in Christ. This is the contention and the source of the trouble now, as it was then, and has been all through the history of the church. It is simply a covert denial of our dear Lord’s word to his servant Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” For as certainly as it was sufficient for Paul in his perils, persecutions, temptations and unparalleled labors, sacrifices and hardships, so it is ever sufficient for all who are saved by his grace. Nothing else is sufficient.
Believing that through the grace of Christ we shall be saved, yours in love,
Signs Of The Times
Volume 70., No. 2.
JANUARY 15, 1902.