CORRESPONDENCE

Montgomery, Ala., Jan. 25, 1902.

Mrs. T. E. Cole – Dear Sister In Christ: – Your very interesting and good letter was indeed a pleasant surprise to me, and I am glad that you were enabled to write so much and so well, for it has been to my comfort. I can understand and enter into your feelings and sorrowful experiences, as expressed in your letter, and sympathize with you in those trials of faith. Also, I am comforted in your comfort, and trust I have entered into that rest that remaineth to the people of God. This rest is found alone in the Lord Jesus, who calls the laboring and heavy laden to him and gives them rest. Having finished the work of redemption in his sufferings in the flesh onto death, he is the end of the law (its full perfection) for righteousness unto every one that believeth in him. And we believe in him because we first live in him, and living and believing in him, we also rejoice in him, and shall never die. For the believer in Jesus is passed from death unto life. This truth is symbolized in his divine ordinance of baptism, in which is shown forth his resurrection unto life, and that we have been quickened together with him, (are saved by grace) and are raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in him. This is expressed in your letter, dear sister. You have also followed Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, into the wilderness of temptation, where you have hungered in spirit and fasted, until heart and flesh failed, and your soul fainted within you. But then the Lord sent his angel to minister to you and strengthen you. “In all their afflictions he was afflicted.” The Lord knoweth how to succor them that are tempted, and he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” This truth you have known in your experience. But our God hath ordained the night, as well as the day, and he has set adversity over against prosperity. Thus he teaches us to feelingly say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and causes us to hunger and thirst after righteousness, through a sorrowful experience of our ‘destitution of all goodness and righteousness. So it is the poor in spirit that are blessed of the Lord, for he hath chosen them rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he hath promised to them that love him.

This will lead me to speak of the parable of the lost sheep, (Luke xv. 4-8,) of which you ask me. But it seems to me, dear sister, that you understand it better than myself, and I concur with what you have said about it. The occasion of the parable was, the publicans and sinners drew near to Jesus to hear him: “And the pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” This was true, and the parable justifies Jesus as the good Shepherd of the lost sheep. The self-righteous Jews regarded themselves as safe under and in the law, and not lost. They represented the ninety-nine. So did the elder son, who said he had never transgressed. Those did not feel that they had gone astray, like lost sheep. To them the Lord said, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

The publicans and sinners, who drew near unto Christ, had confidence and faith in his power to save them, and they heard hin gladly. They were as lost sheep, to whom the good Shepherd came, sought them out and brought them home to the gospel fold. Thus he had found Peter and Andrew, James and John, along the shores of Galilee’s lake, and Matthew a publican, with all the others of his lost sheep, and in his love and pity he saved them. And so there was great rejoicing in heaven, in the Father’s house, when the lost were found, and the dead were made alive. Take all the multitudes of sick, halt, lame, blind, palsied and leprous, all poor and wretched and suffering sinners, whom Jesus in his mercy sought out and saved, and behold how great the blessing and joy in the kingdom of heaven. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” We do not wonder now, when we read, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

These two characters and classes very clearly represent the straying sheep that was lost, and the righteous that felt no need of repentance. All this truth you have felt and known, dear and afflicted sister. So you would far rather be the poor sinner and sufferer, cast out from the rich man’s house, (the self-righteous house of Israel, who trusted in his riches,) and at last died from starvation, died unto sin, than to be as the whole who need no physician. “Poor and afflicted, Lord, are thine, unfit among the great to shine.” “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.” It is truly said, “And the deeper their sorrows, the louder they’ll sing.” “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” “I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy law is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”

Thus and in this way of mercy does the Lord save and bring home his sheep that was lost, to the glory of his name and their great joy. All this you have been given to know and rejoice in, and have expressed it in your letter. “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” “He hath filled the poor with good things: but the rich he hath sent empty away.”

You know, dear sister Cole, that in the gospel of his grace and salvation, the Lord does not call the righteous to this divine feast, nor reward the good and worthy, who have no infirmities or diseases, no poverty or wretchedness, who plead their own good works and obedience; but he fills the poor with good things, and saves the chief of sinners. In this is the glory of Christ, the excellence of his gospel, and the riches of his sufficient grace. This is the fountain opened in the house of David for sin and uncleanness, wherein sinners are washed and made pure and white, and all are healed of their maladies who have need of healing. We feel poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. The voice of Jesus says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” This is salvation for the lost, full and free. This is the salvation, for a poor sinner like me. This salvation is in Jesus alone. He is not only our resurrection and our life, but he is as well our bread of life, and our water of life, our robe of righteousness, and our garments of salvation. He only is the way unto the Father, and all our prayers and praises to God through Christ our High Priest and Advocate acceptance gain. He is of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, to the end that all oar glorying shall be in him. Out of sickness, he gives us health; out of weakness, he strengthens us; out of poverty, he makes us rich; out of death, he gives us life; out of deepest sorrow, he gives us songs of highest praise; out of the bottomless pit of sin and destruction, he raises us up to the holiest heaven of salvation unto eternal life. O, who would change this way of the Lord? Blessed Naomi most truly confessed, “I went out full; but the Lord brought me home empty.” She was one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. How rich the mercy that the Lord brought her home!

Dear sister, my health has been poor for some time, and I am low in spirit, but I feel to say with David of old, “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” We have a mild and pleasant climate here, and some poor Gentiles who will rejoice with us, that Jesus “receiveth sinners, and eateth with them,” and unite with us in the sentiment, “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see,” and will joyfully testify, “A man named Jesus opened mine eyes.” Blessed Jesus! Blessed man born blind!

We both send love to you and your dear household, and all who believe in Jesus, wishing mercy, grace and peace to you all. The Lord sanctify all your afflictions, and give you to truly say, “Thy will be done in earth,” even in you.

In the faith of Jesus your brother,
D. BARTLEY.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 70., No. 12.
JUNE l5, 1902.