Beloved Brethren: – These expressive words are said of the people of God, to whom he gave the blessing of faith, as written in Heb. xi, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” The promises to which their faith pointed, embraced the Messiah, “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” the gospel of salvation and the gift of eternal life. In faith and hope they waited for these better things to come. In these things was their life and their inheritance; therefore they were not at home nor satisfied with their present environments, but were pilgrims. It is much this way now with the inheritors of the faith of God’s elect, for as the called and chosen and faithful of God then waited for the Beloved to come into his vineyard and garden and gather his pleasant fruits, and say to them, “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved;” so we now to whom Jesus has come in the grace of the gospel, who yet walk by faith and are saved by hope, confess with them that we are not at home in the body, but are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, waiting for the glorious coming of our Lord to bring us home. The fact that I have been a sojourner among my Master’s brethren in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky, the present spring and summer, through weariness and sickness of the body, has led my mind to these reflections. Added to this is the repeated requests to write of my travels for the Signs, which I now do.
My first visit this spring was at the yearly meeting of the Bethlehem church, with Elder Tharp, the beloved pastor, not far from Oxford, Ohio, but in Indiana, which was a pleasant meeting. Next, I went to Nashville, Tenn., at the request of the University Street church, where the pastor, Elder J. K. Womack, was with me. There was much comfort in this meeting, as made manifest by those present. Brother Womack “speaks the word of the Lord faithfully.” By request of the pastor of the College Street church, in Nashville, Elder J. B. Stephens, and other members, I held service there several times, and he warmly approved the gospel as the Lord enabled me to preach it.
In the country south of Nashville, it was my privilege to visit and speak for four other churches: Beasleys, Providence, Big Harpeth and Wilson’s Creek, and then again at Big Harpeth, where I met and heard with comfort Elder Phillips; and at all the gospel of Christ was heartily received and rejoiced in.
By request of our dear brother, Elder P. W. Sawin, pastor of the Bethel church, Shelby Co., Ky., I was with him and dear brother D. G. Johnson at the very pleasant yearly meeting there, the first Sunday in June and two preceding days. The following Saturday and Sunday, after visiting my only daughter, in Olney, Ill., and her family, including my grandson and great-grandson, it was my privilege to speak for the Hickory Creek church, of Illinois, where I was ordained to the work of the gospel ministry Jan. 2d, 1857, and to visit my brother Joseph. On my return home on Tuesday after, a letter awaited me from Elder Sawin, asking me to return to Kentucky, and be with him the last of that week, at the Beech Creek yearly meeting in Shelby County. So I again bade farewell to my wife, and was with him and brother Ritter and the church on Saturday and Sunday, and the presence of the Lord and comfort of the Spirit was with us, and we rejoiced in Christ Jesus. The kindness and liberality of the dear kindred in Christ at this little flock, both to their pastor and myself, was fruit that abounded to their account, and it filled our hearts with thanksgiving and with the comfort of love.
Until the next Saturday I rested in the pleasant homes of sister and Mr. George Wright, and brethren Heddin and Herndon, and on the last Saturday and Sunday in June the Lord permitted me to be with Little Flock, and in great weakness I tried to minister to this church each day, for the intense heat had seriously affected me, my appetite had failed, and I was suffering from vital prostration. This church deeply feels its loss in the departure of dear brother B. Farmer, and our patient and submissive sister Farmer has the tender sympathy of all in her deep bereavement and loneliness. This church is without a pastor, but it has two worthy gifts, the young brethren Bond and Johnson, who are characterized by commendable humility and meekness.
On Monday afternoon I arrived home, finding my wife well, but greatly prostrated myself, so that I can be up but little, and can write but little at a time. My departure may be at hand. The will of the Lord in this is mine. Jesus, the risen Christ, is the resurrection and the life, my only salvation. “He will swallow up death in victory.” His victory is ours.
The churches that I visited abide in the truth that “salvation is of the Lord,” and by the grace of God alone, that bringeth salvation and leads to obedience. Therefore, they do not want to encourage the disturbing and confusing legal teaching of “conditionalism,” so contradictory to the grace that reigns through righteousness by our Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood alone cleanseth us from all sin, and of whose “fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Not grace or blessing for works. They believe in gospel exhortation unto obedience, which is hindered only by the sinful weakness of the flesh, and that all true obedience and every good work are the fruit of the Spirit and the result of grace, which much more abounds than sin. They understand that all good works in the sight of God are wrought in faith, which is not our act or work, and does not depend upon ourselves, but it is the gift of God, and without faith it is impossible to please him. They have witnessed with sorrow the confusion, discord and divisions which have been made by the ambitious contention for a principle of doctrine different from and antagonistic to this “obedience of faith.” I was impressed with the fact that, in every church where the membership and ministry read the Signs Of The Times, there is no controversy or speculation nor any “hobby” in doctrine, but unity, peace and love, and the simple, solemn preaching of the cross of Christ, and rejoicing in him.
To all the churches of the saints among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and who so kindly received me as his servant and bade me Godspeed, I would express heartfelt thanks and fellowship in the truth of Christ, and to the bereaved and sorrowing, who asked to be remembered at the throne of grace, my assurance of brotherly sympathy and prayer for the comfort of the Spirit is given. The thought is with me that I may see you all no more in the flesh, but in the image of the heavenly Man, the firstborn from the dead among the many brethren, when we shall be like him and see him as he is, we shall then see one another and know even as also we are known. This likeness and knowledge is not after the flesh, for it is heavenly and spiritual, as the One altogether holy and lovely, in whose likeness we shall be satisfied and perfect.
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
With love to all, an affectionate farewell.
Crawfordsville, Ind., June 30, 1899.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 67, No. 15.
AUGUST 1, 1899.