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CORRESPONDENCE

State Road, Del., July, 1901.

Brother Beebe: – As the result of an accident I have been confined to the house for mouths, and kept home from all the spring associations. It is a new experience to me, and some lessons are learned that are not unprofitable. I have been nearly as much shut out from the world and its interests as though I had ceased to live in it. If my portion was entirely in this life and the things of this world, how sad and desolate my condition would be when these things were all taken from me. We can learn what the fellowship of the Lord’s people is, and what it is worth, when all earthly interests are taken out of our sight. It seemed to me to be natural enough, and yet a necessity in my imprisonment to go back to the beginning and travel over all the road; to gather up and profit by whatever of lessons that I might find that had been lost by the way. I was familiar with many events in connection with the division when the Primitive Baptists came out to be a separate people. Having traveled with them all the time there has not much taken place among them in this part of the country that I have not been acquainted with. Many debates and heated discussions have come up, stirred up some strife for a time, and passed away to be forgotten. I failed to see good resulting from them. There were more preachers then among us than there has been of late, but the churches do not appear to have suffered any lack of spiritual privileges from that cause. In remembering all the way, I find it strewn with the wrecks of what was at one time or another prominent preachers occupying high places among us. It has, I think, this falling away, been to a far greater extent in proportion in the ministry, than among the private members. I cannot pretend to know why this should have been. I could name at least a dozen ministers who have gone down one way or another to forfeit in some cases all standing oven as subjects of grace. Some have been placed in charge as pastors who did not show qualifications for the place, and the result was an injury to both preacher and people. It seems to me now that the ministry with which the church has been blessed of late years has been in advance of any former time that I have known. It is not natural to men to serve, and we do not find them serving unless the spirit of that service has been given them. The natural disposition of men is to exercise lordship, and to usurp authority. When a flock of sheep, or other animals, are well fed and cared for, we see them healthy, happy and satisfied. The Master inquires, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season!” It would seem from this saying, that even among stewards there are not many who are faithful enough and wise enough to fulfill all the measure of the ministry. Where there is spiritual health, and the people enjoy their meetings, and love each other, we can count upon it with some degree of certainty that they are being well served. To devote one’s whole life to the interests and welfare of others, enjoins a good deal of self-denial, and his heart must be in his work. The lessons that qualify men for this work are never taught in acadamies or seminaries. It was said of the Master that he learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and the kind of school in which we learn to be wise and faithful in this service is not a school that any of us would have chosen. The Master says, We are his witnesses, and we shall bear witness of him. It ought not to be difficult to bear witness when one is thoroughly acquainted with the case. But to know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, he must give that knowledge himself. How great and solemn is the work, to exhibit faithfully the work of redeeming grace. Christ is exalted by the right hand of God to be a Prince and Savior to give repentance to Israel! Who shall testify to the full measure of this God-given gift? Who shall trace it to its source? The glory of God is risen upon the recipient, and his glory is seen upon him. Will God be mocked by a presumptuous man who assumes to speak in his name, who has no experimental knowledge of this work?

The church in her travel of more than three score years has learned lessons that have been profitable. The Father’s name on the forehead of all those who stand with him upon the Mount Zion has become more plainly seen. There has been some sifting, nevertheless the church has been growing more and more to be a holy temple in the Lord. The ministry has become refined and purified. For myself, I have been skimming upon the surface, fearing lest I should utter things too wonderful for me, things that I knew not, but I have been made glad to see the spirit of life from God in the witnesses of late, and depths reached in gospel mines that had before been hidden. Men speak that they do know, and testify that which they have seen and felt. And so things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath ever entered the heart of man, are declared, the word going from heart to heart, dealing with things that God reveals by his Spirit; the things that God has provided for them that love him. I seem to be conscious that there are depths in the riches of God’s grace that have not yet been reached, and how small and trifling, comparatively, does it appear all that I have ever yet seen with my eyes, which I have looked upon, and my hands handled of the word of life. But I trust I have learned to love the things that I have not seen, and to wait with patience, with faith and hope for their revelation.

Yours to serve in the gospel,
E. RITTENHOUSE.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 16.
AUGUST 15, 1901.