Kingwood, N. J., May 28, 1849.
DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST: – Hurried along by a multitude of business, some months have passed away since I have devoted any time to your readers. A few thoughts presenting themselves to my mind while I am enjoying a momentary relief from the cares and vexations of life, I gladly embrace the opportunity to communicate to my brethren some token of my remembrance. The present time as I think the signs plainly indicate, is a time of sifting well calculated to try who is on the Lord’s side and who is not. Me-thinks it is not altogether dissimilar to a certain time when, after the truth being preached by the Master himself, many of the disciples went back and walked no more with him. The sons of Levi appear to be undergoing the process of purification; and that work of separation between those who worship God in the spirit and those who do not, which the sword of the Spirit is so eminently calculated to effect, seems to be going on. The church has for a few generations past appeared to flourish and increase. She had arisen to a degree of respectability in the eyes of the world: this was gratifying to the flesh, and a disposition early manifested itself to rise still higher, to county the applause of the great and the rich. The church conforming to the world in doctrine and practice, as a necessary consequence many of the children of this world have been received into the fellowship and communion of the church. Such, to some extent at least, would have undoubtedly been the case, had none of the late revival measures been gone into; but when a regularly organized system of measures are put in operation for the very purpose, and the world by wisdom, sophistry and cunning craftiness of interested and designing men, called int requisition, as might be expected, the nonprofessing world are brought within the pales of the church by hundreds.
Under such circumstances we must soon expect to see a house divided against itself. Men of the world whom we cannot reasonably expect will love the truth, now are members of the church, and have a voice in its government, and in the management of its affairs. Let me appeal to you brethren, what now can we can expect, but that he whose fan is in his hand, will thoroughly purge his floor? Can the children of the bond woman dwell in peace with the children of the free woman? Nay, rather, as sure as effect follows its legitimate cause, so sure must such causes as we have been speaking of end in a separation and discerning between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. In the history of the church in past ages we may find testimony abundant and conclusive that such has ever been the case; that whenever the church departed from the doctrine and practice required by the New Testament, and became conformed to the world giving heed to seducing spirits and traditions of men, in dreadful scourge has been raised up among them, – worldly influence holding the sway in the nominal church, the believers in Jesus have had to come out, suffering the loss of all their former privileges, and to leave the corrupt mass toperish in its own corruption. Such seasons, though ever so necessary for the well-being and purification of the church, are nevertheless trying to human nature, and unpleasant to the flesh. The strongest earthly ties are thus sometimes cut asunder, yea, it has seemed sometimes like dividing between soul and spirit, and tearing one from another the very joints and marrow; when those with whom we had taken sweet counsel, and whom we had loved for Jesus’ sake, turn away their ears from the truth, and are turned unto fables. Something like this I take to be the fiery ordeal through which the church is now passing. And if so, allow me to make the inquiry, How are we standing the test? Can we maintain a steadfast and unshaken confidence in God and his truth, when even the professed disciples seem to be almost wholly given up to idolatry? One after another have made manifest that they were not of us, many who have long and faithfully contended for the faith, the Master has taken to himself. A few yet continue steadfast and present an undaunted front notwithstanding every wind of doctrine that blows against them. But who will stand up in defence of the truth, when those who now bear testimony shall slumber beneath the clods of the valley? Inquiries of this nature not unfrequently present themselves, as well as some fearful forebodings of the future. Such times try the faith of the saints, and put their confidence in God and his word to the test. I have been wont to look back at the exercises of the saints of old, and admire their implicit reliance upon the word of the Lord, even in the darkest and most gloomy circumstances. Witness good old Hezekiah, king of Judea, when the enemies of the Lord multiplied around him, when they enclosed him on every side, – when they blasphemed the name of God and his tabernacle, and over predicted the utter ruin of all them that trusted in him; with what confidence he goes before the Lord with the blasphemous letter of the Assyrians, and seeks Divine protection and deliverance. No numbering of forces and strengthening of forts, no preparation for battle, but instead thereof an implicit reliance upon the word of the Lord, an abiding trust in the arm of the Holy One of Israel. And their deliverance was accordingly. Never, since there has been a nation upon earth, have any experienced so signal an interposition of omnipotence in the overthrow of their enemies. And it was in this respect, I believe that of an unwavering trust in the Lord, that Hezekiah was distinguished: “So that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judea, nor any that were before him.” Observe again with what calm resignation and submission to the divine will, he answers the prophets when told that all his treasures, and that which his father has laid up in store, and even his children should be carried captive to Babylon; “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken.” Time would fail us to run into numerous instances of acquiescence in the divine will, in times of sore trial; We will glance at one more and let that suffice for the present. When Eli was told of the calamities that awaited his household he replied “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” It is hard to feel so, or at least it is for me. Although I admire and delight to contemplate the spirit of these ancient fathers in Israel, yet I think, were I placed in such circumstances I should be pretty apt to murmur. Witness David when cursed by a Benjaminite, how much of the spirit of Christ is manifested in his answer: “Let him alone and let him curse for the Lord hath bidden him.” A remark or two more and I close. In the face of the most precious and cheering promises ever made to fallen man, it has been the pleasure of the Lord to array his providence as though he would bring them to nought, thus trying the faith of his people to the utmost. We might notice a few instances, as Abraham commanded to slay his son, Jacob meeting Esau with four hundred armed men to cut him off; Israel at the Red Sea, &c. But we cannot now speak of them particularly. The faith of his people is thus proved and manifested; and I doubt whether he ever communicates his grace to his people but what he calls them into exercise. What shall we then say to these things; “Ye that fear the Lord trust in the Lord.” Let us rely upon his promise without wavering, for he is faithful that hath promises. Though in his providence he sometimes permits his enemies for a time to triumph and tread under foot his truth, yet he hath promised: “I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.” Hear the words of the Lord Jesus: “Fear not, Wherefore didst thou doubt?”
Signs of the Times.
Volume 17, No. 12.
June 15, 1849.