Sometimes in my thoughts I contemplated the whole body of Christ, and feeling some emotions of love for the church whom the beloved Lord Jesus has redeemed from all iniquity by His precious blood, I find fervent longings springing up in my heart for the true prosperity and peace of Zion. At other times my thoughts are engaged concerning this or that member of the body of Christ in particular; and though... absent from them, and perhaps unknown by face, unto them, yet that secret precious bond, that unites all the family of God, binds me, I hope, to them, and produces in my heart a godly solicitude for their welfare in the Kingdom of God.
My heart, also, has felt the preciousness of the truth that teh body unto the edifying of itself in love. The members are placed in the body as it pleaseth God, and are all necessary whether it be the eye, the hand or foot. And the members of the body of Christ have gifts differing; all, therefore, have not the same office, but Jehovah gave some apostles and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the edifying of the body of Christ.
The following verse comes into mind expressing what I am persuaded of:
"Since Christ is my head, this with joy I remember,
His body to which with affection I glow,
Although I'm the most insignificant member,
Can't be full without one, Ah, never! O, No!"
God's oath, His covenant, and blood forbid that any of th eloved and chosen flock of God should perish. The epistle to the Hebrews, speaks of those who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them, having a "strong consolation." This I hope I have many times proved, when in sore need and sunk in disconsolation of soul.
The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, makes very sweet to the souls of hte called of God the doctrine of Christ. This doctrine so dispised and hated by vast multitudes of people who call themselves and wish to be accounted Christians, they manifest no love to the truth as it is in Jesus and by them "the way of truth is evil spoken of." - 2 Peter, 2:2.
Well, shall we make our boast? Yes, but only in the Lord; and then no poor humble sinner will be made sad by us.
If we love and have immutable inheritance in "the truth as it is in Jesus," it is all of hte eternal counsel, and the unfrusterable will and good pleasure of Jehovah the Father, the word and the Holy Ghost, that we are thus made to differ from others. It is the Lord who puts a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. - 1 Cor. 4:7; Exod. 11:7.
The consideration of the sovereing love of God, as I hope, to me a poor sinner has been with much weight upon my mind for some time past. Who am I, and what am I, that He should love and take delight in me? I often feel it seems unreasonable for me to think so; and truly this is beyond the reach of the uppermost thought of the creature to fathom why the Lord has loved us poor vile transgressors.
When we contemplate the millions of the posterity of Adam that have peopled, and that now inhabit the earth, sunken where they fell, in alienation from God, by wicked works and then among those nations who are styled Christians, how many, it is to be feared, know nothing spiritually of Jesus, the dear lamb of God? Then I question myself and say, "Is it really true that I am one of the very elect?" Am I one of the redeemed of the Lord? Does Jehovah love me? What evidences have I?
Thus I find inquiries arising. It is so wonderful, so infinitely glorious, so eternally momentous to such a poor sinner like me! I want no decision but that which proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb. Like our precious Jesus, I have cried, "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence." - Psalm 17:2.
As I have been writing this an incident in my pilgrimage has been recalled in my thoughts, very much as though it were but yesterday; but it was nearly forty years ago. I was in tribulations, both temporal and spiritual. And in the midst of my trials I fell into a barren state, so destitute of the things pertaining to the divine life. For some weeks I was wandering, indeed in a solitary way, so destitute of all meditation upon the things of Christ. I spent the days and weeks very miserably, and many a time in my spirit I cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Accusations from the old serpent, called the devil, and satan assailed me and aggravated my sad condition.
While in this state, one Saturday morning, I started to ride some 30 miles with horse and carriage to an appointment to preach on the following day. While on my way called at my postoffice and among the letters was one from a very dear brother in Christ, an able minister of the new testament, living many miles from me in the state of Georgia. While yet in the postoffice I read what he had written and I felt my heart stirred up within me as I read. I found he was deeply in distress, in poverty and much oppressed. Here are some of his words, "I have been passing through a severe trial lately, in debt, and nothing to pay it off with. It has cast me donw very low, but I try to remember Him, who had no where to lay His head; it has given me no relief. Dear tried brother remember me."
I knew that such language from this precious brother had a depth of meaning, my heart flowed out in sympathy for him and all the time, while riding the rest of my journey, my thoughts were swallowed up in thinking of the trouble and distress that I felt persuaded he and his family were in. When I had arrived at my journey's end and had retired to rest, I could find no sleep; but the hours of the night were spent in thinking about this beloved servant of Christ. Oh, how I wish I were able to relieve him! I felt and mourned my helplessness, but I was drawn to look unto the Lord, for these words, as if spoken in me, were raised up in my mind, "Jesus loves him far better than you do, and is able, if it be his pleasure, to bring him out of his troubles and supply all his needs."
Though for some weeks past I had felt no spirit of supplication to pray in my own behalf, I felt my heart drawn to pour forth supplications in behalf of this dear brother and faithful minister of Jesus Christ. I felt so satisfied the Lord did indeed love him, but while thinking this the question arose, "Does the Lord love you?" This cast me into a sea of emotions and made my eyes overflow with tears, and I exclaimed, "How can the Lord love me?" My past illness arose to my view and I felt to loathe myself in my own sight and I felt if I am so hateful, so loathsome to myself, how can the Holy One of Israel love me? I thought upon the immensity, the infinite majesty and glory of the Holy One that inhabiteth eternity and the more I thought and reasoned the more incredible and unreasonable it appeared that the blessed God could love such a vile, hateful worm like me. Modern, popular religionists may take all the satisfaction they can from what they call "the reasonableness of the religion of Jesus Christ, but the things of Jesus Christ are beyond the grasp of my natural reason, and infinitely exceed my uttermost thought.
There have been times in the past when, with natural powers, I have attempted to solve (as one would a mathematical problem) the mystery of the cross of Christ, the enemy has assailed me with fearful suggestions, and vile insinuations, that as all things belonging to the gospel of Christ are impenetrable, therefore all was a myth and a delusion and there was no God.
This tempation, I have found no trifling thing, but it has caused me much pain, and deliverance I have found only in the power and goodness of God to my poor soul. On the night of which I am writing, though I could not see how the Lord could love me, yet O, how I longed and besought the Lord to be merciful and gracious to a poor worm again, to banish the dark clouds from my sky, to keep in subjection my vile nature, to give me again some token of His love to my soul! It was a time of the pouring out of my heart before the Lord and it was not a wonder of wonders that the Lord did not spurn me from His presence, that He did not in His anger cast me away. But I do hope that once more I tasted the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, whose sins are covered, and who is accepted in the Beloved. And I was comforted in believing that the Lord had thoughts of love to me in Christ Jesus, and His love was shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost. "He that loveth is born of God and knoweth God," and such are passed from death unto life who love the brethren.
I felt to bless and praise the Lord, that He, in His sovereing mercy and grace had made me truly to have fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love the brethren, the household of God. Oh it is wonderful!
"They wonder Jehovah should single them out,
And cause them to hear His sweet voice;
They wonder sometimes that their hearts are so hard;
They wonder, they cannot rejoice.
And sometimes they wonder, they cannot believe
And wonder what can be the matter;
And thus they go wondering, day after day,
And wonder sometimes they're no better.
But sometimes they wonder that things are no worse,
And bless God things are as they are;
'Tis then they can thank Him for wonderful grace,
That has brought thier poor souls so far.
And then what an endless wonder will be In glory eternal to dwell,
And our wonderful Saviour's face we shall see, and will be eternally well."
Elder Frederick W. Keene
Raleigh, N.C. originally published THE LONE PILGRIM - December, 1927
Republished - Signs of the Times - Vol. 169, No. 12 - December 2001