It is good to trace the dealings of God with His people as portrayed in the Holy Scriptures, and it is also profitable to contemplate those things which we ourselves have been taught while in our pilgrimage to the better country; for it is only as we are taught of the Lord that the things written in the Word concerning His elect, His saints, becomes intelligible and of comfort to our souls.
Now, while there ever remains grounds for our abasement, and contrition of heart before our God, yet it is in our low estate that our beloved Christ becomes more and more endeared, and He is extolled in our hearts as the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely. So needful is He, so precious I find it is a frequent grief to my spirit that I remain a sinful being. Often I am “weary of earth, myself, and sin”, and the only balm of my wounded spirit is Jesus’ atoning blood. The blood of the Lamb cleanseth us from all sin.
The apostle said, “Ye are come unto Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:14). Ah! I am not always so sensible of my sinnership; there are times when this tenderness of heart is not felt. I am as if my heart were asleep, as if I had no heart; as if it had died within me. I am so dull, insensible of the depravities of my nature; I am hard-conscience dull. Then how heartless are all exercises of worship, how cold, formal, heartless are all my prayers, and the more the utterance of the lips the more manifest is my lifeless estate. All acts of supposed worship appear as a sham – mere machine work – mere bodily exercise.
I am in confusion, for all appears a mere pretense. I am then a wretched man, a form of godliness does not suffice. What does all external observances, all lip worship amount to if faith and love, sighs and cries and ardent longings, holy delight and peace and gratitude are absent? What a wretched state to be in! Ah, I sometimes see the state I am in and find myself unmoved – hardened, as one destitute of heart toward the Lord. Truly, I am a base, worthless, lifeless thing without the ministering of the Holy Spirit. But a crumb of mercy, a sip of the water of life, one kind glance from the Saviour, one word from His mouth most sweet, and how changed is my estate. I sigh, I moan, I confess before Him my dismal, sinful case; “He smiles and my comforts abound,” and my heart, melted with gratitude, is favored for a few moments to hold communion with our fairest, sweetest, dearest, Friend – Jesus, the Friend of sinners.
To many, the advent of Christ Jesus into the world, His life, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, are no more in their view than acts and scenes of moving pictures. The hearts of such professors are as dead to Jesus Christ as to a character in a moving picture. He has no gracious effect upon their hearts and lives; they walk according to the course of this world, and they love the world and the things of the world, and their hearts are far off from God. But, oh, poor sinner, of a humble and contrite heart before the Lord, a mere historic Christ, a sort of moving picture Saviour cannot suffice us. Sin-burdened sinners, contrite hearts, need and must have experimental knowledge of the Lamb of God. We seek Him in our wounds and griefs, broken and contrite heart, with sighs and cries for the pardon of our sins. And the Spirit of truth moves us with faith and love to cleave to His sacrifice and justifying righteousness. His blessing is our blessedness, for we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of our sins. We are justified by His grace and saved from wrath through Him; we are made nigh unto God by the blood of His cross, and have peace with God and have hope of eternal life and glory in our beloved Redeemer.
Oh, how refreshed, encouraged is a poor sinner when the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, reveals with power the things of Christ in our hearts. We then contemplate the deeds, the sufferings, the atonement, Christ’s triumph over sin and death and hell, Satan and the grave; and we are saying, we are making melody in our hearts to the Lord and singing, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condenmeth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Surely He is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. How many times have I been able to say, to verily feel, “Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit” (Job 10:11). Trials, afflictions, sin and temptations, and the powers of darkness, I have often encountered, but in all these things is the life of my spirit (Isa. 38:16). We endure through it all; we are upheld by Jehovah’s sovereign mercy, our faith and hope yet live, for God’s grace nourishes us. The inward man is renewed day by day. In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
Yes, there is, in due season, a coming up again out of the wilderness, leaning on our beloved (Solomon’s Song 8:5). Many a desert land we have wandered into, and we could not find the way out. My soul has been wearied with cares and vexations, and I could see only perpetual desolations. It is written, “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought” (Hosea 13:5). Who would know a vile transgressor, a famished, sick and wounded wretch, a worthless, filthy, stinking, fretful rebel? This description is none too black for me. David, when he was in the cave, said, “I looked on my right hand, and behold, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” (Psa. 142:4). “I did know thee in the wilderness.” Yes, the Lord, our covenant-loving God, seeks us, finds us, binds up our wounds, speaks comfortably to us, speaks forgiveness, speaks of His love, His mercy, of His faithfulness. Then we are smitten; we chide and loathe ourselves, we are broken and contrite in heart; we are meek over our past sinfulness, ingratitude, unbelief. We, in our heart, confess it all unto the Lord. Oh! it is wonderful, we find He will abundantly pardon, and we trust in Him, believing in His grace; we lean upon our God, we embrace His promises. And leaning upon our dear Saviour, we come up out of our straits, upheld by His gracious, omnipotent hand. Let me tell you dear fellow pilgrim, that in those sacred moments when Jesus restoreth my soul, quiets my fears, shames away my mournings, and tells my heart that He is mine, my Saviour, my unfailing Friend, then my heart is saying, I love Him, I rejoice in Him. My heart sings His praises, and I am saying half aloud, “How lovely Jesus is, Oh how dear is my Saviour!” He satiates the weary and replenishes every sorrowful soul. Oh, does not such pitying love to sinners, so vile, so unworthy, pass all telling? I sing:
“Up to His throne I soon shall go,
More of His loveliness to know,
Where ransomed millions shall declare
He’s altogether lovely there.”
Some seek and have their portion in this life; in the world. Mine is not in the earth, and I do not want to seek an inheritance in this tinseled world; but I would be more and more drawn to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. These are all my happiness, everlasting joy, my all.
Now it is but the earnest of the inheritance that I am casting, just now and then a crumb, a sip by the way; but when, as I hope, God shall receive me to glory, “then face to face,” redeemed from corruption, conformed to the image of the glorified Saviour I shall be satisfied.
“Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Ephesians 6:24).
Elder Frederick W. Keene
OLD FAITH CONTENDER,
Elon , NC, January, 1954