Dear brother in Jesus: Only that I have had such an unfitness to pen anything to any of God’s dear children, I should have written you a few lines before this. Even now, I am asking myself, what shall I write upon this page? Well, I know from what has taken place between us in times past, that if now I were with you, and we were in the Spirit, the theme of our communion, one with another, would be the things of Christ. Our little visits, one with another, come up as sweet desirable remembrances for I well remember how my poor, tried soul, several times burned within me as we communed one with another, and I feel I am right in believing that Jesus was with us as we journeyed along. Companionship in the things of Christ! What a precious and desirable inheritance. It is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers that brings them into such sweet accord and while they are found walking in the Spirit they “fall not out by the way” (Gen. 45:24). Is it not a wonderful thing, dear brother, that we have (as we humbly hope) been brought into companionship with Jesus, the dear Lamb of God, our precious Redeemer? I catch glimpses of myself, and what do I see? A vile loathsome sinner, deserving hell, meriting by my sins, the everlasting frown of the high and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity! Yet, I have a good hope thru grace that I have been called unto the fellowship of God’s dear Son. Oh, I do feel it is not wrong, it is not presumptuous for me thus to express myself, but it is a wonder of wonders to me. I am a miracle of Jehovah’s grace. We read in Solomon’s Song, 1:7 of “Thy Companions,” “The Companions”, 8:13, and those who are with the Lamb, the Lord of lords, and King of kings, are called and chosen and faithful, (Rev. 17:14), and victory over all enemies is assured to all companions of Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation. How contrary to all the anticipations of the carnal mind it is to be a companion of Jesus. He was the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and do we not, dear brother, know that in being called into fellowship with God’s dear Son, we are called to know the fellowship of His suffering? (Phil. 3:10). Christ was stricken, and smitten, wounded, and bruised, under our load of sins He smarted so we have even now to be “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:10-11). In our companionship with the Son of God, our Savior’s suffering is our portion. We are called to continue with Him in HIS temptations (Luke 22:28). But though we experimentally bear about with us the dying of our dear Redeemer, as Paul said, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. The life also of Jesus is made manifest in our mortal flesh. Our cruel sins oft bring us into sore distresses, Satan and his hellish crew fiercely assail us, into deep waters with Jesus we must go, but the life also of Jesus is made manifest in us, as our everlasting consolation. Emmanuel triumphed over our sins, and perfected out salvation thru His sufferings. He cried, “It is finished”, bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, triumphed over hell and the grave and reigns on high, our Savior God. 0 my brother, triumphant joy fills our hearts in this knowledge of the power of His resurrection. We are risen with Jesus, by precious faith, above our sins, above the curse, far removed from all condemnation. Every note of condemnation is hushed, our sorrows are assuaged, the lightenings no longer flash; Sinai’s thunders are stilled for Christ hath died for our sins, yea, rather is risen again for our justification, and ever liveth at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. Oh, the ministry of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost how needful! I, a poor sinner, feel it to be that. I may know Jesus the Redeemer, my Redeemer, who hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me.
“Was it for crimes I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree.”
Yes, our companionship is with Jesus in His sufferings and death, and with Him also we are risen and walk in newness of life, all of which is beautifully declared in our putting on Christ in our baptism (Rom. 6:3-11). If for a time our beloved is veiled from our sight, the disconsolate we wander, for our fair and sweet Lord Jesus is “the Desire of all (regenerate) nations” (Hag. 2:7). And we shall not be wandering solitarily and alone before our hearts will be crying out, “Tell me, 0 thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest? where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon? for why should I be as one that is turned aside from the flock of thy companions” Solomon’s Song 1:7. His felt presence disperses our gloom and makes all within us rejoice. On Him we often feel to lean, while His melodious voice in our souls drives away our fears, filling our hearts with joy and gladness. Then, though the way be rugged, though sore temptations still press us, though despised of men, though in pain and poverty, the felt companionship of our dear Lord Jesus keeps our head above the waters. Underneath are the everlasting arms, we shall not sink. You have many times, dear brother, found it to be so, and even when our spirit was overwhelmed within us, our faithful Companion, our blessed and unchangable Friend, who in our afflictions was afflicted, knew our path, (Psalm 14:2-3). As our tender Shepherd, He bore us, and carried in His own time and way, He brought us deliverance and brought us forth into a wealthy place. It is the presence of Jesus, His spirit and doctrine manifest in the hearts of His people that united them, and in this bond they are meet companions, one with another. “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.” And in all the sweet and comforting companionship that the redeemed of the Lord are blessed with in one another, Jehovah Jesus is ever present. The center to which we are drawn into this oneness, our beloved Emmanuel is the chief among ten thousand, and with united voice of all the ransomed company, the ten thousand, proclaim Him to be altogether lovely. Ah, our faltering tongues can never tell the preciousness of the Savior of sinners. Amidst all the vexatious and trials that we are appointed to undergo when earthly friendships prove inconstant, when we feel that “cisterns are broken and creatures all fail,” then oh, what consolation, what a haven of rest in our blessed Redeemer. Oh, indulge me thou blessed Comforter to cast all my cares upon the Lord, to unbosom all my griefs, to seek that grace I so much want in times of need. “I poured out my complaint before Him, I showed before Him my trouble” (Psalm 142:2). Oh, have we not proved that our compassionate God understood out troubles, that He did not misinterpret our woes as those three companions of Job, oh no! The Lord knows all our maladies, and proves Himself our compassionate High Priest, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and succors us in all our distressed, and supports us under all our temptations. All life’s journey, Christ Jesus is the Companion of His people, for He says, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” I have been thinking, dear brother, of the companionship of God’s dear people in the Churches of Christ. The apostles Peter and John when they were released from prison, went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them, Acts 4:2-3, and in 1 Cor. 5:11, it is written, “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such a one no not to eat.” Thus, the membership of the Church of Christ under the New Testament are companions. Their companionship is in the precious doctrine of the gospel of Christ. When dead in trespasses and sins the heirs of salvation had as their companions such as walked in the paths of iniquity, but when it pleased God to call us, dear brother, by His grace to reveal His Son Jesus in us, we found such associates no longer congenial; we shunned vile company, so painful, so utterly distasteful to endure. As poor vile sinners, yes separated from the world we found ourselves isolated and not until Jehovah’s pardoning love was felt in our souls could we feel fit for the companionship of any one under the sun. Not worthy to rank with Christ’s flock we felt ourselves as veiled aside from the companions of the chief among ten thousand. But when the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, favored us to know that our sins were pardoned by the blood of the Lamb, oh then, it was not presumptuous for us in our hearts to say, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of those that keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:63). The fear of the Lord in the hearts of God’s elect is the sacred bond that unites them, and according to which they are made meet to live and walk and suffer together. “Ruth said to Naomi, (for she clave unto her) entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge, and thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God, where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). They were truly companions. What a bitter ingredient was that in David’s cup of grief when he spake of Ahithophel! “It was not an enemy that reproached: then I could have borne it, neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me, then I would have hid myself from him, but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company” (Psalm 4:12-14). So with Ahithophel, this vile hypocrite, “fearfulness surprised him” (Isa. 33:14). And when Ahithophel saw his counsel was not followed (such was his chagrin) that he saddled his ass, and arose and get him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order and hanged himself and died, and was buried in the sepulcher of his father (2 Sam. 17:23). See also 2 Sam. 16:23. So was it also with Judas the son of perdition, (John 12:12, Psa. 109:6-13, Acts 1:10-19). Dreadful characters have been in assemblies of the saints. Are there such in the churches of Christ today? God knoweth. There were vile hypocrites, heretics in the churches in the days of the apostles. But precious are those seasons when the saints assemble in sweet accord, in the fellowship of the gospel and rehearse one to another the righteous acts of the Lord one to another, (Judges 3:11). They are companions in their joys and sorrows, in prosperity and adversities. Companions of the persecuted and suffering family of God, (Heb. 10:33). Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of reward, (Heb. 11:24-26). When such companionship is realized among the elect, the redeemed of the Lord, their communion one with another will be to edification. I have proved and tasted dear brother, something of the preciousness and comfort there is in the fellowship of the saints in the gospel. In this companionship of sinners saved by grace, oh, may I be favored to walk, and dwell while sojourning in the world. If an assembly, called a Church, are not companions in the glorious and soul-comforting truth as it is in Jesus, then they fail to present the beauty which inseparably belongs to the Church of Christ. As companions in the kingdom of God, the members of the body of Christ, will be fellow helpers, bearing each others burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ, the Chief among ten thousand. Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares. We read of Daniel and his companions, and surely there is some truth in the proverb, “A man is known by the company he keeps”. Oh, may I ever be counted as one of thy companions. May I ever hearken to thy voice, continue with thee in thy doctrine to the end of my pilgrimage, and then when done with earth, and time is over, when raised in immortality, in resurrection glory, may I with all the ransomed company be forever with thee, Amen.
Well, my dear brother, I have jotted down these thoughts, having in my mind pleasant remembrances of some moments, at several times, when we were bosom companions, together, fellow travelers in the afflictions and consolations that it hath pleased our heavenly Father to appoint us. May the blessing of the God of Israel rest upon you, and favor you with the dear household among whom your lot is now cast. This is the heart’s desire of one who is, I hope, your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.
(Elder) FREDERICK W. KEENE
Raleigh, N. C.
Sovereign Grace and Pilgrim publication,