BELOVED IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD:
You are all pursuing that path that leads to eternal glory. It is a path which none know but the ransomed of the Lord, and they only walk therein by faith, and not by sight. That faith which worketh by love, and which is of the operation of God, clings to, rests upon and walks in the new and living way which Jesus has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. The obedience and atoning blood of the Lamb is the glorious highway through this wilderness to the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. I, saith Jesus, am the way. As I contemplate the life of the righteous, and muse upon their blissful and eternal inheritance of glory with Christ, the Head of the church, I find longings, flowing forth from my soul, and I join with one of old, saying, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favors that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.” I gladly admit that our God grants me seasons when I sing with gladness of heart for Jacob. “For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” But oh, at other times I am so beset with enemies, so tossed with internal conflicts, and my sins as a very plague seem to isolate me from the commonwealth of Israel. I am as one thrust forth from thy tents, O happy Israel! The fretting leprosy of mine iniquities causes me to wander as an outcast from the holy people. Ah! well I know my uncleanness unfits me to associate with the clean. I feel my presence would defile the tents of the beloved nation. Therefore when any of the family of God would draw nigh to recognize and to embrace me as a brother, I inwardly cry outward to forbid their drawing nigh. I am unclean, unclean; I am not fit to be taken into fellowship and companionship with the ransomed of the Lord. And when, notwithstanding my inward protestations, tokens of fellowship have been bestowed upon me by God’s dear children, this so humbles me, I feel so contemptibly mean, so vile, so unworthy of their esteem, that I have gone before now in secret to sigh and to weep. I need thy precious blood, O Lamb of God, to cleanse my guilt away. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” The blood of thine atonement apply to my diseased soul. Oh give me the evidences that thou did die for me, and then I shall be clean in thy sight “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” This shall raise me up from the dust to rejoice in thy salvation. “He sent his word and healed them.” This is what I need; not the bare theory of the doctrine, with its proof texts set in array in my natural understanding, but the glorious truth sent by the Lord’s gracious power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. When the Lord sends the word it prospers in the thing whereunto he sends it. This I know, for then his speech distils as the dew upon my soul, and I am refreshed. His doctrine sent to my heart calms all the tumults that my sins and the devil create, and 1 have peace through the blood of Emmanuel’s cross. Sometimes I am as one famishing, and I pine away for want of the fruits of the field. My soul craveth Jehovah’s sweet mercy, I yearn again to taste his pardoning love, but the Bible cannot afford it, the letter of the Scriptures cannot bestow it. I have no power to suck honey out of them. Those who can go to the Scriptures and always get what they need, and can close the book well satisfied with what they have got, are altogether different from poor, sinful, helpless me.
I can no more help myself to food out of the Holy Scriptures than a very babe could feed itself at a well laden table spread with all manner of sweet tasting and nourishing food. I well know that the concentration of the natural study yields no sustenance to the quickened soul. By our natural powers we may acquire a natural knowledge that the Bible teaches the doctrines of predestination, election, salvation by grace, etc., and by the application of the natural mind to these subjects in the perusal of the Bible a person may be well versed, as the saying is, and be able to prove his points, to preach the doctrine in the letter. He may be quite competent to debate with the opponents of the doctrine, and secretly, if not openly, pride himself in this line. But what of it all? It may all be, and that man’s soul be utterly destitute of the grace of God that bringeth salvation. I have been harassed with thoughts that I was just such an one, that all I know is the result of natural study of the Scriptures, and fears have invaded my heart that after all I know nothing of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I have been brought low and with great searchings of heart I have fallen at the feet of the Lord so troubled, so weakened, so dismayed at the thought that the secret of the Lord was not with me. Perhaps some one, who is fully six feet tall according to his own measurement, may hold one like me in very contempt, and think one like me by this time should be a man, and no more a child. Well, perhaps there are times when I am a man, strong indeed in Christ Jesus. I grow up by faith, by the abundant ministrations of the Spirit of Truth into Jesus Christ in all things. I am strong then in our Redeemer, and the arms of my hands are made strong indeed in Christ by the mighty God of Jacob. Then I can vanquish the foe, and tread down my enemies as the mire of the streets, but my triumphing, and all the exploits are altogether by faith, which is the fruit of the Spirit, in the love, and mercy, and faithfulness of God, in the blood and righteousness of God, in the blood and righteousness of Jesus. These, are rare times, when I can in truth experimentally triumph and glory in Christ Jesus. But, I am as a sickly babe sometimes, so weak, defenseless, I feel as it were to be dying for the need of some one to care for me, feed me and clothe me, and that one, that only One that can do these things unto me is the glorious everlasting God. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” Sickly and faint and ready to die in the filth of my own heart, the Lord in his tender pity has placed me in the arms of Zion, she has borne me upon her sides and carried me in her bosom. I have been dandled upon her knees, and she has drawn out the breasts of her consolations to me, there I have suckled, and have been satisfied with the abundance of her glory. They have breasts in some places that they call “conditional time salvation,” but from the description that some of them give of them I am fully satisfied they are not the breasts of the free woman, but the breasts of Hagar the bond woman. However the children of the bond woman may thrive upon Haga’s breasts, Isaac will do well by being suckled at the breasts of the everlasting covenant of grace, even the sure mercies of David. Those who want to suck at the breasts of “conditional happiness,” of conditional time salvation, can do so, and they are welcome to all the happiness that they derive therefrom. There is a vast amount of fleshly religious happiness in the world that is of no kin to the joy of the Lord. People may perform their supposed duties, and render their supposed obedience unto God, and compass themselves about with their sparks, and walk in the light of their fire, and in the sparks that they have kindled, but I rather walk in the dark with God than walk in their light (Isaiah 1:10-11 – Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.). I am pained to think that such teachings are being taught among our people, teachings wherein the precepts of the law of liberty are mingled and confounded with the precepts of the covenant that gendereth to bondage. The obedience of faith, and commandments of Christ’s gospel, are handled in such a way that the joyous, captivating sound of them cannot be heard as they come forth from the lips of conditionalists. Their sweetness, freshness and beauty are departed, and grace, the grace of God, cannot be discerned in the obedience required, and the gracious and almighty operations of the Holy Ghost exercising the hearts of the elect to the obedience of faith are altogether in the background, in the doctrines that are being promulgated in this distasteful phraseology, conditional time salvation. True gospel obedience flows from the constraining love of Christ. Apart from the love of God in the soul there is no obedience in the gospel. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” The Lord delights in that which his Spirit inspires. In order to the true worship of God we need the ministrations of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to revive our faith, and hope, and love, praises and supplications, then obedience to the Lord will be the fruit. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psalms 119:32). Oh, what are all the best services that we have ever rendered unto the God of our salvation? To this day I have to say to Jehovah’s sovereign grace I owe above what the fiends have in hell. I desire from my very soul to walk holily just and unblameably before the Lord and his people, but I have not attained unto this. I see very plainly that vanity is stamped upon all that I engage in, the vileness of my flesh is so manifest to me, it intrudes itself, mixes itself with and defiles all that I put my hands unto. That others may not be so beset with sinfulness so polluted I allow, for I see it is only by a miracle of grace that I can be saved, and grace is the only fountain that yields supplies to one like me. I can with all my heart join with Hart, who sings,
“Jesus gives us pure affections,
Wills to do what he requires,
Makes us follow his directions,
And what he requires, inspires.
All our prayers, and all our praises,
Rightly offered in his name,
He that dictates them is Jesus,
He that answers is the same.”
“Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Thus that dear child of God, that invalid, that deaf and dumb paralytic, when by the sweet communion of the Holy Ghost is instructed and comforted, and filled with love to the Redeemer, is as much obedient unto Christ as any of the ransomed family. That strength and grace by which the believer walks in the commandments of the Lord our Redeemer, is not an ability that we have inherent in us as subjects of the new birth, which it is in our power according to our will to put into exercise, and thus, apart from walk obediently, it is the obedience of faith, and this comprehends that God’s grace is made to abound unto us, and this is our sufficiency (2 Cor. 9:8) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Thus the apostle, knowing that believers have no stored up, inherent ability, in themselves, to do the will of their God, says, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20-21). Though I am, I hope, a subject of Jehovah’s grace, and born of the Spirit, and if so even such an one, yet with me there are many times when I have no strength, I am as it were dead, I have not the power to put forth a sigh, or groan; to cry, to pray to God seems impossible. I am so hardened, so frozen up, so stiffened and numbed by the deceitfulness of my sins, and an evil heart of unbelief, that I find it beyond my power to think a thought. Ah, I know by humbling experiences that apart from the unremitting ministry of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, I have no might to worship God. Those who can always sigh over their sins, and pray unto the Lord for his pardoning love, those who can praise God any hour of the day they appoint to do so, are not like me. But I have proved that our God is very pitiful, and his long-suffering with such a miserable, unprofitable worm as I am is a wonder of wonders. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” He visits my soul in his love, he chastens me with his rod, he shows me when I am smarting under his reproofs, that mine iniquities have exceeded all his chastenings (Job 36:9). He maketh my heart soft, he gives under this discipline a humble and contrite heart, he smiles with pardoning grace upon me, he speaks kind promises to my soul, he gives me glimpses of the riches of his grace, displayed in the works and merits of Jesus our covenant Head. Oh, then I sigh, then I weep, then I pray, then I praise, then I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
“I can do nothing without Thee,
My strength is wholly Thine;
Withered and barren should I be
If severed from the Vine.”
I find, dear children of God, that I have to be learning over and over again that “Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). Oh, that name Jesus, Savior, is so sweet! In him are such transcendent excellencies, and so suitable to a needy sinner like me that at every view that is given me by the Spirit of truth I fall deeper and deeper in love with our altogether lovely Savior. And when his love is shed abroad in my heart I find myself saying within me, He loveth me still, he loveth even me, and what proof of his love I see in his fulfilling all the gracious relations that he sustains unto his people, as the loving Kinsman, our Brother, our tender, faithful Husband, our Almighty Friend and Redeemer. When the Holy Spirit, who takes of the things of Jesus and shows them unto the elect, shows them unto me, how can I help loving him and praising and adoring the King in his beauty? Ah, then it is that I would not in word only, but in deed and in truth love him who bath loved me with an everlasting love.
“Love moved him to die, on this I rely;
My Savior hath loved me, I cannot tell why;
But this I can tell, he loved me so well,
As to lay down his life, to redeem me from hell.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
SIGNS OF THE TIMES, pages 6 thru 10