NORTH BERWICK, Maine, June 10, 1906.
Dear Elder Chick: – I feel like trying to write to you this afternoon and tell you a little of my experience since last I wrote you. Father has not yet returned from his visit to the churches in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so wo have had no service this morning. I myself came home only last Thursday, so I have seen none of the church except Deacon Staples, my mother and two precious sisters. I go away to-morrow, and except for Sundays I do not expect to be at home nntil near the end of August. I cannot conquer a feeling of sadness at this prospect, for I have never before been away from my home all summer, but I feel that it is the best thing I can do, and this makes it somewhat easier for me. This year has been a strange one to me in many respects; I began my college work in September, weary in body and mind, and the first half year was a very hard one for me. As a Junior I was required to take up the study of Psychology. Our text book was Dr. Bowne’s Introduction to Psychological Theory. In spite of weariness I could but be interested in the subject, and I soon found all my theories subjected to severe tests, and my faith in Bible, inspiration, experience, yea, even God himself, many times so weakened that I doubted if there were any left. Cold I felt to be toward the marvelous things of God’s kingdom. I could not pray, though night after night I knelt, endeavoring to implore grace of God. At times my soul in agony whispered the old prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” but even this brought no comfort, no blessing; I felt cast out and alone. Increasing ill health and heart sorrows of an earthly nature finally reduced me to almost despair. Instead of indifference I now felt at times thoroughly rebellious against the whole order of the universe, at times weak and helpless and lost. I could and did say with Carlyle: “Is there no God then; but at best an absentee God, sitting idle ever since the first Sabbath at the outside of his universe and seeing it go? Is the whole world, like myself, sold to unbelief?” In darkness that could be felt I spent most of the time from the last of September till February. I must not let you think this was chiefly from my study of Psychology; indeed, sometimes in my study of this subject I felt dawnings of hope. Then, too, I had four or five precious letters from different ones of the Lord’s house, which for a brief time used to comfort me. Here at least I could see a faith and love that even were it mistaken (and that I never really believed for long) was something sweet to read about. It was truly a sorrow to me to have them call me sister Ruth, precious though the name was, for I felt that I must be false and deceitful if they could see in what I did and said and wrote an evidence of anything but a sin-tossed and sorrow-stricken one who too late had found out her true self, a skeptic and unbeliever. I longed so much at times to write to you, for you have seemed, ever since that September meeting in 1901, to me as a father in Christ, but I could not write you all the wild troubles and sorrows of my tired heart. I did try to read my Bible, I did try to pray, but, as never before (because for so long a time) did the earth seem as iron, the heavens as brass. O Elder Chick, can you have love and fellowship for me when I tell you all this? I had none for myself, I assure you. I was so situated this year that I saw much of the poverty and misery of Boston; I longed to help, yet because I was not well, and was so busy, so tired, I did nothing practically, even to comfort those around me. I felt condemned, but looking ever upon my own paltry self I seemed even to myself to be groveling and whining. Outwardly I do not think I seemed different to those about me, except that I was quieter, and did not look so well and happy as I generally had. The Dean, Professor Warren, was so kind and good to me that I shall never be able to forget it. He half seriously, half laughingly, said that if I did not improve in health he should have to take me from his class in Psychology; he frequently compelled me to take rests. Indeed, every one seemed to try to be as kind to me as they could. All this but increased my sorrow, for I was utterly unworthy of it all; still, sometimes the thought would come to me, If the creatures of this earth are so good, then the Power that created them must be, somehow, just and good. O, can you understand at all how I felt during those terrible six months? It was as though I were in a dark and horrible country, unknown, and terrible shapes were before me. I was tossed hither and thither by angry blasts; no pillar of cloud by day or pillar of lire by night any longer appeared; the light I did receive seemed more like the quick lightning flashes of a tempest than anything else; it was not either as though I had tried to fight in my own strength. If I could only have seen where I had erred it would have given me something to pray for, something to break my numbed heart.
In January I entered the most dreadful trial I ever had. A certain course of action had for a long time been a question of doubt to me; it now became a question of absolute right or wrong. At about this time I received a most precious letter from a dear brother in Christ. I can never tell you how much that letter meant to me. He spoke of experiences similar to mine which he had undergone, he called me his sister, he told of the wisdom, power and love of the God he believed in. I remember well how I felt as I read that God-sent letter; for the first time in months I prayed. Beloved minister of Jesus Christ, you know what that meant to me. The providence of God sent me that letter and applied its healing words to my heart, for I now had come to a garden of sorrow which I may with all reverence call my Gethsemane. A question was before me, prayer to God brought back but one answer: Do this, not that. Days of enforced cheerfulness, even gaiety, were followed by whole nights of prayer and supplication. Finally, by the grace of God I was enabled to sacrifice my all to his will. Earthly joy and happiness became as nothing as I gazed by faith upon my Savior, who was wounded for my transgression, bruised for my iniquity. Weak and worthless as I was, I saw him as my Redeemer, my heavenly Brother, my Friend; his voice called me to himself, and weary, heavy laden, I found in his presence a rest and a peace I had never dreamed could be mine again, yet I was still in the furnace of affliction, with Christ supporting me. I knew that God was just and good, “too wise to err, too good to be unkind;” I knew that God knew the way I was taking, that when he had tried me I should come forth as gold. How wonderful that in the midst of this liery trial I was made to feel the sweet presence of Jesus my Savior. Unspeakable love for God filled my aching heart; willing submission to bis guidance and care took the place of anxious care. In the words of the same Carlyle: “Sweeter than dayspring to the shipwrecked in Nova Zembla; like the mother’s voice to her little child that strays bewildered, weeping, in unknown tumults; like soft streamings of celestial music to my too-exasperated heart, came that evangel.” “The self in thee needed to be annihilated.” From that time to this there has never been a moment when I have not known my Father was with me. Iu the dark I have been led, yes, but by him. Weak and exhausted I have felt much of the time, tossed about enough because of my very weakness, but “in his love and in his pity he redeemed me, and carried me” when I could not of myself go on. A week ago (Juno 2nd and 3rd) the dear brother whose letter had been as God’s message to me, and whose subsequent letters had been most wonderfully blessed to me, came to Boston, and we spent several hours talking of the love of God, his wisdom, his power and his grace. As we talked together, strength seemed to flow into my soul, and light to shine in the darkness. Before I had talked with this brother I had known peace, but now the morning dawned, and joy unspeakable and full of glory stole gently over my whole being. He spoke of the twentythird Psalm, and as he quoted its verses I could follow with him through it. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” “Thou art with me.” A new thought was the one brought out by this man sent from God to me: “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” I had never before realized that this meant the rod of the Lord’s gracious chastisement, and the thought has been sweet to me as I have meditated upon those things so precious which it was given to me to speak of with one dear to God. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. * * * For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Like Peter of old, in spite of the fact that I have gone astray and turned to my own way, in spite of the fact that I have denied the Master, have been disobedient and unbelieving, somehow I can but feel that the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul has looked upon me, so that I must cry, Thou, Lord, knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.
Since February I have been tasting a fullness of love and of trust that I had not experienced before since the early days of my love for Christ and his people. I was talking with my dear mother last night on the way God had led me, and I told her that I realized more fully the meaning of these sweet words:
“Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E’en though it be a cross,
That raiscth me!”
I could see, I said, how tilings had been revealed to me in that long darkness which I never could have seen if I had enjoyed the light during all that time. The thorns, the agony, I would have weakly shrunk from had I known what was in store for me, yet it was the Father’s good pleasure to bring me through much tribulation to the desired haven of rest, and trust in him, my Lord and my God.
I spoke in one of my letters to you last year of the gracious reproof given me by a dear one of God. This year, too, I have the same story; God ever moves his children to comfort the sorrowing, bind up the broken-hearted, reprove and correct the erring.
In a letter received from our brother since he returned home I read these precious words: “I was prayiug last night for you, and really I felt as though my prayer would be answered. O may the ever-present Master give you strength to await his own time, when your mind may once more be made free, and may you trust in him more and more. It may not be seemly for one such as I to pray for one such as yourself, and yet I so much want you to feel right again, to see how just all things divine must be, that I have asked it, knowing that if I ask it may be given.” How blessed these words are to my hungry soul! To think that one of God’s children should so feel toward me, unworthy and wicked as I feel myself to be.
Elder Chick, I have written on and on, not thinking of the length of my letter. As I read it over now I see its faults; pray pardon them, for I am so imperfect, and it is impossible for me to express either the sorrow that overwhelmed me or the joy that now makes me tremble because of its fullness and its preciousness. O pray for me, dear brother, that I may be led to know what is the full and perfect will of God concerning me. Pray that I be kept in true humility at the foot of the cross. I am weak, so weak, yet I do love God and desire to do only those things that are pleasing to him.
Irene says: “Tell Elder Chick that we would like to see him this fall;” and both mamma and Irene send their love to you and your dear wife. In this I join most heartily. I hope this letter has not been wearisome to you. You have ever been kind, have ever known how to read between the lines the thoughts I could express so imperfectly in my poor words. I feel that God will enable you now to understand what I have written, and if I have erred, if in me you see no evidence of God’s reclaiming grace, you will tell me so, I know. May God watch over and bless you, most precious brother, leading you ever in his own way, to do his will, is my heart’s prayer.
I am your weak little sister, if one at all, in the hope of Christ Jesus,
HUTU ADA KEENE.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 74., No. 19.
OCTOBER 1, 1906.