North Berwick, Maine, Jan. 7, 1908.
William C. Hastings – My Dear Brother In The Precious Hope Of Life Eternal In Christ Jesus: – It comes into my thoughts that I have not written in return for your last gracious letter to me. However that may be, I feel I want now to pen you a few lines. As I am sitting here with my pen in my hand the question comes into my mind, Where shall I begin! I thought of this being the first month of our year 1908, and then Exodus xii. 2, came entering in with some dawning of the signification of the words. Let me pen you a few of my thoughts.
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” This month of the celebration of the passover, and of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt called Nisan or Abib, was the seventh month of their civil year, and corresponded with our April. In this month Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. What, for me! God had promised to Abraham to bring forth his seed out of the land of their afflictions and bondage, (Gen. xv. 13-16,) and when the time of the promise drew nigh (Acts vii. 17,) they were afflicted indeed, sore straits attended their sojourn in the land, they were crushed down under oppressions and cruel servitude. The last year they were in Egypt was the bitterest that they had ever known. As that year was ushered in Moses had returned to Egypt from the land of Midian, and the miseries of Israel were increased, more work was laid upon them, and the whips of Pharaoh’s taskmasters were heavy upon them. Six months of this year there was no abatement of their grievous bondage. The seventh month is at hand, and in the midst of this month all is changed. What a transformation! The bondmen are free, their sighs and groans are hushed and songs of triumphant praise they are singing. You know the story, dear brother, the Lord made bare his holy arm, his mighty hand and outstretched arm gave deliverance to his people, his chosen. This seventh month became, in things pertaining to God, the beginning of months, the first month of the year unto them. Old things were passed away, and all things had become new. It was a new year, and this month of Abib the beginning of the year unto them. “Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt.” – Deut. xvi. 1; Exodus xii. 42. The literal narrative of all this is interesting, but to be given glimpses of the spiritual meaning of these things is better, and then by divine leadings to enter experimentally into these typical mysteries, and for our hearts by faith to be saying, “Even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” this indeed is blessedness. O such exceeding riches of grace is made known in bringing salvation to us poor sinners. Again and again within me I am saying, O that I could love thee, my Lord, my Redeemer. O for fervent gratitude that my heart might be a living fountain pouring forth its praises for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men. We were once in bondage far worse than Egyptian: we were the slaves of sin, (Romans vi. 16-20,) but we knew it not. The fleshpots of Egypt, the leeks, the onions, the garlic and Egyptian bread gave us fleshly gratifications. (Num. xi. 5.) Ah, we were in a shameful plight, the pleasures of sin sufficed us. (Heb. xi. 25.) But God’s decreed time arrived in which it pleased him to call us by his grace, then indeed we were made sensible of our desperate and enslaved condition to sin. We could no longer, with any delight, walk according to the course of this world, a mighty, gracious power turned us in heart from our transgressions. (Isaiah lix. 20; Acts iii. 26.) In times past we had our conversation in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” This, dear brother, is what has wrought in us this gracious change. Our eyes were opened and we saw where we were, the captives of sin, exposed to the curse of the law, fit subjects for the everlasting displeasure of the Holy One; what way of escape was there for us from the damnation of hell! The Lord gave us a heart to feel, and we had a heartfelt knowledge that we were wretched bondmen in Egypt. Then Moses came, the law entered and our offences abounded, and our servitude was more and more bitter. Pharaoh’s hand was severe and cruel upon the Israelites, but how sorrowful is the lot of the quickened sinner when the yoke of his sins is heavy upon his neck, when Satan and all the powers of darkness assail the guilty one, yes, when the voice of condemnation smites the sin-burdened soul. Israel sighed and cried because of their bondage, (Exodus ii. 23,) and so do quickened sinners mourn unto God over their sins. (Ezek. vii. 16.) Truly that good work wrought in us by the Holy Spirit is very gracious and transforming, for we are not left by God to perish in our sins, we are drawn to ‘the mercy-seat, we are moved by the operations of the Holy Spirit to pour forth our sighs and cries unto God. “The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.” – Exodus iii. 7. This is a consoling thought, God knows our sorrows. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” and took unto himself all our griefs and carried our sorrows. It was not robbery that our Lord, our Christ, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. O no, it was not robbery, for he was the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express imago of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb. i. 3.) O consoling, glorious mystery. Being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself for our; sakes and became in very truth, even unto unfathomable depths, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah liii. 3j Luke xxii. 44.)
“I know their sorrows.” He knew our first sorrows, when we were ready to perish in Egypt with hard bondage, (Dent. xxvi. 5,) and he has known all our sorrows since then, and have we not found the Lord to be merciful and pitiful, sustaining and comforting and bringing us salvation! “The last year that Israel was in Egypt was dark and bitter indeed, their cup of miseries was full. Six months of that year cruel bondage was theirs, and though God’s judgments were heavy upon the Egyptians no salvation for Israel was yet in sight. But this is the year of God’s redeemed, the acceptable year has come. (Isaiah lxi. 2; lxiii. 4.) The set time is come, the month, the very day, according to the promise of the Lord to Abraham, is nigh, and God’s own mighty hand and outstretched arm shall bring them out of the house of bondage. (Gen. xv. 13; Acts vii. 6; Exodus xii. 40, 42, 51.) The seventh mouth was ushered in, and in the fourteenth day of the month at even the passover lamb was slain, and the selfsame day they marched out of Egypt. Jehovah had broken the bands of their yoke and made them to go upright. (Lev. xxvi. 13.) Ransomed, free, upright, they went forth by their armies, and against any of the children of Israel not a dog moved his tongue. (Exodus xi. 7.) How well it was that this month of Abib should be the beginning of months, the first month of the year unto the host of the redeemed ones.
The gospel of Christ is very blessedly declared in the sacrifice of the passover. On the tenth day of the month each family was to take a lamb without blemish, and in the evening of the fourteenth day it was to be slain. “And they shall take the blood, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” “It is the Lord’s passover.” “And,” saith the Lord, “the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” That passover blood was the difference the Lord put between the Egyptians and Israel, (Exodus xi. 7,) and it is Jesus’ precious blood that redeems us from our guilt and shame; by him we are ransomed from the curse of the law, from death and the power of the grave unto God. (Gal. iii. 13; Hosea xiii. 14; Rev. v. 9.) The Israelites came forth of their houses under the blood. The blood was sprinkled on the lintel over their heads, and on the two side posts of the door. What harm could befall them thus sheltered by the blood of the lamb! O, my dear brother, that sacred mystery in our faith that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, what a comfort it is. How many times I have sung the words:
“What mighty sum paid all my debt,
When I a bondman stood,
And has my soul at freedom set?
‘Tis Jesus’ precious blood.”
Others may imagine to find hope for themselves in their own doings, but we are taught of God that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. (Heb. ix. 22.) Surely I shall never forget that time when first I saw Jesus, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for me.
“When first I knew my Lord, my God,
‘Twas in his deep humility;
His garments rolled in his own blood,
With eyes of love he looked on me.
Lo, then my fainting heart revived,
When I beheld my Savior smile;
‘Twas then in Jesus I believed,
And felt the glory of his toil.
I nothing had when my dear Lamb
Did show me all my sins forgiven;
I nothing had but sin and shame,
When first I saw my name in heaven.”
There, those lines repeat to you the story; all things became new; this was in the month of April, 1871, and truly it was the beginning of months unto me. Yes, it was such a hopeful, blessed beginning for a poor, vile sinner like me. It began with God, who is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him, it began with the riches of his grace, it began with Christ, our Passover, sacrificed for us. Deliverance was mine through the blood of the Lamb, and, set free from sin and shame, the bonds of the curse of Satan and hell were broken, and I stood before the Lord a pardoned, ransomed, loved one, and thus the arm of the Lord made me to go upright out of the land of Egypt. (Lev. xxvi. 13.) Of what value is that life, that hope in things pertaining to God, that has not the sacrifice of the Lamb, without blemish and without spot in the beginning of it! Christ, the Lamb of God, is also the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. (Heb. iii. 1.) If he is not the beginning of a man’s profession it will end most miserably.
The Israelites in Egypt were bondmen, but when the Lord brought them forth they were no more Pharaoh’s slaves, but the Lord’s free people; freed by his saving power, by the blood of the passover lamb; no more bondmen, but the adopted nation of God. Henceforth Jehovah was known as the God of Israel. Thus saith the Lord, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” – Hosea xi. 1. Yes, dear brother, from the moment that by faith I tasted the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ for my sins I began in my heart to say, Abba, Father. Surely it was the gracious God himself who gave a vile sinner like me power to do so. (John i. 12; Jer. iii. 19.) God sendeth forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. “Wherefore,” saith the apostle, “thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” – Gal. iv. 7.
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” So much took place with Israel in this month; they arose from under their heart-wearying bondage, no more grinding tasks, nor the Egyptians’ scourge laid upon them. The Lord released them, and they were made to go upright, their groanings were over, their tears were all wiped away, while very blessedly between them and their God there was the reconciling passover lamb. They feasted upon the lamb slain for them. “Thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s passover.” Truly this was a time most memorable in Israel, and in this month Jesus our Lord was crucified.
“Glory to Jesus, the sinner’s great friend,
He ransomed his people and saves to the end;
Once we were bondmen, far worse than Egyptian,
Till the arm of the Lord with might led us forth.
And Jehovah still keeps us from sin, death and Satan,
And our foes will destroy with the breath of his mouth;
Sing loud hosannas, ye ransomed, with me;
Jehovah hath triumphed, his people are free.”
How the years have fled since we met face to face. I have ever thought of you affectionately since that time, for sweet was our fellowship in the doctrine of Christ. May the Lord be gracious to you and to your dear wife and all your family.
I am your brother affectionately in Christ Jesus,
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 4.
FEBRUARY 15, 1908.