Mrs. Ella McConnell
I feel with the apostle Paul to say, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. From what you have written in your precious letter of the exercises of your soul, the way you have been led, it was with feelings of sacred pleasure that I read, and felt you were speaking of the things which pertain alone to the children of God. How highly favored of the Lord! How wonderful the grace and tender love of Jehovah manifested in you, in singling you out and teaching you things which none know, or care to know, but “the taught of the Lord”. And thus, dear sister, the Lord has declared, and has sealed you as one of his eternally loved, as one of his dear children. It is written in the Scriptures, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”. When compared with the vast multitude of those who profess to be Christians, those who truly give evidence of being such seem to be very few. The way and the fare of the wayfaring man (Isaiah 35:8), is unknown by the religious world. It is “a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: the lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it” (Job 28:7-8). These “wayfaring men” are the redeemed of the Lord, bought with the precious blood of Christ, and in the strength of the Lord of hosts they walk in the “high way” of the King of Zion, “the way of holiness”. Jesus Emmanuel is our glorious King, and all his subjects, his ransomed ones, “shall come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”. These “wayfaring men” then are the elect of God, and I feel a peculiar delight in the sweet persuasion that I have that you are one as I again contemplate what you have written in your letter of the way wherein you have been led, and how you have fared in the way. You have participated in carnal religion, as you express it, “I thought I could work out just such a righteousness as my soul needed, and could begin the good work at any time I pleased”. The time came when you obtained a considerable amount of worldly religion. This carnal religion which assumes to itself the name of Christianity is a partnership business, God has done or will do his part if the sinner will do his. It is an enterprise in which each (God and man) has stock, joint stock. You did your part, put stock in the business, and things prospered, and you say, “Then what a pharisaical life I began to lead”. O, my dear friend, how many, many in the world have no better religion than all this; they live contented in it, boast of their professions therein, and die, it may be and “there are no bands in their death”. “Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Is there not a hope in our hearts that the blessed God hath put a difference between us and those who are destitute of his eternal favor? (Exodus 11:7). Therefore our song will ever be in notes of sweetest praise to our God, ascribing salvation, and blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Like the four beasts, I feel like saying, Amen! (Rev 5:13). Though you were well started, and progressed favorably in pharisaical religion, had been immersed, was a member of a professed church of Christ, you became disquieted in spite of all your resolutions, and workings, and instead of getting better you grew worse; all the fleshly religion you possessed could not heal the unrest, the trouble that encompassed you; it could not satisfy the hungerings and thirstings of your soul. In the midst of all this you found, to your dismay and sorrow of soul, that you were vile, so sinful that you were constrained to pronounce judgment, and confess with shame, I am unclean, unclean. In all this is manifest the goodness of the Almighty God to your soul. It is written concerning the Israel of God that they shall know every man the plague of his own heart (1 Kings 8:38). Yes, it is when a poor sinner is quickened, has experienced divine life, made a partaker of the divine nature, and is born again, that in the light of life he sees how sinful he is; and that mourning, those sighs over your sad condition, show that the Lord has written his law in your heart, that he has put his fear there, for “the fear of the Lord is to have evil” (Prov. 8:18). And it is written, They shall mourn every one for his iniquity, and loathe themselves in their own sight (Ezek. 20:43). These are they whom the Lord hath blessed. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”. They are eternally blessed, and this blessing is according as the Lord their God has chosen them in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3). The Lord has put his law in your inward parts, and has written it in your heart, and from this new heart proceed hungerings and thirstings after righteousness. These hungerings are not the functions of our carnal heart; this you have found out is a corrupt fountain, and cannot send forth pure streams, but your sorrowful experience is that, Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Righteousness is not found in our fleshly nature. So, hungry and thirsty your soul has fainted in you (Psalm 107). Blessed are you! Righteousness is stored up in Jesus for you. He is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; 5:21). Thou shalt be filled (Matt. 5:6). Thou art blessed already, and this blessing is according (not to your goodness, or vileness, or because you have exercised the will of the flesh, alias “free will”, and have done your part, but) to Jehovah’s eternal delight in, and election of you in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3). When the Holy Spirit discovers to us our true condition as poor sinners, then we see how vile we are. All our righteousnesses are then seen as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). They will not do to wear before the throne of God. They are loathsome and a stench in our nostrils, and, like Paul, we count it all dung and dross that we may win Christ (Phil. 3:4-11). All this in measure you have felt, and thus it is manifest that you are taught of the Lord.
“Those feeble desires, and wishes so weak,
‘Tis Jesus inspires and bids you still seek;
The Lord who thou seekest will not tarry long,
And to him the weak is as dear as the strong.”
In all that you write, complaining of your sinfulness and corruption, which, like the restless waves of the sea, is ever casting up mire and dirt to your grief, I am the one that sadly knows that man is vile, and from day to day I have to say with you, “There never was a heart so base, so false as mine has been, so faithless to its promises, so prone to every sin”. Many, many times in spirit have I cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). And I have known what it is, and so will you find thanksgiving filling your heart, and in triumphant melody sing, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Your soul’s longing is to eat and drink of the precious things of the gospel of Christ. The truth as it is in Jesus is what you feel is good and blessed to hear preached. There only in Christ’s gospel is what your soul hungers and thirsts after. In Jesus alone is your hope. All your expectations are in the gospel of the grace of God, and you find a joy in the doctrine of God our Savior, though fears arise amidst all your longings that the things of Jesus are not for you. Surely this is the way that the wayfaring men are led. And all the bitters in their cup, the darkness they pass through, their grief and burden experienced under the sense of their own vileness, the mourning, hungerings, thirstings, helplessness, bitter fightings and wrestlings with their conscious sinfulness, and the buffeting of Satan, all of this you, in a measure, are being made to know, with all the taught of the Lord. Oh how sacred, how consoling sweet it is to be drawn to Jesus, and to find in our dear Savior all our salvation and all our desire.
How glad I shall be to hear again from you of your welfare, and what things have been done in the way (Luke 24:35). The gracious Lord, I am persuaded, will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you. Every revelation of his mercy, grace and tender love the Lord best knows when and how to bestow upon you. He has his set time to favor Zion, and times and seasons are in his power, and it is very precious to feel, “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15), and therefore will the Lord be exalted that he may have mercy upon us, for our God is a God of judgment. “Blessed are all they that wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18). May we be found by the graciousness of our God waiting upon him alone, for from him only cometh our expectation.
Earnestly desiring of the Lord that you may know and prove more of his mercy, love and power, I am, I hope, your brother in the pathway of tribulation.
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
Newbury, Ontario, Canada,
August 4, 1886
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volime 103, No. 1