Middletown, N. Y., March 31, 1881.
The following record of the unknown way in which the Lord has led him, is a portion of the statement made by the writer to the Covenanted Particular Baptist Church, in Ontario, at the February meeting in Duart, on which he was received, and by request I baptized him. As will be seen by his letter he was for several years among the New School, who are known in that section by the assumed name of Regular Baptists, in whose society he was not satisfied, as their accepted doctrine was not consistent with his own experience.
For the satisfaction of those who knew that I was very hoarse at the time, I will state that I felt no unfavorable effects from going into the water, and have been continually traveling in preaching since. My physical health was never better, though I still long for release from this bondage of corruption, and have no hope of being satisfied until I awake with the likeness of my glorious Redeemer.
My post-office address will still be as above, though I expect to be traveling as a wanderer perhaps until my release from the body of this death.
WM. L. BEEBE.
TO ELDER WILLIAM L. BEEBE – DEAR BROTHER: – I wish you, and all that Israel of God much sweet prosperity from our covenant Jehovah. Since the time that I was baptized by you at the Duart meeting I felt a desired to tell through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES what great things God has done for me. As you are aware, I am the recent reader of the SIGNS, but I have rejoiced in my soul while reading the precious communications that from time to time have appeared, and often have I felt of loving union with the dear brethren and sisters whose experience of the grace of God I have been favored reed. And my earnest desire is that the SIGNS OF THE TIMES will still continue to the edification of the body of Christ.
I was born on the 28th of March, 1856, in London, England. I was by nature a child of wrath even as others, and from my earliest memory I walked according to the prince of the power of the year, the spirit that now work in the children of disobedience. Thus I lived and walked in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. I was trained up with every attention on the part of my parents, who sought continually to direct me in the way I should go. Yet from my earliest recollections I was addicted to many open sins, and as I increased in years, so the open manifestations of my corrupt nature increased also. From my infancy to the age of fourteen I attended Sunday School; but all the moral teaching that I received in them have little or no affect on ye, for I grew in all vileness. So desperate was my enmity to God that although the reader of all kinds of books, I would scan the pages of all before reading lest they should contain the name of God. In the year 1870, my parents emigrated to Canada, and settled for short time in Montreal. Here I went to work in a tobacconist store and became associated with quite a number of young men, companions of my master. If ever there was a den of iniquity it was where these young gentleman (such no doubt many thought them to be) met in the little parlor adjoining the store. Being but a lad, and ever ready to give vent to all manner of vileness, I was most readily admitted to their fellowship and grew and vice with rapidity, could soon blaspheme as fluently as any one, and endeavored to excel all others in filthy conversation. O what awful wickedness did I conceive and practice! Yes, every member of my body was gladly yielded up to the gratification of the desires of the flesh and of the mind. I forbear to say more, “For it is a shame even to speak of those things” which have been done by me in secret. O ye people of God! ye ransomed of the Lord! I should not have written even this much of so dark picture, but “I’m a miracle of grace.” Often have I wondered if any of God’s elect were at my age suffered to plunge some deeply into all vileness. Oh how I longed to be free from all restraint! How I wished the years to fly by, that might attain to manhood! What revelings and banquetings and abominable vices I promised myself, and attain unto them I would, let the cost be what it might. Often do I shudder at the thought of what I might have become had not almighty and sovereign grace arrested me. I fear I should have come to the gallows, for even at that time I am now writing about by shrank from nothing to gratify my carnal appetite. “I’m a miracle of grace.” Thus I continued until my sixteenth year, when the predestined time drew near in which it pleased God to call me by his grace and to reveal his Son to me.
“For thus the eternal counsel ran,
Almighty love, arrested that man;
I felt the arrows of distress,
And found I had no hiding place.”
On the first Sunday in April, 1871, I went to the First Regular Baptist Church. Being somewhat early, I sat in the pew contemplating all manner of evil which I intended to delight myself in the following week. While thus occupied the preacher gave of his text, “Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” In a moment all my schemes were frustrated, all my vile anticipations blasted, and the terrors of the Almighty made me afraid. What the preacher said in his sermon I have not the slightest remembrance of. But in my inmost soul that awful voice I heard again and again, saying, “Boast not thyself of to-morrow!” How why conducted myself during the service I know not; this I do know, I felt myself to be in the very belly of hell. All the day I was in misery, and when night came on my trouble increased. I dared not sleep lest I should awaken in hell; for those wondrous words or sent repeatedly with crushing power to my pour, guilty soul, “Boast not thyself of to-morrow.” Morning at length dawned, and I felt a little relief that I was yet alive on the earth. I went to my occupation and thought to banish my fears in the companionship of devils; but it could not sit with them, being afraid lest the earth would open and swallow us up. The righteous demands of the holy law of God came to me, sin revived, all my sins arose and stared me in the face, while I felt that upon me was poured forth the awful curse of God, and before to-morrow I shall be in hell. O what wrath burned within me against the Holy One of Israel! I felt he was an awful tyrant. Why could not God let me alone? O that I could tear him from his throne! O that there is no God! Though in my enmity I thought these things, yet no comfort did it give me. Of mercy I scarcely thought, I felt beyond that, I was to vile, my sins too great. God therefore had come to cut me off and damn me forever. All that week despair and wrath possessed me. Truly “the law work of wrath.”
“Law and terrors do not harden
All the while they work alone.?
I could no longer run to the same excess of riot with my associates, and they thought it strange of me and judged I was sick. Indeed I was, and beyond all creature power to heal. Next Sunday I went again to the Regular Baptist church, expecting to hear again some dreadful message, for everything in the bible I felt to be against me. The preacher announced his text, “God is love.” I felt, Can it be so? A little ray of hope shone in, and I wished it might be so. But in a moment all was washed away, for I felt if it were true, it could not be God loved me, and I say yet lower in despair. Yet again the still small voice said, “God is love,” at which might enmity was slain. I could hold out no longer; my heart commenced to break, and my eyes with tears to flow. While I felt my vileness to increase ten-fold more, O how loathsome I saw and felt myself to be! I bowed my head to hide my emotions from though sitting by, and poured forth my cries to God; and for the first time in my life I prayed. I spent the remainder of the day in secret, for I was afraid to let others see me. Oh what sorrow filled my soul! When night came I retired to my room and in bitter cries and tears poured forth my trouble before the Lord. I felt the Lord must come and save me, or ends quickly perish. “God be merciful to me a sinner!” was my cry. And then the thought would come, I am so vile, my life has been so corrupt that I am only adding to my sin in thus presumptuously asking for mercy. But still that sweet word, “God is love,” gave me some little encouragement, and so desperate did I feel my case to be that cry I must, “Lord save me! I perish.” While thus crying to the Almighty God, there came before me a vision of Jesus on the cross. “I saw one hanging on a tree in agonies and blood,” and a voice seemed to say in me, “Salvation is in my dear Son.” I did indeed feel my need of his salvation, and fully convinced was I thought I could not save myself. O how my heart was pained for him!
I thought he looked upon me so pityingly, and said, “Look unto me!” I cried unto God in Jesus’ name and for his sake to have mercy upon me; and at length the Savior looked on me and said, “I suffered for thee.” Immediately my burden was gone, and sweet joy and peace flowed into my soul. I wept and cried aloud for joy. This awakened my brother, who was sleeping in the room, who told me to hold my noise. I tried to be quiet, but could not. Weep and bless the name of the Lord I must, for he had put the new song into my mouth, and sing it I must. Still the vision of the suffering Emmanuel was before me. Oh how I loved him!
“Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?”
How my soul pitied and mourned over him! O what a poor, vile sinner did I see myself to be! Never did I see such blackness, such horribleness in sin, and I felt I was the vilest of the human race; but he had said, “I suffered for thee,” and I wept for joy, lost in wonder, love and praise. Thus I spent the night. While at breakfast in the morning a cloud came over me, for I dreaded the thought of going to work. My heart went up to God to go with me and keep me. I evaded all who came near me, but my former associates noticed that I was so changed, and were satisfied that I was not sick, and wondered what could have come over me that I did not enter into their filthy conversation and practices. They pressed me so hard to know the reason, that I told them, and warned them of the fearful state they were in. At this they burst out in roars of laughter, and I continued to be the laughing-stock of them all.
Temptations to indulge in my former vile practices came upon me with most awful power, so that I shuddered, for I feared lest I should fall. I cried night and day to the Lord to preserve me, for I felt I had no strength at all to stand against such floods. I found some very precious moments in reading out of the New Testament which I had taken to the store with me, for I had considerable leisure time. Every precious thing I read I felt to be mine. What glorious things I found therein, and wonderful tings which I did not understand; yet I felt it is all mine, for Jesus is mine.
In the beginning of May I moved from the city of Montreal to Ingersoll, Ontario. I was very glad to do so, for I dreaded the thought of living in Montreal. We had been living in Ingersoll but a few weeks, when one Sunday evening while returning from the preaching at the Baptist church with my father and mother, a certain member of the church overtook us and entered into conversation with my parents about the sermon we had just listened to. He asked my father how he enjoyed it. My father replied, there were some thing that were true in what the preacher had said; but he could not enjoy it, for although there was a little free grace, it ended in free will. There and then a contention arose and I joined in with the church against my father, for my father contended that there is an election of grace; and that Christ Jesus died to redeem the elect only; and that none but the elect were ever born again; and that not of man’s free will, but of the will of God. I felt quite angry at such doctrine, and contended all I knew how against it. But on arriving home, my father opened the bible and read several portions to me. My mouth was stopped, for I could not reply against God. I was astonished and darkness enshrouded me. I went to the Lord with my trouble, and besought him to guide me into the truth, and not to suffer me to be led astray by my parents. In the morning, as soon as I dressed, I took up the bible and turned to the texts that my father had read to me, for I felt he must have read them wrong; but there was the doctrine, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” and others of like character. I was sorely troubled. This doctrine seemed to change the face of my God; or rather, I had hard thoughts of God. Yet I could not rest; I must know if this doctrine is the truth, or no. So every night on returning home from my work I read the bible and in great anxiety cried to the Lord to teach me. My parents seeing me studying the word, said nothing to me. In few days I was astonished but fully convinced that election of grace was the truth, and very soon I was led to see some of the beauty and glory therein; and then was I troubled indeed, for I felt unless I am one of God’s elect I am lost; all that I have experienced is vain. Temptations set in, and the adversary told me that I was too vile, I had gone too far in sin. O how wretched I became! I felt indeed that I had no claim upon God, and at times I felt that my only hope was in that “election of grace,” for I was so unworthy. I thought surely what I have so lately known of the mercy of God is an evidence that Jehovah delighteth in me. I should never have known these things had not the Lord chosen me unto salvation, and then the next moment I would sink into the depth again. I went on this way for some time, with many cries to the Lord to assure me whether I were his or not, and the dear Lord in his own time answered my poor cry and sent his word and healed me, saying, “Yea! I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” How my heart leaped for joy and I praised my Lord with joyful lips!
“How happy are we, our election who see,
And venture, O Lord! for salvation on thee!
In Jesus approved, eternally loved,
Upheld by the power we cannot be moved.”
I soon discerned that the doctrines I heard preached at the Baptist chapel were not the doctrine of Christ; so I but very seldom entered the place. I was indulged with much sweet enjoyment in the electing love of God, and day by day I took sweet delight in studying the scriptures, looking unto the Lord continually for guidance into all truth. As I learned doctrine, I thought every one that made a profession was a child of God, and was taught of God; but I found upon speaking to them of the doctrine of Christ and of my experience thereof, that they loathed me and my doctrine. This oftentimes gave me many sorrowful seasons, and I wondered if it could be possible that I was deceived; but my dear Lord repeatedly gave assurance that I had been taught of him, and O what precious seasons of enjoyment of the truth as it is in Jesus did I have! These were sunny days; but since then I have proved the days of darkness to be many. I had always believed in believers’ baptism, and felt it was my privilege to be baptized; but I looked upon the baptism simply as a door into a church, and I did not want to join the Baptist church where I was then living, for I felt I could not fellowship such preaching as I heard there, and felt no fellowship for those that could. In the month of June, 1873, I was led to see the glorious spiritual truth which the ordinance sets forth, and I felt a very great longing to be baptized, but still I knew not what to do, for I thought, If I am baptized by the Baptist minister, and become a member, I shall naturally be expected to attend their meetings, and this I dreaded. But at length so great was my desire for baptism that I went to the Baptist preacher and told him my wish. While at the meeting house the following Sunday two men drew near me and began to question me relative to my hope in Christ Jesus. I told them I hoped I was born again, that I was first brought to a lively hope while living in Montreal, and to three or four more questions I answered, yes or no. I was astonished in a day or two to be told that I had been received by the church upon the report of the committee and was to be baptized next Sunday. Next Sunday came, June 29th, I heard a wretched discourse in the morning. In the evening what I heard preached was still worse; so while the preaching was going on I turned to my bible and read several portions of God’s word relative to baptism, and I was indulged with some sweet moments in meditation upon the precious truth. After the usual service was over the font in the meeting was opened, and I went down into the water. I did indeed feel the sweetness of baptism. I was immersed, and went home feeling very happy, and praised my gracious Lord for the strong consolation and the good hope through grace that he had given me in oneness with Jesus Emmanuel. All the week I had much anxiety and trouble of mind, for I feared I could not live with the church. On Sunday I went to hear the preaching and was grieved and annoyed with what I heard. After the sermon the Lord’s supper was to be administered; but previous thereto I was to receive the right hand of fellowship, and most wretched was I while this was being done, and darkness covered me. At night I went again, my feelings were distracted, and I felt I can never live here.
I must not write any more in this letter, but God willing, I will try to tell something of my ministry among the Regular Baptists in Canada, and how the good Lord led me out of the them into the church of Christ.
In love to all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
F. W. KEENE.
Newbury, Ontario, March 15, 1881.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 8
April 15, 1881