January 21, 1881.
DEAR ELDER BEEBE: – Inclosed you will find a letter I received from one of God’s chosen ones. He has lately been baptized by Elder W. L. Beebe. It is at your disposal, should you see fit to give it a place in the SIGNS.
Yours in hope,
R. H. B.
Newbury, Oct. 28.
TO RUTH H. BODMAN – DEAR SISTER: – I wish you every covenant blessing from the Lord. Your kind letter was most welcome, and my soul was refreshed while reading it; therefore I bless our dear Lord, who caused you to write. O how great are his mercies to me. Though unknown by face to each other, yet I feel there is the family union existing between us. O how glad is my soul to find that in all parts of the world there are those chosen out of the world, the sheep of Christ, who are treading in the old paths; and I see, dear sister, that you are no stranger to the footsteps of the flock. The old paths are not always pleasant; nevertheless they lead to a land where there is no want, no famine, but eternal plenty. Sometimes my way is thorny, with many a care and pricking thorn in the flesh. It may be a messenger from Satan to buffet me, and sorely buffeted I am at times with some besetting temptation, which causes me much pain lest I should fall therein. These temptations tear away at my fleece, give me sore annoyance, make war against my poor soul, and would tear away my precious life were they able. Why am I thus? I cry. Like that sheep of old, named Paul, I beseech the dear Lord to remove the thorn. But what does my Lord say? No so, my child. You are pained, you are buffeted, you are tone, and you are too weak to bear up under this; but “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Ah! now, my God, I understand. My Shepherd is leading me. The pathway is right, and this thorny way is given unto me. It is thy gift, and therefore is valuable. Let temptations assail, let the thorns tear; his favor is sufficient. Let me but know thy grace is mine, and I can bear the smart. His strength in my weakness shall support me, and thus will I journey along. Most gladly will I therefore rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of God may rest upon me, for then I shall surely overcome, and through every trial he will lead me safely home. At other times my way is rough indeed. I journey over rocky ground, encounter many impediments to my Christ-like progress, and stumble over this and that stone, which my soul’s adversaries, the world, the flesh and the devil, place before me. So I hobble along, making some awkward, crooked and shameful walking; but much of this is known only to myself and God. This is a great mercy, for should the goats observe it they will surely mock, and say, You sheep, you christians, ought to be ashamed of such walking; we can do better than that, and make no pretentions to be sheep. True it is, for the worldling can skip from one sin to another, and not do it very awkwardly either; but the poor sheep is not at home on such roads. She grieves and sighs, for the cruel stones of sin over which she treads hurt her feet and cause much grief, and thus she laments: Ah me! I surely am not a sheep; I am deceived, and have no Shepherd. These ways of sin are not the paths in which the Shepherd leads his blood-bought flock. If I were his, would I live so wickedly, so unkind to the great Shepherd? Nay, I could not thus ungrateful prove, to wander so far from him; I am deceived and lost. Thus in distress because of sin the sheep in piteous bleating makes its sorrows known, and cries for help. Its cry the tender Shepherd hears, and speedily seeks out his wandering one, and calls to it, saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” “It is the voice of my Beloved,” the sheep exclaims, and follows him, for the sheep know his voice. “Follow me,” the Shepherd says. “Draw me, and I will run after thee, dear Jesus, my Shepherd,” the sheep cries, “for I am prone to wander, and I feel it. O keep me near thy side, and let me wander no more.” O Lord, thou hast sought me many times when straying from thy fair company, and thy wondrous kindness to thy wandering one has proved a chastening rod to my soul. Sometimes the land through which they travel seems a barren waste. They wander in search of food, but find scarcely enough to keep their souls alive. Sometimes they become sick, and lose their appetite, and though they were in the fairest pastures, yet not a mouthful would they eat. I know of what I am writing, dear friend, and have acted as though the bread of heaven were but common food, and have been as vile as the Israelites. Truly the rebellious dwell in a dry land. My leanness! my leanness! Woe is me! No pastures, and here am I fainting, famishing, dying. Bread of heaven! feed me till I want no more. Grant me one mouthful more of thy mercy, one sip of thy sweet love, once more let me taste that the Lord is gracious. O how my poor soul has gone day after day with a crumb, till I have cried aloud, O thou whom my soul loveth, tell me where thou feedest; and in his own time has our dear and great Shepherd led me in a good pasture for his name’s sake. Dark nights the sheep pass through, nights of affliction, sore trials and bereavements, at which times the roaring lion of hell goes prowling around, and when the adversary roars the sheep tremble. But let the night be ever so dark, let the lion roar, or the wolves in sheep’s clothing howl; if the Shepherd but appears, and his cheering voice be heard saying, “Fear not, I am with thee,” then is there peace and quietness; and “when he giveth quietness, who can make trouble?” Blessed be his name, often has my soul been led in green pastures, and there have I feasted on redeeming blood, everlasting, unchanging love, rich fields of mercy, sovereign grace and wondrous faithfulness. Upon these my hungry soul has fed with delight, and there is one field to me the sweetest and most nourishing: that of eternal election according to grace. Often the sheep lie down in the pasture of tender green to rest and chew the cod, and there in meditation sweet, feeling themselves beneath the care of the great Shepherd, do they review the past: the thorny way, the rocky places, the barren paths, and the waste, howling wilderness. They review all these; and while there is much they lament and are ashamed of, yet how precious to them is the beloved Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep. He is indeed the chiefest among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely. Then do they rejoice in him, and can sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Are you a sheep of Christ’s fold? Am I one? Then are we highly favored, for by and by we shall dwell in the kingdom above; and though sometimes we may have misgivings, and doubt it, yet our great Shepherd has said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And there our Jesus, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, shall feed us, and lead us unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.
How sweet at times do I find it to preach the everlasting gospel of the grace of God, which for the last five years I have been favored to do, amidst the bitterness of enmity and cruel opposition from the world. O, my sister, it is not every one that wears a sheep’s skin that is a sheep, for I have found many who appeared as sheep by their external appearance, and could mimic the bleating of sheep; but they have talons in their feet, which I have felt many a time when they have attempted to tread me under foot, and therefore I know they are but wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are known also by their meat, for they relish anything but sound doctrine. Nevertheless I rejoice that there are some here who feed in the ways, and oftentimes we feed in high places. – Ezek. xxxiv. 14.
I hope, dear friend, that your first will not be the last I may receive, for in your letter you say, “I hope I am a companion of all them that fear God; and if you have judged me as one in the fellowship of Christ Jesus, I trust we may know yet more and more.” Though in the providence of God we may never see each other in the flesh, yet are we privileged to have fellowship by letter, blessed be the name of the Lord.
I will now close, lest I weary you; and wish you every prosperity from the presence of the Lord, I remain your brother in our sweet Lord Jesus,
FRED. W. KEENE.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 7.
April 1, 1881.