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DEAR ELDER BEEBE: – I wish you and all the elect of God much prosperity. How sweetly true are these words of our God concerning his chosen, “The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.”
I will now try to tell of some of the ways in which the Lord has led me about. Some little time previous to my joining the Regular (or as I see them denominated in the SIGNS, New School or Missionary) Baptists, I felt the hand of the Lord laid upon me, and his voice in me calling me to preach the gospel of the grace of God. I was reading the first chapter of Jeremiah, and had read but a few verses, and while meditating thereon these words were spoken home to my soul with such power that I trembled before God, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” I exclaimed within myself, What does this mean? Can it be that Jehovah has purposed that I shall preach the gospel? Again the same words were sent with power, and I fell on my knees full of trembling, and asked the Lord what this meant. I told the Lord with tears in my eyes that I was too young in years, that I was but a babe in the knowledge, and then while on my knees before God these words were spoken to me, “Say not, I am a child, for thou shalt go to all that I send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” I was dumb with amazement at these words, and when my troubled soul found utterance I cried to the Lord that since it was his will that I should speak in his name, he wold open up my way, mould me for his service, and make me an able minister of the new covenant. From that day to the present I have been constrained to cry to the Lord for teaching, and for that ability which God alone can supply, that I may preach Christ's gospel. At the time of my joining the Regular Baptists I was somewhat poorly in health, and in a very little time after I was brought quite low, and continued to be very sickly for nearly three years, so much so that nearly the whole time I was confined within doors. During all that time that word, “Thou shalt go to all that I send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak,” continued with power to rest upon me, so that night and day this was the burden of my life. Yet how mysterious did the ways of the Lord seem to me. Feeling his word like a fire in me, and yet was I so low in health oftentimes that I could scarcely move. The years of sickness were very profitable years to me. His word was my meditation day and night, and many, many experimental teachings did I receive in the furnace of affliction at Jehovah's hand. O how constant was my beloved Christ Jesus to me. Amid all my pain and weariness, my repinings and sinfulness, my Beloved was with me, sustaining and comforting me. Oftentimes during my sickness was I brought apparently to the gates of death, and nature seemed to say I could not live; but still I felt that I must get well, for the Lord had called me to preach the gospel, and not a sermon had I preached yet. At one time I was so low that I thought surely I could not live, and if it was my Lord's will I felt quite willing to die. I went to my dear Lord and cast all my care on him, and with tears I besought the Lord to give me some assurance of his will concerning me. My Lord inclined unto me and heard my cry, and said in me with much power and assurance, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” O what rejoicing I had in my Beloved, so that my heart exclaimed, “Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.” I fully believed that I should yet have sufficient health to be able to preach the gospel. A short time after this there was a gradual improvement in my health, and on February 28th, 1875, I was first privileged to speak publicly in the name of the Lord. I had received an invitation from the “British Calvinistic Baptist Church,” which composed of colored people, to speak to them. I implored the Lord to open my mouth to speak the truth as it is Jesus, and for his presence to go with me. O with what trembling and helplessness did I go to the meeting-house. I felt I should surely be dumb, and have nothing to say; but my God came to my help, and whispered these words to my soul, “Fear not, I am with thee.” I was strengthened, and was enabled to speak from 1 John xi. 22. In the evening there was a large gathering, and as I looked down from the pulpit at the array of earnest black faces looking at me, my heart sank within me. I cried to the Lord to appear in my behalf, and to undertake for me. I was a little encouraged by seeing a few white persons present, who had, when in England, belonged to the Particular Baptists, for I knew that their cries were unto God in my behalf. I preached from the words, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” I was indulged with sweet liberty in speaking, and several of the people of God dropped words of encouragement, testifying that they were edified by the truth I had preached. While returning to my home what heartfelt praises could I render to the Lord for his surprising grace in thus enabling me to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. I continued preaching to the colored people about five months, at the end of which time the few Particular Baptists that attended my preaching proposed that they would rent a building, and that I should preach to them, and then we would seek to be organized by the Particular Baptists of England. We rented a hall, and I preached there nearly six months. All went on well for a little time, but the devil got his foot in among us, and all came to naught. I was so discouraged that I thought I should never preach again; but preach I must, for that word was continually ringing in my ears, “Thou shalt go to all that I send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” I continued preaching among the Regular Baptists, but met with nothing but reproach. IN the month of January, 1877, I became acquainted with a church in Lobo, called the Covenanted Baptist Church, and was invited to preach to them, which I did; and although while among them I was greatly tried, yet did I find many a precious season of experimental fellowship, such as I had never known among the Regular Baptists. After laboring among them for about six months I was invited to join them, but as I could not see my way clear to do so, I discontinued preaching among them. From church to church among the Regular Baptists I continued to preach, and in them all I found a few who knew and loved the truth, and they loved me also for the truth's sake. But O what discouragements I met. The professed people of God, with but very few exceptions, were all against me, and fretted and complained and rebelled against my ministry. So cast down have I been at times, when all faces have been set in array against me, that I have gone to the Lord in the bitterest of trouble, and with many tears have told him all my grief. Can it be that I am preaching the truth? O what heart-searchings I had, and sore temptations I had from men and from the devil not to be so plain in what I preached; but such preciousness did my trouble find in the very doctrine that I was tempted to hold back, that I could not but speak the things which I had seen and heard. At other times, in my cowardice, I have asked the Lord to remove from me the necessity I felt laid upon me to preach the gospel, and, like Jonah, would I have fled from the work, only I feared I should be swallowed up in the belly of hell. I felt I was alone in America, for I had never found any among the Baptists in Canada that preached the gospel. Many of them were waiting for my halting, and had they known the sorrows and anxieties I endured, they would have known that I was indeed “ready to halt,” and but for the grace of God should have become a “castaway” long ago.
In the purpose of God, on September 21st, 1879, I was preaching in Newbury, at which time two of the deacons of the Euphemia Baptist Church were present. At the close of the service one of them inquired of me if I did not find my preaching to meet with opposition. I told him I most certainly did, and that the majority of Regular Baptists would spew it out of their mouths. He replied, “I know it to be the truth by my own experience.” I was invited by him, and also by the other deacon, to come and preach to the church in Euphemia, to which I consented, and from that time to the end of the year 1880 I continued to do so. With the deacon that first spoke to me in Newbury, and some few others, I spent some of the happiest moments of experimental fellowship in the gospel of God's dear Son. But I had not been among the people in Euphemia long before some of the members began to manifest their hatred to the gospel, and what I preached was soon by way of reproach denominated “Old School Doctrine.” This manifest enmity against my ministry continued the whole time I was among them, and it became the talk of the neighborhood; so that my life was one of the greatest anxiety, and many, many bitter seasons did I prove. But my God stood by me, and by his grace I was enabled to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.” I found in Euphemia some few members of the Old School Baptists who had formerly belonged to the Regular Baptists; with them I had fellowship in the truth as it is in Jesus. Elder William L. Beebe came to preach in the neighborhood, and out of curiosity I went to hear him, but filled with the greatest of prejudice against him from reports that I had heard; and although I could not deny that what I heard was the truth, yet such were my suspicious that I received no profit. I heard him preach again, but with the same result. But upon hearing him the third time, the word came with such sweet power into my soul that all my prejudices and suspicions were slain, and I could not but love the man who could thus reach my poor soul in his ministry; and after the sermon, while in conversation with him, I was the more attached to him for the truth's sake. The members of the Old School Baptists that I became acquainted with in Euphemia invited me repeatedly to come among them, assuring me that I would find a home; but this I felt was impossible, as I found I would have to be (as I then thought) rebaptized. With many cries to the Lord for direction did I spend the year 1880. I look back upon it as the most trying year of my life. So cast down was I en my soul's experience that I wished I could die, and have longed for wings like a dove, that I might fly away and be at rest. All this was my infirmity; nevertheless the Lord stood by me, and in answer to my cries I felt the Lord leading me to come out from among them and to be separate. On the last Sunday before Christmas, 1880, I preached my last sermon for them, from the text, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths,” &c; and after preaching I read before the congregation my reasons for withdrawing from the Regular Baptists in Canada, and thus publicly withdrew. O what a relief I felt, and yet I knew not where to go; I stood alone. I purposed to continue preaching, being persuaded that God would guide me; for a few weeks before this my dear Master had so sweetly and comfortingly spoken to me, saying, “I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” A few days after coming out from the New School Baptists I was thinking, Could the churches of truth receive the ordination of a preacher who had been ordained by the Free Will Baptists? I felt this could not be, as his ordination among such churches could not be according to the New Testament order, for one of the qualifications of an Elder is that he be one “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Then immediately my thoughts turned to my baptism, and I felt that I had no ground to prove its validity. For the ordination of Elders is one of the ordinances in the church of Christ; and if the ordination of men not “holding fast the faithful word” in professed churches of Christ, that most certainly are not “the pillar and ground of the truth,” is not to be fellowshipped by the true church of Christ, what can there be in the ordinance of baptism administered by such Elders and in such churches to be fellowshipped? I felt I could not be satisfied with such a baptism, no more so than if I had been immersed by the Methodists or the Mormons. Abut this time I learned that the Old School Baptists were to hold a Quarterly Meeting in Duart, so I decided to attend, little thinking what would result from my going. But my God had said, “ I am the Lord thy God, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” On Saturday morning Elder Pollard preached, and at once I felt to rejoice in the doctrine that I heard, and I also felt a union toward him and the people that could fellowship such doctrine. In the evening Elder W. L. Beebe preached, and I had quite a feast, and such a love to the church that feed upon such precious doctrine as we had listened to that I longed to live and die with them. I felt they were no strangers to me. I knew them in the fellowship of the truth. “The joyful sound” that I had heard preached both morning and evening was that which I had known for many a day, and had been longing to hear. I felt indeed they were my people, and their God was my God. On returning to the house of the friends that entertained us I told my wife that I felt I must cast in my lot among the people of God that I had found. O what a night I spent; such a love I felt for them, and a longing to be one with them in church fellowship, and yet I feared I should do something that was contrary to the Lord's will. I spent most of the night in prayer to God for his guidance. On Sunday morning I went to the meeting again, looking up to the Lord for some word of counsel. I was much profited by what I heard preached, and all through the service I pleaded with the Lord to give me some word, but still no word came; but while singing the closing hymn these words were sent to me, “Go in this thy might, thou mighty man of valor.” I doubted if it could be the Lord that was speaking, but again the still, small voice spake the same words to me, and O what delight filled my soul. I could have wept aloud for joy. At the close of the service I spoke to Elder Beebe, and told him of my desire to come before the church. He answered me, saying, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without?” I spent a very happy time during the rest of the meeting, though harrassed considerably by the devil and self. I thought perhaps it would be better if I returned home first to tell the folks what I intended dong, for what would they think if I became united with “the sect everywhere spoken against,” and against which in my ignorance I also had spoken? But while these thoughts were passing in my mind the preacher quoted these words in his sermon, “I conferred not with flesh and blood,” followed up by “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” I felt this word to be a word of counsel and reproof, and I said, I will go in his might. I came before the church on Monday morning, was received, and “the same day” was baptized by Elder William L. Beebe. O what a sweet time I experienced. I returned home rejoicing. How I could bless the name of the Lord for leading me to the house of God; and continually from that day to the present have I felt constrained to praise the Lord my Shepherd, that he has led me to find a home at last among the people of God, and day by day as I become acquainted with the household do I feel assured that they are the household of faith, the pillar and ground of the truth. I thank God that I have found in my heard to pray this prayer, “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.” Amen.
FRED. W. KEENE.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 14.
July 15, 1881.