North Berwick, Maine.
DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD: – More than a month has passed since I received your letter. That month has been one of burdens, temptations, discouragements, but I have been waiting upon the Lord. What a kindness is this from the Lord to have my heart inclined unto him, and mercies, new covenant mercies, have been my heritage from the God of our salvation. The people of God are such as “know me,” saith the Lord, “from the least of them unto the greatest of them.” – Jer. xxxi. 34. “ They shall be all taught of God.” – John vi. 45. There is so much spurious, shallow profession of the name of Christ that it becomes us to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith, whether we are Christ’s or not. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” – Romans viii. 9. “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” – 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Many who give their assent to some scraps of doctrine imagine themselves believers. With their mouth they show much love to God, to Christ and his people, (Ezek. xxxiii. 31,) but they have no heart toward Christ crucified, and have never known the experience of a broken and contrite heart. They draw nigh unto God with the mouth, and with the lips profess to worship him, but their heart is far from me, saith the Lord. (Matt. xv. 8.) O, I feel to crave a heart near to the Lord, that 1 may be of that people near unto him, and that he may be nigh unto me. O the blessedness of a poor sinner who is made nigh by the blood of Christ. O to know God, or rather to be known of God. “I know my sheep, and am known of mine.” – John x. 14. Now, dear sister, those who are of God cannot be satisfied with anything less than this experimental heart intimacy with Jesus Christ our Lord, whom to know is life eternal. This knowledge of him in his all-preciousness, all-sufficiency and suitability is best known in our straits, ou1· trials, conflicts and sorrows. “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought?” – Hosea xiii. 5. “Thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities.” – Psalms xxxi. 7. Many can be found in their demonstrations of intimacy while we are smiling, in prosperity, but when troubles come, when our sore runs in the night, friends stand aloof from our sore, refuge fails us. “No man cared for my soul.” – Psalms cxlii. 4. Ah, cisterns may be broken and creatures all fail, we may have many enemies, but we have one Friend.
“There is a Friend that sticketh fast,
And keeps his love from first to last,
And Jesus is his name.
An earthly brother drops his hold,
Is sometimes hot and sometimes cold,
But Jesus is the same.”
The Lord will not forsake us, though he sometimes hides himself in time of trouble and suffers us, amidst our afflictions and conflicts, to sink very low, and he sees that our power is gone. We have to learn that our hewed-out cisterns become broken and can hold no water. Our God only is the Fountain of living waters. The water that our dearly beloved covenant Head gives us is in us a well of living water springing up into everlasting life. I find no companionship with the easy-going, unexercised professors of Christ’s name; for the communion of saints one with another is in their union to Jesus Christ, the dear Savior, and thus in him with one another. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John i. 3.
In your letter you speak of sorrows and sufferings given you to endure, in which you have been, you judge, prepared to enter into some of “ the deep things of God.” Yes, afflictions, temptations and conflicts are the Lord’s school in which his children are taught. “Who teacheth like him?” Hezekiah exclaimed, “ O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to 1ive.” – Isaiah xxxviii. 16. Through the waters and through the tires the pathway lies, and there is no way for the ransomed of the Lord to evade those peculiar trials and afflictions which our heavenly Father has appointed to each one in weight and measure as seemeth good in his sight. All the paths of the Lord are judgment and truth unto those who fear him, and all the discipline, the chastenings that awe endure at his hand, are for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (Heb. xii. 10.) Surely we shall prove this to be so, though we now find it to be very true that no chastening for the present is joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peace-able fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby. All our vexations and sorrows are to show us the vanity of all earthly things, to make us sick of self, of the world, to wean us from all earthly dross and to make us fond of and to find our all in Jesus Christ, our covenant Head. “Christ is all and in you all.” There are times in the dispensation of our heavenly Father when some dear child of God is found in great tribulation, passing through great and sore troubles of soul; and these inward tribulations may also be attended with outward providential afflictions. The apostle Paul said, “Without were fightings, within were fears: but God who comforteth those that are cast down, comforteth us by the coming of Titus.” Sometimes while in the deeps we are overwhelmed with darkness and confusion, and are at “our wits’ end. But God hath his path in the deep waters, and he will guide and sustain us there, for “underneath are the everlasting arms,” and there it pleases him to instruct us and discover to us deep things of the riches of his grace unto us in Jesus Christ, and bring out to light the shadow of death. There is (truly we prove it to be so) in Christ Jesus our dear Savior a balm for all our wounds; there is consolation in him strong and deep, reaching us in all the deeps of our woes, yes, sustaining and refreshing us when fainting and ready to die. The deeps are the places where groans and fervent supplications are made unto our God. When my heart is overwhelmed, unto thee will I cry, Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. (Psalms lxi. 2.) “I cried unto the Lord out of the low dungeon.” – Lam. iii. 55. “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried 1, and thou heardest my voice.” – Jonah ii. 2. If we are to know the lamentations and triumphs of Zion, if we love and mourn with Jerusalem and are glad and rejoice with her, then it will be our experience to be brought “low in a low place,” and our God shall comfort us with the sure mercies of David, even as one whom his mother comforteth; and we shall ascend, and sing in the heights of Zion; we shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd, and our soul shall be as a watered garden, and V there we shall not sorrow any more at all. (Jer. xxxi. 12.) C how, amiable thou art, dear Savior, thou art, altogether lovely; so suitable to me, a frail mortal, so precious, comforting and satisfying to me, a vile transgressor. The satisfactions of time, of the earth, of the flesh, are vanity; none, however pleasing, are enduring; they are fleeting, they fade, they decline and pass away. Ah, earthly sweets are often turned into bitterness, but in the covenant of grace every bitter thing is sweet. There is a sweetening of all things there. There are bitter herbs to be eaten with Christ, our Passover, sacrificed for us, and to have a broken and contrite heart at the mercy-seat is sweet. Our tears there are sweet. How sweet were the tears of that sinner who bathed Jesus’ feet with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. The waters of Marah are made sweet unto us when the tree of the cross of Christ is east in.
“Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross l spend;
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying Friend.
Here I’ll sit forever viewing
Mercy’s streams in streams of blood;
Precious drops my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God.”
Though Christ Jesus is to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness, yet how altogether essential to our hope and comfort is Christ and him crucified. The bitten Israelites beheld the serpent of brass and lived, (Numbers xxi. 6-9,) and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so our precious Christ was lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have eternal life. (John iii. 14, 15.) Have we not been drawn to the crucified One? The only begotten Son that is in the bosom of the Father declares the Father unto us. So, dear sister, I may say that it was in Christ crucified that first I knew our God. O, there was given a heart to know him, eyes of faith, of all entreaty, of all confiding trust and love to look unto him on Calvary’s cross. “Look unto me and be ye saved,” is the cry of the crucified Savior.
“Bought with the Savior’s pains and blood;
Amazing love! What tongue can tell
The glory which I saw in God
When at his bleeding feet I fell?”
“Love and grief my heart dividing,
With my tears his feet I’ll bathe;
Constant still in faith abiding,
Life deriving from his death.
May I still enjoy this feeling,
In all need to Jesus go;
Prove his wounds each day more healing,
And myself more deeply know?
On to the end of our pilgrimage we are journeying, and the Lord, who has taught us to trust in his name, has not brought us thus far to put us to shame. Christ is in our hearts the hope of glory; we shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. Our life is hid with Christi in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory. O the unspeakable blessedness of our hope in our dear Redeemer.
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
Signs of the Times
Volume 87, No. 9
May 1, 1919