Naugatuck, Conn., Oct. 18, 1881.
DEAR BRETHREN BEEBE: – Inclosed is a letter I received from brother Keene. Should you see fit to publish it in the SIGNS, it is at your disposal. I was well satisfied with brother Keene’s call to the ministry, as published in our paper. I for one shall feel glad to learn that he has been ordained to the work of the ministry.
R. H. BODMAN.
Newbury, Ont., Aug. 31, 1881.
TO R. H. BODMAN – DEAR SISTER: – Your letter was received, and was very welcome. Having been away from home nearly the whole time since then, I have not found it convenient to write a few lines in return until now. I find that my life is full of care of one kind and another, yet at times of late I have found most gracious instruction and sweet rest in the words of our beloved Redeemer, “Consider the lilies.” How very dull am I; how indifferent even to the marvelous works of creation. The works of the Lord are great, sought out of them that take pleasure therein. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. It is God who so clotheth the grass, and the sparrows are not forgotten by him. Yea, over all things that his hands have made there is continual proof of his marvelous and gracious care; and yet to my shame I confess that often I live as it were insensible of all things, and in my unbelief act as though there is no God. Everything is a care and anxiety to me then. I am weighed down, and find my journey very wearisome, and my soul is soon filled with discouragements because of the way say, and perhaps before I know where I am I have hard thoughts of God. But when my God visiteth me once again, and assureth my soul that he careth for me, revived by this sweet hope, then do I most willingly cast my cares upon him, and he giveth me sweet rest. Then how sweet and profitable to “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” O how sweet to consider Emmanuel’s lily. He is the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley; and as the lily among thorns, so is his love among the daughters. Consider this lily. Our Lord Jesus saith that he is the lily of the valley, and his love is a lily too. Do we not, when indulged by the Lord to consider our beloved Emmanuel the lily of the valley, find that no tongue can express the wondrous beauty, the marvelous excellencies of our dear Savior? Then in loving rapture we exclaim, My Beloved is the chiefest among ten thousand; yea, he is altogether lovely. Let us but catch a sight of ourselves, and we cry, Unclean; in my flesh dwelleth no good thing; I am black. But when our Beloved speaks, and tells us that we are like unto him, and calls us his lily, then can we feelingly say, “I am black, but comely.” Consider the lilies, their beauteous clothing. So gloriously are these lilies arrayed that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. How is it that Christ’s lily is so glorious in her apparel? when has she this comeliness? Ah, says the poor sinner, I am nothing but thorns and briers. No lily-like comeliness do I see in me. All is sin and defilement, blackness and deformity. Yes, dear sister, how true it is, that when our God quickeneth a poor sinner, showeth him his vileness, how he then will indeed toil and spin. He must turn over a new leaf. He strives to please God. He toils, he spins, to array himself in acceptable clothing; but by the teaching of God he discovers to his shame and confusion and sorrow of soul that all his righteousness is as filthy rags, and he loathes himself in his own sight, and out of the depths of his poverty he exclaims, Behold, I am vile. He is disgusted with his own works, and finds the word to be true, that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in God’s sight. He sees the utter failure of all his toiling and spinning, and from experience can say,
“Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill thy law’s demands,
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.”
O how glorious is the gospel of the grace of God! The heavenly Bridegroom, the dear Lamb of God, so loved his chosen bride that he gave himself for her, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. This is the name wherewith he is called, “The Lord our righteousness.” And of the bride, the Lamb’s wife, it is written, “This is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” – Jere. xxxiii. 16. Christ and his church are not simply yoked together; he is married unto her, and they are one. This is a great mystery, but is gloriously true concerning Christ and his church. He is the lily of the valley, and his love is like unto him, as a lily among thorns; and to this likeness and oneness was she predestinated by Jehovah her God. – Rom. viii. 29. Sweetly precious is the revelation of our God, that Jesus Emanuel was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, he was made a curse for us, he poured out his soul unto death, he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, he purged our sins, he made an end of sin, he finished transgression, he reconciled iniquity, and by his obedience even unto death he brought in everlasting righteousness. With this glorious righteousness he clotheth his bride, and she shines forth in the perfection of beauty, for it is perfect through Emanuel’s comeliness, which he hath put upon her. Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like the one whom Jesus calls, My love, the lily among thorns. We say this is precious doctrine; but O how very precious it is by the rich mercy of our God to experience these things. The poor sinner, who by the sovereign grace of God is made to know the wondrous doctrine, is so taught of God that he is brought to the end of his works; and as he views all that his hands have wrought, he loathes it all, and counts it but dross. To this poor sinner does the Holy Spirit make known the glorious and finished work of the Son of God, and his soul goes forth in longings to be found in him, to be robed in the righteousness of God. Jehovah teacheth him that it is to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, and his faith is counted for righteousness.
The array of the lily is not that which she toiled for. Her clothing was not of her own spinning, of her own manufacture, but God so clothed her. Even so Christ’s own lily. His love, his bride, ceases from all her toiling and spinning to clothe herself. She worketh not, but by the faith of the operation of God she believeth through grace in Christ Jesus; and the righteousness of God is unto her and upon her, for God imputeth unto her all the glorious beauty of her husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, without any of her works. He taketh away the filthy garments, the work of her hands, and by the precious blood of her husband, shed for the remission of her sins, causeth her iniquities to pass from her, and doeth clothe her with a change of raiment, the best robe, and then does the poor sinner experimentally know the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Then does this blessed one find springing up from his inmost soul this sweet song, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God. For he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with his robe of righteousness; as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. His throne, his kingdom, all his glory, was but earthly, tarnishable and corruptible, and is now no more. But the array of Christ’s lily is heavenly and divine. “The righteousness of God.” It is incorruptible, shall never be abolished, and shall endure to eternity.
But all this in its fullness doth not yet appear; but “when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” Yes, then shall he change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. This mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and Jesus our beloved husband shall present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, and then shall we know the fullness of the words, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”
“Consider the lilies how they grow.” How do the lilies grow? “They toil not, they spin not.” “Israel show grow as the lily.” – Hosea xiv. 5. How utterly opposed to this is the teaching of the religious world. Their notion of growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is that we must be up and doing, must be constant readers of the scriptures, must fill our place every time at preaching, must help according to our means to support the preacher, must give of our substance to the poor and needy, and in all things show a good example to those that are without, and the man that continues in these things shall grow. But our God has said, “Israel shall grow as the lily.” Does not the child of God continually prove that though he does all these things, to grow is beyond all his toiling and spinning, and he cannot by taking thought add to his stature one cubit? I can look back to the time when I foolishly thought that by taking thought I should most certainly grow; so I thought, I will learn the scriptures by heart, they shall be my study day and night, and then in a few years I shall have grown to a considerable height in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior. But I found, though I toiled to accomplish all this, that these things did not produce growth. My head was filled with the scriptures, and with my tongue I might speak about doctrine; but to my abasement I found that real growth in divine things cannot be attained by the efforts of the flesh, that it is not by taking thought. I read in the scriptures of the many endearing relations, and the manifold offices that Jesus Emanuel sustains to his people; and though all this was very sweet, and I trusted he was and would be all in all to me, yet have I tested many times since then that there is a vast difference between these things being crammed into one’s head, and the revelation and experience of them in the heart. And by all the toiling and spinning and taking thought, yea, though a man could memorize the entire scriptures, and was privileged to hear all the sound preaching that is preached, and had rad all the religious publications of godly men, by all these he could not add in the least to his stature in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Israel shall grow as the lily,” by the power and goodness of our God. Just now, while writing, there is brought to my remembrance a very dark scene in my life, but one in which the grace of God shone forth with infinite glory. I had sinned against my God, I had dishonored him before men; but when he showed me what I had done, so great was the anguish of my soul, and so exceedingly vile did I feel, that I wept most bitterly for hours, and in my confusion of soul I cried unto God to send me to hell. O how the enemy assaulted me, and my own conscience bitterly reproached me. I dared not look up to the God of mercy, for I felt there was no mercy for me. I felt indeed that God himself renewed his witnesses against me, and I was utterly condemned, and cast out from God’s sight. I spent a sleepless, bitter night, but O the wonders of redeeming love. At length my God appeared, and never shall I forget the power and preciousness of the word he spoke to my soul: “Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat; but I have prayed for thee.” Then did I grow up into him, and knew Christ Jesus as my intercessor and advocate with God. And so, dear sister, it is in all true growth in the kingdom of Christ. There is a downward growth in our esteem of ourselves, and by the wondrous teaching of our God do we grow in the felt knowledge of our need of Christ; and when he causeth his doctrine to drop as the rain, and his speech to distil as the dew, when he causeth his countenance to shine upon us, then do we revive as the corn, and grow as the lily, and all this is the fruit of the unassisted power and grace of our God. O how much there is in these lilies to consider. There is another profitable consideration of the lily, that is, the lily among thorns, but I have written enough for the present.
I feel for you, dear sister, in not being privileged to hear the truth preached; nevertheless there is a reason for thankfulness that you can read the good things in the Gospel Standard and SIGNS OF THE TIMES. I hope this may find you in prosperity, and that I may hear again from you before long.
With love to you in the Lord,
FRED. W. KEENE.
Signs of the Times,
Volume 49, No. 21,
November 1, 1881.