NORTH BERWICK, Maine.
DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD: – Your letter was very welcome, because it contains those things that belong to the household of God. I feel well assured in my heart that there is in sacred bond that unites all the household of God one to another. Sometimes they do not quite understand one another, the “boys and girls playing in the streets” of Jerusalem are not able to enter into, to understand all the reasons why the old man does not play with them, and why he has “his staff in his hand for very age.” – Zech. viii. 4, 5. The light-hearted believers with the rugged glow on their cheeks may wonder, and be full of surmisings when they see others with woebegone countenances, with tearstained faces, who walk tremblingly with sighs and moans; and their inquiry maybe, Why look ye so sadly to-day? I well remember how, when first I tasted that the Lord is gracious, I read in the Bible of the straits and sore troubles, and the darkness and bitter lamentations of some of the saints of God, and I could not understand it. Very much that I read in the Scriptures was above me in glorious heights, or in depths of woe, in dismal, dark, low dungeons such as then I had had no experience of, and this much of the experience of the saints of God declared in the Scriptures was an enigma to me. Nevertheless, “as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.” “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1 Cor. xii. 12, 26, 27. This being very blessedly fulfilled among those who are Christ’s, constitutes the sacred helpfulness and comfort that are found in the fellowship and communion of Christ’s body, the church. But there are some things of which you write, dear sister, that some of the household are not prepared to understand. They cannot commune with your soul in these experiences, because they have not yet been led into those trying dispensations, they have not been laid “in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.” – Psalms lxxxviii. 6. Indeed it is only a rare one of even the most sorely tried and tempted children of God that is called upon by God to enter deeply into the dreadful, wonderful and, I will also say, divinely gracious experiences of Heman which he has declared in this eighty-eighth Psalm. As I read this Psalm I say within me, I think know something of that, but in another, verse I feel, Surely here are depths that are deeper than I know. There is one who knows all the woes of the righteous, who has fathomed all their sorrows, and who went for their sakes into abysmal deeps of suffering, agonies and darkness beneath them all, and that one is our covenant head Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
But coming to our own experiences in things pertaining to God, for in both solemn and gracious ways we have to do with God, (Heb. iv. 13.,) and whether it be in griefs, or in joys, whether it be with a hard, stony heart, or with a broken and contrite heart, or with singing and making melody in our hearts, we are found with our God, all is a divinely hallowed life, a path where only the called and taught of the Lord are pilgrims. I will not just now enter upon a description of the darkness, woes, griefs, the rough and dismal desolations known in the waste howling wilderness. (I think I have had a considerable portion of such things, but I can also declare that God in the exceeding riches of his grace has abounded unto me, refreshing, strengthening and bringing me on my way by “the sure mercies of David.”) But in all our straits we are both driven and drawn to seek our God, to fall before him, to put our mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope, and we are surely taught that all our help must come from God. No matter what may have been our wretchedness, burdens, darkness; whether from the humbling knowledge of the depravity of our fleshly nature, or the assaults of Satan, or from afflictions and adversities of any kind, eventually amidst them all we shall be brought before our God. “l poured out my complaint before him: I showed before him my trouble.” – Psalms cxlii. 2. O there are consolations indeed to be found at the mercy-seat of our God. Our heart’s entreaty will often be that we may be indulged to live in communion with the Lord, to walk humbly with our God. Then all is well, and it is ours to find that word to be true: “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” – Deut. xxxiii. 25. King 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 live.” Our path, some of the time, is through the waters, and through the fires, (Isaiah xliii. 2,) through much tribulation, (Acts xiv. 22,) but the Lord is with his own, and I trust he has been with us, and will be with us to the end. The apostle speaks of “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” – Rom. xii. 12. This is sacred counsel, and is blessedly so with us by the power of the Holy Ghost. But ah! when we are far off, and have wandered away from the throne of grace, are we then patient in tribulation? Though it is to our shame, it must be confessed that in trials and conflicts and crosses we are far from being good, but peevishness, self-pity, hardness, yes, murmurings and horrid rebellions, are to be found in us, and all this increases our trouble. O who can save us but our God?
One time, some years ago, as I was feeling sorely depressed over my inward sinfulness, and also sighing over the inconstancy of my devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, there came with sacred meaning into my mind the words, “I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb.” – Isaiah xlviii. 8. Instantly my heart was broken and contrite before the Lord, my eyes were filled with tears, and my heart throbbed with love, with grief, with entreaties at God’s feet. (The world, carnal professors of Christ’s name, hypocrites, cannot understand this.) I knew that I was a vile transgressor; I knew I had dealt treacherously; I knew I had been drawn aside from the Lord;I knew that my backslidings in heart had been many; that I had wretchedly wandered away from Jesus. I had more than once as a lost sheep “stumbled upon the dark mountains,” and yet, knowing we to be a sinner, knowing that I would deal very treacherously, he loved me in Christ Jesus, and blessed me with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him. The Lord was determined to save me. He gave his dear Son to die, to make atonement for my sins, and he hath called me, “a base thing,” to know Jesus Christ, and he hath not cast me away, though I am a sinful worm; but he pardoneth my iniquities, he freely loves me and he will bring me at last unto himself to glory, holy and without blame before him in love. Many such thoughts passed through my mind, and my soul was satiated with blessedness, and I was filled with grateful praises because of his wonderful grace to a poor sinner like me. Did I say to myself, Inasmuch as the Lord knew all about my treacherous, sinful nature, and that I would deal very treacherously, therefore I need not trouble myself any more over the matter? Ah, no, but I felt such shame and sorrow over my sinfulness, I loathed myself, and I prayed to the Lord for pardon. I prayed to our gracious God for abounding grace, I prayed to him to keep me from deceits and the treachery of my vile nature, that he would give me more and more grace to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, and that I might cleave to the precious Lord Jesus Christ with full purpose of heart. O I have very frequently found that the forgiveness, kindness, smiles, kisses of the Savior humble me, and inflame my soul with love; yes, such tokens from the Lord beget in me sighs, longings; yes, earnest longings that I might be able to love our dear Savior, that I might praise him, that I might show forth his praise in my daily conversation, that I might glorify him in my body and spirit, which are his. Well, dear sister, in all the straits, darkness, troubles, that have been, and are yet in measure your portion, what have you done, what can you do? Look within, and you are still a poor, wretched, sinful being. There is nothing to comfort us, nothing to lift the gloom, nothing of brightness and loveliness in our Adamic nature, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
“My nature discloses to View
More vileness than I can declare,
And were not the promises true,
I’m sure I should sink in despair.
But Jesus, my Savior and King,
My constant protector Will be;
And led by the Spirit, I sing,
Tie saved a sinner like me.”
Dear sister, the one essential thing for us poor, sin-plagued, buffeted ones to do is to be looking unto Jesus, to consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest we be wearied and faint in our minds. (Heb. xii. 2, 3.) O to be looking unto Jesus, our great High Priest, to be looking to the Lamb of God for sinners slain, who hath redeemed us to God by his blood. O Jesus, let me know thee mine, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and let a. poor, sinful, thirsty one drink of the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Rev. xxii. 1.)
“A single smile from Jesus given
Will lift a drooping soul to heaven.”
I am your brother in Jesus,
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 18
September 15, 1914