North Berwick, Maine, Feb. 7, 1899.
My Dear Sister In The Hope Of Eternal Life In Christ Jesus: – I received your kind letters, and my spirit was refreshed and comforted in reading them. Our God has designed that the communion of his children shall be to their mutual benefit. By the excellency of the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit one may edify another, and the body of Christ is unto the edifying of itself in love. The apostle Paul writing to the saints at Rome says, “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” – Romans i. 11,12. This mutual, like precious faith, (2 Peter i. 1,) God has given and wrought in us, and the fruit of this faith is that we have fellowship and spiritual companionship one with another in our pilgrimage. When I contemplate the glory and blessedness that this faith in us embraces, there is one thing that stands out very prominent to my view, and which I hope I shall never forget, that is, that it is God who maketh us to differ from the world that lieth in wickedness; that it is of his everlasting love, and sovereign, electing grace, that we are made to taste that the Lord is gracious. We see continually that there is nothing meritorious in us. We are a mass of imperfections, and we need just such treatment at the hands of the Lord as the apostle Paul received. “The grace of the Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Tim. i. 14. Exceeding, abundant grace! This is what I need, and hitherto, I must, I will tell it, God hath not forsaken me, but exceeding riches of grace, a never-failing stream, has flowed from the fountain, the throne of grace, and thus I continue to this day. I am a miracle of grace! My infirmities of soul are many, and left to myself they crush me down into a pit of horrors, and here I am buffeted, and held fast a prisoner. But the grace of God abounding toward me is my sufficiency, (2 Cor. ix. 8,) and the power of Christ resting upon me I can then glory in my infirmities, triumph over them, run through a troop of evil imaginations, unbelieving thoughts and hellish suggestions, lay them low, trample them under my feet, and with eyes of faith, and my heart trusting alone in our dear Savior, I pursue my way again for a little while in the sweet hope that Jesus loved me, and gave himself for me.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Sinner, that name seems to embrace, and to be related to everything that constitutes the tribulation of God’s elect; that is their portion while in the world. If sin had not entered into the world there had been no pain, no grief, no sickness, no death. “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins!” – Lam. iii. 39. But our Redeemer hath redeemed us from all evil unto God, and when that which we have the blissful foretaste of by faith shall be consummated, and its fullness we shall prove, then shall we know indeed that there is no more curse, no night, no more death, neither sorrow no crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away. Our hope extends beyond this mortal vale into that sacred and glorious eternity, where in holiness, conformed to the image of the Son of God, we shall be with our God and Redeemer who hath loved us, and we shall serve him forever and ever.
You have your own peculiar cares and perplexities, so, dear sister, in some measure all the dear family of God must have tribulation. It was only the other day I thought, Well, if it were not for this thing that is a trial to me, I should as far as outward things are concerned, be at ease. But I have seldom, since I was first exercised in heart toward God, been free from external as well as internal trouble. I judge it is best that it is so, and I know, as a chastening rod, the Lord can make us smart under a very small thing, and he makes his gracious power so manifest when we are passing through the deeps of great and sore troubles; he in his great love and pity quickens us again, and brings us up from the depths of the earth, and his sweet comforts abound unto us on every side. I know I need something all the time as a chastening to humble me, and keep me low, and to remind me of my dependence for all comfort and strength, upon that sustenance which only our heavenly Father’s hand can bestow. Vexations and trials when sanctified by the Lord are profitable to our souls; but without his grace under the pressure of the troubles of our sinful life we become fretful, rebellious, devilish; at least I do. Sometimes when I feel this horrible state of mind taking me captive, I cry out, O Lord have mercy upon me, and deliver me; give me not up as a prey to my own vile nature. Ah, my beloved sister, we need more and more grace, or else we are utterly worthless, ungrateful, forgetful, and only as our kind God pours down upon us his blessings, exercising our hearts in supplications to the throne of grace, and shedding abroad his love and mercy in our souls, and causing us by his sweet constraining tuition to worship and trust in him, are we in truth found walking in peace and reconciliation with the Lord.
Oft my way is so perplexing,
Sin and Satan sorely vexing,
All, Lord, have I lost thy esteem?
Speak, O Savior, to my heart,
One sweet smile of thiuo impart,
Then I’ll bear all and say, Amen.
When assailed with sore temptations,
And through seas of deep affliction
My pathway doth lie, What then?
Grant me, Jesus, thine own presence,
Give to me sweet acquiescence,
Even then shall my heart say, Amen.
You mentioned some verses that were sent you by mail. I have no remembrance of having sent any such, so there is some other one beside myself that has kind thoughts toward you, and as the reading of those verses were some comfort to your heart, I am satisfied that the first sender of them was the Lord, whose thoughts are precious toward you, and he says, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jer. xxix. 11. Our distrustful hearts sometimes surmise that he has evil thoughts concerning us, but he ever rests in his love, (Zeph. iii. 17,) and that dear love is like himself, immutable and eternal. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
You mention our state as a church. We are in a languid condition, in a low place. Perhaps we shall have to smart under some severe discipline before we see prosperity again. I could desire that the Lord’s hand might rest upon us, that we might be humble and contrite because of our condition; as it is written, “The city shall be low, in a low place.” – Isaiah xxxi. 19. Then should we soon taste again the blessedness of dwelling in a peaceable habitation, in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.
At times I am much tried because of the apparent unfruitfuluess of my ministry. If at any time my ministry has been profitable to any, it has been in such a way that it has been clearly manifest that the excellency of the power was of the Lord alone, and my grateful soul has readily yielded all the praise to his precious name. Indeed, instead of self-glorification, when any dear child of God has been comforted and edified by my ministry, and it has come to my knowledge, it has had an abasing effect upon me. I have been at times as one dazed, astonished. How can it be that God should employ one like me to speak a word that should be a blessing to any of his chosen ones I Yet amidst this humbled state of soul I have felt, O, this is what I desire, to have a ministry to the edification of the household of God, a faithful ministry. Often when I am so discouraged, (for I can tell you, dear sister, I do get disheartened,) there comes to me some assuring word, as there did a few days ago. “Be thou faithful unto death.” I told our dear God that I would, if he would give me abundance of grace, without which he himself knew I should be faithless, and his word very blessedly speaks, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Christ’s love to his people is an inexpressible comfort to them, and the love of the members of Christ’s body one for another is a comfort also. (Phil, ii. 1, 2.) The apostle speaks of, “For love’s sake I rather beseech thee.” – Philemon vii. 9. When love rules our intercourse with each other, we shall not do one another any evil. While in my flesh I know there is all evil, yet in opposition to all this I trust I have felt, and still feel, that divine love in my soul to the Holy One of Israel, to the glorious gospel of Christ, and to his people.
I have you, dear sister, in remembrance in my heart in my prayers to the Lord. I know you need the continual gracious ministration of the Holy Spirit to instruct and support you, and to show you the things of Christ, and there is no one needing to be upheld by divine sustenance more than one who is your brother in Christ Jesus,
FRED. W. KEENE.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 67, No. 14
July 15, 1899