North Berwick, Maine.
Mrs. Mary J. Cox – Dear Sister In The Lord: – It is very agreeable as we are journeying in our pilgrimage to the city that hath foundations whose builder and maker is God, to fall in with those of like precious faith. We may for a time have been plodding along in a solitary way, and have become so isolated in our soul’s feelings that we could scarcely conclude we were in the true, right way, but must surely have been turned aside from the flocks of the companions of him who is the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. When therefore in our lonely way we find another wayfaring one, and discover in the exchange of our communications that we have journeyed over the same path, and are bound for the same destination, we take courage, and are strengthened and comforted in our companionship. This in a measure I felt in the perusal of your kind letter.
You have I suppose just recently in attending the Virginia Corresponding Meeting, and elsewhere, met with a goodly number of Zion’s pilgrims, some old in the ways, others youthful. There we find the woman with her little one, and she which travaileth with child, and in the way we find also the blind and the lame whom the Lord would not leave behind in captivity, for they were his, his loved and chosen, and he ransomed them from the hand of him that was stronger than they. (Jer. xxxi. 7-14.) As we are journeying in the ways, I have pleasure given me in all the flock, the sheep and the lambs, the young and the old. I love to talk with children in grace, and you will not think it strange if I say I have peculiar pleasure in dandling babes upon my knees. Knowledge, and growth in knowledge in the kingdom of Christ, is not like the attainment of earthly knowledge. A child of God may have obtained a hope in God’s salvation many years ago, and may now be an old man according to the years of his natural life, and yet still may be but a child in experience and knowledge of divine things. There are those who presumptuously imagine that to be a man in Christ consists in being so well versed in the Scriptures, especially upon the subjects of predestination, election and reprobation, so that if you met an opponent you could cut his head off in the twinkling of an eye. But a person may have the bare letter of the doctrine of Christ in his natural intellect, and instead of being a man, a father, an old man in Israel, he is not even a babe, for he has not been born again. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” If we are born again, born of the Spirit, then we shall know what it is to sigh over our sins, to thirst after righteousness, to love God, there will be desires after him, and we shall be drawn to him with longings to know him, to taste his mercy; there will be yearnings within us to be holy and pure, yes, to be holy even as God is holy, that we might dwell with the Lord. These things you are not a stranger to, and I feel I can say there is some such life in me in which these things are found. The saints often talk to one another about what it is to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it never yet has all been told to one another. Sometimes the presentation of the subject is, “Ye shall grow up as calves of the stall.” – Mal. iv. 2. Then it is said, Israel “shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” – Hosea xiv. 5. Many other similitudes are employed, such as the vine, the palm tree, children, and a building, to set forth the growth of the church, and of the children of God. There are many things to learn, and many branches of knowledge in the kingdom of grace. Then also there is both downward and upward growth. As a tree we grow at the root, and are rooted and grounded in Christ, and we also grow up into him in all things. The Lord can impart such knowledge to one child of his in a little while, what he is pleased to take years to impart to another of his dear children. He has his own purposes to fulfill in this. I think I can say I have experienced days in which it was as if the experience of years were crowded into them, and out of the experience of those days has come the knowledge of what I am, and a deeper knowledge of the excellencies of Christ Jesus my Lord, and there has been an unfolding, and knowledge given me of the signification of the Spirit in many portions of the Scriptures. I can well remember some such days as I have alluded to. Such a mixture, such changes, alternate joy and grief, weakness and strength, doleful forebodings and moments of victory. Dark, dense” night, and then a glimpse of the clear, blue sky in which shone our dear, our glorious Sun of Righteousness, our precious, risen and ascended Savior, who smiled upon even me. O, how happy I felt in those sweet, fair moments. Dark moments soon intervened, and devils and sin seemed to be raging above me, about me and within me. I have felt to be the very prey of manifold, hateful, vile emotions, then to be filled with love and tenderness toward our God and Savior Jesus Christ, and to all the dock of God, and while in this tender mood one might think, How could it be possible to have an unkind thought toward any one, an unkind word or act, how could it be possible? Erskiu writes, “I’m both a devil and a saint.” Well, I have to confess, (and it is with heaviness of heart I do it) there is in me, in my flesh, that which is earthly, sensual, devilish. I painfully know it is so, I have tasted it, and it is bitter, and the stench of it is exceeding vile. O, sin makes the heart ache, and none but God’s sacred ones know what a fearful, crushing thing sin is. The natural heart is desperately wicked, and if the fountain be thus vile, all the streams are filthy. Christ says, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man.” O God, have mercy upon me, wash me in the fountain of Jesus’ blood, and then I shall be pure in thy sight. One thing I find comes out of all the humiliating knowledge of my depravity, the pressure of afflictions and hellish temptations, I am instructed to look unto, I am driven and drawn unto Christ, as my all. In him there is no lack, all I need in him I find, and much sweet peace and comfort is given me by the Spirit in him. But I am a mystery to myself, and if my life, my secret life pertaining to divine things, were portrayed, it seems to me others
I would think so, too. Not long ago, one night I retired to rest, and while lying upon my bed I began musing upon the things of God, and as I was musing desires were springing up within my heart to know more of Christ, to grow in the knowledge of God. I began with fervent longings to ask of the Lord that I might be more deeply taught of him. I felt to be very near to the Lord, and as a little child to be quite intimate with our heavenly Father in my supplications. But while I was thus before our Father’s throne pouring forth my soul’s desires, there came a voice, a thought into my mind, “Do you know what you are asking for! You are asking for trials and suffering.” My prayers were suspended, ceased. The memories of past trials appalled me, I shrank from the touch of them; I contemplated what was involved in asking to grow in the knowledge of God, and I was so chilled under the suggestions that were poured into my soul, that I could not utter another word before the throne of God. When I came to myself where was I? Ah, I was no longer in the palace of the King, no more within the holy of holies, no more in happy intimacy before the throne of our dear God, our heavenly Father, our Savior. No, I was hardened, clothed with shame, I had all the miserable feelings of a coward; I felt I must be despised, that God must be ashamed of me; I felt, How could I venture near to God again after such shameful behavior in his presence! O, I was no longer as a child in the house of the Lord, but a miserable outcast, and I think I had a taste of outer darkness. You see what a weak, contemptible worm I am, frightened by a messenger of Satan, from the throne of God. If salvation were not of grace, absolute grace, what hope could there be for one like me! I could tell of many seasons when amidst sore temptations and assaults of Satan, I have been able to stand. The Holy Spirit has so sustained me that with invincible faith I have been enabled to surmount every obstacle, and to cleave to my God through all oppositions.
“O, I have seen the day,
When, with a single word,
God helping me to say,
My trust is in the Lord,
My soul has quelled a thousand foes,
Fearless of all that could oppose.
But unbelief, self-will,
Self-righteousness and pride,
How often do they steal
My weapons from my side!
Yet David’s Lord, and Gideon’s Friend,
Will help his servant to the end.”
In spite of my sinfulness, and all my unbelief and wretched behavior before the Lord, I believe he will help me to the end, for I have so often had such signal proofs of his tender compassion that I cannot, I must not, think he will cease to love me. Though it may appear very inconsistent with what I have written, yet I feel there is an abiding longing in my heart to know more of Christ, to be indulged with communion with him, and to be conformed to his likeness. I think I have entered a little into the feelings of Peter’s aching heart, when he said, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” He knoweth all things, he knoweth all my weaknesses, and all the wrestlings and conflicts of my soul. When he called me by his grace he knew that left to myself I should deal very treacherously, and that I have been a transgressor from the womb. (Isaiah xlviii. 8.) He knows how my fleshly nature is a perpetual clog, and much interferes with my walking with him. He knows my sighs and tears because of my sinfulness, and unspiritual-mindedness. He knows the way I take, and he knows that I love him, and greatly long for such supplies of grace that I may offer up continually unto him the sacrifices of prayer and praise, and serve him with reverence and godly fear.
I altogether agree with you, dear sister, when you say, “Trials of every kind may be ours, but there is no sorrow like the hidings of our Father’s face, and we are left to grovel in the darkness of our own vile hearts.” What does this peculiar sorrow indicate! It reveals the living union between us and our God. He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God, and I would hope that we are included among those of whom the Lord says, “It is my people, and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” – Zech. xiii. 9.
I have met your brother, Elder Joseph N. Badger, several times, and feel an attachment to him because his ministry, the few times I have heard him preach, has been of comfort to me. There is something very precious in the love that cements together those of like precious faith. This love, wherever it dwells, will actuate that one to seek the good of Zion, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and even in times of Zion’s desolations, we shall be found taking pleasure in her stones, and favoring the dust thereof.
I am your brother in the hope of immortality in Christ Jesus,
FRED. W. KEENE.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 68, No. 6.
MARCH 15, 1900.