DEAR SISTER IN OUR PRECIOUS LORD JESUS CHRIST:
Your letter was very welcome, for I am pleased to hear tidings of the prosperity of the dear children of God. Some tidings reach us concerning some portions of Zion, of distress and desolations, and even of “wars and fightings”, and then our hearts are grieved: we mourn for Jerusalem . While such things prevail, like Nehemiah, our countenance may well “be sad” (Neh. 2:3). But when under the reign of the Prince of Peace, from Dan even to Beersheba, the tribes of Israel dwell safely every man under his vine and under his fig tree, eating and drinking and making merry (1 Kings 4:20-25). Oh what a glorious and delightful state for the nation to be in! “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion : for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” It is therefore a sacred pleasure to my soul to hear you rehearse the loving-kindness of the beloved Redeemer to your soul. As for myself, I have much reason to extol the grace of Jehovah. His mercifulness to such a poor sinner exceeds my power to tell. His faithfulness as our covenant-keeping God is beyond my highest thoughts. It reacheth unto the clouds, and is established in the very heavens. Each day and every season has its joys and sorrows, its adversities and prosperity, according to the purpose of God. We may say, with David, “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15). I have found the field of Jehovah’s faithfulness a precious field to meditate in. As one at the closing of the day would contemplate all that has transpired, so, I feel it has been our beloved Emmanuel that has drawn forth my soul into this field, saying, “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field” (S. Song 7:11). As I look over the field I find it very large; indeed, no creature can measure it, for Jehovah’s faithfulness is to all generations: it reacheth unto the clouds. As I roamed abroad in this field the covenant faithfulness of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost has been very sweet in my meditations. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”
“‘Twas made with Jesus for His bride
Before the sinner fell;
‘Twas signed, and sealed, and ratified,
In all things ordered well.”
Consider, dear sister, the immutability of this covenant. Its stability rests upon the very character of our God, “He cannot deny Himself”. The Father sware, and would not repent, saying in this covenant, Thou (the Son of God) art a priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 6:17-20). “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by and oath.” The Lord says, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips”. He will ever be mindful of his covenant. Then again, our dear Redeemer, the incarnate Word, says, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you”. Our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, was brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant. Then the faithfulness of God the Father is established in the very heavens; for in the fullness of time he sent froth his Son. The faithfulness of the Son of God is established, for he says, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. “A body has thou prepared me.” He, “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” He was the Surety of the covenant, and was faithful unto death. He died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.
“Amazing deeps! O love beyond degree!
The Offended dies to set the offender free!”
“By His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Oh! the mercies of this covenant are sure, called “the sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 4:3; 2 Sam. 23:5). The covenant is of force. “This is the new covenant in my blood.” This is known in the established faithfulness of the Holy Ghost, called “the communion of the Holy Ghost”. He is ever communing with the heirs of this covenant. Jesus says, The Comforter, the Holy Ghost, “will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shew it unto you” (John 16:13-15).
We have tasted the forgiveness of sins, we have rejoiced in Christ’s salvation, and by precious faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, all of which declares the faithfulness of the Holy Ghost in the “covenant ordered in all things and sure”. The communion of the Holy Ghost is the earnest in our hearts (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:6). “Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). All the heirs in due time have the earnest, and the inheritance is sure to all the seed. Thy faithfulness, O God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, shalt thou establish in the very heavens. “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”. I have been led to review of late some of the dealings of the Lord with me. I remember how in times of need my soul found a stay in the exceeding great and precious promises. I hoped in the word of the Lord and based my expectations thereon. But sometimes, instead of the fulfillment of the promises, disaster and utter shipwreck of all my hope seemed ushered in; yet in my mournful, tired heart I still cling to his promises to my soul, as I sighed, “Doth his promise fail forevermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” (Psalm 77:8-9). But in so many ways and such a multitude of providences I have proved:
“His promise is yea and amen.
And never was forfeited yet.”
All the tribes of Israel gathered into this field of meditation will say amen to King Solomon when he exclaimed, “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56). Then I have meditated upon the faithfulness of our Father in heaven; hallowed be his name! Yes, I hope I am a child of God, and that he hath dealt with me as he deals with his children. It is written, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that hear him” (Psalm 103:13). How gracious he has been to a vile sinner like me. But though he hath given me to enjoy many good gifts, and hath sent forth his Holy Spirit, and has communed with my soul, telling me I am a child, and if a child then an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ, yet I have often been ungrateful; I have been wayward, and have transgressed his commandments. Has the Lord cast me off? Has he disowned me as his child? Oh no! Great is our heavenly Father’s love, great is his faithfulness! What has he done then? Why, he hath chastened me betimes. He has saith, “I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jer. 30:11). “No chastening for present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous.” So I have found it when it pleased the Lord to lay affliction upon me loins. I have grieved, I have smarted under the strokes of his hand, and I have sometimes rebelled against the rod. My complaints have been bitter, but God our Father did not spare the rod of my crying. He abideth faithful, all his chastenings are for our profit. Yes, I have been made to hear the rod, and our God who appointed it (Micah 6:9). “The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.” I have mourned over my ways, and have sighed over my heart’s abominations: and I have been able to feel, and have acknowledged, “I know O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me”. Look at the scene presented in Jeremiah 31:18-20: “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” All the while the Lord remembered him, that he was his dear son, his pleasant child. Great is our heavenly Father’s faithfulness. In the field of the Lord’s faithfulness I have meditated upon the faithfulness of Christ our King. He reigns in righteousness, and of his people it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth”. Faithfulness is the girdle of his reigns. He is King in Zion . Was there ever any one, the poor and needy, that perished in his sight? Oh no! “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy (Psalm 72:12-13). “He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” His name is “called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is call The Word of God. And the armies, which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:11-14). We shall be more than conquerors through our King that loved us.
In the field of the faithfulness of the Lord of Hosts I have often meditated upon the bond of eternal wedlock subsisting between Christ and the church. It is written, “Thy Maker is thine husband; The Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel ; The God of the whole earth shall be called” (Isaiah 54:5). “We are dead to the law by the body of Christ”, and raised up with him, we are married unto him that is raised from the dead. “He hateth putting away” (Mal. 2:16), and you remember that the very language of our Beloved in his betrothal of us was, “I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20). When the dear Savior first declared these things in my soul oh how happy was I! Why did the Lord love a poor sinner like me? I could not discover (neither have I yet been able) what was in me that Jesus, the Chiefest among ten thousand, could love. I am nothing but a poor sinner. He drew me and I followed after him in the wilderness, there he discovered himself to my soul, and made known his love to me, and I loved the crucified One, the precious Savior, the altogether lovely One. How blessed! I was given, I was made to know, to believe he gave himself a sacrifice for my sins, put away my sins by the sacrifice of himself. It was the love of my espousals (Jer. 2:2). But since then how fickle has been my love, how shamefully inconstant I have been: unfaithful. But our heavenly Bridegroom, the dear Lamb of God, says, “I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord”. O thou precious Redeemer of sinners, truly thou abidest faithful in this covenant of eternal wedlock. But, dear sister, could you see what my condition has been sometimes, you would say his grace is abounding, while the children of Hagar, the bond woman, would say that the Lord has given that one a bill of divorcement, and had cast me off. Instead of dwelling in the palace with the King, clothed by precious faith in wrought gold, I have been allured from the palace of the King, and evil heart of unbelief has plagued me, and I in my wanderings from the dear Savior have lost sight of the King in his beauty. Then, oh how my vileness has abounded! I have looked at myself and all was deformity, loathsomeness, ugliness. How could the King love me? How could my name be called Hephzibah? (Isaiah 62:4). All that I could see and feel was that I was a loathsome, vile sinner, filled with misgivings, tormented with questionings concerning the love of God to such a sinful wretch. I felt, instead of a sweet smell, there was a stink; instead of a girdle, a rent; instead of well set hair, baldness; instead of a stomacher, sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty (Isaiah 3:24). I have said, If I were a subject of the graciousness of God would I be thus, and so often in this dreadful plight? Unbelief has whispered this, Where are your evidences of the love of the King? How can it be possible that Jehovah can delight in such a miserable wretch? “The city shall be low in a low place” (Isaiah 32:19). I have been brought low indeed. I have mourned over my iniquities, I have lamented the meanness of my love to the Savior; I have truly been in the valley of Achor, and have longed to enter the palace once more, but could not. I had no strength, my faith was weak. Of the King’s daughter it was written that she is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold, she shall be brought in unto the King in raiment of needlework (Psalm 45:13). But oh! when in such places as I have been describing it would appear that God has stripped me of my glorious apparel, and all I could see was my own shame and nakedness, my utter vileness. The beautiful garments I had no power to put on, but oh how my soul yearned to be thus by precious faith arrayed, that my poor sin-stricken, destitute soul might be comforted by renewed evidences from the Lord of my lot and portion in the justifying blood and righteousness of the dear Lamb of God. Well, dear sister, I have had proof upon proof that the betrothal is in faithfulness, for though I have wandered far away the King has sought me in this wilderness and has spoken comfortably to my soul (Hosea 2:14). He has given me again beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). My soul has again sweetly realized that my beauty and acceptance in his sight is in the comeliness which he putteth upon me (Ezek. 16:14). He granted me fine linen white and clean, covered a poor sinner with silk, and has most comfortingly said to my heart, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (S. Song 4:7). My hope, my joy, my beauty and gloriousness is his eyes is this, that he hath given himself a sacrifice and an offering of a sweet-smelling savor for my sins, he hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me, and that atoning, precious blood of his has erased every spot, healed all my blemishes, yea, he gives me immortal health, immortal youth. Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it; * * * * that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25:27). He abideth faithful.
“Even down to old age all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”
Even in death our souls shall prove his loving-kindness and faithfulness. He will be our guide even unto death. When our souls are departing,
“When death is at hand, and this cottage of clay
Is left with a tremulous sigh,
The gracious Redeemer will light all the way,
Saying, Be not afraid; it is I.”
Absent from the body we shall be present with the Lord; as our Redeemer said to the dying thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. This cottage of clay, our mortal body, shall wait the appointed time, till our change come. “Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14:15). “We shall all be changed, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Thus, my sister, I have gleaned in this field, and would still have my eye upon this field of the faithfulness of the Lord. My own faithlessness at times is appalling and brings me into many miseries, and only that our gracious God abideth faithful I should perish by the way. Oh that I could love, and live to the praise of my God, who hath loved a sinner like me. May the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, lead you forth to meditate in this field. Let me hear from you again when you have been gleaning in the field of our spiritual Boaz (Ruth 2:2).
“It will sweeten the hours
When sorrows all round you appear,
Will strew all the way to Mt. Zion with flowers,
And smooth the rough pathway of care.”
With love to you, and to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ, I am, I hope, your brother,
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 102, No. 5