Mrs. Mabel Berry
Dear Sister in Christ Jesus:
Your welcome letter came a few days ago, and as I read of your soul’s vicissitudes in those matters pertaining to the Savior, and our eternal life in Him, I said within me, This is so I know, so oft repeated my life since first I knew the Lord. I have been pondering over your letter, and amidst these ponderings memories have been stirred up of early experiences that were mine. Yes, sweet and to me sacred musings have been mine concerning a dear grandmother of mine, my mother’s mother. Her name was Rebecca Hewitt. She was a mother in Israel. I had experienced the hope that my sins were forgiven, and that I was justified in the blood of Jesus, the dear Lamb of God, but a few months when I received a letter from my grandmother. I was her eldest grand-child. In this letter she was telling me of a poor sinner’s experience that was called by grace and of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and asked me, “Do you know anything about these matters?” I wrote to her in return how I had tasted that Jesus is precious. I received a loving, encouraging letter in answer to mine. Grandfather died shortly after this. They were then living in London, England. My parents wrote grandmother to come to America and live with them. She came as soon as she had disposed of what she possessed, but she had not much to get rid of, for they were very poor. How pleased I was to see her! I had not seen her for two or three years and she was pleased to see me. I don’t think she was in our home more than half an hour when she began to talk with me concerning the things of Jesus Christ. And in talking she mentioned that the churches in England, Strict and Particular Baptist churches, and all true preachers of Christ’s Gospel were Supralapsarians. I thought, What does Grandmother mean using that great long word? I suppose Grandmother saw the puzzled look that was upon my countenance, for she immediately began to tell me in all instructive simplicity the doctrine of Jehovah’s eternal election of His people, His Church, His Bride in Jesus before the foundation of the world. The Supralapsarian views the election of grace as a part of God’forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:3-7). Our Lord Jesus Christ possessed them, His people, His wife before apostasy or He could not have redeemed them. Christ hath loved us and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. Thus Jehovah’s election of His people before the foundation of the world is declared in the holy scriptures, and it is only in this scriptural Supralapsarian declaration of the election of grace in Christ Jesus that we find the source, the foundation of redemption.
Well, when Grandmother got thru her presentation of election and redemption of the Church, I found I was already a Supralapsarian. For the Lord had for nearly a year, so deeply wrought in me, and taught me that I had seen in the testimony of the holy scriptures, God’s election to be not as contemplating their apostasy, with “the rest” as past, the elect being already fallen, and guilty, to be saved by divine grace, a remedy for an existing evil. There would be, I repeat it, no redemption in all this. For when we fell in sin we fell under the curse of the law. When the Church apostatized, Christ did not say, I will give Her a bill of divorcement, put Her away and get another wife. Ah never! 0 no! But He so loved the Church that He gave Himself for it that He might cleanse it with the washing of water by the word 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. “Christ bath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.”
Some time after this I was in very poor health. I was so unwell, scarcely able to crawl about the house, go up and down stairs. I was now between sixteen and seventeen years of age. One morning as my custom was I kneeled down by my bed-side to pray to the Lord, but somehow I felt that, “He shutteth out my prayer.” It was as though I was praying to the blank wall. While I was eating my bite of breakfast I thought, What can this mean? I will go upstairs again and tell the Lord about it. Up I went and fell upon my knees and found I could say nothing. I sighed and moaned, and that was all I could do. My grandmother passing my bedroom door said to me, What is the matter? I said, Nothing! I thought, I will lock that door, for if I do not, Grandmother will walk in, and I do not want her to see me in this condition. I locked the door, and cast myself upon the bed and sighed and moaned. She came to my door, found it locked, and said, Open this door and let me in, there is something the matter. I opened the door, and Grandmother found me in a flood of tears. We sat down on the side of the bed, and throwing her arms about me, she said, What is the matter, my dear child? I told her God had forsaken me, cast me away. Oh no! He has not forsaken you. He is just “hiding His face”. And with all tenderness and instruction she talked to me of what the scriptures declare concerning His people when under the hidings of the face of the Lord their God. This state of soul with me continued for about two weeks and every day Grandmother would ask me how matters were with me and would talk to me in a very kindly way as I unbosomed to her my soul’s destitutions. One morning instead of as usual asking me how I fared she said, “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.” I thought, That is a very unkind speech. Grandmother, is turned away from me too. Now! What shall I do? I imagined I was in a deplorable condition indeed. Nobody has any pity for me; and self-pity crept in, and I greatly pitied myself. But I afterwards found I was mistaken with regard to Grandmother. She all the while loved me. I found that instead of looking to the Lord for relief, I had been looking to her as the source, the fountain of my consolations, and she thought it was not a good thing for me to be all the time borne upon her sides and dandled upon her knees (Isa. 68:12). So, to use a figure of speech, she thought a good spanking would be a good thing for me, a peevish, irritable child. My grandmother was a wise mother. She told me I ought to be ashamed of myself for my unbelief. She counselled me, reproved, rebuked me exhorted me to go to the Lord. Spread before Him all your troubles. Tell Him how unmindful you have been of the many exceeding great and precious promises you have had from His lips, in which times past He has made you to hope. Tell the Lord of your unbelief, and you can only believe according to the working of His mighty power. Pray to the Lord to give you faith, for faith is the gift of God. Do you think that the Lord is stingy? What a shame it is for you to have such mean thoughts of your gracious Lord? Oh, Grandmother chided me. Has the word of the Lord failed? Has He broken His promises? Ask Him to forgive your mistrust. Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you; yes, keep on knocking, my dear boy. Thus my dear Grandmother urged me on, and lovingly counselled and all the while instructed me in doctrine. It is impossible for God to lie for His promises are like Himself – immutable. “I am the Lord I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
There, Sister Berry, I could go on telling how many years after this when I was a preacher of Christ’s gospel how companionable she was, in God’s eternal truth when I was in her company.
Perhaps you are thinking this is a strange letter; I confess it is such, but it is all that I have to write just now.
I am I trust, your brother in our sweet Lord Jesus Christ,
FREDERICK W. KEENE
SOVEREIGN GRACE AND PILGRIM
LA CANADA, CA
Elder W. J. Berry, Owner, Editor and Publisher
SEPTEMBER 1941, Vol. 19, No. 9