(Exodus xxxiv. 14.)
My Dear Sister In Hope Of Eternal Life In Christ Jesus: – I have been feeling, as just now I was reading your letter, that it is as we are made to taste by faith the power and blessedness of the divine life, that we are enabled to estimate and to see how insignificant are all things that pertain to our natural life. The best of what this world affords is but transient and perishing. Then there is so much care and vexation, and at times sore affliction, pain and grief springing out of and related to our natural life. But beyond all things else it is sin, our sinfulness invading and contaminating all, that brings us into weariness and loathing of our mortal life, and under the gracious inspiration of the Holy Spirit our fervent desires flow forth to prove more fully the blessedness of life eternal, which the Father hath given us in his Son. Our life is hid with Christ in God, and when he shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory. I feel I can enter into the spirit of your letter which I may describe as a reaching forth unto those things that are heavenly. The saints of old confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and desired and sought for a better country, that is an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city. It is God who hath wrought us for this glorious destiny, (2 Cor. v. 5,) and hath wrought in us imperishable longings to attain unto that perfection of beauty and holiness to which we are predestinated in Christ Jesus. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All the imperfections that are continually appearing in ourselves, all our troubles that are measured out to us, all the dissatisfactions that we meet with in the world, instruct us to know that this is not our home, this is not our rest. We cannot build our nest below the skies, our faith looks beyond this world, and reaches forth unto the glorious eternity when with all the ransomed church of God we shall reign in life and glory with our beloved Christ, and worship the Lord for ever and ever.
“Will Jesus, as my Surety, place
Before his Father’s glorious throne,
Me, as an heir of sovereign grace,
Me, as his own adopted son?
He will, I read it in his word,
And in my heart the witness feel;
I shall be with and like my Lord,
Though sin oppose, in league with hell.
I shall be with him when he comes
Triumphant down the parting skies,
And when his voice breaks up the tombs,
Among his children I shall rise.
Among his children I shall stand,
When quick and dead his throne surround,
Blest with a place at his right hand,
And with immortal glory crowned.”
This hope, my dear sister, is high indeed for a poor sinner to entertain, yet is this not that hope set before us in the gospel to which with fervent affections we flee! We shall not be disappointed, for had the Lord not loved us he had not drawn us, and we should not be found seeking those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
“O that I could now adore him,
Like the heavenly host above,
Who forever bow before him,
And unceasing sing his love!
When shall I your chorus join?”
But now, dear sister, I would again take up the theme that I sought to approach in my last letter, that is, the jealousy of the Lord, whose name is Jealous. I find there is very sweet repose to my soul when I am led by the Spirit to ponder over the covenant of wedlock subsisting between Christ and the church, and upon the consideration that Christ Jesus, the Husband of the church, is the same yesterday, to-day and forever, we may take comfort in the declaration, “He will rest in his love.” – Zeph. iii. 17. Here
“In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe in such confiding,
For nothing changes here.”
Look at the words of our beloved Bridegroom in his espousal of the church unto himself: “I will betroth thee unto me forever; 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 ii. 10, ‘JO. What could be more assuring to the banishment of every distrustful, unbelieving thought from our hearts concerning our union to the Lamb! He will never disown, he will never put away, he will never cease to love and cherish his church, which he hath loved from eternity, and hath purchased with his precious blood. In the immutable love of God is bur blissful repose; here we may say, “Our bed is green,” for the love of Christ never withers, never fades, nothing can blight it, it never dies. The love of Christ is ever living, ever fragrant. O Christ, thou art immortal love! There are many things of a temporal nature that are cherished in our thoughts, but when there are given us thoughts of the love of the Lord to poor sinners, such as his loved ones know, so sweet is this, so ravishing is the thought that the dear Savior loves me, that our hearts can use the language of Christ’s spouse, “We will remember thy love more than wine.” Not all things else are half so dear, there is nothing half so sweet as our Emmanuel’s precious love. I do not feel that the Lord will rebuke us, dear sister, if we say, “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us,” and yet in my own life there has so often been times when I have forgotten that the Lord has made known his love to my soul, and I have wandered desolate, unbelieving, as though I had never felt the love of God shed abroad in my heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. I find in writing this last sentence that I am nearing the subject of the jealousy of the Lord, for it seemed to me I could see the face and hear the speech of the Lord of the whole earth, saying, “Why art thou wandering from me, what hath turned thee aside, why art thou forgetful of my love, whence are all these suspicions, this unbelief, that thou believest not my love? What hath dared to intrude, to interfere, to estrange thee from me!” O bear with me in saying that I have seen, it seems to me, in the eyes of the Lord his jealousy beam forth as devouring flames, “the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame,” that burneth up his enemies round about. In my experience by faith I have a few times witnessed this, and it is this that emboldeneth me to pen you a few lines upon the jealousy of the Lord, whose name is Jealous. (Exodus xxxiv. 14.)
All experience that is the fruit of divine teaching will be found to be in exact accord with the word of God, and all experience and knowledge that is at variance with the Scriptures is spurious, and not of the Spirit of God. There is a vast amount of religious experience in the world that is of the flesh, and no matter how it may be chrished in the breast, and is called christian experience, it is not pure gold, it bears not the image and superscription of the Holy Spirit, and is utterly refused by the Lord our God. It will not be accepted to be found putting forward our experience, and saying that is my experience when a thus saith the Lord is contrary to that experience, for all true spiritual experience and knowledge will be found in exact agreement with the Scriptures of truth. I have written thus, my dear sister, because there have been those who have presumptuously endeavored to support their erroneous views, perversions of the Scriptures, by declaring that their doctrines were revealed to them in their experience. The holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and never teaches any one anything that is contrary to the things declared in the holy Scriptures. I once imbibed certain peculiar views concerning the person of Christ. I spent much time searching up the matter, and I vainly imagined that I found many portions of the Scriptures to support my pet doctrine. Yes, it became quite a pet of mine, I was enamored with it, I considered it a veritable delight. (The Lord mercifully kept me from promulgating it, for which I have many times felt to praise him.) But one day I met with a text of Scripture which at one blow laid my idol in the dust; this was the jealousy of the Lord. I remember well how ashamed I felt, how I felt to blush before the Lord, and to this day in reading the word of God, when I come upon those passages which I vainly imagined taught the doctrine which I reared up as an idol unto myself, and had as I thought such comfort in, I feel to sigh over the matter, and I also feel what reasons I have for gratitude to the Lord that in his jealousy he took vengeance on my inventions, and yet he still had compassion upon me. Our God and Savior will not tolerate a rival. Zion, the church of God, is his own. She is his portion, the lot of his inheritance. (Deut. xxxii. 9.) His people are his by eternal election, (Eph. i. 4,) and they are his also by eternal redemption. (Heb. ix. 12.) He has written his name upon their foreheads, and they are his by the sealing of the Holy Spirit. The church belongs to Christ, (Mark ix. 41,) she is his wife, his darling, his only one; he has no other, he loves no other, as he says, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” – Amos iii. 2. His elect, whom he hath chosen, are those whom he foreknow, whom he eternally loved. His church he hath called Hephzibah, for his delight is in her, (Isaiah lxii. 4,) and of the church he says, “Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” – 1 Kings ix. 3. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. If then the Lord our Savior so loveth the church, and if after he hath made known his love unto her she goeth astray from her Husband and Redeemer, if she is enticed by flatterers, if others make love to her, and she is drawn aside to follow after them, though but for a small moment, what then? Then it will be known that the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. His jealousy shall burn like fire, nor will the fury of it abate until he hath consumed his adversaries. For who is he, and where is he that durst presume in his heart to do so (Esther vii. 5,) unto the loved and ransomed church of God? In the Scriptures we have discoveries of Jehovah’s jealousy in manifold aspects; he says, “I will be jealous for my holy name.” – Ezek. xxxix. 25. That is, he will vindicate his holy name from all the pollutions, dishonors and aspersions cast upon it by his enemies and the adversaries of his people. Then again it is written that he will “be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” – Joel ii. 18. He will see what the enemy hath done therein, how they have trodden it underfoot, how they have devoured it and made his pleasant land desolate, and how in its desolation it mourneth unto the Lord. He will pity his people, in his jealousy he will rebuke the devourer, and under his kind protection and smile the land that was desolate shall again become as the garden of Eden, and be his delightsome land. (Ezek. xxxvi. 35; Mai. iii. 12.) Again, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great jealousy.” – Zech. i. 14. You will see, my dear sister, by these few quotations, there is a large field in which by the illumination of the Spirit we may obtain glimpses of the jealousy of the Lord, whose name is Jealous. In the contemplation of the jealousy of the Lord we shall see that the acts of the Lord in his jealousy have a twofold aspect, that is, there are the acts of his jealousy toward his enemies, and his acts in his jealousy unto his loved and chosen church. Again, let me suggest that we do not confound the jealousy of the Lord, the holy One of Israel, with those displays of jealousy that proceed from creatures, depraved mortals. In those acts of the Lord in his jealousy toward his adversaries, and toward his beloved people, we have revelations given us of his character, and this will be very plainly declared that he is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity. He saith, “I am the Lord; that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” Israel, that typical nation whom the Lord took unto such nearness to himself, (Dent. iv. 7,) were nevertheless a people prone to backsliding from the Lord, provoking him to jealousy with their idolatries. (Psalm lxxviii. 58.) Though the Lord so wondrously dealt with this nation, yet it was for only little periods that they abode faithful to the Lord their God. They wandered from him, they were estranged from his covenant, and went gadding about (Jer. ii. 36,) after strange gods. Ah, they were presumptuous enough to invite them in, to establish them, to seat them in the temple of the holy One of Israel, where he had recorded his name. Could the Lord tolerate this! Could he allow another to share the honor and glory and worship that belonged to himself alone! Hear what the Lord saith, “Son of man lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north, and behold, northward at the gate of the altar, this image of jealousy in the entry.” There was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. (Ezek. viii. 3-5.) O daughter of Zion, when this usurper came to estrange thee from thy God, why didst thou not. spurn him from thy threshold! But thou admittest him in, thou didst listen to his flattering suit, thou gavest him a seat in an high and eminent place, polluting with the presence of other gods the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. I will not, dear sister, enter into a narration of the treacherous departures of Israel from the Lord, how they were allured, and played the harlot with many lovers, (Jer. iii. 1,) or the particular instances of the Lord’s vengeance, in the fury of his jealousy, upon the idols, and nations that drew aside his nation from their allegiance to their covenant God, the history of all this is recorded in the Scriptures. The things that transpired with typical Israel are written for our learning, some glimpses that have been given me in which I have seen how applicable are the things that transpired in former ages to our present times, and the present experience of the churches of Christ, and our own personal experiences, I should like to portray. That which provoked the Lord to jealousy was the introduction of foreign things in the worship of the Lord. Idols of other nations, or idols of their own invention, were introduced and associated with the holy One of Israel. How could the Lord endure such rivals! These rivals, who as Jezebel, (2 Kings ix. 30,) painted their eyes and faces, bewitched Israel with their deceptive charms, and thus drew aside their devotion from the Lord their God. Idolatry, false doctrines, the world, the flesh and the devil, that entice the children of God away from the Lord, appeal to the senses and passions of the flesh. The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are gratified in these false lovers, but in the end how repeatedly we find that all is wormwood and gall. For the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
The apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth saith, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” It is very clearly to be seen that Paul would give no countenance to vain deceivers, with their beguiling false doctrines, for he would not have believers whom he had in the gospel presented as a chaste virgin to Christ, allured away and corrupted. The world has ever been full of false lovers of the church. Yes, damnable heresies, and doctrines of devils, practice their seductive arts; they are dressed up so nicely, they use such flattering speeches, they promise such liberty, and with their much wantonness many are allured from the simplicity of Christ. “Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Ah, my dear sister, those errors that invade the church of Christ do not come in all their vicious ugliness, O no. Could we see heresies with the mask torn off we should see their frightful ugliness, and discern that they were the enemies of Christ and of us. The cunning craftiness of seducing spirits is veiled beneath such assumed pretensions to captivate the dear children of God. Ah, false doctrines appear unto us appareled in blue, as captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men. (Ezek. xxiii. 6.) But though the principles of the “another gospel” (Gal. i. 5,) appear clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men, though at first glance they are in our sight as angels of light, let them, saith the apostle Paul, be accursed. But if we are taken with their painted faces and much fair speech, and fall to doting upon them, then ere long we shall learn that our Savior God is a jealous God. He will take vengeance upon these delusions, he will strip them bare, and discover to his people the damnable hideousness of all errors; he will pluck us from their embraces, and shame and confusion will be the portion of his people, to think that they ever took to their bosom such vile errors that were wicked rivals of the Lord our God. It is a sure sign of degeneracy when false doctrines are treated as trifles in the churches of God, when apologies are made for those who are disseminating errors, saying such an one is a good brother, anyway he believes in salvation by grace. O, let us not be deceived by winking at this and that false doctrine. He is not a good brother that is found insinuating errors among the household of God. If such a one be a brother, he is a very naughty one. It will not better the matter to say he is sincere, that he is in a good spirit. Whatever spirit it may be that actuates any one to promulgate false doctrine, we are safe in believing that it is not by the Spirit that he is led, for the Spirit of truth never guides into untruth. We are to try the spirits: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many prophets are gone out into the world.” Then, though false doctrines come with soft and flattering tongues, clothed in blue, as if from the sky, yea, though they appear clothed most gorgeously, portrayed to our view with vermilion, girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their head, all of them princes to look to, (Ezek. xxiii. 14, 15,) they are to be refused, to be spurned from our threshold, and happy are we if found with our heart and our eyes captivated with the King in his beauty. O, it is an exceeding great mercy not to be in any way corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. I will not attempt to set forth the multitudinous false doctrines that have vexed and have turned aside at times many of the loved ones of God, but they all, as I have already intimated, appeal to the fleshly passions of our nature. It is our vile nature that goes forth a lusting after errors. O, it is a pitiable sight to see a child of God enamored with a false doctrine, for I know from experience upon this line of things that when the Lord displays his jealousy, and destroys that which we esteemed as the delight of our eyes, we shall be having a taste of grief and of desperate sorrow. (Isaiah xvii. 10, 11.) The many gods that the tribes of Israel were at divers times captivated with, were adored as the fountains of their manifold temporal blessings, or the power by which they flourished and were triumphant. Thus they attributed to their false gods all the favors which the Lord himself, their God and Husband, had in his kindness bestowed on them. (Hosea ii. 5-13.) “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
In mentioning false principles as the rivals of our God, and the corrupters of his people, we find abundant proof in the Scriptures of the Lord’s abhorrence of all errors, and of the destruction he will bring upon them. False doctrines may satisfy the yearning of our sinful flesh, and while the weather is fair we may be charmed with their novelty, but they all turn us aside from the Lord, and substitute in the place of the God of truth a myth, an idol. There is but one only true and living God, so all the invented gods, such as the doctrines of men and devils, are called “vanities,” (Jer. xiv. 22,) and such the Israel of God find them to be in the time when the Lord pours forth his jealousy in flames of fire. Ah, we learn in times of need that false doctrines, if such we have been following after, are of no avail. Idols in affliction and trouble afford us no relief, and yield us no sustenance. In times past a child of God may have imagined that he sucked honey out of errors, but in the waste howling wilderness they are discovered to be lying vanities indeed. None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good; Christ and him crucified is a poor sinner’s only hope. All carnal religious speculations are delusive cheats, and this in due season all God’s chosen shall know. When we are experiencing the strokes of God’s jealousy because we have gone astray in false doctrines, we shall be brought into such places that the utter worthlessness of all error will be so made known that we shall cast these idols to the moles and the bats, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. In seasons of temptation and famine, when oppressed and bowed down under guilt, when fightings without and within weaken our strength, and make us to faint and groan as a deadly wounded man, what then can save us and afford us satisfaction! Only the simplicity that is in Christ. I know from bitter experience that anything aside from the precious gospel of Christ is an idol, and that an idol is a doctrine of vanities. (Jer. x. 8.) All false doctrines are deceitful allurers from God, they promise us fair things, but treat the child of God shamefully. In fair weather they shew much love, but in our soul’s adversities they are as a deceitful brook, we go to them to quench our thirst, but not a drop of living water can they afford to cool our parched tongue. There is a mighty famine in the land, and we are in want. Then does the Lord discover to us that we have been observing lying vanities, and have forsaken our own mercies, which are treasured up and flow from Christ Jesus alone. The prodigal son said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father.” And the language of the church in Hosea ii. 7, is, “I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.” O, how good it is to be humbled, and to be brought to live in simplicity upon Jesus. How sweet his entertainments are to poor sinners. His blood and righteousness are meat and drink indeed, and his lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh, for he knows how to speak a word in season to the sinvexed, tried and weary in heart. False doctrines are described as antichrist, (1 John ii. 8,) and the Lord by the manifestation of his truth in our hearts discovers these errors to us, and brings destruction upon them, and we are abased beneath his faithful rebukes. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?”
But I will not write any more; what I have written in this long letter does not satisfy me, because I have not reached and entered into that with which my soul is more intimate, in which I have learned that “The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
I am your brother in the hope eternal life,
FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 4.
FEBRUARY 15, 1901.