(Exodus xxxiv. 14.)
Mr Dear Sister In The Covenant Ordered In All Things And Sure: – It has been given us to partake of the sure mercies of David, and thus it is manifest that we belong unto the Lord, in the bonds of this covenant. God has said, “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me,” and I do hope this precious fear is in our hearts. Your kind, spiritual letter tells me very plainly that you are thus sanctified by the Holy Spirit. “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death.” Christ Jesus is the way to whom our hearts are turned by divine teaching; we look unto him as our all. There is within us that which reaches forth, and can only be satisfied with the experience of the very vitalities and realities of Christ’s gospel. What a sweet, sweet token of the covenant is this: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” This lifts the burden of guilt and shame off our hearts, and makes our countenance to shine. We shine upon him who in such grace and mercy shines upon us, and, dear sister, I sometimes feel if Christ will but smile upon me, I shall smile upon death when it cometh. Like yourself I am often wearied with the cares and trials that pertain to this dying life, and most of all with my inward sinfulness and the buffetings of Satan. But we are taught by the Spirit to look unto Jesus, his everlasting priesthood, his atoning sacrifice, his blood and righteousness, are our refuge and heavenly joy. Truly it is the gift of God to ponder in our hearts the glad tidings of the gospel of Christ, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. In Christ we are made righteous, by one offering of himself he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. O, this is blessed! Eternal perfection! Well may the apostle say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” for no other hope have poor sinners of being presented faultless before the throne of God, save through the perfect work of the Son of God, who hath reconciled us to God by his blood, presenting us holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight. The evidence of this felt in our poor hearts pats comfort and peace there, which the world cannot understand.
And now once more I will pen you a few thoughts upon the jealousy of the Lord, whose name is Jealous. It is not in vain that it is written, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Our corrupt affections constantly need to be curbed by God’s reigning grace, or else such is the power of our indwelling lusts, that we are found roving in every field, far away from the holy Redeemer.
“While we are held in his embrace,
There’s not a thought attempts to rove;
Each smile upon his beauteous face,
Fixes and charms and fires our love.”
Those who are wholly in the grasp, and are the willing slaves of the world, the flesh and the devil, cannot understand the vicissitudes that belong to the life and pilgrimage of the children of God. I know from experience what it is to be enamored with earth’s pleasures, and I have also felt the ensnaring power of the cares and burdens that are heaped upon us, and that the people of God sometimes heap upon themselves. “They that will be rich, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” When this wretched fever, “I will be rich,” eats up a man’s life, he finds little time for the worship of God. The precious Scriptures become a neglected book, they cannot find one minute in the day to read a few lines, and some are so wrapped up in the world, so hot in pursuit of the things that perish, that perhaps for a whole month the Bible has been an unopened, uuread book. Is this as it should be with one for whom Christ Jesus poured out his soul unto death! Sad indeed is the life of that child of God who has become so ensnared that to the utmost of their opportunity they are devoting themselves to the follies of the world. If we (yes, my dear sister, it is well for us to take the matter home to ourselves) are making provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof, we may get along as we fancy swimmingly for a time, but we shall soon find ourselves sinking in “hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition,” and but for the sovereign grace of God we should drown in perdition to rise no more. In the soul’s backslidings from the Lord, if only for a few hours, or for a longer period of time, when as it were our backs are turned to the Lord, (Jer. ii. 27,) and our faces are toward those things that are sinful, we shall meet with indications of the Lord’s jealousy, how soon the Lord can spoil the choicest morsels that this word can yield. He can turn its honeyed sweets its wormwood and gall, what our hearts were set upon, and we anticipated would be a fountain of delight, beneath the Lord’s jealousy it is dried up; instead of a pleasure, it causes grief; the Lord’s blight is upon it, and it no longer flourishes, it withers and dies, and we are left desolate. I have tasted this, and I have heard a voice that I knew, that seemed to come from afar, saying, “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel! a land of darkness!” – Jer. ii. 31. Ah, in my soul’s backslidings from the Lord I have suffered beneath the rebukes of his jealousy. He has pleaded with me face to face, (Ezek. xx. 3j,) and O, how I have smarted beneath the words of his injured love. Every word of the Lord, all the Scriptures, every precious hymn that might come into my thoughts, or that I might read, would cut me and pierce me, and fill me with wounds, or would be to my soul as the light in which was discovered to me how far off I had strayed from our Savior. As I look over the repeated scenes of my life in which from one cause and another I have been turned aside from following the Lord, I clearly see that the Lord our God is a jealous God, his providential dealings with me have manifested this. He reveals his displeasure against everything that ensnares us away from our allegiance to him, and he does not suffer us to harvest the pleasures that we anticipated. Then what a wilderness we discover we have been allured into by the Lord. (Hosea ii. 14.) Here we are humbled and chastened, and our hearts begin to pine after some knowledge of God’s pardoning love; to taste again communion with the Lord. When I have been smarting under the shame of my vileness and wretched heart wanderings from God, unbelieving fears have also harrassed me that the Lord would not receive me and grant me the smiles of his face as he had been wont in former days. (It is a great thing, dear sister, to believe with all our heart in Christ’s immutable love.
“Whate’er thou founds’t him at thy best,
He’s at thy worst the same;
And in his love will over rest,
Thy Husband holds his claim.”
But at length in my sinful, folorn condition, I have been driven and drawn by a power divine to pour forth my complaints at his feet, and I have cried, O Lord, have mercy upon me, let not the lusts of the flesh, the vain delights of earth, swallow me up.
“Thy wounds Emmanuel all forbid,
That I should seek my pleasures there.”
O, may I more and more be captivated and held fast by the beauty of the Lord. May thy surpassing immortal charms, dear Lamb of God, ever ravish my heart; let my ravished sight be riveted upon thee, O lovely Savior. Snatch me away from all that would entice me from thee, for there is no love like thine. O, wilt thou not forbid that my sinful lusts, this vain world or the powers of hell, should drag me from love’s devotion to thee, my Lord, my heavenly Friend. O, I love thee, but thou knowest my earthly nature is so sinful, I am so weak, so wayward, my conflicts with indwelling evil are so severe, that I am overcome, thrust down, or led away sin’s very slave, unless thou holdest me fast with the cords of that dear love of thine. Draw me, and I will run after thee. O that there might be a perpetual stream of the revelations of thy love and mercy, that constant discoveries of thy loveliness might chain my soul fast to thee, for well, well, I know when thou art in my view the world, the flesh and the devil, exert their powers in vain.
“One smile, one blissful smile of thine,
My dearest Lord, outweighs them all.”
But O, sometimes thou hidest thyself and art gone, and dreadful night sets it1, and my soul is the prey of all evils, then my flesh creepeth forth with the affections and lusts, and chaseth after lying vanities, the wilderness environs my soul, I am shut up and cannot come forth. Here O how unhappy I am without thee,
O Savior of sinners, and as I call thee to mind, I reproach myself, I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise till visions of thee, O suffering Lamb of God, come before me, then my chilled heart is warmed, till inflamed with desire to thee I cry,
“Hide not thy face from the heart that adores thee,
Hast thou not sought me, and called me thy Dove?
Thus I approach thee, O fairest Redeemer,
Lured by thy beauty to dwell in thy love.”
Ah, my dear sister, I find some ease when I can pour out my chastened soul before our holy and gracious God. But if a time of winter sets in, and I am held in the vice of hard heartedness, O this is a desperate condition. When we are dwelling by faith with Christ, there is holy intercourse between us; we think upon his name, we have moments of comforting meditation upon his suffering and blood, and his grace to poor sinners is very sweet, and when trials are our portion, then to the bosom of our Lord and Friend we repair, to him we tell each rising grief, and seek his aid in our difficulties.
“O for that sweet simplicity that rests alone on Christ;
Just as an helpless infancy hangs on the mother’s breast.”
But very trifles at times have such power that I am brought into a cold and lifeless condition. I do not know that I can portray before you my soul’s condition while in this state of estrangement from the Lord. When I would see Christ Jesus in the conversation of the saints, in his doctrine that I might be hearing or reading, it was as though we carried it strangely with each other; there were no familiar glances; I have felt so unholy, so base, my backslidings were all in my view, and were reproving me. I felt I could not look the Lord in the face, I was in such shame I could not lift up my face unto our God. (Ezra ix. 6.) Though with downcast heart I was before him, I have thought his eye seeth me, and he give me no intimate salutation. Ah, he called me not his dove, and I could not call the Son of God my Beloved, my unbelieving heart said he would resent it. But notwithstanding all my crookedness, I do love him, I have loved him, and many times my heart has ached to call him mine, and to tell the Redeemer that I loved him still. O, I have been pained, my bruised heart has been inditing endearing, familiar language, but there was something that choked down these words, and instead of saying, O my God, in my prayers, I said, O God; instead of calling him Ishi (husband) I called him Baali (Lord) (Hosea ii. 16.) I felt there was a distance, that there were barriers between my soul and the holy One of Israel. Then I have felt I am before him, before his throne, not as a sin-pardoned sinner, not as a child, his love, his bride, but rather as a formal courtier, with my formal manners, and formal speech; mere words, not the language that my stricken heart wanted to use. I came unto him as though I knew (loved) him not, and that he had never known me by name, calling me Hephzibah. I felt he treated me very coolly, I was confused and cut to the heart, indeed I was, and yet not sufficiently humbled and contrite over my wandering ways and bad behavior unto him who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Ah, nothing but God’s invincible grace can give a vile sinner a contrite heart, and bring him to pour forth the confession of his sins at the feet of the Lord our Savior.
Let me present you a glimpse of another scene during a time of estrangement from the Lord, it comes all so new in my thoughts, I had been much perplexed with cares and trials, and in fretfulness and rebellion I had wandered far from God, I was a wicked backslider in heart, and filled with my ways. Times of trouble are not always times of spiritual mindedness. It is only the Lord’s blessing attending them that brings forth in us those fruits of the Spirit in which our heavenly Father is glorified. Without this grace supplied to us beneath afflictions, we prove that they crush out of us horrid vilenesses, at least so sinful is my flesh that such has been my shameful experience. At the time to which I refer, I had been a long time as the heath of the desert, and all that was visible or felt was briers and thorns, but the time drew nigh when the Lord would heal my backslidings, and shew me that he loved me most freely. I was assembled with saints at a certain place, and one was preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ; I looked upon the faces of the brethren and sisters as they listened to the joyful sound of the gospel, and as I looked upon them I saw that our dear Savior was in the gardens among the sweet lilies; I witnessed his smiles upon the daughters of Jerusalem, .and his lips like lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh, spake kind and healing words to the meek and lowly believers in him. It was as though I heard them saying in their hearts, His words are sweet and strengthening, and I saw their faces beaming with sacred pleasure, but there was no smile for me, no word for me; me he passed by. O, then was I overcome as with a maddening fever, I felt, I have no right to be in this garden, in the church, I am not a child of God: how can I think I am beloved and chosen! I am a reprobate, I am neither a rose or a lily, I am nothing but cursed thorns and thistles; how have I dared to intrude myself into Christ’s garden, among the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord! I am not fit to be seen, I am not fit to be known, I am so dark and wicked and unclean, that if I were known, I should be plucked up and cast over the garden wall to be burned. Then I felt my hardness departing, and I mourned over my sins before my God, I sighed and cried unto him for mercy, I told him that my joy was fled, and that I could no longer live beneath his frown. Frowns and rebukes I deserve, but O, thou Savior of sinners, rebuke me not in thy hot displeasure; give, O give me one glance of pity, one look of forgiveness; one smile I entreat. Hast thou not, O mighty Savior, a kind word for me! Thus my soul was exercised before him, and he comforted and restored my soul, filling me with sweet peace in the hope that he loved a poor sinner like me.
Dear sister, I have opened up to you some of that hidden life of my soul which the mere talking religionist cannot understand. If the fear of the Lord be in a man’s heart, there will in some measure be felt that life that reacheth forth after the living God, after holiness, after more and more knowledge of Christ, and many a sigh will be his portion, because of his non-attainments, but he will also have many precious moments of peace and comfort in Jesus. Sometimes in our simplicity we repeat the words, “Turn each cursed idol out, that dares to rival thee;” or,
“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.”
The Lord, whose name is Jealous, will dethrone every idol, and a great stir he makes in his temple when he cometh in his jealousy saying, “Take these things hence.” – John ii. 16.
There are times in the Lord’s dispensations with us that cisterns break and creatures fail. The world and all things therein lose their charm, its fleeting, vain pleasures cannot satisfy, the lustings of our flesh affright us, and we cry unto our God for grace, lest we should fall beneath their power, and live in the gratification of them. The Lord in his jealousy will put a blight upon whatsoever turns away his people from him. He only is their exceeding joy, and when this is felt, all other things are secondary. That word is sure which saith, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death.” Though those snares be manifold, the fear of the Lord fills us with ardent desires to be saved from all the wiles of sin and the devil, and if at any time we are entrapped, how restless we become. The fear of the Lord as a fountain of life will cause us to cry, Who shall deliver me from the snares of death! Our God hears the cry of the prisoners, and breaks every snare; then through his marvelous kindness we can sing, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” I am very well satisfied that the true grace of God wherein we stand, is something more than our assent to the bare theory of gospel doctrine. God’s grace in us will incite us to worship him in spirit and in truth; yes, his grace will be in us a fountain of ardent aspirations to hold communion with the Lord, to live and walk by faith in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. We need his mediation, his precious blood and righteousness, and his gracious and prevailing intercession for transgressors. This personal, spiritual knowledge of the Redeemer, is the one thing needful, and this I feel I can say my soul craveth. Ah, it is too true that I am sometimes languid, and my unbelieving heart and sin’s deceitfulness draw me aside from the Lord. But though I am made to smart under the strokes of his jealousy, he has not put me away, he sheweth me mercy, and again and again quickeneth my soul’s cravings after him, and I long for that divine, unspeakable privilege to have a place in the bosom of Jesus.
“Jesus, thou pleasant art,
And excellently fair,
And for a loving heart,
None can with thee compare;
Majestic on a throne, yet mild,
A King, yet lowly as a child.”
The Lord has his own way with all his chosen, to cleanse them from their idols, for whatsoever we worship and look to for salvation, is an idol, an image of jealousy which the Lord will dethrone, and in his unabated, unexampled love, he will deliver us from our captors, and when from time to time he heals our backslidings, and turns again our captivity, in the eagerness of our souls we exclaim, “Behold we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”
FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No.5
March 1, 1901