Dear Sister In Christ Jesus – Beloved Of God: – I see by your last letter you dwell in various parts of our land, sometimes in wilderness places, where straits attend you, and tempted and tried by vexing cares, your sinfulness and Satan’s darts, your soul becomes much discouraged because of the way. (Numbers xxi. 4.) But God knoweth your soul even there. (Hosea xiii. 5.) Jesus was acquainted with grief, and he does not disown his own in the waste places through which their pathway lies. He makes known himself to us in the midst of the dry, parched land, where fiery flying serpents and wild beasts abound. (Deut. viii. 15.) Christ was tempted, and he is able to succor them that are tempted, and as we muse upon this revelation of the Son of God, our wearied, stricken hearts incline unto him, the thought of his mercifulness invites our trust in him, and we feel to cast ourselves upon him, to lean upon our Beloved. (Yes, he is our Love, our arms of love, our warm desires would clasp him and say, O Savior, thou art mine.) As a weary sinner we lean upon him, on him alone, and the language of the burdened heart is, O, bring me forth from this vile, wretched land, or I shall die. Then supported by our Beloved we begin our ascent from the wilderness of temptation. We have thoughts given us, healing thoughts, quieting thoughts, thoughts that strength en us, thoughts that impart hope, that pierce the clouds, that drive them from our sky, thoughts of Jesus, of his obedience, of his sufferings and blood, thoughts upon his unchanging love, thoughts upon his dear words, his precious promises, and in these precious thoughts (Psalm cxxxix. 17,) we come up from the wilderness for “a little space,” (Ezra ix. 8,) leaning upon our Beloved. (Song viii. 5.) How came we to have a. thought, such precious, comforting thoughts! It all proceeds from the love of the Comforter; he testifies of Jesus. It is the communion of the Holy Ghost. (2 Cor. xiii. 14.)
Well, dear sister, here a little while we roam upon the mountains of Israel; the mountains of God’s electing love, his unchangeable mercy, so rich, so sweet, the mountains of Zion drop new wine. Here we have a feast of fat things, delicious fare, sweet, nourishing food so suited to poor sinners, and we say, Dear Savior, without thy sweet mercy I could not live here. And then perhaps in the communion of the Holy Ghost we so ascend above all fears and temptations, and the noise of Satan’s accusations, that we mount to the hill of the Lord, and sing a few notes of grateful, triumphant praise in the heights of Zion, and with the beloved sons of God we flow to the goodness of the Lord. Ah yes, we cannot but feel we are in the stream with them, they are our people, and we are one in heart with the loved and ransomed of the Lord. We flow together in one life, in those things that pertain to the hidden man of the heart. Yes, we feel to be in endearing oneness with Zion. Her mourning, sighs and tears are ours, and now a little while we taste the hope and comforts that are peculiar to the saved of the Lord, a people near unto him. (Psalm cxlviii. 14; Deut. iv. 7.) Ah, notwithstanding we are the least, the most insignificant ones, our hope through the Spirit abounds, and we dare hope that we are near unto the Lord. In relationships so near, so dear, that God is our Father, and we are his children. He is our God, and we are his people. Christ Jesus is our Husband and everlasting Friend. Truly this is a high place for a sinner like me to ascend, but on the wings of his love to my soul I have my moments when my heart is not rebuked when it says within me, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.”
“Christ and my soul are now entire,
I’m smoking flax, his love’s the tire;
Our firm, united souls entwine;
Thus I am his, and he is mine.
From me he never will remove,
He’s mine by faith, I’m his by love;
By oath and vow our hearts conjoin;
Thus I am his, and he is mine.”
Our stay with the Lamb and his fair army upon Mount Zion, is very pleasant, for in the mount of the Lord so much is to be seen. (Gen. xxii. 14.) But though it is so blessed to dwell in the mount of the assurance of faith in Christ Jesus, yet there is knowledge to be gained, and very precious fruits to be gathered in the valley. (Song vi. 11.) It is true some of the valleys are very deep, so narrow, so shut in by exceeding high mountains on either hand, so little sunlight penetrates these deep ravines, yet even here there flows a stream of the compassion of our God. The presence of the Lord flows down these mountains, and in the dark, deep valley, though it be as the valley of the shadow of death unto us, the Lord is the water of life unto us. Even that life which is derived from him, his own divine life which Christ hath given us. We slake our thirst of him, his presence is the fountain of living waters to us, no matter how deep the vale through which we are passing. We are supported by the compassion of our merciful High Priest in the tiresome valley, and by faith we are enabled to say, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Some of the valleys are well watered, and are very pleasant. Here flourishes the Lily of the valley, our dear Redeemer, and here also the church in her spotless beauty thrives. It is true when we see her she is often surrounded with thorns, but they cannot choke her and smother her growth, or hide her surpassing beauty. Though mere professors reach their heads ever so high, though hypocrites shine in their hypocrisies, and environ believers in Jesus on every hand, they are but thorns, they cannot compare with the elect of God. The chosen of God put on, and by the gracious working of the Spirit in them are found arrayed, in bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering. Beautiful garments! The lily, the King’s daughter, is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. Her beauty is such as Christ, her Head and Husband, hath put upon her. (Ezek. xvi.) O, the beauty of poor sinners saved by grace, is the very loveliness of Jesus, which he hath put upon them. “Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Is he the One altogether lovely, and fairer than the children of men t so she is altogether lovely, the fairest among women. (Psalm xlv. 2; Song i. 8; v. 16.) You often, my dear sister, walk in the valley of humiliation. There is so much felt and seen to bumble us, and while humbled under our felt unlikeness to Christ we are sad, and in due season, under the gracious work of the Spirit in our souls, we are contrite before the Lord. When the Lord causes us to feel our vileness, ah, then we are bruised beneath its cruel weight. Sin’s defilements bring grief to the heart of those who are born of the Spirit, and in this, as in other particulars, they are distinct from the rest of mankind. Like doves of the valleys they mourn. Smiting upon their breasts saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The cares attending our natural life, bereavements, temporal afflictions, all such things we have to walk in, and amidst such trials we are sometimes brought low. This you have in some degree found out. We learn in the valley how unsatisfying are all things pertaining to the earth, but being enabled to look up unto the God of our mercy we realize by faith that all the comforting, satisfying and glorifying realities, are found where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. The things that are eternal, brought to light in the gospel of Christ, are the river of his pleasures, (Psalm xxxvi. 8,) which refresh and make glad the city of God. In all these things that we have been together in, I feel there can be traced that way that those walk in who are led by the Spirit of God. If then we are included among the elect number of those who are led by the Spirit, what does this declare! They, saith the word, are the sons of God, (Romans viii. 14,) “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
This is truly a glorious hope. May the consolations thereof be your portion, is my heart’s desire.
I am, I hope, your brother and servant in the gospel,
FRED. W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 67, No. 21.
NOVEMBER 1, 1899.