Elder J. G. Eubanks - My Dear Brother in the Fellowship of Christ's Gospel:
I was glad to hear from you, but since the time that I received yours I have felt far from letter writing. I have been in desolate places, as an exile from the “delightsome land.” My own forwardness and vileness has been increasingly discovered, and in hardness and impenitency of heart my days and weeks have been spent. During all this time I walked with such stiffneckedness, too hardened, too proud to bend down and fall at the feet of Him that sitteth upon the throne. I have felt myself as an incarnate devil. It is with pain and shame that I now confess this. Ah, well I know that salvation must be of the sovereign grace of God to save a miserable wretch like me. Carnal professors are well pleased with themselves if they make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but this only does not satisfy the child of God. Tokens of mercy, glimpses of the fair countenance of the dear Redeemer, at least a morsel now and then from the table of the King, a glance of love and the kisses of His mouth are what we crave, or else as in a land of banishment we dwell. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.” So I have proved it.
Last Sunday I assembled with the church feeling barren and desolate, and when I stood up to speak, there I stood like a fool, a perfect blank, turning over the pages of the Bible to see if my eye could not light upon some text to preach from. But it was all to no purpose: I pitied the dear people gathered together, but felt too stiffnecked, too vile to even pity myself. I told the congregation I had no text, but that I had, I thought, been learning during the past week that I was the “chief of sinners.”
In a moment I was anointed with fresh oil. I felt the abounding grace, and tender mercy of the Lord flowed even unto me. His comforts and pardoning love overflowed my soul, my hardness and stubbornness was all melted away, while utterance was given me to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. My captivity was turned, my soul was filled with laughter, and sweetly resting by faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb, I saw the enemy cast down, defeated and put to flight; then with the virgin, the daughter of Zion, I shook my head at mine enemies, and laughed them to scorn. (Isaiah 37:22). Christ Jesus and Him crucified was my soul's hope of deliverance from my sins and temptations, and from all the power of the enemy. Who could now assail me? Who could rise up against me? Who is he that condemneth? Where were now my accusers? By the grace and exceeding power of the Lord toward me, I believe that Jesus died even for me, and rose again for my justification, and thus triumphant and joyful in praises to the Lord, how easy it was now to speak of His mercy and grace, and to tell that “the Lord hath triumphed gloriously.”
You speak about my being in a spiritual state of mind when I wrote that letter. It was truly a “time of love” from the Lord to my soul. The remembrance of that season as it now comes to my mind is very grateful. While in the midst of writing my soul went forth in contemplation of the love of Christ to His Church, and to such an unworthy, sinful worm like me. Suddenly I was so overcome with the thought that the Redeemer loved even me, such a vile wretch as I am, that I burst into tears and sobbed aloud so overcome with the loving-kindness of the Lord.
My dear wife sprang to my side, and throwing her arms around me said, “What is the matter? what is the matter?” All I could do was to sob as though my heart were breaking. I could not tell her, it was my joy unspeakable and full of glory. When I received your letter I thought, What would brother Eubanks think now? I am a very devil, worse than a devil. Devils have never tasted Jehovah's pardoning love: they have never been indulged to recline upon the bosom of the altogether lovely One; they have not been banqueted at the King's table. But how wayward I am? How forgetful, how ungrateful, how unbelieving am I. Shame and confusion of face belongs unto me, but so insensible, so hardened in so short a time have I become, that I do not blush (Ezra 9:6; Jer. 6:15) over my inconstancy. Then I felt to sigh over my degenerate estate, but could scarcely beg one smile again from the gracious Lord. I felt it would be better to have frowns and chastenings. But I have learned that we cannot instruct the Lord our God how to deal with us. He deals most sovereignly with His people. In Him all perfections reside. He is as perfect in His wisdom and holiness, as He is in His love and sweet mercy. When under affliction of soul I have smarted, then I have thought I have been chastened enough, but the Lord has not ceased for all my crying. Then when I have feared severe chastenings, and I could see no escape from the rod because of my backslidings in heart, I have found our Lord had His own way to bring me in humbleness of mind, and in contrition at His feet. Some sweet promise has been spoken in my heart, some sweet vision of the sacrifice of Christ, a glimpse of His sufferings and agony when He smarted under our dreadful guilt, to purge it away. Like a flash, so unexpected, so undeserved has this mercy been, a glow of shame has gone over my soul, and in self-loathing I have bowed before the Lord, and have said within my heart, have I been so unmindful, so perverse? Have I so abused Thee, Thou lovely Savior? I felt the Lord loves me still, He has pardoned all my sins. I have thought this is too much, I cannot endure it. Instead of falling on my neck and kissing me, I ought to be sent to the prison-house, and there shut up a long time, and fed with the bread of affliction.
“O that His bleeding form would rise,
His dying love must clearly shine,
And break mine heart, and burst mine eyes,
With joys and sorrows all divine.
O that the sight of all His pains
Would rise devotions purest flame;
Work vast abhorrence to my sins,
And purest love to His dear name.
O that at last I might but die
In my dear Savior's bleeding arms;
Then sweetly mount to worlds on high,
Amidst His all-refulgent charms.”
You say, “the strife will soon be over.” What a comfort this is! The Son of God suffered the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Then to our God we shall come. Christ's sacrifice secures to us an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of God. And through grace all the ransomed Church shall sing around the throne of God and the Lamb, “Thou hast redeemed us to God,” etc.
In the love and fellowship of the Gospel, I am, I hope, your brother,
Elder Frederick W. Keene - 1916