Mrs. W. J. Berry
Santa Monica, Calif.
My Dear Child, My Sister in Christ Jesus:
Your letter concerning your soul’s troubles and your consolations in Christ was read with sacred pleasure. Many years ago, when I was between sixteen and seventeen years of age, I got into much darkness of soul, and I was much distracted by the distresses I was in. I tried to unbosom my complaints to the Lord; but I thought “the Lord shutteth out my prayer” (Lam. 3:8). I found no relief. One day I was in my bedroom in my trouble, my grandmother passing my bedroom door and said, “What is the matter?” I said, “Nothing.” I then locked my door, for I thought Grandmother would come into my room if she heard me. I threw myself upon my bed in my soul’s anguish. In a few minutes Grandmother came to my bedroom door, and finding it locked, she said, “Let me in, there is something the matter”.
I let her in, and she sat on the side of the bed with me, and threw her arms around me (for I was in tears) and asked me to tell her what was the matter. I told her the Lord had forsaken me, He had east me away, and so forth. “Oh no!” Grandmother replied; and among other sacred and gracious things she said, “The Lord is just hiding His face” (Psalm 88:14).
I continued for several weeks in much darkness and soul distress; my dear Grandmother every day inquiring how I was getting along. One day in reply to the relation of my soul’s conflicts, she looked at me, and all the reply that time was to repeat to me the words., “It is good for a man that he bore the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27). I thought, just then, my dear Grandmother is a poor comforter. I learned afterwards from the lips of my dear Grandmother (who was a deeply taught child of God, and a mother in Israel ) that I was being “weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts”, to be taught knowledge and made to understand doctrine (Isaiah 28:9).
You are being taught of the Lord. Sometimes the providences in which we are taught, and the bitter and humbling lessons we are made to learn are in paths of soul’s adversity, and in some measure we are made to know that it is “by terrible things in righteousness will thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea” (Psalm 65:5). It pleases God, for the glory of His own name, and for the ultimate good of His dear children, to show them hard things: “thou hast made us to drink of the wine of astonishment” (Psalm 60:3). And if the Lord has been giving you a little taste of “hard things”, you are but beginning to know something of that divine discipline which all the family of God are made to experience. The outcome of all God’s dealings will ever be for the good of those who love God, whom He called unto Himselfunto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. unto His eternal glory, according to His purpose. It is a hard thing to be made to feel how foul, how “earthly, sensual, devilish” is our Adamic nature. The human heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.”
“My nature discloses to view,
More vileness than I can declare,
And were not the promises true
I’m sure I should sink in despair.”
Then in addition, at such times, to find our adversary, the devil, hurling his fiery darts into our souls, we are wretched indeed. Shame and confusion of face is our lot, and we are buffeted to and fro. Then also when our God overthrows our plans, takes away from us some darling expectation, withers our gourds under which we have sheltered ourselves, as He did Jonah’s (Jonah 4:6-10), ah! then we are cast down, discouraged, fretful; for we love to have our own way, to plan our own pathway, and to ordain what fare we should have in our pilgrimage. But, Oh, when the Lord blasts, turns upside down what we have devised! these are hard things. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps” (Prov. 16:19).
My soul says, and yours also, “I can do all things, and can bear all trials if the Lord is there.” But what if the Lord hideth Himself? What if He be veiled from our sight? Ah! then the troubles of our hearts are enlarged, and we are cast down, dismayed, unbelief, hardness, and as you say, “darkness” envelope us. “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Isa. 45:15). “And when he hideth himself who can behold him?” (Job 34:29). “Thou didst hide thyself and I was troubled” (Psalm 30:7).
It is night, yes, soon it is midnight darkness when Jesus hides His face from us, wretched, base, sinful worms. The beasts of the forest creep forth, the hidden iniquities of our vile hearts, and Satan as a roaring lion roams abroad in our soul’s sad night. We quake and fear and feel ourselves the prey of a many woes.
Consider the cry of a poor desolate soul, “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
“‘Twas in the night, when troubles came,
I sought, my God, for thee;
But found no refuge in that name
That once supported me.”
All the vicissitudes, conflicts, darkness, troubles that have been and are now yours are known to the Lord. And although you feel yourself an unworthy worm, a vile sinner, base and black and to be despised; though the plague of your own heart (1 Kings 8:38) you are more and more experiencing; though sorrows are yours, and a little taste you may have had of what Baruch groaned under, saying, “Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest” (Jer. 45:3). Through all these temptations, though ever so perverse you feel to have been, our gracious God is still the same. And
“Did Jesus once upon one shine,
Then Jesus is forever mine.”
“A single smile from Jesus given
Will raise a drooping soul to heaven.”
I have many, many times found my hope and comfort to abound once more when I have been by the Comforter given to meditate upon the person, and character, and the glorious and gracious exploits of Christ our Redeemer and Friend. And also I have been made to contemplate, to muse upon the dealings of Christ with my soul. Was I not made to feel my lost condition as a vile transgressor? And was I not taught, drawn to come to Christ? And did He not receive me? When I looked unto Him, the crucified Lamb of God, was I not lightened. Oh did not our precious Christ Jesus give me hope of the remission of my sins? Did I not feel that all my sins were forgiven, all washed away through His precious atoning blood? Did not peace and sacred reconciliation give me joy in God? And did I not by His precious power in my soul call Jesus my dear Savior? And did I not hope that I was a child of God? Did I not love, and did I not think He loved a poor sinner like me? Yes! And I hoped He would at length bring me to dwell with Himself in everlasting bliss. But has Christ changed? Is it all a delusion? “Begone unbelief, my Savior is near.” For though
“My soul through many changes goes;
His love no variation knows.”
Let us look at our betrothal contract to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, “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 2:19-20). Has He broken His covenant? Let my heart by thy graciousness in me believe the words of His lips. “His lips are like lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh” (Sol. Song 5:13). “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of may lips” (Psalm 89:34). Oh! my heart believe him. The Apostle Paul saith, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
“Will he now his grace deny?
Lay his wonted kindness by?
Will he, can he say, Depart,
To the humble, contrite heart?
No, our God is still the same
Endless blessings on his name.”
...May the Lord bless you, and establish, strengthen, settle you in the mercies of the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.
I am your brother and servant in the gospel of Christ,
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
Undated, written about 1932.
OLD FAITH CONTENDER, April 1955