WHEN I was in my seventeenth year I was taught some very profitable lessons by our gracious God. I learned these things through humiliating experiences. I had been given a good hope through grace when just past my fifteenth birthday, and Jesus Christ, who is our hope, has been the everlasting consolation of my soul in every time of trouble, even unto this day. My eyes were opened to see, and my heart to receive the doctrine of Christ, and so did I yearn to know more and more of him that the Scriptures were my companions. I think it would not be exaggeration to say they were my meditation day and night. I trust I was taught of the Lord, and made to understand doctrine. (Isaiah xxxviii. 9.) I attained to at least a somewhat comprehensive scriptural view of the doctrine of God’s grace declared in the doctrine of election, predestination to glory and unto the adoption of children of the redeemed, and their ultimate glorification in their resurrection to immortality and incorruption at the last day. I saw these things recorded in the Bible, and I had a vital, experimental understanding of some parts of the doctrine of God our Savior, but in the midst of what looked to me as a growth in understanding, there came unto me, rather there arose up from within me, terrible temptations, and but for the mercy of God I should have gone far astray from the truth and from Jesus Christ. I should have become a veritable antinomian, not one in bare theory, but a veritable vile, practical antinomian. Now these vile heretical imaginations that well-nigh carried me away did not arise from any human suggestions or teachings of men, but they arose from within my own vile nature, inciting me to live after the flesh; that the liberty, or license, was mine to do with all greediness, to sin that grace might abound, to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. Before saying more I will say the Lord hedged in my ways with mercy, and very graciously kept me from all outward life more circumspect than in these early years of my life as a believer in the Lamb of God, but the affections and lusts of my flesh I was beginning to feel in a way that I had not known before, such depravities within me were being shown me, and all around me in the world I saw the allurements to all that is abominable in the sight of God, and then arose those carnal reasonings upon the doctrine of God our Savior, so that I became for awhile in my theories an antinomian. O, with what gratitude to the Lord I record it again, I was kept from all outward sinful acts. How clearly I was shown in after days that my theories would have changed the truth of God into a lie, have turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. My feet were well-nigh gone, but Jehovah’s sovereign mercy held me up and delivered me from the snare. I saw from the testimony of the word of God that he had predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, and moreover, whom he did predestinate them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified, and I saw that the atonement of Christ had forever put away their sins, and reconciled them unto God; that all the sins of all the elect, past, present and future, to the end of their days upon the earth, were laid upon Christ, the Lamb of God, and his sacrifice had made an end of them. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he than condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Now my fleshly mind began to reason upon the doctrine, and leagued with the affections and lusts of my flesh the fruit was, (though I hope the Lord had begun a good work in me and that I was a child of God by the Spirit of Christ enabling me to cry, Abba, Father,) that sin as much, and as often as possible for me to do, I could not exceed in measure, in number and heinousness my iniquities that were laid upon Jesus Christ, the Surety of the new covenant, which he had atoned for by his precious, efficacious blood, and therefore now I could sin as much as I was capable of, for though my sins should ever so much abound, God’s grace would much more abound, and all would end well, for did I not believe that I was a vessel of mercy afore prepared unto glory? I am ashamed to think that I ever indulged such thoughts, but I did; the affections and lusts of my flesh were lively, abounding. O what a horrible shame it all is to me! My feet were almost gone: my steps had well-nigh slipped. One bad step prepares us to take other evil steps, so I went on into other abominable antinomian tenets. I said to myself, When Christ died for our sins, God there pardoned, justified and declared his people to be holy, unblamable and reprovable in his sight, and since God hath declared in my heart that he hath for Christ’s sake forgiven all my iniquities, and that I am justified by Christ’s blood, and shall be saved from wrath through him, what need is there now for me daily, and oftentimes hourly, to be praying to our heavenly Father for the pardon of my sins? But I will not relate any farther these wicked theories that took captive my soul for a time, and exercised me until I was in a dreadful state, and but for the delivering mercy of God I should have become as hardened vile a reprobate as ever lived. But I would speak how the Holy Spirit with gracious, humbling, melting discipline brought me out of these cursed snares and led me into the ways of truth. O how often since then have I cried unto the Lord my God, “Search me, O God and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” One of the pernicious fruits of these speculators was that sin in all its hideousness became less vile in my sight, but it was in this very thing that my fleshly, pleasing heresies received their first blow that began to crush down and to quell all such damnable theories. What was the blow that gave this deadly thrust to these God-dishonoring delusions? It was this (surely it was the Holy Spirit in sovereign mercy to me, a poor sinner, straying away from the gospel of Christ):
“I saw One hanging on a tree
In agonies and blood;
He fixed his languid eyes on me,
As near the cross I stood.”
I mused upon the scene, I went in my faith and fervent love to Gethsemane. O the sufferings and blood of the Lamb of God in Gethsemane’s garden and on Calvary’s mount! They were brought with gracious power anew into my contemplations, and I saw how terrible, how vile, how cursed, was sin to the dear almighty Redeemer. O what pains, what agonies were his when he made atonement for our guilt, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself! Did it cost thee, dear Jesus, all this to redeem me from my sins and from everlasting woe? I felt to blush, to sigh, to loathe myself; I felt my heart throbbing with affection, with pity, with grief over him. O how can I sin against thy wounds, thy blood, thine agonies, thy strong crying and tears? I mourned over my felt depravity, and felt, I cannot, I must not, I will not sin; O God, keep me; I have mercy upon me; hold me up; let me not sin; O that I could never, never sin. I had, during this time of temptation, become so bewildered by these wild speculations, (O I had no idea at the time that I was in confusion, far from it; I thought I was wiser, could see things plainer than ever, that I was getting new light on the doctrine of Christ,) I used to sin,
“The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do,
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.”
And I read, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” – Gal. iii. 13; and, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” – Rom. vi. 14; and I reasoned that I could not come into condemnation, since Christ had died for me, and that God loved me, and would at length bring me to everlasting bliss even though I lived ever so lawless; I concluded that there was no law over the elect, ransomed, the called of God. O it is horrible the snare in which I was held a captive. But it pleased God to show me the folly and wickedness of such carnal imaginations. The Holy Spirit showed me in what new relations believers in Christ are unto God in the new covenant. Therein the Lord says, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people,” and that instead of the redemption of the elect from sin, and death, and hell, and the grave, being a license for them to live lawlessly, to sin that grace may abound, that the death and resurrection of Christ bring them into such gracious nearness to God, it has brought them under such God-glorifying ties. O so amiable are these new covenant relations that the elect, the loved and blood-washed, the called of God, are under everlasting obligations to live in unceasing service and undying gratitude to God. How blessedly the apostle declared it, “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” – 1 Cor. vi. 19,20. And do not our hearts respond to this: “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” – Rom. vi. 8-15. Yes, I have been taught that if we are truly born of God, believers in Jesus, that they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Gal. v. 24.) Then again, If God hath sent for the the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father, then are we put among the children, we are the household of God, and under the government of our Father in heaven. Jehovah speaks of Christ and they that are his in Psalms lxxxix. 26-34: “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” (See Heb. xii. 5-11.) I have heard it affirmed that Christ, having made his loved and blood-washed people kings and priest unto God and his Father, that these kings were above law. This is an error, for there is but one being, the one only true and everlasting God, the everlasting King, who is not under law. He, the eternal God, the blessed and only Potentate, is the Holy One inhabiting eternity, and his will, his own counsel, his purpose, his wisdom so infinite and immutable, declare his eternity. He is King of Kings and Lord of lords, and all these little, these finite kings and their thrones, and crowns and reigning, are in his power; they are, everyone one of them, subject to the great King, and are, and throughout eternity ever will be, under law to Jehovah, Jesus Christ, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto: whom no man hath seen nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth! O these other little kings, the loved and blood-washed, the called of Jesus Christ, do very blessedly reign sometimes even now while they are in this world, but sometimes they are naughty, they do foolishly, they are fretful, rebellious, they would reign, O yes, but according to some other will and wisdom than Christ’s. Then there is trouble, they experimentally come down from their thrones, the crown is taken off their heads, God is the Judge, he putteth down one and setteth up another. They are troubled, and brought low, and have to put on sackcloth and ashes. The great King puts them in prison for a season, and there they languish, shut up and they cannot come forth, and instead of wearing their royal robes they are in prison garments (Jeremiah lii. 33.), and they come under severe discipline, and only the King of kings can lift up their heads again and place them on the throne, and thus these little kings shall learn, and very willing cast their crowns at the feet of the King of kings and Lord of lords. How blessed also was my release from that delusion that there was no need to pray for the forgiveness of my sins any more. I know some professors of the name of Christ who never pray. They were never brought with weeping and supplications at the feet of the Almighty. They give their assent to points of doctrine, but they are without God, and without Christ in the world; they are strangers to communion with God. During this time, when I ceased from praying for pardon, I was often solely burdened with my sinfulness; I loathed myself at times, because of my iniquities, my guiltiness before God made me sigh, but one day I read how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and then I saw he taught them to pray every day after this manner: “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. They will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” The snare was broken, and my sin-distressed heart poured out its sorrow and burden, in confessing my sins and asking him to comfort my soul with that blessedness of the man whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. We have redemption through Christ’s blood, even the forgiveness of sins, and if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.” – Psalms xxxii. 6. Many other sore temptations I have known, but O the constant love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus has been wonderful to me, a poor sinner.
May the Lord bless what I have written to some tempest-tossed, buffeted child of God.
Your brother in Jesus,
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine
Signs of the Times
Volume 80, No. 8
April 15, 1912