A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen


Covington, GA., March 3, 1867.

LETTER #1. DEAR BROTHER SULLIVAN: - Yours of Dec. 25, 1866, was received in due time, requesting my views on Psa. 45:13, with some remarks on the entire psalm. My mind, time and circumstances have hindered me from complying with your request. I thought immediately on the reception of your letter that I would reply in a short note; but failed to do so. I have not treated you as I ought, or as I would like to have a person treat me. My mind has been so closely absorbed with cares, time has flown apace; and circumstances have kept me constantly on the move. I hope you will excuse my seeming neglect, though I have not intended any harm.

I remember with pleasure our acquaintance at the Licking Association, and the agreeable season I had with the brethren and sisters and friends in Kentucky. I wish I could enjoy another such opportunity; but at present it does not seem practicable.

As to my views on the psalm, and especially on the verse you mention, it seems I am wholly incapable of writing on a subject so glorious and sublime, and fraught with so much instruction and comfort to the saints. The heart of man is incapable of inditing good matter, for it {the heart of man,} is fully set in him to do evil. This is too apparent to be controverted by any person of a sound mind. God has given to his people a new heart and a new spirit. On this principle they love him with all the heart, &c. In a collective sense the people of God are his church, the body of Christ. There is one body and one spirit, one hope and one salvation. They are united to Christ in this indissoluble union. Being in the spirit the church can say, My heart is inditing a good matter. What is it? I speak of the things which I have made touching {or concerning} the King. Not anything I have produced by my native energy and power, but that which is produced by the spiritual working of a spiritual mind, or the heart or spirit of Christ. The good matter, or the things which my heart has produced, or upon which I speak, are of God; they are concerning the King; they come from that source alone. Everything else is of the earth and originated in the deep recesses of a depraved imagination, the depth of darkness and death. My tongue the pen of a ready writer. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth {or tongue} confession is made unto salvation. The words tongue and mouth are used synonymously when used in relation to speaking. The mouth can be speaking only by the use of the tongue. When the heart is full of good matter flowing forth, the tongue speaks like the pen of a ready writer; it speaks easily and freely. At one time the Psalmist was dumb with silence while the wicked were before him; yet says, “My heart was hot within me; while I was musing the fire burned; then spake I with my tongue.” God’s ministers speak often under similar circumstances. Their heart is full of good matter concerning the King, his doctrine, laws and ordinances; they speak because they cannot withhold from speaking. Many individuals, but one heart; and their heart often burns within them like the two who went on their way to Emmaus. Well may the church speak of her adorable Redeemer, “Thou art fairer than the children of men.” In his mediatorial character he stands upon the earth, yet like the ladder which Jacob saw in his vision reaches to heaven. He came down from heaven and has gone back there; yet sustains the relation of Mediator between God and his people. In his manhood as the Mediator, he is fairer, more glorious, more exalted than the children of men. I speak of his manhood alone in relation to his Mediatorial character as the Son of God, the Covenant Head of the church, and not to his assumption of a fleshly body when born of the virgin Mary. As Mediator, the angels of God ascend and descend upon him. God talks with his church, or communicates with her through Jesus Christ, as God talked with Jacob in a night vision on the desert of Mesopotamia. By faith the saints ascend the way of God by a living Mediator. They behold the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ, and for a time forget their own infirmities, unworthiness, vileness, and such like, through a faith’s view of him who is fairer than the children of men can ever be by any of the manufactured ornaments or decorations of time. This fascinating enchanting view of Christ absorbs all other contemplation with the church. She can say, “Grace is poured into thy lips.” Our God has done it. Grace given to the church in Christ. Her standing is in him. Jesus spake words of peace and comfort to his needy followers, because God hath poured grace into his lips. He says, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” I have the keys of hell and death. Satan and his infernal hosts are under my control. Kingdoms and governments are subordinate to me. All power in heaven and earth is given into my hands; therefore fear not. The sweet words, thy sins are forgiven thee, peace be unto you, comes from his lips with comforting force. In view of the refulgent glory of the adorable Mediator, and the glory revealed to the church in him, she can say, “Therefore God hath blessed thee forever.” God has anointed Christ with power and glory as King in Zion, as head over all things to the church, which is his body &c. He loves his church as he loves his Son who died to redeem her. Though Christ is the embodiment of all spiritual blessings, those blessings flow cross-handed to the saints as the path they travel is a cross-bearing and a self-denying way through this vale of tears. Jacob blessed Ephraim the youngest son of Joseph by crossing his hands so as to lay his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manassah’s head, the eldest son. The church receives the blessing of the first-born cross-handed, as Christ is the first-born among many brethren.

The church viewing the dignified character of the Son of God, his exalted position as Prophet, Priest and King, and his majestic power and universal dominion, can say with enraptured delight, “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.” Principalities, dominions, powers, worlds visible and invisible, thrones and governments are subject to him. He sets over governments and kingdoms the basest of men to execute his purpose and to accomplish his will. The church rejoices in his government and desires to see his glory and power manifested among the nations. The church acknowledges him only as her Sovereign Lord. Our God will avenge his people. He has set his Son upon his holy hill of Zion, and he is established as King. The decree has gone forth, the Lord hath said to his Son, “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.” God hath sent him forth in his glory and majesty; and in his majesty he rides prosperously because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness, &c. The language of the psalm, from the third to the seventh verse inclusive, is directly applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ in his Mediatorial Headship. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrew brethren {Heb. 1:8,9,} quotes a portion of this psalm, showing very clearly that Christ Jesus in his Mediatorial character has a kingdom, and in that kingdom is addressed by his Father as follows: “Thy throne O God is forever and ever.” Unmistakably affirming the dignity and power of his Sonship. At least I so understand it. The subject is so copious, so wonderfully glorious, I am altogether incapable of writing upon it. The act of affirming the dignity of the Sonship of Christ by the church, in no way detracts from the absolute Godhead. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he is our God and our Father. Christ’s humiliation under the law with all that he suffered, &c., does not in the least impair his character as the Son of God, and as one with the Father. When all things are put under him as the Son of God, he also will be subject to the Father that God may be all in all. The eight and ninth verses express in a metaphorical sense the excellency of the character of Christ and the beautiful manner in which he appears as King in Zion. His garments smell of myrth, aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces. Honorable women attend him, called King’s daughters; referring no doubt to the daughters of Zion, or in other words, to the children of God. Perhaps the queen at his right hand in gold of Ophir has reference to the church in a collective sense as she appears in the kingdom of Christ, justified by his blood and righteousness. The declaration of the King in the tenth verse unquestionably is to the church in Gentile lands, directing her attention to him, and that she should forget her own people and her father’s house. Here is the experience of the saints, who forsake all for Christ. The beauty of the church is something invisible, not tangible to the natural senses.

I can write no more on the subject now, yet I have not reached the thirteenth verse. As we know nothing of spiritual things only as they are revealed from heaven by our God, we are in his hands as clay in the hands of the potter. If the potter has fashioned us as vessels of mercy prepared unto glory, it is a happy consideration indeed. If it should be in my power to write anything further upon the subject, I will cheerfully do so. Preaching and writing on spiritual subjects is pleasant when the Spirit of truth is seen and felt. Otherwise it is a task which the flesh cannot bear. Please reply to this if you feel like doing so. Sincerely your friend and brother in a precious Redeemer,

Joseph L. Purington.

Covington, GA., March 15, 1867.

LETTER #2. DEAR BROTHER SULLIVAN: - I wrote to you a few days since my first letter, giving some of my views on the forty-fifth Psalm. The subject is too great for finite creatures to comprehend; neither can they by dint of study. By revelation alone such profound truth can be understood and appreciated. The surpassing dignity and glory of Christ’s kingdom exceeds the highest attainment of man’s wisdom. I would expatiate at large upon the subject but have not the ability. In the tenth verse, “Hearken, O daughter,” &c., the speaker is the Lord of Hosts, the God of the whole earth. She is the King’s daughter spoken of in the thirteenth verse. This daughter is not of the earth in her origin, birth and manifestation. The daughters of earthly kings and monarchs, though considered of royal blood, are despicable, and possess all the elements of depravity in common with the degenerate race of Adam. The highest elevation of a king’s daughter among men clothed with power and authority, and adorned with ornaments and decorated with the most refined style of beauteous clothing ever invented, dwindles into insignificance before the daughter of our exalted King. The gospel church among the Gentiles in all lands is this daughter. She is born of God and sustains a spiritual relation to him, and her standing is in the Lord Jesus Christ; Jerusalem which is above, and which answers to the new covenant, is her mother. In this relation we find that it is not of blood, {earthly relation,} nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. It is not by the natural organs of sense that this daughter hearkens to the voice of her heavenly Father, but with an ear which she possesses of a spiritual character. Jesus is eyes to the blind and ears to the deaf. A circumcised heart and ears those possess who are born of God. Those who are manifest as the King’s daughter, in their fleshly relation to this world were children of wrath even as others; hence they are called upon to hearken, consider, incline the ear. Why? Because you are my daughter, and I am your Father, Creator and Savior. Forget your own people and your father’s house. You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Turn away from the vanities of this evil world, its charms, its allurements, its follies, its wickedness. Your own righteousness is as fifthly rags, your own beauty is deformity, your own worthiness is of no value whatever. In your earthly parentage you were conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity. Forget all these things and own me as your Lord and Savior. Jesus said to Levi, a custom-house officer, “Follow me;” and he arose, left all and followed him. He still speaks to his people in mild complaisant language, Son, or Daughter, thy sins are forgiven thee. The King greatly desires the beauty of this wonderful princess for she is all glorious within. If it were possible to use or borrow the vocabulary of heaven in a description of the glory and beauty of the church as she appears in her exalted Redeemer, I might be able to write or speak as I ought on so sublime a subject. Though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. Enough is seen by faith, however, to cause the saints to look with admiration upon the glory of Christ, and the glory of the church in him. Levi saw something in Jesus which charmed him; so did the other disciples; so do all those who love him in sincerity. The beauty of Christ is so completely in contrast with what every individual saint sees in himself, {that is, in his flesh,} that while he rejoices in spirit in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the beauty of salvation, and the glory of God in Jesus Christ, he utterly abhors himself. It is through a spiritual or heavenly union to Christ alone that any beauty can be found in the King’s daughter. She is all glorious within. Her glory is not outside, is not perceptible to the natural eye or ear; the world does not see her, neither has any knowledge of her. When a person by revelation, or the Spirit’s teaching, has a knowledge of Jesus, the Son of God, then, and not until then has he a knowledge of the church, the King’s daughter. The inside glory of the church is beheld in wonderful union with him who died and arose again as her Redeemer. She is all glorious within; there is no imperfection, defect, spot or blemish found in her. I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therewith with loving kindness have I drawn thee. The Lord, her Redeemer, is made unto her wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. His atoning blood and righteousness is hers. He is her Lord, and the direction is, “Worship thou him.” Not worship him in gaudy temples adorned by art and man’s device – not sound a trumpet and make a great display like the modern worshipers of Dagon, who bow down and worship the bloody idols of their own wicked and depraved imagination. Not join in with those who under the pretense of great benevolence and charity are willing to sacrifice our dearest rights on earth to the Moloch of a blood and gunpowder gospel. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth. Worship him in the sanctuary, in the solemn assembly. The command is to worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and fountains of waters. To praise and adore the God of heaven is the most exalted service worms of the dust can be engaged in. This daughter of the King, the church, can be engaged in no more delightful service in time or eternity. Her duty and obligation to the King is paramount to all other considerations.

“Her clothing is of wrought gold.” The manner or custom of ancient kings in oriental countries is probably referred to in this psalm in their style of dressing and ornamenting their daughters preparatory to their marriage and admission to the king. The most expensive and gorgeous appearance they could present was calculated to attract the attention of admirers, guests and spectators. But the highest point of outward embellishment is a faint and meagre representation of the clothing of the King’s daughter. She is all glorious within; expressive of her spiritual composition and oneness with Christ; but outwardly she appears clothed in the majestic symmetry attending the perfection of the church of Christ. No eyes can behold her and live on earth only as it is seen by immortal vision, or by faith. Frequently among men a person may appear very beautiful externally, while the greatest defects, imperfections and vile deformity is concealed by fine clothing, paint, &c. This is true in a literal sense and also true in relation to the work mongrel system of religion so fearfully prevalent in our day. But the King’s daughter appears the embodiment of glory and beauty, and her clothing is of like kind.

“Wrought gold.” Its intrinsic value is immensely great; really it is beyond human computation. It is invaluable. The imputed righteousness of Christ imparted to the church is the righteousness of the saints. It is said to be wrought in consideration of Christ’s obedience to the requisitions of the law and justice in his death, resurrection, ascension and glorification. In its manifestation to the church it is called the righteousness of faith, or the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. In relation to gold in a literal sense, the original material is in the quarry or rocks. It is obtained by hard labor, and purified of its alloy and dross, and manufactured into whatever the workman desires to make it or is directed to make it. In this sense it is wrought. The perfect work of Christ in the redemption of the church from the law and its curse brought to light or revealed the life and immortality of the saints, showing conclusively Christ to be that life and immortality, and also their righteousness. In this sense only is it proper to be called wrought righteousness. Not in relation to its being manufactured, but revealed or communicated. There is no alloy or dross attending it; of itself it is pure. This clothing otherwise is called garments. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh herself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.” Isa. 61:10. Christ’s garments smell of myrth, aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces. Rich and costly garments. The King’s daughter is clothed with them and appears in glory.

In the fourteenth verse another metaphor is used. “She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work.” As all her clothing is furnished by the King, when she is completely dressed she is brought unto him as above expressed. The church is made to appear before the King in a manner pleasing to him. Thus adorned she is happy. The virgins which follow her are her companions, and are pure and chaste as she is. I presume the virgins, spoken of in the plural number, means individual saints who look upon and esteem the church better than themselves. They are brought also to the King, and bow before him. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought. It was so with the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem, with the disciples, with Zaccheaus, and many others. It is so yet in the experience of the saints. They enter into the King’s palace. The declaration is, They shall enter, &c. A new covenant declaration. Wonderful exaltation! Such is the privilege of the saints, and they should not forget their high calling.

Perhaps I may write something more at some future day on the foregoing Psalm, as there are many things of interest I might notice. A more full embodiment of truth in higher colors is not found in holy writ. Its magnitude outreaches the feeble mind of your correspondent. Perhaps, my brother, at some future period we may see these glories in a more resplendent manner. So for the present, farewell.

Joseph L. Purington.

Covington, GA., April 7, 1867.

LETTER #3. DEAR BROTHER SULLIVAN: - Yours of the 31st came to hand yesterday, and was perused with satisfaction. Being at home today, and not otherwise engaged, I seize the opportunity to write again. Upon a reperusal of the forty-fifth psalm I find much more than could be written, and which I have not the ability to communicate. It is only as the heavens are opened, and our minds enlightened by the Spirit’s illumination that we can behold and wonder at the riches of God’s grace. The theme of salvation is soul-enrapturing, and soul-inspiring, and soul-comforting to poor needy dependent sinners. As the throne of our adorable Redeemer is forever and ever, his kingdom is the same. He is adorned with power and great glory, for his sceptre is the appropriate ensign of his royal power and authority. He will reign, or have dominion until he puts all enemies under his feet. In him let the saints rejoice and be exceeding glad. He has put his law in their inward parts, and written it in their hearts. The love of God has come down from heaven into their hearts, and they love him in return. They love righteousness, even as he who is their God loves it, and hate wickedness, even as he hates it. His people are one with him in their spiritual manifestation as the sons of God. They love what he loves, and abhor that which he abhors, or hates. Christ Jesus is anointed in his Mediatorial character above his church, even as the Head is exalted above the body. The gladness and unspeakable joy attending the spiritual coronation of our Redeemer fills all heaven with sounding praise. There is peace in believing, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The saints from their exalted position can look with sublime contempt upon the base things of earth, and smile with holy joy upon the vain attempts of man to subvert the law of Zion’s King.

If my mind was spiritually exercised, as I very much desired it to be, my pen indeed would be the pen of a ready writer. The deep things of God are known by revelation, and in no other way. Your correspondent often feels like one of old to say, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.” Prov. 30:2. To dwell upon a subject of so sublime a character as expressed in the forty-fifth psalm seems too much for me. And what am I? A worm, and no man. And yet the song is sung in the land of Judah, the land of praise. God has put this new song in our mouth, even praise to our God. All nations shall praise him, all nations do praise him; that is, the nations that are saved. None can sing the song of loves but those who are redeemed from among men. The gates of praise are open that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. They enter in who fear God and work righteousness; and no others. They leave behind all their rags, manufactured goods, their idols; yea, they forsake all for Christ. They worship him in the beauty of holiness. The daughters of Tyre is there with a gift, not of her own production, but a spiritual sacrifice, even the sacrifice of an humble spirit and a contrite heart. Even the rich among the people have to come down and entreat the favor of our glorious King. Zaccheaus was rich and among the publicans, but he came down in haste in obedience to the royal mandate of the blessed Jesus, and received him joyfully. Levi, a custom-house officer, obeyed the heavenly summons and forsook all and followed Jesus. Though not many wise, noble, rich and mighty among men are called, yet some of them are made heirs of immortality. God calls whomsoever he will and sets them in his church. They come with gladness and rejoicing, as thousands did in pentecostal times, as the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem, and as many others have come. And it is the King’s palace they enter into, the holy Mount Zion, the city of our God. Many, very many metaphors, figures, comparisons and illustrations are used in holy writ to point out, and to familiarize to the saints the glorious things of the kingdom.

The saints can join in this “song of loves” when the heavenly vision of peace rests upon them. But alas! How often the mind becomes dark and benighted; yea, deeply enshrouded with gloom and horrible forebodings. The pall of death rests upon us; no light is seen, no cheering voice is heard, and like the psalmist we can say, “I am like a dead man out of mind; I am like a broken vessel.” Psa. 31:12. Or say, “I am a brother to dragons and a companion to owls.” Job 30:29. While out of soundings in the great deep of sorrow and bitter afflictions we have to cry like one of old, “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas, and the floods compassed me about; all thy billows and waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul,” &c. Jonah 2:3-5. Yet we can say, “Salvation is of the Lord.” When God speaks salvation to us, as he did in the case of Jonah, we are vomited forth on dry land, or set upon a Rock, and our goings established. Then again we can sing the “song of loves.” Or it may be we are walking in darkness and have no light, if so our glorious King declares in emphatic tones, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God.” Isa. 50:10. The Lord of hosts, the God of the whole earth declares, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isa. 41:10. Encouraging promises, how full of consolation. When the vision of peace returns, as Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” it is a glorious peace. Then we can sing as in the days of our youth, as in the former years.

The sons of God are princes in all the earth, occupying a higher and more exalted position than earthly princes. They are the legitimate sons of the King, and receive the spirit of adoption when called by grace. The King’s daughter is a princess in a collective sense, and the virgins, her companions are princesses, the daughters of the Lord God Almighty, and heirs of glory. Surely each one can say in ecstatic joy, “I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever.”

It becomes the imperative duty and privilege of the King’s daughter, whether we speak of the church in a collective sense or in its members, to look to her heavenly Father and to her heavenly Mother for protection and support, under all circumstances. Whether we pass through the fire, or through the water, or travel by day or night, or through a land of drought, of darkness, and of the shadow of death, his rod and his staff they comfort us. Our Father and our Mother are near by to watch over and protect us by day and by night. Our Redeemer is our shield and buckler. Obey the laws and statutes of our King and we need not fear what men may do unto us. The enemies of truth are in the hand of God as clay in the hands of a potter; and so are we also in his hands. If he has, my brother, prepared you and me for glory, to his name belongs all the praise, now and forever.

You refer to the meeting of the Licking Association last September, as being a very pleasant meeting to you, not soon to be forgotten. It was very pleasant to me. I have thought of that meeting several times since with special interest. May God bless you and the brethren and sisters of the association, and some others also who manifested a special regard for the truth.

In these days of distress and trouble I see nothing in the future relative to this world which affords any comfort to me. In a faith’s view of that heavenly building of God on high, I behold a glorious future which enables me to surmount these inferior things. Grace reigns, my brother. Farewell,

Joseph L. Purington.