Poca, W. Va., Nov. 17, 1918.
DEAR BROTHER FENTON: – I will try to answer your letter, which came to hand some time ago, also the card I received yesterday bearing the sad news of the death of Elder Durand. Sickness in my family was the cause of my not writing sooner. I was sorry to learn of your sickness, but rejoice to know that you are living, and able to inform me of brother Durand’s death. Truly we have to say, A noble man has fallen. The editors of the SIGNS will miss him, and those who read that noble paper will also miss him, for he was one of God’s chosen and qualified servants to preach the gospel of the Son of God, and his writings were well seasoned with the experience of God’s little ones, who so often are seeking comfort. While sorrow fills our hearts, we must say, Thy will be done, O Lord God of heaven and earth.
Since I received your good letter the words “eat and die” have been ringing in my ears every day. It is not that I feel competent to write upon this all- important subject, but just to ease my mind. I have been very much east down in my feelings since returning from the three associations that I was blessed to visit this fall. O how true it is, as Solomon has said, A word fitly spoken is as apples of gold in pictures of silver. You said in your letter to me, It looks like eat and die pretty often with us. As lifeless as I was at that time I got comfort from those words eat and die. How often have we feasted on the bread of life, broken by the servants of God, and felt that such refreshing seasons were from the presence of the Lord. The Lord knows altogether our uprisings and down- sittings which must work for our good. The life of Elijah, when viewed in the light of the Spirit, is of great comfort to the church, which the widow prefigured. When in a spiritual sense our brook seems to be dry, and we are ready to cry, Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul’s refreshing view of Jesus and his Word? when zeal in the cause of Christ abates and our devotion dies, when we feel no sensible delight in prayer, and the spirit of praise and thanksgiving is gone, when we see nothing around to awaken and encourage us, and the love of many has waxed cold, these are seasons of darkness, and very trying indeed, but in the midst of this gloom we are made to remember him who has said of his vineyard, I, the Lord, do keep it. I will water it every moment. I will keep it night and day. Night and day includes all the time. The God of our salvation will certainly keep his word, therefore let us be of good cheer, for spiritual drought and barrenness of soul shall be turned into a blessing. The Spirit of the Lord commanded Elijah, “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” As I have already stated, this widow prefigured the church. Elijah is ordered upon a long and tiresome journey, through a wild and barren country, in a time of great famine and extreme drought, but the One who keeps Israel was Elijah’s guide, and he was sure there was no mistake in the command of his God, for, As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. Zidon lay beyond the border of Israel, among a heathen people enslaved to vile idolatry, the native country of Jezebel, the prophet’s bitterest enemy, as a lamb among wolves. Thus was Elijah placed, but he was as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. “I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” Among so many widows in the land how is this widow to be found? This indeed was bringing the blind by a way they knew not. But be still, and know that I am God. In following after this wonderful man of God we soon find him in the neighborhood of Zarephath, which was midway between Zidon and Tyre, which signifies a smelting furnace of affliction, whereby the Lord tries and purifies his people; the hand of God was his guide, which is the power of God. The Lord, who was there before him, had prepared and arranged all for his reception; truly the Lord had gone out before him. We see this Wonderful man of God as he comes near the gate of the city, and lo, the widow woman was there gathering sticks for fuel. The unerring Spirit of God revealed to him that this was the widow, and he therefore called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. She readily started for the water, when he added, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. With this request she brought from the depth of her heart her concealed feelings, and answered, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not even the smallest loaf of bread, all I have is but a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse, and lo, I have been gathering a stick or two, for a fire on my hearth that I might dress it for myself and for my child as our last meal in this world, that we might eat it and die. Truly in many respects the prophet Elijah typified Christ, but more particularly John the Baptist. “No prophet is accepted in his own country, but I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” The church of Jesus Christ is brought to view under the appellation of a widow, her first husband being dead. Yes, my brother, we eat of the bread of life, and rejoice while feasting, but ere we are aware we have become lifeless, dead, groping in darkness.
I will close this imperfect letter; it is so much like the writer I hesitate to send it. I hope to hear from you soon. My wife is very sick at this time. My daughter has recovered from influenza.
Your brother, I hope,
J. W. MCALANAHAN.
Signs of the Times
Volume 87, No. 9
May 1, 1919