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EXPERIMENTAL DARKNESS.

BROTHER BEEBE: - I had formed a resolution not to controvert any subject introduced into the SIGNS, unless particularly called out; and although now inclined to notice a remark of yours, I do not consider it as transgressing in reality that resolution, because I think it will not cause much discussion, being experimental rather than doctrinal, and because I presume the remark was made without reflection, rather than being an expression of your experience on that point. Why then notice it and again subject myself to the charge of being censorious, &c., if it is mere mistake? Because as coming from brother Beebe it is calculated evidently to disturb the minds of many whose lot it is to walk much in darkness; for such I think is frequently the lot of God’s children, and that distinct from their seeing and feeling the corruptions of their nature, as I shall probably show the Scriptures support me in believing. The remark to which I refer, is in No.8, present volume, page 63. It is this, “But in an experimental view of the travel of the saints, they are subject to much of what they very improperly call darkness, for what they call darkness is that by which they see the depravity and corruption of their own carnal natures; and our Lord instructs us that whatever maketh manifest, is light.” What is the believer’s light? Reason or judgment is the lamp of the natural mind, it is trimmed by science, and on some points and in some measure it may be trimmed by spiritual knowledge; but, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” and again, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me should not abide in darkness.” John 8:12, and 13:46. He is the light to the spiritual mind or new man, not a lamp, but the Sun of righteousness. Thus says the Psalmist, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Psalm 27:1; and the Apostle, “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” II Cor.1:6. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world, darkness is the absence of light. As the light of the natural sun is at times more or less withdrawn, as from its being obscured by clouds on to its entire withdrawal leaving us in perfect night; so I understand the Lord deals with his people. In proportion as the Lord is pleased to shine upon the written or preached word, or to withdraw his shining, and so upon the ordinances or in prayer, or upon our experience, we see and feel the operations of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, or we mourn his absence. Sometimes he so withdraws his shining from all these points at once that we have darkness, as brother Hatfield says in his communication in the same number of the SIGNS, that can be felt. It is the not enjoying of this light that I have always understood christians to have reference to, when they have spoken of being, or walking in darkness, entirely distinct in idea from their seeing and feeling their native corruptions; though both often go together, for Satan frequently takes advantage of the saint’s being in darkness as to his evidences, &c., to stir up his corruptions by temptations. Hence the believer often complains of his darkness and of his depravity both together. As to a darkness that can be felt, I think I have experienced it for instance in preaching, I have thought I had my subject before me, would name my text and commence speaking, when all of a sudden a darkness would come over my subject and text so that every ray or idea of what it contained seemed shut out from my mind; I could go on speaking, but when one idea was advanced I did not know what I should have to advance next; and it seemed actually to affect me so that I felt it in my natural vision, I could not with confidence, whilst it lasted, look upon the congregation and when I attempted it, there seemed a blur before my eyes, as though half blind, or as some have said, a bag was drawn over them. So in experience sometimes so thick darkness seems to cover the word, past experience, and our minds in prayer, that we cannot discover one ray of spiritual comfort or light from any source; and the darkness is so great that we think we can actually feel it, and we do feel it affecting our natural mind and system. Now a person thus under darkness, might as well undertake to command the natural sun to shine and give him light at midnight as to think by any resolution of his mind, or any recalling to mind of past experience that he could dispel this darkness, or even by any experience of faith that he can cause the light to shine upon his distressed mind, until the Lord is pleased to bring him forth to the light. As Job says, “He shutteth up a man and there can be no opening.” Faith, instead of being able to control the shining of the light, is dependent on its shining for its acting; when the Sun of righteousness shines on the gospel testimony, or on the promise in reference to us, we feel the actings of faith embracing that testimony or promise; not otherwise. The Lord alone can control and prolong the shining of this light, as Joshua his type only ever successfully commanded the sun and moon to stand still. As to scriptural authority for saints walking at times in darkness, I will quote first, Isa. 50:10, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” Surely the prophet must have reference to saints; and if they had been walking in their corruptions and sins, instead of encouraging them as he does, he would have reproved them; so that was not what is intended by their walking in darkness; and their having no light, forbids the idea, that what they called darkness, was light. Neither does he reprove them for this darkness, nor does he encourage them in lieu thereof to encompass themselves with sparks of their own kindling, see verse 11. Instead of occupying space to explain the trusting in the name of the Lord and staying upon his God, I will illustrate it by the text I will quote from Micah, {Mic.7:8-9,} “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me; he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” Thus Micah, though he sits in darkness, trusts in the name of the Lord and stays upon his God, that he will again bring him forth to the light.

Brother Beebe, now that I have written this, I have some hesitancy as to the propriety of again subjecting myself to the charge of dogmatism by sending it on for publication. But I think I will send it to you and you may do as you think best, publish it or destroy it.

In reference to the paragraph you inserted in the recent number of the SIGNS, page 63, in reference to me, I will say, I know not what opinion my friends have formed of the state of my health, nor what is the purpose of God concerning me; but I know that between nine and ten years ago some of my friends thought I would not live a year then, but since then I have enjoyed better health, than I ever before enjoyed. As the Lord has so far raised me up again as to enable me to attend and fill my appointments for preaching, he may disappoint me and my friends as he did before; though it is not likely from appearances that I shall again enjoy the same degree of health and strength as before. Indeed if the Lord should continue me only in consideration of my usefulness or fruitfulness, I think he must take me away very speedily as a barren branch.

With christian regards yours,
S.TROTT.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Va., April 29, 1848.