Lexington, Ky., Nov.7, 1877.
MY DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST: - You and I have been permitted to live and labor long, as we have presumed to hope, in the cause of our divine Savior, and have witnessed many defections from the faith of the gospel, among those who professed to “walk with us to the house of God in company;” and why is it that we have not been “turned away from the truth, and been turned unto fables?” What anguish has that question stirred. “Will ye also go away?” I feel the language to be appropriate to me.
“Dear Lord, with such a heart as mine,
Unless thou hold me fast;
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.
But thou alone hast power, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither shall I go,
If I should fly from thee?
The help of man and angels joined,
Could never reach my case,
Nor can I hope relief to find,
But in thy boundless grace.
That blood which thou hast spilt,
That grace which is thine own,
Can cleanse the vilest sinner’s guilt,
And soften hearts of stone.”
On the grace, and that alone, can you and I rely for the future, as for the past. As we near the end of our mortal career, I feel that we can say in truth, “We have not been moved from the hope of the gospel.” In view of the future of our existence, [and we trust it may be a blessed future] we can say with another poet.
“Should worlds conspire to drive me thence,
Moveless and firm this heart should lie;
Resolved, for that’s my last defense,
If I must perish, here to die.
But speak, my Lord, and calm my fear;
Am I not safe beneath thy shade?
Thy vengeance will not strike me here,
Nor Satan dare my soul invade.”
From my greatly advanced age, it is not reasonable to suppose the days allotted me on earth are yet many, and I cannot feel their number to be a matter of much concern; infinitely more am I concerned to live to the glory of God, than I am about dying. Death, what is it? A separation from God? A change of state? Instead of a separation from, I indulge hope that I shall be ushered into his immediate presence; not, however, in the “earthly house of this tabernacle,” but being “clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” Death, to the christian, is but a shadow, the substance having been destroyed by our High Priest. Yet we have been often, on our pilgrimage, alarmed at shadows. No wonder the christian feels alarmed, when contrasting his pollution, guilt and shame, with the holiness of God; but when he can realize that his sins are, like the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea, only dead corpses, buried, and no more to rise against him, he sees the folly of his fear.
“O could we make our doubts remove,
These gloomy doubts that rise,
And see the blessed home we love,
With unbeclouded eyes,”
how would it brighten up the scene, and cause him to exclaim, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly;” especially could he realize that death is but a change from a sinful to a sinless state, a mortal for an immortal, and earth for heaven. It will be seen that we are not of those who believe and teach that man dies like the beast of the field, and there is no more of him; but that both saint and sinner will exist in a future state, the former in unmolested bliss, the latter in interminable woe.
“O, if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul would stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through death’s iron gate,
Nor feel the terror as she passed.
Jesus can make the dying bed,
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on his breast I lean my head.
And breathe my life out sweetly there.”
There will the heirs of promise rest secure, nor one faint murmur rise. A change from this, to a state of bliss, will bring with it interminable blessedness; but to the wicked, interminable woe. The apostle spake thus to the Thessalonians, to soothe their sorrows; “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” “And the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Hence it is seen that the terms sleep and dead are used interchangeably, with regard to the saints. Again, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Could the people of God contemplate the close of our mortal existence as going to sleep, it would rob death of its gloom.
The psalmist tells us, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Could we appropriate these precious promises to our selves, how would they ease our burdened minds. Who rightfully claim them? Let an apostle answer. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” “Unto you that believe, he is precious.” But to the ungodly, “He is a root out of dry ground, having no form nor comeliness. There is no beauty in him, when they see him, that they should desire him.” Can you not say truly, The gold of Ophir is but dross, compared with my Beloved? “He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.”
The mixture of joy and sorrows I daily encounter, cause the anxious inquiry, Are christians built up and cast down thus? Time was with me, as most aptly described by the poet,
“Soon as the morn the light revealed,
His praises turned my tongue,
And when the evening shades prevailed,
His love was all my song.
Then to his saints I often spoke,
Of what his love had done;
But now my heart is almost broke,
For all my joys are gone.
Now when the evening shade prevails,
My soul in darkness mourns;
And when the morn the light reveals,
No light to me returns.”
Let us see whether the unerring word of truth, with regard to the bride of Christ, does not solve the doubt. “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, but I found him not.” How often, when the busy scenes of the outer world are superseded by this mantle of darkness, and we retire to bed for rest, do our thoughts trouble us greatly. We mourn our forgetfulness of the dear Savior, and lament that the trifles of this poor little world should occupy our minds, to the neglect of his sparing mercy and long-forbearance. We seek him in our meditations and prayer, but find him not. We become restless and disquieted; the bed affords no rest. Hence she says, “Now will I arise and go into the city,” [the church] in the streets and broad ways thereof. She wants the bread of life, and goes into market street. She thirsts for the water of life, and visits water street; but she fails to meet him whom her soul loves. She is found by the watchmen, [ministers of the gospel] who publish the dealings of the Lord with his children; but they fail to relieve her anxious heart. “It was but a little I passed them, till I found him whom my soul loveth. I held him, and would not let him go.” She realizes the truth of the declaration, “We have this treasure [gospel food] in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” “Until I bring him into my mother’s house.” [Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all.] But why did she bring him into her mother’s house, but that its inmates should rejoice with her in her happy delieverances, as they are they of whom the psalmist speaks, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew unto them his covenant.” What joy do the children of God feel when their Lord brings them into his banqueting house, and his banner over them is love!
When it is remembered that Christ “hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” and, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” In confirmation of all these promises, we learn from the divine word that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” For our further consolation we are told that, “Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “Jesus saith unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” Gospel faith, or the faith of Christ, is conclusive evidence that its possessor is the subject of everlasting life, “and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” And love to the brethren assures the heirs of promise of their inheritance with all the sanctified in Christ Jesus.
As ever, yours in hope of eternal life,
Thomas P. Dudley.
P.S. – I sat alone, and thought I would employ a few moments in dropping you this scroll.
I baptized a lady, on profession of her faith in Christ, at Elizabeth, at our October meeting. I felt somewhat timid, when I thought of my greatly advanced age; but I had no more difficulty in administering the ordinance, than forty years ago.