Lexington, Ky., Jan.11, 1877.
MY DEAR BROTHER IN CHRIST: - If you knew my anxiety to hear from you, the interest I take in your temporal and spiritual welfare, I think you would have written before this time. I have not heard anything directly or indirectly from you since we parted in Louisville. My health has been unexceptionably good since my return, and I feel that I ought to be infinitely more thankful to the giver of all good than I am, especially when I consider my advanced age. I have spent many hours alone since I saw you; and yet not entirely alone. I trust the blessed Comforter has brought many things to my remembrance which had been spoken by the Lord Jesus for the comfort of his afflicted and poor people, such as, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob.” “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Because I live, ye shall live also.” “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Does it not seem presumptuous for such a polluted worm as I to appropriate them, with a thousand other exceeding great and precious promises, to myself?
“I, who am all defiled with sin,
A rebel all forlorn;
A foe, a traitor to my God,
And of a traitor born.”
It does seem, if I were what I profess to be, I should be more conformed to him whose I hope I am. But,
“I am so vile, so prone to sin,
I fear that I’m not born again.”
And yet I take courage when I read, “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.” Now, if my poor, wretched heart does not deceive me, I do believe that “Jesus is the Christ;” and I am equally confident that I love those whom I believe are begotten and born of God. I will not deny that I take comfort when I read that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
“My language is, Let me, my God,
On sovereign grace rely,
And own ‘tis free, because bestowed,
On one so vile as I.”
In the multitude of thoughts, death has been a prominent one. What is it? A separation from life; the close of our mortal career on earth; an enemy to our poor, cowardly, fleshly nature, but a friend in disguise to the christian.
“Death is the gate to endless joy,
And yet we dread to enter there.”
But there is something that will brighten up the scene;
“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 a dying bed,
Feel as downy pillows are;
While on his breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.”
But we have the solemn announcement from on high, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” We are sensible that we have flesh and blood, and deeply sensible that we are corruption itself. The prospect of happiness, to such creatures as we, is gloomy indeed, when we look to “man, whose breath is in his nostrils.” But when we look to Christ, who “was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” when “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings,” the cloud is dispersed, and we say, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” The mind soars aloft, and we sing with exceeding joy,
“Jesus is worthy to receive,
Honor and power divine;
Andb blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, forever thine.”
Our Surety met every demand that law or justice had against his chosen bride, “Being put to death in the flesh, and quickened by the Spirit.” And yet this did not impart to her a qualification to appreciate his glorious work. Still it thunders in her ears, “Ye must be born again.” “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And with the prophet we cry, “All our righteousness are as filthy rags.” With the poor woman we cry, “Lord, help me.”
“Empty and bare, I come to thee,
For righteousness divine;
O may thy matchless merits be,
By imputation mine.”
“Our earthly house of this tabernacle,” although now the tenantry of the old and the new man, is destined to be dissolved; “the dust to return to its dust as it was, and the spirit to God who gave it.” Yet hath he ordained that the “new man” be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven.” In view of this, my dear brother Theobald will be heard to sing,
“O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.”
But of the means to consummate this heavenly state, hear an apostle: “Some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And, With what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body which shall be, but bare grain; it may chance of wheat, or some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” Now, we know that the hull, or rough exterior of the grain, is given to protect the tender germ, and that this hull possesses no germinating propriety, and must be decomposed, die, and return to its dust, in order that the living germ produce, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.” The foregoing illustration so far comports with the divine record. “There are bodies celestial, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one glory, and the glory of the terrestrial is another glory. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” “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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up of victory;” and then will you sing loudly, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then, O then, my dear brother, shall we see Jesus, and be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Pardon this long, imperfect, and may be uninteresting scroll, which has been written in loneliness – the absence of the dear family of our God – “To speak of the glory of his kingdom and talk of his power.” I have endeavored to solve the mystery of how God can be just and save poor sinners, of whom it is said, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” How far I have succeeded, you will determine.
I need not say we desire much to see and hear you discourse of the good things of the kingdom of our God, and earnestly hope it may not be long before this desire is gratified. Do let me hear from you soon. Kindest regards to all the dear ones with you.
Truly and affectionately as ever, your brother in hope,
Thomas P. Dudley.