Occoquan, Va., Jan. 11, 1881
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – The glad echoes of a “Merry Christmas,” and “Happy New Year,” have died away, and the new year begins its sure and steady course in unfolding the decrees of the omnipotent and never-changing God. As we linger in the shadow of the departed year and look back over its sorrows, joys, disappointments and conflicts, we can raise a new Ebenezer of praise unto our God, who has sustained us in its every hour of trial, and brought us safely onward to behold the dawn of another year. Many dear and precious brethren who were with us a year ago have been borne away to a better and brighter world on high. There voices have died away from the shorts of time forever, but their glad song of eternal deliverance from the bondage of sin and death is borne around the heavenly throne in unceasing notes of praise. It is sad to miss their cherished forms, their words of cheer, their happy communion in the holy worship of our God, but this sadness is swallowed up in the glorious knowledge of the everlasting bliss to which they have passed from a world of toil and sin. What the opening year is to unfold is known only unto him who presides over the destiny of nations and individuals, and holds al worlds, creatures and things in the hollow of his hand. His hand has surely marked the course of every event that can possibly darken the way of time, and from the divine arrangement there can be no appeal. This world is a “weary land” to the tempest-tossed pilgrims upon its barren shores. Each passing year brings nearer the hour of his final discharge. By faith he looks over the dark way of death to the heavenly land bespangled forever by the radiant light when encircles the eternal throne.
“‘Tis there, he says, I am to dwell,
With Jesus, in the realms of day;
Then I shall bid my cares farewell,
And he will wipe my tears away.”
The SIGNS continue to come to us richly laden with the good things of the kingdom. We esteem the SIGNS highly as a medium of communication among the saints scattered in all parts of our country. We feel like bidding you God-speed in your able and unwavering defence of the truth. You will soon be beyond the reach of life’s bitter warfare and enter the haven of eternal rest. In the present day of religious delusion, political and social degradation, there is an absolute necessity for firmness in contending for the doctrine and order of Zion. We cannot yield in a single instance. The world has never seen an age where this could be done, much less the present. May we cleave with unwavering fidelity to the commandments of our God, let the consequences be what they may. By firmness for the truth I certainly do not mean harshness or arbritrariness. The knowledge of his own utter depravity as a justly condemned sinner in the sight of a just and holy God teaches the redeemed sinner the sweet lessons of humility. In this school of bitter experience he learns where his strength is, and that to the sovereign grace of God alone is due the great mercy of salvation. He is made to say with the poet,
“Why was I made to hear his voice,
And seek my heavenly home,
While thousands left to their own choice,
Would rather starve than come?”
He is made to know what great things the Lord hath done for him, and upon this principle he desires to serve and obey him. It is the love of God shed abroad in his heart that imparts the fervent desire to attend to what the Master saith in the doctrine and order of his house. “Mark well,” says he, “and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.” – Ezek. xliv. 5. Where receive we the right to add to or take from what our God has commanded, or admit those to his holy sanctuary whom he has forbidden an entrance there? In this day, when all over our land we are allowed to worship unmolested by human laws, and to remain in our own comfortable homes in the pursuit of life’s enjoyments, is it not indeed a small thing that we should praise his holy name in rendering obedience to what he has enjoined upon us? But our God must work in us “both to will and to do.” Without him we can do nothing. Well may we ask, “Who is sufficient for these things?” “Our sufficiency is of God.” “By the grace of God,” says Paul, “I am what I am,” and each trembling sinner snatched as a brand from the eternal burning, can re-echo his cry. One of the greatest troubles with him is that he seems to come so far short of ascribing the praise that is due such great blessings, and manifests so little zeal in the way of truth. But, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” The weakness of the saint shall witness the triumph of faith, and every lesson of life shall record the goodness and glory of our God to the unsullied light of a world without end.
Yours in gospel fellowship,
WM. M. SMOOT.
Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 3.
February 1, 1881