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Reply To Eli Kidwell’s Letter

Dear Brother Kidwell,

Your welcomed letter received on the 8th, and I was glad to hear from you. In your letter you expressed several points of enquiry that attracted my attention. 1st., “Was ever a child of God left stripped of all things as poor me, to say nothing of my bodily afflictions.” 2. “Were ever you brought so low?” 3rd. “Can it be possible that I am a child of grace?”

Now I desire to answer these questions in their order. 1st., “Was ever a child of God left so stripped of all things as poor me, to say nothing of my bodily afflictions?”

In the remarks preceding, you present your condition as one in which you feel yourself to be nothing, without strength, having no confidence in self; and the evidence of your acceptance in Christ; at times as you think, fading away; yet, through it all, resting in that hope which is an anchor of the soul. This is the condition to which I presume you refer in the expression: “Stripped of all things.” Let us examine this condition: the characteristic marks are: 1st., Once nothingness; 2nd., Destitution of strength; 3d., No confidence in self. 4th., Doubts and fears in regard to an interest in Christ. 5th., Yet with Christ in you the hope of glory.

The above is your condition as presented to me by letter.

Now, brother Kidwell, examine these five marks, and answer me candidly. Are they not the marks of a living child of God? Do not each and every one of the royal family bear those same marks, to a greater or lesser extent? You realize your own nothingness; so did Paul, when saying: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints; For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.” I perceive from your letter, that you have a knowledge of the principle upon which you are brought to realize your nothingness. You aptly say: “That you remember the time when you thought that you were one of importance.” Now you have been delivered from this condition of vain confidence in self. “If any man seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” The fact that you realize yourself to be without strength; and your having no confidence in yourself, flows from your being brought to know your own utter nothingness and makes manifest the fact that you are alive from the dead. And amidst all these things there is an abiding hope in Christ. This stands pre-eminently above all of the trials and difficulties pertaining to this world, and, of which we are so apt to be surrounded.

“The darkest cloud hope pierces through
And waits upon the Lord.”

Again, hope holds the weak believer up in the distressing hour. Truly, it is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast! It is one of the chiefest graces of the Spirit that the world disdains and mocks. You speak of your evidence at times as “fading, apparently almost away.” I believe that most if not all the brethren complain of this. Yet we never hear one of the religions of the world speak of such an experience. It appears that John the Baptist was troubled in this way, for he sent to the Savior to know whether He was the one that we should look, or for another?

Brother Kidwell, I think by this time you will be ready to acknowledge that the children of our God are all brought to the time you are brought to – the nothingness of the rest of His children. Their nothingness cannot prevent His loving care of them, for He is able to succor them in all their circumstances. Does He not have complete control over temporal and eternal things? We know that we cannot. If the arm of our God were shortened to this measure, something over which HE had no control might work in such a manner as to separate His people from Him, and thwart His designs in regard to them. We could not then, as we do now, rest in the full assurance of the fact that each and every one of His shall be preserved, or kept, through the various trials found in their pathway here, and finally be brought into the full enjoyment of their eternal inheritance in the glorious world to come. The declaration, “I am God,” presents the fact that there is no God besides Him. The inspired prophet declares the same fact in the language, “I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like Me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” – Isaiah xlvi. 9-10. “I am the Lord, and there is none else: there is no God besides Me.” – Isaiah xlv.

“I am God.” What a fullness there is in the declaration when our mind is filled with the knowledge of His sovereign grace. He is emphatically GOD: the self-subsisting God. When Moses inquired to know by what name he should declare Him to Israel, the reply was, “I am that I am.”

“He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.”

He inhabiteth eternity; the universe is filled with His Presence, and He fills the heart of His people too. This God is our God, the God whom we worship and adore; and truly we can unite in the question of the psalmist, “Who is so great a God as our God?” He controls the movements of the vast and distant stars and planets, as well as those that are near, and the bright suns around which they move. The little globe upon which we live, and all things pertaining to it, are held in the hollow of His hand. War, pestilence and famine arise in all of their hideous forms, sweeping over our earth and carrying desolation, destruction, misery, wretchedness and death in their track. But our God has as certainly fixed their bounds as He did the bounds of the raging sea, when His sovereign voice was heard, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” – Job xxxviii.11. The myriads of His creatures that are found in the waters of our earth, in the surrounding atmosphere, and that roam or inch everywhere upon the surface, are all fed and nourished by His wisdom and power, and the bounds of their habitation fixed. He clothes the lily with beauty, and gives the raven food. If God’s protecting and providential care is thus manifested toward His creatures, will they not be much more manifested toward His children? Will not He who clothes the lilies, clothe His people too, and He who feeds the ravens give His own children food? This fact is presented very forcibly in Matthew vi., last ten verses. You find the protecting care of our God manifested unto His people in supplying their temporal necessities, but the same protecting power is experienced by them through all their walk as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The trouble without and the trials within are all meted out to us according to His own eternal purpose of love and mercy toward us. They must all eventually redound to our good and to His glory. God has a purpose in every one of these trials; not one is experienced in vain. He has charge of the fiery furnace in which we are tried and refined. Had we charge of this fiery furnace, probably we would not heat it to the extent to which it is sometimes heated. The trial must continue until His purpose is accomplished. The famine of the word must continue as in all the land of Canaan, until the sons of Jacob go down the second time into Egypt after corn, or until we cry out for spiritual manna. The bondage of Israel must have continued until our God showed His power in Pharaoh, and His name be declared throughout all the earth. It is a good thing indeed that the heating of our furnace is not given into our hands! We have no power to lift the trial while passing through it. Did we possess this power, probably in every instance the trial wound end too soon to be of any good to us. One in passing through the trial may be led to exclaim with Jacob, “All these things are against me.” In all that is transpiring; not one thing favorable can be discovered – not one ray of light is seen. Yet Jacob made use of this language just before the dawn of day in his experience. Those very things which apparently were against him, were even then working together for his good. And probably in every instance it is so with us.

It is, Brother Kidwell, wonderful indeed with what heavenly calmness our God at times enables His dear people to undergo the severest trial. When we can rest in the arms of His everlasting love in the knowledge of His sovereignty, and can “Be still, and know that He is God,” it is then that we find a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. And now we can lie down in green pastures, and are led beside the still waters, and for a little season on the shores of time the weary are at rest.

May our great God grant this heavenly frame of mind to His tried and tempted people, as far as is embraced in His purpose of love and mercy toward them, and may He continue unto us the blest assurance that the “Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Yours in the Cause of Truth,
Wm. M. Smoot.

Signs of the Times
September, 1873