Dear Brother Beebe: – The closing hours of the swiftly passing year impart to me a desire to record an expression of thanksgiving and praise unto Him through whose kind and tender care my life has been preserved. It is well when we can feel a spirit of thanksgiving unto Him from whose kind hand the blessings of providence and grace are received. He is ever present with His people to guide, guard and keep them in His own right way. In fulfillment of the eternal decrees the years are gliding swiftly by, each of them accomplishing His purpose in its flight.
“Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfills some bright design.”
In solemn awe and reverence we bow before His awful throne, and plainly trace His hand-writing upon the pages of the book of time. During the year now drawing to a close many precious brethren and lovers of gospel Truth have been called to their eternal home; their predestinated inheritance reserved for them in heaven. They have passed through all of the ordained dark shadows of the present life, and over the river of death, to rest upon the eternal shore. Our souls have been filled with sorrow in looking upon them for the last time, but our faith has looked beyond to their eternal and blissful home. What a theme of themes; a song of songs is that which presents the power of God in the salvation of poor, lost and perishing sinners.
“Not softest strains can charm mine ears
Like His beloved name;
Nor aught beneath the skies inspire
My heart with equal flame.”
In common with many of your brethren, I have been deeply pained at the uncalled for attacks that have been made upon you and others during the past year for firmness in defense of the Truth. A falling away in sentiments so commonly held is strange. The battle is not yours, but the Lord’s, and Truth is mighty and must prevail. The faithful servant of God has no compromise to make in such a war as this, but in a firm and unwavering manner to contend earnestly for “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” We cannot, as others are, yield, no, not for a moment, when an attack is made upon the Truth of our God. The Lord will assuredly sustain you in all of your labors in His name, and the rich crown of everlasting life awaits your final entrance into the saints’ eternal rest. What the opening year is to unfold is known only unto Him who presides over the destiny of nations, and governs all eternal and temporal things. Many of those who are now in active life will no doubt before its close be numbered with the congregation of the dead. Be this as it may, and whatever may be the scenes, sorrows, joys or trials reserved for us in the opening year, we rejoice in the knowledge that reigns.
“Like floods the angry nations rise,
And aim their rage against the sky;
Vain floods that aim their rage so high;
At Thy rebuke the billows die,”
Iniquity abounds, political and religious degradations prevail every where over our land, but in the true church of Christ we find peace and rest. She is as a field in the wood, the green grass of the desert, the bright shining of the clear light of heaven amidst the gross darkness and religious idolatry that spreads over our land. “The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth, from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” It is certainly pleasant to behold the gospel order and unanimity prevailing among the churches of our connection in different parts of the country. The watchmen lift up their voice together; the churches dwell together in the holy joys of Gospel fellowship, and follow after the things that make for peace. How happy and divinely blessed are brethren in such a case! How strong and durable is the bond of fellowship that unites them. How pure and holy are the joys that flow from heart to heart. In these things we taste the “powers of the world to come.” Let us as we may receive strength from above endeavor to show forth in our daily walk and conversation that we have been with Jesus.
In many respects it is a matter of but little consequence in regard to how much or little of worldly wealth or mortal dignity we may possess, but our standing in the Church of Christ is a matter of the greatest importance. Are we punctual in our accountabilities there? Or have we grown cold and careless? Do the passing years, filled as they are with the rich blessings of heaven, witness our lack of zeal in the Master’s cause, from whose indulgent hand these blessings are bestowed? I hope not, but that the days of our temporal pilgrimage as they pass write in our heart a song of praise unto the Omnipotent God. He dwells in light, but the dark vial of mortality hides the perfect view of His glory from our sight. The streams of time are hurrying fast into the broad ocean of eternity, bearing in their final destiny the appointed generations of the children of men. The kind hand of God will soon roll back the curtain of life, and the unveiled glory of God and the Lamb will forever engage the enraptured attention of the redeemed; the boundless glory of the world to come; the final rest of the way-worn traveler, but beloved object of God’s eternal choice. How full of rich comfort is the Truth of God! Here we see the crowning work of redemption in the resurrection of the bodies from the dead, and life in the world to come. Life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel. The gospel does not bring the life and immortality, but it brings them to light. There is opened to our view the brilliant beauty of the eternal heavens, bespangled forever by the radiant light of the Sun of Righteousness, while the gathered host of eternity dwell forever in the presence and the eternal arches ring with shouts of sovereign grace.
As ever, yours to serve in Gospel bonds,
Wm. M. Smoot,
SIGNS of the Times.