[The following was written as a private letter to me, but as I think it will be of general interest to the readers of the “SIGNS of the Times,” I trust that brother Smoot will excuse the liberty I take to submit it to Elder Beebe’s judgment. Yours, Benton Jenkins.]
Dear Brother Jenkins: – I am reminded of the promise that I made to you when we parted at Middletown (NY) on the 9th alt., the promise that I would write to you. I hope that an opportunity is presented to me upon this occasion to comply with that promise. I love to write to brethren, and to receive letters from them; but in writing I am led at times to mourn my barrenness, feeling almost entirely destitute of any thing to communicate that will either interest, comfort or instruct. But these feelings, I believe, are peculiar to the saints of our God; we all have them to a greater or less extent. As this view of the subject enters my mind, there come with it the words of the Savior to Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth (pleases) and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” – John iii, 8. The spiritual presence of our God with us in our after-experience is as it was in our first experience. Under a realizing sense our sins and our iniquities, we had vainly sought for salvation on either hand, by works of the flesh, or by decisionism, and had been brought eventually to a state of weakness and despair. When, at an unexpected hour, and in a way that we were not looking for it, the salvation of our God was revealed unto us. His life-giving voice was heard in our experience – “Live!” and we were enabled to rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This calm and heavenly frame of mind, this rejoicing in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, remains in the experience of some but a short time. Sooner or later, however, to a considerable extent it is gone! It is like the wind that springs up, blows for a time, and passes away. This is our first experience of the pardoning love, tender mercy and heavenly peace that flows from the spiritual presence of our God.
He comes to unto us in the same manner in our after-experience. We have been mourning His absence perhaps for a long time. The evils of our depraved nature are now exposed to our view; we are better able now to see them; they stand forth in every form. The warfare between the law in our members and the law of our mind is now keenly felt, and in our experience we feel to exclaim with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” We turn, and look at our past experience; our mind wanders back through the dark windings of the past, through the mysterious ways in which we have been led, and sweetly rests upon the precious seasons we have spent in the light of the countenance of our God. But will we ever experience another “first love experience” season again? Are we not too far gone now ever to feel His soul-reviving presence again? “Will the Lord cast off forever?” and will He be favorable no more? This is our condition now. But, suddenly, there is a melting away of these dark and dismal feelings. The presence of the Holy Spirit is felt again! The wind is blowing now. It may be almost imperceptible at first; but gradually it increases. Darkness gives way to light. The great storehouse in which are stored the treasures of our God is opened unto us. Its bolts are thrown back, for the Spirit opens up. The precious treasures therein stored flow unto us. We feel that they apply to us. We rejoice in the light of the countenance of our God and bask in His smiles. Another burst of spiritual growth or revelation of other Truths are now sweet to us as we grow in grace and knowledge of His great grace. His banner of love is extended over us on every side. We think again, that we will stay the winged Spirit; we will hold it fast now. But here again we err, for we have no power to hold it at all. It is not within our grasp. It is completely beyond our control. And ere we are aware it is gone! Like the gentle summer breeze that springs up, we feel its refreshing presence as it passes by. It blows for a short time and passes away. We can not tell where it cometh and whither it goeth.
There is a difference also in regard to the power of the wind at different times. Sometimes it blows with more power than it does at other times. So is the presence of the Spirit felt. At times it is felt more sensibly than at other times. We realize it to-day in the calm and heavenly frame of mind that we enjoy, while its fruits, love, joy, peace, &., are felt flowing from us and returning unto us. To-morrow it is felt more forcibly. The wind blows with increased power. We feel the comforting assurance that our feet are placed upon the bright summit of the Lord’s Holy Mt. Zion. The radiant and glory of the place are seen on either hand, while in our hearts and upon our lips we find a song of thanksgiving, praise and adoration unto Zion’s King. Thus does every one who is actually born of the Spirit realize the Spirit’s presence in his or her experience, refreshing and reviving them, and enabling them to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Each learns that the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of God, is absolutely sovereign in the display of His grace. So often His children are without the felt presence of His love and grace; made to mourn in its Beloved’s absence; and caused to question his interest in redeeming love. But such self-reflection creates a strong desire to experience Him again, even if he has not before. It is a living manifestation of one’s real love toward the dear Savior of sinners – a longing to be with the Bridegroom of his hope. Much might be written upon this interesting subject. I have briefly glanced at it in a general manner. I have not now the time, nor would the limits of my letter permit me to speak of it in all of its vivid applications to us in our experience. But I must close now.
I reached my home in safety Monday following the fourth Sunday in June, after an absence of about six weeks while engaged in preaching. God favored me through the help of good health, and I yet enjoy to a considerable extent the same blessing. Many are the blessings, temporal and spiritual, bestowed upon me, and I feel myself to be altogether unworthy of the very least of God’s favors. I hope that one of the leading desires that I have is to walk as becometh the followers of Christ, but I feel that I come far short of this. I feel it at times hard to deny myself and take up the cross. How to perform that which is good, I find not here in our experience. There is a continual searching for it, a reaching for it as hid treasure, but we find it not. Through all that we think, say or do, we behold the wretchedness of our depraved nature. Yet as strong and as firm as God’s throne, the Truth of His declaration stands, that we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” May this blest assurance be ever present to sustain and comfort us throughout the journey of life, and finally may we be gathered around the throne of our God in heaven entering into the enjoyment of the inheritance reserved there for those who are thus kept.
Yours in gospel fellowship,
Wm. M. Smoot. 1875