Home, April 28, 1847.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – The conflicts which beset Zion’s pilgrims in the deserts of this world are often heavy; and when the clouds of adversity are gathering around us we are apt to say as old Jacob did, All these things are against us; but, like him, we often see in the end that all things work together for good, as they always do, to them that love the Lord, &c. I am more and more confirmed in the belief any of God’s children but when there is a real needs-be for it, and that these are as necessary in the great family of God, as those bright days and golden moments in which we so greatly rejoice. Peter was well prepared from painful experience to speak on this subject, and after pointing out many items of the glorious system of grace, in which the saints greatly rejoiced, adds. Though now for a season if needs-be, ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations, for the trial of your faith, &c. These hard trials which cause so much heaviness for a season, like all other tribulations, work patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed. Trial may not in all cases be exclusively indespensable in regard to the very individuals on whom it directly falls, but much of its benefits are realized by others of the spiritual family, perhaps very remote. Few modern christians but what have felt their faith and hope increased by reviewing the sore trials of the ancient saints, and seeing the immutable faithfulness of God in their behalf. I am glad that Daniel was cast into the lions’ den, and the three into the fiery furnace; I am glad that Paul and Peter were cast into prison, and Jonah into the sea, and the fish’s belly, not because I love to hear of their tribulations, but of the goodness and faithfulness of our heavenly Father; and I know not how he could have given such striking evidences of his never failing care over his people to settle our faith and warrant our confidence in him, if such extreme cases of trial had never been experienced by his people. If God spared Noah and Lot, who had been vexed with the sins and unlawful deeds of the wicked; and showed us the end he had in view in the afflictions endured by Job, we may thereby learn with gratitude that the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and reserve the ungodly to be punished. If no bear, lion, or Goliath had ever attacked David, should not have had such evidences as we have in these cases of the omnipotent power, ever present to help and defend his servants, in the very time of trouble. Time and space would fail me to mention all the cases of trial and temptation which befell the ancients, which were not only needful for the strengthening of their own faith, but were necessary also for us; for these now compass us about as a cloud of witnesses to establish our confidence in God so that we may not faint in our minds, but be strong to run the race with patience, looking to Jesus for such and as we may need under all our needful trials. With all these trials he makes a way for our escape, and gives us strength, not over and above, but equal to our day, therefore, we should count it all joy when we are called to bear divers tribulations, for Paul had learned to joy in God, and to joy in tribulation also. I am not sure but the servants of God learn as many and as useful lessons, when under sore trials, as ever they do in any other department of our heavenly Preceptor’s school, and perhaps none are longer remembered by the pupil. We are so prone to trust too much to ourselves and our own wisdom, or to take some favorite member or preacher for our guide; and from our confidence in such an one we are too easily led off from Christ, and follow our favorite into error more or less. When such a favorite falls into any great error, or vile sin, what a sore trial such an admirer feels, and how hard and long he will cling to his old hold, and often get himself more or less bedaubed with the filth of his friend! and when he has to let him go, the trial is great, but it is necessary, for under such trials we learn to cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils; and from all undue confidence in our own wisdom, and learn to only esteem men for the work’s sake, and follow them only as they follow Christ.
I always feel reluctant to mention myself as an example, or an illustration of any christian exercise; but if I may be allowed so to presume at this time I will venture to say, that I have passed through many heavy and severe trials, which I could not see at the time could ever in any possible way be for my good or any profit to the church or any body else, yet I have afterwards found such trials have been among the best lessons of my life. I have too often leaned to myself, and to my own plans of operation, until trials showed me their weaknesses and imperfections, and my own selfish ignorance and erreconciliation to God, and then I could more fully comprehend that wisdom which is perfect, and makes foolish the wisdom of man. Again, I have often found my partiality strongly preferring one of my ministering brethren above the rest, but I have often found these very men in process of time the worst enemies I have ever met; but when I had to drop them from my bosom, O what a trial I had! I have learned by repeated trials of this kind, to esteem all alike as men, and when I find my partiality beginning to grow toward one more than another, I begin to feel alarmed. My brother, can you not now look back and remember some whom you once delighted to meet in the solemn assemblies as fellow-laborers? But where are they now? perhaps among the worst persecutors you have. How hardly you have gave them up! What a trial you had! and how much you have learned by it! Well, by such a retrospect, you may learn something of my recent wounds, which are still fresh and bleeding. Is this my greatest foible, to have my favorites? or why is this trial again repeated? There is a needs-be for it all, and time must more fully reveal it.
In the thirteenth year of my age, I was baptized on a profession of faith in Christ, and I then thought, I was entering on a smooth, calm sea, where pleasant weather, good health, and bountiful provisions and brotherly kindness would make the voyage very profitable and pleasant: but alas! the storms, the head-winds, the quicksands, rocks and whirlpools – aye, and the strangers with their jargon of speech, half ashdod and canaan, who would sometimes complain of weak eyes like Leah, and grin like Esau, they had the charity of Judas, and the benevolence of Jezebel to feed the prophets of Baal, and yet their words were fair. They said their eyes were too weak to look at the sun, and they could not see afar of and especially backward, or into deep places; they talked much about practical goodness, and I soon found that by this they meant a strict attention to the traditions of men. About this time, they would often speak of the essentials and non-essentials. Faith was one of the essentials, but it was the act of the creature, and not much odds what it embraced. Repentance, also, was one of the essentials, and this too was the act of the creature; and many other acts of the creature were their essentials: but faith in eternal election, predestination, and the union of the Head and members, or life and body – the eternal unity of Christ and his church, which clothes him with the legal right of redemption, special and complete atonement, effectual vocation, and the final perseverance of the saints, might or might not be true, but they were at least unprofitable, and not safe to preach. They, with nearly all the acts of God and his grace independent of our own will or works, were laid aside as useless lumber. This class of passengers manifested great zeal, especially for Moses, and had more to say than all the crew besides, for so little of their language was understood by the children of promise that they could scarcely decide whether to answer yes or now; and on this account were often silent, and sometimes ashamed. Such company I had not believed were in the vessel; they warned me of the danger of the antinomian rocks which they said lay close on the north side, where many vessels had been broken. I soon found the popular current was their choice, and they depended much on their oars for getting along. These were spots in all my feasts, for I soon found they complained of all the choice food that I relished, but they seemed to get fat on such food as I loathed and rejected. I tried to eat what they did, and work as they did, and lay aside their non-essentials, take the popular current and work at the oar. Many others of my comrades on board, I could see looked pale and sickly, and seemed very languid and faint, I observed them often reading the old chart; and their color would come and go alternately. They said as I approached them, we are near Babylon, and this popular current will convey us thither, or to the great city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt where our Lord was crucified. I looked at the chart and found it even so, I began to warn the crew, but many said, “He is fighting;” I never love to hear that. Others said, “He has no charity.” Some said, “He has got on the antinomian rock.” I told them to sail with the sun in their eyes, & the chart in their hand, to throw down their oars, and unfurl every sail to the gentle breeze; for no gallies with oars, or gallant ship should pass safely; for the place of broad rivers and streams, and the glorious Lord was all these to his chosen people. When this was resolved on, the weak eyed began to complain of the strength of the sun, others said the waters were too deep to venture without oars. Some said we did not understand the chart, and others said, it was good, but was to be modified according to the fashions, customs, and refinements of the different ages and nations, and not always to be one thing regardless of circumstances. Their murmuring continued until they broke out into a rupture and in a great commotion they left us, and manned a galley and plied the oars for Babylon; and we found in the chart that they had left us because they were not of us. Many such conflicts I have seen, and at each of them great trouble and dismay has afflicted the children of Zion, and some old or young favorites have gone in the gullies; and O! how I have lamented, and like many others, I have thought the church divided, the cause is wounded, and the Lord is dishonored in the house of his friends! But when all was over, and none left but the children who were taught of the Lord, I found that they had great peace, they loved the Lord, they loved his word, the laws of his house, and they loved one another. They sat at one table and fed on the same food, they all read and practiced the same chart, and spoke and understood the same language, and felt such confidence in each other; and now they were glad that the tribe of the Ashodites was gone off, for now their strength was much greater though but few in number when all united, then when the company was large and so divided that one strove against another. Then I remembered the Shepherd had said Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. And I heard one say, Moab is my wash pot; so I found that the heart-achings we felt about these divisions were principally owing to our ignorance of what was going on; for what we thought was a division of the church, was only the cleaning of it, and now she appeared like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing each one bearing twins and not one barren among them. Then I could plainly see, that there was a needs-be for all trials, and not one was in vain, although for a season we were in heaviness.
Our inward conflicts are also often so severe, that we are ready to say, O wretched man that I am! My heart and my flesh faileth, my tongue cleaveth to the roof of my mouth, and my faith and hope seem like a lamp flickering on its socket; but when we have again and again exhausted all our supposed store and all our plans have proved abortive, we, as poor pensioners, fall for want of strength and our song, he is our salvation, in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory. Then we look back and see these inward conflicts which we so often endure come not by chance, but there is a needs-be for them all.
“By these trials, I daily pass throughout
I am taught my own weakness to know;
I am taught what my Shepherd can do,
And how much to his mercy I owe.
While I dwell in an enemy’s land
Can I hope to be always in peace?
‘Tis enough that my Shepherd’s at hand,
And now shortly this warfare will cease.”
Yours in the gospel of Christ,
Signs of the Times.
Volume 15, No. 12
June 15, 1847