THE GOSPEL MESSENGER-February 1889
By Elder F.A. Chick
"The Divine predestination and sovereignty in the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus"
My mind has recently been very sweetly and pleasantly occupied in the contemplation of this theme, and in looking up in the scriptures of the Old Testament, the many prophecies concerning it, together with the record of their fulfillment in the New Testament, I do not see how any child of God can fail to be filled with a desire to look into this theme; and with gratitude and adoring wonder at the depth of riches which it contains. If for no other reason, surely he in must find pleasure in such a contemplation, because here the hidden wisdom of God shines forth, and because here also is his own salvation. From such a con-templation the child of God must turn away well assured that in all this there is no chance work, and that every step of the way only displays the perfect wisdom, the eternal purpose, and the almighty power of God. Whatever of mystery may be involved; what-ever questions may arise, unsolvable by the mightiest mind, it is still evident, from a contemplation of the scriptures, that the only self-existent being is God. All other things began to be, and without God they never could have existed. We must regard Him as the author of all, and as the upholder of all, or else we allow the claim of some other being to be self-existent, and there-fore equal in power and might to God. These all are mere statements of facts of Bible authority. Many questions arise here that only eternity can disclose. If, on the other hand, we teach the existence of another being, who is independent of God, we find still other questions assailing us which it is equally impossible for us to answer. What the Bible declares must be accepted as truth, while we humbly confess our inability to comprehend it, I would, in regard to this, but just call attention to this one thought, viz: that it is just as impossible, for us to comprehend the idea of perfect goodness permitting sin when there was power to prevent it, as to see how absolute justice could decree a wicked act, and yet hold the doer of that act to account-ability for it. It is as hard to see how God could per-mit evil and yet be just and good, as to see how he could decree its existence and yet remain holy and just. I merely suggest this to show what mystery surrounds us when we contemplate God and his works.
Whatever may be thought about other things, it will be surely admitted by all who have an experience of grace, that all things that in any way relate to the present condition and future salvation of God's elect, were appointed before the world was. From the election of vessels of mercy out from the rest of fallen men to their final glory, every step of each one of them was ordained, and so fixed that it must tend to the accomplishment of the purpose of God in their behalf. And this was not an appointment of them in the gen-eral mass, or as a body made up of undetermined individuals, but an appointment of the exact number of units of which the whole is composed. The election is the election of persons, and those persons sinners. God did not choose characters, but persons; he did not choose spirits or angels, but men; he did not choose saints, but sinners, to the end that they might become saints; he did not choose us after we believed, but before we were made of the dust of the ground-yea before the dust itself began to exist; he did not choose us in our own selves, but in Christ. (See Eph 1:1-5.) Now, here surely was divine sovereignty and predestination in the choice of here and there one who afterward should be called to love and serve God. The scriptures also teach that these persons are no more surely chosen than it is sure they shall be finally glori-fied. See Ro 8:29-30. The time of their second birth is also appointed of God; so also is the time of the first or natural birth. And a bound is set to the steps of every man that he cannot pass. No more surely is the end of his life appointed than that these bounds are on each side of his path; and surely if God has fixed the end of man's life-the day and the hour when he shall go hence-he has also fixed the manner of his going-whether by chariot, of fire or by the cross-and if the beginning and end of man's life are ap-pointed, it must also be true that all the pathway to the goal is appointed, and that our God sees to it that our feet tread that way. (I am not so sure about this-I would say that these things were foreknown, but not appointed-DM)
Let us think for a moment of the infinite foreknowl-edge and wisdom that must be embraced when it can be said that the exact moment when a man shall die is known. Think of the multiplied millions of acts, words, thoughts, passions, persons and things which have all had their influence in making that man what he is, mentally, morally and spiritually; which have surrounded and filled him with influences, all of which have helped to fix the time and manner of his death. And all this must certainly be known ere the point at which they culminate can be foreseen and known. Take Paul, for instance; The very moment of his call by grace and of his death, were known and ordained of God; think, then, of the train of circumstances which led to that result; and some of those things were sins, in him or in others, yet all were needful, all were in the plan of God. The very things that men meant for evil, God meant for good; God purposed them and man performed them; man thought he was doing only his own will, but instead he was doing the will of God. Can we not believe that it is always so, in all cases, with all men? It is my comfort and joy to believe this. And so "God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform." Behind the wrath of man he hides his gracious purposes. We see the wrath of man and are afraid, not knowing that these clouds are the chariots of God.
But more especially does the divine sovereignty and predestination appear in the last hours of our blessed Saviour; and this it was in my mind to write about. (I would not use the expression "predestination" here; a better and less confusing one would be "decree." There are certainly things that God decrees to happen and these decrees will most certainly come to pass; but to say "predestinate" leads to confusion and strife-David Montgomery) Wicked men, with wicked hands and hearts, meaning evil, yet fulfilled the scriptures, and without meaning it, wrought out the purpose of God; filled with rage against Jesus and his salvation, they yet did that with-out which Jesus could not have been exalted a prince and a Saviour to give repentance unto Israel and the forgiveness of sins. Thus shall it ever be; all that men do against the truth shall advance the truth. In all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus. This was the secret of the perfect submission of the Lord, and of his infinite calmness. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross and despised the shame. The joy was that the worst his enemies could do hut hastened the fulfillment of his joy, and gave him the sooner to see of the travail of his soul, and to be satisfied. All was working out the will of God, and fulfilling his word in the scriptures. Let us refer to some of them: "It pleased the Lord to bruise him."-Isa 53:10. "I will smite the shepherd."-Zec 13:7. "Thus it must be," to fulfill the scriptures.-Mt 26:54 "This all was done that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."- Mt 26:56. "The Son of Man goeth as was deter-mined."-Lu 22:22. "Jesus knowing all that should come upon him."-Joh 18:4. "All was determined of God beforehand."-Ac 2:23; 3:18; 4:26,28. Surely if these scriptures teach anything, they show that every step that the Saviour trod, every pain that he suffered, every blow that he received, all that was done to him by the hands of wicked men, was ordained beforehand of God. And those who were doing these things were unconsciously doing the will of God. I remember that I used to think that if Jesus' followers had all been true, he need not have died. I always read this narrative of Jesus' sufferings and death with an inward feeling of rebellion against it. But we read that once when the Lord had spoken of his death, Peter began to rebuke him, and to say that this should not be; but the Lord said unto him, "Get thee behind me, satan, for thou art an offense to me, for thou savorest not of the things that be of God, but of the things that Leviticus of men." The will of God was that Jesus should be crucified, and Peter must not say no; to do so is to oppose the will of God, and to be an offense to Jesus.
Now let us notice the minute things connected with the crucifixion of Jesus, which all were prophesied of, and which all must be fulfilled. I quote from the Old Testament. By reading the last chapters of the four gospels it will be seen that every one was exactly ful-filled; all were decreed of God; they must be done. (I wish he would stick to using the expression "decree" as he did here, but alas, he does not-DM) Men did them with wicked hands, but stilt God's sovereignty controlled them, and secretly compelled the fulfillment of his predestination. I say secretly, because they did not know or feel any will but their own; and here the completeness of God's sovereignty is made to shine out the more brightly. We seem to ourselves to be under no control, except that of our own wills, but yet the will of God is supreme over us all the time. "His judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out."
"And so he must be sold for thirty pieces of silver."-Zec 11:12. "His garments must be parted, and lots cast for his vesture."-Ps 22:18. "Judas must show himself the son of perdition."-Ps 109:8. "False witnesses must testify against him."-Ps 27:12; 35:11. "The potter's field must be bought with the price of Judas' treachery."-Zec 11:13. "They must spit upon him and smite him"-Isa 50:11. "They must give him vinegar and gall to drink."- Ps 69:21. "Even the wagging of the beads must be done."-Ps 22:7; 109:25. "He must be laid in a new tomb."-Isa 53:9. "It must be that all forsook him."-Ps 88:8. "Judges must eat with him."-Ps 41:9. "He must be crucified with malefactors."-Isa 53:12. "They could not break one of his bones."-Ps 34:20. "Also, to fulfill the type of the Paschal Lamb, the soldiers must pierce his side."-Ps 21:13; Zec 12:10. Here are sixteen special things connected with the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus, not one of which could fail, without making void the Scriptures. All this is worthy of our regard and earnest attention.
From it we may learn that our God takes care of, and has appointed, the small things as well as the great things. With him there is nothing great, and neither is there anything small. We may not see what all these things had to do with our salvation, but yet they must be. Seeing, therefore, that such minute things were ordered of God, we can infer his complete care of his children now. In such a God we can feel that it is safe to trust. With God there is no uncertainty as to any part of the future life of any of us. From all this we learn that every sorrow or joy in our lives is measured out, and that the persecution of wicked men is all in the purpose of God working out good for us now, as it did then. What complete rest and comfort there is here! By faith may we enter in and enjoy it. May these thoughts comfort the brethren as they have me.
I remain as ever, your brother in hope,
F. A. CHICK.
Reply to Elder Chick by Elder Mitchell
The plainness and humble simplicity in which Elder Chick presents such a sublime theme in this issue of the MESSENGER, as the "Sovereignty and Predestination of God in the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus," is certainly worthy of the careful consideration of every child of God who searches the scriptures to learn what they testify of Christ. That the wicked thoughts, acts and doings of men and devils are circumscribed and limited by the sovereign power and predestination of God, is a comforting truth to all who are prepared of God to receive it in the love thereof. It is true that our Lord has many things to say which his people are not able, at all times, to receive or bear. Like the herds and flocks of Jacob, when he went to meet his brother Esau, they must not be forced, but go gently along by slow degrees, as they may be able to bear it. To do otherwise would bring about a feeble, sickly and unfruitful condition among Christians. "The flocks and herds," said Jacob, "are tender, and if men shall overdrive them one day, all the flock will die;" "I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me, and the children be able to endure."-Ge 33:14. They cannot know all they are to know in this life at once. They must be prepared by experience and growth in grace, step by step, from one degree of faith to another. Like new born babes, Christians have inward cravings and hungerings, causing them to "desire the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby."-1Pe 2:2.
Jesus said to his disciples, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now."-John xvi. 12. He would not force these things upon them, because they had not then acquired sufficient strength of faith to bear them. Their faith must be increased of the Lord and enlarged by trials, to bring forth its richest and best fruits of patience and experience. "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience." The process and method by which faith is enlarged, is such as the carnal nature of Christians would not choose. They pray for an increase of their faith and the Lord answers their prayers, but it is in such a way as to drive them almost to utter despair. One trial after another comes upon them until, like Job, they are stripped of everything and every comfort that earth could yield, and made loathsome unto themselves and to their dearest earthly friends. Thus tried and tempted, they stand naked and helpless to hear what God, the Lard, will speak. He speaks by the irresistible whirlwind of his power, lifting up, dashing down and whirling about as pleaseth him, until their faith is so enlarged in the sovereignty of God that they can say by experience, each for himself, "I know thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee."-Job 42:2. It is by slow degrees that even many humble Christians are brought to receive and understand how the wrath of man can be made to praise God. Especially is this the case when they read that "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."-Jas 1:20. Yet the Psalmist says, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee."-Ps 76:10. Are those texts both true? Are they in harmony one with the other? Does that sinful wrath of man that does not work the righteousness of God tend in any way to praise God? In spite of ourselves, these or similar questions will arise in our minds when we search and meditate upon the word of the Lord, and they can only be truthfully answered in the affirmative. The wrath or sins of men cannot, of themselves, be anything but hateful to God. Everywhere in his holy word wickedness and sin are condemned. But when sin is bounded by the eternal purpose and almighty power of God, so that it shall not frustrate the purpose of God, but be kept, like the evil that Joseph's brethren thought against him, in that very channel which infinite wisdom and goodness had marked out for it, then it praiseth God in the sense presented to us in Ps 76:10. But we must learn these things, not only in the letter of the Scriptures, but by experience also, if we enjoy their sweetness. Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience. Patient endurance will work in the child of God an experience of the overruling power and sustaining grace of God. He will, like Joseph, often see that what wicked men and false brethren design against him for evil, God designs that very wicked act of theirs to be so bounded and circumscribed by his will, purpose and decree, that it shall work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose.-Ro 8:28.
And right here, as we have incidentally referred to God's dealings with Joseph and his brethren, as recorded in ten chapters of Genesis, suffer us to say that to understand this subject in all its bearings as there re-corded would go far to silence all caviling and disputa-tion among beloved brethren on the subject of God's purpose and predestination. The gist and essence of the whole matter of dispute is summed up and embraced in the few loving words of Joseph to his brethren:
"But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive"-Ge 50:20. Here is a plain declaration that the very thoughts of evil which Joseph's brethren had were purposed of God to be so under his sovereign control and direction as to bear a part in working out that good which he had purposed to his chosen Israel. This to us may be deep and incompre-hensible, but it is nevertheless truth. It is high, and we cannot attain unto a full understanding and com-prehension of it. But can we not receive it in faith and love as the truth of God?
And here, brethren, it strikes us with some force that could we but understand and believe this as Joseph did, it would greatly reconcile us to God, and to those who may intend evil against us. The belief of this doctrine of the over-ruling Providence and power of God over sin will make us kind and tender towards our erring brethren. It had this effect upon Joseph, and if we believe it in our hearts and feel its force as Joseph did, the same fruits of forbearance, compassion, love and kindness will be manifest in us as they were in him."
"Now, therefore, fear ye not," says Joseph "I will nourish you and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them."-Ge 50:21.
Here are some of the blessed fruits of a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God in controlling evil and turning it to work for good to them that love God. He spake kindly to his erring brethren, and nourished the little ones with wholesome words of gospel truth. This is in harmony with every principle of the gospel. The strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. Nourish, comfort, and speak kindly unto them, though they be weak in faith.
In this circumstance of Joseph and his brethren many things come up for our consideration, each of which had its part to work under the limitations of God's will and purpose to bring to pass all that he had promised. Jacob's special love for Joseph tended to stir up envy in his brethren against him. "But God meant it for good." Joseph's dreams also had their part to work, and the telling of them stirred up still greater envy, until they sold him to a company of Ishmaelites, who carried him to Egypt, where the Lord had a use for him, and so bounded every wicked act of men, and of a base and treacherous woman, as to bring to pass everything He had before purposed to be done, just as He did in the "betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus."
But we are not at alt inclined to discuss this subject now. Our limited space, as well as other considerations, forbids it. But the careful reader will see that there is a vast difference between the control which God exer-cises over sin and sinners, and his approval of their wicked works. He does not approve of sin. He hates and condemns it wherever found. But as he ruleth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, he certainly has supreme control over the works of wicked men and devils, either to defeat their pur-poses or to turn them into the channel of his own purpose for good to his people, and for the glory of his holy name. "He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." The will of God is just as sovereign in hardening as it is in having mercy. And whether he hardens or has mercy, it is all for the glory of his holy name. "For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." Ro 9:17. The purpose of God in elevating Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and hardening his heart, was not because Pharaoh was worse than other men by nature, nor was it for the purpose of sending him to an eternal hell, but it was designed to show forth God's power in delivering his people, and thereby declare the name of God throughout all the earth.
Let us be still and know that he is God, and that he saith "I will be exalted in all the earth." "For what-soever the Lord pleased that doeth he in heaven, in earth, and in all deep places."-Ps 135:6.
NOTE: I have no problem at all with Elder Mitchell's article. He used Scriptural terminology and taught the truth of the Bible. If all of our people, in their writing and speeches, would adopt this practice; there would far less division and strife among us. Our history has so many divisions that could have been avoided if one or others had adopted clearer terminology in expressing their opinions....on the other hand, many of those very same divisions could likewise been avoided had the other side and communicated their dissent more effectively and more efforts made to come to an understanding. This is why I rejoice to see efforts made along those lines and it is the reason I never criticize nor question where a minister goes to preach. If he can help establish truth, peace and fellowship in a particular troubled region, then I thank the Lord for it. Besides, it is none of my business anyway. DM
|Written by F.A.Chick|
THE GOSPEL MESSENGER
Dear Brethren.--I had thought when I began writing these reflections upon this subject to have embraced it all in one letter. The theme has grown very wonderfully in my mind as I have written, and I trust the Spirit has opened my mind to see a divine beauty in this scripture more than ever before. In my last letter I closed with some reflections upon the words in Joh 13:7--' What I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt know hereafter.'
In the next verse Peter is recorded as saying, 'Thou shalt never wash my feet.' Dull and slow to learn (as are we all), he had not yet risen to a full understanding of this divine act. Still fleshly in comprehension, he COULD NOT understand how his Master and Lord could be to him a servant. The true Master and King is he who serves, but this he could not yet see. He would not hear; hesitated to wash the feet of his Lord. This to him would have seemed fitting. But for the Master to wash his servant's feet--this must not be. Yet herein lies the difference between the kingdom of heaven and all the kingdoms of a fallen world. Jesus, Lord of all, is among us as one who serves, and we recognize him not in such lowly, humble garb. We look for royal robes and power and rank and glory, and lo! we see an humble dress, and weakness, and humbleness, and shame. This is the kingdom of Christ. This is God manifest in the flesh. Peter had not learned this yet; but his spiritual gaze was clearer after awhile. Thou shalt never wash my feet! Another may, or I will wash my own feet, but THOU, NEVER! And yet, none but Jesus ever could really wash his feet. Only Jesus can really serve us. We can serve one another only as we have the free Spirit of Jesus formed in us.
Then the Lord answered, 'If I wash thee not thou hast no part with me.' Jesus said not 'if I wash not THY FEET,' but 'if I wash not THEE.' Why does the Lord change the mode of address? It seems to me in order that he may call up to our minds that service which is more than all other service, that service which lies at the root of all, and without which there could be no other service rendered. WE MUST BE washed from head to foot, since from head to foot we are filthy and sick and diseased. Peter did not then see, but our minds are carried irresistibly to the cross and to the blood, and to the robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. There was here an expression of that for which Jesus came, and which was before him in all his human life. 'Except I cleanse thee thou hast no part with me.' What poor, mean falsehood then, is that theory which would hold up the pride and religion and good works of men as being sufficient for their salvation! Except I WASH THEE thou hast no part in me. And it is so still. What we have of Jesus is what he is to us and what he does to us. Serving us he imparts himself to us, and so we become partakers of the divine nature. With ourselves, it is only as we serve men that they have any part in us. As brethren serving each other, we mutually have part in each other.
Now Peter, still quick and impulsive, with one bound, leaps over to the other side, and still errs in feeling and in judgment, and in language, and says, 'Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.' But Peter did not need this. Only his feet needed cleansing. It seems to me that, symbolically, great and glorious truths of vital godliness are presented here. I think there is a reference to the cleansing power of the blood of Christ by which the whole man is washed from the only thing which can really defile--sin against God. This is the work of Jesus. And this he accomplished by being made in form as a servant, and by becoming obedient unto death. This being done once for all, needs not to be done again. By faith we personally and experimentally enter into possession of this infinite blessing once for all. However devious and :dark our path may be afterwards, we never pass beyond the strength and comfort of this hope. Having entered into it once, we never need enter it again, but must abide there forever. As Israel was sheltered by the blood of the paschal lamb, so does the blood of the Lamb of God shelter us forever. Peter had not yet come into the spiritual apprehension of this truth, and so on the one hand he says, 'Thou shah never wash my feet,' and then on the other, 'Not my feet only, but my hands and my head.' R~-ot only has Jesus wrought the atonement out for us forever, but by the same having word which has entered our hearts we have been purged from our former sins, and having come up out of this Egypt we shall see it no more. This work also Jesus has wrought within us. This also, Peter did not understand then. And we are also slow to learn. We occupy a new relation to God, and never can renew the old relation. Henceforth we are to be dealt with as with sons.
And so in Joh 13:10, Jesus said, 'He that is washed needeth not, save lo wash his feet, but is clean every whit.' This work of' redemption and this work of regeneration have both been wrought out. And as has been said, need not to be done again. A new heart has been formed within the disciples. This work is compared to a washing. Every Jew was familiar with the symbolical meaning of their frequent ceremonial washings. The disciples would well know that they represented a cleansing from sin and guilt. This, as has been said, could never need be done but once. But what then? We have our walk in the world, and the world is filthy, and our feet are not always well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and in our walk defilement occurs. Only the clean in lips, hands, heart, and feet can enter into the joys of the heavenly sanctuary. Isaiah, finding his lips defiled, cried, 'I am undone; woe is me!' And we, finding our feet defiled, also must cry, 'I am undone!' Our defiled feet shut us out from God. How shall we enter there? how shall we eat and drink at his table again? We must have clean feet. And so Jesus provides for this also; he takes water and washes our feet. The same word of life that cleansed us first must cleanse our feet. If the bodies are washed with pure water so must the feet be also. The cleansing done in the atonement is done forever, but this needs to be done again and again. And Jesus condescends to do this also. Day by day he applies the word of cleansing and saves us from the world--defilement--which we encounter every day. Oh, how good it is that the Master continues to do us this service! How different his Spirit from ours. We pass by our erring, defiled brother, on the other side; Jesus only comes still nearer. Sometimes we think that we desire to wash our brother's feet; but when once only, he says that we shall not wash his feet, we go away. Jesus did not so. How slow we are to learn of this meek and lowly one.
'And ye are clean, but not all, for he knew who should betray him, therefore he said, Ye are no[ all clean.' Surely this awful language shows that Judas had no part in him--had never been washed at all. At another time he said, 'One of you is a devil.' At another time he said, 'It had been good for that man had he never been born.' All the rest were included in his redemption. All the rest had begun to. drink in of his Spirit. One had not so near as to lie on his breast, but this man had no part in him. 'He was a thief.' Yet other thieves had been saved, and are still saved, but this man had absolutely no spark of the life and Spirit of Jesus in him. He became the very incarnation of diabolic evil, in that he, unlike Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas', and the rabble, had lived with Jesus and yet could betray him. In him was exhibited, as never before, how dead man is. In him was the truth clearly set forth, that only a miracle can put truth in the inward parts and cause a man to love God. .:%11 men are just as bad as Judas. He was chosen in order that ]n him we might read how evil we all are and tremble. Surely, if out ward religious associations and teaching could change the heart and make Christians of men, then Judas had long before been a true disciple. Here we learn the extent of all human depravity, and the necessity of the miraculous grace of God to save. Left to ourselves, we all had betrayed our Lord. Let us humbly adore that grace that has kept us!
One closing thought remains for me to say a word about Jesus said, 'I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you.' And just before he said, 'If I have washed your feet, ye ought to wash one another's feet.' 'The servant is not greater than his Lord.' Into this part of his blessed work he permits us to enter. We may also serve one another. Are we doing so? I cannot give a ransom for my brother; I cannot wash him as Jesus does in the new birth, but I may wash his feet. Am I doing so? Am I among my brethren as one that serveth? The first thing is to have the Spirit of service. If we have this lowly Spirit we have Jesus. By this we may know the man in Christ. He is not a lord, but a servant. And yet by service he is great in the kingdom. Just as baptism avails nothing unless we are first dead to sin and alive to God, or as the supper avails nothing unless we see in it not ourselves, but Jesus, so the outward form of service avails nothing unless the Spirit has learned of the meek and lowly one. And to him that possesses this Spirit, there is always opportunity for service. If we cannot wash the face or hands, we may the feet. If the notable thing is not ours to do, the little thing will be at hand. May God give us all the joyful free Spirit of willing service! I feel sorry to close these reflections. May God make them a blessing to all. Let those of us who practice this as an ordinance show that we do not think that when this is done all is done, and let those of us who do not practice it as an ordinance show that we do have the Spirit of service.
Your remarks, Brother Respess, at the close of my last letter, fully express the feeling with which I trust I have written. May we all love each other with pure hearts fervently.
As ever, your brother in hope,
|Written by F.A.Chick|
The Gospel Messenger -- January 1887
And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.--Ga 6:9.
Some reflections are in my mind concerning the above words, that have seemed pleasant and profitable to me, and I feel a desire to pen them down for the readers of the MESSENGER. We are all desirous of seeing some fruits of our labor, whatever the work may be in which we are engaged. And if no fruit appears we are apt to become discouraged. It is so with those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord. Whatever place we may fill whatever service we may be rendering--we all like to see some result. If no result appears we soon begin to question and feel anxious, and to doubt our usefulness, and the utility of what we are doing. This is true of every servant of the Lord, but I think it is specially true of those who are called to give their whole life to the work of the ministry; to reprove and exhort and rebuke, and to feed the flock of God. We want to see fruit. And we have a right to expect fruit. But we may expect it too soon, or in ways that would not glorify God, or be good for us, arid so we are disappointed. Then comes seasons of depression, when we are ready to faint and give up alt, and conclude that our ministry is of no use; that we have mistaken our field of labor; or that we were never called to this work. Now, to us all, ministers and members, the language of the verse quoted at the head of this letter, comes as a word of kindly promise of warning and admonition, all in one. It says: " Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due time we shall reap if we faint not." What a striking figure the apostle uses in the word "reap" in the text! Suppose one who knew nothing of the process of the germination and growth of plants from the seed, should be told that a certain seed would produce, if cast into the ground, bread for the use of man. He casts the seed into the ground, but days pass and he reaps no fruit. He becomes discouraged and faint in his mind. He ceases to expect fruit; he ceases to watch for it; and when the fruit appears, it does not gladden his heart and he does not reap it, because he has quit expecting fruit, and does not know there is any. This is the thought of the text. On the other hand, here is one who has long patience; he expects fruit; he ceases not to watch for it, though it be long delayed; he is not weary in well doing; he does not become faint, he sows the seed and trusts the Lord to give the harvest when the proper season shall come. He reaps the fruit, for he has continued to sow; he is in the field where the fruit ripens and when it ripens. The words are encouraging and true, and have been fulfilled again and again. How many times has our doubting and our unbelief been rebuked when we were beginning to be weary in well doing, and were getting ready, as it were, to fall out of the ranks. How often, at such times, our God has shown us a little fruit of our labor, and we have been strengthened and helped to still hold on our way. This, I think, is the general meaning of the text. And it is thus seen to be in full harmony with such expressions as these: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand," etc., and "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and after many days thou shall find it again."
I feel like standing as a witness to the truth of these promises, and I had it in mind to narrate an incident in my own life, in order to show how our Father above fulfills his own words and does not let them return to him void. And when he gives us to see his promises fulfilled, how it rejoices our hearts! How good it is to think that all his word is fulfilled; both that which he gives us to see, and that which we cannot trace. By now and then showing us a promise fulfilled, he would lead us to believe that all are or shall be fulfilled. If he permits us to reap once where we have sown the seed, he means us to understand the harvest shall never fail, whether our eyes behold it or not. Thus was my mind led to believe by the instance, which I will now narrate.
I had been in the habit of visiting, once or twice a year, and preaching in Frederick county, Md., at a place about twenty-five miles from my home, where a few Old School Baptist friends live. I had gone from time to time, hoping that there were some who loved the truth, and who took pleasure in hearing it. I also hoped that I might, at some future time, see some good results from these visits. One year ago, in November, I visited and preached two evenings in this place. But everything seemed discouraging to me. Even those, for whom I had a good hope, seemed very cold and farther away than I ever knew them to be. I could not feel that the spirit of the Lord was with us. I came home with the question in my mind, of what use have all my visits there been? I felt as though they had been of no use. I was heartsick and discouraged. I thought that I had been sowing in vain. The Lord had not given me one soul for my hire; I had better cease going there. I was greatly troubled. But now for the result: About this time I received a letter from a lady in that county whose name was not familiar to me; so unfamiliar was it that it required considerable thought before I could locate the writer in my mind. She said that she had fallen into deep trouble of mind a few days Before; that she felt herself to be such a sinner, and knew not where to turn nor what to do. She said that while she had always respected religion, and had been accustomed to saying her prayers, she had never known her sins until a few days previous. Those around her (she was at the time teaching, and was boarding in the family of a Methodist minister) did not understand her, though they seemed anxious to do her good. "And now," she said, "I heard you preach some years ago, and my mind is led to you. Can you tell me anything to comfort me? Is there any hope that God will forgive such a sinner as I?" To this letter, so full of bitterness and sorrow, I could only reply by presenting Jesus as the Saviour of the very chief of sinners. In a few days another letter came, thanking me for my kindness, but still expressing the utmost despair. While I knew that it was not in me to give her peace where the Lord had given her trouble, yet I felt to reply at once and tell her a portion of my own experience. About three days later I received a reply asking me to join her in praising God for his great work in her behalf. The God of Salvation had appeared to her gloriously one night upon her bed, and she knew him for her Saviour. I did rejoice over her with great gladness of heart. After this she began in her letters to inquire about doctrine, and what Primitive Baptists believed, honestly telling me when things were clear to her mind, and when they did not so appear. My confidence in and fellowship for her grew continually. At last I wrote to her that it was so, and asked her to come and visit me, and go with me to Black Rock and get acquainted with the brethren there. She came on the first of February under circumstances of peculiar trial. Her faith and love were tested more than is usual. She herself is very frail and weak--hardly ever seeing a well day; the snow lay drifted all over the country, in places from six to ten feet in depth. She had five miles to go to reach the cars and forty miles on them to my place, and then eight miles to drive with me to Black Rock, with the snow so deep that we were three hours going eight miles. She was a total stranger to the whole church, and had seen me but twice, and could hardly call herself acquainted with me. Yet she came, spite of all these discouragements; and in the midst of the cold, and ice, and snow, went down into the watery grave and arose to newness of life. After she returned to her home she wrote: "I have made the journey that seemed so hard; I have done what I felt was my duty to do; I have returned to my home, and not a hair of my head is hurt." "I will glory in the Lord who has strengthened me." Again she wrote: "How I love that people that received me so kindly and loved me so freely." I have not tried to tell of the precious conversations, of the contents of her many letters, because time and space would fail. She is still rejoicing in the Lord and praising his name.
And did not I feel rebuked at the Lord's goodness to me for all my unbelief and fainting by the way? Here was fruit where I had said, "there is no fruit." I felt to say let me not be weary in well doing again, for the reaping time will come, if not to me personally, then to some one else. I felt humbled and yet exalted. I saw more clearly than ever that I was nothing, but Jesus was all and is all. I was abased in myself, but I was exalted in Jesus.
I have told this instance of the Lord's power and goodness, hoping to encourage some dear brother who is disheartened and weary. It is true "we shall reap in due season." Oh, for more of a spirit of humble reliance upon God, so that we may toil with the patience of the ox and the boldness of a lion!
I remain, as ever, your brother in hope of life eternal.
FARRIS A. CHICK