Monday, December 19, 2016

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Relief Obtained

Continued from Memoirs of Rev. David Rice (Chapter II): Further Convictions

This is from Chapter III of the memoirs of Rev. David Rice, which were included in An Outline of the History of the Church in the State of Kentucky, During a Period of Forty Years by Robert Hamilton Bishop and published in 1824.

"No son of Adam ever yet sought the Lord in vain. A high sovereignity is indeed displayed as to the time, and manner, and extent, in which prayer is answered; but he continues faithful who has promised -- not onle prayer from a penitent heart shall be forgotten, and though weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning. -- See Luxe xi. 9-18.

At the end of the two weeks mentioned above, Mr. Rice retired one evening to a secret place, to meditate on his deplorable condition, and plead for mercy. His attention was soon turned again to the fullness and suitableness of Christ as a Savior, and the display of divine perfections in the work of redemption. He saw what he appears never to have seen before, that the Savior and this plan of salvation were just such as suited him. He had been puzzled with this difficulty, 'How can that righteousness which is inherent in Christ justify a being in whom it is not inherent?' This difficulty was solved by the recollection of the words of the Savior concerning Jerusalem, 'How often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.' He considered that though the feathers were inherent in the hen, yet they were as sufficient to secure the chickens that were under her wings as if they were inherent in the chickens. So the righteousness of Christ, applied by an act of God's grace, was as sufficient to justify him in the sight of God, as if it were his own personal righteousness. He considered that though there was nothing good in himself, nor any thing good done by him, yet the faithfulness and truth of God in his word were sufficient encouragement for him to venture his all upon this Savior. Thus encouraged he endeavored on the spot to secure God's Son as his unspeakable gift. -- To lay hold of him as made unto him by God himself, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. In short, that evening he in very deed received it as a faithful saying and worthy of all acception, 'That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinner, of whom he acknowledged himself the chief.'

Upon his closing with the gospel offer, the gloom under which he had labored for years, was dispelled, and a peace and tranquility were produced which he had never enjoyed before. 'I seemed,' says he 'for a while to forget myself, and to be wholly taken up with viewing the displays of divine perfections in the astonishing work of redemption.' After spending some time in these delightful experiences he returned homeward. The serenity of the night corresponded with the calmness of his mind. The great mercy of God to such miserable creatures was still the object of his admiration. He began to say, 'Shall I ever sin against so great and glorious a being any more?' But from the sense he had of human frailty, and the examples of the best men of whom he had read, he concluded that he would probably even yet become forgetful, and, through the temptations by which he was surrounded, sin against God. This thought caused him to stop several times and weep bitterly. Yet even in these tears there was a joy and a peace which he would not have exchanged for all the joy of the world. Old Testament prophecy was once fulfilled. -- See Zac. xii. 10-14, and xiii. 1.

These mixed view and mixed exercises continued with him for some months. Though he had his darkness and his doubts, they were not of the tormenting kind with which he had formerly been afflicted. Like the spouse of old, he found his beloved sometimes gone, but still he was his beloved; even his seeking and his doubts were attended with a considerable degree of confidence. His warrent to believe as a sinner was never lost sight of. And he frequently enjoyed, during this period, such confidence as may be expressed by the 'full assurance of grace.' 'This assurance,' says he, 'did not arise from any thing good in myself, but from the direct act of faith in Christ and the promises of God. I felt a comfortable persuasion that I should be supported by grace and ket by divine power through faith unto salvation. This persuasion arose not from any confidence in my own faithfulness but from an apprehension of the work of redemption in the hands of an all-sufficient Mediator. This Mediator I was fully persuaded was able to keep safely unto that day that which I had committed to his trust.

During these exercises he got such a sense of his danger of sinning, (an excellent mark of genuine faith) and dishonoring his God and Redeemer, that he was often willing and even desirous to die, that he might be beyond the reach of sinning. He had read or heard of Christians personally covenanting God, and that it ought to be done with solemn fasting and prayer. This he considered a duty and a great privilege, and felt a strong desire to join himself unto his Lord in a perpetual covenant which should never be forgotten. To perform this with the usual forms he had not time at his own disposal and he was ashamed to ask it of his father, to whom his religious exercises were unknown. -- Another excellent mark of genuine faith, -- it was humble, and modest, and calm, and just. He consequently determined to do it as well as he could at his daily labor, and in walking from place to place, and in his secret retirements. In this work he was frequently engaged for about two weeks. He endeavored in so many words to renounce the devil and all his works, the pomp and the vanities of the world, and all the lusts of the flesh. He also in express terms renounced all self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, and devoted all the members of his body and all the powers of his soul, his whole man, to the service of God forever. All this he endeavored to do in the name and in the strength of Christ. 'I endeavored,' says he, 'in a particular manner to take God the Father to be my father, God the Son to be my savior, and God the Holy Ghost to be my sanctifier, my guide, my comfort, and my support. I took also that Law, which no longer appeared a galling yoke, but holy, just and good, to be the rule of my life, and the Gospel to be the support and the solace of my heart.' He adds, 'Near views of Christ and the covenant of grace were so far from removing a penitential sense of sin, that I think they greatly increased it. I looked on him whom I had pierced, and mourned for him as one mourneth for any only son, and was in bitterness for him as one is in bitterness for a first born. And all united in increasing in me a hatred of sin, and a desire after conformity to God in holiness. My heart was also expanded in benevolence towards my fellow creatures, and the love of God towards our lost race seemed not only to transport but to transform my soul into the same divine image.'

Having this in secret solemnly devoted himself to the Lord, he considered it to be at once his duty and his privilege publicly to avow himself a child of the covenant, and on the Lord's side. As opportunity soon offered, in the Lord's supper being to be be dispensed in the congregation, in the bounds of which he resided.

The Rev. John Todd had at that time become a resident in Virginia, and was stated minister in the congregation which Mr. Rice lived. Mr. Davis assisted him on the sacramental occasions. At a convenient season, previous to the administration of the ordinance, he conversed with a minister on the subject, and, according to the custom of the society, received a token of admission. On the Sabbath of the administration a sermon was preached by the pastor of the congregation on the sufferings of Christ for the redemption of mankind when he bore our sins in his own body on the tree. -- 'While the sermon was delivering,' says he, 'I felt a hardness of heart which I conceived to be inconsistent with the love and gratitude to God in which the inward exercises of religion very much consists. Hence I concluded I was not qualified to take a seat at the Lord's table.' After the sermon, which was preached out of doors, was finished, a psalm or an hymn was given out, and the intended communicants generally retired to the meeting-house, and took their seats at the table. After the singing, the boy of the congregation walked also toward the house. In the crowd Mr. Rice found himself walking close by the side of the minister from whom he had received the token of admission. He offered to return the token, intimating that he did not think he could sit down at the table. The minister refused to take it back, and told him to come with him into the house, and he would hear more of the matter. He accordingly entered, and found the minister who had preached addressing the people nearly on the same subject, observing that he who knew no sin, was made for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. On hearing this, and on seeing the intended communicants seated, 'One of the first thoughts,' says he, 'that entered my mind was, here is a number of the fallen sons of Adam seated at the table of the King of kings. The thought made me tremble from head to foot, and made my knees smite one upon another. I at the same time, however, saw a glory, and fitness, and excellency in Christ, and in the plan of salvation, which encouraged me to roll myself with all my guilt and all my moral and natural weakness and imperfection, upon his all-sufficiency, taking him for my Prophet, Priest, and King, and resting on him for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. And thus receiving an all-sufficient Savior, and thus devoting myself wholly to him, I ventured to take my seat and publicly partake of his broken body and shed blood.'

Sacramental Scene in a Western Forest, lithograph by P. S. Duval, 1801; Library
of Congress

The above forming what may be called the first period in the history of our worthy father, it may not be unprofitable to pause and make a reflection or two.

Divine sovereignty is here illustriously displayed. There were many needy and hardened and lost sinners besides young David Rice in the county of Hanover at the time referred to in these Memoirs. Yet David Rice was called, and the majority of his companions and equals in age and in wickedness were perhaps passed over. Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Sovereignty was also displayed in the length of time Mr. Rice labored under convictions. Though he was early the subject of religious convictions, and never was distinguished as an open and hardened sinner, yet years of sore trouble were endured before relief was obtained.

In the very worst of times, and under the most unfavorable circumstances, Jehovah can raise up a seed to serve his Son. When God himself gives the word, neither earth nor hell shall be able to withstand him. And the good work being begun shall be carried on till it is perfected, in spite of every difficulty. Judging after the manner of men, it was extremely improbably that the first serious impressions of Mr. Rice should end in genuine conversion. Thousands of young men at least under more favorable opportunities have made shipwreck of the faith.

What encouragement have those whose office it is to preach the Gospel of God's grace to persevere, though they should have but little visible evidence of success. It is probable Mr. Davies never knew what signal benefit he was to Mr. Rice; nor is it in the nature of things possible to calculate the good effects of that single sermon, till all who have benefited by Mr. Rice's labors are called together. Let us stand in our place and minister in the name and strength of our Master; the great day only will reveal the amount of our success.

A firm belief in the doctrines of personal and unconditional election does not necessarily lead men to be careless about the use of means for either their own salvation or the salvation of others. In Mr. Rice at least this belief produced quite the opposite effect.

Whatever may be the means which are used for the conviction and conversion of sinners, a new nature will display itself by the same marks in all men and in all parts of the world, -- a hatred of sin, an abhorrence of sin, an ardent desire of holiness, a spirit of prayer, a love for all God's ordinances, a concern for the eternal welfare of our fellow men, a low opinion of ourselves, a high opinion of Christ and the way of salvation by him; -- these are the genuine marks of a new nature; they were all displayed in Mr. Rice in that part of his history which we have been reviewing. Careless sinner, formal professor, genuine believer, try your state and your character by these.

I am publishing a chapter of Rev. David Rice's memoirs every Monday.

To be continued...

Rev. David Rice (1733-1816) was my fifth great grandfather.

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Further Convictions
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions 
Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

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