One Hundred Years Ago: From a Letter in 1885

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Note: In the year 1885 the following letter was written from Beirut. The writer was B.F. Pinkerton from Springfield, IL. who went as a missionary to labor for the Lord in Syria, Egypt, and Palestine.
"I went on to Jerusalem, where I had access to a few souls, and left some books. From there I proceeded northward by land to Nazareth, but touched two points by the way, met with some souls, and left some books. In every place I met some who had been reading the books formerly, and were somewhat interested to see me and get some more.
"At Nazareth I remained five days, was quite happy, and saw a good many. Then northward to Tiberias where I slept one night, and after two days more reached Deir Mimas, near the foot of Mount Hermon, where I made a short visit.
"I was really encouraged by my visits the different points, and feel assured that the Lord has some souls even in the moral and natural desolations of Palestine, to whom God's Word is precious. How far and how fast they will get on is a matter we can leave to Him. It is a joy to be used, even in helping them a very little. A good many I met were schoolmasters, and were accustomed to give out to others any light they get. I sought to help them by a clear gospel.
"Here is a sample of what often takes place. In Jerusalem I was invited for the evening to a friend's house. Several came in. One of them, a schoolmaster, had been reading, and was interested to see me and ask questions. He said, 'I have been reading your exposition of Romans, and would have liked it if you had gone more fully into some of its knotty points.' I asked, 'What knotty points?' He answered, 'Oh, election, and some of its kindred subjects which are so difficult and are the strong meat which only those who are of full age can take in.' I then said, 'Why, my dear friend, election is not among the advanced truths of scripture at all. We cannot call it strong meat. It is really ABC truth in scripture. For such is the state of fallen man, that when God wants a people, He has to choose and call them.' He said, 'Oh, but chapter 9 is very, very difficult.' I said, 'But, my friend, may not the difficulty be with you? Perhaps you have not yet mastered chapters 1, 2, and 3. You are a schoolmaster. Suppose a pupil would come to you complaining of the exceeding difficulties of the rules of fractions, and you found that he had not yet mastered addition, multiplication, and division, and subtraction: what would you do with him? Why, of course, you would take him back to the first rules of arithmetic. Now, so it is with divine truth. You must first learn what man is in Romans 1 and 2, and then what God has done in grace in chapter 3. After that you may go on step by step, and when you reach chapter 9, you will have no difficulty.'
"This was the opening of the evening's conversation. So the way being thus opened, we looked into the truths of Romans as to what man is, and what man has done; others were present listening, and some of them were asking questions or stating objections. This is a sample of how we get access to souls. Some get stirred up and desire to have a book to read. This is selected for them and freely and cheerfully given. In some instances they are promised some special book or tract not at hand but which will be sent by first opportunity.
"Again, I am walking over to Bethany, and have a guide. 'Well, Sergius, what are you?' He answers, 'A Christian of the Copt religion.' I say, 'Well, where would you go if you were to die today?' The old answer, 'If my works are good, to heaven; otherwise not.' Then the remainder of our time as we walked over Olivet and Bethany was mostly taken up with these important questions. He cannot read Arabic, but his aged father is a Coptic priest resident in the Holy Land. He is a great reader and is delighted to look into Christian books. 'Now, Sergius, you kindly take this parcel of books to your father and give him my Christian love, and I am sure he will be interested to read what I give you.' He was not in Jerusalem or I should have called on him and made his acquaintance.
"Now I must not omit to tell you of the last night of my journey. I spent it in the quiet of a Jewish family in Sidon. The brethren in Deir Mimas have been for some time interested in some Jews in Sidon with whom they have had much conversation about Israel's calling and hopes, and what Christianity is, etc. They told me these Jewish friends were anxious to see me and that I might spend the night with them on my way. One of the brethren came with me a day's journey on foot (I was riding), to introduce me to them, and make arrangements for me to spend a night with them.
"I was interested in them. They had been deeply affected by the spirit they witnessed in the brethren in Deir Mimas, and were quite willing to listen. We went over God's calling of Israel and His ways past and future with them. We had Isaiah 8, and Daniel 9, and a good many other scriptures which relate to Christ's birth, rejection, and death; also His present place in heaven and what Christianity is as well as the rapture and what follows. Altogether it was a profitable evening with no controversy. They quite freely communicated to me their thoughts and expectations which are, of course, Jewish. They are of Aaron's family. The old man is a merchant and has traveled much in Russia and elsewhere and knows the state of the Jews. One of his sons has a good deal of discernment and grace may yet call him.
"They say that there are now about 80,000 Jews in Palestine and Syria; 12,000 in Jaffa, about 30,000 in Jerusalem, 7,000 in Hebron, 7,000 in Tiberias, and 12,000 in Jafed. Other authorities put the number of Jews in Jerusalem at about 20,000. All agree that they now form two-thirds of the inhabitants. Of the remaining third, one-half are foreigners. All the activity there now is on the part of foreigners. It is religiously a city of 'stirs and activity,' and is getting ready for its part in coming events, just as fast as London or Paris or Rome is getting ready." [For contrast we give these 1985 statistics: Pop. est. Israel 3,958,000; Jerusalem 398,000; religion 83% Jew.]
"I have long been impressed by the winepress of God's wrath in which the vine of the earth is cast to be trodden outside that city. (Rev. 14:17-2017And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 19And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. (Revelation 14:17‑20).) It differs from the harvest of the earth mentioned before and seems to be more definite and specific and more severe. I have long thought that man's religion, in its various forms and types (apart from open heathenism), will eventually be found centered in Jerusalem and Palestine, and that God will in due time execute special judgment on it. In what form I do not undertake to say, but it will be terrible.
"Oh, how solemn to think that all these events are just at the door. Men, in their blindness, see not. How much grace we need just now to go on in grace, having confidence in God's Word which is the only thing that abides.
"Since last writing to you, I have fresh word from Mesopotamia. From all I gather, there has been some blessing to souls there through the truth. Some six new correspondents addressed a letter to me which I received just before my last journey. Word from Upper Egypt is still good. May the Lord in mercy keep them fresh in a sense of His love and grace. If we do not drink in peace and communion from the living streams of grace, `living waters' will not flow from us to refresh others. We shall only be clouds without water carried about by winds of strife.
"The temptation seems to me to be strong now to get us away from simple grace. Any who have been favored with increased light dare not give it up for God has given it to them, but, oh, how much all need His help to maintain it in communion."