The Finished Testimony - Jessie Penn-Lewis

10/10/21 08:54:04PM

 T H E  O V E R C O M E R
The Finished Testimony

(The Cross is the touchstone of faith.)

" The great dragon was cast down . . . And they over-came him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony ; and they loved not their life even unto death. . . ." Rev. xii. 7-12, R.V.m.

" And when they shall have finished their testimony . . . they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them : Come up hither."—Rev. xi. 7-12, R.V.

IT may come as somewhat of a shock to my readers when I announce that with this December number the issue of the "Overcomer" ceases in its present form, being the completion of a definite TESTIMONY given to the Collaborators of the book " War on the Saints," to fulfil to the Church of God.

The paper—of which the collaborators are joint proprietors—did not have an " ordinary " beginning, it has not had an " ordinary " career, and it is not having an " ordinary " ending, for it is not " ordinary " to close a magazine when it has an established circulation, and is financially sustained by its readers.

When the paper was commenced six years ago in January, 1909, by very clear command of the Spirit of God, everything was humanly against it.  No "ordinary " steps were taken to announce its advent, for no publisher would have taken the risk of its issue,* and its career has been through stormy seas, as month by month its message was fought out in indescribable opposition from the Satanic spirits of the air, who also aroused against it unreasoning and abnormal prejudice from carnal Christians, and Christians who did not understand the experiences, nor the conditions calling forth its testimony.

On the other hand, in face of this intense prejudice and resistance, at the back of the paper was a PRAYER MINISTRY which not only forged out the truth it carried, but pressed forward the message in print, until it penetrated in an extraordinary way to some of the remotest places on the inhabited earth, reaching isolated believers in land after land, to whom it came as a message directly sent of God, lifting up the crushed, and, in some cases, almost wrecked workers, on the eve of being driven off the battle-field.  Therefore, as we look back upon its stormy history, we clearly see that nothing but the Hand of God carrying

through a definite purpose ordained by Him, could have upheld and steered the paper through the maintained opposition of the hosts of hell; and only the Holy Spirit of God could have guided it to the sorely tried children of God scattered all over the world, and used it to minister to deep need unknown to all but Him.

With such a record of Divine guidance and upholding in the carrying out of a Divinely given ministry, it could be expected that the paper would have no ordinary ending.  He Who gives a ministry must make known when it is completed. Then to continue to issue the magazine when He indicates its closure, would be to work outside the known will of God.

The danger of going on beyond the measure of the Spirit in a given piece of spiritual service, because it has become prosperous, is a real one to those who seek to co-work with the Spirit of God.  It is so easy to be influenced by the visible results before men, and to fail in co-working with God in the carrying out of His purposes to the end. 

The knowledge of this danger has been of great value in guarding the Overcomer from being diverted from its ministry.  Again, and again, it could have become involved in the network of twentieth century machinery.  Offers of large sums of money as " capital " to develop it as a journal meeting a deep spiritual need, have been made by some who saw its potentialities ; while other workers of repute have offered to organise prayer-circles in connection with it. But from these, as well as from many other propositions, we have, by the grace of God, turned away.  We had no commission from God to found, or to conduct a Magazine developed and worked on ordinary lines, or to build up an organised " work," or to institute a " school of teaching," but only to minister the truth of God to the spiritual people of God, and to remain simply witnesses to the end.  We have therefore held ourselves free to close the paper directly the Holy Spirit made known that it had fulfilled its ministry.  So long as God needed it He would give grace to maintain its Testimony until its course was finished, and then it was for His servants to hand it back to Him.

It has been said that the Overcomer had no ordinary beginning.  Neither has it been an "ordinary" paper in the preparation of matter for its pages.  It has not contained "mental" matter, i. e., matter which is merely the product of the mind, even a spiritual mind !  It has been filled with truth gained by fresh and living experience of the written Word of God, and truth of this kind cannot be given over and over again.  It comes as boiling lava from the spirit, and when it is poured out it passes away, not easily repeated by those who give it.  This explains the advancement in the ministration of truth, and the progress in Testimony of the Overcomer year by year, from the more elementary themes dealt with in the first years' issues.  So to speak, it picked up its readers in 1909, drawing out, as with a magnet, from the midst of others, those who knew in any degree the two-fold message of the Cross, as taught in Romans vi., and then led them on, line upon line, precept upon precept, through the earlier stages of the Baptism of the Spirit, the experimental pathway of death with Christ, the life joined in spirit with Christ in God, and the war in the heavenlies, depicted in Ephesians vi.  The culmination was reached in 1913 in the Translation message, which in 1914 has been amplified more in detail concerning experimental preparation for the imminent Coming of the Lord.

Since the paper has been a Testimony committed to certain members of the Body of Christ, to declare to other members of the Body, for the specific leading of them on in the deep things of God in preparation for their reigning with Christ, we clearly see that this work of the paper has reached completion, for even though the Lord tarry a brief while, in the realm of teaching we cannot (1) go back and give the elementary truths of earlier issues ; (2) the further opening out of warfare truth that may be possible is better done in permanent book form, uncircumscribed by the limited space of a magazine; and, (3) all that is necessary to be said about experimental preparation for Translation, has now been given, short of going on into prophetical teaching—a line of ministry to fulfil which we have neither equipment nor commission.

In the pressing on from faith to faith in the opening up of truth during the six years' issue of the paper, a small proportion of readers fell away each year.  Some because they had not the initial foundation of Romans vi., and therefore could not understand the language belonging to the experience beyond it; others because they did not realise that the truths given could only be grasped in meditation and prayer; others again because truths of experience opened out ran against preconceived ideas or prejudices, and they would not give time to enquire at the Throne of Grace whether these things were so.

But in the place of these who fell away as readers, as the paper steadily held to its ministry — commissioned of God to bear witness to truth and leave the results to Him — large numbers of new readers took their place, and we rejoice to know that there is now a very large body of believers throughout the Church who have grown in spiritual stature with the monthly issue of the paper.  These were among the most spiritual of the Church six years ago, and they were then able to recognise the truths set forth as of God.  They have given time to lay hold of them in meditation and prayer and proving; they have gone from strength to strength, and faith to faith, and now with us they look for the Lord from heaven, many by His grace able to look back upon their warfare and say "I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith. ...”

The question however may occur to some, "But in the closure of the paper at this juncture are not these readers being left without the support and stimulus of its messages in a time of great need ? “

To this I reply: Those who have truly assimilated the truths given in our pages are the very ones who by this time do not need the paper. All that has been written and testified to has in large measure been wrought into them. They need now no outward "help," or "prop." What they have proved is now their own, and however fiery the trial, or overwhelming the deep waves and billows of the present hour, what is of God in these souls will grow stronger and more dominant. Their "life is hid with Christ in God." Their treasure is in heaven. Their anchor is within the veil. Christ is All in All. More than "teaching," more than "truth" HE ALONE IS ENOUGH, and any unconscious reliance on the fellowship ministered through the pages of the little paper—which has become to many their uiost precious treasure next to the Bible—will by its cessation pass away, so that they may now rely entirely and only upon HIM.

"But what about those who have not fully grasped all the truths set forth in the past ? "  These have bound volumes* of the paper to go back to!  If they have not grasped what they have read, they can now give time to meditation and prayer over the pages of the past.  It is probable that many of our readers have not realised the sacrificial service that lay behind the ministry of the paper.  They may have read it month by month superficially, as an "ordinary" magazine—and—missed its vital purport.  They looked for mental enrichment, failing to apprehend that what they read belonged to that sphere of knowledge which could be only "spiritually discerned," and so they threw aside what their minds could not easily grasp.  They forgot that heaven's treasures are to be sought for as gold, and are not to be gained lightly.  Such of our readers as belong to this class will not lose by the closure of the paper, if it leads them to go back to the issues of the past, and give themselves to lay hold of the truths they contain before it is too late.

Still another question may arise: " If the paper is meeting a need, could not others carry it on ? "  This point has not been overlooked, as month after month of the past year, the deepening conviction grew in intensity that its work was done, and every aspect of the closure laid before God in prayer.  The work of editing the paper, and of all who have contributed matter to its pages, has been done " without money and without price," as labour given freely to the Church of God.  Even thus it has been able to pay its way only by subsidy* from those who valued its ministry.  It could not therefore be sent out on ordinary business lines without an entire change of procedure, which would probably involve an entire change of message.  Moreover, those who might be able to continue its special message are also looking for the Lord from heaven and would not feel it the time to take up the responsibilities of such a service.

From every view-point, therefore, the will of God is confirmed in its closure.  The Overcomer has been a definite Testimony committed to definite witnesses, and when that Testimony is completed, the paper ends.  We have given of our best without stint to the Church of Christ, having sought to declare without shrinking the whole-counsel of God so far as it was committed to us, and we now await with our fellow believers the verdict of the Judgment Seat.

There are also other circumstantial aspects confirming the leading of the Spirit; for it is a safe rule in arriving at any momentous decision as to a certain course being in the will of God, to bear in mind three fundamental principles of guidance which must be in accord when the proposed step is of God, viz., (1) The witness in the spirit ;  (2) The teaching of Scripture;† and (3) The working of God in Providence, bringing about circumstances which correspond with the leading of the Holy Spirit in the spirit of the believer.*

When the Spirit of God indicated that the Testimony of the Overcomer was drawing to a close, having regard to the continual evidence to the value of its ministry—and fearing lest the release from the heavy burden of its issue, would be an " accepting deliverance " at the cost of loss to the Church of God—unmistakeable confirma- tion of God's will has been sought for with patience and prayer. This has come mainly around the " business " side of the publication of the paper.

Eeaders generally may not know that the Overcomer has been published for five years from an office opened in my private residence. When the little paper was launched in 1909 no such arrangement was anticipated, any more than the rapid growth of the magazine into a world-wide circulation. But when the arrangements made for the first year's issue proved unworkable, as a small Book Room already existed, in the charge of a Secretary who had assisted me in Literature issue for twenty years, the work was transferred to the Book Eoom, little realising all that would be involved in the sending forth of such a paper. As the work grew, enquiries were made among business agencies as to the practicability of release from the business burden, but there had come about a personal correspondence with the readers, which made it impossible to transfer it to other hands without injury to the paper, and the removal from the Editor of much valuable insight into the spiritual needs of the readers.

As the years went by capable and devoted helpers were sent of God to give assistance in the " office," and the small staff grew in efficiency within the limits of its power. But—and herein lies the crux of the circumstantial aspect of the leading of God in the closure of the paper—no staff of workers, however devoted and capable, could lift the burden of the responsibility, and business machinery which has been fast growing around the Editor, and which could only now be continued by entire devotion to its demands and a cutting off of all other spiritual service to the Lord's people.

With deep gratitude to God for His sustaining grace in carrying through a service for the Church of God which has taxed the enduring power of

spirit, soul, and body to the utmost limit, I therefore recognise that the time of release from the business burden of the publication of the Overcomer has come.  The Overcomer Office, as an office, ceases to exist with the issue of the December number of the paper.  The business machinery of the issue of a monthly magazine, which has been faithfully done as unto the Lord, is at an end.  To all who have so loyally and devotedly worked in the back- ground, and to our Foreign and British Centre Distributors everywhere, and others who have truly "laboured" with us in the Gospel, we acknowledge our deep obligation, with the assurance that He Who has watched their labours for the saints, will give them His " Well done ! “

Something must also be said about the future in relation to various departments associated with the Overcomer—a future which carries two meanings, i. e , (1) the "littlewhile " of a future which remains whilst the Lord tarries ; (2) the future which immediately follows the Translation, and lies between the invisible and public aspect of the Lord's Return.

In closing the Overcomer, as we recollect the very large number of letters from our readers giving thanks to God for His blessing through our pages, even to the present hour, we are not unmindful of the responsibility of the stewardship of truth given to us of God. In another article* I have set forth the way in which it seems the Spirit of God would have the fruit of the work of the Overcomer gathered up, for a continued ministration of the truths sent out in its pages.  The PERMANENT LITERATURE which exists as the magazine itself closes, is still needed by the children of God in the conflict of the present time, and we believe will be still more needed by others after the departure of the watching believers.  The issue of this Literature through the little Book Boom, which was in existence before the advent of the Overcomer, carries with it none of the burden of machinery surrounding the issue of a monthly paper.  The " office " therefore ceases, but the Book Room remains.

One practical result of the closure of the paper which we regret, will be the absence of a channel of communication with our readers month by month, but we can still reach the greater number if occasion requires, for over one- third have their names and addresses registered in the Subscribers' Book, whilst more than another third ol the readers are registered in the lists of our British and Foreign Centres, leaving a comparatively small proportion obtaining the paper through our London agents, and therefore unknown to us. The largest proportion of our readers therefore can be reached by circular post,* in the event of (1) any special issue of an occasional paper, which the Spirit of God may lay upon us ; (2) the announcement of any new book or message in print, from a large number of yet unpublished MSS ; or (3) the resuscitation at any time of the Overcomer in another and less burdensome form. +

And now what shall be said to our readers in every part of the world; the Missionaries in dark, dark places of the earth, the Christian workers labouring to maintain a faithful Testimony against the apostacy of the professing church from the pure Gospel; the oppressed and crushed ones crying out " How long, O Lord, how long" as they are conscious of the deepening darkness, and demon-atmosphere of the world ?

Lift up your heads, beloved in Christ, "when ye see these things, know that your redemption draweth nigh."  The visits of our little monthly messenger may cease, but the Christ abides.  Know that HE is nigh, even at the doors.  Let joyous expectation fill your hearts.  Finish your work !  See that all is ready for departure.  Set all your affections and hopes in heaven where Christ is.  Soon, soon we shall ascend, and we shall see Him face to face, and tell the story "Saved by Grace."  Earnestly expecting to meet each one of you in His Presence—

Commending you to Him,



The " LORD'S WATCH" which has been so signally used of God in the hands of Mr. J. C. Williams, who initiated it in 1910, now reverts to the separate control of the Founder, who will continue his ministry to any of our readers who write to him, addressing letters as before.

" LE VAINQUEUR "—the French Overcomer— edited by Mr. H. Johnson, has been passing through great trial on account of the European War.  Le Vainqueur has been issued in dependence on the gifts of the Lord's stewards, and whilst Mr. Johnson continues to send it forth, we commend him and his ministry to the continued sympathy of our readers ; especially the burden on his heart concerning the French translation of " War on the Saints," referred to in a recent letter. ‡

* In fact, when the simple handbill announcing its advent appeared, a Publisher of repute wrote as a personal friend to the Editor, in deep concern, anticipating nothing but failure for the paper from a financial and circulatory standpoint.

* It has been understood that our inability to accept adver- tisements of ths ordinary class, upon which the income of every Magazine depends, has made it impossible for even the ordinary expenses of issue to be met without assistance, but through the God-given help of those who have valued the paper, we hare been enabled each year to close the accounts without deficit. We are confident that by the Lord's continued supply we shall be enabled to meet all obligations in the final closure.

i.«., the step to be taken must be in harmony with the principles of the Word of God.

* Oft times the third is the after-working out of the attitudes taken by the child of God when the knowledge in the spirit is first made known. The Spirit leading may at first appear to have no corresponding witness in the circumstances, and some- times may be directly opposed to them. Then the believer must take the necessary attitudes, such as, the placing of his will on the side of the will of God made known in the spirit, and, maintaining this attitude, wait before talcing action— unless the witness in the spirit is sufficiently clear to act upon without waiting for exterior confirmation—until the working of God in Providence confirms the witness in the spirit given mouths, or even years, before.

* See " The Overcomer Literature Trust Fund," page 203.

* If any of these readers have failed to keep their full number of issues for reference, or hare parted with odd numbers, they may be able to obtain the missing ones, if they write without delay to the office.

* Those who are unknown to us, and desire to be kept in touch, should occasion arise, may have their names and addresses registered, if sent to the Manager of the Book Room, on a post card at any time.

+ These possible lines of action are mentioned only because this is the last opportunity for reaching our readers as a whole.  The third possible course necessitates our retaining the title of the Overcomer as registered at Stationers' Hall.  The deepening indications in the world of the soon Coming Lord for His Church, makes it more than probable that none of these procedures will be possible.

‡ See names of Secretaries for England on page ii. of cover.  See also Mr. Johnson's letter on page 205.