The Warwick Old School Baptist Association, in session with the church of Warwick. To the churches of the same, send our annual salutation.
Dear Brethren: - We cheerfully comply with the long established usage of this association, in addressing to you this our epistle of love and fellowship. In being favored of the Lord with the privilege which we now enjoy, setting together in our associated name and capacity, we, as your messengers, claim no power to lord it over the churches of which this association is composed, by the enactment of laws, rules or customs, to be binding on the saints: nor do we hold ourselves competent to regulate either the faith or discipline of the house of God. We claim only to be the servants of the churches to which we severally belong, no less amenable to the authority which Christ has vested them with, than when assembled with our beloved brethren at our stated church meetings. We are not therefore encumbered with that kind of labor which characterizes some of the associations of our age; such as contriving ways and means for building up the Redeemer’s kingdom, forming societies, raising of funds, or organizing voluntary religious societies which are not authorized by the express authority of the great Head of His church. Free from all such worldly drudgery, we are permitted to bear the messages of love and fellowship from the churches to which we severally belong, and from sister associations of the same kind, to our brethren, and through them, to the churches and associations whose messengers they are. Standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, it is no marvel if we have to encounter reproach and opposition from the enemies of the cross of Christ; and if even of our own selves some should rise up to draw away disciples after them, it will be no new thing among the people of God; for if any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, “he shall suffer persecution.” It is consoling to know that “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth in judgment against thee thou shalt condemn. This the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord.”
In filling out this Letter, dear brethren, permit us to offer for your consideration a few remarks on the Resurrection of the Dead, and the General Judgment of the last Day.
These subjects are vast and important; they are prominently set forth in divine revelation as fundamentally embraced in the doctrine of the New Testament.
The resurrection of the dead both, of the just and of the unjust, is clearly affirmed in the Scriptures. And that all the bodies of all the human family shall be raised from the dead, is so emphatically declared by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, John v. 28, & 29, as to fully and forever settle the matter, beyond all contradiction. Still there are, and have been men of sufficient boldness to deny this plain and positive declaration of Christ; and men too who have even professed to be the disciples of our Lord. Some, in disputing this doctrine have taken the position that the “resurrection is past already, of whom were Philetus and Alexander,” and happy would it have been if the Church had not been infested with such men, or harassed with such errors, at any later dates. “All who are in the graves shall hear His voice ( the voice of the Son of God,) and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” Here are two classes of the children of men who shall rise from their graves; and two kinds of resurrections awaits them. Not however in regard to the simple idea of resurrection; for that will be alike. They shall all hear His voice, and hearing they shall come forth. Should we be asked, What shall come forth? We answer, the bodies of all the physically dead; for what else besides the dead bodies of the departed are in the graves? In death there is a separation of the soul and the spirit from the body. The dust returns to dust, or to the grave, and the spirit and/or soul to God who gave it. But the difference between the righteous and the wicked is, first in regard to that unto which they shall arise. The righteous shall rise to life eternal, and the wicked to the resurrection of damnation. From this we infer, that the life which shall be displayed in the resurrection of the saints, which is called “Eternal Life,” in distinction from mere perpetual or interminable existence, is the same life and immortality which is implanted in them when they are born again, while they that die in an unregenerated state, rise from the dead, animated with that carnal, depraved and wicked nature in which they existed before the death of their bodies.
This view seems to us to be strongly supported by Romans viii, “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” His Spirit that dwells in the bodies of the saints, is that by which they are born of God. For that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and as it is of God, it sinneth not, because it is born of God; the seed is an incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever; and this seed remaineth, and abideth in them; and in the more abundant manifestation of it shall their bodies be raised up at the last day in the image of their Savior, they being born of Him; for He will fashion their previously “vile body” into the likeness of His own risen and glorified body. They shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is. To this consummation of their glory the apostles of the Lamb who had received the first fruits of the Spirit, looked with earnest expectation; groaning within themselves, waiting for the adoption; to wit, the redemption of their bodies.
But there is no such assurance given concerning those who die in their sins. The Spirit of Christ does not now dwell in those; and, although they shall also hear His voice and come forth, their bodies are not to be quickened by His Spirit dwelling in them. The Spirit in which they lived and sinned, and in which they died, is that in which we look for them to be raised from their graves, and in which they shall suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
The limits of an ordinary Circular, do not allow sufficient space for us to enlarge; volumes may be written on the subject. We design simply to avow our faith in the doctrine of the bodily resurrection, and point to our authority for believing it to be the Truth. If the dead rise not, then, as Paul declared, Christ is not risen; and if Christ be not risen, the apostles are found false witnesses, and we have believed in vain and are yet in our sins’ and of all men Christians are the most miserable, if in this life only they have hope in Christ.
On the subject of the general judgment of the last day, we have no new light, but we simply desire to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance of what the Scriptures teach in regard to it, And
1. God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man, whom He hath ordained. That ordination identifies the man Christ Jesus, who is Immanuel, God with us, - God, Man, and Mediator. In His person, as the disciples saw Him ascend up to heaven, and a cloud received Him out of their sight, so, in like manner shall they see Him descend, in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, when He shall be revealed in flaming fire, to raise the dead, and to judge both the quick (living) and the dead. At His coming we are informed, the saints shall meet Him in the air, and so shall they be forever with the Lord. But He shall take vengeance on them that know Him not, for He will turn the wicked into hell, with all the nations that forget God.
2. That the day of Judgment is by appointment, after the death of our natural bodies, we prove by the words of inspiration (Hebrews ix. 27): “As it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment,” &c. And also by the testimony in 2 Thess. 1. 7-10: “When the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power, when He shall appear to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” &c.
3. And lastly, The Judgment itself. What is it? - We do not understand that the ten thousands of Christ’s saints who shall descend with Him from heaven at that time, are coming to undergo examination, to see whether they had been taken prematurely to heaven or not; nor that any of those who shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and who shall be caught up to meet their Savior in the air, and so to be forever with Him, will be in any danger of a reversion of that judgment by which they are freely justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. But we do believe that all the quick and the dead shall be judged according to Paul’s Gospel; that according to the testimony which Paul presented on the subject of the judgment of the last day, in the Gospel which he preached. The formalities of an earthly court we are not looking for. No new development will be made to the Sovereign Judge. All things are already naked and open to His sight; and, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” The sentence of the ungodly is already written in the Scriptures, and the eternal inheritance of the saints is already secured, and “cannot fade away.” But in the judgment of the last day, all that is written in the Book of God, concerning both the wicked and the righteous will be executed in strict accordance with what is written in the Scriptures.
The saints already love His appearing; they loved His appearing when He appeared in delivering them from their burden and guilt, when first they saw the Lord; They love it now,
“In darkest shades when He appears,
Their dawning is begun.”
And when, robed in awful majesty, they shall see Him in the clouds of even, coming down the sky to raise the dead and to judge the world, they will still love His appearing.
But those who shall be found on His left hand have never loved Him here, nor will they love Him hereafter. They are His enemies and the enemies of His people, of His Truth, of His free grace doctrine, and of His ordinances; and as such their mouths are stopped, their guilt detected, they are condemned already and the wrath of God abideth on them. On the other hand the saints are already passed from death unto life, the earnest of their incorruptible inheritance is already bestowed; and their God in solemn covenant is agreed that their sins and their iniquities He will remember no more.
“Then when His voice shall tear the skies,
And lightnings burn the globe below,
Saints you may lift your joyful eyes,
Here is a new heaven and earth for you.”
Let us endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus; may we be enabled by grace to walk worthy of our holy vocation. And may the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory, to Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, strengthen and settle you. To Him be glory and dominion, forever and even. Amen.
Gilbert Beebe, Moderator.
William L. Benedict, Clerk.