By J. F. Johnson
The Warwick O. S. Baptist Association, in session with the Warwick Church, Orange County, New York, June 9th, 10th, 11th, 1858, to the Churches of which she is composed, sends love and Christian salutation.
Dearly Beloved in the Lord: - We have been blessed with the high privilege of mingling together in another very agreeable Associational interview; and, as the interests, aims and prospects of the one family of our heavenly Father are identical – as in our pilgrimage we pass over the same rugged pathway – through the same fiery ordeals, and are made the recipients of the same bounteous fullness to sustain in our trials and consoles us on our journey, you will doubtless expect a communication from us as usual in our annual Circular Address.
So numerous have been the subjects upon which you have been heretofore addressed through Circular Letters, that you will not, in this, expect to find one entirely original. But, we trust, you are not so desirous for a new matter as to desire what does not pertain to our dear Redeemer and His Kingdom. That we may contemplate briefly upon that interesting Head and Body, we call your attention to the first clause of the fifteenth verse of the eighty-ninth Psalm: “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.” There appears a natural division of the sentence into the different points that claim our attention.
i. The Blessing. It is not altogether prospective. The language fully warrants the conclusion that the people are already blessed. They are blessed, then, with life from the dead, and, therefore, with sensibilities and qualifications to receive and appreciate the blessing more abundantly. To arrive at the entire Head and Fullness of all that highest order of blessings – “spiritual blessings” – which we can need or desire in time or eternity, we need look no further than our bounteous Head and Mediator, “in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;” “for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; all power is given unto Him. All things work together for the good of His people. His wisdom, therefore, has wisely made ample provisions for us; His knowledge comprehends our every need; and “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertains unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” Hence it is said by an apostle, “My God shall supply all your need.” By a fatal unity with our Adamic head, death is entailed upon us, but this is the record that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is IN His Son.” Without this life, we never could be sensible of the depths of our direful thralldom, nor appreciate the value of our complete deliverance. But the Savior, in addressing His Father in reference to Himself, says, “Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.” (John 17: 2.) When blessed with life, the effects and evidences of it necessarily and inevitably follow. Hence, we mourn over our sinfulness; but the vital unity (of Christ and His body – the church) secures to us comfort. We hunger and thirst after righteousness, we languish in our sinfulness and lament our weakness; but each one may exclaim, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” We deplore our spiritual poverty and shame, but our Mediator has said, “Riches and honor are with Me, yea, durable riches and righteousness.” We may sing, therefore, with the poet-
“I’m rich, to all the intents of bliss,
If Thou, O God, art mine.”
Our glorious Father “hath blessed us with us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:2.) In Him we have life and peace – in Him we redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins – in Him “reconciliation; in the body of His flesh through death to present us holy, and unblamable, and unreproveable in His sight.” It is of His fullness we all receive grace, and that grace was “given us in Him before the world began.” It is by Him that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life – by whom also we have received the atonement, “for of Him and to Him, and through Him are all things,” to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
“All our capacious powers can wish,
In Him doth richly meet;
Nor to our eyes is light so dear,
Nor friendship half so sweet.”
“The Lord hath been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of (spiritual) Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron; He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.”- David.
Disconsolate, then, as we may be among the cares, perplexities, temptations and tribulations through which we must necessarily pass while here, we may raise our drooping heads, thank God and take courage; let our hearts leap for joy and our voices be vocal with melody in hymning high praises to His name, that our poverty and thralldom cannot be so great that the exuberant plenitude of our all-competent Mediator will not afford us a full supply.
ii. The people. The Lord says, “This people have I formed for Myself, they shall show forth My praise.” When the object for which the Lord formed this people is exemplified by their doctrine and practice, they exhibit the best external characteristics by which they are distinguished from all other claiming to be such. This doctrine and the directions for their practices are so legibly written in the Sacred Scriptures, “that he may run that readeth it.” But when we find those, who, instead of attending to the doctrine and practice as exhibited in the Holy Bible, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” as was anciently the case when it was said, “ye must be circumcised and keep the whole law,” or as it was afterwards taught by the Mother of Harlots, that indulgences must be purchased with money to sustain the “clergy,” who professed to be “God’s instruments,” by whom the blessings of salvation were to be communicated, and who assumed the right to merchandize in heavenly stock, selling it for money or bartering it for labor; or, as it has been in later ages, and is the case now, in our own time and country, by the descendants of the Old Lady, that in order to secure the blessings of salvation, it is necessary to keep up large sums of money to sustain “Missionary Boards,” “Bible and Tract Societies,” “Sunday school Unions,” and “Theological Seminaries,” to qualify the “instruments” by which all this is to be conducted – the most liberal promises are made by these stock-jobbers to carnal men, women and children, upon the conditions that they will pay their money or perform their labor. These merchant-men promise their dupes not only a large increase of earthly emoluments, but propose to sell tickets for stock in heaven, as has lately been the case in the City of Philadelphia, and published in the Sunday papers, to which reference is made in the papers of New York and Boston. These Philadelphia “Divines” have been pleased to guarantee to the Sunday-School children “a free admission through the gates into the Heavenly City, a snow-white robe, a heavenly harp, a crown of gold, and a seat at the right hand of the final Judge,” for the paltry sum of six cents a week, paid during one’s life.
These developments, dear brethren, together with the phrenzied movement – the amalgamating disposition, and the utter repudiation of the doctrine and practices of the Bible by the heterogeneous masses composing the body of modern anti-Christ, present to us unmistakable evidences that that people are our antipodes. We repeat, then, that where we find a people teaching doctrines and practices so utterly repugnant to the Scriptures – literally trampling upon their plain and wholesome teachings, we are warranted in drawing the inevitable conclusion that they are not the people of God. But, on the other hand, while the dark cloud hangs lowering in the religious heavens, so ominous of a storm or a deluge – “while darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people” – while the Bible, preaching, literature, money, and every other blessing that can be torn from its legitimate use, is prostituted to subserve the unhallowed purposes of anti-Christ, lo! A wide, a wonderful contrast arrests our attention,
“Behold! A garden walled around,
Chosen and made peculiar ground-
A little spot enclosed by grace,
Out of the world’s wide wilderness.”
The Spirit of the great and living God of Israel predominates here. Much as we prize money, literature, good works, and all temporal blessings, when applied to their appropriate uses, they fail here. Jesus Christ and Him crucified is all, He is enough. His Spirit vitalizes us. We see, we feel our sinfulness; the commandment comes, sin revives, we die. Sin by the commandment, becomes exceedingly sinful. We imagine Sinai frowning with a fearful, angry cloud of vengeance upon us, laden with curses. We feel condemned – our condemnation just. Our plaintive cry is, “Lord save, we perish!” He hears our cry, be comes, He heals. With Him is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. The Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings: the cloud is dissipated - the horizon clear – the angry elements calm. He hovers o’er His garden. “He is a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great Rock in a weary land.” He brought us up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay; He set our feet upon a rock, established our goings, and put a new song in our mouth, even praises to our God.
This is the people. This, the seed that shall serve Him - “it shall be accounted unto the Lord for a generation. They shall come [have not yet come] and declare His righteousness to a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.” His Spirit has attuned their hearts to sing His praise. His heralds proclaim the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. It brings to their view Him, who is replete with all the treasures of wisdom, knowledge and power.
With rapture and pleasing delight now they sing,
“He needs no creature power or skill,
His finished work to mend,
But works His own eternal will
As wisdom did intend.”
This is the people, this “Israel shall dwell in safety alone.” She must not mingle with the complex masses of Babylon. “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations of the earth.”
From the foregoing quotations and remarks, it appears that
iii. The knowledge of all these mysterious spiritual things which the natural man “receiveth not” and cannot know, must come directly from Him, who is the gracious Giver of every good and perfect gift. They know them by seeing, hearing, tasting, and feeling. These spiritual faculties He gives them aside from their natural senses of perception. For as to them, we are told that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered the heart of man the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” That Spirit we have received, “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” By the operation of that Spirit our eyes are opened and light afforded us by which we see “Him who is invisible (to the natural eye) in whom we also behold all that is necessary for our deliverance from the power of darkness, and translation into the Kingdom of His dear Son.” By faith, which is the gift of God, we see in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, which He communicates to us out of His fullness, which is amply sufficient to supply all our needs. He unstops our deaf ears, we hear the voice of the Son of God, and live. That Life supplies us with a sensation by which we taste that the Lord is gracious, and feel the efficacy of His healing presence, while we drink rich draughts in streamlets that flow from the River that makes glad the city of God. These spiritual perceptibilities qualify us for the reception of the testimony of Jesus, who says, “This is life eternal that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” To know God is to know His love, for “God is love.” To know Jesus Christ, is to know by experience the medium through whom love and all other spiritual blessings come to us. This love constitutes a chord that runs from heart to heart throughout the entire family of God. Head and members in heaven and in earth, and they are thus “knit together in love.” And now each subject is prepared to hear, receive, appreciate, and therefore to know:
iiii. The joyful sound. Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, risen, ascended on high, who has led captivity captive, received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, is the burden of the theme – the weight of the song:
“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear,
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his pain.”
He attuned each chord to a harmonious key – they sound in unison. The Gospel of grace borne down and heralded by the Spirit of God, “comes not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” Blessed Jesus, unworthy as we are, Thou hast prepared, strung, and tuned this harp
“’Tis strung and tuned for endless years,
And formed by power divine,
To sound in God, the Father’s ears,
No other name but Thine.”
The joyful sound, propelled onward by the power, and directed by the Spirit of the living God of Israel, touches each tuneful heart. The quivering chords thrill and vibrate there; and there ascends responsive melody, O, what an orchestra is here! What harmony, when the Spirit moves the trembling strings to harp the joyful sound in gentle, heart-cheering notes. Ye heralds of our Master, proclaim the joyful sound. It is the Christ the fullness of God: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God,” - first, last, forever. Ye vessels of mercy, catch the warbling accents, join the heavenly concert – swell the gladdening anthem. Let not the discordant jargon of “Lo! Here, and Lo, there!” be heard in the heavenly choir. Sing in unison – sing with the Spirit, and sing with the understanding also, making melody in your hearts to the Lord. Let the habitations of the rock sing – let them shout from the top of the mountains, the conquest is secure; the victory will soon be manifestly portrayed. The banner of our King is unfurled to the breeze – it waves gracefully over us. He has triumphed gloriously, He own arm has gotten Him the victory, and the sound of triumph is already heard in our army. The once vanquished enemy is however, still marshalling his forces. But the Captain of our salvation is going forth, conquering and to conquer. The sable flag of the enemy will soon be stricken finally down, to train in the dust and darkness forever. Our victory will then be gloriously and manifestly complete. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. We shall finally have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, for He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.