By: Elder Elijah Leigh
The Delaware River Old School Baptist Association, to the churches of the same, sendeth greeting:
The Scriptures contain a continuous history of the people of God from the first sacrifice of Abel, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gift; and he being dead, yet now speaketh. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and all the ancient worthies died in faith, they all having a good report through faith, received not the promises, God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. The law and the prophets were unto John. John came to make ready a people prepared of the Lord. The better things reserved for us was the Gospel day, and the setting up of the Gospel church, the kingdom of Christ, the tabernacle that should not be taken down. The order, ordinances, and all that pertained to that kingdom, were given by our Savior and His apostles while He was with them and were to be observed by them and by His command enjoined on all the members of His kingdom throughout all time. They were distinguished from the Jews, and from all the nations of the world, as followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. In the fullness of time the Son of God came, and blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances, and brought in everlasting righteousness, fulfilling the law, and performed all that pertained to that legal dispensation under which the fathers were in bondage, shut up until the time appointed of the Father. In ushering in the “better things” reserved for us, Jesus is heard in prophecy, crying, “Lo, I am come; in the volume of the book it is written of Me to do Thy will, O God.” The prophet had announced “For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” It was also written, “A King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.”
This King was manifested as the babe of Bethlehem, when born of the virgin, Mary. At the age of twelve years He was found in the temple disputing with the doctors of the law. At His baptism in Jordan, and in all the mighty acts of His life, His death upon the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, and manifestation to His disciples, and His ascension up on high, fully demonstrated that He was the Messiah that was to come. When He presented Himself to John for baptism, He said, “Suffer (allow) it to be so now, for this it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John suffered (let, or allowed) Him, having received the witness that He was the Son of God. The Spirit of God descended like a dove upon Him and lo, a voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
The New Testament contains a faithful record of the mighty acts and teachings of our Lord while on the earth, and the acts of His apostles, (princes to rule in judgment) whom He seated on the twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. The order and doctrine of the primitive church was by them established according to the rule and pattern given to them, in the setting up of that kingdom that should never be taken down. The same King still reigns in righteousness, and His princes still rule in judgment.
Let us examine the religious organizations of our times. Are they in harmony with the pattern given? Are they walking in all His commandments? When Jesus went into the temple He said, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations a house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves.” Again He said, “Ye have not His word abiding in you; for Him whom He has sent, ye believe not. Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of Me.” But they saw not the testimony. As mankind are the same in all ages, it is possible for professors of this nineteenth century to yet make the house of God a den of thieves, and fail to see the testimony of Christ in the Scriptures, which exhibits Him as the only and unconditional Savior of His people.
Some who profess to be the church of Christ, promise to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; sprinkle water on them and call that baptism, and at a certain age admit them to membership, without any evidence of a new birth: but our Lord has said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Such professors preach not the Gospel of Christ, but a system of works, which they profess to make meet for the kingdom of heaven. They exhort their converts to abstain from out braking sins, or what they regard as such, and seek to have their names written in the Book of Life of the Lamb. They hold Fairs, and almost if not quite Theatrical entertainments, for the professed object of building up churches, paying hirelings salaries, and conveying the heathen. With fair speeches and eloquent words without knowledge, they darkened counsel, and lead captive the simple. Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, compassing sea and land to make proselytes, and then boast of their numbers, of their wealth and of their learning; translating the Scriptures to suit their own theories, and claiming to be the successors of the apostles, and claiming a right to improve upon the Scriptures, and the plain pattern given by our Savior to His church, in that kingdom which shall not give place to any other. The order, laws and ordinances of Christ’s kingdom shall remain in full force until the last vessel of mercy afore prepared unto glory shall be gathered in and made partaker of the saving grace of God. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In none of these perversions of the Scriptures can we find the temple of the Lord, or that kingdom that shall never be taken down, nor any testimony of Christ as the only Savior of sinners; therefore we do not recognize in them the church of Christ.
But let us now look to ourselves. Are we walking in all the commandments of the Lord, blameless? John the harbinger of Christ, came not to prepare a people for the Son of God, but to make ready a people prepared of the Lord. He came not preaching to convert the world and save sinners. For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it “pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Our Savior said unto Peter, “Lovest thou Me?” Peter answered, “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” And Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” “Feed My lambs.” Here we have the work of the ministry, to feed the flock of God, and to save them that believe from falling into error, by a faithful delineation of the Christian’s character, experience, faith and practice, according to the divine record, and by bringing constantly to their view God’s method and scheme of salvation by grace, showing them the beauty of the Lord’s house, its faith and order, with all its emblematic ordinances; thus stirring up their pure minds by way of remembrance. If our ministers, given to us by the grace of God, are faithful in proclaiming the Truth as it is in Jesus with all long-suffering and forbearance, in warning, rebuking, exhorting, comforting and edifying the children of God, according to the measure of faith given them, should we not enquire, Are we, as churches and as church members, walking blameless? Are we living in the enjoyment of all the gifts of the church, as established by the apostles? Are not some of those gifts so covered up as to be lost to the church? Where are those who should wait on exhortation, teaching, prayer and praise? Do we manifest any spirit of covetousness, forgetting that he whom God has located among us, to go in and out before us, requires food and raiment? Do we not know that they who minister about holy things live of the things of the temple; and they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar; even so hath the Lord ordained, that they who preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel? Are we neglecting the poor, the sick and the afflicted? As we have freely received, so we should freely give. Do we neglect the assembling with the church in her meetings for business, for prayer, or the public ministry of the word? Do we demean ourselves in a formal and distant manner towards our pastors, seldom speak to him of our trials, our sorrows, our joys and our comforts? Do we forget that they have to drink of every cup of sorrow of which the church drinks, or any member thereof; and do we withhold from them the cups of joy? If so, may we not be asked, How dwelleth the Love of God in us?
The Apostle, John said, “I rejoice greatly that I found of thy children walking in the Truth, as we have received a commandment of the Father.” Then can the minister realize that he has not labored in vain. When the servant of the Lord through weariness could no longer hold up his hands towards heaven (Joshua and Caleb), one on either side stayed up his hands, that the armies Of Israel might prevail. Let us not withhold our support of the Gospel ministry, nor neglect to stay the hands of him whose hands through weariness hang down. Do we refuse to speak a word in the name of the Lord, of His dealings with us, in bringing us out of darkness into light, and from the power and dominion of sin to the wisdom of the just? Do we stand without, and grieve the Spirit whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption? We should bear each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. When each is found in his lot and place, and we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, believing that all things needful shall be added unto us, then may we behold the church in the beauty and glory of that kingdom that shall never give place to another. Jerusalem is a quiet habitation, the inhabitants thereof enjoy that rest that remains for the people of God, having ceased from their own legal works, as God did from His, and we realize that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, that dead sinners are quickened and made alive, and made to hear the voice of the Son of God and live. Then it is that we can say, “Happy is the people that is in such a case; yea, happy is the people whose God is the Lord.”
Brethren, may it be our heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel, that Israel may be saved and blessed, and that virtue, truth and purity of character that has ever distinguished the people of God, and manifested all around. That the religion of Jesus Christ restrains the evil propensities and passions of the human heart, making men better citizens, better parents, and better children, turning them from hatred to love, from vengeance to charity, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in our daily walk and conversation. Let our light so shine, that we may truly appear as a city that is set upon a hill, and that cannot be hidden, that others seeing our good works may glorify our Father in heaven.
Philander Hartwell, Moderator
William J. Purington, Clerk
Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – January 2009