Written by Elder H. T. Montfort
The Mt. Pleasant Association of Regular Baptists in session at Bethel, Switzerland County, Indiana, in September, 1878, to the brethren and sisters composing the same:
Beloved of the Lord,- We have concluded to write to you on the subject of Union and Fellowship of the Church. The fellowship of the members of the body of Christ while traversing this valley of the shadow of death is, to us, a matter of very great importance. Very often we are revived in spirit when we can meet together and enjoy each other’s company and edifying conversation; and if our union and fellowship one with the other is so much to revive and comfort us, how much more consoling and joyful it is when we can realize and enjoy a union with our blessed Redeemer!
Now, let us remember that the only reason that we can enjoy (and the only reason there can be) a union and fellowship with the Glorious Head of the Church is, that such union and fellowship existed between the Head and body from everlasting, before ever the earth was; Christ Jesus existed as the Head, or Husband, and the Church, or members, existed undeveloped as His Body or Bride! By that relationship, the Bride’s sins could be justly laid upon her Husband. It is evident, and made plain by the record, that Jesus Christ did exist in the character of Mediator before time began, and that He was, as He is now, the Head and identity of His body, the Church; and that He stood in engaged in covenant agreement with God the Father to secure, and did secure, the covenant blessings for His body, the Church when the covenant or agreement was made between them both; so that the Father was well-pleased in His Son.
We hear our Redeemer say, “I was set from from everlasting, or ever the earth was.” Again, “My substance was not hid from Thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; Thine eyes did see My substance yet being unperfect;” (or undeveloped – not “imperfect”) “and in Thy book were all My members written when as yet there was none of them.” (None of them yet manifested). Hence, we see the evidence is conclusive (to us) that Christ not only existed eternally in His Mediatorial character, but that the Church existed in union with Him, so strongly united to Him that all their names were already written in the Book of Life; and that the covenant between the Father and the Son was such that God the Son in His Mediatorial character, did render full and complete satisfaction to all the requisitions of law and justice as the Head and identity of His Bride, the Church; so that she stood in Christ completely justified before God when as yet there was none of them made manifest in His regeneration. God declares the “end from the beginning, from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do My pleasure.”
Therefore, God knew the end from the beginning; He knew that the Church (His Bride) would apostatize. But He also devised a way that His banished be not utterly expelled from Him. All the provisions were made in order that all the ancient patriarchs, from righteous Abel down to the actual crucifixion of Christ upon Mount Calvary, could all meet with acceptance before God through the all-atoning blood of a crucified Redeemer, as a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and this before He created the world. Hence, we find that the blood of the everlasting covenant is spoken of as being applicable to all the ancient patriarchs who did not even live to see the birth of our Savior at Bethlehem; for, says God by His prophet, “As for Thee also by the blood of the covenant I have sent forth the prisoners out of the pit wherein there is no water; turn you to the strongholds, ye prisoners of hope; even to-day do I declare unto you that I will render double unto thee.”
Here is conclusive evidence that the work of redemption was complete, and that the Church was indissolubly united to Christ; and by virtue of this union that existed between Christ the Head and His Body the Church in eternity, authority is clearly given the prophets, under God’s direction, to prophesy and say that Christ had redeemed His Church; that it was complete, and that, too, because of the union that existed between the Head and His Body; and in the fullness of the time the members in seed substance of His Body would receive the evidence of the fact. So, then, we hear it said that Christ was despised and rejected of men. “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we esteemed Him not; He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted; He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities – the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath lain on Him the iniquity of us all.” All the chosen seed the Father loved in Him (for love necessitates objects for its affections), and were united to Him and given Him in the “council of peace.” Again, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before her shearers, so He opened not His mouth; because His reward was with Him and His work before Him.” His reward was His people, and they were in Him in seed substance, and with Him federally. Again, saith our God by His prophet: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
Therefore, the Church should take comfort under all circumstances while journeying through these low grounds of sorrow, knowing of a certainty that her Redeemer lived eternally, and that she lived in Him (her Head and Husband); and that the bond of union existing between them was so strong and enduring that not even the death on the cross could sever it. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him He hath put Him to grief; when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands.” The relationship of eternal union is the lawful ground for the imputation of her sins to her Husband, and because they are one, justice laid her sins and iniquity upon Him, and justice was satisfied at His hands.
Here we can see how this glorious plan agrees with the words of God as spoken by His prophets. The time having arrived when the sword must awake from its slumbers, and we hear the God of Heaven and earth proclaim: “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts; Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn My hand upon the little ones.”
Thus we find that the sword of justice awoke against Christ the Head of the Church, and He poured out His soul unto death, bore the sins of many, even the iniquities of us all, that He might make intercession for the transgressors; all in harmony and in strict accordance with the divine arrangement, and all in consequence of the union and relationship that existed between the Head and His Body (Christ and His Church) before the foundation of the world.
What a glorious union and consummation this is! No wonder the living saint can find such sweetness and comfort in this blessed union! Our own Eternal Head has accomplished every thing that the covenant required of Him to do; and, when speaking of the grand object of His sojourn in this material world, He says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law shall fail until all be fulfilled.”
All this should cause us to rejoice and be exceedingly glad; and now, that our dear Redeemer is exalted at the right hand of the Father to give repentance to Israel, and the remission of sins, let us remember that He also freely gives us all things of which we are in need; for just so sure as our names are written in the Book of Life “from the foundation of the world,” just that sure He, the Captain of our salvation, will lead us safely through all the tribulations which are in store for us during our earthly pilgrimage, and finally establish us in the possession of the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God unto salvation; for the just shall live by faith, and they shall walk by faith and not by sight; and the road is oftentimes very dark and gloomy until lit up by the refulgency of the countenance of the Holy One.
But, dear, tried. And tempted pilgrims, do not think it strange, nor be utterly cast down, if some of those who are not equally tried with yourselves, and who have not supped of the cup of afflictions to the same depth with you, should turn from you as if they think they are more holy than you. They are pure in their own eyes, know all things, but the blessing is accorded to the pure in heart, and we have every reason to know that no human heart is pure unless purified by love - that love which is the gift of God, and of the essence of God, and is God, “For God is love.”
Dear, sorrowing and suffering ones, remember that sorrow and suffering does not separate us from our dear Lord and Master, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief! Yea, His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, so that He laid down His pure and spotless life through His dreadful suffering on Mount Calvary (although He had not sinned) in order that He might be fully justified in saving all His people from their sins.
We read that this salvation is ready to be revealed in the last time. Here we at best see, as through a glass darkly; but then, all will be revealed. Oh, what a glorious period to the turmoil and strife of this sinful and corrupt nature, under which we now groan, being burdened. There the wicked shall cease from troubling and the weary be at rest.
Then and there will be no more of the cruel envyings, the unprofitable bickerings, the bitter jealousies, and the wicked backbitings that are sometimes permitted to disturb our fellowship here. There will be no big we’s and little you’s, but we shall be able to realize that we are all on in Christ. How important then that we should discourage the growth of any root of bitterness among us while here; for if we are of that chosen generation of Christ, that royal priesthood, that peculiar people whom God has called out of darkness, we are exhorted to maintain good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. And now may the love of Christ so pervade the whole body that we with one voice can with the poet sing:
“How sweet how heavenly is the sight,
When those who love the Lord
In one another’s peace delight,
And thus fulfill His word.
“When free from envy and from pride,
Our wishes all above,
Each can his brother’s failings hide,
And show a brother’s love.
“When love in one delightful stream
Through every bosom flows,
For he’s an heir what finds
His bosom glow with love!”
H. T. Montfort, for the Mount
Pleasant Association, Sept. 1878.
Transcribed by Stanley C. Phillips, Dec. 2008.