Written by Elder Wilson Housel
As our God, in His inscrutable providence, has called our highly respected and dearly beloved brother and father in Israel, Elder John F. Johnson, of Kentucky, from his labors here on earth, to his heavenly home, we as an association would offer this tribute to his memory, and desire to thus openly give expression to the feelings of our hearts in connection with the sad dispensation. While with sorrowful hearts we contemplate the work of death, we would not murmur nor repine, but bow in submission to the will of our God. Our dear brother has gone from the scenes of earth, and no more shall we listen to the melting strains of Gospel Truth falling from his lips, comforting the tried and weak children of God, warning the unruly, and exposing the machinations of the man of sin. We know that the malignant darts of the enemy can no more reach him, nor the treachery of professed friends would his heat, for he is beyond the reach of every foe; and it certainly can be said of him in deed and in Truth, that “He fought a good fight: he kept the faith.”
We tender to his dear family, now in sorrow, to the churches of his late charge, and to our sister association (the Licking Particular), our heartfelt sympathy, for he was a faithful member of that association for many years.
May the God of all grace sanctify this dispensation of His providence to the good of all; and while we mourn the loss of such a dear, faithful fellow-soldier and fellow-laborer in the Gospel, we would rest assured that our God reigns, and according to His will reconciles us to His purpose, and that He will raise up others to declare His truth, in His own time, for the comfort and edification of His church and His people.”
The Elders and messengers of the Delaware River Association of Primitive Baptists, in session with the church at Washington, South River, Middlesex Co., N.J., May 31st, June 1st, and 2d., 1882, to the churches composing this association, whose messengers we are, send Christian salutation.
Dearly and Beloved in the Lord: - Through the long-suffering and faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God we are permitted once more to meet in our accustomed way; and as we have from year to year been in the habit of addressing you in the form of a Circular Letter, we would again present for your consideration, instructions and encouragement some general thoughts in relation to the kingdom of God.
The Lord by the mouth of Daniel the prophet said, “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people.” In contemplating this glorious event we are led to the Spirit and word of God, as spoken by His servants of old, by virtue of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. A kingdom must have a king to rule and reign, and subjects to reign over. As concerns the King of Zion, His going forth were from of old, or ever the world was, being set up from everlasting. His subjects, His people, or church, were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love, being predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will; wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In the fullness of time Christ was manifested, being made of a woman, made under the law, that He should redeem them that were under the law, and in due time bring them from under the law, into the liberty of the sons of God, by a heavenly birth; not of blood, of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God. In this birth they are manifested as spiritual and heaven-born subjects, made to love holiness and hate sin, to regard Christ as their Savior, King and Lawgiver, desiring to forsake the world and follow Christ. This position subjected the primitive saints to the derision, opposition and persecution of the world; but the Savior had apprised them of all this, assuring them that they who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But He was careful to say for their comfort, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Thus supported and comforted by their Head and King, they were enabled to endure hardness as good soldiers of the cross, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures, applause and fellowship of antichrist and the world; and looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith, they were enabled to stem the tide of opposition, and to finish their course with joy.
The kingdom or church of Christ is a kingdom standing alone, and separate from all the nations and kingdoms of this world. Israel of old was not allowed to form a confederacy with any of the nations around them. They were a type of the church of Christ. The church of God has always been a separate and peculiar people. Though through their weakness they have sometimes received among them and into the church those who said they were Jews, and were not, the result has always been trouble for the church. For this cause God has sometimes cast His children into a bed of affliction with Jezebel’s children.
We have not forgotten the deep waters we were called to pass through some forty years ago. All this was the result of being too credulous. There were some faithful watchmen then on Zion’s walls, who did not hold their peace, but gave the alarm, and finally a separation took place. Those that were valiant soldiers then, are nearly all gone to their final home; and while but few that were in that struggle remain on the shores of time, we cannot forget the faithfulness of our fathers then.
But where are they? Gone to receive their crowns. But few now in the ministry know anything of that conflict by experience. Brethren, where are we to-day? What are the signs of the times? Do not things look somewhat gloomy? When we look around, we cannot but see that iniquity abounds in the world, and allurements are great, and Satan would deceive the very elect, if possible. Brethren, be not deceived; it is a day of darkness. Let us, as ministers of Christ, examine ourselves. Are we faithful? Are we showing a broad front to the enemy coming against us? Are we wrestling against principalities, and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places? Are we observing the precepts and examples of Christ and the apostles? These are grave matters for us to consider.
O that we may remember that it is required of a steward that he be found faithful. God help us to follow in the way of Christ and the apostles, in feeding the church, warning and rebuking, with all long-suffering and doctrine. And what shall we say to you, brethren and sisters? Seek to adorn the doctrine of God your Savior, by a well-ordered life and godly conversation. Be not conformed to this world, but transformed, by the renewing of your mind. Remember our fathers and mothers in Israel who have gone to receive their crowns; examine the record which God has given us concerning the faith and order observed by His church in apostolic times; remember that the Master has told us that we shall be hated of all men for His name’s sake; and that he that would save his life, shall lose it; and he that would lose his life for Jesus’ sake, and the Gospel, shall find it. Be not deceived; he that is not for us, is against us; and he that gathereth not with us, scattereth abroad.
We commend you to God and the word of His grace, who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you without blemish in the great and final day, when we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known.
Wilson Housel, Moderator.
G. M. Fetter, Clerk.
Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – January 2009