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1891 Circular Delaware River

Written by William J. Purington


Association of Old School or Primitive Baptists, in session with the Southampton Church, Bucks Co., Pa., June 3d, 4th, and 5th, 1891, to the several churches whose messengers we are, send love in the Lord.

Beloved Brethren: - Through the abounding goodness and watchful care of our unchanging and covenant-keeping God we are spared to meet again, according to our previous appointment, for which great privilege we surely ought to render thanks to Him who keepeth Israel in safety, and supplies all our needs, bestowing every blessing, both temporal and spiritual. As it has been our established rule from our organization to the present time to present an annual address by letter, we now would call your attention to the subject of:


And we have chosen as our text the following declaration of the inspired apostle John: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” - I John 1:3.

“That which we have seen and head declare we unto you.” Said the apostle Paul, “For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” No man can justly testify concerning natural transactions unless he has either seen or heard, for “hearsay” testimony is not evidence. A person may be familiar with the letter of the Scriptures, but if such one is not born of the Spirit he is not a witness; for some of the most intellectual men, possessing the most mental vigor of any class of persons, are no better prepared to testify in the court of heaven (the church) than the most ignorant. The inspired apostle, with all his acquired abilities, had not seen his real condition as a sinner before God until the commandment came, sin revived, and he died. Said he, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which 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. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Also, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” This clearly and positively shows that the natural powers of the children of men can go no farther than to investigate measurably the natural things pertaining to this world and this natural life. Said Jesus to His disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.” “And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” These awfully momentous words of Jesus show conclusively that the natural vision of the sons of men is blindness itself. “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” “For ye were sometime darkness; but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” “The entrance of Thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The quotations already made show conclusively that no man, however eminent his abilities, can see the condition of the fallen race of men in their natural state unless the blind eyes have been opened, and it is vain for carnal teachers to make the attempt; for said Jesus to His disciples, concerning the Pharisees, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Now, concerning the “hearing” we will endeavor to notice carefully what the Scriptures teach concerning this great and momentous matter. In the address to each angel of the seven churches in Asia it is recorded in each case, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” After Israel had been delivered from Egyptian bondage, and had received the ten commandments, “if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” Does not that peculiar transaction typify the great, the wonderful, the momentous Truth that the ears of fallen men must be opened, digged or bored before they can hear the Truth in its spiritual meaning, and feel the desire to live and die in the Church of God? Said Jesus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” Very many more passages of Scriptures might be adduced to show that a new heart, seeing eyes and hearing ears prepare a person to declare the Truth of the Gospel; and when it is declared none but they who are born of the Spirit have any real interest in it.

Concerning the declaration the psalmist said, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul. I cried unto Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue.” This declaration is restricted to them “that fear God,” for they were the only characters who heard understandingly, the only ones who had any real interest in hearing what God had done; and what was true then is true today. The apostle said to the Corinthians, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” The apostle could not have been with his brethren in weakness, in fear and much trembling had he not experienced the same; therefore he was with them in their feelings, and his testimony was comforting unto them, for he also said, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort: who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh?

Then the trials, sorrows and afflictions, as well as the deliverances and joys of the children of God, are set forth by the servants of the church, the declaration will certainly be received by them who have experienced that salvation is of the Lord, and that vain is the help of man; for it will certainly reach to and embrace them who “are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Said the apostle, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but (how) to perform that which is good I find not. * * * For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

The inspired apostle was brought to know, not in a speculative manner, but by bitter and heartfelt experience, the truth of what was penned by Jeremiah the prophet, “Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Prophets and apostles wrote in divine harmony concerning the depravity of man, and the power and glory of God in the salvation of His chosen people; and why did they thus write? Because they were all taught by the same Spirit; and although those writers lived at different periods of time, and had diversified occupations, there were no contradictions in their statements. When we read what may seem to us, finite mortals, statements that conflict with each other, the seeming incongruity is not in their writings, but with us, poor, limited creatures. As the inspired writers of the Scriptures, who lived at different periods of time, and were surrounded by different circumstances, all agreed touching man’s depravity, and God’s wisdom, power and love to His chosen people, so the dear children of our God to-day, when enabled to cease theorizing and follow what the Scriptures actually and plainly say, by laying “apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls,” will know a sweet and spiritual harmony.

“That ye also may have fellowship with us.” The declaring of the things which the apostles had seen and heard did not create or make the fellowship, but manifested it. The term “fellowship” is one of much importance, for it is from the word koinonia, and signifies communion among true believers; and it is recorded in the New Testament twelve times from the same original word, with precisely the same import. Therefore no manifestoes published by men, no resolutions passed by churches or associations, can make such fellowship; it must exist in the heart to be real and genuine. That kind of fellowship which is merely outward in the flesh, resting merely upon forms and ceremonies performed by men, is spurious, and will not stand the trying test. Said Paul to the Philippians, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now.” Such fellowship as that has vitality in it, has real communion and divine unity; and it did not disturb those dear brethren when the apostle said, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God, I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Nor when he declared, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Instead of those declarations marring the fellowship between the apostles and his brethren, they only tended to make it more sweet and precious; and today they who are born of the Spirit read at times with soul-cheering delight those very declarations, for they find those things in their daily experience. They know that there is no conflict in the teaching of the Spirit, any more than there is in the brilliant and glorious rays emanating from the literal sun in the heaven, although at times dark clouds may gather in the heaven, and for a period obscure the bright rays. It should eve be borne in mind that the religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not merely in word and tongue, but in deed and Truth; for John said, “The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the Truth [not simply in the flesh]. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoice greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the Truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the Truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in Truth.” “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garment; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.” Said the apostle, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

“And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in Him. As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” “Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me; and I in you.” “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them. * * * I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy word is Truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world. * * * And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.”

If these declarations of our Lord Jesus Christ do not set forth the vital unity, the divine harmony and sweet fellowship existing and subsisting amongst the heaven-born and spiritual taught, then there is no real meaning in terms, and we have no way of expressing facts. Though we thus speak, we know that every word uttered by our Immanuel is not only true, but of awful moment; therefore we dare not trifle with any portion of the written Scriptures. Where divine life has not been implanted there can be no spiritual fellowship. This life-unity and fellowship are such that the apostle said, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another.” “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

Dearly beloved brethren, if we as an association, as well as our brethren from other churches and associations who are now with us, are here openly assembled in the fellowship of the Gospel, we have reason to praise, adore and reverence our heavenly Father for keeping us in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace in the day of such dire confusion and strife; for what an unspeakable blessings to know that no discordant elements are in our midst, that none of us assume to be wise above what is written, but as loving, tender-hearted, obedient little children, believing what our heavenly Father has declared in His written word, and in our hearts as individuals praying for the peace of Jerusalem, remembering that it is declared, “They shall prosper that love thee, Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.”

May the dear servants of our God who speak in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during the time we are assembled be enabled to speak with child-like simplicity, feeling like Paul wrote to his brethren, that he was with them in weakness, and in fear, and much trembling, drawing the line of demarcation between truth and error, between law and Gospel, and between shadow and substance, with such clearness and fullness that all the lovers of God’s truth may realize that sweet fellowship which the world can neither give nor take away, so that when we shall have parted asunder we may all feel that we have enjoyed a glorious season of mutual comfort; and when literal miles shall again intervene between us as individuals, may we have the blessed assurance that we are still joined in heart and one communion make. “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”

Silas Durand, Moderator
Cyrus Risler, Clerk.

Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – January 2009