By: R. M. Thomas, October 5,6,7, 1894.
The Western Corresponding Association of the Old School Predestinarian Baptists of Missouri, in session with Hope Primitive Baptist Church, in Saline Co., Mo., the 5th, 6th, and 7th days of October, 1894.
To the Churches composing her body and to the Associations with whom she corresponds.
Beloved in the Lord: - We desire in sending you this, our Annual Circular, to call your attention to the Apostle Paul, in his second address to the Church at Corinth, Chapter 4: 6th verse.
In his first epistle, he thus identifies the subjects of his address, saying, “Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.”
In the text proposed, the Apostle uses the word “for,” that is because of what God had done, or accomplished. “Because God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts;” the purpose was, and is, “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
“For this cause we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” – not as means or instrumentalities in the hands of God for the salvation of sinners, but as servants, to serve in the Spirit, and those unto whom and in whom, God has executed His eternal purpose which He had purposed in Jesus Christ before the world began.
Paul perhaps could realize the Truth of these things as well as any man who lived in a tabernacle of sinful mortal flesh, and notwithstanding he had been so thoroughly traditionized by his parental teachings, and trained up under the tuition of those wise Jewish Rabbis, and schooled and zealous in all the traditions of the Fathers, and says, “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which things I also did in Jerusalem.” Yet when Jesus in the execution of His Father’s will, called him, not according to his own works or wisdom, but shone with a light above the brightness of the noonday sun; and not only so, but God shined in his heart, showing the total depravity and inability of his nature, and the utter impossibility of the natural man to comprehend the things of God, which can only be known by the revelation of the Spirit. He could only cry out in utter despair; “Who art Thou, Lord?” He heard in answer; “I am Jesus, whom thou persecuted.” Then again he cried; “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” It is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power,” and again, “And all Thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” He now learns sensitively and conclusively, that God has called him from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan unto God. And this too; “Not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us IN Christ Jesus before the world begun.” This is He, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, that according as it is written, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” It was said to Paul; “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hath seen, and of those things in which I will appear unto thee: Delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee.” Experiencing these things transpiring, can it be any wonder that Paul could later brake forth in ecstasy of joy, and exclaim; “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
Again, he says; “But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called my by His grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” We might ask, why? He answers; “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” Moreover he says; “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.” The Apostle here fully demonstrates the text chosen, the first word of which is incomprehensible to mortal man, and can only be known by revelation. The poet has sung;-
“Keep silence, all created things,
And wait your Maker’s nod;
My soul stands trembling while she sings,
The honors of her God.
“Life, death and hell, and worlds unknown
Hang on His firm decree;
He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be.”
Brethren and sisters, how glorious is the view, and how it humbles us, when God reveals Himself to us as God, having all power in heaven and earth, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Present everywhere at the same moment, the Invisible, Unchangeable, Immortal, All-wise GOD, and beside Him there is one else. “With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times to things that are yet not done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” And, “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him.”
His Holiness is manifested in His divine sovereignty; His right to rule and control all created things, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things and by Him all things consist.”
Paul here finds a great inconsistency in looking on things that are temporal, and says, “our light affliction are but for a moment, whilst we look upon them,” but when God calleth our minds up to eternal things, we can say with holy boldness; “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” In the verse next to our text, it is written; “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. The poet sang with delight;-
“Glorious things of the are spoken,
Zion, city of our God:
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for His own abode.
“On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose;
With salvation’s walls, surrounded
Thou mayest smile at all thy foes.”
Our enemies accuse us of saying that we believe there is nothing done for the Adam man, or sinner man, [This charge was often repeated by Gregg Thompson, John Clark, and especially Lemuel Potter], but we say, that everything done, is done for the sinner saved by grace, yet he, the sinner, can do nothing to effect this salvation; but “God sending Jesus, His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”
Clothed in a body of sinful flesh, sin-defiled and polluted, the light of God’s countenance shining in our hearts, reveal to us the magnitude of our corruption. We cry out; “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of host.” For we have seen and heard that, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Again, some of our enemies accuse us falsely of making God the author of sin, because we say that His government is absolute over all He has created and made. It makes all things passive in His hands. Absolute is complete, applied to persons as well as to things; unconditional, as an absolute promise; not relative, as absolute space; not limited, as absolute power; eternal, without beginning or end; unchangeable. So we find the two words do not differ so much in their signification, as the peculiar notions of those who want to direct God Almighty and His eternally elect family, whom He chose in Christ before the world began.
It is written; “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” So God created man in His own image, and made him in His own likeness. Again, it is written; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It is further written; “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” Here we have the image and likeness of God, and God Himself dwelling among us, and we beholding His glory. “The glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; and of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
Hence Paul testifies; “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all OF ONE; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Moreover, Wisdom testifies that, “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old, I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” But we will not continue this further, only to ask you to read from the 22 verse to the close of the 8th chapter of Proverbs, and with it also to consider our text – “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.” – 2 Cor. 4:6.
Precious Ones, partakers of the heavenly calling, as we said in the beginning – Beloved in the Lord – “Work out your own salvation,” that is “keep yourselves from idols,” and from every false way; and may you do it with fear and trembling. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” It will bring us to the joys which here we have a foretaste of; and the God of all grace, comfort and establish you, and give you an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is thus declared: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O, Death, where is thy sting? O, Grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore, Beloved Brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. And may he shew unto us the path of Life, that we may walk therein, for in His presence is fullness of joy; and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore; and in His face all our glory shall shine world without end. Amen.
R. M. Thomas, Moderator
Mark Whitaker, Clerk