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1896 Circular Delaware River

Written by Silas Durand

CIRCULAR LETTER

The messengers and brethren composing the Delaware River Old School Baptist Association, in session with the church called Kingwood, at Locktown, New Jersey, June 3d, 4th and 5th, 1896, in the several churches whose messengers we are, send Christian salutation.

Beloved Brethren: - “Grace, mercy and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” We use the language of the apostle Peter in expressing our desire for your spiritual welfare. The form of his inspired expression teaches us that there is but one way in which the multiplication of spiritual blessings is experienced by the saints, and that is, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. We observe that the apostle also shows us that it is “through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue” that all things which pertain unto life and godliness have been given us by the divine power of Jesus our Lord, and that when those things are in us and abound, they make us that we shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What an important thing this knowledge is, therefore. The knowledge of any worldly thing may be very valuable, but it is not essential. No earthly knowledge is absolutely essential to the true and abiding welfare and happiness of any one. But this knowledge of Jesus and of the Father is the one essential thing, the vital thing necessary to life and happiness. Without it none can live. It is indeed vital, for it is life itself, as our Savior said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

This knowledge is not in the carnal mind, but in the new mind and new heart. The natural man cannot receive or know it, but the child of grace is given that knowledge by the quickening power and revelation of the Spirit. “For we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

This knowledge is within us, and it is only within our souls [sic] that we can observe it and note its power and workings. It has not been communicated to us by any man. “They shall all be taught of God.” Jesus writes it in our hearts and puts it in our minds.

We may distinguish this knowledge that belongs to our carnal minds by its tendencies and leadings. Earthly knowledge directs our minds and steps toward earthly things, and leads us to seek comfort and establishment in them; but this divine knowledge is occupied with heavenly things, and tends to keep our hearts and minds among them, and to move our steps toward them. Those who possess this divine life, this knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, find their true peace and comfort and their highest joy in the church of the living God. There their best friends and kindred dwell, and there God their Savior reigns. Their dearest and best interests are there. The instincts of this holy principle of life and knowledge lead them to see the company of those who have obtained like precious faith with them, through the knowledge of Jesus our Lord, and to speak with them of the good things of the kingdom, and to meditate upon them. But we have our old nature yet, unchanged in all its vileness and depravity. Though it has been overcome in its power for evil, and is held under control by the power of divine life, yet its nature is not changed. Though there are those who are so mislead in doctrine as to declare that some part of the Adamic man has been changed in its nature, and made to be pure and holy by the work of grace in the heart, yet if one should come to them and say that his heart was no longer deceitful and desperately wicked, that his mind had no more sinful thoughts and inclinations, and that his soul did no longer cleave unto the dust (Psalm 119), these very brethren (?) would at once reject his claim to their fellowship. They would see no evidence in this that he had been made alive spiritually.

This sinful nature of ours is called “flesh” by the inspired writers, in contrast with the Spirit or life of Jesus within us; and it continually lusts against the Spirit; for these two are contrary the one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would. Therefore this flesh needs constant watching, lest its lurking and deceitful power should cause us to walk after it; for it will invariably lead us deathward – away from the joys of spiritual life. The carnal mind, as we experience daily, is enmity against God. The natural heart is full of vile affections and hurtful lusts; and the mouth needs a watch set before it all the time by the Lord, and the door of the lips needs to be kept, or these vile and hateful things will come forth in bitter, hurtful words.

This vile nature of ours would soon lead us away into the world, if the Lord should leave us to follow its worldly inclinations, and should not revive His work within us. We have great need to watch and to pray, and to exhort one another daily, lest we suddenly find that we have sold our birthright privileges in the church of God, and cannot find the blessings when we begin again to hunger for them.

The apostle spoke words of greatly needed warning and admonition when he said, “And let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” The expressions that follow seem to indicate that the apostle regarded this forsaking the assembling of themselves together as of greater importance than many of our brethren seem to regard it in our day. He speaks of it as sinning willfully, and as treading under foot the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant wherewith we were sanctified an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace. - Heb. 10:24-29.

If one who is under law to Christ disregards that law, does he not tread it under foot, and say by his actions that it is an unholy thing, and so do despite to the Spirit of grace, by which it was given to us? Do not let us think that these things are spoken of men who never knew the Lord. No one can disobey and trample upon a law which was never given to him. Only the children of grace can do respite to the Spirit of grace. We do not believe that the Spirit of grace is engaged with any but the Lord’s people. We do not believe that it is offering salvation, and that the offers are refused by many. The Spirit of grace takes of the things of Jesus and shows them to His people, for whom they were provided; and when any of them are led by the flesh to neglect that salvation and despise those things, their punishment will be sore, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” But in the end they will be restored again to His love and favor, when the stripes and the consuming fire have done their healthful and saving work.

It is a blessing to have been kept faithful to the duties and privileges of the church. It is good and pleasant to dwell there, and to feel at home with the Lord and with His dear children. If one has none of this interest in the church, and none of this “at home” feeling there, there is no good reason to believe that he has divine life. But the Lord’s people may cultivate a habit of negligence to such an extent as to lose their interest in the affairs of the kingdom, and to be left for a time in coldness and darkness, so far as spiritual things are concerned. The condition of such a one is most unhappy, for he can never find in the world that pleasure which it could afford him before he was quickened. It is a most dangerous thing to allow the world to take a first place in the mind at any time. The Savior said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” There is no worldly business of sufficient importance to warrant any child of God in setting aside this command.

The regularly appointed meetings of the church should be attended by all the members of that church, unless they are providentially hindered. The direction of the apostle not to forsake this assembling together is as important as any other Gospel rule or order, and the church should attend to it as carefully as to the directions with reference to any other part of the Christian’s walk. The church owes it to each member to exercise her tender care and authority with regard to this duty as well as to any other.

When the times of meetings are appointed by the body it is the duty of each member to attend. The Scriptures nowhere make any distinction. It is nowhere taught that it is any more the duty of one to be present than of another. The pastor is no more required to be present than each member. It is clearly the duty of the church to inquire after one who fails to be present, to know what his troubles and hindrances are, and to render him such help and sympathy as the circumstances may require; and if there is no good reason the need that the church make inquiry is equally great, if not greater. It must be understood that the thing, whatever it be, which keeps us from meeting with the saints is more important in our minds at the time than the direction to meet together. How often we say by our action that our own worldly business, the opportunity of earning a dollar, or a thousand dollars, is more important than the things which are eternal? How often we say by our own actions that worldly company, and worldly pleasures, are valued by us above the company of the saints, and above the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore?

One may be kept away from the privileges and duties of the church many times by worldly company, who would rather detain him from the church meeting than not, because he is afraid of offending them if he asserts his rights and do what is his plain duty, when the right course would give him more respect in the minds even of those who have kept him from it.

Those who manifest, by continued absence without good reason, that their hearts are not in the church, should be relieved of the connection which is only in name, and is a burdened, but whose honor is sometimes desired when the privileges are not.

Those who have fallen into habits of negligence should be affectionately and urgently admonished; and the wrong course should not be indulged by the church. It is a wrong to the disobedient brother to let his disobedience go unnoticed. It is our duty to try to convert him from the error of his ways, and to save a soul from death.

Those who attend regularly and conscientiously to the duties which their profession lays upon them know that it is good for their souls to do so. They shall prosper. Their mutual fellowship is strengthened by speaking often one to another. The church is the place where the testimony of Jesus is, and where His healing and power are felt. There He has promised to meet with His people, and bless them. He is known in Zion’s palaces for a refuge. There the graces of the Spirit, the kids, are nourished and fed “beside the shepherds’ tents,” while out in the barren wastes of worldly interests, worldly business and worldly pleasures, there tender graces starve, and droop, and almost die.

To the living, exercised soul the church is “the joy of the whole earth,” “the perfection of beauty,” the place of true and abiding joy and comfort, while to the carnal professor and the half-hearted child, who last lived after the flesh till he is half-dead, it may be almost a prison. The worldly man may seek a place there for his own selfish ends, to be honored and held in esteem by some. But all such are a chill and a “drawback” to the living members; yet they cannot wholly spoil the comfort of those who love each other in truth. These will always find in each other’s company and communion what they cannot find elsewhere. They experience how good and how pleasant it is to dwell together in the unity of the Spirit. It is because of the blessing which God commanded upon the church, the mountain of Zion, even life for evermore, that they thus sit together in these heavenly places, in love and peace, and joy unspeakable and full of glory – Psalm cxxxiii.

Silas H. Durand, Moderator
Elijah Leigh, Clerk.

Transcribed by Stanley Phillips