Written by J.M. Cates
To the Elders and messengers of Hazel Creek Association of Regular, Predestinarian Baptists, and the churches they represent, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.
DEARLY BELOVED IN THE LORD: - We feel it is through the loving-kindness and tender mercy of the all-wise God, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we are at once more enabled to meet together in council, and in love and fellowship, to worship the One who has saved us and called us and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
It is a long established custom of the Association to have what we call a Circular Letter prepared by some one to be printed with our Minutes, and by your action at our last meeting the lot has fallen upon me. Dear brethren, I feel too weak for the burden you have put upon me, but, wishing to be obedient to your request, will make the effort, hoping you will throw the mantle of charity over my weak efforts. In thinking of some small subject upon which to write my mind was called to a part of the ninth verse of the tenth chapter of St. John: “I am the door.” I looked it up and began to investigate, but, dear ones, I found it no little subject (if it is only a few words), and that it is inseparably linked with all other subjects in the Bible, and with our christian experience. As I can find no little subject in the Scriptures I will have to do the best I can with this one. I understand this door spoken of is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the parable in the first part of this chapter Christ says, firs verse, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Second verse, “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” Eighth verse, “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers.” Eleventh verse, “I am the good shepherd.” Now we have Christ coming in by the door. You may trace this up, as I have neither time nor space in this letter. The door we wish to talk about is recorded in the ninth verse: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Jesus says in the seventh verse, “I am the door of the sheep,” and we hardly think any could enter in by that door but the sheep, for they cannot even know the door (Christ) except by revelation, and even then they cannot come to the door (Christ) except the Father draw them, for we read, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” And, “No man can come to me [the door], except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” To my mind, these Scriptures make it quite plain that there were sheep and a fold before Christ came. He says, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Spiritual Israel, not national Israel, for he says, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold [the Jews, or national Israel, but of the Gentile nations]: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” What did Christ come for? He says he came to seek and to save that which was lost. The sheep (the children) which the Father gave him. Now we see they were God's children before Christ came. “Thine they were, and thou gavest unto me.” All thou has given me shall come unto me, and he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out, but raise him up at the last day. We see that the Lord did not come to make sheep, nor to make a way possible by which they could save themselves, bu that they were a gift to the Son by the Father; that they had gone astray and were in bondage, sold under sin, and Christ came to redeem them. Did he do it, or did he fail? In his prayer to the Father he says, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,” &c. Some may say, Then what profiteth the Scriptures, or the preaching of the gospel? “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” This Scripture tells plainly who gave the Scriptures, who to and for what purpose. It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Now we see the preaching of the gospel is to save believers, the children who were quickened and made alive and could hear and understand. This has no reference whatever to an eternal salvation, but to a common salvation, as Jude calls it when addressing those who are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ and called. This good Shepherd says to Peter, Feed my sheep, feed my lambs. He emphasized the command by repeating it the third time, so we judge that he was impressing upon Peter's mind the work he was giving Peter to do, and that this should be the work of all his called ministers. How thoughtful the dear Lord was of his sheep. He gave his life for them because they were his sheep, not to make them his, and gave them a home in which to live (the church), and says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” He maketh us to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth us by the still waters. Praise his holy name.
W.T. Walters, Moderator
J.M. Cate, Clerk
Signs of the Times
Volume 98, No. 10