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1903 CIRCULAR LETTER

OLD SCHOOL BAPTIST CONFERENCE OF MAINE

The Old School Baptist Conference of Maine, held with the Old School Baptist Church at North Berwick, Maine, to the associations with whom we correspond.

We wish you all grace and prosperity in the kingdom of God. Another year has passed since we last addressed you, and we are still journeying, we hope, to the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. We have in Jesus our Savior a lively hope to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, saith the apostle Peter, who are kept by the power of. God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The Scriptures very preciously give us manifold glimpses of the “better country” (Heb. 11:16). In that heavenly country Christ and his ransomed ones shall dwell for ever and ever. As Israel saw and tasted the grapes of Eshcol (Num. 13:23), so believers in Christ have the first fruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23), blessed, divine foretastes of our future blessedness beyond this mortal life. Even now we have the earnest of our inheritance, and there are moments with believers when so comfortingly glorious is the experience of the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts that they are inspired with longings to depart and be with Christ, which is far bettor.

“O, when wilt Thou bid me ascend,
To join in Thy praises above,
To gaze on Thee, world without end,
And feast on Thy ravishing love?”

“For now we see through a glass darkly: but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Jesus Christ has gone into heaven, and so near and indissolvable is the union of the church unto him that where he is there shall also his people be. So shall we ever be with the Lord. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. God sent forth his Son made of a woman. O, it is the crowning glory in the revelation of the gospel that Christ Jesus “the second man is the Lord from heaven.” What infinite exaltation, glory and honor hath God taken our nature unto, in taking into union with himself the holy child Jesus, “that holy thing” conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:35). He is verily God and truly man, Emmanuel, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The Son of God having purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Our very Jesus who was crucified upon Calvary, who was buried, rose again the third day, ascended and was received up into glory. He was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:2, 9-11). He is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God (Heb. 4:14). Christ is entered into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us; the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. This contemplation of our Savior is very comforting. He has gone before, our Head, the first that should rise from the dead; he has cast up the highway and gathered out the stones; he has prepared all things for the safety of our journey, and has made all things ready for our entrance into heaven, and for our dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. Christ is the head of the church, and as the Forerunner of his people he proclaims in the court of heaven, before the Father’s face, My ransomed ones, the members of my body, are coming, where I am there shall they be also.

“Jesus my all to heaven has gone,
He whom I fix my hopes upon.
His track I see, and I’ll pursue
The narrow way till Him I view.”

The resurrection and ascension of Christ is full of comfort to us poor sinners, for in it we see the eternal glorification of the manhood of the Son of God, and as the Head of the church we very blessedly contemplate him the first fruits of them that slept. “Christ the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” These things are vital realities in our faith, for we have, dear brethren, been taught that we are vile sinners, justly condemned under the curse of the law, but the glad tidings of the gospel has come to us in power, that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. In Jesus we have found all our hope, the hope of salvations, of forgiveness of sins, of justification, of eternal life, of eternal glory. With earnest expectation we are now waiting (Rom. 3:19), we are looking for (Titus 2:13), and pressing toward the actual crowning day, the consummation decreed, the eternal glory that awaits the vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory. Now, we are dwelling in tabernacles of clay corruptible, mortal, subject to sickness and pain; now we are plagued with indwelling sin, and are buffeted by temptations; we daily encounter cares and trials, and some of the ransomed are appointed to endure a great fight of afflictions. Earth’s fairest delights lose their luster, fade and pass away, and earthly sweets are turned to bitterness. The apostle Paul tells the saints, “We are made as the filth of the world, and are the off-scorning of all things unto this day.” Encountering such a tide of woes with what certainty he declares, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.” But the I consummation of our hope in Christ is not in this present world, but with fond desire we reach forth to that life beyond the grave, to eternity, to the realms of immortal glory, and the full assurance of our faith that is our goodly heritage is founded upon this glorious fact, “Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.” While we are pilgrims here below we are supported and cheered in the rugged way, being sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of God’s glory. The words of the truth of the gospel instruct us to look beyond the tribulations of our present life, beyond the perishing transitory things of earth and time, beyond these regions of mortality, to the realms of immortality and everlasting day. Having the first fruits of the Spirit in our hearts we know that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. When the time draws nigh that the believer must die (Gen. 46:29), how sacredly blessed is his exit from this world. To die is gain, to die is to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Though on the eve of our departure the body may be subjected to sufferings, yet the sufficiency of God’s covenant mercy is such that we shall triumph in death, for death, O believer in Jesus, is yours (1 Cor. 3:22). Death shall not separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Witness the dying thief upon the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Look at that sacred scene when the martyr Stephen fell asleep. “They stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! and he kneeled down and cried with aloud, voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

“Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.”

The payment of the debt of the church was exacted of Christ their surety. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he murmured not, he did not resent the holy demands of the law, he went forth, he gave his back to the smiters and cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; he was the ward of his church, the shield of her salvation, he hid not his face from shame and spitting. O the love of Christ for the church! He gave himself a sacrifice for her. The soul and body of the sinless humanity of Christ was baptized in sufferings to ransom his people from sin, the curse and the grave. “Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,” and in his sore agony in the garden he cried, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” But he shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. He was crucified, and when all was finished he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, and having said this he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46). His sacred, incorruptible body was laid in Joseph’s new tomb until the third day, when he arose from the dead. So, when the soul is in departing (Gen. 35:18), in the precious moment of death, the spirit of the believer departs from the body, and is immediately received by the Lord Jesus, to be with him, which is far better than to remain in this life. Our corruptible bodies are consigned to the dust till, as our Savior taught, he will raise them up again at the last day (John 4:39-40). Martha was not a forgetful hearer of the words of the dear Redeemer when she said to him at the grave of her brother Lazarus, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all he changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For the corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on in corruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought pass the saying that is written, Death is allowed up in victory. O glorious mystery! Well might the apostle with holy ardor tell us, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things, which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It was that he might attain unto such a glorious resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:11). To this we hope to come (Acts 26:7-8), for then in the resurrection, the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

When God made the world he rested and was refreshed (Exod. 31:17), and Jesus having redeemed the church with his own blood, rested and entered into his glory, he ascended far above all principality and power, and dominion, and every name that is named. He was received up into glory. This destiny is also ours. Our Redeemer thus prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” The Lord will guide us with his counsel, and afterward receive us to glory. The God of all grace hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus. This glory we have little foretastes of, Christ is in us the hope of glory, this is the earnest of our inheritance, and the harvest of eternal glory is yet to come. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, is now glorified and we shall be glorified. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory”. O how sacredly comforting is the thought that our vile bodies, now natural, mortal and corruptible, shall be raised spiritual, immortal and incorruptible. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory, that “we shall bear the image of the heavenly”. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Then shall we actually know and enjoy in all its infinite fullness for evermore the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). We are sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption. Even now in this present world the moments are very sweet when by faith we taste that we are risen with Christ, and sit with him in heavenly places. Blessed first fruits of the Spirit! In a little while the glorious harvest of eternal glory will be ours. We shall be glorified and share with Christ in heaven a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory. We shall inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. We shall dwell in the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. We shall live in the better country, that is, an heavenly, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. This is love’s own country, and we shall dwell in love and joy forever with the Lord. Heaven is our Father’s house, and thou our glorious God shalt make us full of joy with thy countenance.

“Then shall the church, the Lamb’s own bride,
Both crowned and seated at His side,
Outshine the sun’s meridian ray:
While Jesus smiling at the sight,
Shall then, with a supreme delight,
The travail of His soul survey.”

We shall dwell in the King’s palace with Jesus our lovely and glorious King, and we shall be holy and without blame before Him in love. Yes, in our whole spirit and soul and body we shall be faultless in the beauty of holiness, we shall see him face to face and we shall be like him, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

“My glorious Redeemer, I long to see Thee descend on the cloud,
Amidst the bright numberless throng, and mix with the triumphing crowd.
O when wilt Thou bid me ascend to join in Thy praises above,
To gaze on Thee, world without end, and feast on Thy ravishing love?

Nor sorrow, nor sickness, nor pain, nor sin, nor temptation, nor fear,
Shall ever molest me again; perfection of glory reigns there.
This soul and this body shall shine in robes of salvation and praise,
And banquet on pleasures divine, where God His full beauty displays.

Ye palaces, scepters and crowns, your pride with disdain I survey;
Your pomps are but shadows and sounds, and pass in a moment away;
The crown that my Savior bestows, your permanent sun shall outshine;
My joy everlasting flows – my God, my Redeemer is mine.”

We have appointed our next yearly conference to assemble, the Lord willing, with the church at North Berwick, Maine, on Friday before the first Monday in September, 1904, when we hope to again receive your messengers and correspondence.

FREDERICK W. KEENE, Mod.
JOSEPH F. HALL, Clerk.