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1906 – CIRCULAR LETTER

MAINE OLD SCHOOL BAPTIST CONFERENCE

The Maine Old School Baptist Conference, assembled with the Old School Baptist Church at North Berwick, York County, Maine, to the associations with whom we correspond.

Another year, beloved brethren, has passed since we last greeted you in the Lord, and you with us no doubt can say, the Lord has been mindful of us. We read of him, “He will ever be mindful of his covenant” (Psalm 111:5). This is our strong consolation, for in all our pilgrimage we are needing the mercies of the covenant of his grace, and our hope is that in running the race which is set before us, that the God of our salvation will, in his covenant faithfulness, so nourish and encourage us that we shall hold on our way. In consideration of this we would invite your contemplation to a few words of the apostle Paul pertaining to this subject; they are found in Philippians 3:12: “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus”.

This chapter in which these words are found gives us a summary of the life, experience and expectation of the apostle. He tells us what he was in the flesh, and declares that notwithstanding his attainments he could find no ground to build any confidence upon for eternity before God, and he rehearses to us how effectually he was taught of the Holy Spirit to renounce all reliance in what had formerly been his hope and gain; he found it all a delusive failure, and says, “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but clung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but 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.” This is glorious and satisfying, and is so in conformity to the life and expectation of all, even to the present day, who are partakers of the heavenly calling, and we look into these things set forth by the apostle it will be our mercy to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith not. The apostle tells us, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,” and then declares that this was to an ultimate and glorious destiny; he speaks of it as “that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,” and then so gracious was the hand of Christ Jesus upon him that he was moved with divine animation, and his testimony is, “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Let our first contemplation then be this: I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Once he was a stranger, an enemy, a persecutor, a blasphemer of Christ and his people (1 Tim. 1:13).

“But thus the eternal counsel ran,
Almighty love, arrest that man.”

It pleased God to call him by his grace; he was apprehended on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3). He is brought a poor, guilty sinner at the feet of the Lord, and found praying for mercy and salvation, and soon he found in the once despised Jesus Christ, his gracious Lord and Redeemer. Straightway he preached that Jesus is the Christ. “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” This is what distinguishes the saints from the rest of mankind, Christ has taken hold of them. The world is apprehended by this and that, ten thousand things take hold of them, sway them to and fro, and hold them fast. They are the willing, or unwilling captives of the powers of this present evil world, and of their own lusts. But to be apprehended of Christ Jesus is a gracious manifestation God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. It is Christ, the Head of the church, apprehending his own; it is Christ with cords of everlasting love taking hold of and espousing us to himself. How sacred and blessed to have the power to say, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Many in the world claiming to be christians know nothing in truth of being apprehended by the Son of God. They have been apprehended, no question of that, but what has taken hold of them? With some it is bare theories of doctrine, doctrines of men, speculative ideas, false, fantastical interpretations of Scripture; yes, with their sleight and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive themselves and others, they become adepts in corrupting, perverting and wresting the Scriptures to make them signify anything that suits their fancy, and they are much taken with their ingenuities, and sport themselves with their own deceivings. But in very truth, to be apprehended by the Lord is that his gracious power has quickened us who were dead in trespasses and sins, and has brought us with humble and contrite hearts to mourn over our sins, and to earnestly crave his forgiveness and salvation. O when the once crucified, but now risen and glorified Redeemer, is discovered to us by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we are drawn to him, we are very blessedly apprehended, his willing ones, his captives in the chains of love.

“His loveliness hath won my heart,
Dear Savior, let us never part;
I’ll sound Thy lovely name abroad,
My altogether lovely Lord.”

His atoning sacrifice, justifying righteousness and his high priesthood in all its graciousness, so take hold of us, so bless and comfort us, that we are held fast to him in faith and love, knowing that he only hath the words of eternal life, and those words we have need to have spoken in our hearts all the days of our pilgrimage.

“I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” All mankind are not so apprehended, the vast multitudes care nothing for him, they are strangers and foreigners to him, and in that great day he will say to them, “I never knew you.” But it is his chosen that in due times are apprehended by his sovereign and omnipotent grace. If then the Lord Jesus Christ apprehends his people by the effectual working of his power in their souls, what is the purpose for which he has thus taken hold of them? The apostle speaks of it as “that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,” and it is designated “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The purpose of the Lord in taking hold of his people is to form them for himself to shew forth his praise, and in them he will shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward them through Christ Jesus. Our Redeemer hath saved his people from their sins by his atoning sacrifice, but in the eternal purpose which God the Father purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, he appointed not only the eternal salvation of his chosen, but he hath predestinated them unto the adoption of children to himself, and he ordained them to eternal life and to immortal glory. The Captain of their salvation will therefore apprehend and bring unto that predestined glory all the many chosen sons of God. But in order to be meet to be received up into glory, to dwell forever with the Lord, to be capacitated to partake and to enjoy forever this eternal glory with Christ, the ascended and glorified Head of the church, all the members of his body must and will be “afore prepared unto glory” (Romans 9:23). The saints are therefore apprehended to bring them into actual meetness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Yes, God’s elect creatures shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious manifestation and liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21). As contemplated in their earthly Adamic estate, as creatures upon the earth, the elect of God are seen to be all unprepared, all incapacitated to inherit that inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, to which God hath predestinated them (Eph. 1:11). It may well in very truth be declared, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Now, while on the earth believers are sinners, unholy, corruptible, mortal and vile, and as such unfit to dwell forever in happiness with God, and unable to sustain such eternal blessedness as God hath prepared for those that love him; but as this is that for which they are apprehended of Christ, all things will be done to bring to pass this decreed and ultimate end. “He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given us the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 5:5). Christ “loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Sin, pain and sickness prey upon us now; conflicts, tribulation and grief are our bitter portion, and if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order; Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s, at his coming.” To this we hope to come (Acts 26:7), for when the apostle would present the crowning height of the hope for which, saith he, “I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,” it is this: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” O so much is revealed in the Scriptures concerning the resurrection, and as we are apprehended to the unspeakable glory of the resurrection of the just, it is very becoming that we are found pressing toward this mark for this prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Happy are the moments when in faith and love we are contemplating this ultimate glory of the redeemed. We shall bear the image of the heavenly, we shall be like our ascended and glorified Jesus; and with the psalmist, all who have the faith of God’s elect will say, “As for me, I still behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Ah, now we are tabernacling in our vile body of humiliation, but has not our Savior said, “I will raise him up at the last day”? (John 6:40). He “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” “Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be 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 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: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Surely as in faith’s vision we contemplate this revelation of the Holy Spirit so explicitly written by the apostle, we shall say, This is the desired haven (Psalm 107:30). In our present estate it is very evident that we are unsuited to dwell in glory with the Lord; for while it is blessedly true that as partakers of the quickening and sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost we love God, love the truth, love the household of faith, believe and rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, hunger and thirst after righteousness, and delight in the law of God after the inward man; yes, though we have received the first-fruits of the Spirit, have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father, how marred are all these heavenly emotions of our life, that life which we live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. There is a law in our members warring against the law of our mind, bringing us into captivity, to the law of sin that is in our members. The lusts of the flesh cause us dire conflicts, we are plagued and brought so often into wretchedness by the old man, that is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and we see that our body, in which in all its senses we are continually prone to sin, is frail, subject to vanity. Ah, it is a burdensome load to the believer in Jesus to find himself so frequently immersed in the bondage of the corruptions of his flesh. In all the avenues of the capabilities of our vile bodies we are finding to our humiliation that we are exceeding sinful. We see, and hear, and taste, and feel, and smell, and sin, that hideous monster, employs all these channels of our vile body to bring forth fruit to our shame and grief. Truly the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. The body is corruptible, blots and blemishes and wrinkles soon make their appearance and declare that our vile body is mortal, and to the dust it shall return. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in us. “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” (l Cor. 6:15). Ponder believingly, affectionately, these words of the inspired apostle, and surely you will say the hope of the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body, the glorious liberty of the children of God, springs from it. Our Redeemer was in the world in the body prepared for him, and was born of the Virgin Mary. He bare our sins in his own body on the tree, but he saw no corruption, his sacred, incorruptible manhood arose from the tomb, and many infallible proofs were given of this; he has gone into heaven, and is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. There in heaven reigns our triumphant and glorified Redeemer, and, he shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. We shall he like him, for we shall see him as he is. Yes, it is very precious doctrine that our bodies are the members of Christ. Your body and spirit, dear child of God, are his, bought with the price of his precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20). Then, although now, through sin and corruption and consequent mortality, even we that have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, yet we are not waiting in vain for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. Our bodies shall die, but we shall rise again. Christ is the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. And though, saith the apostle Paul, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall he raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” O glorious, God-glorifying change! This is the crown of all the mighty and gracious works of God in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure. As one star differeth from another in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead; our body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory, it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Now the Son of God will not suffer that any for whom he gave himself a sacrifice should fail of that incorruptible and eternal glory to which they are predestinated, and to which he hath apprehended them; he will assuredly bring them to this glorious height. Hath he not said, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes”? (Hosea 13:14; John 6:37-40). If then this is the ultimate destiny of the saints, does Christ in taking hold of his people have to bring them in unwillingness to this destination? O no, the covenant of grace provides a better way than that. The gracious effect of Christ apprehending his people is that they very cheerfully go, after him, they are not thinking of wrenching themselves away from his affectionate, gracious, omnipotent hand, but they are so affected by the effectual working of his power in them that all who are apprehended by him will say, “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended but 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” We love the Lord because he hath first loved us, and we say,

“Chosen of Thee ere time begun,
We chose Thee in return.”

Thus we would take hold of him because he hath taken hold of us, and our Beloved so animates our souls that we would take hold of that for which he hath taken hold of us. The apostle likens his endeavor to apprehend that for which he is apprehended of Christ Jesus to a race, and to shew how intently his mind is upon the race, and that he is divinely determined to be the winner, he says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but 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.” He would lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race set before him.

Beloved brethren in Christ Jesus, we are in the race, and with us also there is a reaching forth to win the prize. Though we often find the way to be rugged, and toilsome, though the world, the flesh and the devil obstruct, and if possible would put us out of the race, though sometimes our pace in the race, to our sight, seems very slow; and we cannot see that we are making any headway, and though through the oppressions of sin and temptations, and the vexing cares of life, we may be ready to exclaim, “I am ready to halt,” yet there is a reaching forth to attain the prize, to attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Whether therefore we are joyously running strong in faith, or weak in faith with sighs and tears, we are only creeping, we are pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. All our longings after holiness, all our yearnings to he found in the image of Christ, all our sighs over our sinfulness, all our distaste of the vanities of this vain, perishing life, all declare that Christ hath apprehended us, and that we would apprehend that for which he hath apprehended us. We are 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 his glory. Ah, we sigh, for we know that we are vile, that our sinful, decaying, mortal bodies are alienated from the Holy One of Israel; we groan within ourselves, but we are waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body, for our bodies are the members of Christ, and the body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. We are his; body and spirit we are wedded to the Lord, and in our faith we are reaching forth in hope that he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in us. Our Lord Jesus Christ will raise us up at the last day in his own likeness: we shall bear the image of the heavenly. 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 be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Our Husband has apprehended us, our Redeemer has hold of us, and leaning upon our Beloved we shall come up from the wilderness, we shall triumph over sin, death and the grave, and then, incorruptible, immortal and glorified, we shall be like him, we shall see him face to face, and dwell in everlasting bliss.

“I long, dearest Lord, in Thy beauties to shine,
No more as an exile in sorrow to pine,
But in Thy fair image arise from the tomb,
With glorified millions to praise Thee at home.”

We have thus, beloved brethren, set forth a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, and in consideration of such a glorious hope that has been given us, we could desire that such grace might be given unto us, and to you of like precious faith, that in adoring gratitude we might glorify God in our body and spirit, which are his.

We have appointed our next yearly Conference to be held, the Lord willing, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the first Monday in September, 1907, with the church at North Berwick, Maine.

FREDERICK W. KEENE, Moderator
Joseph Hall, Clerk

SIGNS OF THE TIMES, pages 593 thru 599