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THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT MADE FOR SIN.

Circular Letter: The Corresponding Association of Old School Baptists, held with the church at Mount Pleasant, To her brethren scattered abroad sends greeting.

Dear Brethren: - It is under peculiar and trying circumstances that we address you in this our annual epistle. Peculiar because hitherto we have been permitted to regard all who wear the cognomen of Old School as being partakers of our joys and sorrows and although not particularly connected in our correspondence, we felt that their God was our God, and their Christ our Christ. Trying because, we have seen such a disposition for strife manifested by many, and to set up new and unheard of tests of fellowship, so that instead of feeling assured as formerly that we have the prayers and sympathies of many with whom we have been in habit of associating as brethren, some have withdrawn themselves from us, who, if they read our epistles at all, read them for criticism and not for edification. And why this strife? Or whence these estranged feelings? It is difficult for us to believe that the principles of the religion of Christ or the fruits of the spirit are productive of such results, we must therefore look to a departure from those principles and to the depraved nature of man, to find an origin for such a state of things. We are all doubtless striving for the faith of the gospel, but are we according to the apostles admonition striving together? And not rather about a difference of opinion upon extraneous matters that do not effect the principles of the faith of the gospel? The limits of a circular forbid that we should notice all the points upon which a difference of opinion exists, nor do we think it necessary; but we would call your attention to the Nature of that Atonement or Sacrifice which has been made for Sin. In doing which we will try to divest ourselves of all preconceived opinions and utterly disregarding the views or opinions of others, take the scriptures as the man of our counsel, as the lamp to our feet and the light of our path. Whilst we have but little hope of being able to reconcile conflicting views upon this subject, we pray you brethren to hear us patiently and weigh well the scriptural evidence we bring in support of our views, before you judge us harshly or decide that we are heretics. We are perhaps all agreed that the sacrifice upon which sinners alone can have any hope of acceptance with God, is that of His own Son, this at any rate is the position we occupy, and as we do not intend to advance a single idea unsustained by the scriptures of truth we will before we proceed further, introduce some scripture proof relative to this point.

In Romans 5:10, it is recorded: “We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” Rom.8:3 - “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh” and 8:32 - “He that spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all.” Gal.4:4 - “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman, &c. I John 4:9 - “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him,” see 10th verse also. The point being fully established, we next proceed to enquire what constitutes the Son of God? Was it the human nature in which He appeared, the Deity and humanity combined, or was it a real existence as the first born among many brethren. If the human nature alone, then as a matter of course there was no such thing as the Son of God until He was thus curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, see Psa.139:15. If it be the deity and humanity united, then there was no Son until this union took place. And do the scriptures authorize us to believe that 4000 years of time should roll away and that Abel, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Gideon, Barak, Sampson and all the long train of patriarchs and prophets should live and die without any real Redeemer, but such as existed merely in the design and purpose of God. No, but on the contrary we hear Christ declare: “Before Abraham was, I am.” We cannot therefore think it was the seed of Abraham which He took upon Him, but rather, He that took the seed of Abraham was the Son of God. This conclusion we find sustained by scriptures both of the old and new testament, not only as being before Abraham, but before all things, and by whom all things consist. When four men were seen walking in the fiery furnace, it was said that the form of the fourth was like the Son of God; and how we ask, could there be a likeness of that which had no existence? In Proverbs 8:23 {where it is generally admitted that the writer, under the name of Wisdom is personating Christ,} it is said - “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth was &c., read to verse 30. Again, in Proverbs 30:4 hear the words of Agur: “Who hath ascended up into heaven or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Job exclaims in the depth of affliction as though it were the only comfort he had: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” In John 6:62, Jesus asks, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before,” and also in Eph.4:9 & 10 - “Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” In the John 17:5, Jesus asks to be glorified with that glory which He had with the Father before the world was. Therefore it seems clear that in ascending up where He was before, He was going to return to some position that He occupied with the Father, not only before He was born in Bethlehem, but before the world began. Again, if He had no existence prior to His incarnation we are at a loss to know how it was that the saints were blessed and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Now brethren we think from these and other considerations we might notice, we are fully warranted in contending for the doctrine, that the Son of God existed before time began, and that therefore neither His humanity, nor deity and humanity united constituted Him such. The essence of sonship we cannot attempt to define any further than to say that He was and is a spiritual head of a spiritual family. But some may be ready to enquire, How long has He existed as such? To which enquiry we can only reply in the language of the same divine authority by which we have established the positions already taken, and we wish it borne in mind that we are not treating of His self existence as Jehovah, but of Him as the only begotten Son. And whilst we acknowledge ourselves utterly unable to trace His existence as such to any point, the scriptures everywhere speak of that existence as posterior to the existence of His Godhead. In Proverbs 8, already referred to, He is represented as having been set up from everlasting. In John 1:1, it is written: “In the beginning was the Word.” In Col.1:15, He is said to be the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature; verse 17 - “He is before all things,” 18 - “who is the beginning.” And in Rev.3:14, He styles Himself - “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” And we acknowledge ourselves unable to see any difference in the language last quoted, which are the words of Christ Himself, and an expression found in the Signs of the Times, much caviled at, that “He is the first production of Divine Power.”

Nor does it become cavilers to dispute the doctrine that Christ, as the Son of God, is the production of God, until they can show that these scriptures do not mean what they say, and discard the idea that His Sonship consists in His humanity which is to all intents and purposes a creature; for He was made of a woman. He is spoken of frequently as the begotten of God, the sent of God, the messenger of God, and as coming to do not His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. When He comes He is manifest as the Mighty God, though veiled in humanity, because it pleased the Father that in Him all fulness should dwell, and His humanity no more constituted Him the Son of God than it did God Himself. Then why was He clothed with humanity? Because the children are partakers of flesh and blood, therefore He took part of the same, and we may add, for the same reason that Moses put a veil upon his face when he came down from the top of Sinai. Moses had been upon the mountain and talked with God, and his face in consequence shone with such a glory that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold him. Christ proceeded forth and came from God, yea has His dwelling in the bosom of the Father. If then it was necessary that the mediator of the administration of condemnation should veil his face, how much more that the mediator of the administration of righteousness which exceedeth in glory should veil Himself. This He has done, hence says Paul, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.” Here His flesh is expressly called a veil, and was not therefore that which constituted Him the Christ. He comes at the appointed time and this is the manner of His appearing, clothed with humanity and embodying the whole of Deity. At the appointed time He was delivered up and dies. Forsaken of the Father, insulted by devils, and denied by friends, is yet borne testimony to so strongly by the Father, who hides the sun and rends the rocks, that the amazed centurion cries, “This is the Son of God!”

Now we ask, is not such a sacrifice of infinitely more value than that which is merely human? If the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

“So great, so vast a sacrifice,
May well our hopes revive;
If God’s own Son thus bleeds and dies,
The sinner sure may live.”

If this brethren be the doctrine of the Bible it should not be withheld because some do not believe it, nor because they refuse to worship this Son of God, though God has said “Let all the angels of God worship Him,” and those who would convince us that we are in error must bring some scripture proof rather than to say falsely, that this is Arianism, new things, heresy, idolatry, &c.

This sacrifice we do not regard as being only the substitution of one person or thing for another; but as the sacrifice of the head for the body, which is His church, and the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. Nor do we imagine that although the Son of God was delivered up and put to death, that He for one moment ceased to be; but that in Him at His death was fulfilled the word of the Lord by the prophet Isaiah, 54:7,9 - “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee,” &c., and that though passing in connection with the body through the vale of terrors, He was the same vital head, and when He arose, it was with His body completely justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Our present meeting has been one of peculiar interest evincing as it has done, how christians can dwell together in unity. We have none of Hagar’s mocking children among us, and although a much larger number than usual of our brethren have been together, they seemed to be one of heart and one soul. Our ministering brethren have come to us in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, and their preaching has been a full exhibition of the glories of our Redeemer in the full and complete salvation of His elect. We feel thankful to God and those of our sister associations who have thought enough of us to send us their minutes and messengers, and desire to reciprocate their kindness. Our next meeting is appointed to be held with the church at Upper Broad Run, to commence on the Thursday before the second Lord’s Day in August 1854, when and where we hope to great you again and enjoy another season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.

S.TROTT. 1853.