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GOD’S GRACE.

Corresponding Letter: The Corresponding Association of Old School Baptists held with the church at Occoquan, Prince Wm. Co., VA., August 7, 8 & 9th, 1851, to all Old School brethren, churches and associations in correspondence with us, sendeth christian salutation.

Beloved Brethren: - In the providence of God we are once more permitted to meet on the shores of time, and according to a long established custom, we send you this our annual epistle; in which we would offer a few remarks upon the subject of God’s Grace.

This is a theme upon which ministers have declaimed, sages mused, and poets sung, in ages that are past, and yet the tale remains untold, and is one of the few subjects upon which repetition is not irksome; its sound is still charming, its effects still transporting to the children of God. Near six thousand years ago in the land of Asia, now wrapped in heathenish night, and under the influence of blind idolatry, appeared a solitary individual making an offering to God, expressive of his faith in the doctrine of salvation by grace, and incurring at once the approbation of his God, and the enmity of his brother, who offered the result of his own labor. Four thousand years subsequent was seen and heard in the same country, a meek, quiet, unassuming individual, bearing indubitable testimony of having been sent of God, yea of being God Himself made manifest in the flesh, proclaiming to the world in a voice so loud that the sound has even reached us of the Nineteenth Century, that there is no Salvation but by grace; yet there are found multitudes who like their ancient brother Cain, think to obtain salvation by their own works. It is true, they talk about grace, about obtaining it, and losing it, obtaining it by good works, and forfeiting it either by bad, or by neglecting to attend to those things which are reputed good. But brethren, we have not so learned Christ, we have not been taught to regard this grace as a commodity which may be obtained at a price, or upon conditions, but as the act of a Sovereign God having mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and hardening whom He will. The qualifying or distinguishing terms: Free, sovereign, &c., are not found in the Scriptures, are deemed wholly superfluous and unnecessary, because all the acts of God, whether of a gracious or other character are sovereign and free. Sovereign, because His will is the standard of His own acts; and all that He does is right, because so it seemed good in His sight. Free, because He requires nothing of His creatures as a return for what He does for them; and because an act ceases to be gracious when it ceases to be free. Salvation is either of works or of grace, for there is no affinity between the two. If it be of works, it is no more of grace; if of grace, it is no more of works, and the question is settled in the scriptures, and in the experience of the children of God, that salvation is of grace. In a state of nature they have no evidences of being interested in the favor of God, but what are common to the rest of mankind. They are fed and clothed, protected and defended in Providence, and so are the rest of mankind, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea. The raven and the lion both seek their meat from God; but they are no less interested in this grace because they are ignorant of it; nor do they partake of it any more freely because they know it. Prior to regeneration, they ascribe all their destiny to their own skillful or unskillful management {as the case may be} of their own affairs; but after regeneration, they say, as Paul said, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And what was he? An apostle, a minister of the gospel, a persecuted and afflicted saint, a prisoner in bonds, enduring the buffeting of Satan, in perils, by land and in perils by sea, in perils among false brethren, and carrying about continually a body of death that made him wretched, &c., and yet the grace of God had made him what he was. Every act of God expressive of kindness or favor is an act of grace; and every act performed upon or in relation to His chosen people is an act of this kind. All the provisions necessary to their eternal salvation were made in Christ, while they were yet in a state of nonentity, yea, from all eternity. For their sakes the foundations of the earth were laid; light and darkness, life and death, evil and good, angels, men and devils, and all things present, past and to come, are so many expressions of God’s grace to His people. And they are assured, through the apostle Paul, that no creature shall be able to separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. What though they fell in Adam, and became dead in trespasses and sins? It was in full view of this state that God loved them with a perfect love, and made for them all that rich provision of grace of which we read in the Scriptures. What though when born they go astray from the womb, and run into all the excesses of riot and debauchery to which their depraved natures incline them? God’s grace is commended to them in that while they were yet sinners Christ died for them. What though being dead they are unable to know or appreciate His kindness towards them? God’s grace has made provision for their being quickened into life; but not through the means of a preached gospel as some suppose, for to admit this would be to deny that any were quickened until about eighteen hundred years ago when the gospel first began to be preached; or that any have been quickened since only where the gospel has been preached. To us such an idea savors more of the language of Ashdod or Arminianism than of being a mere different form of expression, to express the same idea with those who contend that the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. What though being quickened they are left to feel themselves exposed to wrath under the sentence of God’s violated law and borne down by a weight of guilt sufficient to sink a world to hell? There is in store for them, as the fruit of God’s grace, a righteousness which shall hide all their shame, a sacrifice that shall atone for all their sins, and a victim that their faith shall behold, enduring all the wrath that was due to them. What though in the christian pilgrimage they meet with sore temptations and dire afflictions? My grace, saith God, shall be sufficient for them. They shall glory in infirmity, and in weakness shall be made strong. Affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground. Job 5:6; but these are sent in loving kindness and tender mercy, for God has promised to be with them in six, and not to forsake them in the seventh. When His providence seems to frown and bear strong marks of displeasure, yet while He chastens He loves, and works all things together for good to them who are the called according to His purpose. That grace therefore which ordained the plan of salvation for God’s elect, shall be their companion and comfort through this vale of tears; their support in death, and it has in store for them in heaven an inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and cannot fade away. May we not then joyfully sing,

“O to grace how great a debtor!”

Our meeting, whilst it has been one of peace and pleasant intercourse together, has been one well calculated to lead us to mourn over the desolations of Zion; but few churches united in the correspondence this year, and messengers from but one association, were in attendance with us. Whilst we mourn before God the causes of the thinness of our meeting in reference to brethren, we would not repine; we sometimes feel that if our brethren abroad knew us as we know ourselves they would not care to associate with us. And when we contemplate God’s dispensation in this affair, instead of repining we have ground for great thankfulness to Him that He is still granting us the privilege of meeting together in peace, of receiving epistles of love from a few sister churches, which are indeed little flocks, surrounded by wolves, and having nothing to hope for, but from God’s rich grace in Christ, and His protecting care; and from two or three associations. Though we have but little to commend us to the favorable notice of our brethren abroad, yet we feel a desire for a continuance, and even extension of the correspondence of churches, corresponding meetings and associations who are united with us, in the glorious doctrine of salvation by the grace of God, and in that order marked out in the New Testament. And would therefore say again; Brethren visit us with your letters of christian affection, and your messengers, at our next meeting to be held with the Frying-pan Church, Fairfax Co., VA., to commence on the Thursday before the 2nd Lord’s day in August, 1852, at 11 o’clock, A.M.

S.TROTT. 1851.