Circular Letter: The Baltimore Association of Old School Baptists, convened with the church at Black Rock, Md., May 18, 19 & 20, to the churches of which she is composed, greeting.
Time like some mighty whirlpool will sooner or later engulf all that floats in its channel. Every returning period tells of many that have already been swallowed up, and we too are hastening to the vortex. But while upon the surface we would indulge another opportunity afforded us of communicating with those we love of the things that make for our peace, as children of the same family, and things whereby one may edify another. Considering the uncertainty and many changing scenes of time, the thousand allurements and great oppositions that are in the world, the wily arts of the Devil with his armed legions, the lust of our flesh with its propensity to evil, and above all the rapid strides and boasting threats of the man of sin, it is thought there is no subject we can contemplate with greater pleasure or profit than that of the Reign of Christ. He is that King that Isaiah said should reign in righteousness and whose princes should rule in judgment. The prophets universally ascribe sovereignty to God, and David says, Psa.62:11, “God has spoken once; twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God.” Christ, not as the essential God, but as the head of His church and the executor of the Father’s will possesses a delegated power, conferred upon Him for a special purpose and for a limited period, and the question as to how far that power extends or what it is made to effect, is one that forever separates between Christ and antichrist, or the children of God and the children of the Devil: the one believing it to be omnipotent, the other that it is limited; the one, that He does His pleasure and none can let Him; the other, that it is dependent for its execution upon the co-operation of His creatures; and while the saints are hailing Him as King of kings and Lord of lords, and rejoicing that there is one possessed of all power that careth for them; the whole antichristian brood are very busy in taking care of their little idol, which they call Jesus, and transporting him from one country to another. Now, in all the little that we may write upon this important subject, we wish to take divine inspiration as our guide, and in order to render the subject intelligible, we will briefly consider it in three branches, namely: Its extent, its nature and its duration. In considering first the extent of the reign of Christ, it is needful that we take into consideration the object for which it is conferred upon Him, in order to ascertain how far it was needful that power should extend. That object is declared in scripture, and that by Himself, to be that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. These are in the world, have to do with the things of the world, stand connected with the rest of mankind, and have a frail and evil nature in common with all the human family. It therefore became necessary that Christ, in order to secure to them eternal life, should have unreserved control over all things that stand in the least degree connected with them, as it is written, “As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him.” John 17:2. Nor does He simply possess a power in earth and over flesh, but He informed His disciples after His resurrection from the dead that All power was given unto Him in heaven and in earth, Mt.28:18; by which we may learn that the eternal power of the Godhead, and whatever power the Prophets and the Psalmist speak of as belonging to God is involved in the mediatorial reign of Christ. Old Testament scriptures are therefore as applicable to define the power of Christ as those of the new, for “it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” It is not to be expected that we should find in the scriptures an express declaration that the power of Christ embraces this, that, and the other particular thing or occurrence; it is enough that we find evidence of its extending to all things in all worlds. We have already shown that it embraces heaven and earth, as Peter says, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him. It now remains to show that it extends over hell and the power there. He is regarded by us as the mighty angel that John saw descend with a great chain, and lay hold of the dragon, and bind him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up. The apostles having fulfilled their mission and returned on a certain occasion said, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through Thy name. This power is not only declared but acknowledged, for, said the devils to the seven sons of Sceva, Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are ye? We might here make a number of other quotations to the same import, but these are deemed sufficient. Here let us ask what comfort or enjoyment could christians feel in view of the storms and tempests that are howling around them, did they not know that in Jesus dwelt a power that rules the raging of the sea and stills its angry waves. What security could they feel in a world of opposition, did they not know that He made the wrath of man to praise Him, and restrained the rest. In short what hope could they have of final blessedness, but in the belief that Jesus holds the keys of hell and death, controls all the angry passions of their natures, and every being, every thing, and every act; whether standing in opposition or needful to be employed for their comfort. So they can unite their voices with, and make up that great multitude, many waters and mighty thunders spoken of in the book of Revelation, saying, Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. He reigns over Heaven, earth, and hell. The winds and the seas obey Him. The sparrows in their flight are moved and directed by His care, and not one of the countless hairs that deck our heads can fall or remain unmoved but by His government. His is a power to wound and a power to heal, a power to kill and a power to make alive, this is the King that saves His subjects and destroys their foes.
In the second place we are to consider the nature or character of this reign, and wish it borne in mind that there is no reign but His, for the kingdoms of this world are become “the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ,” and Solomon says, Proverbs 8:15,16 - “By me kings reign and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” It is also written in the New Testament: There is no power, but of God. The powers that be, are ordained of God. We wish it also borne in mind that He reigns for the exclusive good of his people, His chosen. Isaiah has characterized His reign as a reign in righteousness. Whether we consider Him, then, as dethroning kings, or exalting to sceptres base and blood thirsty tyrants; whether as sending wars with all the evils that follow in their train, or causing the clarion of peace and good will to men to be blown, still His reign is in righteousness, because so it seems good in His sight. “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments,” Psalms 119:137. He governs the world by a power which they neither see nor acknowledge, and to describe it fully, would be beyond the capacity of angels. It is to His reign in Zion, where His power is both felt and acknowledged, that we would confine ourselves in treating upon this branch of our subject. It is there that He has laws, or more properly, a law, which is unchanging as His own eternal throne, and extending to all the subjects of His kingdom in all time and eternity too. It needs no fire and fagot, no sword or bayonet to enforce it; it exerts no tyrannical influence, holds to view no terrors; promises no rewards. It is not recorded upon tables of stone or pieces of parchment, and deposited in the archives of some moldering edifice; nor is it subject to abrogation or amendment like the laws of men. This law is the law of love. The promptings of this law are recorded in the New Testament; but let this be obliterated, let bonfires be lighted up with the pages of scripture, still the law is in their hearts and will teach them the way that they should go. Whilst then in the precepts and commandments of the New Testament, we have a transcript of the mind and will of God, they furnish us also with an expression of christian desire. They delight to do the will of God; a service called forth by any other law, either looks for a reward or dreads punishment; but this is all performed for the sake of Him who hath loved them and given Himself for them. If a man preaches truth and does not love it, he is no better off than if he had preached error, and he that practices morality and loves iniquity, is no better off than if he practiced iniquity. Self love has a governing influence over us in nature; but here: “the love of Christ constraineth us.” But whence this love? Paul in his letter to the Romans informs us that it is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. So that, as Solomon says, If a man should give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned. As it exists independent of the creature, so it operates independent of his mind and will. It extends to all the family of God and no further. It is therefore no marvel that christians cannot love those that give no evidence that they love God. But we now pass to the consideration of the third and last branch of our subject, which is, the duration of this reign. While we are utterly unable to find any limit to the extent of His reign, the scriptures justify us in fixing a period to its duration and this is no other than the full completion of all that work for which His power was conferred upon Him. Viewing Him as Jehovah the scriptures speak of Him as reigning for ever and ever, but in His mediatorial character they figuratively speak of Him as reigning a thousand years. When that thousand years shall expire no man can tell; but certain it is that He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When He shall have called up the slumbering bodies of His saints from their graves, and thus taken the prey from the mighty, then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power, See I Cor. 15:24; and when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all; verse 28. And now brethren, may we not rejoice in the universal power of Christ, since being controlled by His power no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper and every tongue that shall rise up in judgment against us we shall condemn. May we not confidently look for the complete glorification of all the election of grace since it is His will that they may behold His glory, and all power is His to execute that will. May we not rejoice in the nature of His reign, since, all His works being done in righteousness, all things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose. Being by the law of love, we have nothing to dread from our many short comings and repeated wanderings; He heals our backslidings and loves us freely. He holds no threatening judgments over us; nor spurns us from His face.
“The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here.”
Lastly, may we not rejoice in the termination of that reign, since with its end will be the eternal overthrow of the kingdom of antichrist, the complete destruction of all enemies including the last, which is death, and the raising up of His church, both soul and body, to dwell with Him in bliss forever. Finally, brethren, farewell; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.