Circular Letter & Corresponding Letter: The Baltimore Old School Baptist Association, to the several churches of which she is composed, send christian salutation.
Beloved Brethren: - As an expression of our fellowship, we again address you in our associational circular, and on this occasion we have selected as the theme or subject of our address, the following declaration made in the scriptures concerning Zion: “The Lord shall comfort Zion.” Isa.51:3.
In this passage we find four things which demand the attention of the redeemed of the Lord. First: Zion, which is to be comforted. Second: Zion’s Comforter. Third: The absolute character of the promise. Fourth: The Comfort promised. May the Lord by His Spirit guide both writer and reader into the experimental enjoyment of the subject under consideration.
First: Zion, or the city of David, see I Kings 8:1, is frequently used in the scriptures as a type of the church of Christ, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all; and we regard it as a very beautiful and instructing figure: first, from the meaning of the word Zion, which signifies a monument raised up. The church of Christ is truly a monument raised up and founded on the eternal purpose of God, based on His unchanging love, secured against all evil by His omnipotence. Every individual believer is a monument of grace, seen and read of all men. The whole church forms a monument which shall remain resplendent in glory when all the glories of this world, yea, when the creation itself shall no longer exist. But, some will say, the word Zion, means a heap of stones - rough, unpolished, useless. Do they come from nature’s quarry? Are they not made living stones and polished by divine grace? They are raised up as the spiritual seed of Abraham, and built upon the foundation which God hath laid. Each stone, whether great or small occupies the place which was from eternity assigned it, by the great Architect, who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. But again, Zion is emblematic of the church in being the object of God’s peculiar love. See Psa.87:2 - “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob,” and even so hath He loved the church; yea, “He loved the people.” Deut.33:3. And He so loved them that He gave His Son to die for them. I John 4:10. And although the Lord’s tender mercy is over all His works, so as to supply all His creatures with food and raiment; yet His love for His church is peculiarly manifested in providing for them in an everlasting covenant, spiritual food and raiment in the Person and righteousness of His dearly beloved and only begotten Son. Zion is the object of God’s choice. Psa.132:13 - “The Lord hath chosen Zion.” So hath He chosen the church in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. Eph.1:4. Zion is well garrisoned: “Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof; Mark well her bulwarks.” Psa.48:12. So also is the church. Her walls are Salvation, and her gates Praise. The Lord will be a wall of fire round about her. God, with all His wisdom, power, love, mercy, longsuffering and goodness is for her; who can be against her? She has watchmen upon her walls, to warn her of danger, and they have a trumpet on which to blow a certain sound, that her inhabitants may prepare for battle.
Second: Let us notice Zion’s Comforter. And this is the Lord: He is God the Father; for all her comfort, all her joy, and all her hope springs from the heart of Jehovah, the Father, and descend to her through the Son, whom He declares to be: “Lord, to the glory of the Father.” For in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All spiritual blessings were given to the church in Him, and of His fulness they all receive their strength, light, hope, joy and peace. These are all in Him in their fulness; and for the use of thirsting souls, to whom they are applied by the Spirit who is expressly called the Comforter. John 14:15-17. Because His covenant engagements are to give the church a knowledge and enjoyment of her most gracious Lord and Master.
Third: We will now glance at the absolute promise of God: “The Lord shall comfort Zion.” All the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea, and in Him, Amen. That is, they are sure and certain, irrevocable and irrevisable to all the promised seed of Abraham. And the nature and attributes of Jehovah confirm the same. For if Jehovah, the Father hath given comfort, the Son received the same, and the Spirit engaged to communicate it to the hearts of the elect. Jehovah being unchangeable in His nature, is consequently immutable in these wonderful acts, whereby the comfort of the church is secured. Not dependent on any contingency or uncertainty: for God has so arranged from even the most trying circumstances of their lives. If the comfort of Zion depended on her deserts, she would indeed be comfortless; or if it depended on her improvement of anything committed to her care, she would be destitute; for she feels daily and hourly that she can only stand as she is held up, and only use what is given to her; for the Spirit of God works in her both to will and to do of His own good pleasure.
Fourth: We will now offer a few remarks on the comfort, and the manner in which the Lord applies it to Zion. It is by His word, by the ministry, and by the direct agency of the Holy Ghost. 1. The Lord comforts His people by His word when it quickens them, as it did David, Psa.119:50, and when through patience and comfort thereof they have hope. Rom.15:4. Seeing themselves, in the early stage of their conversion, and in their daily falls into sin, to be altogether helpless, they imagine themselves to be in a hopeless state, until by the word, they see the foundation of hope to be not in themselves, but in Jesus Christ the Lord. 2. He comforts them by the ministry, when a full and free salvation is proclaimed, as in Isaiah 40:11 - “He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd,” &c, and when His ministers have been led into trouble, and comforted, expressly that they might be enabled to comfort those who are in any tribulation, with the same comfort wherewith they themselves are comforted of God. II Cor.1:3,4. But neither the word, nor the ministry, valuable as they are, can afford any comfort, only as instruments in the hands of God, by His Spirit. Now all the comfort of Zion’s citizens consists in relying entirely on Christ in every emergency, and in all trying circumstances. 3. The Holy Ghost becomes a Comforter in testifying of Christ, and by leading the soul to Him. Are any suffering under a sense of indwelling corruptions; He leads them to Jesus for sanctification. Are they naked; He leads them to Jesus for the mantle of His righteousness. Are they hungry; He leads them to Jesus for the bread of life. Are they weak; He teaches them to rely wholly upon that strength which is made perfect in their weakness.
Fear not then, ye drooping, doubting and desponding saints; for Christ is All. The Father hath given you all. The Holy Ghost is engaged to bring you to Him; and thus the Lord shall comfort Zion, and all her children shall rejoice. Yet a little while, and the Lord God shall wipe away all tears from their faces, and lead them to fountains of delight, to cast their crowns at His feet, and praise Him forever and ever, even so, amen, and amen.
Dear Brethren: - Agreeably to our last year’s appointment, we have been indulged of our Heavenly Father with the privilege of once more meeting together; and considering our ingratitude and many short comings, of which each church, and each individual member among us will plead guilty, and stand convicted. We are amazed at the goodness of God in granting us privileges so inestimable. Yet, we enquire on the other hand, if while we were dead in sins, God so loved us as to give His Son to die for us, will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Cold, ungrateful, and indifferent as we are, we do feel an assurance that we hold and love the truth as it is in Jesus. For our attachment to what we understand to be the doctrine and order of the gospel, and our opposition to the innovations and inventions of men, we have not only to endure the persecutions of men made religionists, but to resist the popular current of the world. All this we could well bear and even rejoice in knowing as we do that it is a part of the saint’s inheritance on earth; but the Lord seems to have in a measure withdrawn His presence from us, and because of this we mourn. Many of the churches in our connection, have, from the ravages of death and other causes dwindled down to a mere moiety, while some have entirely disbanded, and we are in a great measure dependent for ministerial gifts, on other associations. The evidences of the power of divine grace are few and far between, and our harps are hung upon the willows; but amidst the raging storm, to whom shall we look so confidently as to Him “who rides upon the stormy sky, and thunders when He please.” Perhaps these things may be to prove our steadfastness in the stand we have taken; or it may be that the Lord is about finishing His work in this part of the land, and that the gospel, like the sun, arose in the East, and is traveling on to the West, leaving us to repose in its evening shade. Let the purpose of our God be what it may, we desire to still contend for His truth, submit patiently to all His will, and live upon the assurance that all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose.
Our meeting, which is drawing to a close, has been one of unusual comfort and christian enjoyment. Your messengers and ministers who have come to us have brought us the pleasing intelligence that you are enabled in some good degree to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. The preaching that we have had has been of Christ, and His salvation, without a jarring note.
Our next Association will be held, the Lord willing, with the church at Harford, Harford County, Md., to commence on the Thursday preceding the third Sunday in May, 1852, at 10 o’clock, a.m., when and where we hope to receive a continuance of your correspondence.
S.TROTT. Moderator. 1851.