Beloved in the Lord,
The revolving seasons, directed by an unerring Providence, has brought us together again, in our associate relation; and we are especially indebted to the Head of the Church, for the harmony we have enjoyed in our intercourse with each other. The character of the letters from the churches comprising our body, is highly gratifying to those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and the peace of Zion, and cannot fail eliciting from such, grateful emotions to the Author of our Holy Religion.
It is a matter of pleasing astonishment, that schism and division, prevailing so extensively in the Baptist Rank, has been kept from us, and that we are permitted to enjoy uninterrupted harmony with regard to the principles upon which we are united as an Association. The Psalmist informs us, “He fashioneth their hearts alike.” (Psa. 33:15). When we advert to the fact, that perfect unanimity seems to prevail throughout our body, upon the fundamental principles of Christianity as set forth in our Articles of Faith, have we not good reason to believe that those articles are approved of God as being in accordance with the oracles of Truth, and that His special Providence has been over us, whilst His Spirit had guided us into Truth? It is a mistaken idea entertained by some, that Creeds or Confessions of Faith engender strife amongst the Disciples of Jesus: It is a want of them, a want of the “Unity of the Spirit,” and of His Heavenly guidance which has produced so much strife and animosity in the professed Church of Christ: a giving “heed to seducing spirits and doctrine of devils.” Brethren, let us take the Apostolic admonition: “Hold fast the form of sound words,” hold fast the heart-cheering Doctrine of Salvation by unfrustrable Grace, through the Atoning Blood and Righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ: and that Blood applied, and the soul clothed with the Righteousness of the Son of God, through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Spirit of God: the sinner being as perfectly passive in his second, as he was in his first birth. Deviate from this Gospel system, and it is impossible that Jesus can consistently be crowned Lord of all. We have seen as yet, not a particle of evidence drawn from the oracles of God which opposes the views we entertain of the Bible plan of saving sinners, and until we obtain that light, we shall be pardoned for still believing – That God as a Sovereign created man upright, and that He gave Him a law as a test of obedience and a proof of His sovereignty, by which He is holden under obligation to yield his unqualified obedience to its precepts; and that the penalty annexed to a breach of that law, (being death,) was reasonable. That man freely and voluntarily transgressed that law; (by man we mean the whole posterity of Adam the first, who concentrated their natural existence in Adam the first and became justly exposed to the wrath of God, and that it is referable to that transgression with its effects that the Apostle has appropriately said unto him, that he is “earthy, sensual, devilish.” That he, in a state of nature is unprepared to render that obedience to which he is called, and that for every failure he is culpable; and that irrespective of the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the second or last Adam, it would have been just, had God poured out the vials of His wrath upon his devoted head). Here permit us to remark:
Dear brethren, that it has often been matter of surprise to us, that Christians, blessed as they are with the Spirit of truth in their hearts, and the word of truth in their hands, should disagree in regard to the objects to be secured by the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we reflect that His Humiliation, with His whole Mediatorial interference on behalf of sinners, was the direct result of Divine Arrangement or purpose, and suppose that any contingency can frustrate that eternal purpose, we must have very inadequate ideas of Him “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,” and who has said, “My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure.” Again: “I will work and who shall let (hinder) it.” We propose giving only a few of the very many portions of Scripture directly referable to the Personal Advent of Messiah, and the object to be attained by His advent.
At an early epoch Moses had a discovery of Zion’s King; (we do not mean that he saw Him naturally as a man,) but a Divine communication was made to his understanding, whence he exclaimed; “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your Brethren like unto me: Him shall ye hear in all things, and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” It will not be denied that Moses attended to the Messiah in this trial: this being granted; we ask, was not Moses confined in his prophetic office to national Israel ? Again, was he not in his Mediatorial character confined to the same people? Those questions being answered affirmatively, as they must be by all who understand the chain of Divine truth, we proceed to say, that if Moses, in his Mediatorial character, was confined to national Israel, and national Israel was typical of spiritual Israel, as will be conceded by Divines; the conclusion is irresistible that the Lord Jesus Christ in His Mediatorial character is confined to Spiritual Israel: in other words, that “Seed which shall serve Him and shall be counted of the Lord for a generation.” But this rational conclusion of ours is sustained by Divine testimony. In the 40th Psalm, 7th and 8th verses, we have the following remarkable language referable to the Lord Jesus: “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.” The Apostle in the 10th chapter of Hebrews, 7th and 9th verses, alludes to the same declaration. Should we not then as honest enquirers after Truth, endeavor to ascertain what that will which the Savior declares He delights to do, is? Having ascertained this, we at once arrive at a certain and irresistible conclusion touching the end of Messiah’s Advent.
We therefore refer you to the following passages of Scripture, which we consider as conclusive; and in our judgment, should put this matter to rest. Matt. 1:21: “And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” John 6:38-39: “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again, at the last day.” John 17:2-3: “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give Eternal Life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is Life Eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Acts 20:28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God , which He hath purchased with His own blood.”
It is objected to our exposition of this text, that we hold, that every individual composing the Church of God here, or those united to the Church Triumphant, were distinctly known to God, eternally chosen in, and redeemed by the Lord Jesus, before they became Christians: consequently, their regeneration is an effect of Redemption. - We maintain this to be the fact; and assert that their redemption by the blood of Christ secures their regeneration.
The atonement was made nearly eighteen hundred years since: it was made for sinners: the object was “to redeem them from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” We maintain that no other rational (not to say Scriptural) ground can be consistently occupied, and refer you to Ephesians 5:25-27 verses, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also 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.” But why need we multiply proofs, when the whole tenor of Scripture upon the subject of Redemption runs in the same channel? And such portions as seem more general at the first view of them, are referable to the redeemed amongst the Gentiles. As an instance: Hebrew 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” This passage is explained in the 14 and 15 verses of the same chapter, which read thus, “Forasmuch then as the Children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the Devil; and deliver them, who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage.”
We are compelled, if disposed to reason fairly, to take one of the following positions: first, That every man will be saved or delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ; and that by every man is meant Adam’s posterity universally; or secondly, That by every man is meant the Church or bride, or sheep, for whom the Savior says, “I lay down My life for the sheep:” and that they will experience Eternal deliverance or salvation: or, thirdly, That the Redeemer has failed to accomplish His undertaking.
Of the same nature is First Epistle, John 2:2. “And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” If Jesus offered Himself a propitiatory sacrifice for the whole family of Adam, then the whole family of Adam are redeemed or Jesus is disappointed: and if they are redeemed, what is to prevent their Eternal Salvation? Were we compelled to make our election between those who hold with Universal Atonement and special application, (we mean their plan) and Universalism: we believe for consistency’s sake, we should embrace the latter; - For it will be at once perceived, according to the first, that the object is to avert that soul refreshing doctrine of Particular and Personal Election, and Particular and efficacious Redemption, in this: The Father appoints the Son to Redeem Adam’s posterity in extensor: The Son redeemed Adam’s posterity in extensor: And the Holy Ghost refuses to make application of the Blood of Christ to the hearts of the Redeemed in extensor. Thus creating a schism in the Godhead or Divine Essence.
We are aware however, that something is said about the acceptance of the Atonement, on the part of the sinner when “offered” to him. Paul’s reproof to the Church at Galatia , we conceive, quite applicable to such professors: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” Can such persons be aware of the absurdity they are involved in? They make man the elector, who elects himself; (for such is the effect of that scheme: Salvation depending upon his acceptance of the Atonement;) to eternal happiness, Heaven the destined port; God, Angels and the Spirits of just men made perfect, his associates: all of which is a direct reversal of the Bible order of things, which runs thus: “Ye have not chosen Me,” said the Lord,) “but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.”- John 15:16. We would ask such persons, What have you gained? To avoid the Eternal purpose of God in Predestination, you contend for General provision; but in your special application, you necessarily involve Election! You may calculate your loss and gain, by the following rule: God, who declares He is a Spirit, did not Elect men to Salvation: but the Spirit, who is God, did Elect men to Salvation!
The Author of the Bible declares: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.” – Psalm 110:3. “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.” - John 5:25. We cannot conceive by what sort of reasoning, a tree devoid of root, is to carry on the vegetating process, to the growing ripening and perfecting of fruit: and it is equally beyond our conception, how a man or woman can bear the fruit of the Spirit, who are not first possessed of the Spirit. - That Faith is essential to the rending acceptable service unto God, will not, we presume, be controverted; and that in the absence of that love, which is the fulfilling of the Law, there is an absence of vital religion, will be conceded by all, we think equally clear: what then is the testimony borne by the Inspired writer on this subject? Listen: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, Faith.” Hence we discover, that both love and faith are fruits of the Spirit. Can any man, in his senses, contend for the existence of either, in the absence of the Spirit: when they both grow upon a Spiritual Tree, whose root is Spiritual? If the natural inclination of the mind is to evil, as the Scriptures declare, and that, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the Law of God, neither in deed can be;” does it not follow, that there must, of necessity, be a preponderating influence in man, in order to his subjection to the Law of God? If so: what is this preponderating influence? - “To be carnally minded, is death; but to be Spiritually minded, is life and peace.” - Romans 8:6. Hence we discover the propriety of Paul’s declaration: “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary, the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Galatians 5:17. How an individual, renewed in the spirit of his mind, can be brought to renounce Experimental Religion, and deny the agency of the Spirit of God in rendering the sinner subservient to the Law of God; we confess, is beyond our conception: hence we leave the matter to others to explain; believing that, were we to deny His energy in the work of Regenerating the heart, it would be tantamount to lying to the Holy Ghost.
We have said that man, in a state of unregeneracy, is in love with the world and its enjoyments, and that his affections being set upon them, he has no ear to hear, eye to see, or heart to understand Spiritual things. All within is quietness and repose. “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” - Luke 11:21-22. Hence we discern, while under the influence of the Prince of the power of the air, internal peace reigns; but when called by the Stronger than he, to wit: the Lord Jesus, to life from the dead, his eyes are opened, his ears unstopped, the stony heart taken aware, and an heart of flesh given: - whence he is brought to feel his wretchedness and misery. Sin becomes exceedingly sinful, and a beauty surpassing every thing hitherto seen, developed in Holiness of heart and life; deep conviction seizes the heart, and repentance, (being the gift of Jesus,) flows from the inmost soul: he reads, “Wanting” in every of his performances, and is led to see clearly that, “by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified in His sight:” he learns his insolvency and is now prepared, when the same blessed spirit reveals Jesus to the astonished mind, to crown Him Lord of all. The desire of the soul is to glorify God in his body and spirit, through life and in death: and O, that God would make us all practically, “Particular Baptists:” that the Lord Jesus would enable us to prove our Discipleship by doing whatsoever He commands us: and may the Holy Spirit guide us into Truth, is our ardent desire, for Jesus’ sake; Amen.
Elder Thomas P. Dudley, 1830
By Thomas P. Dudley
The Licking Association of Particular Baptists, now in session at Friendship Meeting House; To the associations with whom we correspond; wish Grace, Mercy and Peace.
Beloved in the Lord:
We have been permitted, again, to assemble as an Association, and rejoice to find, from the tenor of the letters from the Churches composing this body, that much harmony, and perfect unanimity upon the principles of Truth, as developed in the Constitution of our Association, exists. The Psalmist says: “He fashioneth their hearts alike.” Our astonishment at the unprecedented oneness of language spoken by our Churches is only explained in the fact that “He, holds the heart of the king in His hand and turneth it whithersoever He please: as rivers of waters are turned.” Brethren, although there has been a flood of error, poured in upon the Baptists of our country; and though many seem disposed to follow the pernicious ways of those “ambassadors of Satan,” - yet Brethren, Zion has no cause to fear, but when she is thoroughly tried, she will come forth as gold: much of her dross may be taken away by our modern reformers, or more appropriately, deformers: and hence we should not consider it a severe dispensation of the Providence of God towards us, if it shall eventuate in purging of the Church of her anti-Christian lumber.
Brethren, we rejoice to find there is yet a redeeming spirit in the Zion of our God; and that, although she has been dosing until antichrist made considerable encroachment; yet the trumpet has been sounded: she has awoke and risen in the majesty of the strength of Israel’s God, and proclaimed that Sandemanianism, should not live amongst them. We say, so far, so good. But Brethren, there remains to be purged more dross. We have about as much fellowship for John Glass’s system as for Mr. Fuller’s, if Mr. Fuller believes (as his advocates say he does) in a general atonement and special application. What is the exposition of this nondescript? God, they say, has laid a foundation as large as the whole posterity of Adam the first in extenso, and His Spirit will only prepare materials (special application) enough to build a house of not even half the dimensions of the original foundation: consequently, a large portion of the foundation is entirely useless. Does this comport with your ideas of Him, who declares, “He is a Rock and His work is perfect.” Brethren, Salvation is either of Grace or it is of works, and it is high time for Christians to take the one side or the other! The ridge-pole is a dangerous hobby to be ridden, and he must be a very skilful rider, who can keep his seat long upon it. We have nothing to loose in declaring our firm conviction, that Salvation is wholly of Grace; and the Salvation of every sinner, who has been, is, or ever will be saved, is the result of their being Chosen in the Lord Jesus, before the world began: they being so vitally connected with Him as to render Him responsible for their debts: the payment by the Surety, their Husband, and consequent release, by the Blessed Holy Spirit; and that all such will ultimately hear the welcome of, “enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.” O Brethren: may we be watching and waiting the second coming of the Bridegroom; and hail His advent with, “Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly;” is our Prayer, for Jesus’ sake.
Elder Thomas P. Dudley, 1830