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1901 – Circular Letter Virginian Annual Meeting

Written by William Smoot.

August 14-16, 1901

To the churches of her membership, and to all of like precious faith scattered abroad, Greeting:

Beloved Brethren: -

In addressing you upon this occasion in our Annual Circular, we desire to call your attention to the following Scripture: “Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof: and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.” – Ezekiel 44: 5.

This text stands connected with an accurate description of the Heavenly Sanctuary. The heavenly house as described in all its vastness, and in its most minute arrangement. The line is laid upon it, and its exact measurement described. What might appear to be its smaller, as well as its larger, parts are described with an exactness befitting Gospel work. In this minute description the prophet exposes himself to an attack from those who hate the Truth for being too particular, too stringent; “no need,” say they, “of being so particular about such small matters,” as to measure the arches of its windows, and the posts of its porch. Yet to some extent we see this course adopted in the erection of an earthly building. An expert workman will prepare a model by which to work, will draw a proportionate line upon its various parts. Does any one suppose that the Architect of the Universe is less wise – less precise? Most surely has He laid the foundation of the heavenly building, firm and secure, and adjusted to all its several parts; “for the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.” – Hab. ii. 11.

Ezekiel has wisely drawn a line, wisely drawn because drawn by inspiration, upon every part of this glorious building from foundation work to topmost stone. He speaks also with the same distinctness of the worship of the Heavenly house; and of the abominations that seek an entrance there. The text that we have quoted stands after this wonderful description of the true Sanctuary, and refers to the purity of its divine worship, and the heavenly preservation of the holy house as a witness of Truth. “Son of man,” He says, “mark well.” The term “Son of man” looks beyond Ezekiel for primary application. Most surely it was not Ezekiel either as a man or as a prophet that watched over this wonderful house, “with every going forth of the Sanctuary.” The tem “Son of man,” is applied to Christ elsewhere in the Scriptures, (see Luke 9:22.) He is the Head of the Church; the eyes and ears of the Church are in Him. The gifts to see and hear are in Him. He presides over the body, supplies, protects, defends, and comforts the members thereof. He is “the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” – Ephesians i. 22-23. It is His all-seeing eye that “Beholds,” and before Him all things shine as an eternal noon. It is He who is alone able to “mark well,” as no other power or being can, save only the immaculate Son of God.

Yet in vital, eternal union with Him are the members of His body; among whom are the chosen men who are called, qualified and sent forth to minister at the holy altar. He dwells among, works in, and speaks through these holy men, who are held as stars in His right hand, and whenever He moves them, there they shine. He is to them the “tongues of the learned” (Isaiah i. 4), to the comfort and instruction of those unto whom they minister. “For it is not ye that speak,” the Master says, “but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” – Matthew x. 20.

The spiritual power of the wonderful Word fills the whole body, thus identified in eternal union with the immortal Head; as the dew that descended upon Hermon, as the ointment poured upon Aaron’s head. It is the power of an endless life spoken through the Head, felt in every part of the body of Christ as the tide throbs through the bosom of the sea. “Mark well.” Not carelessly, complacently, but diligently; not drowsily, but sleeplessly; with far more diligence; here is something of far more importance than other fleeting vanities. To pay attention to the regulations of the Gospel that governs the holy Kingdom, to seriously mark well the order there, if of infinitely more importance than to attend to any character of earthly engagement.

“Behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears.” These are not the eyes that “see not,” nor the ears “that hear not.” They are not the eyes or ears of the natural man’s body; they are the eyes and ears that are set in the spiritual Head who is Christ Jesus the Lord, that can see the heavenly calling; ears that can hear the voice of Truth. Eyes that can pierce the shades of earthly night, and behold the city “Forever hid from mortal sight.” Eyes that were opened at the prayer of the prophet, (2 Kings vi. 17,) to see the heavenly host protecting the prophet Elijah; to see that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Eyes that never close, ears that are never deaf; spiritual powers that pierce mortality, that grasp the enduring substance of heavenly things: that cannot be turned by earthly power, blinded by human logic and argument, nor seduced from the Truth of God.

Well indeed that such heavenly powers are called into requisition for nothing short of this could render obedience to “mark well,” “all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof.” “All that I say unto thee,” concerning all the ordinances, and all the laws of this heavenly house. Nothing embraced in the Divine doctrine or order is left out of the “all” of this commandment. The Word of Life in the heart and engraven upon the pages of Scripture embody the “all” that is said. In visible manifestations the beautiful and precious doctrine and order comprehend the ordinances and laws of the visible church. The testimony covers all that is needful in the government and equipment of the holy house. Upon it is written, “Holiness to the Lord.” Idolatry finds no place in its holy atmosphere, To render obedience to its laws, and the regulations that govern some secret, worldly order is an impossibility. All the ordinances and laws of this house furnish the complete equipment of its glorious splendor.

“Mark well” its ordinances, How careless, how thoughtless do men consider the Gospel order of a Gospel church and its sacred ordinances. It is not doing this when, for instance in regard to Eternal Union, we speak of an eternal “Life” union between the Head of the church and the members of the body without reference to the personality in such oneness. Much worse is the notion of a spiritual Head (Christ) to a natural body (Adam sinners’). This is substituting a theory, or philosophy of Babylon for an ordinance of Zion! We give this as an example of careless, inaccurate thinking, because it is so commonly received.

But the command goes on to say, “Mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the Sanctuary.” Too many over-zealous ministers have bullied too many carnal men into “the entering in of the house.” This may be construed to refer to the character of the worshippers that enter, but must have a deeper meaning too. The entering in of the Sanctuary has also reference to the character of its worship. The polluted streams of earthly doctrines, theories and order cannot enter here into this sacred place. Nor can these polluted streams go forth, that is, proceed from the Sanctuary; and so far as the visible church is concerned, can not be held in her fellowship, or preached from her pulpits. At the gates of the city we are told are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are “the children of the regeneration,” that enter her; not “sinners born all over again.”

The slip-sod construction of doctrine and Gospel order among self-styled “Old Baptists,” can never be tolerated under the accurate line which marks well the entering in and going forth of this heavenly sanctuary. The Word of the Lord goes forth from Jerusalem. In marking well what proceeds from the Sanctuary we see the Truth and the Order of the Gospel shine clear as a sunbeam from the heavenly throne. Its glorious light forbids such a loose construction of Zion’s laws that disorder should run riot there. The visible church stands as a temple to the praise and glory of Israel’s God, and as a witness to eternal Truth; and thus the preserving care and the glory of heaven is declared in the holy house, and among the people He has formed for His own purpose.

Beloved Brethren, we meet on this occasion upon the field where twelve years ago our churches passed through the flames of a great heart-rending contest for Gospel Truth and Order. Misrepresentations, outright falsehood, willful slander, and malignant abuse form but a part of what we have endured. Many who were active in that Contest have passed away, the false prophecies of doom indulged in have been almost forgotten, the shafts of slander have fallen harmlessly at our feet.

Upon the same field where these wonderful scenes occurred twelve years ago, we meet again; our churches, by the grace of God, in sweet peace and harmony, and united upon the principles of eternal Truth, uncompromised. A peaceful and quite travel has now marked the course of these churches during these years. Many dear saints who were in the heat of that contest have passed, we confidently believe, to their immortal reward. In their stead others have been raise up as witnesses to the same precious Truth. “There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon; and they of that city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” – Psalm 72:16.

We fondly hope that we have met as “a remnant according to the election of grace,” to speak of the same things testified to by our holy brethren at this place in 1889. Our meeting has been, we trust, an heavenly season from the presence of our God. We have been favored with good weather, good order, and a large and attentive congregation has been present. . . .

W. M. Smoot, Moderator. 1901
Oscar Moore, Clerk