Written by William M. Smoot
The Virginia Annual Meeting in session with the Occoquan Church, at Oak Grove, Prince William County, Virginia, August 17, 18, 19, 1904, to the churches whose messengers we are, and our brethren abroad, Greeting:
Very Dear Brethren in the Lord: - We esteem it our happy privilege to again address you in the holy bonds of Gospel grace, and desire to call your attention to the Holy Testimony recorded in Psalm cxxii, 3,4. “Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.”
We have here a wonderful revelation of the unity and mission of the Gospel church. Nor are we left to speculate in regard to the Heavenly Builder. In Hebrews iii, 4, we are told that “Every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God.” While earthly houses (worldly organizations) are built by men, as, John Wesley building the Methodist, John Calvin the Presbyterian and Reform, and King Henry viii of England the Episcopal church, and so on, the God of Israel is the Builder of the Church of which we write; “Upon this rock” He says, “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
“Jerusalem is builded.” The stones (membership) of the building are lively stones, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. John wrote: “I saw the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven.” – Revelation xxi, 2.
This leaves us no room to cavil in regard to the city or its Heavenly Builder, nor the material of which it is composed. It is the city of God. Built on the Rock, of the Rock, and in the Rock, and the Rock itself is Christ. But the text speaks more surely of the manner of building. It says, “compact together.” Here is the eternal unity or oneness of the heavenly city. What can be more compact that the members of the body as chosen in and united to the eternal Head; forever one in a relationship, spiritual and vital, eternal, indissoluble, and indestructible. Paul asks in Romans vii, 35-39; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘for Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, no life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor heights, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Is not this a wonderful compactness, an indissoluble unity!
And equally so is the love manifested among this people, which flows from heart to heart, which reigns in every breast, for “every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” – 1 John iv, 7. In this heavenly love they share each others sorrows, help bear each others burdens, rejoice in each others joys; and have fellowship with the Father (1 John i, 3,) and His Son Jesus Christ.
“Compacted together,” therefore not only presents the impregnable and ever-enduring character of the holy city, but also the love and fellowship abounding there, uniting them in an heavenly unity, which prevails above every other relationship, cementing them in wondrous and immortal love which shall never be destroyed. To this holy city the tribes go up we are told, “the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel.” The heavenly tribes, the Lord’s tribes, the tribes of Israel consecrated to the Lord, for “the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” “This people,” He says, “I have formed for Myself, they shall shew forth My praise.” Most surely do we see that this does not embrace the world that perish, which lying in ignorance and wickedness, the great world of mankind, unacquainted with the ways and works of God, having enmity against God, His Truth and His dear people.
“The tribes of the Lord” are His own chosen people, chosen from of old from everlasting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and manifested in earthen vessels, that are born of an earthly head. These heavenly children in all of their various gifts, as set in the body as it hath pleased the Father, we are told, “go up unto the testimony of Israel;” go up, most surely it is. Every thing else is a downward travel. All the streams of earthly worship flow down like mountain rivers, down to earth’s sensual pleasures, polluted forever with the pollutions of time. The brightest displays of earth are forever mantled with sorrow, sin, and gloom; short-lived, rising like the mushroom in a night, to pass with the passing day. But the worship of God flowing upward, to the testimony of Israel, soaring above and beyond the bounds of time and sense, reaching out into the sunshine of eternal Truth, basking in the golden light which falls from His Throne. Most surely then it is to go up.
For “in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” – Micah iv, 1, 2.
Do we not feel, dear saints of God, as we bow in holy solemn service in the courts of the Lord’s house as our songs arise in humble worship, the spirit of this upward flow; yea, in all the service of Zion, in all the travel of saints, in all the gathering together in the holy courts of the Lord’s house, it is a going up; and what for? “unto the testimony of Israel,” we are told. “The testimony of Israel” is the Truth of our God in the Lord Jesus Christ, what He has been pleased to reveal of Himself, in Him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In this testimony is recorded the doctrine of Absolute Predestination, Eternal Unconditional and Personal Election, Eternal Vital Union, the doctrine of Adoption, of the Regeneration, and of the Final Judgment. “To the law and to the testimony,” we bring them, and “if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
The fables of the world, the religious systems thereof are understood by “the world,” “they are of the world,” says the apostle, “therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them,” and hence there success winning the world to their cause; but “we are of God little children, and he that is of God, heareth us.” “To give thanks” says the Psalmist “unto the name of the Lord.” To give Him thanks for what the world derides Him, as He says; “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, thanking the Father that these things were hidden from the world!” He was in the spirit of thanksgiving.
And it is “unto the name of the Lord;” that name which is above every name, which is as a strong tower into which the righteous run and are safe:
“A shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.”
We trust, dear brethren, that we have been blessed with some Divine evidence of the Lord’s blessed Presence through our present meeting. The weather has been all that we could have desired. A large congregation has been in attendance with the church, we have been favored with good order, good preaching, while love and fellowship, we trust, has abounded, to the honor and glory of the God of Israel.
W. M. Smoot, Moderator. December 1904.
L. H. Potter, Clerk.