The Circular Letter of the White Water Regular Baptist Association, in Session with Little Blue River Church, Rush County, Indiana, 1851.
Dear Brethren and Sisters in the Lord:
God, who is rich in mercy, and who holds the destinies of Nations in His hands, has, in His infinite goodness, protected us and brought us through the trials and scenes of another revolving year, and permitted us, according to former arrangement, to meet in our associate capacity; in which capacity it has been our former custom to address you with what is called a “Circular Letter,” in which your attention was called to some important topic of the Christian Religion; and so various have been the subjects discussed that we are at a loss to find one that has not been before you.
But as Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the theme of the Christian Religion, and, also, as it is manifestly set forth in the Scriptures of Divine Truth, that God, in His sovereign Providence, from eternity, designed to save a people from the fallen posterity of Adam, who He also designed to be the Bride, the Lamb’s wife: and it is also evidently set forth that Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, existed from all eternity, who is called in the Scriptures of Truth, the Ancient of Days, Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and of His increase of His Government and peace there shall be no end; upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with Justice from henceforth, even forever.
It is also evidently manifest that Jesus Christ the Bridegroom was set up from everlasting to be the Mediator of the New Covenant, and by offering Himself, without spot or blemish to God, He should redeem His Bride from the pollution she had fallen into, and present her without spot or wrinkle before the throne of His Father, washed and arrayed in fine linen – made clean and white in His own blood that was shed on Calvary. Consequently it appears without contradiction that there is an indissoluble union of Christ and His Bride from all eternity, which topic we will offer a few thoughts upon.
As we are circumscribed by the limits of a Circular Letter, we can only take a brief view of the subject, and leave it for your improvement. The doctrine of the eternal living union with Christ and His Church may be disputed by some, as the word union does not occur in the Scriptures. But we will notice what the Apostle says in reference to the subject: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is ONE body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Now it is obviously shown by the expression of the Apostle, that there is but one Church, or body, and but one Christ, or Lord, which God the Father raised from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, and put all things under His feet; and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, and the fullness of Him that calleth all in all.
Now we understand the word “one,” as it is made use of by the Apostle, as a substantive, and to signify “concord,” agreement, persons united, one mind, a single mass, or aggregate; and unit, unity are derivative of the root “one.” Hence we see that the doctrine of a union of Christ and His Bride is most clearly inculcated in the above text of Scripture; for Christ and His Church (as shown to be) stands inseparably connected as of one mind, and one body, and as one Head is to that body, so is Christ to His Church, which is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, which we will further show as it is gloriously exemplified in the relation existing in Christ as the Head of His Church, and as illustrated by the Apostle. For he says “the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit; for the body is not one member but many, so that the foot cannot say to the hand, nor the ear to the eye, I am not of the body; for if the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? Or if the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members, every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. For if they were all one member where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto he hand, I have no need of thee; nor, again, the Head unto the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more; those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary, so that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care, one of another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” How evident it is, then, that the body cannot exist without the Head, neither can it be a complete body without the Head, for sever the Head from the body, and the body, or all the members that compose that body, would perish. Hence all the nourishment for the support of the body is received through the Head, and is communicated to all the different members or parts of the system for their sustenance and invigoration and gives to each of them life and activity. So also the sense of seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling is communicated through the Head to the members, so that all the different members, from the least to the greatest, receive their life and vitality through the same source, and would become a dead mass to all the different senses, if that communication were destroyed.
But to make this union appear more glorious and complete, and more consoling and comforting to His blood-purchased body or Bride, the sense of feeling only is obvious in the remotest extremities of the whole system, or body, and is sensibly communicated to the Head upon the slightest touch. Then what a beautiful illustration is here presented of Christ as being Head of His Church. “In all their afflictions, He was afflicted.” Who can be touched with our infirmities? And who is the support and life of His Church.
Dear brethren, let us notice more particularly the expression in relation to the Head: “Nor again, the Head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you.” Now it is manifest that Christ purchased the Church by the sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and gave Himself for her that He might redeem her from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works, and justifies her from the condemnation of the law. “For who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather that has risen again, who is ever at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for her,” His lawful Bride, in as much as He fulfilled the law for her; washed and made her white in His own blood; clothed her in His righteousness, and made her to be partaker of His heavenly Kingdom, and a joint heir with Him in His Father’s inheritance. – Hence we see the glorious discriminating love and mercy, in the Salvation of His Body or Bride, in securing to her in the everlasting Covenant, the place He designs or would have her to fill, in the militant state; and finally, her place in the prepared Mansions of His heavenly Kingdom according to His eternal and Divine arrangement in the accomplishment of all His gracious and sovereign purposes; the fulfillment of His promises made to her in His Covenant, and the consummation of all her hopes, and all her joys; when she shall be arrayed in her Bridal attire of fine linen, clean and made white; when the marriage supper will take place, and she shall become the Church Triumphant, and inherit the Kingdom prepared for her before the foundation of the world.
Again, the doctrine of atonement and the redemption price also demonstrates that a union exists of Christ and the Church, as Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews plainly shows in his discoursing on Christ being a priest after the order of Melchisedec, to be far more excellent than the priests of Aaron’s order, and the imperfection of legal sacrifice, pertaining to the first covenant, which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washing, and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle – not made with hands – that is, to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once, into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us, (that is, His Church.) For under the first covenant they worshiped in a worldly sanctuary, and in their religious service performed carnal ordinances.
No grace was required to entitle the priest to obtain the office of priesthood; but if he were of the tribe of Levi, and of the family of Aaron, and being perfect in all his physical and mental parts, although he might be an utter stranger to grace, wrought upon the heart, yet he was entitled to the office of the priesthood under the first covenant. This holds yet true in the world and its religious and carnal devotion – no grace is required, and the lack of it enhances his standing before his devotees. Not so with the priesthood of the second covenant; for He being a priest after the order of Melchisedec who is made not after the law of commandments, but after the power of endless life. Consequently all its law are spiritual – all its ordinances – all its doctrine – all its promises – all its gifts – all its provisions – all its privileges – all its appurtenances, and all its subjects are spiritual, in fact, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the Church of God is her invisibility, for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, “for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;” for if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the pirifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself, without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God;” By which offering the Church or Bride of Christ is sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Then how conspicuous this union appears, of the Church and Emanuel, when we contemplate the condescension and humility He displayed in descending into our lower world, and clothing Himself in mortal flesh, and was made like unto His brethren, (sin excepted) and bore the mocks and scoffs of a sinful world – preached His own glorious Gospel- healed the sick – cast out devils – delivered His laws and ordinances to His disciples – shed His blood on the tree for the redemption of His Bride, and rose triumphant over all the powers of darkness, and ascending on high, He seated Himself at the right hand of God, the Father, to confirm the Mediatorial contract; in the fulfillment of which He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called, might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Hence we see that Christ so loved the Church that He gave Himself for her; for “I have loved thee with everlasting love, and with loving kindness have I drawn thee;” and in return, she believes and rejoices in believing that Jesus Christ is her Mediator, and has atoned for all her sins – that He is her Alpha, and her Omega – that He is her Husband, and will perform and fulfill all the stipulations guaranteed to her in the New Testament of His blood, and that as all power in heaven and in earth, is committed unto Him, He will reign over her in love, and will do all His pleasure.
Time would fail us to speak of all the Scriptures that exhibit this union. See the close and intimate connection, or union, that exists in the vine and the branches, that the branches cannot subsist without the vine. Christ says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the Husbandman;” and again, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” In the natural vine a complete union is necessary, and requisite for the support and nourishment of the branches; but destroy the connection of the vine, or take away the branches, and it would cease to be a vine in all its ramification; but let the sap from the root have free access through the vine to the branches with the labor of the husbandman, and the fruit will be bountiful and delicious. Hence as the Godhead dwells bodily in Jesus Christ, we see what a beauty is displayed in the comparison and illustration He has given of Himself and His Church in the parable of the vine and the branches, and as branches cannot bear fruit of themselves so the members of Christ’s body cannot bear fruit without His supporting grace, and the enlightening influence of His holy Spirit to instruct and teach them in the ways of holiness and pure love, which is a Divine principle that emanates from the Father, and will make the Church appear in all her beauty, and as a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid – where the great Shepherd will gather the tender lambs of His fold to nourish and feed them – where they will renounce their own righteousness, which is in the law or their plans of salvation, and having found Jesus, (for they knew not the voice of strangers) they will then realize that they are embraced in that union which has existed from eternity, in the good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep, that they should never perish.
Now dear brethren, in closing we would exhort you to remember that the Church is the ground-work and pillar of the Truth, the habitation of the living God, therefore we beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus, so walk ye in Him, being rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanks-giving, being faithful in every good work, provoking one another on to love and good works, and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and fear not the consequences which attend this faithful discharge of your accountability as Church members, for as we see many children of the bond-woman lurking round, we are in orderly conduct called upon to ward off and defend ourselves against every wind of false doctrine put forth to destroy our peace, and let us accede to no compromise that will endanger our liberty, neither in practice nor doctrine.
Finally brethren, stand fast, holding the tradition you have been taught by the Spirit in the word of Truth: be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of Salvation, for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain Salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then dear brethren, take encouragement, and look forward with joy to the time when we shall be called upon to lay aside the weapons of our warfare, when we shall be discharged from the field of battle, and be transported to the climes of eternal glory, where we shall inhabit the eternal bright mansions of rest prepared to receive the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, where God shall wipe away all tears from her eyes, where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor sickness, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away; and on those delectable and heavenly hills there shall be no night, nor the need of a candle, neither the light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth her light, and she shall reign forever in the immediate smiles of her lovely Bridegroom, who will be her day-light – yea, her noontide glory of that heaven in which her redeemed spirit will bask in all the fruition of love, and where she will be welcomed by all the heavenly host in spreading their lovely wings and soar with ecstasies of joy unknown to us, where she shall through endless eternity pluck new blossoms from the Tree of Life, and breathe with transporting joy the sweet atmosphere of immortality forever. Amen.
Wilson Thompson, 1851.