The messengers of the several Baptist churches, belonging to the Philadelphia Association, met in the city of New York, October 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th, 1787.
To the churches to which they are respectively related, greeting.
Dear brethren, -- We beg leave to introduce our circular letter by informing you, that our souls have been refreshed at this meeting, by the glorious tidings brought from different parts, of the advancement of our Redeemer's cause. We congratulate you on this joyful event, portentous, we hope, of the speedy accomplishment of the promises made by the Father to Christ, the King of Zion. As also, on the kind interposition of Divine Providence, visible in that happy union which obtained among the members of the late federal convention, to agree upon and report to the States in this Union, a form of a Federal Government; which promises, on its adoption, to rescue our dear country from that national dishonor, injustice, anarchy, confusion and bloodshed, which have already resulted from the weakness and inefficiency of the present form; and which we have the greatest reason to fear is but the beginning of sorrows, unless the people lay hold on this favorable opportunity offered to establish an efficient government, which, we hope, may, under God, secure our invaluable rights, both civil and religious; which it will be in the power of the great body of the people, if hereafter found necessary, to control and amend.
As we wish you to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we shall address you on the important subject of Sanctification. We are exhorted to contend earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints; and as there are some who deny the work of sanctification, and too many who are little acquainted with it, we shall therefore consider the subject in the following order --
I. We shall explain the term sanctification.
II. Give some reasons why sanctification is necessary.
III. The happy effects in the subjects of it.
I. In a performance of this nature, brevity must be expected; yet enough may be said to display our sentiments on the subject. By searching the Scriptures, you will find the term hath various significations.
1. It is used to signify the setting apart a person or thing to the peculiar service of God. This is the general use of the word in the Old Testament, and in this sense God is said to sanctify the Sabbath, Gen. ii. 3; and to the same purpose it is applied to the first born, Exod. xiii; 2. Thus the temple, the priests, the altar and sacrifices, were sanctified under the law.
2. It is used for that holiness and purity of nature, which gives us a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light; and, in some respects, may be distinguished from regeneration, though it is radically connected with it. The Apostle, speaking of our salvation, said, "It was not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost," Tit. iii. 5.
By washing of regeneration, we understand that great change, which is instantaneously made in us by the power of the Holy Ghost, when we are first made alive in Christ Jesus; and from that period we are new creatures, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. The word is used in the same sense in 1 Cor. vi. 11, where the Apostle says, "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified." In regeneration, the divine nature is begun in us by the power of the Holy Ghost, and without this work, there can be no growth in grace. From these passages of Scripture, we see that the Holy Ghost makes a distinction between regeneration and sanctification; in regeneration we receive a new nature or principle, and sanctification is the growing of that new nature to the stature of a man in Christ Jesus. The washing of regeneration is never repeated, but the renewing of the Holy Ghost is carried on through the whole life of a Christian, till he ascends to be with Jesus, Phil. i. 6. It is the Holy Ghost which begins it, and it is his work to finish it; for in the great plan of salvation, the Holy Spirit is as firmly engaged to begin and finish this work, as the Son of God was to finish the work of redemption assigned him to do. The council of God has ordained this way to make us meet for that state of glory, to which we have a right by the adorable Redeemer's righteousness; and therefore we are said to be "chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit," 2 Thess. ii. 13.
II. We now proceed to demonstrate the necessity of sanctification.
1. We premise, that the necessity of sanctification and regeneration arise from the same cause, the fall of man. This has incapacitated us for communion with God; therefore, notwithstanding all our blessed Redeemer has done, we are represented to be in a lost state till this good work is begun. As sanctification is a progressive work, the necessity of it arises from the consideration that we are at first only babes in Christ, and not complete in holiness; for the best men have a body of sin and death. Every renewed soul must feel this to be his case. The great Apostle groaned under it, and the beloved disciple said, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves," 1 John i. 8. The Holy Ghost is promised to dwell with us and remain in us as his temple, and ye know the temple of the Lord must be holy. "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
2. Sanctification is necessary, because without it we cannot honor and glorify God. For this our blessed Lord prayed, and for this we should daily apply to the throne of grace, that we may understand the mysteries of his kingdom, and the glory of his grace; that we copy after his great example, and honor him in every dispensation of his providence.
3. It was the great design of Christ's coming into the world; therefore his name is called. Jesus, because he saves his people from the demerit and the pollution of sin; purifymg a peculiar people unto himself, zealous of good works. This great end of the Redeemer's coming shall be fully accomplished in all God's elect by the effectual operations of his Holy Spirit; whose work it is to glorify the Son of God, in applying his benefits to the heirs of glory, and give them a meetness to that inheritance that fadeth not away.
III. We shall now attempt to consider the effects of sanctification.
1. The effects of it appear immediately after regeneration, in a sincere and hearty detestation of sin. The prophet having spoken of a new heart and a new spirit, adds, "Then shall ye remember your own evil ways and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight," Ezek. xxxvi. 31. No man can loathe himself till he is born of God, because the new man only sees the deformity of sin. After he is turned he truly repents after a godly sort, and is humbled in dust and ashes before God; firmly believing that nothing can deliver him from guilt, but the precious blood of the dear Redeemer.
2. Another effect is, we see more clearly our divorcement from the law, by the satisfaction of Christ, as the way by which life is to be obtained by the believing soul, who, at the same time, honors the law, by acknowledging that it is good, just, and holy. It is the fatal mistake of all in a state of nature, to expect acceptance with God, by the deeds of the law; but the renewed man knows that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. The great Apostle says, "I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." What a display of infinite wisdom in the plan of salvation! Here we see the sinner saved by grace, flowing consistent with all the perfections of God, and, at the same time, maintaining the honor of the divine law. Vain are the expectations of all who separate what God has joined together. Preserve divine truth in its own order, and it is glorious and harmonious. In the great plan of salvation, God joined together justification by the righteousness of Christ, imputed unto us by an act of grace, by which we have a right to eternal life, and sanctification, which gives us a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. One great error in religion is, separating what God has joined together, and joining together what God has separated. Beware of all who applaud the imputed righteousness of Christ, and, at the same time, either deny the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, or speak lightly or reproachfully of it. He, therefore, who would either verbally or doctrinally exclude the imputed righteousness of Christ, and, at the same time, make great professions of holiness and zeal for religion, ought to be considered as an inveterate enemy to the blessed Redeemer and his truth.
Now, dear brethren, we take our leave of you, by entreating you to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called. Watch over one another in love; in humility, seek spiritual growth to glorify your heavenly Father, and appear as lights in the world. May the God of all grace sanctify you wholly, and preserve you blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
JAMES MANNING, Moderator. WILLIAM VANHORN, Clerk. ===============
[From Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1787. - jrd]
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