The Divinity of Christ
Written by R. Redding,
of Cornwall-Chasewater & Truro
THE CIRCULAR LETTER
FROM THE Elders, Ministers, and Messengers,
OF THE SEVERAL BAPTIST CHURCHES OF THE WESTERN ASSOCIATION,
Assembled at BRISTOL,
In the Meeting-house at Broadmead, June 9th and 10th, 1802.
Maintaining the important Doctrines of three equal Persons in the Godhead; eternal and personal Election; original Sin; particular Redemption; free justification by the imputed Righteousness of Christ; efficacious Grace in Regeneration; the final Perseverance of true Saints; the Resurrection of the Dead; the future Judgement; the eternal Happiness of the Righteous, and endless Misery of the impenitent; with the congregational Order of the Churches, Inviolably:
To the several Churches they represent, or from which they have received Letters.
Grace be to you, and Peace from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ our Lord.
YOUR Ministers and Representatives have assembled once more; your respective states, as Churches of Jesus Christ, have been laid before them; and their spirits have been elevated or depressed, according to the accounts received of your prosperity or adversity. It has given us pleasure to hear of the welfare and increase of many of your societies; 'and pain to he informed of the low estate of others. We have wept with those that weep and rejoiced with those that rejoice. Tremblingly alive to your everlasting interest, we feel unspeakable happiness, when you prosper; but heart-rending anguish, when you decline. Sensible, as we trust you are, of our unfeigned love towards you, and of our deep concern for your eternal felicity, we hope you will receive our present address, with candor and affection.
We wish not, indeed, to enforce upon you any opinions or injunctions of our own invention; but only to remind you of those important truths, which the Holy Spirit has already revealed in the word; and of the salutary advice he has there given. Compare all that we suggest with the sacred Oracles, and receive with all possible docility, what the Spirit of God says to you, in your social capacity, as the churches of the Son of God.
The Holy Spirit himself, who is the Spirit of God, is also denominated the Spirit of Christ. Rom. viii. 9. A strong proof that Christ is God. And remember, Beloved, that it is the office of the Spirit to glorify Christ. He shall glorify me, said our Lord, for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine. John xvi. 14, 15. Wherefore, attend, dearest brethren to what the Spirit says to all the Churches, concerning CHRIST; since the knowledge of his Person, Perfections and Offices, of his Glory and his Grace, is essential to your faith, holiness and comfort. Are you not taught by the Spirit of Truth, that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty? Could stronger terms be employed to teach you his eternal power and godhead? - Does not the Spirit teach the Churches the infinite Intelligence of Christ? Is he not the Son of God, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, bright, piercing, penetrating to see all the works of men? Is there a creature that is not manifest in his sight, thro' the whole compass of creation? Does not the Spirit inform us that he is holy, in his nature and in all his conduct? And that he is also true, in opposition to all error and deceit? the true God, and the Author of Truth in the word ? Are we not taught that He is the Giver of life, and the Arbiter of death? The keys of the invisible world are said to be with him: He openeth and no one shutteth, he and no one openeth. Does not the Spirit instruct us that Christ is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God? Immutable in his nature, faithful to his word, and almighty in his influence? the Creator, Supporter and final End of the whole creation? Does not the Holy Spirit comfort the Churches with this truth, that Christ is every where present with his people, walking amidst his golden Cand1esticks, and holding his ministers in his hand? -- Are we not assured that the seven spirits of God, that is, all the graces, all the gifts, and all the operations of the divine Spirit are at his disposal? Was not the Spirit of God upon him without measure, to qualify him for his work as Mediator, and to be communicated by him to all his members? -- Surely these grand descriptions and sublime ideas of Jesus Christ, which the Spirit gives to the Churches, in beginning of that book which closes the inspired canon, can apply to no mere creature, though of the most exalted order. To take now no, wider range on this subject, we find in the seven short epistles to the churches of Asia Minor, and the introduction prefixed to them, abundant evidence that our Redeemer is the true God and eternal life.
Hear then, Brethren, what the Spirit says to the Churches, on this important article, the Divinity of our Lord Jesus; that thus you may rest your souls on him by faith, at all times; and that your confidence in his Ability and Willingness to save, may never fail.
The Divinity of Christ is a main pillar of the Church. If he be divine, nothing can be too hard for him. However numerous or aggravated your sins may appear, his blood must be sufficient to cleanse you from them all. You may successfully oppose his Righteousness to your Guilt, his Power to your Weakness, his infinite Understanding to your Folly, and his Life to your Death. In yourselves you are guilty, and feeble, and unwise; but in him you have Righteousness, Wisdom and Strength. Ye are dead, but your Life is hid with Christ in God. If Christ be divine, he was fit to undertake the work of your salvation, in the covenant of redemption; able to fulfil the law in your room; and to deliver you from its awful curse, by suffering the wrath of God due to your offences. His own resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven; the consequent mission of the Spirit, and success of his gospel, the conversion of sinners, and establishment of churches; the preservation of the saints in life, and their strong consolation in death; the general resurrection, when all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and live; and the final judgement, when all shall stand before him, and receive from his mouth their respective destination in the future state of rewards and punishments; all these have nothing in them incredible, if he who became the son of man, was properly the son of God; if he who is the head of the Church, and will be the judge of the world, is indeed God over all, blessed for evermore. Only believe the divinity of Christ, and every other article becomes easy: deny this, and the language in which the Spirit was supposed to lead the sacred penmen to express themselves, appears incautious, over-strained, and unaccountable; so that Christianity itself seems scarcely worthy of credit or regard.
Attend, my beloved brethren to what the Spirit says to the Churches not concerning CHRIST, and the Doctrines of the Gospel, (on which we now forbear any further enlargement:) but also concerning the CHURCHES themselves, their State, and their Duty &c. Listen to whatever he says, whether by way of Information, or Exhortation; of Commendation, or Censure; of Encouragement, or Warning; of Promise or Threatening. He who noticed with such discriminating exactness the seven Churches of Asia, is equally apprized of all your circumstances; and it will be your wisdom as far as they correspond with their's, to appropiate to yourselves the admonitions he has given; while you are certainly authorised, according to the analogy of faith, to put in for a share in the consolation he here imparts. -- In each of these short epistles, the Church is first assured by our Lord, I know thy works; and then a more particular enumeration follows; beginning, usually with kind commendation of all that indicated the life of grace; though in most of the Churches, some defect is pointed out, or some evil detected, on account our Lord affirms, I have somewhat, or a few things against thee. Ephesus had left her first love; in Pergamos, some held the doctrine of Balaam, and some that of the Nicolaitanes; Thyatira connived at the seductions of Jezebel; Sardis was dead, though she had a name to live; Laodicea was lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot. Beloved! We charge not these particulars on you all, nor do we positively assert they can be aIl found among you: but they were written undoubtedly for our instruction; to shew succeeding Churches, and the Angels of the Churches, (God make your ministers more worthy of such a name!) what evils may take place among those, who should be the Lights of the World, and the Salt of the Earth.
Let it then be carefully examined whether any of our Churches, or a part of the members of some of them, may not be justly liable to similar animadversions from our omniscient Lord. Hear what the Spirit says, to them who have left their first love, Does conscience testify to any reader of our epistle, Thou art the Man! Once thou wait zealous for the glory of God, and the good of souls; diligent in all the duties of the Christian life; fearful of falling into sin; bearing opposition with lamb-like meekness, entertaining low thoughts of thyself, and ready in honor to prefer thy brethren; full of brotherly kindness, and careful to walk honestly toward them that are without; but now thou hast left thy first love. Your first love was ardent, operative, attended with deep humility, tenderness of conscience, patience under insults and persecution, and hungerings and thirstings after righteousness. But now, how is it? Are some members of Churches become cool in their affections, remiss in their attendance on ordinances, slothful in business, impatient of contradiction, conceited inspirit, and hardened in conscience? Is it possible to find among us some, who once seemed to have begun in the spirit, but who have ended in the flesh; so that the impurities of a corrupt heart have even broken forth in the life? The temples of the Holy Spirit have been defiled, impure passions gratified, and dishonor has been brought on the holy name whereby you are called! Ah Brethren! The Spirit testifies to such persons that Christ has somewhat against them; even tho they may be found, at last, to have the root of the matter in them. How much more awful will it be, if any of them should only have a name that they live, while they are dead? dead in trespasses and sins! yea twice dead, and doomed to be plucked up by the roots! Once they seemed alive for a season, and bore the leaves of a profession; but never did they bear any fruit, except what was rotten at the core; and now the blast of the Almighty hath withered them; their very leaves are falling off apace; and shortly the sentence shall be executed, "Cut it down why cumbereth it the Ground?"
As the Spirit of God censures the Churches for their Sins, so does he also warn them of their Dangers. Hear, Brethren; what be says to you on this Subject. He declares, You Shall have Tribulation. Trials must be expected. Christ and the Spirit unite in this Warning, that you must pass through much tribulation, in your way to the kingdom. You may expect formidable opposition; perhaps, persecution from the men of the world, the artful and ensnaring suggestions of Satan, cares and anxieties respecting the concerns of life, the terrors and pains of death must all be encountered. The evils of your own hearts, pride, self-righteousness, unbelief, sensuality, &c., will be found still worse; especially when temptation's powerful, and very suitable to corrupt nature assail, and meet with so much within you of a congenial kind. But though the conflict be sharp, yet it will not be long, for the Spirit assures you that your Lord will come quickly. Take this solemn warning from the mouth of Christ by his Spirit, If thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, i. e. suddenly, and in the most unexpected manner. O take the warning, watch, and have your accounts ready to meet your Lord. Arise, trim your lamps, and go forth to meet the Bridegroom.
Even the awful Threatenings which the Spirit denounces against the impenitent and incorruptible, may be considered with a salutary effect. Unless those who have left their first Love, remember from whence they are fallen, repent and do their first works, he declares the candlestick shall be removed from its place. Should this be your doom, your eyes shall no more behold your teachers, the gospel shall charm your ears no more, all ordinances and church privileges shall be taken away, and your very existence, as a church dissolved. Thus also, they who held doctrines which our Lord hates are threatened, that Christ will fight against them with the sword of his mouth. And the Lukewarm are assured; that if they continue neither cold nor hot, neither wholly infidel nor wholly christian, not openly abandoned to sin nor strictly holy, not totally careless nor fervently zealous, a holy God will cast them from him with evident marks of disapprobation and disgust, and expose the loathsomeness of their character before the eyes of all men.
Listen, my Brethren, to the Information, Advice, and Instruction, which the Spirit gives to the Churches. Doth he not virtually say to us, as he did unto the Philadelphians, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it! Most delightful Information! The gospel meets with success in various places. Houses of worship are opened, here and there, for the preaching of the word. Men who were its enemies are made its friends. Sinners are converted. Ministers are raised up, and a door of utterance is granted them to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation, and the hearts of men are opened to receive it. All opposition made to the work of God is fruitless. His kingdom comes, and his word runs and is glorified. Nor is the Advice given to Laodicean souls less pleasing than the Information of the Spirit. "I counsel thee,' he says, "to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be cloathed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." In the fulness of Christ is all that you want, and out of that fulness you are encouraged to receive, and grace for grace. Riches unsearchable are in him, to remove your spiritual poverty; Righteousness to cover and adorn your naked souls; and Light to chase away all your ignorance. Buy, says the Spirit, without money, and without price. The afflicted are taught, by the Spirit, to believe that sanctified afflictions are marks of divine Love. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Let such as have ears to hear attend to this Instruction, given by the Spirit to the Churches. If this be all the fruit of affliction, to take away sin, and make you, in a further degree, partakers of his Holiness; to wean you from the world, raise your affections to things above; and reconcile you, on christian principles, to death; then let nothing you suffer discourage you: for nothing shall separate you from the love of Christ; yea all things are actually working together for your good.
Let the Churches hear what the Spirit says by way of Exhortation. You are called, Brethren, to Reconciliation of past Experience. Remember whence thou art fallen. Let the backslider look back on the happy days when he enjoyed the presence of God, the evidences of his favor, and the lively hopes of glory. Was it not much better with him than it is now? Let him reflect on the contrast, and repent of his present sins, of his slothfulness, and great neglect of his religious duties; of his worldly mindedness, and shameful preference of earthly to heavenly things; of his sensuality and inordinate use of the creatures of God. The Spirit urges you to Activity in Good Works. He says, Do thy first works. Set out afresh, and by repentance, faith, prayer, and a careful study of the word of God, recover the ground you have lost. You are exhorted to Stability in the truth which you have received, Hold fast that which thou hast; to Perseverance in the course you have begun, Be thou faithful unto death; and to watchfulness against every evil and enemy, that would rob you of present attainments; Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain.
Consider also, for your encouragement, what the Spirit says to the Churches, by way of Commendation, and Promise. He does not forget your labor, and patience, and steady opposition to every thing that is evil. Be assured that Christ sympathizes with you, under all your tribulation and poverty. While many of you are called poor in the world, he says you are rich in faith. Your fidelity to Christ, and your integrity, in holding fast his name, and not denying his faith, even in the seat of Satan, are known and commended of Christ. You are approved of your great Master for the advance you make in Love, Service, Faith, Patience, and all good Works. The few names, which have not defiled the garments of their profession, by worldly conformity and sinful practices, are known and honored by Jesus Christ. The promises, with which the Spirit animates you, are exceedingly great and precious. You shall not be hurt of the second death; you shall eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God; you shall have power over the nations, shall eat of the hidden manna, receive the white stone and the new name, be cloathed with white raiment, have your names enrolled in the book of life, be pillars in the temple of God, sit down with Christ upon his throne, and receive the crown of life at his hands.
Dear Brethren! Let the Dignity of the SPIRIT who gives you all these Instructions, prevail on you to hear him. If, when a man of wealth, power, wisdom, or authority speaks, the multitude are hushed to silence, and every ear attends; if when we, at our different stations, have addressed you, as the ministers of God, you have given us a serious hearing, will you not more especially hear what the Spirit says in the word? Is He not the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge? has He not large experience of human nature? is He not invested with all authority, from the Father and the Son, to teach us all the Truth? and is not his veracity unquestionable? Pay all attention, therefore, to this infallible, this heavenly Teacher. Hear what God the Lord speaks in the word, for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints, but let them not turn folly. Never can we press on you too great an attention to the Holy Scriptures. They are the only ground of faith, the only map of direction, and the only source of comfort. Read and study them by day and night. Incorporate the spirit of them with your spirits. Form your manners, mould your tempers, fix your principles, draw your comforts, and fortify yourselves against all your fears, by this divine volume.
One great Advantage will result from attention to the Holy Spirit, and that is Uniformity and Consistency of Religious Character. Consistent principles, uniform practice, and an equable christian temper, will be the happy effect of hearing what the Spirit says to the Churches. The contrary to this we have, we fear, too much reason to lament. Some have no fixed Principles, but waver this way or that, according to the last book they read or the last preacher they hear. Others are very unsteady in their Practice. They have fits of religion, and fits of sinning. Now they seem to burn with zeal for God, anon they freeze with indifference to his cause. Live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. Look much, by faith, to Christ, who was a perfectly uniform character. Cultivate an habitual hatred of all sin, and an ardent love of holiness. Keep close to all the means of grace; attend to pubic, family, and closet religion. Aim always at the honor and glory of God; as your only ultimate end. These things will tend to the unity and harmony of your characters, however various your actions may necessarily be.
Many blessed Effects would follow this Consistency of Christian Character. Would it not tender you more like the immutable God? Is there in Him any jarring attribute, discordant temper, or wrong conduct? Is there with him truth and falsehood, sin and holiness, love and hatred to the same objects? Are not his actions infinitely various, while he is in himself one unchangeable JeHoVaH? Would it not he more honorable to the Religion of Jesus in the World? Does any thing open the mouths of infidels, stumble young converts, or discredit the gospel, more than the unsteady walk of professors of religion? Would you nor expect to incur the reproach of the irreligious, and the censure of your grieved brethren, if any of you, who are members of christian churches, could be seen frequenting the tavern, intoxicated with liquor, fond of public shews, at the theatre, the card table, the race-ground, the hunt, or any of the vain amusements of the age? and will not the cause of Christ be equally disgraced, though the charge may not always be so easily proved, if any of you are evidently lovers of the world, covetous idolaters of gain, never giving aid to the cause of Christ without grudging, hard-hearted, unmerciful; or if you are proud, contentious, selfish, censorious, tatlers, slanderers and busy-bodies? If but a few such characters should creep into any of our churches, would they not be likely to bring a shocking odium on us all? Would not a holy, uniform character produce greater peace of conscience when living, and firmer hope to your mind when dying? Whence is it, Christians, that your evidences of the favor of God are so often beclouded, and your minds so full of fears and doubts, but because you walk so unsteadily? You are off your watch, go into temptation, fall by sin, and neglect duty. You then become ashamed of God and man, shun the company of both, and envelop yourselves in thick darkness. Scarcely any thing can be more distressing to Christians, when they come to die, than a review of their unsteady and unguarded conduct.
Here they have omitted duty, there they have fallen into sin, and never have they served God wholly; hence they have filled their dying beds with thorns, which lacerate them most severely. The comfort and happiness of your Ministers would be greatly promoted, by the conduct which we recommend; and, consequently, we may hope their usefulness would be farthered. When they see you undetermined in your principles, and unholy in your practice, what think you are the feelings of their minds? and what the distress and anguish of their hearts? The ardor of their spirits is damped, and they fear lest, after all the flattering hopes they have entertained for you, your souls will be lost for ever.
Having given you our best advice, brethren, we conclude by calling your attention to the Mercies which have crowned the past Year. Surely the Lord has wrought great things for us, whereof we are glad. Peace is restored to the nations of Europe, and confirmed; the sword, returned to its scabbard, rests and is still. Plenty has once more blest our Isle, and chased away the miseries of the people.
Praise the Lord O Jerusalem! Praise thy God, O Zion! For he hath strengthened the bars of thy Gates; And blessed thy children within thee. He giveth Peace in thy borders; And filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
Good news has been received from a far country, which has cheered our souls, like cold water to the thirsty. Our beloved Brethren in India have completed, the translation of the whole Bible. The New Testament is already printed and dispersed. The chain of the Cast is broken. Six Hindoos have been buried with Christ by Baptism into his death, who walk in newness of life, and endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.(1) While at home the Gospel spreads, sinners are converted, and additions are made to our churches, we trust such as shall be saved. May the Lord go on to make bare the arm of his salvation, and succeed his gospel more abundantly, at home and abroad; not only among our immediate connexions, but among all who love Christ Jesus in sincerity, till the whole earth shall be filled with his Glory. Amen.
Signed by order of the Association and on their behalf by
ISAIAH BIRT, Moderator. ___________ Notes
1. See the Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Mission Society, No. ix, which is just published, and contains much interesting matter.
Some additional Intelligence may be found in the Biblical Magazine, a new and useful publication, conducted by Brother Morris, of Clipstone; and in the Baptist Register, published by Dr. Rippon, of London.
Tuesday, June 8. Several Ministers being come to town, we had a lecture in the evening at VI ½, when Brother Thomas of Plescott prayed, and Brother Mosely of Grittleton preached, from Phil. iv. 4. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice."
Wednesday, June 9. III Brother Birt, being chosen Moderate, Brother Sprague of Bovey prayed. Read the Preliminaries, and letters from forty seven Churches, including the church at Modbury, which was now received into the Association. The Moderator closed in prayer. Evening VII. Brother Morgan, of Bridgewater, prayed, and Brother Winterbothem of Plymouth, preached, from 3 John 2. "thy soul prospereth." Brother Cherry of Wellington concluded.
Thursday, June 10. Morning VI. -- The following Brethren prayed. Gill of Longwood, Scoveller of Portsmouth, Toms of Chard, Ward of Melkshram, and Giles of Dartmouth. Then retired to the Vestry, Received the Collections for the Fund, amounting to L 93. 10s. 11d. And distributed L 96. 15s. 6d. to our most aged and necessitous ministers, and to those who are most active in village preaching. Received also orders for the general Letter, and took the money for the same.
X ½ met again for public worship. Brother Flint of Horsley prayed, Brother Taylor of Calne preached, from Matt. xxviii. 9. "All hail." and Brother Steadman of Liberty-street, P1ymouth-Dock, Rom. i. 16. "the Gospel of Christ which is the power of unto salvation.["] Our dear Brother Horsley of Portsea, who has been laid aside from preaching by a para1ytic stroke, was sufficenttly recovered to close this opportunity in prayer.
The Members of the Association retired into the Vestry, to hear the General Letter, drawn up by Brother Redding of Truro, and ordered it to be signed by the Moderator and printed.
Agreed to hold the next Association at Wellington, on the Tuesday and Wednesday in Whitsun Week, Brother Birt, and Brother Sharp, to preach: in case of failure, Brother Redding, and Brother Flint.
Brother Sharp to draw up the Circular Letter.
The case of our Friends at Malmrsbury, who are building a new Meeting house, is well approved by the Ministers of this Association, and recommended to the assistance of the benevolence.
The Moderator closed the business of the Association by prayer.
VI. Brother Holloway of Reading prayed, and Brother Saffery, preached from Zech. xiv. 20, 21. "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD" &c. Brother Porter of Bath concluded.
State of the Churches since last Association.Received Removed
By Baptism - 268 By Death - 102 By Letter - 38 Dismission - 29 Restored - 5 Excluded - 31 Added -- 3l1 Diminished -- 262 Clear Increase - 150.
ARRANGED EDITIONS OF DR. WATTS's
HYMNS AND PSALMS
The smallest, most correct, and most elegant Editions,
Ever Offered to the Public,
OF DR. WATTS's HYMNS AND PSALMS.
To be published August 1, 1801.
IN consequence of the numerous Errors which have crept into almost all the late Editions of Dr. WATTS Psalms and Hymns, Dr Rippon has occasionally, for several years, been endeavouring to restore a correct reading or this invaluable Work; and, that it may be free from the needless encumbrance of First, Second, and Third Book, he has, by a method familiar [sic] to that which is employed in his own Selection, arranged under their appropriate heads of Divinity, both the Hymns and Psalms; including such as have been introduced of late years to fill up the vacant numbers which were in the Hymn Book. And, as all the former Indexes were very defective, he has now annexed, for the accommodation of Ministers, Clerks, and others, a very copious one of Scriptures, and another of Subjects.
That this Volume may not set aside any one of a former Edition, it has double Numbers to each Hymn and Psalmn [sic], according to the following Example:
Hymn I. The Divine Perfections. 16th Hymn of the 2d Book.
By this method, the Minister or Clerk may give out either the old number or the new.
One of these Editions is of smaller and more elegant size than either Pasham's or Wayland's. -- price 4s.; Extra bound 5s.
The other, on the same Letter, is wider, having double columns in each page -- but is only one quarter of an inch thick, and may be used as a Sermon Case; Price 5s. in Sheets; 6s. 6d. in Calf.
To be immediately followed with a cheaper Edition on common Paper.
The Baptist Register a Monthly Work, (Price 6d.)
No. XXIII. to be published in June 1, with a Specimen of Bengallee already
engraved, and a Fac-simile of the Hand-writing of Mr. Fountain.
Bryan, Printer, Corn Street, Bristol.
[From a photocopy of the original at Regents Park College, Angus Library, Oxford,England. jrd]
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