Assembled at SHEEPSHED, June 2, 3, 4, 1803:
Written by Bro. John Sutcliff
[The document uses "f" for "s" and these have been changed for easier reading. -- Jim Duvall]
Maintaining the important doctrines of three equal persons in the Godhead; personal election ; original sins particular redemption; free justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ; efficacious grace in regeneration; the final preservation of real believers; the resurrection of the dead; the future judgment; The eternal happiness of the righteous; and everlasting misery of such as die impenitent; with the congregational order of the churches, inviolably;
To the several Churches they represent, or from which they have received Letters,
Meeting at Lascoe, Derbyshire; Sutton-Ashfield, and Nottington, Nottinghamshire; Sheepshead, Leichester, Sutton-in-the-Elms, Arnsby and Foxton, Leicestershire; Oakham, Rutland; Spalding, Lincolnshire; Greeton, Clipstone, Guilsborough, Braunston, Walgrave, Kettering, Moulton, Northampton, and Road, Northamponshire; Olney, Beckingharnshire; Thorne,* Bedfordshire; St. Albans, Hertfordshire; Soham,* Cambridgeshire; and Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire. [*No letters were received from these churches.]
Grace to you and Peace from God our Father, and from Jesus Christ our Lord!
UNDER the care of divine providence, we met in safety at the time and place appointed. As the churches passed in review before us, we were exercised with various feelings. In truth we can say, we mourned with those that mourn, and with those that rejoice. Thus we experienced the uniting nature of true religion. Some of the churches appear happy and prosperous. May your peace, your increase, abound yet more! Be on your guard against spiritual pride. Forget not the cases of your sister churches which may be ready to hang their harps on the willows. Fervently pray for them while you rejoice in the distinguishing smiles of heaven you enjoy. And let not others be too much discouraged. God is a sovereign. He has his set times to favor Zion. Considerable has been the morality, which some of you have witnessed. But you are not ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. In some instances you have been called to the unpleasant work of exclusion. Be steadfast, brethren; with a jealous eye, an active hand, and tender heart, assert the interests of truth and holiness. Live by faith, in the firm persuasion, that the cause of Christ shall ultimately, shall universally prevail. In the mean time act a faithful part, even unto death, animated by the pleasing prospect of a crown of life.
We wish, dear brethren, to promote by all means in our power, your spiritual edification. With a view to this, the association was formed. We have been in the habit of addressing you on some particular subject, in an annual Epistle. We still continue the practice; because we have found it not only acceptable, but we trust, useful to you. That which we have chosen for this year, is the Lord's Supper. One which, you will allow, is important and interesting.
We begin by remarking the design of the institution. It is a positive precept, like the ordinance of christian baptism. We are not to interpret its meaning according to our fancy; but should examine and adhere to its import as explained in the word of God. When he, who is the apostle as well as the high priest of our profession, first instituted this solemn ordinance, he accompanied it with this injunction, This do in remembrance of me.(1) It is the language of instruction. He that runs may read. It is a standing memorial of Christ. When you see the table spread and are about to partake of the bread and wine, think you hear Christ saying, "Remember me." Remember who he is. Great is the dignity of his character. Though he appeared in the form of a servant, and made himself of no reputation, yet he thought it no robbery to be equal with God. He is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. The condescending Jesus, who once sat at the table among his disciples, with all the affection of a Father, and said, "Remember me;" who still often visits in a spiritual manner his saints in attending divine ordinances, with all the familiarity of a friend, and shews that he yet remembers them, is that character in whose immediate presence, the angels vail their faces.
Again: Remember what he has done. In the fullness of time, he came into the world, was born at Bethlehem, made under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law. He who was rich became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich. He lived despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. At length he died for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. When he died, he gave his life a ransom for many. In this life, he by his obedience magnified the precept, and at his death by his sufferings justified the threatening of the moral law. He has vindicated the moral government of Jehovah, and demonstrated the awful desert of the sinner. Thus he has a opened a way for the honourable exercise of divine mercy, and God is just, while he is the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. At the same time, while the atonement of Christ exhibits the strongest possible evidence of the divine hatred to sin on the one hand, and demonstrates on the other, the righteous nature of the sinner's condemnation had it taken place; it proves in the most convincing manner, that his salvation must be an act of rich mercy, and illustrates most gloriously the freeness of that grace that shines in the pardon of iniquity. Surely, should we after all forget Jesus, our conduct would be much more censurable, than that of Pharaoh's chief butler, to whose reproach it stands recorded, that he remembered not Joseph.
Once more: Remember where he is, and what he is doing. Our remembrance of him implies his absence. Once he was an inhabitant of our world, but he is gone into heaven. We remember events that are past, or persons who are absent. Jesus is absent as to our bodily eyes. But though now we see him not, yet believing, rejoice, with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. When a friend is absent, we are naturally thinking where he is, what his situation, and how he is employed. If, before his departure he left with us any small present, and desired us to keep it as a memorial of his friendship, though perhaps of little intrinsic worth, we set a high value on it, for his sake. While we look at it, we are at assisted in our recollection of our absent friend. Such is the import of this ordinance, and such the deign of Christ in its institution. It is intended to draw our attention to, and assist our meditations upon an unseen Jesus. He, who once, wearied with his journey, sat upon a well by the way side, is now entered into his rest, and that rest is glorious. He, who on one occasion said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man hath not where to lay his head," is now in full possession of the joy that was set before him. He, who once stood arraigned at Pilate’s bar, and was mocked, buffetted, and spit upon in Herod's judgement hall, is now exalted on a high throne, wears a resplendent crown, and receives the worship of the angelic hosts. But recollect he is head over all things to the church. To secure the interests, and at length to complete the salvation of his people, are among the ends of his exaltation. He is also a Priest upon his throne. In him the sacerdotal and the royal characters are united. As the great high priest over the house of God, he represents the persons of all his people, and presents their services, perfumed with much incense. Sustaining the character of an advocate, he repels the charges that are brought against his followers; and obtains for them the blessings they need. Surely with the greatest propriety he might say, Remember me.
Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, gives us a kind of comment upon these words of Christ. Speaking of the Lord's Supper, he says, As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death until he come.(2) By this a remembrance of it is kept up. It is now almost two thousand years since Christ was in our world, and died for our sins, according to the scriptures. But awful would it he, if his death was treated as an old, and almost forgotten story. Under the former dispensation in the repetition of the sacrifices there was a remembrance of sins. Each renewed sacrifice was calculated among other ends, to revive the impressions of sin and guilt upon the mind. So, our repeated approaches to the Lord's table have a tendency to keep alive in our minds, a remembrance of him, who by his own blood, hath entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Especially in this ordinance, there is a representation of the death of Christ. While the bread is broken, and the wine is poured out, we are 5 expressive, is strongly significant. Thus Christ is evidently set forth as crucified among us.
Let us now, brethren, remark the authority by which it is enjoined. It is the command of Jesus. How great his dignity! He appeared, it is true, in the form of a servant. But let it always be remembered, this was not his original but assumed character. He was found in fashion as a man, but he was God manifested in the flesh. The Word was made flesh; that Word that was with God, that was God. During his incarnate state, what evidences of divine power, often appeared! At his command the stormy sea, became a calm: the dead rose from the grave. This command, "Remember me," issued from those lips, which another day will pronounce the eternal sentence upon all the sons of men. To us he will either say, "Come ye blessed" or "depart ye cursed." What reverence becomes us, when we listen to the sacred injunction!
Our obligations to obedience are unspeakably enhanced through the bonds of gratitude under which we are laid by the blessed Jesus. He freely undertook our cause. When he engaged in the eternal counsels to redeem his people, he knew what the engagement would cost. But his love was such as many waters could not quench. To accomplish the designs of mercy, he became incarnate. He humbled himself; he became obedient unto death; the death of the cross. Could we realize the scene in the Garden, the agonies he endured upon the Mount, we might estimate in some measure, the wonders of redeeming love. Through his death, we are reconciled to God. Being ascended on high, we receive the gift of the holy Spirit. Through his atonement, our guilt is pardoned; our persons are accepted; we are put among the children; we have access to God; we are made heirs of eternal life. Being raised from the wretchedness of spiritual death, we live to God; we have communion with the Father of spirits; we enjoy the endless of endless felicity. In due time we shall be delivered from the remainders of sin, the imperfections of the present state, and be raised to take our seat at the supper of the lamb. These lively hopes we owe, to the dying love of Jesus. At the same time, let us never forget, that in him the prince and the savior are united. In his character we behold all that is calculated to fill with the profoundest reverence, and to excite the warmest gratitude. Under such bonds, obedience must be a pleasure.
And, farther, we must beg your attention to the time when this solemn ordinance was first instituted. On this the apostle lays an important stress. The Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread. Cannot you paint to the eye of faith the dear Redeemer, the last night of his life, sitting at the table, surrounded with his beloved disciples? They were ignorant of what was going it take place. But it was not so with the blessed Jesus. All the agonies of Gethsemane, all the horrors of Calvary were full in his view. When he broke the bread, may we not imagine he felt the wounds that were about to be inflicted on his body? When his hand laid hold on the cup, how would he realize the pouring forth of his blood, which was about to be shed! Those billows of divine wrath, in which he was going to be immersed, were beginning to roar, in his astonished ears. Yet with what divine calmness, with what sacred serenity he addresses his disciples! In his concern for them, he forgets himself. Love warms his bosom; affection sits on his countenance; his accents fall like honey from the honey-comb. "Do this in remembrance of me." -- It is the language of instruction, -- it is the language of authority, -- it is the language of friendship.
And here we cannot forbear dropping a word to certain individuals, at least in some of our churches, who, without any bar cast in their way by the dispensations of providence, are occasionally absent from the table of the Lord. Your affectionate pastors, in imitation of the blessed Redeemer, take their places, reckoning on the time when they shall meet their respective churches, and comrnemorate as a family, their common Savior. They look around: on the right hand, they perceive one is wanting. Perhaps on the left, they discern the seat of another is empty. Did you know the painful sensations they experience on such an occasion; were you aware of the wounds your [C]hristian brethren feel, through your conduct; this would be enough to awaken the tenderest sentiments in your soul. But what is this, to the slight you cast upon the blessed Jesus? Is not this the way to grieve the holy Spirit by which you are sealed unto the day of redemption? That Spirit whose delight it is on one hand, to glorify Jesus; and on the other, to see him, glorified by you. Might not the Redeemer say, O my people, what have I done unto you, and wherein have I wearied you; testify against me? Have I been a wilderness unto you? Can a maid forget her ornaments; and a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me. Surely, when serious reflection takes place, you must feel ashamed and confounded in jour own eyes. Surely in your devout approaches to God, at the close of such a day, wherein you have been guilty of such negligence, your souls must be covered with blushing in his presence. You must bewail your sin, and implore forgiveness with contrition of spirit: with at agony of soul, you must wrestle with the Lord, that you may not be permitted to act so unworthily in [the] future. If not,-- more affecting still. Persuaded we are, -- and, we wish you to recollect if there was not a time when you would have startled, -- perhaps have shuddered at the very idea of your present conduct. How injurious to themselves -- how distressing to others, when any leave their first love! O that such may remember whence they are fallen, repent, and do their first works!
The manner of our approach, brethren, to the table of the Lord; deserves our serious attention. Paul reproves the Corinthians for gross disorders in their practice. Awful was want of reverence they manifested. They seem to have lost sight of the design of the institution. Your conduct brethren, is happily free from such irregularities. But we know you are not satisfied, with what is externally decent. Spiritual worship is the object of your concern. God is a spirit, and he requires that those who worship him, should do it in spirit and in truth. Spiritual worship includes in it the exercise, -- the right exercise of the heart. At the table of the Lord, there is work for spiritual reflection. Every thing relative to the character, especially the cross of Christ; every thing relative to his work, especially his death, claims your serious attention. -- Spiritual reflection, should be accompanied with holy affections. Of all objects, none like the cross, to excite, to call into exercise our inmost feelings. Here is enough to, rouze in the most vigorous manner, all the workings of love and hatred; of joy and sorrow; of hope and fear. -- These will be attended with devout resolutions. To him who gave his life a ransom, it becomes you to devote your lives. Bought with a price, remember you are not your own. Resolve therefore in the strength of divine grace; to glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's. Each time you approach this sacred ordinance consecrate yourselves anew to the service; honour and glory of the blessed Jesus. Reckon it your honour, and you will feel it your happiness to give yourselves to him. You will chearfully [sic] recognize every sacred engagement you have made, and lay yourselves under additional bonds to be the Lord's. -- All should be followed with fervent prayer. Conscious of your own weakness, of the difficulties you have to encounter, and the uncertainty of your warmest vows, let your requests be made known unto God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. He shall supp1y all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. He giveth more grace. He is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
We with you, holy brethren, partakers of the same heavenly calling, frequently to recollect the frame of mind, in which you made your first approach to the table of the Lord. Was it not with great fear and trembling? Were you not exceedingly jealous of your own hearts? Did you not feel the most tender concern for the peace and prosperity of the church; the honor, and credit of religion? Would not the idea of wounding your brethren, distressing your pastor, and grieving the holy Spirit by your negligent and untender walk, have cut you to the very quick? Solemn were the hours that then passed over your heads, and serious were the sensations that filled your hearts. Pious were the resolutions that accompanied your conduct, and fervent were the prayers that ascended to the God of all grace. With some, blessed be God, it is still the same. Brethren, over you we rejoice. Your steady and uniform walk; your peaceful and holy conduct in the church, and in the world; your tender and cautious behaviour among all your connexions; your fervent prayers and affectionate carriage encourage our hearts, and strengthen our hands. But, happy would it be for us; happy would it be for many around, if this was an universal case. Alas, some it is otherwise. We strongly suspect, things are not with you in the closet as once they were. We painfully witness, they are not as formerly in your visible character. Brethren over you we grieve. You did run well, who did hinder you? Are not your spiritual privileges as valuable, and your obligations to attend upon them as binding as formerly? Were those impressions you once felt, too deep; or those fears lest any part of your following walk should be inconsistent, too strong? Did you not then thankfully receive a word of caution; and most chearfully profess, that you should ever consider those as your best friends, who would with the greatest freedom point out any defects in your future conduct? Brethren, are these things so now? If not surely either some former traits in your character must be censured; or some present features must be condemned.
You will consider, that by an open and stated attendance on this ordinance, you not only avow your faith in Christ as a Savior, but your subjection to him as a Sovereign. Such a conduct may be unintelligible to the men of the world, and expose you to the sneer of the infidel. Thus your faith may become the subject of ridicule, and your practice of contempt. But remember the animating language of Jesus. Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in heaven.(3) Let your submission to the authority of Christ as King in Zion be manifest. Steadily obey all his commands, in their primitive purity, in their native simplicity. Bear an open and uniform testimony, against all human inventions and worldly accommodations in matters of religion. Never treat the positive institutions of the Redeemer as matters of indifferency. Remember that his honour is deeply interested in the attention you pay to them. They stand as so many tests of the sincerity of your love; of the genuine nature of your faith. The manner in which they are treated by numbers, is truly surprising. To account for their conduct is not our business; but we must give an account of our own. Should we now call him Lord, Lord, and not do the things that he has commanded, how shall we appear before him another day; or how can we expect from his mouth that approving language, Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.(4)
At those seasons, when you commemorate the death of Christ in communion with his followers, look forward to that happy period, when you shall join the general assembly, and church of the first born on high. If in any instance the church below, bears a striking resemblance to that above, it is when surrounding the Redeemer's board. By faith you view him as sitting at the head of the table, and hear him saying, "Eat, O friends; and drink, yea drink abundantly O beloved." At the same time, you indulge a pleasing hope, that before long you shall take your seats at the table where he sits in person; at that table spread with all the rich stores of everlasting love; at that table adorned with all the fruits of paradise. From that table you shall never rise. The feast will be eternal. Then shall you be satisfied.
And now, dearly beloved brethren, in the most affectionate manner we once more bid you farewell. The present aspects of providence are somewhat dark. But our times are in Lord's hand. Faith in God and his word, will support; animate and comfort. Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper. Study; O study the peace of the churches to which you respectively belong. Beware of the first appearances of a spirit of dissention. If that Jesus, whose dying love you profess to commemorate in that solemn ordinance to which we have been calling your attention. Has graven Zion on the palms of his hands, and her walls are continually before him, such characters as attempt to make breaches in her walls, or disturb her peace and tranquility, will be marked by him with peculiar disapprobation. That is a serious and solemn scripture, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee.(5) Here you learn, that such as love the church, seek her peace; that a most gracious promise is made to such; while a most awful threatening is implied and pointed against all that are of a contrary spirit and conduct. How evidently has this in numerous instances been fulfilled! Divine frowns have often followed in a successive manner, even to the close of life, characters that have been the disturbers of the peace of the church. Holy jealousy has seemed to mark and pursue them, as objects of displeasure. The Lord has made it apparent that he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye. Surely such views of the character and conduct of the great head of the church, are eminently calculated to cherish our love, promote our fear, increase our gratitude, and strengthen our confidence. Finally brethren farewell: be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you!
JOHN SUTCLIFF, Moderator
1. Luke xxii. 19.
2. 1 Cor. xi. 26.
3. Matt. x. 32.
4. Matt. xxv. 23.
5. Psa1m cxii. 6.
TUESDAY Evening vi. After introducing public worship with singing, brother Mills, minister at the place, prayed. Brother Sutcliff was chosen Moderator. Letters from the Churches were read, and their contents minuted. Brother Churchill, of Sheepshead, closed in prayer.
WEDNESDAY Morning VI. Met for prayer. Brethren Nicholls of Nottingham, Johnson of Leicester, Fletcher of Burton-on-Trent, and Hall of Northampton, engaged.
At half-past two in the forenoon, we assernb1ed for public worship. Brother Keely prayed. Brother Blundel preached from Heb. X. 12. But this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right of God. Brother Cave prayed. Brother Fuller preached from 1 Cor. Xii. 23, 24. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor, and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God bath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacketh. Brother Hopper concluded in prayer.
The Ministers and Messengers of the Associate Churches retired after dinner. The Circular Letter drawn up by Brother Sutcliff, (Brother Hopper having declined doing it) was read, ordered to be signed, and printed. Also, various other concerns of the Association were settled.
Evening VI. Met again for public worship. Brother Cracherode (of Sutton in the Elms, whence brother Evans has retired) prayed. Brother Cox now supplying at Clipstone (brother Morris having removed to a Society lately formed at Dunstable in Bedfordshire) preached from Ps. xxxii. 8. I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Brother Crapps closed with prayer.
THURSDAY Morning VI. Met again. Brother Fuller prayed. The Pastors of the Churches gave some brief account of their experiences during the last year. Brother Burton prayed at the close.
Half-past nine. Met to consider a case referred to the Association from the Pastor and Church assembling in Friar-Lane, Nottingham, and laid before us in writing by each, stating an unhappy dispute between them. After the most cool and tender deliberation upon it for some hours, and free conversation with both parties, we were unanimous in the opinion we formed, and the advice proper to he given them, which were communicated to each in writing. The Moderator then c1osed the Association with prayer. The Ministers and Messengers taking into consideration, the low estate of some of the Churches, and the affecting decrease of this year with respect to numbers, united in recommending it to their connexions, to observe the last Wednesday in July next, as a day of fasting and prayer, to implore a divine revival. -- Brother Blundel was appointed to prepare a Circular Letter for next year on the duty of professing [C]hristians to civil government.
Our next Association is fixed to be at KETTERING on the Tuesday and Wednesday in the Whitsun-week. Our brethren Blundel and Sutcliff to preach.
Put up at the WHITE-HART.
State of the Churches since the last Association.
By Baptism. 36 By letter - 49 Received By Letter 4 Removed Dismission 12 Restored 4 Exclusion 27 Added 44 Diminished 44 Decrease 44
The BIBLICAL MAGAZINE for July:
Containing an abstract of a Sermon delivered at the Oxford Association -- Reflections on Prov. xvi. 6 -- Influence of early piety on the animal frame -- Thoughts on metaphysics -- Reflexions on death -- Opinion respecting a Witch -- Thoughts on endless punishment -- Anecdote illustrative of Prov. xxvi.4, 5. -- Observations on the history of Balaam -- On the scripture doctrine of Election -- Thoughts on marriage -- On cheerfulness of manners -- Duty of praying for civil government -- Verses by King Henry VIth -- On miracles -- Description of Calcutta, by Mr. Carey -- Account of the murder of Syam Doss, by Mr. Ward -- Review of Calista, a Poem by Dr. Booker; a Vindication of Dissent, in answer to Mr. Robinson of Leicester ; The Evangelical Preacher; Memoirs of Miss Anthony ; Periodical Accounts, No. xi --Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire Association -- Ordinations a Camberwell, Redruth, and Penzance --Lines on the Inscription of a Sun-dia1; on foreign missions; on the death of a Lady at Nottingham; Prayer and Hope, written by a Bengalee.
Also, MEMOIRS of Miss ANTHONY, With a recommendatory Preface by Dr. Ryland, Mr. Fuller, and Mr. Sutcliff. Price 3s. 6d. in boards, and 2s. on common paper.
Sold by BUTTON and SON, London.
Minutes printed by J. W. Morris, Printer, Dunstable.
[From a photocopy of the original document at Regents Park College, Angus Library, Oxford, England. -- Formatted by Jim Duvall
British Baptist Index Page
Baptist History Homepage