Baptist History Homepage

Circular Letter, 1820

By Elder Hezekiah Stites

     Convened at Sugar Creek Meeting House, on the 9th, 10th and 11th of September, 1820, to the Churches they represent send Christian salutation: -

      Very Dear Brethren,
      As you will expect an epistolary address from us in our associate capacity, with pleasure we comply with your desire. Kind Providence has favored us with another opportunity of convening, according to appointment, for the purpose of consulting the peace of Zion, the welfare of the Redeemer's kingdom, the promotion of the glory of God, the interest of religion, and'the good of the churches. In the minutes you will see the gerieral appearance of religion in our bounds, with the alterations which have taken place since our last Association. From the information we have received from the different parts of the vineyard, we are led to believe that the Redeemer's kingdom is increasing, and the cause of truth gaining ground; which to the soldiers of the cross is matter of encouragement, and a call to them to be stedtast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

      Beloved brethren, we will call your attention to love, as the subject of our present meditation, and humbly conceive, that no subject is better calculated to excite our admiration, and employ our thoughts; for "God is Love." God and Christ are called Love, because they contain whatsoever is Loving, and deserve the highest love and esteem of all intelligent creatures. Their love is the highest motive of all they do; and, to astonishment is display'd in all the works of nature: but chiefly in the works of grace.

      Dear Brethren, let us drop our thoughts back to that period, when the great CREATOR lived alone, in that uncreated glory, which He possessed, essential to his nature as God, which admits of no addition to constitute him any happier, higher or greater than He was, necessarily, in Himself; nor any diminution, had he not created any beings whatsoever. Yet that he might manifest Himself to be love, He created all things, and more especially angels and men, who were endued with such powers, as to be capable of enjoying Him as their greatest good; to whom his love might be revealed, as rational beings; but among all the host of angels around the throne, or all the race of man, there is not an object worthy the divine complacency. For they are far inferior to their great creator, and subjects to his moral government: and, as such, are under moral obligations to obey his commands, love him as the author of their being, and gaze on his loveliness as the source of all good, all power, all wisdom, all righteousness, all justice, all holiness and truth, and the centre of all glory, and the object of all praise, blessing, reverence and worship. Now the wisdom and foreknowledge of God, taking in and viewing the fall of man, prior to their creation, as sinners, he could not love them; nor, as such, manifest or reveal his love to them. For they are by the fall constituted enemies in nature to him and all that is good. But behold an object of eternal Love, in the bosom of the eternal Father; being co-equal, co-eternal, and co-essential with God; and considered as a mediator of a better covenant than could be made with any created being; possessing royal dignity, honor and glory with the Father before the world was.

      John XVII. 5. For the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old; and he was set up from everlasting, or ever the earth was; rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth, and his delights were with the sons of men. Proverbs 8 ch. 22, 31 v. So that in Christ, he has loved his people with an everlasting and unchangeable love. I, saith the Lord, have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. Now the love of Christ is manifested, as having a breadth, length, depth and height. It is like a mighty ocean; it reaches all over the world: covers every sin of his people, and comprehends every blessing. It reaches from eternity to eternity. lt condescends to the lowest sinner, and the lowest case, brought Jesus to the lowest plunge of suffering, and saves from the lowest hell, to the most inconceivable height of holiness and happiness, Ephesians 3 ch. 8 & 9 verses; and, by this eternal and unchangeable love, the church is secured from all her foes: for he will be a wall of fire round about her, and his name will be a glory in the midst of her: And in the covenant of love, all spiritual blessings are provided, and richly manifested, by the great head of the church; in the predestination, election, calling, justification, perseverence and glorification of the saints. - Therefore he has sent forth the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying Abba Father, which causes his children to love him; for we love him because he first loved us. Now behold the greatness of this love; for greater love hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend; but God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; that is, he makes it appear unbounded and glorious. And again, God so loved the world, so manifested, so revealed, and made known his love, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His love is stronger than death: An inspired apostle is persuaded, that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The love of God shed abroad in our hearts is a gracious habit, principle or disposition wrought in us by the spirit of God, whereby we esteem, desire, and delight in God and Christ our chief good, and. sum of all perfection ans excellency, and the fountain of all blessing, and take pleasure to obey his laws, and whereby we are enabled and inclined to esteem, desire and delight in spiritual fellowship with all such as bear his image, and enjoy the grace of faith, hope, patience, meekness and comfort in this world, by which our prayers and praises are accepted of him, and while under the exercise thereof, we are made patient in tribulation, in weakness are made, strong, rejoicing in the Lord.

      Dear brethren, from these considerations are we not deeply in debt to sovereign love that has passed the fallen angels by, and in Christ Jesus our Lord is fixed upon poor fallens sinners, that they may be saved from the wrath to come, & has given us hope in the electing love of God and salvation by Jesus Christ. May we not say: O the depth, of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! and join all our efforts to manifest our love to him, keeping his commandments and loving one another, and bearing each others burthens, and so fulfil the law of Christ; and let our light so shine, that others seeing our good .works may glorify our Father which is in heaven. May grace, mercy and peace be multiplied in the church. Amen.


[From Miami Baptist Association Minutes, 1820. Document from the Miami Baptist Association Office, Cincinnati. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More Ohio Baptist Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage