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Circular Letter, 1823
The Franklin Baptist Association – To the Churches composing the Same.

      Through the goodness of God, we have been permitted again to meet in an associated capacity - in regard to what business and how transacted, we refer you to our minutes.

      As it is common us to address you by circular, we shall offer you a few remarks on the subject of the believers union to Christ; as the foundation of his practice, hope and perseverance in piety and true godliness, his happiness [three words missing]

that which, is to come. We are of opinion that were this doctrine of the church's mystical union to Christ, more distinctly , considered, more particularly explained, and more frequently insisted upon, improved and applied from the pulpit than it is, it would be a probable means to check the growth of many errors which seem to prevail among us, and to give men a deeper sense of the necessity of experimental vital piety, in order to a well-grounded hope of the favour of God. And although we are ready to confess the nature of the mystical union between Christ and his members is truly sublime and by us incomprehensible, yet we have abundant reason to desire a plain and familiar view of this doctrine as it is revealed in the sacred s::i'iptures. 1st. We shall therefore attempt to give you a brief statement of various representations of this union in the Word of God. And 2ndly. Take some notice of tile nature and influence that such an union must necessarily have on the minds of those who are the happy subjects thereof. This union is represented in the scriptures by the strongest expressions that human language can admit, and even compared to the union between God the father and God the Son. This union is frequently represented in scripture by lively metaphors, such as the union of a vine and its branches; I am the vine ye are the branches, he that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing. It is compared to the union of a building, whereof Christ is the foundation or chief corner stone; thus we might add that this union is sometimes represented in scripture by an identity or sameness of spirit; he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. It is also represented by an identity of body; for as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that body being many, are one body; so also is Christ, now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. It is further represented by Christ himself as an identity of interest, verily I say unto you inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these mv brethren, ye have done it unto me. Christ and believers have one common father, I ascend unto my father and your father, and to my God and your God; they have one common inheritance, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - and they have one common place of eternal residence, and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and will receive you unto myself, that were I am there ye may be also. From this brief and general view of the scriptural representation of the believers union with Christ, we shall now dear brethren, notice although very briefly the [blur] and consequences of this union, it is not an essential or personal union [words blurred] in the Godhead is essential, the union
of the divine and human nature in Christ is personal. But it would be absurd to suppose either of those kinds of union in the case before us; should we suppose the former, we should attribute divine perfections to ourselves; should we suppose the latter, we should make ourselves joint mediators of the covenant with the glorious redeemer, both of which are too profane to find admission into our minds. We are to remember that or union is to him, who is by the right hand of God exalted. and who is sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high; these things need not be insisted on, the mere proposing of them compels your assent. We must further observe to you that this is a spiritual union, such an union whereby being joined to the Lord we are one spirit with him by which we may understand that believers partake of the same divine spirit, and the same divine Influences and operations with their blessed mediator and master (this difference being excepted.) that they have only lower degrees of the divine communications; but to him God giveth not the spirit by measure, we partake of the rays, he of the full sun of divine light and grace. Believers therefore by this union have all needful supplies of grace treasured up for them in Christ; in which respect it is said all things are their's, for they are Christ's and Christ is God’s. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and we are complete in him who is the head of an principality and power, by which means believers are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and by being joined to the Lord are one spirit with him. They have the same mind in them which was in Christ Jesus; they have the interest of the redeemer's kingdom at heart as their own interest, they have their wills in some measure subjected to the will of Christ, and are carefully endeavoring to walk even as he walked, to make him their example in the regulation of their affections, appetites, passions, and of their whole conduct and conversation. He that thus keepeth his commandments dwelleth in Christ and Christ in him, and hereby we know that he abideth in us by the spirit which he hath given us, but he that hath not thus the spirit of Christ is none of his; to explain how this union is accomplished would exceed the usual limits of a circular letter. We shall therefore come to a close by observing that this union is effected by God's everlasting love as the moving cause, by the holy spirits invincible power as the efficient cause, by Christ's vicarious obedience as the meritorious cause, and by faith as the instrumental cause. Vain therefore are their pretences, and they have but a delusive and destructive hope, who ascribe all the changes in conversion to the exercise of our own natural powers [several words blank].
of an olive tree flourish without the root, sure we cannot bear the root, but the root must bear us, and we must therefore be grafted in if we would partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree, for until he quickens us we are dead in trespasses and sins. Our communion with God doth likewise wholly depend upon our union to Jesus Christ; would we be humbled and abased before God, we must learn of Christ to be meek and lowly of heart; would we have our affections placed on things above, we must remember that we are dead and that our life is hid with Christ in God. Would we enjoy the earnest of the future inheritance, it must be by our believing in him, that we are sealed with that holy spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance; would we have joy and peace in believing, we must rejoice in Christ Jesus’ having no confidence in the flesh. Dear Brethren labour to evidence your union to Christ by having your hearts purified by faith, and your affections spiritual and heavenly, longing after a life of nearer communion with him; ardently desiring to be more spiritual in your thoughts, more heavenly in your conversation, and more careful of your respective duties both towards God and man, then may you know that Christ abideth in you and you in him: in that you bring forth much fruit, and as a further evidence of your union to Christ, love one another with a pure heart fervently, put away all envying strife and vain glory, and esteem each other better than yourselves; and finally adore, admire, and praise the infinite, condescension and the astonishing love of the glorious redeemer, in taking such dust and ashes into union with himself. Contemplate the amazing transaction of love with admiration, and Jet the love of Christ constrain us to live to the glory of that grace by which we become accepted in the beloved; that Christ may abide in you and you in him, that you may win Christ and be found in him at his appearing and kingdom, and that you may reign with him forever, is the prayer of your brethren in the union and bonds of the gospel.
           S. M. Noel, Mod’r.
      B. Taylor, Cl’k.

[From minutes of the Franklin Baptist Association, 1823, pp. 4-7; via SBTS digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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