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Written by William Fristoe   

 


CIRCULAR LETTERS

Addressed to the several Churches belonging to this Association.

LETTER THE FIRST

Dear Brethren, -Being once more assembled as Delegates, and having gone through the business which came before us, as our minutes will shew, we proceed to address you, agreeable to a former resolve, on the divine authority of the sacred scriptures; and it is needless to observe, that the limits of a circular letter are infinitely too narrow for the illustration of a subject so vastly important and interesting: -A few, therefore, of the leading and most cardinal points, will be attended to at present. And first, the subject-matter of the sacred oracles merits our attention. Redemption, through the Lord Jesus Christ, is one of the main pillars on which all the rest depend, in a greater or lesser degree, is the principal subject of the sacred book -and this, when revealed, cannot be fully comprehended by any, or even all created existencies; and, until manifested, must remain locked up in the secrets of the eternal mind, hid from the scrutiny of either angels or men. The authors, therefore, of the inspired writing, could have no knowledge of this subject but by divine revelation -and had they been possessed of such a degree of invention, as to form this plan of imposition (if such it is) the manifest impossibility of success in the enterprise, would forever have discouraged them from attempting to impose on mankind a system, in all its parts so repugnant to the temper and disposition of all men, whilst in a carnal state. The religion recommended in the Bible, especially when reduced to its gospel form, has nothing in it to recommend it to the esteem of carnal men -its morals are too pure, its doctrines too spiritual, and its duties require a degree of self denial that nothing but grace can inspire. Neither is it probable to see how div1ne revelation made its way, either in the hands of Moses or the prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ, from time to time, without the interposition of some supernatural cause -Men destitute of all the accomplishments essential to imposture and intrigue, without learning, wealth or popularity; poor, despised and persecuted both by Jews and pagans, with all the wealth, wisdom and power of the world on their side. And still the veil has never been rent, and the delusion made manifest –a few fishermen, and shepherds have invented, and supported a system that baffles and triumphs over the wisdom of all the learned world -a strong presumption that a wisdom the world never knew guided the authors of this divine mystery. A second thing that merits our attention is, the time that passed from the beginning of the holy scriptures until their completion; the return from Egypt, we are told, was 1491 years before the manifestation of Christ in the flesh –and John wrote his revelation in the 96th year of the Christian era -a space of nearly sixteen hundred years elapsed while the sacred volume was incomplete –yet still those who went before, and they that follow after, embrace the same promises, point out the same object as the hope of poor sinners, and manifest the same meekness, humility and patience in suffering in the same interesting cause: so that we discover the utmost harmony amongst them in every respect –which never could have been, if the inspired writers had not been governed by some supreme supernatural cause -it is certain there could be no combination amongst the parties, neither could anything of a worldly nature inspire the later writers to pursue the path that their predecessors had taken -a path where nothing but sorrow, pain and death perpetually dwell, and why persevere in hope forlorn, and fail in seas so rough, and split on rocks hitherto fatal to all embarked in the same cause.

And thirdly the preservation of those sacred oracles, through the revolutions of time, till the present moment, is a strong proof of their divine inspiration -since it is a fact that cannot be denied, that every other religious system, however revered, has always shared the same fate of the nation or nations that embraced it, and with them have been lost and swallowed up in the awful vortex of national revolutions; but the Bible has stood the test of time, and survived the general wreck, and its advocates have never forsaken it in the midst of all their sorrows and sufferings; of this the Jews are still a standing evidence. And, fourthly, the Bible, and that only amongst the various religious systems proposed to the world of mankind, reveal the supreme Deity. Clothed with that majesty, glory and transcendent excellency, worthy of the Creator of all things. Here His justice, mercy, and every other attribute shine with a splendor that dazzles men and angels -and while they declare Him to be the author of the world, they teach us to believe that it is governed by His supreme agency; and that the final state of all rational intelligencies are at His divine disposal: and a final distribution of eternal rewards or punishments rests with His mercy or justice to determine. And once more, the doctrines of the Bible apply with propriety to the state of the human mind in every generation, which could not without divine inspiration -for although time, habit, and custom, have produced great and important changes in the language, manners, and external practices of mankind, still that radical depravity, expressed in the Bible, cleaves to them through every age, and is as visible amongst the learned and polite nations, as it is amongst the savage and barbarous -all equally opposed to the knowledge, love and service of God. And how could anything but divine inspiration determine that the humill1 mind would always retain its opposition to the divine law, and men, in every generation, possess the same internal enmity to virtue and religion, and still the Bible asserts this as most certainly true; and the experience of every generation has hitherto, and for ever will, demonstrate the awful truth in this respect.

And further, the Bible alone proposes a remedy equal to the evils it reveals, and the experience of every judicious observer proves sin to have been, some way, introduced into the world -the depravity of the human heart has, in every age, and still does demonstrate the necessity of something to repel its influence, and relieve the world from the pressing sorrows that have deluged the earth, from generation to generation. And can anything but the  doctrines of the Bible act as an antidote against the prevailing malady? We never expect the physician to heal by increasing the disorder. Is the whole human family sick of sin? does vice pervade the universe? the Bible proposeth the best, and only remedy; there sin is forbidden in all its forms; justice, mercy and love, and peace towards all men, is enjoined -their persons, their property and reputations made sacred -do justly love mercy, and walk humbly with God, are the injunctions that echo from this sacred, this heavenly book; which does not only propose a remedy for sin in general, but provides, especially, for those who feel it in their own hearts, and groan under its awful influence. It points to the celestial world that grace has made - where nothing that works an abomination, or loves or makes a lie, can enter; where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at eternal rest.

Thus, dear brethren, we have stated a few of the excellencies of this precious book -and have only to add, that to you they are not only the word but the power of God, to your present and eternal salvation -so that with unshaken confidence, you may sing -no weapon that is formed against Zion, shalt prosper; and every tongue that shall rise u p against her shall be utterly condemned: And when all the objects contemplated in the eternal mind, and revealed in the sacred scriptures, are accomplished, then shall Zion reign, far above the reach of all her present sufferings and sorrows, in the peaceful bosom of her incarnate Saviour, to whom with the Father, and eternal Spirit of all grace, be honor, power, and dominion, now and forever. -Amen.


 
LETTER SECOND

On the doctrine of Regeneration.

Dearly beloved, -We shall address you upon an important, and interesting doctrine of the New Testament, to wit: that of regeneration, or being born again. -John 3d and 3d -”Verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” -consequently cannot enter therein. In order therefore, in a methodical manner, to investigate the subject, we shall in the first place, consider the necessity of regeneration –2d, enquire what it is, or where it doth consist -3dly the causes or means that effect the same.

First, then, in order, the necessity thereof, viz: that we cannot enter into, or inherit the kingdom of God -secondly, the reasons annexed, that we, by nature, stand connected with our own first sinful and depraved head and representative -and, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned. Note; this is not to be understood by way of metonymy, or in consequence of Adam's depravity, and their's as his descendants or progeny; but for and in consideration of original guilt, and the imputation thereof unto them, as having a radical existence in him –and therefore, with some propriety as it is said of Levi, that he paid tithes in loins of Abraham; so it may be said, we all sinned in the loins of our father Adam –

Romans 5th, and 19th -for as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, or constituted such; and as Adam, by his transgression became divested of all righteousness, so he became depraved in his soul, defiled and polluted in all his powers, and his mind and conscience defiled; insomuch, that the whole human race is considered as dead in trespasses and sin; see Ephesians 2d and 1st –gone out of the way -Psalms 4th -destruction and misery are in their way, and the way of peace they have not known -children of wrath, saith the apostle, without God in the world, having enmity in their hearts against God, being not only enveloped in the blackness of darkness, but darkness itself; and all the concomitants, ignorance, blindness, infatuation and spiritual apathy.

From the impartial view of these things premised, it will appear to every unprejudiced mind, that a change of circumstance, and disposition is essentially necessary, in order to constitute man in a capacity to serve God, the ultimate end of his being; or to enjoy Him as the centre of perfection, and exhaustless source of blessedness, which leads us to consider what regeneration is, and agreeably to Jesus Christ -John 5th and 7th -it is a being born of the Spirit; whereas by natural generation, (wherein we were passive) we were conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity -see Psalm 51st -so in regeneration, wherein also we were passive, we partake of a new and spiritual birth -being quickened together with Christ; created anew in Christ Jesus. Thus this great work is ascribed unto God, who effects the same by His infallible, efficacious grace.

Secondly, regeneration is expressed, as a renovation of our spiritual powers -a planting of divine law in the heart, and engraving it in the mind -yea, a putting off the image of God on us, or an assimilation into the divine likeness. And Paul to Titus speaks of it as a washing and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Thirdly, regeneration constitutes the subjects thereof as children of God -heirs and joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. So that they who were servants of sin, drudges to iniquity, are now made free in Christ, and servants of righteousness –the spouse of Christ, His love, His dove, His undefiled one. O! what a glorious change -sons of God, having His spirit sent down into their hearts, whereby they say, Abba, Father. -Now, lastly, the cause or means that effect this divine change. God is the only efficient cause -His love the moving cause -His spirit and His word the ministering cause. Thus we are said to be begotten by the word of His truth through the gospel, born again to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away; reserved in Heaven for you; who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. oh, brethren! what a rich display of infinite wisdom, sovereign power and unmerited love, in devising and accomplishing such a glorious system of redemption and deliverance for the wretched self-ruined race, that they may partake of this divine blessing here in time, and receive precious faith, and precious promises, all flowing from the more precious Christ! O,  beloved brethren! what infinite obligations are we under unto the adorable Jehovah, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, from the dead. O let us prize that blessed gospel, that reveals such a glorious hope -that accomplishes such divine purposes -and turns from darkness to light, from the power of sin and Satan, to serve the living God. Let us manifest in our lives, that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that by the power of the Holy Ghost. So, farewell. Yours in Christain love.


LETTER THIRD

On the subjects. and government of a gospel Church.

Dear Brethren -We have had an agreeable meeting; love and peace have prevailed among us. Letters from various quarters inform us, that peace, in general, is continued among the Churches; but complaints of the Lord's absence, in worshipping assemblies, and leanness among the sons of Zion. There is doubtless a cause why the spouse of Christ is left to mourn thus. Under such circumstances it becomes us, to be careful in strengthening the things that remain, and exert every power that we may glorify God, and promote Zion's interest. Let us aim at setting the house of God in order, and cleansing within Zion's walls. We would therefore address you on the subject of church government, and the exercise of discipline.

By a church of Christ, we understand a number of persons selected, and called out from an ungodly world, and subjected to the gospel by almighty, efficacious and sovereign grace; giving themselves to the Lord, and to one another, by the will of God, and are the ground and pillar of truth.

The rule by which such church is to be governed is the Holy scriptures, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets; Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. By those inspired, sublime and eternal doctrines, a gracious God makes discoveries of His love, and communicates the knowledge of salvation through a precious endearing Redeemer; and that which furnishes the man of God unto every good work; to this divine and supreme law due subjection is required.

Having sound subjects, and an unerring rule for the government of them, special care ought to be taken as to the mode of government; it becomes the preachers of the gospel first in order, to be faithful in preaching the word of life; reproving the obstinate, warning the unruly, and comforting the feeble-minded. The church is commanded to be subject to them, as those that watch, for their souls; whom Christ has employed as stewards in His house, and placed as overseers, to deal out to His servants and handmaidens their meat in due season. Such persons called to labor in Christ's vineyard, ought to shine with distinguished light, as stars in the firmament; and, without weariness, both by precept and example, diffuse knowledge wherever they go, and provoke others to love and good works.

It is likewise the duty of each member of a church, to watch over each other, lest there be any root of bitterness springing up, and thereby many be defiled. Dear brethren, urge on your fellow members -their constant attendance on divine worship, and meetings for private business. That word that forbids their neglect, will not excuse their absence; and, if they cannot be reclaimed, put them away; for it is unreasonable that the church should be encumbered and burthened with dead, useless members. Forbid idle visits, superfluous apparel, and carnal conformity to the sinful customs of the world, as unworthy and beneath the dignity of the heirs of glory. Look into it, and see that each fellow member maintains family worship, and suppresses sin and vice to the remotest branch of his household.

In case of crimes, let reproof be suited to their nature; if public, then reprove publicly, that all the rest of the church may fear; if private, then use admonition; in either case, if the person may be said to be overtaken, tenderness and compassion is to be exercised in restoring him -Clearly demonstrate your readiness to revenge all disobedience, and purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.

As you profess to be renewed by grace, and enjoy the love of God, and now become a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household of God, remember you are not your own; never boast your freedom, for you are professedly Christ's servants; your person, your time, your property, all belongs to Him; therefore under Christ, and in union with His church. You have a right to appoint a place for worship, and the time when it is to be performed, and, with the concurrence of the church, ascertain the expenses necessary to carry it into full effect; and defray every other expense, arising from your relation to each other as a religious body.

Each member of a gospel Church, according to the best regulations of society, and the supreme law of the spiritual kingdom, are to pay according to their several abilities, that there may be, according to the scriptures, equality; -if this rule be objected to, which appears the only scripture rule, we despair of any other being found, and the consequence will be, for the bride to wander at uncertainty without any correct rule.

Finally -engage, solemnly engage, in the important work of the Lord's vineyard; let the consideration of the love of God to us, when we were unlovely, stimulate, excite and stir us up to diligence. Short will be our duration here. Let us esteem it our highest honor, and greatest happiness, to serve the most high God, in which delightful work may we ever be employed, is the desire of your brethren in the Lord. -Farewell.


 
LETTER FOURTH

On the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Dear Brethren -As we addressed you last year, on the divine authority of the holy scriptures, you will permit us, for the present, to call your attention to the important subject of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Although Arians and Socinians acknowledge the sacred oracles to be the rule of faith and worship, yet both deny the proper deity of Christ: the former believing Him to be super-angelic, and the latter denying that He had an existence before His conception in the womb of the virgin. To describe His relation, as Son to the Father, is as difficult as to comprehend the existence of the eternal God, in His incomprehensible nature: yet He is called God's own Son, not in a figurative, but in a proper sense. Rom. 8:32, “God spared not his own Son, etc.” Therefore, the scriptures teach us, that Christ is “Emmanuel, i.e., God with us.” Matt. 1:23, as He is true man, so He is also true God; the same in substance, equal in power and glory with the Father; which is clear; first, from His names; secondly, from His attributes; thirdly, from His works; and fourthly, from His worship. First from His names. The same divine names which are given to the Father, are applicable, also to the Son. He is called God -”in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” -John 1:1. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” -I Tim. 3:16. “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” -Acts 20:28. “Herein perceive we the love of God, that he laid down his life for us.” -I John 3:16. He is called Lord. -”The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Psa. 110:1 ; in a word, this is the common title through the New Testament; He is called the Lord of glory. - I Cor. 2:8, and again He is called the LORD OF LORDS, AND KING OF KINGS. -Rev. 19: 16. It may, perhaps, be objected, that these names are applied in several parts of the scriptures to mere creatures; such as angels, magistrates, and idols of the heathen worship. But let it be observed, that when those divine names are applied to mere creatures, there is always something annexed to discover, that they are applied to them in an improper sense; and that they are not God's by nature. Thus of magistrates, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men.” -Psa. 82:6,7. When angels are called gods, at the same time they are commanded to worship Christ. “Worship him, all ye gods.” -Psa. 97:7, compared with Heb. 1 :6, when the idols of the heathen are called gods, it is added, “they have not made the heavens and the earth; and they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” -Jer. 10:11. But these divine names are applied to Christ, absolutely, without any limitation whatever; thus He is called “the only wise God” -I Tim. 1 :17. “The great God” -Tit. 2: 13, “and the true God” -I John 5:20. The name Jehovah is God's incommunicable name: “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.” -Psa. 83: 18, which name is applied to Christ in several places in the Holy Bible. -See Jer. 23:6, Isaiah 40:3, 5, 25, and 45:24, 25. These passages refer to Christ; “He alone is Jehovah our righteousness.” John the Baptist alluded to Christ when he said, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord (Jehovah)” -Matt. 3:3. Christ is also the person which Isaiah calls, the King, Jehovah of hosts,” in his vision. See John 12:41, again He is the Saviour, “the word hath gone forth out of his mouth, and he is Jehovah, in whom his saints have righteousness, and strength” -that is applied to Christ as judge of all, in Rom. 13:10, 12. Thus we find the same divine names which are applied to the Father, applied to the Son also. Secondly, from His attributes. He is eternal as the Father. Not only before Abraham, as He tells the Jews, John 8:58, but He was in the beginning, John 1 :1, hence He is Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever -Heb.13:8. Again, “the heavens shall wax old, as a garment -but he shall endure, and when all things perish he is the same” -See Psa. 102:26, 27, compared with Heb. 1: 10, 12. He is omnipresent  -when He was on earth, at the same time He was in heaven; “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” -John 3: 13. The promise (when He commissioned H is disciples to preach and baptize) was, “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” -Matt. 28: 19, 20: and whenever they are scattered to and fro in the earth, He dwells in and abides with them -John 6:56. Is the Father omniscient? So is the Son. “Lord, thou knowest all things,” said Peter -John 21: 17. It is Christ who searcheth the reins, and hearts of men -Rev. 2:23: and by Him God will judge the secrets of men -Rom. 2:16. Surely He that knoweth the thoughts, words, and actions of all the men that have been, that are, or ever will be upon the earth, must be the omniscient God. Christ is the omnipotent God, as well as the Father; He is called the mighty God -Isa. 9:6. He titles himself the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty -Rev. 1 :8; and under this title the heavenly inhabitants praise Him -Rev. 15:3. Again He is called the most high and ever blessed God; of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came; who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. -Rom. 9:5: it is clear that all the divine perfections which belong to the Father, belong also to the Son, in their full extent; so that he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father -John 14:9. He is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person -Heb. 1:3.

Thirdly, from His works, of old Thou hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands; which words are expressly applied -Heb.1 :10: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” -John 1 :3. “By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” -Col.1 :16. As the creation of the world was by Christ, so the preservation of it, is by Him; for “by him all things consist” -Col.1 :17. “And he upholdeth all things by the word of his power” -Heb.1 :3. Further, the raising the dead at the last day, is Christ's work, “I will raise him up at the last day” –John 6:54. And in like manner He quickens the dead soul, in the work of regeneration: “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”  -John 5:25: hence He is called the life of His saints; and what is their life, but Christ living in them? Gal. 2:20. The miracles which He wrought, and those which His disciples wrought in His name, being seen and acknowledged, even by His enemies, to be genuine, were all demonstrative proofs of His divinity.

Fourthly, from His worship. He is with the Father equally the object of religious worship, of prayer -Lord Jesus (said dying Stephen), receive my spirit; Acts 7:59. The primitive Christians are denominated, they that, in every place, call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is also the object of praise.  “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy,” etc., Rev. 5:9. And again, verse 12, : “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” He is, in like manner, praised by the saints on earth: “To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” -Jude 25. There are also many other assertions of praise to Christ, such as those in I Peter 3: 18, I Tim. 6:15, 16; and 1 :17. He is also the object of divine faith, equally with the Father- “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” -John 14: 1. I know whom I have believed (or, as in the margin, trusted) and am persuaded that which I have committed unto Him against that day. Christ is the object of our supreme love, which is proper only to be given to God. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” -Eph. 6:24. Again, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” -I Cor. 16:22. To worship a mere creature, however exalted, is idolatry; as religious worship is due to God alone. See Matt. 4: 10.

Seeing then that the same divine names, attributes, works, and worship which are ascribed to the Father, are also ascribed to the Son; it necessarily follows, that He is the true God: the same in substance, equal in power and glory with the Father, “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” -Col. 2:9. Observe the gradation in the words, “the Godhead; the fulness of the Godhead; the Godhead bodily dwelleth in him.” All the perfections of the divine nature belong unto Him.
Although in respect to His human nature, His Father was greater than He, and as mediator He was the Father's servant; who was sent into the world by Him, to finish the work of our redemption; yet, in respect to His divine nature, at the same time He and His Father were one -John 10:30; not one person, but one essence, one God. “He was in the Father, and the Father in Him;” so that He which had seen the Son, had seen the Father also -John 14:9, 10.

When the Jews, from these expressions, concluded that He had made himself equal with God, He does not contradict the inference which they draw, which He would, certainly, had it been false. The apostle observes, that, He being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to equal with God. -Phil. 2:6. Yet, Oh, amazing grace! He made himself of no reputation, and humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Let us, therefore, rejoice, brethren, in our divine Redeemer; His divinity is an everlasting source of comfort to His church. Hearken and hear Him say, Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed, neither be confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; (it follows) thy Maker is thy husband, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, The God of the whole earth, shall be called -Isa. 54:4, 5. Christ therefore, by the shedding of His blood hath procured a pardon to the chief of sinners. His power is omnipotent, and will subdue our most stubborn lusts, and support us under our sorest trials, in the accomplishment of His promises, made to His dear people. His fulness is the fulness of God, and can supply our greatest wants. Permit us then, brethren, to remind your union is with a divine person, and let us be cautious never to debase our heavenly birth; being bought with the precious blood of Christ. Let us remember, we are not our own, but the Lord's, and strive to glorify Him in our bodies, and our spirits which are His. Oh! let us be encouraged to trust in the mighty God, the captain of our salvation, and king in Zion! And proclaim Him as our Ruler, by walking in His statutes and ordinances.

May we be followers of God, even of Christ, as dear children, and walk in love; until we arrive at the summit of everlasting happiness and glory, is the prayer of us all. Brethren, pray for us. -Adieu.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 November 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.