Editor's note: David Spencer in his The Early Baptists of Philadelphia, says: "It was customary on the part of the Association to send back to the churches a short circular letter containing a general statement of the meeting that had been held, and urging to faithfulness to Christ, to the church, and in developing any special matter of great importance. The first of these we have given us was in 1729. . . . From this excellent epistle, the first of the kind extant in this country, has sprung the various styles of circular letters now furnished in our different Associational meetings." - Jim Duvall.]
Circular Letter, 1729
Philadelphia Baptist Association
The elders and messengers of the baptized congregations in Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, met at Philadelphia, Sept. 27th and 28th, 1729, in a solemn Association, sendeth greeting: -
Dearly beloved brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ: - We heartily rejoice to see your care, diligence, requests and desires, on our own behalf, at the throne of grace; and also your care and diligence in maintaining our yearly correspondence and communion in the gospel. We, your representatives, met together in love, perused your letters and gladly received your messengers. We find cause to rejoice that God has crowned the labors of his ministers with such success. There have been considerable additions the past year, in several churches, and some in most. Praise be rendered to our gracious God, we find the churches generally to be at peace and unity among themselves. We think it expedient to give you an account of our proceedings. We conferred together, without any jars or contentions in our debates; our souls have been refreshed, hearing of the welfare of the churches in general; also in hearing the sweet and comfortable truths of the gospel declared among us by the faithful labors of our ministering brethren, which we hope is to the glory of God and the good of souls. We earnestly desire you to walk worthy of your holy vocation, standing fast and striving together for the faith of the gospel. It is the general complaint of many that there is much lukewarmness and deadness in matters of religion, which we hope is
not a mere compliment, but rather the grief of the churches. In order to remedy this soul distemper, our advice and desire is that you be diligent to keep your places in the house of God; be frequent and instant in prayer, both in secret and in public; strive after the life and power of religion; make religion your earnest business; keep your garments undefiled from the world; walk as becomes saints before God and men; improve your opportunities in all religious duties, both among your families and in the church. Stand fast for the defending and maintaining of the ordinances of Christ; wait on God in them, that you may reap the benefit of Christ by them. Strive to keep together, maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; always resisting the assaults of Satan, who waiteth opportunities to disturb the peace of God's children. Be careful that you do nothing that may tend to breed disturbances in the church of God.
Query from the church at Philadelphia. Suppose a gifted brother, who is esteemed an orderly minister by or among those that are against the laying on of hands in any respect, should happen to come among our church; whether we may allow such an one to administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper or no?
Answered in the negative; because it is contrary to the rule of God's word: see Acts xiii. 2, 3; and xiv. 23: compared with Titus i. 5; 1 Tim. iv. 14; from which prescribed rules we dare not swerve. We also refer to the Confession of faith, chap, xxvii., sect. 9.
The messengers shall meet on the sixth day of the week, at the time before appointed, by 2 o'clock, P. M., to consider the affairs of the churches.
Agreed, that a sermon be preached on the seventh day, in the afternoon, as usual; - first day, a sermon to be preached in the morning, and another in the afternoon, with the administration of the Lord's supper; - on the second day of the week, a concluding sermon in the forenoon. Mr. Jones and Mr. Holmes shall send a letter to Mr. Walden and Mr. Hollis, in London, in order to maintain a Christian correspondence.
Commending you to God and the word of his grace,
Your brethren, in the best of bonds,Jno. David, Ben. Stelle, Owen Thomas, Geo. Hugh, Gershom Mott, Joseph Eaton, Jno. Devonald, John Welledge, Wm. Kinnersley, Saml. Osgood, John Clarkson, John Holmes, Jeremiah Kollet, Jno. Bartholomew, John Heart, Robt. Chalfant, Elisha Thomas, George Eaton. Dickison Shephard, Jenkin Jones, Ebenezer Smith, Simon Butler,
[From A.D. Gillette, editor, the Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, 1707-1807, reprint. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Pennsylvania Circular Letters
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