The elders and messengers of the several Baptist churches, meeting at Pennepek, Middletown, Piscataqua, Cohansie, Hopewell, Kingwood, Southampton, Philadelphia, Scotch Plains, Morristown, Knowlton, Newtown, Upper Freehold, Mount Bethel, and Pittsgrove, being met in Association at Hopewell, New Jersey, October 13th and 14th, 1778.
The said churches send greeting.
Dear Brethren, -- You must be sensible that we live in a day of very general calamity and distress; a day of lukewarmness and hardness of heart; a day of great corruption, both as to doctrine and manners: We, therefore, earnestly beseech you in the bowels of compassion and Christian love, that you consider the rod and him that has appointed it; that you humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; that you remember from whence you have fallen, and repent, and do your first works; and that you hold fast that form of sound words that was once delivered to the saints. Do not give up or slight any of the glorious doctrines of the gospel; they are all excellent, and worthy of your highest regard. It is with real concern we perceive that real religion is so much on the decline; and therefore, we beg you would take care, that you do not rest in mere notions. Notional religion may carry a person far in a Christian profession; but experimental knowledge of Christ can only bring us to heaven. We know it will be in vain to plead "we have eat and drank in thy presence," and altogether as vain it will be to plead, "we have assented to the doctrines of the gospel," unless we feel their sanctifying influence on our hearts.
Professors of religion are too ready to join with the men of the world, in the useless, vain, and sinful customs of it; and it is to be feared, that the honors, pleasures, and especially the profits of the world, are too eagerly pursued by many amongst us, who name the name of Christ. Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, abstain from this fleshly lust, which warreth against the soul. Remember that we are not to love the world, nor the things of the world. We are strangers and pilgrims on earth, and therefore we should set our affections, not on things below, but on things above. The woman clothed with the sun, had the moon under her feet. Had we a proper estimation of heavenly things, we should not be so fond of earthly enjoyments.
Consider, dear brethren, whose you are, and whom you ought to serve. You profess to be the people of the Lord; you have declared your attachment to Jesus Christ: consider, then, the great High Priest of your profession, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; who went about continually doing good. So tread in his steps, and imitate his example, that you may be able to say to others, "be ye followers of us, as we are also of Christ."
Moreover, brethren, we exhort you to pay a due regard to the public worship of God, and carefully attend the means of grace. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Forsake not, therefore, the assembling of yourselves together. Wait on the Lord, and he shall strengthen your hearts. Shall the Lord rain manna round about our tents, and we not go out to gather it? Shall we starve our souls by such cruel negligence?
Remember, dear brethren, that attendance on the worship of God, in all the branches of it, in the sanctuary, in the family, and in the closet, is necessary to a growth in grace, and a delightful intercourse with God. And whether in the church, in the family, or in the world, let it be your care to honor the gospel. Many professors give themselves too much liberty, and walk not so circumspect as they ought. By this means the gospel is sometimes reproached, the doctrine of grace, and the good ways of God brought into contempt. If we were to adorn our profession with a holy life, the truths of our holy religion would be had in greater esteem. For nothing makes religion appear so amiable in the eyes of the world, or sets the gospel in so respectable a point of view, as a holy life in those that profess it. A Christian should remember that he has always something to do. The duty incumbent on him is very extensive. Be desirous, therefore, to know the extent of your duty, and when you know, be careful to put it in practice. Then shall we not be ashamed, when we have respect to all his commandments, and in keeping of them there is great reward.
We would likewise entreat you, as brethren, to dwell together in unity. Stifle the first risings of animosity. Be ashamed of being contentious. Let the disciples of the Prince of peace seek after and follow the things that make for peace. And while we exhort you to these necessary duties, we cannot but put you in mind, that all must be done in the name and strength of Christ. Without him we can do nothing. In ourselves we cannot discharge one duty, resist one temptation, or subdue one corruption. Let all, therefore, be done in the name, and with a dependence on the grace of Christ.
Motives to excite and stir you up to these things are at hand. Let us, in this view, remind you of the free love of God, by which you were chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Remember the love of Christ, who redeemed you by his blood, and the great things the Spirit of God has done for your souls, in the application of that precious blood to purge your consciences from dead works. And may you not only think on these things, but by the grace of God feel the power of them on your hearts continually.
And now, dear brethren, what shall we say more to you. Our hearts are enlarged. We seek not yours but you. Above all things we desire your spiritual welfare. For this we meet together, for this we pray, for this we preach, for this we give our advice, and wish we could do more. Dearly beloved, follow that which is good, forsake that which is evil, "be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Amen.
BENJAMIN MILLER, Moderator.
SAMUEL JONES, Clerk.
[From Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1778. The title is supplied. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Pennsylvania Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage