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Circular Letter
The Georgia Association of Baptist Churches
By Rev. James Matthews, Sen., 1798

Be Not Conformed to This World

     The Georgia Association, convened at Greenwood the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd of October, 1798, to the Churches they represent, send Christian salutation

     Dear Brethren, -- In the course of Divine Providence, we have been permitted, once more to enjoy another pleasing interview, and have endeavoured to consider those things, which came before us, with calmness and deliberation; and hope, we have had the presence of our divine and glorious Redeemer in this our annual meeting.

     We now call your attention to that important exhortation given by the Apostle to the Romans, and which we shall make the subject of our address to you. Be not conformed to this World. It is evident both from Scripture and Christian experience, that the world and real religion are much opposed to each other, and therefore, such an exhortation is truly necessary. By the world here, we are to understand those things which are in their nature, evil; such as the sinful honors, pleasures, profits, superfluities, fashions, &c. of the world; or as the Apostle John terms it, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. These, all being of the world, and to, which we are not to conform, are most cautiously to be avoided. By a conformity, therefore to the world, we are to understand: First, The having of our minds set too, much on the things thereof, so as to hold our thoughts aside, from things of greater moment. Secondly, Too great a pursuit after the things of this life, which will frequently make us neglect our duty to God and our brethren. The reasons, why we are not to conform to this world, are many. God requires his people to be separate from it; they are to dwell alone and not to be reckoned among the nations; they are to come out from among the wicked and not to partake of their deeds; they are born from above, and in conforming to the world they degrade their heavenly birth, the dignity of which, they should always be most zealous to maintain. Their comforts being from above, all that this work can afford is not sufficient to feed their immortal minds. Dear brethren, while you are pursuing the trifling things of this vain world, you are robbing your souls of that substantial food, which is necessary for them, that they may grow thereby.

     In conforming to the world, you do the cause of God much injury, for as the followers of Christ, you ought to walk in his footsteps. Did he pour contempt on the world? So ought you. Did he declare his kingdom was not of this world? And so ought you to live in the world, as though you were not of the world. Otherwise you will bring contempt on the cause of religion, which you as professors are in duty bound to support, and shame and confusion upon your own souls. For, no doubt, it will grate heavily on your minds in a dying hoar, when darkness and clouds have overshadowed you, and death stares you full in the face, to reflect on your past conduct, and that you have suffered the world, like a thief, to rob you of all your evidences of peace and pardon. You may then feel in your bosoms for, but alas! you cannot find them. While on the other hand, had you not listened to the flattering voice of an enemy, you might, with a manly courage, have met the grim messenger and bidden him do his worst. By conforming to the world you strike hands with one of your worst enemies, for how oft does it step in between you and your dear Lord, mar those comforts you wish to enjoy, and drag your souls from that dear center of happiness, in which you desire to dwell. O what an enemy the world is! By the overcoming of which, you will enjoy more communion with God, for where, the love of the world is, the love of the Father is not. The world shuts and closes the heart against God, and leaves no room for divine comforts. But if you fly from the world as a deadly evil, you shall be made to drink deeply of the consolations of your heavenly Father, and be the better able to cope with all your spiritual enemies. Thus you may see the reasonableness, nay the necessity of the exhortation; may you endeavour to avoid the consequences of a worldly conformity, as above mentioned, and in so doing you shall escape many evils. Fly! therefore, fly from it as one of your most powerful enemies. Has it gotten hold of any of your skirts, tear away from it; does it hold out its golden bates [baits?], shut your eyes against them, and know that its offers are but to deceive and steal your hearts from God. As a conformity to the world has done much harm, and is likely to do much more, we would endeavour to enforce the Apostle's exhortation upon your minds: "be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." And may that dear and loving Jesus, who is able to keep you from all enemies, preserve you from all the evils of the world, is, beloved brethren, the prayer of yours in Gospel bonds.



[From Jesse Mercer, A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, Washington, GA., 1838, pp. 96-98.]

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