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Circular Letter
The Georgia Association of Baptist Churches
By W. D. Lane, 1805

"Error has made Partial Ravages in our Zion."

      The Georgia Baptist Association, to the Churches they represent, send greeting:

     Dear Brethren, -- Your letters have excited in us mingled emotions of joy and sorrow; while we rejoice at the general stability and soundness in the faith of our Churches, it is to he lamented that error has made partial ravages in our Zion.

     The present state of the religious world -- the conflicts of parties, and the state of genuine, experimental and practical religion ought to excite the attention of all the peaceable, zealous followers of Christ. Blessed be God, that truth is yet left free to combat error. Permit us then, brethren, to observe, that while you are called to fight the battles of the Lord, and feel it a sacred duty to contend earnestly for the faith, you should do it dispassionately -- remembering that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God, and that the Apostolic injunction is, that we meekly oppose them that resist the truth. A spirit of intolerance and persecution is opposed to that of Christ, contrary to the choicest dictates of his benign religion, and utterly incompatible with it!

     Therefore, dearly beloved in the Lord, we judge it proper to stir up your pure minds by calling upon you by every motive that should operate on the minds of the members of Christ's mystical body, to shew yourselves approved, and let your moderation be known to all men. That while you labor to manifest the declarative glory of that Divine Being, who has called you to glory and virtue, you remember also, that you are not, your opponent's judges, what hast thou to do to judge, &c.? If ye love them which love you, (only) what reward have ye?

     As consistent advocates for equal rights, and agreeably to the principles, we as a body have ever professed, let us thus put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, those especially who calumniate us as aiming at the enjoyment of exclusive privileges.

     Let your whole conduct prove such insinuations groundless; as we trust it ever has done. While we recommend moderation and a mild and gentle procedure with opposers, think not that we are indifferent to opinions or principles; far from it.

     It is a duty sacred and binding to contend for the truth, the whole truth, as delivered in the Volume of Inspiration. Bad passions, however, too often obtrude themselves and imposed upon the mind under the specious appearance and pretext of zeal for truth. -- While, therefore, with dignified firmness, and persevering zeal we assert our own rights, let us leave our opposing; or mistaken brethren in the peaceable exercise of theirs; they are sacred. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal! We are persuaded, however, that "diversity of sentiment does not originate in the Scriptures, but in the imbecility of the understanding -- in the pride of passion -- and in the inveteracy of prejudice inveteracy of prejudice."

     In asserting the sufficiency of the Scriptures as a rule of faith and practice, "unincumbered with human additions, and uncontaminated with foreign mixtures," we are in the discharge of a plain duty. The word will thus "afford the information which illuminates the understanding -- meliorates the temper -- invigorates the moral feelings, and improves the heart of every humble observer of its sacred precepts; it being upon articles which promote the felicity, and secure the salvation of believing sinners clear and decisive.

     We fully believe that whoever dispassionately and seriously searches the Scriptures, must confess that they teach, in explicit terms that God, the glorious triune God, rules over all -- makes even the wrath of man to praise him -- according to the good pleasure of his will dispenses the blessings of grace and salvation; and upholds and supports the kingdoms of nature, grace and glory.

     That man is fallen from his primeval rectitude, and is filled with diabolical pride and unbelief, is a rebel against his rightful Sovereign, guilty of the highest ingratitude, and an enemy to God by wicked works; his conscience defiled, and his mind enmity:

     That from this deplorable and wretched state he can only be recovered by the perfect righteousness, efficient intercession of a glorious advocate and surety JESUS CHRIST:

     That it is the Holy Spirit that quickeneth souls dead in trespasses and in sins, begets faith, cherishes holy dispositions and seals believers to the day of redemption.

     That a righteous retribution awaits the world -- that rewards infinitely glorious are reserved in heaven for the virtuous, the humble obedient believer; while punishment the most dire and awful will be inflicted on the vicious and unbelieving.

     That the promises to believers in Christ, are in him, and in him amen, to the glory of God.

     That the christian runs, not as uncertainly; that he fights, not as one that beateth the air; but trusting in the vicarious sacrifice, complete atonement, and prevalent intercession of Him who hath said because. I live ye shall live also; they are said to inherit the kingdom prepared in consumate and eternal felicity.

     That the fruits of a Gospel faith are humble, sincere and universal obedience; "good works proceeding necessarily from a true and lively faith, are acceptable and well pleasing to God in Christ." Thus will you manifest to all your firm belief that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of man; that salvation is of Grace, SOVEREIGN, DISTINGUISHING, and FREE! We exhort you; therefore, brethren beloved in the Lord, and called to be saints, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel: And may we be permitted to ask, can you be unconcerned about the propagation of this precious faith?

     Consider, we beseech you, if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, f any fellowship the spirit, if any bowels and mercies, the situation, of many parts of our land; the deplorable ignorance that still exists, with the horrible darkness that invelopes the minds of our Indian neighbors, and the progress of principles among ourselves tending to demoralize mankind. Can you be unconcerned at the prospect? Can you, as consistent followers of the blessed Jesus who went about doing good, any longer defer (without guilt) making the most animated exertions to rescue from the tyranny of the devil those who are now led captive, by him at his will? We will speak out thoughts plainly on this subject; it is your duty, and should be esteemed your privilege, to enable by your liberality preachers who, are now of necessity confined to a trust contracted sphere of action, to spread the savor of the Redeemer's name; who has told you in his word, It is more blessed to give than receive.

     Finally, Brethren, as helpers together of your joy -- as that watch for your watch for your good, we entreat you to manifest your attachment to the cause of Christ in all purity of conversation, conducting your yourselves as becomes the Gospel, in meekness, without malevolence; intrepidly, without fear; acting honestly, without disguise; fully, without reserve, following the example and obeying the precepts of Him who is only acknowledged as KING in Zion. Be encouraged brethren, reflecting that our God is a prayer hearing, and a prayer answering God; and has made exceeding great and precious promises to all who sincerely call upon Him: They who seek me early shall find me; ask and you shall receive; call ripen me in the day of trouble and I will deliver thee; ask that your joy may be full. God has wrought wonders in answer to prayer, the prayer of faith! Be therefore not only individually, but collectively engaged in this important and pleasant duty; set up prayer meetings in every neighborhood you can. Seek the diving blessing in the paths of deity; and knowledge in the use of proper means. Train up your children in the way they should go. A good and religious education is an invaluable blessing: may those who are favored with it, learn to prize it, he thankful for it, and make a good improvement of it. Our minutes will shew the notice we have taken of those things that came under our consideration. We trust God has been with us, and given us special tokens of his love at our annual meeting. To his grace we recommend you, and are affectionately yours in Gospel bonds.
      JAMES MATHEWS, Moderator.
      JESSE MERCER, Clerk


[From Jesse Mercer, A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, Washington, GA., 1838, pp. 104-107. Scanned and ormatted by Jim Duvall.]

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