The Sad Declension of Religion in Your Settlements
The Ministers and Messengers who compose the Georgia Association, to the Churches they represent, send greeting:
Dearly Beloved Brethren, -- Through divine favour we are again assembled, and have been measurably refreshed by hearing of you, through the medium of your letters; but our joy was mixed with grief to hear so many of you complain of the sad declension of religion in your settlements which we feel in our hearts: but as we have obtained mercy we faint not, (2 Corinthians 4:1,) knowing that darkness and light are alike to him, who has his way in the storm and in the whirlwind; and that all things work together for their good who love God.
Dear brethren, in this cold season be sure to let a part of your winter's work be to examine yourselves, and to prove your own selves whether you be in the faith; (2 Corinthians 13:5,) or whether there be not an Achan in the camp among you who is wantonly wearing Babylonish garments, or unjustly drawing into his coffers some sheckles of silver, or coveting to get golden wedges by fraud, (Joshua 7.) Be assured those idols must be rooted out, though they be secreted in the bottom of your tent. Recollect that when Christians, or churches forsake the divine counsel, and walk not in the statues of God then he visits their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes: (Psalm 89:30, 32.) But those, who love his law, hearken to his commandments have great peter like a river, and righteousness like a wave of the sea, (Psalm 119:165. Isaiah 48:18.) We beseech you to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called; (Ephesians 4:1.) not as fools, but wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil; (Ephesians 5:15,) to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; but rather reprove them not only in your conversation which is but word and tongue; but in your life and conduct which is truth and deed, (1 John 3:18.) And us nothing, forms a more umiable trait in the christian character nor tends more to the Redeemer's glory, and the good of his church, than a strict adherence to gospel discipline; we therefore, adjure you to use it as refiner's fire and as fuller's soap; and as the ax which was laid to the root of the tree, to hew down every one which was barren, or brought forth bad fruit; or as the fan is his hand who should thoroughly purge his floor, in order to blow away, and consume the dust and the chaff for the preservation of the wheat, (Matthew 3:2. Matthew 3:10.) We further admonish you to constant attendance at your own conferences, and as oft as possible at the conferences of the neighbouring churches, that you may not only hear but see their order. (Colossians 2:5.) and be helpers of each others joy in the Lord, (2 Corinthians 2:24.) and thereby maintain union and fellowship, which are essential to the communion of saints; without which it loses its substance, and is like Joab kissing Amasa, (2 Samuel 20:9, 10.) or speaking quietly to Abner in the gate. (2 Samuel 3:37.)
Permit us, dear brethren, to call upon you to attend pointedly at your own communions, and as oft as possible at those of the sister churches, and let not our eyes affect our hearts, (2 Samuel 3:51.) any more by observing your seats empty in conference, or evacuated at communion; the former denoting you not duly attached to the cause, the latter to be not properly united to the brethren. And as the churches, in the several districts of this Association, have adopted the measure of continuing a General Meeting in each district for purposes of more close union; we sincerely hope that you, as the constituents of such meetings, will not act as that son who said, "I go sir," and went not; but that you will give your attendance as unanimously as possible; and when there, strictly adhere to every duty and privilege of the meeting, not suffering small and trivial excuses to keep you from, or call you away before the union meeting is completed, not merely in name but in nature.
Dear brethren, as those who long to see God glorified in his church, Christ's Kingdom enhanced, and you comforted and encouraged in his service, we call upon you in this dark and cloudy day to take the pure word of God for your guide; it will be a lamp to your feet, and a light to your paths, (Psalm 119:105.) and properly digested the joy and rejoicing of your hearts. (Jeremiah 15:16.)
We pray you to show yourselves examples of believers in conversation, in purity, in faith and in charity, (1 Timothy 4:12.) and while the brethren are exercising themselves unto godliness, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting, let the sisters adorn themselves in decent modest apparel, (and not in the surperfluities of naughtiness nor go half naked.) (1 Timothy 2:9.) And let their conversation be chaste, coupled with fear, which bespeaks a heart adorned with a meek and quiet spirit, like holy women of old; (1 Peter 3:2, 3, 4, 5.) That we may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27.) Endeavour to live, both in word and deed, to the praise of him who hath called you to glory and virtue: knowing that whoso oftereth praise glorifieth. God, and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will he shew his salvation.
Finally, dear brethren, we urge the necessity and utility of Gospel discipline among you, that the house of God be not a house of merchandise, nor a den of thieves, (John 2:16. Jereremiah 7:11. Mark 11:17.) that the Church of Christ appear neither as a harlot, nor as the daughter of an harlot. (Revelation 17:5.) But in all things that she approve herself as a chaste virgin or the bride the Lamb's wife. (Revelation 21:9.)
And as the transgression of the wicked did say in the heart of David, that the fear of God was not before their eyes, so let your holy deportment declare in their hearts that the fear of God is in you the beginning of wisdom and the working of righteousness. (Psalm, 36:1. Proverbs 9:10.)
And now brethren, in order to attain to this excellency of character let each look to himself, and when each has disciplined himself, the whole will be disciplined; and the church will appear like a company of horses in Pharoah's chariots, or a flock of sheep coming up from the washing, all even shorn, &c. (Canticles 7, and 6:6.) Wherefore, we pray God to preserve you from abounding errors, and the power of darkness, which are so prevalent in the professing world; and purify you unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.
We pray that the good Spirit may direct you into the old paths, where is the good way, that you may walk therein and find rest to your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16.) We now commend you to God, and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance amongst all them that are sanctified. Amen.
A. MARSHALL, Moderator.
JESSE MERCER, Clerk.
================[From Jesse Mercer, A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, Washington, GA., 1838, pp. 112-114.Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.] More Georgia Circular Letters
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