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Circular Letter
The Georgia Association of Baptist Churches
By Wm. Rabun, 1809
     The Georgia Association convened at Tirzah, in Putnam county, October 1809, to the Churches they represent, wish grace, mercy and peace, may be multiplied:

     Dear Brethren, -- Having met according to our appointment, in the late acquired territory, which, only a few years past, was the habitation of savages and wild beasts, and which has since been converted into fertile fields, and become the residence of many of the people of God, where a number of churches have been planted, and meeting houses erected, that daily echo with the gospel's joyful sound, and the high praises of Zion's King; well may we exclaim with David, and say, "This is the Lord's doing and is marvellous in our eyes."

     We trust, that while we have been sitting together in heavenly places in Christ, we have heard with delight, that the Lord has been pouring out his spirit on several of the churches of our union; and is now making a willing people in this, the day of his power. Surely our lot has fallen in pleasant places! We live in a time that kings and righteous men beheld afar off, and desired with anxious solicitude, but died without the enjoyment.

     Our temporal blessings are great indeed, and our spiritual privileges are such, as other nations have never yet enjoyed. And while we hear with solemn concern, from almost every part of the European world, that the desolating sword is spreading awful havoc and distress, among those unfortunate countries -- when we reflect for a moment on these unpleasant events, and then turn our attention to our peaceful, happy land; we are ready to exclaim, "The Lord hath done great things for us, for which, we are (or at least ought to be) glad."

     And now dear brethren, seeing that we have been thus highly favored, "What manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness."

     We have therefore thought proper to call your attention to a few remarks on the injunction of our dear Redeemer, recorded in Matthew 5:18. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father, which is in heaven."

     That the church of God is considered as the light of the world, and compared to a city set on a hill that giveth light to all around, Jesus Christ himself hath testified. That they are required to shine to the praise and glory of him, who has called them out of darkness into his marvellous light, none will deny. And that it is through this medium that the cause of God is carried on in the world, all will agree. Then

     First. To our ministering brethren, we would open a few tender and affectionate observations. You who have been called of God, to the sacred work of preaching the gospel of Christ, to Adam's fallen race, remember, that of you it will be expected to shine in your proper department, to the praise and glory of him who hath appointed you to occupy in that important trust. We would therefore exhort you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you "walk worthy of the vocation by which you are called." By taking heed to yourselves and to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. By reading and studying the sacred scriptures and attending to the pure simplicity of the gospel of our Redeemer. And by giving all the encouragement in your power to itinerant preaching. For we read that when our divine master sent out his disciples by two and two, they returned rejoicing, that even the devils were made subject to them through his name.

     With peculiar satisfaction, we find that several of our ministering brethren, are devoting their time, almost entirely, to the duties of the sanctuary, and with real pleasure, we have seen the good effects that attend their exertions.

     But alas! are there not many others, who, though eminently calculated, are not thus disposed to come forth to the help of the Lord against the mighty? Is there not a woe pronounced on those that are at ease in Zion? And shall it be said of any of you, dear brethren, that you are contented at home when the Lord hath need of your labors? Then be encouraged to go forth in the name of the Lord of Hosts; and although you should meet with opposition and many discouraging prospects, from the enemies of truth, and opposers of religion; let that consoling promise (And lo! I am with you always) support you in your darkest and most trying hours.

     And now, dear brethren, we conjure you, that whether in the pulpit, or in the church, at home, or abroad, you may by your chaste conversation, constrain an admiring world to say, "these are the servants of the most high God, that shew unto us the way of salvation." And in all your preachings, exhortations, prayers and praises, let Jesus Christ, and him crucified, be your favorite, and most exalted theme. That you consider it as the highest honor to which you can possibly attain in this life, to be worn out in the service of the living God -- that when you have ended your race and discharged the duty assigned you, you may each for himself, be enabled with full assurance, to say with Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, and kept the faith -- and when the chief shepherd shall come, may you receive that cheering plaudit of Well done good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of your Lord."

     Secondly. To our aged lay brethren, we would also say a few things. Although you have borne the heat and burthen of the day, and have long been preserved as witnesses of the truth, and monuments of free, sovereign and distinguishing grace; and although your bodily infirmities and declining age has in many respects rendered you incapable of shining to so great advantage as formerly, yet we are persuaded that while the Lord is pleased to keep you in this vale of tears, he has his purposes to answer by so doing. Then be disposed to enquire earnestly what those purposes may be, and govern yourselves accordingly. And whether in the churches to which you belong, or in the families over which you preside. Oh! remember that "the path of the just, is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Then let your light shine in the evening of life with additional lustre, that by your examples and wholesome admonitions, your brethren, children, servants and, neighbors may take knowledge that you have been with Jesus, and be constrained to testify, that of a truth there is a reality in the religion you profess. -- Then be encouraged to hold on your way, and altho' tribulation and distress may await you, still be of good cheer, for when you have done and suffered the will of your heavenly Father, he will send for you, and bring your grey hairs to the grave in peace, "in a full age, like a shock of corn cometh in his season."

     Thirdly. To our younger brethren, we have many things to say, but the limits of this sketch will not admit of it now. Although we have no new commandment to write unto you, yet we are disposed to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, and to point out and bring into view some of the most important duties that God has enjoined on you as members of his mystical body. Then permit us in the most endearing manner to exhort "you, who sometimes were darkness, but now are made light in the Lord that ye walk as children of the light," and remember that while your aged brethren, who have long stood as pillars in the churches, are daily dropping off, that God has graciously raised you up to supply their places, and to be helpers together in carrying on the government and discipline of the church militant here on earth; then be entreated to "put on the whole armour of light, and prepare to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ." For we are persuaded that our Redeemer has designed through you to perpetuate the savor of his name to the succeeding generation. Therefore be disposed to read and meditate on the sacred scriptures, and from thence learn your duty to God, and each other, "and be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Attend strictly to your church conferences; let no common considerations keep you away. And when there, strive to be useful; let the peace, union and, harmony of the churches, be an object of great importance with you. Endeavor to strengthen the hands of your ministers, and while they are going forth in the discharge of the duties of their high calling, remember that you are required to attend to their temporal concerns, and see that they, nor their families are in want of any of the good things of this life, that are in your power to furnish.

     And oh! brethren, above all things let your daily prayers like holy incense, ascend to the throne of grace, with unwearied zeal, that the Lord would graciously revive true and vital religion; that he would add to his churches daily such as he would have to be saved; that he would keep you from the evils of this wicked world, and make you instrumental in the advancement of his cause and kingdom; and that he would enable you to shine through life and in death to the praise and glory of his exalted name.

     And finally, we are persuaded, that when our brethren and sisters shall generally be found "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" -- when they shall be found with their lamps trimmed and their loins girt, as servants waiting for the coming of their Lord, then may we confidently expect that the rising generation seeing our good works, will be constrained to love and admire the Savior's name, and cheerfully join to fill up our places in the church, and tell to their children yet unborn, the wonders of his matchless grace.

     And now unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and, dominion forever and ever. Amen.
     ABRAHAM MARSHALL, Moderator.
      JESSE MERCER, Clerk.

[From Jesse Mercer, A History of the Georgia Baptist Association, Washington, GA., 1838, pp. 117-120. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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