The Northbend Association of Baptists, met at Wilmington, the fourth Friday in September, 1815 — to the churches of which we are composed, wish grace, mercy and peace, from god the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
DEARLY BELOVED IN THE LORD —
Kind providence has favored us with another interview: we have had a comfortable meeting. Agreeably to the information communicated to us from the churches and corresponding Associations, they are generally in a state of peace and harmony; tho but small additions by baptism the year past, and but little apparent success of the gospel; while their plaintive accents are expressive of the languid state of Zion, and that the comfortable days of her prosperity once enjoyed, are past; that her head, like the bulrush, is bound down; her gates mourn. But why is it thus? Why these mournful accents? Is the arm of the Lord shortened, that he cannot save or defend his people from the assaults of the enemy, and provide for them all necessary good? Is his ear deaf, that he cannot hear their cries? [A]re his eyes dim, that he cannot see their wants, their weaknesses, and the potent foes they have to grapple with? [O]r are his bowels of compassion shut against his needy and dependant [sic] people? The answer is in the negative; for he is the same immutable being, yesterday, to-day and forever; for, saith he, "Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, that he cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear" — Isaiah lix,1. And the Apostle adds, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers" — I Peter, iii,12.
Is it, then, according to the purpose and counsel of God, that his church should be in this languid and barren state? Surely not. Our blessed Saviour has said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples" — John xv,8. That is to say, God is glorified by the fruit his people bear; which consists of their genuine faith in the pure doctrines of the gospel, and the obedience which love to God influences them to perform, and by which it is evidenced that they are his disciples. Hence it appears that this lifeless and uncomfortable state is the product of depraved nature, which, when unrestrained (even by the renewed) brings forth pride, unbelief, disobedience, love of the world, &c. And these, when indulged, produce a long line of depraved offspring: such as, a great declension of meditation and conversation about divine things; a slackness in the duties of prayer, reading the word of God, and of attending on his worship; darkness of understanding what is read, and shortness of recollection what is heard; but little love to God, his worship, or his people; the service of God, the state of Zion, or the welfare of immortal souls; a backwardness to that which is good; discontent; irreconciliation to the will of providence in adversity, and exaltation in prosperity; self-will; ungovernable in discipline; leanness and barrenness of soul; and of but little benefit to society.
These are some of the unhappy effects of a negligent and unguarded life, and as far as they are expressive of our situation, individually, let us "Remember therefore from whence" we are "fallen and repent and do the first works." — Rev. ii,5. Tho believers cannot finally fall from the grace and favor of God, yet they may fall into sin, and from the exercise of grace, and from some degree of their love to God, and one another; therefore we are called upon to remember from what degree of it we are fallen, and repent of our coldness and lukewarmness, of the remissness of our love and of those evils which brought it upon us; and do the first works of faith and love with the same zeal and fervor, which will shew our repentance to be sincere and genuine. And tho all the blessing of God, in our calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, &c, is the free gift of sovereign grace, bestowed on the ungodly, without merit or worthiness — nor can we purchase any blessing at grace's store by our good works — yet "God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" — Ephesians ii,10. And the gracious promise of our blessed Saviour is, "if ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love" — John xv,10 — that is, to those who observe his precepts, he will continue to make further discoveries of his love, and will lead them to clearer and larger views of the merits of his death and sufferings, and of their interest in it, which walk in- crease their love to him. And again, "If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" — John xiv,23. That is to say, if a man love Christ, he will observe his precepts, doctrine and ordinances, and that from a principle of love, and view to his glory, and that God the Father will love him, or make a greater manifestation of it to him, such as larger measures of grace, and more communion with him here; and that the Father, Son and Spirit, will come unto him, and make their abode with him, by affording the divine and gracious presence, not as a way-faring man, whose continuance is but momentary, but such as shall be lasting and soul comforting. The apostle Peter adds "For if these things be in you and abound, they shall make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" — II Peter i,8. As if he had said, if these things are wrought in you by the spirit of God, and exercised and performed by his assistance, and increase in their acts by the frequent performance of them, you shall not want any gracious influence to lead you to such knowledge of Christ, his office and work, as will excite you to a holy fruitfulness in all good works.
And now, dear brethren, we close this our circular, with our solemn petition to the Lord for his blessing to accompany it, that if on its perusal we find our selves guilty of remissness, we may by divine assistance, commence a reformation, not one that is only transient, but that which is Evangelical, and in truth. For, shall Jesus have labored, suffered and died for us, and now sending his gospel with power not only to many parts of our enlightened world, but even to the dark regions of error, superstition and idolatry; and we not earnestly engaged for the happiness of others, and for the honor and glory of him who has done so much for us? ALEXANDER MONROE, Moderator Attest, ABSALOM GRAVES, Clerk ==========
[From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1815. The grammar and spelling are unchanged. — Jim Duvall]
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