The circular letter was read, and after some amendments approved.
CIRCULAR LETTER, 1817
The Long Run Association of Baptists
By James Ford
The Long Run Association to the Churches composing the same:- Grace and peace be multiplied
THROUGH the abundant goodness of the Lord, we are permitted to meet again in an associational capacity; the business that came before and how we have disposed of it will appear in our Minutes; and as it is our practice to address you annually by Circular, we shall present you with a few hints on the subject of christian connection and church discipline. We find that the disciples were first called christians at Antioch, and although it is probable that they were so called by way of contempt, yet it is evident that they were so called, also, because they bore a degree of Christ's likeness, and preached his Gospel. Hence it is plain that no person can be properly called a christian except he or she, in some good degree, bear the image of Christ, and this external likeness is the fruit of the internal opperation [sic] of the Holy Spirit. We are exhorted, Phiilpians [sic] ii, 5, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." And some of the displays of this mind was unparalleled love - true benevolence was manifest through all the actions of the blessed Jesus. And again, 2 Corinthians viii, 9, "for ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor that we through his poverty might be rich." Thus we have abundant examples of benevolence in the great head of the Church. Thus when we see that the term christian means to be like Christ, and attend to the Holy Scriptures, we are at no loss for the path of duty, and one essential part of this duty is love of the brotherhood; and this love is not only to be in the breast, but is to be reduced to action. It is worthy of attention that in Scripture we are exhorted to love as brethren; and although it is a fact that disinterested benevolence is hard to find among fallen men, yet we are told in scripture that “God is love, and he that dwelleth in God, dwelleth in God and God in him." Thus the love of benevoIence,
manifested to us; and thus we are called upon to shew that love and esteem to each other, and it appears that a particular medium through which we are to shew that love, is a connection of many members composing one body, thus it is the will of the Great Head, that his members shall, while in this imperfect state, be in a church connection, and so love and perform service to each other; and in as much as no individual can be properly called a christian except he bear the image or Christ, so no church can be called a Church of Christ, only as she obeys the rule given by the Great Head of the church, in which church connection there are many members; and to be a church of Christ, each member must have the same care for each other; and in order to show this care or love, we are to do each other good; and in doing this good we are to follow the Scripture direction, far this is Christ's Image and we are to hear it. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity.”
Is it the case that christians often do wrong? Every poor [3words blured] yes; well behold the remedy; see the great use of the [2 words blurred] love as brethren, then do thy brother good - has he transgressed, then go to him In the spirit of meekness, knowing thyself to be also imperfect and liable to transgress. What a strange phenomenon would it be to see members of the same body literally rise up at war with each other; and surely them [sic] members of the Lord[‘]s Church ought to possess, and practice the same care for the well being of each other; and we have no reason to believe that any other course but the one laid down by our Lord will end in good. Let us not then make to ourselves rules; let us not consult ease, but follow the plain and antient [sic] rule, and thus we shall in one measure safe guard and defend our brethren; and when they go astray, try by this rule to bring them to the fold again.
DEAR BRETHREN - although it is a truth that in this world we are to have tribulation, yet if this good rule as invariably followed, not only externally but in the spirit that it breathes we should avoid many distresses in churches that we now have to pass through and groan under. Then Dear Brethren, strive to fill your respective places in the church; watch over another for good; remember "charity suffereth long and is kind."
Dear Fathers and Mothers, are you drawing near the grave? Yes, you will shortly leave the church below; then be active and strive to the ad younger in the road of New Testament discipline [sic], that when you are escorted above they may fill your place, and shine as lights in the world. Fathers and Mothers again - remember the slippery paths of youth that you have passed through, then care for, and instruct the dear little young lambs of the fold.
Finally Brethren - watch for the good of the church; and ye dear young converts, remember the exhortation; likewise ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder; thus dear brethren as a band of brothers ye shall go on and prosper; thus shall you cause discord to cease and peace to reign, and thus glorify your Heavenly Father. Finally, farewell, live in peace, and the God of love and peace be with you.
WILLIAM KELLAR, MOD'R.
WILLIAM FORD, Clerk.
[From Minutes of the Long Run Baptist Association, September, 1817, pp. 3-4; from SBTS Archives digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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