THE LONGRUN ASSOCIATION OF BAPTISTS,
"A Consistent Gospel Ministry"
By George Waller of Buck Creek B.C.
Met at Eighteen Mile Meeting House, Henry county, Kentucky, the first Friday
in September, 1821,
To THE CHURCHES COMPOSING HER, SENDETH, GREETING:
Our dear Brethren in the Lord,
Being Providentially preserved, and, permitted to assemble once more in an associate capacity, we have, (as we hope you will see [blur] our Minutes) enjoyed a comfortable interview with each other [2 words blurred] and now transacted, will also appear, and of which you will be [2 words blurred] our returning Brethren. In order (as far as we are capable,) to meet your just expectations, agreeably to our custom, we shall address you in a Circular, on the very important subject of a consistent Gospel Ministry. Sensible as we are, of the lo! here, and lo! there, which abound among men, we cannot be unapprised of the difficulties which will probably stand in our way, in attempting universal approbation of our description, of this momentous subject. We shall notwithstanding, make the attempt, relying on the Divine protection and [blur] for success: and shall observe first, that Jehovah having chosen earthen vessels, through whom to convey the treasures of Gospel grace to mankind, he sees fit to make them meet for the Master’s use - First, by His providence in their creation, preservation, and pursuits in life, by which they are prepared, so far as in nature they may be qualified for the work assigned them, under the Divine economy, - and second, through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth, without which, we positively reject the idea of a consistent employment in the Great Work. This can only be known by their lives and consecration: for, by their fruit ye shall know them. In judging these, (for, it seems right to judge Righteousness and judgment,) particular attention should be paid to their experiancial [?] acquaintance with Divine things, as of the first importance to usefulness in the Church of God, and in preparing the materials of which it is composed; again, it should be satisfactorily ascertained, that they have a tolerable degree, of consistent understanding of the doctrines of Christianity, for, as these are taught in the Scriptures, so are they invariably by the Holy Spirit, in the work of sanctification. As the Church is properly the nursery of Ministerial gifts; so is she the proper judge of her servants. Hence arises to view the propriety of some established systems of doctrines, which forming the bases of church constitution, may be the test of examination, as to the qualifications of the Ministry; hence also, the disorganizing tendency of unfaithfulness on the part of Ministers and churches, in the ordination of Ministers, constitution of churches and the dispensation of the word. For when churches encourage, and presbyteries ordain men to the Ministry who are at war with the vital principles of Church existence, nothing can (consistently,) be expected but discord, contention, and every evil work, and as ordinations, so in constitutions, and the dispensation of the word, for a church constituted on the broad basis of the Scriptures, while we know that resort is had to the Bible for the support of every system of doctrines avowed
by all the societies of professed christians in the world, would be liable to be carried away, by every wind of doctrine, by the slight, and cunning craftiness of men, lying in wait to deceive: Hence the necessity (while associations exist, as central points of union,) of a well digested system of doctrines, upon which they may he constituted, to which resort may be had, for decision on all doctrinal questions, to the extent of our union; but to attend more closely to our subject: The Ministry qualified as above, in nature, by the word and spirit of God, as in sanctification, and by the necessary progress in the Divine life, so as to acquire a suitable knowledge of Divine things, should be borne up by the Churches, by their prayers, their affectionate attention to their persons and characters, their families and pecuniary circumstances, so as that they should not entangle themselves with the affairs of this world, but please Him who hath chosen them to be soldiers. It seems plain from the sacred writings, that the spirit of the Lord God is upon the Ministry, anointing them to preach, which we esteem a crowning qualification, yet not with prophetic or apostolic inspiration, and in this, the greatest care should be practiced in trying the spirits, as many false teachers are gone forth into the world, remembering always that every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God - were we to say nothing of literary acquirements, our brethren might be induced to think that we were entirely opposed to human learning, upon which, (notwithstanding we possess but little, and by no means believe it essential to salvation) we would barely observe, that so far are we from standing opposed to the education of our brethren in the Minisitry, that we would rejoice at seeing them able to put to silence the arguments of infidelity, in all its lurking places, yet we esteem the language of the Bible, the most powerful of any in the world, and we would advise, that where any shall possess the means of acquiring information, that they should prudently employ those means for that purpose, with prayerful attention to the Bible, as the foundation of evangelical liberty. If ever there was a time when the Churches should be particular in their attention to the Ministry, the present is one - Let the churches of our union awake out of sleep, open their eyes and look abroad, but first take a view of the principles of faith upon which they were constituted, then see the various innovations upon those principles which daily appear, not among other societies, for over these we have no control. But among our own churches, which leads us to observe yet more closely on our subject, first, that in order to be consistent in our Ministerial course, It is essentially important that we make the word of God, and not the opinions of any man, or set of men, the standard of our faith: this done, it is the province of the church to decide whether the faith of her Ministry be consistent with that system of doctrines which she has avowed, as the foundation of her existence; if not, she acts unworthily of herself, and of the name of a church of Christ to encourage them in the Ministry. We do not intend that the church shall lord it over the consciences of the Ministry, but rather that those whose consciences are not reconciled to those doctrines, should not be sanctioned as Ministers among them. Lest we appear to be rigid above what is written, we will particularise some of what we esteem the essential truths of Christianity. And they are, first - That there is a God of boundless perfections, that in this God there are three personal relations, as, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which, tho' distinct, as to personality, constitute one indivisible Deity, in essence, power and glory. Second - this God, thus described, may be clearly conceived of, as counseling, purposing, & covenanting, independently of all creatures. Indeed, this idea is essentially involved in the
existence of creatures, and, especially when the redemption of sinners are taken into the account. Third - the Scriptures clearly express the idea, that known unto God were all his works from the beginning. This admitted, another idea is necessarily involved, which is, that a determination to perform all His works was settled in the Eternal mind from the beginning; and again, that nothing out of himself could have been the moving cause of his determination to work. Hence arises to view, fourthly - the sovereignty of Jehovah over all creatures and things, and the absolute freedom of the Eternal Mind from obligation to any, only so far as the covenant of grace, and promises of the Gospel involve obligation. This is, first - mutual between the Sacred three, and second, between these and the heirs of Promise, which is purely of Grace: hence I will work, and none shall Iet it, is peculiarly characteristic of Jehovah, whose councils shall stand, and who will do all his pleasure. The work of creation, performed, (agreeably to the original plan) embracing all creatures and things. Man's original innocence and rebellion, arise next to view. It is sufficient for us to know, that man was made upright, possessing the image of his Creator, In complete conformity to His will. As we have not now to deal with Him as innocent, but as rebellions; that man, notwithstanding his fail, retains a state of free moral agency, and consequent accountability to the Divine government, is clearly supported by the word of God: That he is capable of treasuring up wrath, against the day of wrath. notwithstanding his death in trespasses and sins: so that possessing capacity to sin, shows that his incapacity to holiness, is of the moral, and not of the natural kind; and is so far from constituting grounds of excuse, that it seals his just condemnation; and so perverse is his heart and nature, and so strong the hold of earthly, sensual and devilish things upon his affections, that nothing but Omnipotence itself in the day of his power, can change the current of his disposition and affections so as to seek after God. So that none can come to Christ, except the Father who sent him, draw them. Hence, the doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ arises next to view. In order that sinners be saved, the law of God must be magnified and rendered honorable - the justice of God must be satisfied, and the truth of God be maintained, so that his attributes may harmonize in their salvation.
The scriptures afford us abundant evidence that these are accomplished by the Son. In this subject the doctrine of atonement is involved, in considering of which, neither the nature of sin abstractedly, the dignity of the sacrifice, the merits of his sufferings, nor all of them conjunctly, constitute the criterion of decision as to the extent of the atonement, for altho' these are to be taken into account, yet as the same dignity of person on the part of the sacrifice, and the same merit of suffering would have been as necessary (on account of the magnitude of sin,) to the salvation of an individual, as for every individual of mankind. So neither of them singly, nor all of them conjunctly, could avail for any, but for the Divine appointment, to which reference must be had, as the rule of decision. We are therefore led back to the divine arrangement, by which Jesus, the Son of God, was given as a covenant to the people, and gave him to be head over all things to the church. In this transaction, we conceive that the Son of God was divinely appointed a federal representative, and covenant head to the church, which is his body: in consequence of which, his obedience and sufferings, yea his whole mediation, did, and must avail for all his spiritual descendants, and none others; for the same reason, that they do not avail for fallen angels. For altho' he took upon him human nature contradistinction from angelic, yet it was in special connection with Abraham's spiritual and not Adam’s
natural seed. Hence, to preach repentance to all, under the supposition that the atonement was made for all, or to preach general invitations, for the same reason, is to abuse the trust reposed in us, and to act inconsistently with the instructions given us as ambassadors for Christ; that we should rather say that men should repent, because morally bound to repent, and invite sinners to come to Christ agreeably to his word.
These are a few of the principle doctrines of the Cross, upon which (to be consistent,) we should insist: but how much are those truths abused by the Ministry of our day? One thing more - and which we would never leave out of the account of the principle doctrines of christianity, which is, that regenerating grace when bestowed, is invariably followed by a forsaking of sin, and the practice of holiness by which the subjects of it are known to be of God. Good works are therefore, an essential part of the system of christianity revealed in the Bible, but should be carefully arranged, so as to be supported by the sacred volume - to place them before regeneration, is where they never did, or can exexist [sic] - to exhort to the practice of them, in order that sinners may escape hell, and obtain Heaven is, in effect, to invert the order of the divine. arrangement, is to introduce works. as the cause of salvation, instead of grace; whereas grace should be represented as the cause, and good works the effects, and evidence of grace, and intended under the divine economy to glorify god [God], to stop the mouths of gainsayers, strengthen the bands of society, recommend our religion to the attention of the world, and leave the soul in perfect peace, for when I have respect to all thy commandments, then have I perfect peace: these are enforced by the nature and law of God: by the footsteps of the flock, and example of the great shepherd of the sheep, to these we are sweetly and powerfully drawn on by the Holy spirit, who worketh in us to >will and do the pleasure of the Lord, by the chastening dispensations of his hand by the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, joy unspeakable and full of glory, the hope of salvation, and the allurement of Heaven. Your Brethren In the Lord.
[From Minutes of the Long Run Baptist Association (KY), 1821, pp.5-8; via SBTS archives digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More Long Run Baptist Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage