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Written by Robert Kirtley, 1823
Bullittsburg Baptist Church
Boone County, Kentucky

The Cause of the Declention of Religion Among Us

      THE Northbend Association of Baptists, met at Crew's creek, the third Friday in August, 1823 - to the churches of which we are members, wish grace, mercy and peace, from God the father, and our Lord Jesus Christ: -

      It is with pleasure we address you in our associated capacity, having been permitted to meet according to appointment, for the purpose of contributing our mite tow[a]rds the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom on earth. Influenced, we trust, by the spirit of wisdom from on high, our deliberations have been in brotherly love & affection. The information received from the different churches composing this association, gives us no intelligence of many converts being added since our last annual interview; yet we desire to be thankful to the great head of the church that so much peace and harmony prevails among us; and that we have reason to hope and believe the Lord has brought some, who was in nature's darkness, into the liberty of the gospel. Brethren, it is a custom to address you with a circular and various have been the topics presented to you; particularly the goodness of God towards us; the salvation of sinners thro' Jesus Christ; and truly no subject can be more interesting to the christian; - yet it becomes necessary at this time, to enquire into the cause of the declention of religion among us: And that each commune with his own heart, and if that barrrenness of soul be found within, it is an evidence that we do not "add to our faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperence; and to temperence, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity: For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." In bringing this subject before you, we have been influenced by an earnest desire to do all in our power, both for the discharge of our duty to each other, and for our comfort, and enlargement in the profession we have made.

      The history of the church of Christ, at all times, occasions either mourning or joy. Such is often the prosperous condition of the church, that we have reason to rejoice in its beautiful aspect. When good and wholesome doctrines are preached; when ordinances are observed; when the word of God has free course and is glorified; when many converts to righteousness crowd the gates of Zion; and when health and vigor every where prevade the body; - the friends of Christ must rejoice. But the reverse of this, occasions mourning and dejection. When many are turning from the ways of God, and a cold lethargy posseses the hearts of those, who ought to be warmly engaged in religion; when many who profess to follow the Saviour become impatient of his doctrine and precepts; it is then surely time for Zion's watchmen to arise and sound an alarm in God's holy mountain. It is too often the case, that the word of God is neglected by his professed followers, which is no doubt a great cause of the decline of religion in the heart.

      The truths of scripture are the only proper furniture for the christian's heart & the food which gives him strength & health tho' we admit that a critical knowledge of the whole Bible is not necessary to salvation, yet we think that a ready acquaintance with its leading truths is essential to the growth of religion in the heart. Then should we not attend to the truths contained in the gospel, in all our deliberations and acts; and make God's word the man of council! Also, let him whose business it may be to preach the gospel, see that he does not neglect the word, nor shun the whole council of God: For all his facts stated, and all his arguments used ought to be consistent with the scriptures. There he must find all the evidence of that doctrine which he intends to lay before his hearers. And he who states a position and appeals to scripture for his proof, is bound to give the very language of the text, if he would prove his point. The scripture contains a rich abundance, and a delightful variety, therefore the judicious preacher should endeavor to conduct the flock into all the apartments of this lovely field, that each may receive a portion in due season. Christians love to be told, that every thing pertaining to their salvation is the gift of God: But we ought equally to love to manifest, by a pious walk and Godly conversation, that we have bee with Jesus; For if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. Many eagerly embrace the truth, which demonstrates the security of the saints, and their final perseverance to glory: And here they feed upon a good doctrine, and one that has the explicit warrant of scripture; But do they grasp with the same anxiety, and entertain with the same satisfaction, the doctrine of wachfulness, crucifixion to the world, and self-denial, which has an equal support from scripture? Some could sit and hear many things, the preacher should undergo for the cause of Zion; what pains they should take - how much hardness they should endure - what zeal they should possess; all which is the truth; - But do we hear with equal patience, what we should do for them - how we ought to bear them in our petitions before a throne of grace, thro' the mediation of a blessed Saviour - how we ought to hold up their hands and encourage them to go on in the strength of the Lord. We find another cause of decline among professors of religion in their not fulfilling with fidelity the duties which they have taken upon them in baptism. We deservedly lay a great stress on baptism, as a great and holy rite. To preserve this ordinance in its simple, apostolic purity, we have boldly to encounter the sneers of the world and censures of many other denominations. For as an institution, it teaches with peculiar propriety the origin and destination of the christian. It introduces him into the church militant, and ought to lay the doctrine of Christ near his heart, buried with him in baptism, wherein ["]ye are risen with him thro' the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Baptism honors him with membership in the society of those who take Jesus for their guide and pattern; and stands as a memorial of his dedication to God. The neglect of the Lord's supper may be considered as another cause of decay in religion. How often is it the case, when the sacred symbols of the Saviour's body and blood are offered, we see many require themselves to be passed by, giving the sign, a shake of the head; and thus in appearance, at least, rejecting Christ. "Ah!" some may say, "is this your kindness to the friend of sinners? [I]s this the way in which you requite Jesus for all his pains in your behalf? [D]id he turn away his head, when the cup of your sins was presented to him? Why then refuse to remember him by a memorial of his own! O, Christians! are we blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places! It is thro' the goodness of God in Christ. - Then let us gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and hope unto the end. Let us pray without ceasing, and join with one accord in sending our petitions to a throne of grace, thro' the mediation of a Redeemer in behalf of sinners.

Attest, MOSES SCOTT, Clerk.
[Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1823. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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