The following is a portion of the Minutes that preceeded the printing of the annual Circular Letter:
"2. In furtherance of the views of the Franklin and Long Run Associations, in relation to the difference between this and the Licking Association, the following resolution was unanimously adopted, viz;
Resolved: That a committee, consisting of Edmund Waller, James Suggett, B. S. Chambers, James Johnson and Jacob Creath, any part of whom is authorised to act, be appointed as a committee of conference with the committees from the Long Run and Franklin Associations, and any committee that may be appointed by the Licking Association, who are hereby requested to assure them, that this Association feel a desire to cultivate and cherish a Christian union, fellowship and correspondence, with the Licking Association, and are willing mutually to forgive and to forget all the unhappy occurrences in which the division between the brethren of that and this Association originated.
3. The committee appointed for that purpose reported a Circular Letter, which was read, amended, and adopted as follows:
The Messengers of the Elkhorn Association to the Churches of Christ of which they are Members.
We have enjoyed the privilege and happiness of once more meeting as an Association. The additions to the Churches the past year, have not been numerous; and we regret to learn, that religion, in many places, is in a low condition.
A request was made last year, by the First Baptist Church of Lexington, that the Constitution of the Association be revised or amended. The subject has been under consideration. The Constitution of the Association relates to its own existence and order, without any bearing or operation on the independence or freedom of the Churches: It was founded September 30, 1785, professsedly with a view of "promoting the glory of God, and the advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom, and the comfort and happiness of the Church of Christ." For the accomplishment of these purposes, the Messengers then present, met in convention, and agreed unanimously to unite in the strongest bonds of Christian love and fellowship. This is the Constitution or state of being and established form of existence of the Association. To support and keep up that union, they adopted the Confessions of Faith, first put forth in the name of the Seven Congregations of London, in the year 1643; except some things in the 3rd and 5th chapters, if they should be so understood as to make God the author of sin. &c.
It was not the design of the Association to form a Confession of Faith or a Constitution for the Churches; nor was it the intention of the Association to dictate to, or legislate for, the Churches; it having been a fundamental principle with her, that the Church, or Churches of Christ, are independent and free, and have no authority from their Great head, to delegate any portion of their sovereignty or freedom to any individual or body of men. In the Church, which is the pillar and support of the truth, the Lord Jesus Christ is himself the only sovereign and head, and hath power to decree articles of Faith and the authority thereof, and has a right to ordain rights and ordinances, and to fix the terms of communion and Church membership, as well as the duties and privileges of the members. On these subjects, we addressed you in our last Circular Letter, particularly
from page 11th to the end, which we desire you again to read.
These things being premised, we presume that the object of the request from the First Baptist Church of Lexington, was not that this Association make a new Confession of Faith, or Creed; but that she exert her influence more than heretofore, if practicable, for the accomplishment of the avowed objects of her existence, viz: "The promotion of the glory of God, and the advancement of the Redeemer's Kingdom — and the comfort and happiness of the Churches of Christ" — in a way that will consist with the independence and freedom of the Churches. Under this view of the subject, the only ground that this Association can occupy, and she disclaims all others, is by friendly council and advice, in the spirit of Christian love, and by the exercise of her Associate influence, according to the gospel, to aim at these objects.
It may be possible that, by attending to other business than what would seem to have fallen fairly within the scope of her legitimate concerns, according to the Constitution, that the meetings of this Association have assumed, sometimes, too much the appearance of a legislative and judicial character. As every Associate body must have rules and authority to govern itself by, for the attainment of the ends of its existence; so we claim no other power or authority than is proper and necessary to regulate ourselves in our Associate capacity, in reference to the objects proposed; and to preserve the purity of our own body, and the Churchcs composing it, in reference to their doctrines and practice, as tested by our Constitution.
We are bound by the Ccnsiitution which gives us existence, to exert our influence in the way of council, friendly conference and advice, in promoting the cause of Godliness: But the actual correction of every thing that is wrong in opinion, principle, or practice, and the supply of all that is wanting, must be effected in the Churches, by the members acting up to their duties and privileges, according to the word of God.
It is manifest brethren, that the present state of religion falls very far short of the standard of the gospel. The Churches are below their privileges and duties. There is a necessity for more preachers and for more preaching — for more praying. Scripture-reading, and better understanding the Scriptures — and for more exhortation. The Churches should be more attentive to the encouragement and cultivation of the gifts and graces possessed by them; and in order to this, should be more uniform and constant in their social meetings for religious exercises; such as reading and searching the Scriptures, exhortation, prayer and praise. The Churches rely too much on the preachers of the gospel to perform these duties, thereby neglect the improvement of their own members, and fail to know and to call out her own gifts for her improvement and comfort, and for the conversion of sinners. On these accounts, the members often appear but little more than formal professors. We all see and feel, that by the neglect of religious duties, at home and in the Churches, there is a want of the life and power of the religion of Jesus Christ in the soul; and in the same degree there is a want of Christian happiness and comfort in professors.
While the Churches should be more active and zealous in promoting
their own improvement and comfort, there is need of more preaching of the word. The ministration of the gospel is a standing evidence of God's gracious designs to a guilty world. The institution of the Lord's Day and of a preached gospel, are the two great means by which the Kingdom of God is advanced in the world. The effect of the former, is to call off the attention of the people from their secular pursuits, and to afford them rest and leisure; while the latter calls them together to hear the glad tidings of great joy. Had God no intention of pardoning sin, or rescuing miserable mortals from the deplorable state in which they are involved, we should never have been blest with these institutions; we should never have heard of the joyful intelligence which these institutions proclaim. When the commission to "preach the gospel to every creature" shall cease, "then cometh the end."
The design of the whole system of grace, as revealed in the Scriptures, and to all the doctrines, and duties, and ordinances of the gospel, is to beget and to promote in the human heart, love to God and love to man. Upon these two hang the whole law and the prophets, the gospel and the apostles. Those views of the Christian religion which do not tend to produce and promote these, are mistaken views.
This divine principle of love, which is so essential in the Christian character, does not, when rightly directed, waste or expend itself in mere emotion or feeling; but is seen and felt to operate in keeping the commandments of God, and in doing good to men. Faith is the channel, through which the divine testimony concerning pardon through the blood of the Lamb, is conveyed to the understanding and operates upon the heart, and by which the golden chain of love binds the soul to God and to Heaven. God will have proof of our love in our obedience: "This is the love of God" - the natural expression of it - "that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous," or burthensome. 1 John, v, 3.
The preachers of the gospel would contribute much to the promotion of religion, if they would give to their discourses a more practical bearing, and affirm constantly that they which have believed in God, be careful to maintain good works. Titus iii, 8.
Were the Churches to spend a portion of their time in religious conferences, and to enter into a strict examination of the religious state of the minds and duties of the members, with a view of stirring up each other to more zeal in the service of God, they would experience a happy result in it. This Association too, would probably contribute much to the objects of its Constitution, by employing a portion of its time in a free, friendly, and familiar conversation, on the state and interests of religion in the Churches.
The exercises in the Churches and in the Association, would assist each other in the objects desired.
The Long Run and Franklin Associations, at their last meetings, moved by the benevolent desire for peace and union, appointed a committee from each, to use their friendly and Christian exertions, to bring about union and correspondence between the Licking Association and this one. We pray the Lord to bless their labors of love, and that he would enable us to act as becomes the humble followers of the Lamb in this business. The Apostle has well observed, that
"the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." We desire to live in gospel peace and union with all the dear disciples of the Lord Jesus. The result of this effort will probably be known, by the next meeting of this Association.
Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
[From Elkhorn Bapitst Association Minutes, 1825. The document is from SBHL&A, Nashville, TN and was provided by Stephen duBarry. Scanned by Jim Duvall.]
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