To the several Churches we represent in Association — Dearly beloved in the Lord:
Having been indulged with another annual meeting, and feeling a desire to stir up your pure minds, we with pleasure continue the practice of addressing you by circular. — Our interview has been harmonious, and we trust, edifying. — Tho', we thank the Lord, that in some of the churches a few souls have found Christ precious to them; yet we have reason to regret that Religion is in many places in a low state. — The causes of grief among us are not few nor small: — The death of some of our brethren, — lukewarmness of many others, — a general declension of religion in almost all our churches, — and the almost universal neglect "of giving heed to the word spoken," by unconverted sinners among us. But, Brethren, these are trials from which no age of christianity, not even the apostolic, has been entirely exempt. — In this world of probation we must not expect our pleasures wholly undisturbed: yet, possessed with that Faith which overcometh the world, we would exclaim with the holy apostles, "Thanks be to God, who causeth us to triumph in Christ, and teacheth us to glory in tribulations also." — In the last circular letter our attention was called to consider the rise and progress of this association, the number of churches that formed it, and the additions it has received in us, not only in large additions to the former numbers, but in preserving good order and brotherly love among his churches and people, and we are called upon to render unfeigned thanks, to Him for these and all His mercies. Oh! Brethren, have we duly appreciated these favours? we fear not: — we are apprehensive, that like Israel of old, we have become unmindful of that hand which has prospered and upheld us in days which are passed.
Behold! the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is His ear heavy that it cannot hear: but we fear that our iniquities have separated between us and our God: for when we look at the lukewarm state of the churches, and behold the apparent judgments which seem to threaten us with a famine of the word of life, we are ready to say, "visit us not in thy displeasure, O Lord, but according to thy loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, which thou exercised in the earth, help us to look unto Thee with full purpose of heart, and to know that Thou art God who wilt be sought unto by the house of Israel."
Some of the faithful servants of Christ, whom we esteem as beloved ministers of the gospel, are taken from us; viz: Brother James Dicken, of Bulletsburgh church, who departed this life 10th June last. — Brother Landon Robinson, of Sand Run church, who was called away one [on] the 3rd day of August. — Both of these were in the prime of life, and useful in the great harvest here below. — But they are gone to their long home, to enjoy, we believe, their inheritance and reward. A deep shade is now cast over our solemn assembly by the recent death of our highly esteemed brother Absalom Graves. He had been a long time afflicted, and was released from this mortal state on the evening before we assembled together. His long and faithful labours, his watchfulness and care for the churches have been of that kind that will leave a lasting impression on our minds.
Brethren, these bereavements ought to lead us to humiliation: we are hereby called upon to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; that he may exalt us in due time; casting all our care upon Him, for He careth for us. — Seeing that the Lord is good, and that He is mindful of His children, we should take encouragement to come boldly to the throne of Grace, and pray the Lord of the harvest that He wold send forth the more labourers into His harvest; for the harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. When we say "pray," we do not mean that it is our duty and privilege, only at our annual meetings, or occasionally but as we are called upon to be incessant at the throne of Grace, we therefore should gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and watch unto prayer; we should feel a renewed call to a more earnest engagement in every christian duty: let us not neglect the assemblying of ourselves together as the manner of some is; and when we meet, for the purpose of public worship, let us give heed to the ministry of the word, that we may grow and thrive thereby: we also recommend the study of the word of God, that we may know the will of God towards us, and how we should behave, both towards Him, and before the world: we exhort the aged to teach and continually impress upon the minds of the young of the flock, to read the scriptures of divine truth, that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
If we faithfully discharge these and all other chirstian duties, we shall assuredly learn by happy experience, that He who has laid the foundation of His church, will build her up. He will not desert the work of His own hands; and tho' Zion may complain, "the Lord hath forsaken me," it will not be long before he will prove to her joy, that "she is engraven upon the palms of His hands, and that, her walls are continually before Him."
Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ; to whom be Glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[The grammar and spelling are unchanged.][From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes. — jrd]
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