Notwithstanding our unworthiness, the Lord hath still had compassion upon us, and endured with us; and by his mercy and loving kindness towards us, we have been preserved, and permitted to have another comfortable annual interview as brethren in the church-militant.
An assemblage of brethren who are engaged in worshipping the true and living God and in communing together upon divine subjects, is well calculated to awaken their drowsy faculties, and increase their zeal in the great cause of the Redeemer; it heightens and strengthens their affections and consolations in him, and when attended by his spiritual presence, produces vivifying sensations in the soul, refreshing as was the dew of Hermon, or as the precious ointment which was poured upon the head, and ran down upon the beard of Aaron.
By your letters, we learn that it is an unfruitful season in religion with you, and in most of our churches but few new members were added. Alas! why doth this state of apparent apathy and Laodicean lukewarmness prevail? Hath not the Lord our God done great and marvelous things for his people generally, and more especially in this country both in a temporal and spiritual point of view? Hath He not cast our lotts [lots] at a time, and placed us in a land which abounds with ease and plenty, and with civil and religious liberty, where every one can sit under his own vine and fig-tree and worship, and none to hinder or make afraid? Hath He not subdued and removed far from us that spirit of intolerant persecution which has at various times, so violently raged in other sections of the Globe against his church and followers to their great annoyance; and situated us upon the most highly favoured portion of his footstool.
And sinful and guilty as we were, and now are, has He not extended to us the means of salvation, and the great benefits resulting through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, and bore our sins upon the cross, and suffered the just for the unjust that we might live. And to us, has He not manifested himself, and made known the whole economy of his grace and salvation in his holy word, and as we hope given us a saving knowledge thereof.
And are not these very great and extraordinary mercies, towards us and many others equally forcible, which obviously exist, sufficient in their nature and character to admonish us, and produce in our minds more serious reflections respecting our situation individually, as well, as that of our children, families, neighbors, countrymen and every other human being in existance, and to cause us to be more earnestly and actively engaged in fulfilling the various and respective duties, enjoined upon on us, as the servants and followers of the Prince of Peace; and [black spot on document] vain and delusory allurements of this world, and place the principle our souls upon Him in whom we live, move, and have our being, and with whom we can do all things that are lawful, profitable or necessary and be happy in this, as well as in the life to come, and as, "unto whomsoever much is given, of him, shall be much required" "what shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits towards us." It is certainly high time for Zion to awake, and arise from her slumbering, and endeavor to strengthen the things which remain. "And seeing that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith," and to commence a more earnest engagement for the salvation of souls and prosperity of Zion; for we are informed "that as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children." And that we may be enabled the better to understand our duty, and the will of our heavenly Father towards us, let us more frequently and carefully peruse his word, for he says, "search the scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me," and, "therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip;" for if the word spoken by angels was steadfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation."
Human life is comparatively momentary, and of but a span's length. It is merely a state of probation, in which to be prepared either for an endless abode in heaven, with our God, where there are joys unspeakable and pleasures evermore; or to be numbered among his enemies, and banished from his peaceful presence, and consigned to the regions of despair and everlasting punishment; for if we are not for him, we are against him, "and he preserveth them that love him but the wicked will he destroy." It therefore beho[o]ves us all to be vigilent, and to "continue stedfast in the doctrine and fellowship of the Apostles," and to more stricly adhere to the precepts of our saviour, "and unto him draw near with a pure heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, and to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful who promised) and let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works, and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching, for if we sin wilfully after having received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversary? Hence the necessity of abiding and continuing in the ways of the Lord, for his ways are pleasant, and all his paths are paths of peace, and lead to the wells of salvation, and waters of life, such as if ye drink thereof ye shall never thirst; and they lead to the tree of life, ark of safety and city of refuge, and terminate in the Heaven of Heavens, which is the resting place of those who die in the Lord, and the promised abode and everlasting dwelling place of those who, while on this earth, and in this life." "Are poor in spirit" and those "who mourn" and those "who hunger and thirst after righteousness" and those "who are merciful" and those "who are peacemakers," and those "who are persecuted for righteousness sake" these are the characters who are blessed, and theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Finally brethren pray for us and one another that the word of the Lord may have free course & be glorified. And we beseech you brethren to know them who labor among you and are over you in the lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for the works' sake, and be at peace among yourselves, and to warn them who are unruly, comfort the feeble, support the weak, be patient towards all men; see that none render evil for evil unto any man, but ever follow that which is good both among yourselves and unto all men; rejoice ever more, pray without ceasing, in every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the spirit, prove all things, hold fast that which is good, abstain for all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and we pray God that your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blamless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and for ever.
WILLIAM MONTAGUE, Moderator. WILLIS GRAVES, Clerk. =============
[From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1828. The spelling and grammar are not changed except were [ ] are used. — Jim Duvall]
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