BELOVED IN THE LORD -
We have selected this subject as the foundation of our annual communication to you, because of its vital importance; and in consequence of its diversified responsibilties, presenting matter of eternal moment to the ministers of the Everlasting Gospel.
In what light soever we view the subject of the gospel ministry, it affords a source of pleasing reflections and pious contemplations. Originating with God, its illustrious founder, and directed to the salvation of man, its glorious end, no station is so responsible; none requiring such indefatigable zeal, unremitting industry, and steady application.
We shall treat this subject under two general divisions: The first comprehending the duties of ministers to churches; the second that of churches to ministers and conclude with such remarks as may be deemed applicable to ministers and churches in this country, in their reciprocal relations.
We shall not stop to enquire of you, beloved, whether ministers of the gospel are called and sent of God or not: - we fain would hope, that none of you disbelieve a truth so lucidly exhibited in the gospel of our salvation: but will proceed to point out some of the primary duties of the gospel ministry. These consist in a faithful declaration of the whole counsel of God to man; in delivering the ordinances in faith, simplicity and sincerity; and in feeding the church of God, which was purchased with the blood of the Lamb.
In preaching the gospel, great diligence should be had, so that nothing be added to nor taken from it. What things soever God has said in his holy word, the minister should not shrink to proclaim. For the scriptures, being by the inspiration of God, are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Hence it becomes the bounden duty of every minister of the gospel, to insist upon the essential doctrines of the Cross, both in relation to law and gospel.
By exhibiting the true nature and requisitions of God's holy law; its purity, its justice and its goodness; the relation between Creator and creature is necessarily brought to view, as well as the obligations of the one to worship, reverence and adore the other. By representing its dominion over the whole extent of Adam's family, we are taught to believe (that as sinners) we are all under it, condemned by it, and without its fulfilment by the Lord Jesus Christ, would suffer its penalty, in eternal wo[e].
In preaching the gospel, the extraordinary love of God to man, in devising
a system, whereby God could be just and still justify the sinner; the wonderful condescension of Jesus Christ, who lived to honor the preceptive sanctions of law, and died to magnify its penalties; the operations of the Holy Comforter, who applies the covenant mercies of God to the vilest of the vile: these, with all their incidents, should fill thc soul and freight the lips of those who carry the glad tidings of salvation to a fallen world.
Under the administration of these wholesome truths, the Church of God will flourish; and the promises of the gospel appear, as "apples of gold in pictures of silver;" and the holy principles of revelation will elicit love, adoration and obedience, dressed with the sanctions of Almighty God.
In contending for "that faith which was once delivered to the saints," the gospel minister should not be carried away by a false zeal; nor, blinded by the spirit of bigotry, set himself up as the standard of orthodoxy. Self-glory or self-interest should be forgotten, whilst the immortal theme is, Jesus Christ and him crucified. He should beware of continual controversy - it palsies the tender feelings - checks the current of sympathetic emotion, and disqualifies him from indulging in the mild and persuasive temper of the gospel.
Seeing there are diversity of gifts in the ministry, he who is about to minister in holy things should hold prayerful consultntions with God and his own soul. "And if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth" - "Lay hands suddenly on no man," lest the cause of Christ be dishonored. For there are no doubt many, whose usefulness is measurably destroyed by aspiring too high. If we are called to exhort, let us wait on exhortation - if to minister, let us magnify our office - if to pray, let us do it with fervency, that all things may be done decently and in order.
Another important duty of the ministry is, to imitate the example of the Apostles, and go from house to house, (of both rich and poor,) and preach; reprove, rebuke with all long suffering and doctrine - for private reproof has frequently a better tendency than even public admonition. By thus mingling with his flock, he ascertains their wants, their temptations and difficulties, which are frequently removed by holy conversation with the servants of Jesus.
Moreover the gospel minister should be humble in his walk - circumspect in his conduct - guarded in his conversation. Much more is expected from him than from any other individual of society, for his claims and pretensions are higher. The eyes of God, of angels and of men are upon him. Posterity, with admiring gaze, dwells upon tile living virtues of the illustrious dead. Called to the high destiny of officiating in the holy temple of Almighty God, he should bc as solemn as the grave. Invested with the ministerial robe, he should keep it unspotted from the world, by a holy life; thereby demonstrating, that from God it came, and unto God it must return.
We shall now proceed to notice some of the most important duties of churches to their ministers - and these duties are founded in the nature and design of the gospel system, and mainly grow out of the relation that the church sustains to her pastor. Is the minister called to preach the gospel? so is the church exorted "not to forsake the assembling
themseives together, as is the manner of some." Is the minister called upon to administer the ordinances of the Lord's house? so is the church, to witness and receive them. And a failure to comply with these things, betrays a want of love for the Lord Jesus, his church or his minister.
The church is exhorted to esteem her pastors highly for their works' sake - not to puff them up with the voice of flattery and adulation, and thereby become instrumental in causing them to lord it over God's heritage. Ministers should live above the sordid practice of courting the applause and influence of the rich members of the church, at the expense of the poor - and churches should beware of receiving rich ministers in the open arms of love, and poor ones with a cold indifference and carelessness. But let the true riches of grace be the centre around which both pastor and people revolve.
Another duty which the church owes her pastor is, to contribute to his support. This is not only a gospel requisition, but a reasonable one. God himself has ordained, that "they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel." This requisition is not founded in the incidental or occasional circumstances of the church, as she stands connected with a rich or poor minister; but results from the fact of services rendered. Nor is it to be considered in the light of almsgiving. The dignity of the ministerial office forbids its incumbent from standing at the door of the church as a beggar.
Permit us, dear brethren, in closing this letter, to call your attention to some of the reciprocal duties, which subsist between pastor and people - and we can present none of a more important nature than mutual love. It is the golden chain which unites saints on earth, and saints in heaven, to God. It cements the hearts of all God's children - keeping them in the unity of the spirit and bonds of peace. It teaches us to forbear, to forgive, to bury one another's faults in the grave of forgetfulness, and to open wide the arms of fellowship, to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ministers and churches should be very cautious how they speak of neighbouring ministers and churches. It is the bane of all good livmg in the society of saints. From it spring divisions and contentions, schisms and partyisms, dishonoring to the cause of God, and destructive of the prosperity of churches.
It is much to be lamented, that there is so little uniformity in the discipline of the Baptist churches in this country. But inasmuch as this evil does exist, ministers and churches ought to be very guarded, how they arraign the order and government of a sister church - and if radical errors do exist, go in the spirit and temper of the gospel, and endeavour to effect their removal, by an interchange of friendly opinions.
We desire to make a short digression here from the subject proposed, and make some few remarks upon the course of conduct to be pursued between old and young ministers - and we cannot do better than by referring each to Paul's letters to his young brethren in the ministry. Serious evils frequently befal[l] society, by the haughty and overbearing conduct of the old, as well as the aspiring and self-confident conduct of young ministers.
The fathers in the ministry should, by their holy walk, command
respect; the sons in the gospel should imitate them. Let the smile of parental tenderness beam upon the face of the aged, and retiring modesty crown the countenance of the youthful. The gray head of the aged minister is a crown of honor, and all the sons and daughters of Zion should be taught to respect it.
And now, dear brethren, we are apprehensive, that in consequence of a dereliction of duty, on the part of both pastor and people, that the Church of Christ mourns over her poverty and leanness: The day of simplicity and meekness has been beclouded by pride and sensuality. It is no longer an emulous strife to excel in Christian virtues, but a dire contention for the mastery. "O that our heads were waters, and our eyes a fountain of tears, that we might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." Is there no Christian spirit left in the church below? no heaven-born virtue? no sterling worth? - "Tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Askelon." But let the pastor and people arise from the feverish stupor of the times; In the majesty of Jehovah's strength let them come forth, and certain victory is theirs.
Brethren, the time has arrived when Baptists must be united upon the foundation of Christ and his Apostles. The anti-Christian phalanx is surrounding the citadel of God; they are grasping at the ark of safety; they are pulling down the out-works of the camp; they are aiming to Babelize the Church of Jesus Christ, and change the Shiboleth of Jordan, the pass-word of safety. Shall it be done? No. Then let us present a common front to the enemy, in defence of the common rights of the Christian Church.
Dear brethren, "we are not of those who corrupt the word of the Lord," and cry aloud for a reformation in the doctrine of the church. We wish no reformation in principle. We wish to tread the plain beaten road that our fathers trod; that road which was consecrated by the blood of Jesus and his holy martyrs. But reformation in practice is truly desirable. We have been under the cloud long enough. O, dear brethren, unite with us in prayer to God, that he would destroy the works of the Devil, break down the mountains of opposition that impede the march of Messiah's army; extend the conquests of the cross, until Mahometan and Pagan, Jew and Gentile, and all the kingdoms of this world, shall become the Kingdom of God and his Christ.
By a reference to the minutes, you may see what business has been done.
And now, dear brethren, remaining your friends and servants in the gospel of Christ, and hoping by the will of God to hear from you again, we bid you an affectionate farewell. - Amen.
N. B. It is the opinion and advice of this Association, to the Churches composing her body, that they use the common version of the New Testalnent, in preference to any other whatever. God has blessed it to the souls of his people for a long time; and our hopes and our prayers are, that he will in much mercy continue to do it. Lewis Corbin, Moderator. Atteste, Tho. P. Dudley, Clerk. ==============
[From Minutes of the Licking Association of Particular Baptists, 1827, pp. 4-7. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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