Franklin Baptist Association
Circular Letter, 1827
The following is on page two of the Minutes of 1827.
The fruitless assaults of Elders Thomas Smith, Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell, upon the Circular of last year, create a demand for it unprecedented and surprising. Three impressions [printings] are exhausted, and still the demand increases. It carries within itself its own defence. It needs no other. Wherever it appears, the garbled extracts and base misrepresentations of its enemies are perfectly harmless.
The Circular takes a distinction between Creeds formed and enforced by civil authority, and those formed by voluntary associations of Christians, and enforced by no other sanction than exclusion from Church privileges. Mr. Campbell says, this is "a distinction where there is no difference;" that is, to exclude from Church privileges, and to exclude, imprison, torture, gibbet, burn, mean the same thing; and to make a distinction here, is "to distinguish where there is no difference." Thus he insults the common sense of his readers, and proves his cause desperate. Will our Unitarian neighbors give the Circular a place in their Arian Messenger? Will Mr. Campbell give it a place in his Christian Baptist? Will they allow the Circular to speak for itself? We think they will not. This would give those puissant pugillists some labor.
To THE CHURCHES COMPOSING THE FRANKLIN ASSOCIATION,
Beloved Brethren and Sisters:
Custom has long since authorized you to expect a Circular Address to accompany our Minutes; and as your attention has heretofore been frequently called to doctrinal pointss it may not be amiss, on the present occasion, to offer you a few remarks on practical godliness, which we conceive to be a grace or fruit of the Holy Spirit, and a consequent on the sinner's being made alive from the dead, having the Divine image impressed on our souls by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us, creating in our souls love unfeigned to God and his cause, and gives birth to that religious philanthropy which encircles in the arms of
our affections all mankind, but especially those who carry about them the image of the Lord Jesus Christ; who hath said, "if ye love me, keep my commandments." The Lord of glory saith, "if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you." And again, "ye are my friends If ye do whatsoever I command you;" and we are assured from the Divine Word, that his commands are not grievous, but joyous. An Apostle saith, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come." We would understand the Apostle as enforcing the necessity, as well as the happy consequences of obedience to the commands of God, as our reasonable service; in which service the pious soul hath great recompence of reward, and the answer of a good conscience towards God. But, brethren, our consciences cannot be good towards God, when we give evidence to ourselves, to our brethren, and to the world, that the love of God has so small a share in our affections; and may we not fear, that we too often give this sort of evidence to ourselves and all those with whom we associate, by the disrespect we too often show to the Scriptures of Divine Truth, neglecting to know what is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning us; by the disrespect we too often manifest to the ordinances of God's house; by indulging ourselves in unholy, unsanctified tempers, even when we profess to be setting in order the things pertaining to the Church of Jesus Christ? And may we not fear, dear brethren, that we too often exhibit to ourselves and others, this conscience-wounding evidence, in the most private circles of life; as well as in the more common intercourse with mankind; all tending to establish the awful fact, that our eye is not single to the glory of God, and therefore the whole body, is not full of light? Dear brethren, these things ought not so to be. May we not urge the injunction of our blessed Lord, when he said, "search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." An Apostle saith, "be ye followers of God, as dear children."
Brethren, do you abstain from every appearance of evil? Are your minds truly devotional to God, filling the character of his elect, who cry unto him day and night? Are your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace? Are you patient in tribulation? Does brotherly love continue, in honor preferring one another? Are you prepared in mind to pluck out the offensive eye, and cut off the offending hand? Finally, brethren, have you on the whole armour of God? If these things be in you and abound, they make you that you are neither barren nor unfruitful, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and you are prepared to say, godliness with contentment is great gain. Brethren, farewell.
The following letter, which does honor to its author and to the Association which adopted it, is copied from the Minutes of the Westfield Association, at Windsor, Massachusetts, and is well worthy the serious consideration of all who read.
In this day of benevolent enterprise, the eyes of the community are turning towards the monster intemperance. It is seen not only to oppose a powerful obstacle to christian enterprise, but to threaten even our political institutions. The feeling heart asks, what can be done? Can the evil be destroyed? Perhaps not. But something may be done to impede its progress. Not with the first class of drunkards, whose bodies reel under the intoxicating draught. Little with the second, whose animal spirits only reel. But with the third and fourth classes, he that holds the cup to his neighbor's mouth, and he that silently looks on, much, very much, may be done.
We complain of the Indian for dashing out the brains of the innocent helpless infant; but he would probably tell you, it is not the infant, but a future enemy and warrior, that I destroy. Intemperance must be destroyed in infancy, if not in embryo. Those who would be successful in this labor of love, must not use ardent spirits as a refreshment, an article of etiquette, or a token of christian friendship; but purely as a medicine. Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish. Give it, where a sudden, momentary excitement of the system will preserve life or health. This is the stand which we confidently believe must be taken. And if the cause only called for counsel, we would look to old men; but as it calls for war, we look to the young.
Dear young brethren, by taking and maintaining, in the spirit of meekness, this ground, you may confidently believe that your influence, direct and indirect, will at least keep some one of the rising generation from the whirlpool of intemperance. Contrast the pleasure, (if you esteem it so,) that you might derive from a free use of spirits, with the suffering produced by one drunkard. Must not his bodily suffering more than counterbalance your pleasure? Add to this his mental anguish, guilt and shame; and the mortification and grief of his relatives. a mother, a sister, a daughter, or (I might say) a wife's heart, bleeding with anguish. And can you suppose for a moment, that you love your neighbor as yourself, that you are doing to others as you would they should do to you, while you do not take this ground? Take It then, brother; and countenance and encourage others in doing the same. Stop calling for strong drink, or soon your incessant cry will be for water; for no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God.
[From Minutes of the Franklin Baptist Association, 1827, pp. 2, 6-7; via SBTS Archives digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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