The Woodstock Baptist Association, to the Churches they represent, present Christian Salutations
DEARLY BELOVED IN THE LORD --
You will suffer a word of Christian advice from your pastors and messengers, on a strict adherence to the Word of God, in regulating your conduct towards each other, in the endearing and holy relation of members of the mystical body of Christ. We say an adherence to the divine word, for it needs but a small acquaintance with almost any of our churches, to witness, in the conservation and conduct of its members, a wide departure from the Holy Scriptures, in their treatment of each other. That we may be clearly understood, we will instance a few particulars. An individual learns that another has stepped aside from the rules of Christian propriety. Now it is forbidden in the Scriptures to expose a brother to shame. We are also forbidden to suffer sin upon a brother; "but in any wise to reprove him;" and this "in a spirit of meekness." In how many instances, however, does this individual make unscriptural use of his knowledge or information by whispering it into the ears of those
who knew nothing of the affair, to the weakening of Christian confidence in the supposed offender? and these last, though charged with secrecy, but too often reveal the fact to their confidentials, and so on, till the bonds of Christian charity are greatly weakened if not sundered forever. How often too, is the command to partake of the holy supper in remembrance of our departed Lord, violated, because thereby an individual may learn how highly we disapprove of his conduct, although we may have violated another command in not taking gospel measures for a reconciliation! Thus to punish an offender, is to do evil that good may come: for we as directly cast contempt upon the ordinance of Christ, grieve his people, and violate his commands, as we relieve ourselves of the burden of communing with an unworthy member. Again, how often do we allow ourselves to lose all fellowship for a brother, and withdraw from the church, without even assigning the reason for our conduct, either to the individual or the body, and thus leave our brethren to spell out the cause the best way they can. Is this doing to others as we would that they should do to us? No; very far from it; and is a violation of our Saviour's golden rule.
How often do we suffer ourselves to be overcome by worldly cares and neglect to meet with our brethren, even when we know that business of importance is expected to come before the church? -- How often too, are we, for the same reason, absent from concerts of prayer and the conference room? Thus we leave our brethren to toil alone, and walk counter to apostolic in junction "not to forsake the assembling ourselves together." Do we not clearly manifest too little regard for those who are our spiritual teachers, when we allow ourselves freely to speak of their real or supposed imperfections, to our brethren and the world, and this too, without ever mentioning the subject to them? How can a bishop be of good report of them who are without, unless his brethren give him that honor when the gospel enjoins from within. your Pastor may be greatly strengthened or enfeebled by your conduct; yea, he lives "if you stand forth in the Lord," and his comfort and usefulness die, if you withhold your supporting and co-operating hand. Remember that his task is great; his office holy; his duties numerous; his responsibility awful;
and his trials heartrending; and without the aid of the Holy Spirit and your kind assistance, he is of all men most miserable.
Why should we maintain so scrupulous a regard for Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and neglect other commands equally important and binding? It is a proverbial saying among Baptists, that there is nothing nonessential in the commands of Christ. As it relates to the ordinances, truly these things ought we to do, and not to leave the others undone. Engrave it on your minds that Christianity presents a beautifully consistent whole, & what God hath joined together we are not at liberty to put asunder. He, whose experience, doctrine and practice, are in accordance with the Divine Word, is of inestimable value in the church of God, whether he be a minister or a lay brother. Study to be Bible Christians, in good earnest. And whereunto you have already attained, stand fast and let no man take your crown. But do not think that you are already perfect, -- forget the things that are behind, and reach to those which are before. If you would have the bond of perfectness, let all your things be done with charity. This will influence you to cover with the mantle of kindness and faithfulness, the many sins of your brethren. Never to behave yourselves unseemly, or to rejoice in iniquity, but always to rejoice in the truth.
Brethren, we have been thus plain, because your honour, your comfort, and more especially, the glory of God, lie near our heart. For herein is our heavenly Father glorified, when we bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, and especially your brethren, that they seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven. We fear that we may but a few times more, perhaps never, represent you in the same Association. To separate old and tried friends, whatever may be the cause, is truly painful. And its only relief is, that friendship is still retained. Confident that it is ours to enjoy this felicity, we cheerfully submit to Divine Providence.
Finally, brethren, above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you while in your militant state, and ultimately, administer to you an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. ==========
[From Woodstock Baptist Association Minutes, 1828, pp. 9-11. This document is from a microfilm copy from Southern Baptist Seminary Library, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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