Through the unchanging goodness of our God, we have finished the various toils of another year, and are indulged unworthy as we are, to meet in our Associated capacity, to unite our voices in praise to the God of Salvation, for his goodness, exercised towards lost and perishing sinners, and our hearts in thanksgiving for past favors, and supplication for "mercy and grace to help" in this our time of great need. Oh, that we would revive religion in our hearts, in our houses, and neighborhoods! That he would remove discord and contentions from amongst the redeemed of the Lord, that harmony and union might abound!
Dear Brethren: We should ever feel emotions of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, for that degree of peace and harmony that has manifested itself since the organization of this Association, and still appears to abound amongst us. 'My peace I give you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you.' What a precious gift! Peace with God and one another. How undeserving such a boon! And should the Divine Jesus deal with us according to the demerit of of our ingratitude, how soon might our situation be like many of the brethren in various parts of the world, amongst whom the adversary of souls has appeared, bursting asunder the cords of love that bind the Saints on earth, and Saints in Heaven; and sowing the seeds of strife and division? How changed the scene! 'O that thou hadst my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river, and they righteousness, as the waves of the sea.' 'In keeping thy commandments, there is great reward.' 'But the way of the transgressor is hard.' 'Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction, for my own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it, for how should my name be polluted.'
It is truly a time of trial; the enemy is making his inroads in the church; one seems to falling on the right, and another on the left. Let us remember the exhortation of the Apostle to, 'put on thew hole armour of God, that we may be able tos tand against the wiles of the devil,' 'having our loins girt about with truth,' and our, 'lamps burning,' 'for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.'
Brethren: Though we do not live in an age, and at a time, when the hand, the cruel hand, of persecution stalks through the land, yet we do live in an age, and at a period, when prophecy is still fulfilling, and we [are] equally admonished to be faithful, for our adversary is still going about seeking whom he may devour.' 'Many false Prophets still rise, and shall deceive many, and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.' 'There shall be, Lo, here, and Lo, there.' Do we not see these things in the land, and are we not warned of them, both by the Saviour and his Apostles? 'Go not after them,' is the positive instruction of the Divine Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, when writing to Timothy, says the, 'Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits,' or spirits of demons. Also, 'that in the last days, perilous times should come, for men should be lovers of themselves,' 'having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.'
Their object is gain. The devil knows that if he can cause division in the Kingdom of Christ, it will strengthen his own. This he has often tried, and not without some effect. In the Apostolic era, he had his ministers in the field, (who overthrew the faith of some.) From that time up to the present, at different periods, men of like character, bearing something of the same image, and moved forward by the same spirit, have appeared in opposition to the truth. For they have not with all their 'cunning craft, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, been able to stop its progress. It must prevail, and will ultimately triumph over every species of error.
They may draw off unstable souls, or those who are merely nominal disciples. 'They went out from us, because they were not of us.' 'Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure; having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.' But again,The Apostle Jude, when addressing his brethren, upon the same subject, writes thus: 'Beloved: when I give all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.' 'For there are certain men crept inunawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.' 'But beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.' They told you there should be 'mockers in the last times.' Moreover, 'These be they who separate themselves, having not the spirit.' 'But ye, beloved, building yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life.' 'Of some have compassion, others save with fear hating, even the garment spotted by the flesh."
Thus the Apostle instructs his brethren, how they, as men professing godliness, should live, and conduct one towards the other. It was not written, alone, for their sake's, but for ours, also. Let us, then, dear brethren, in closing our Letter, exhort you to imitate the good Shepherd, who 'came to seek and to save that which was lost.' Has any strayed from the fold, and wandered in the barren wilderness? Let us seek after them. Do we meet with any who are feeble and dejected? Let us try to strengthen and encourage them. Does any appear to be halting about the right way. Let us with all the wisdom, with which God has belssed us, try to teach them the truth. Do we see any stopping short, or looking aside to some alluring objects, that have a tendency to draw their hearts from God[?] in the spirit of love and tenderness, let us reprove and admonish them. And, above all, remember the exhortation of the old Patriarch, 'see that you fall not our by the way,' for you are strangers and pilgrims; feeble in yourselves, and comparatively few in number, and your enemies are numerous and potent. Look to the Captian of your salvation, make his word the man of your councils; pray without ceasing; to every thing give thanks. 'Unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy' we commend you.
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