The Franklin Association of Baptists, to its constituent Churches, affectionately greeting, sendeth, christian salutations.
BELOVED BRETHREN: - We live in an age, which many prophets and kings and holy men of God have desired to see. We live at a period, when the light of the gospel, unobstructed by civil power, encircles and overspreads the land in which we dwell. We live in a country, and amongst a people, signally favoured of the Lord. We are crowned with Heaven's choicest blessings. A government blooming forth the beauties and sweets of civil and religious liberty; a soil pre-eminently prolific in the resources of husbandry and good Jiving; a climate unsurpassed by temperature and salubrity; a society, prosperous and thriving, stored with literature, and embellished with social refinement; all these are ours. The gospel of Christ, rich in mercy and abounding with promises, the offspring of Heaven, is ours. The Spirit of all grace, administering reproof to the wicked, and consolation to the pilgrim traveller, is ours. Every blessing congenial with the happiness, both present and future, of a sinful, fallen race, seems to be ours. Nothing that would contribute essentially to the well being of either saint or sinner, in time or eternity, appears to be withheld from us.
These, brethren, are the blessings with which Heaven has favoured us, and 1he condition in which the Lord our law-giver has placed us. Let us, then, for a moment, while recounting the goodness of God towards us, consider the relation we bear to him; the responsibility we are under; and the return of course which he requires at our hands. He is our Maker, our Preserver and our Redeemer; the author of every good [thing] that we enjoy. He, therefore, requires us to love and to serve him with singleness of heart, and to show forth by our works the evidences of our love proportionably to the opportunities he has given us. This requisition he has most strikingly illustrated, by the parable of a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods; to one five talents, to another two, and to another one; and required of everyone an improvement thereon, according to his several ability, To us, thus highly favoured, as we are, the Lord has committed many talents, and the improvement to be made thereon he requires to be proportioned to the magnitude of the trust, He has informed us, that ordinariarily [sic], the church is considered by him, as the salt of the earth; as a candle that giveth light to all around; and as a city set on an hill that cannot be hid. And in the word of truth, which he has bequeathed to us by his spirit, for our guide and instruction, he has informed us, in many places, of the nature and character of the work in which he requires us to be engaged. We are admonished, not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together; not to be slothful in business, but to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of the saints, given to hospitality. To the ministers of the gospel, called and qualified by his Spirit, to act as ambasbassadors [ambassadors] for God, he has given the command, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." This is a broad command, yet it issues as the behest of the Most High. It must be obeyed. Nor is it unaccompanied by promise. The day, as we are informed, shall roll on when they that sow in tears shall reap in joy; when they shall return with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them; when the knowledge of God shall encircle the whole earth; when all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest; when the heathen shall be given to the Son for his inheritance; and when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand unto God. All these arc promises, issuing from the throne of heaven. And to effect the mighty work, necessary to produce results like these, the Saviour, before his departure, consoled his disciples with the promise, that he would send to their aid the Comforter, who should abide with them forever, and whose. province it should be, to reprove the world of sin; to comfort the saints; and to give efficacy to the word preached, the sword of the Spirit. Here, then, is a glorious achievement promised, in which the ministers are called to act a prominent part. Nor are the churches exempt from sharing, under God, in the glory of its accomplishment. Indeed, many are their privileges, and weighty are their responsibilities. The ministers, while they go forth weeping, must he sustained. The labourer is worthy of his hire. His domestic wants, and the wants of his family must be supplied. Nothing, is more clearly enforced in the scriptures, nor more deeply rooted in the principles of justice and reason than this, - not in reference to the slothful and indolent servant, do we here speak; but in regard to those, who labor constantly in the cause of their divine Master. Nor do the duties and privileges of the churches stop here. They are wide as the world, and durable as time itself. The throne of grace must unceasingly be invoked, while union of effort, in view of the exertion of multiplied strength, must be brought into requisition. For prayer is the medium appointed of heaven, through which alone God bestows his favours. The heartless, lukewarm, formal and prayerless church should expect no blessing. The Spirit is promised to them, and
them only, who ask God for it. When Zion travails, and then only, shall she bring forth sons and daughters unto God. How constantly and fervently, then, should the prayers of the churches go forth to the throne of heaven for the conversion of their neighbours, their friends, their children, and of the world universally. With what anxious expectation and longing solicitude, should they unceasingly, while unitedly engaged in discharging the duties of benevolence enjoined on them by the scriptures, in view of contributing, instrumentally, to the accomplishment of these ends, pour forth their souls in prayer to heaven with the cry, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven." When a church is thus impressed and thus exercised, it is authorized to reach forth the hand of faith, strong as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, taking hold of the promises of heaven. It is then that we may confidently expect, that God will open the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing so copiously, that there will not be room to contain it. Such are the promises given us on the records of divine inspiration. Such have been the evidences given the churches, in all ages, of the willingness of their heavenly Father, to bless them, when properly exercised. And such, we rejoice to hear, are the evidences which have recently been poured out, in rich profusion, on a number of the neighbouring churches. Ministers have been aroused from lethargy and inaction, into spirituat iife, - the churches have been humbled in the dust, confessing their sins to God and to one another, and deeply agonizing in prayer, before the throne of heaven, for a blessing on themselves and their neighbors. The consequence is, that like Jacob of old, who wrestled with God, they have prevailed - the Lord has heard their prayers, and shed forth the beams of his countenance reconciled on them. Their graces have been quickened - sinners have been born unto God - the wave of salvation has been rolling triumphantly onward - and the songs of Zion have been greatly multiplied in the courts of heaven below.
And though all the churches have not shared equally, and indeed, at all, of these recent blessings, yet we are persuaded, brethren, that the fault does not rest with God. The fault assuredly, in some way or other, lies in the churches. Either spiritual life, proportioned to the blessings enjoyed, is wanting, or there lies hidden among the members some Achan that is offensive to God. For he has declared, he is ever willing and ready to bless his people.
Nor can it be justly urged, as an apology for lukewarmness and inaction in the church of Christ, that God is able to do his own work, and will carry it on in spite of all opposition. Such an apology, in the great day of accounts, will doubtless be unavailing. Though it is true, that God is able to perform his own work, he has, nevertheless, assigned to his people, a work for them to do. And so surely as he has ordained the ends he designs to accomplish, so surely has he also ordained the means by which he intends to accomplish those ends. And so certainly as he has ordained the means, so certainly will he fulfil his promise, to bless his people, when they shall be found engaged, with an acceptable spirit, in the use of the trust reposed with them.
Nevertheless, beloved brethren, all depends on the pleasure of our heavenly Father. Without his spiritual presence, we can do nothing profitably. Though it is the duty of the ministers of the gospel, to warn men every where to repent and believe; and though it is the duty of all men every where to do so; and though it is the duty of the churches, to pray unceasingly, "Thy kingdom come;" - yet if these duties and services are not rendered with an acceptable reliance on the arm of heaven, all will be vain and unprofitable. For Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but it is God alone that can give the increase.
Finally, brethren, we commit and commend you to God, and to the word of his grace. Put on the whole armour of God, praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, that the blessing of heaven may rest upon you, and cause your path to shine brighter and brighter even unto the perfect day. Farewell.
[From Franklin Baptist Association Minutes (KY), 1834, pp. 5-8. Document from SBTS Digital Archives in PDF format. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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