To the Churches of which she is composed,
BELOVED BRETHREN IN THE LORD: - Our lives have been protracted through the scenes of affliction and death another year, - liberty, peace, competence. and the gospel with all their concomitant train are yet ours. Living to enjoy the rich munificence of Heaven, our grateful hearts should render to the Lord according to the benefits received. Through a benevolent and all-wise providence, we have been favored with the privilege of meeting to see each other’s faces again in the flesh, to hear from the churches composing our body, and to attend to our associational duties. We now with pleasure reciprocate your Ietters of address to us, and congratulate you upon a remembrance of that peace which abounds among you: our Divine and precious Saviour is yet merciful to us and ours: many of the churches have enjoyed refreshing seasons from the Lord, and a goodly, number of precious souls have found favor of the Lord, and have been added to our number. In this, our annual address to you,
permit us, dear brethren to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance to the important but too much neglected duty of self-examination. The necessity of this will appear when you consider the circumstances with which you are surrounded, and the liabilities to be misled and deceived.
It is a duty founded in reason, experience, and the word of God. We are commanded "to examine ourselves, to prove ourselves:" 2d Corinthians XII: 5. The scriptures abound with instances of delusion and hypocrisy; many have a name to live and are dead. In the day of just retribution many foolish virgins will plead in vain their fair profession and many wonderful works, who will be recognized as the enemies of the King, and driven away in their wickedness. Should not each professor enquire, Will this be my ultimate end? will my hope be swallowed up in the darkness of eternal night? If it be possible that this may be our condition, how should we pass the time of our sojourning here? Should we not daily call ourselves to a strict and impartial account, and with scrupulous attention, compare our religious feelings, views, and conduct, with the perfect standard of Divine Truth. Though we may be approved of by our brethren and the world, if we expect to enjoy a sense of the approbation of Heaven in our souls, feel and enjoy the wideness of our acceptance, we must habitually examine ourselves concerning the reality of our profession, the intentions of the heart, the reality of our faith, the Evangelical nature of our repentance, and the tenor of our conduct.
Connected with the duty here recommended, when it is discharged daily, impartially, sincerely with deliberation and care, with anxious desire to know our condition and to amend our lives, are our spiritual interests and enjoyments, our religions improvements and growth in grace: to show the importance of this, and aid in the performance thereof, we will, to some extent, point out the scripturality of these items. The bible makes christian experience essential to the character of a real christian; if so, it is a matter of vast importance and should come under our serious investigation: if our experience be in accordance with the word of God, we may know that Divine agency produced it. If, connected with our experience, our pride is subdued, our weakness and [blurred] felt, humility and dependence on God promoted, and love to Jesus and the souls of men increased; if ours be such it will bear the test here and the scrutiny of the final day. [blur] faith, we should impartially examine in this day of conflicting sentiment and heretical views, as so much depends on a correct understanding of the Bible. All errors in faith or doctrine exert a deleterious influence, and some wholly incompatible with the existence of vital religion. We can not here give specifications of what we view erroneous, but will say that, that faith that robs God of his glory, the Saviour of his honors of salvation, and the Spirit of his influence in renewing, sanctifying and comforting the heart, cannot be the faith of the bible. The faith that leads to self-dependence and exalts the creature, cannot be the faith of the bible. That faith that works not by love, and produces not the fruits of the spirit, cannot be the faith of the bible. It should be an every-day's business to retrospect the life and bring all our works to be essayed by the unerring standard. We should enquire of ourselves, what sin we have committed,
what duty has been omitted, what duty has been discharged, how far have we honored the Lord, what kindness have we rendered to his people, what advancement in the Divine life, what have we done for the souls of men? have we discharged the various duties associated in the relations sustained by us. By a careful examination of the past we are enabled to improve for the future, and be better and wiser as our days pass away, and our faith shine brighter and brighter to the perfect day.
As Jehovah looks on the heart we should attend to the motives that influence us, ask and answer in the fear of God, such questions as these: Do I act with reference to the glory of God in all I do? is personal interest or self-aggrandisement [sic] at the bottom of all my religious duties and efforts? How often should we call up our tempers, comforts, trials, and affections; do they comport with the word and the exercises of the saints, &c. In the course of self-investigation, we should pay attention to the internal evidence of personal religion. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and those that believe, have the witness in themselves: how often should we look for the comforting testimonies of the spirit and witness of our faith: in viewing the wideness of our heaven-born character, we should possess the assurance of faith and hope, rejoice that Christ is in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and his image divinely impressed on the heart.
The duty of self-examination should he observed as a preparative to the scriptural celebration of the ordinances and other religious duties; that we enter not on the observance of them with insatiable feeling, carelessly, or irreverently. - Every expectant of glory should often converse with himself as to his preparation for, and title to heaven. We hope that all, professing godliness, will discharge this duty with that seriousness and candour which the interests involved, and the responsibility incurred demand. None should more impartially and critically examine themselves, than professed ministers of the gospel: each one should canvass his motives, and in solemn soliloquy ask himself, what motive led him to engage in the great work? was it for the glory of God and the good of immortal souls? or was it the love of money or the expectation of honor, that led me to [blur] on the duties of the ministry? Is my doctrine according to godliness; do I continually seek aid from on high; do I speak with the zeal and gravity of the servant of God; does my holy life confirm the truths I deliver? On this subject, we cannot further enlarge, but would exhort you, dear brethren, to connect with it other kindred duties; daily search the holy scriptures; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: meditate thereon, have your memories and understandings stored with their sacred instructions, that thereby your hearts may be comforted, your judgments correctly formed, your consciences perfectly diverted and your lives in accordance therewith. Be watchful, be not wanting in any good work, live together as brethren, do nothing that will cause a brother to offend, remembering that you are yet in the body. This is the house of our pilgrimage and not our home, this thought should animate us while on our way to glory, remembering, soon we shall terminate our conflict, end our sorrows and be with Jesus, whom we love.
The author was chosen and identified the previous year. The title is supplied by the editor.
[From the Minutes of the Long Run Association of Baptists, 1835, pp. 2-4; via the SBTS Archives digital documents. The paragraph breaks and indentions have been added for easier reading. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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