Our Heavenly Father hath conducted us through the various toils of another year, and hath again permitted us to meet as an Association, and in harmony and peace to unite in the work and worship of the Lord. With unfeighned thankfulness for the many favors we enjoy, let us adore the bountiful source of every blessing. Although we have not expereinced a display of the divine goodness in the conversion of many sinners from the service of Satan, to the service of God, we have abundant reason to adore the riches of his grace in preserving us, unworthy as we are, whilst many of our friends and brethren have gone down to the tomb, and their stations unchangeably assigned them in the eternal world. This is a serious, a solemn thought. The rapid, the restless flight of time is urging us onward to this momentous crisis. It therefore, behooves us to examine ourselves. Are we prepared to meet a Holy god in peace? Are we walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless? Notwithstanding we are indebted to free and unmerited grace for salvation, the Scriptures teach us, and our own experience has taught us, that much of our spiritual enjoyment depends on a careful observance of our duty to God, and our obligations to one another. Why do we hear so much mourning and complaining? Why are we so barren and unfruitful? Why are the smiles of our heavenly Father apparently withdrawn from us? Why does so much darkness in spiritual things pervade our minds? Why do we experience this dearth in the enjoyments and consolations of religion? Are we engaged at a throne of grace for help? Are we waiting for the coming of our Lord in his earthly sanctuary? O that the good Lord would awake Zion from this lethargy, and enable her to go forth in the strength of her Lord!
In seasons of barrenness and coldness of religion, it is all important that we should walk together in love; and thus
avoid any cause of reproach to the religion of Jesus Christ. The great enemy to all God's children is ever on the alert: he seizes every opportunity to mar their peace - both by producing discord among the followers of Christ, and alienating their affections from God and his holy religion.
Brethren, let our efforts be united to promote the welfare and peace of Zion. Let charity, christian forbearance, and brotherly kindness abound to one another; and, as a band of brethren, united by one faith, one hope, one interest, one inheritance, one Lord, let us endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of p[eace." This peace is an inestimable treasure, committed to us by the great Head of the church. It is bequeathed to us as a part of our inheritance here below, and as an earnest of our joys in the kingdom of eternal felicity. "My peace I give unto you," said the dear Redeemer to his disciples before he left them. Hence we dicover the high source from which it emanates, and our obligations to preserve it in its purity. Shall we disregard the injunctions of the divine Jesus, and our duty to one another? Shall we ungratefully dash from us the cup of felicity and peace, and embark on the tempestuous ocean of turmoil and strife; and so defeat the great object of our associating together as brethren, and coming out from the world, by a profession of Christ? O that the Lord would guide us all in paths of peace!
All pretensions to religion, all acquisitions of knowledge in theology, let it be as orthodox as it may, are vain, unless we are thereby influenced to love and obey the Gospel. If we love the holiness an equity of its precepts, and humbly rely upon the truths of its promises - if our souls are enamored with the beauties of holiness, and charmed with the effable glories of a blessed immorality - we are usually found in the delightful exercise of the several christian graces and duties. The lively exercise of those graces, and obedience to the will of our heavenly Father, not only afford peace to those who are thus exercised, but evince to the world the truth and reality of the religion of Jesus. It exerts a moral influence on all around, by silencing gainsayers, encouraging the saints, reproving the lukewarm, and recommending religion as both
joyful and delightful. Could we, by grace, be always thus exercised, our Zion would be the joy and delight of all the ransomed church of God. In contemplating the church militant, thus gloriously arrayed, thus harmoniously marching on to the haven of eternal rest, it is not astonishing that the old servant of God should exclaim, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord." Again: when influenced by a lively sense of the sweet enjoyments of religion, and contrasting those enjoyments with the pleasures of this world - in the fulness of his soul he exclaims - "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my god, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Hence we discover God has graciously connected belssings with the obedience of his children.
If we suppose, whilst we are living in any known sin, or in the neglect of any known duty, that God will approve our course and bless us, we deceive ourselves. God, who is omniscient, will not be mocked. Every thing that is sinful must be denied. Hence, says the Savior, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me."
That the believer in Jesus should be zealously engaged in the service of his heavenly Master, is abundantly manifest from the Scriptures; but he should learn to estimate all he does as acts of obedience emanating from a principle of love, implanted by the Holy Spirit, and not as grounds of justification before God. This flows to us through the mediation and righteousness of Christ.
And now, brethren, having, without much attention to order, glanced at some of our duties to God and our obligations to one another, and the consolations flowing from a lively exercise of those duties and obligations, we close this our epistle of love, by commending you to God, and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
[From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1837. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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