Concord Baptist Association (KY)
Circular Letter, 1840
By Thomas A. Berryman
To the Churches composing the Concord Association of Baptists, and the several members thereof: BRETHREN -
THROUGH the kindness apd providence of God, we have been permitted to assemble ourselves together at our annual meeting in the character of an association; and when we look back upon our conduct and search our own hearts, it is a matter
of astonishment to us, that we have been granted this privilege, and have not been cut off as cumberers of the ground long before this.
The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked: who can know it? And yet it has pleased God, notwithstanding our deceit and wickedness to spare us yet a while in this state of probation and trial, and surrouud us with his mercies, and extend to us innumerable privileges.
We are much inclined to forgetfulness, and whilst we enjoy the blessings of God we do not remember that it is only by his sufferance, but are apt to imagine that they are the results of our own efforts, and that, in fact, WE are the meritorious cause. How vain, how selfish, how thoughtless, how ungrateful are men! - Brethren we charge you to lay aside all vanity and selfishness, and let your minds, at all times, be filled with recollections of the goodness of God, and with gratitude to HIM for his unbounded liberality, and mercy, and love to you. We charge you to press forward in all your Christian duties, and let it be your meat and drink to do the will of your HEAVENLY FATHER. We charge you, that in all things, you act uprightly, and with an eye single to the GLORY of GOD and the advancement of our REDEEMER[']S KINGDOM. Let it not be said of any of you, that whilst you have a name to live you are dead. We should endeavor as the professed followers of Christ to walk in his footsteps and obey him in all his commands.
Practical Godliness seems in the present day to be lost in the interminable mazes of doctrinal controversy.
The husks are intended for the swine; and yet the proper and healthful food of the Christian is turned from, with apparent loathing, for this unwholesome and disgusting ailment, which is seized upon and greedily devoured by many, who profess to be followers of Christ. We believe, that, the faith once delivered to the saints, should be earnestly contended for; but the manner and matter of such contention, should be carefully looked to, else we may for want of proper circumspection, be led into vain and idle controversy; such as is well calculated to do the cause of our Redeemer great injustice and bring ourselves into a barren and unfruitful condition.
In order that Religion in its purity shall be enjoyed, it is necessary that its votaries should be engaged constantly in the work of the Lord, and in the discharge of every known duty to Him; and that they should avoid as much as possible the contentious, strifes, difficulties and schisms which present themselves in the world, and oftentimes in the church of the living GOD. We exhort you brethren, to give earnest heed to these things, and with a holy zeal, and untiring energy, cultivate the
Christian virtues, and especially that one, without which, all profession of religion is vain - we mean Charity. Let charitable emotions enter into and govern all your thoughts and actions towards the people of the world, as also in all your intercourse with your brethren in Christ, no odds by what name they may be called.
The proper exercise and culture of this inestitimable quality will rid you of many difficulties, and present to you the sunny side of every circumstance and thing which may fall in your way. It will enable you to bear with your brethren under the most trying circumstances, and in nothing will it suffer you to offend. It will open your hearts to the calls of want - to the distresses of the needy - to the afflictions of the disconsolate. It will enable you to forbear. It will make you benevolent and instill in your hearts such a spirit of love towards your fellow men, as will put to flight the monster Intolerance. You will be taught by it to esteem others better than yourselves; for it will give you a spirit of meekness, and self pride, and vanity will no longer dwell with you.
COVETOUSNESS is a most heinous and crying sin; yet it exists to an alarming extent amongst every denomination of Christians, and amongst the Baptists fully as much as any other, at the foundation of which charity will strike, and which will be uprooted by its benign influence - We are not sure brethren, but that this sin prevails to a greater extent amongst the Baptists than any other denomination of Christians; for, we find that when money, labour, or union is needful to carry out any specific object of our benevolence - or for the amelioration of the human condition generally - or for the spread and support of the Gospel in our own and foreign lands, there is but little of either of those essentials to be found amongst us. This is not as it should be. The life of a Christian was not designed to be one of idleness and sloth, but of activity and industry; and having enlisted under the banner of our GREAT CAPTAIN, we should fight his battles valiently [sic], and devote our time and means to the promotion and extension of his Cause and Kingdom - You, brethren, have become the recipients of the Grace of God - You have tasted of the sweets of his Religion - Your souls have been redeemed by his blood - You were found by him in a lost and ruined condition, and his pity was extended to you, and your feet were taken by him out of the mire and clay, and out of the horrible pit, and placed upon the rock of ages, and a new song was put in your mouths, even praises to our God - You were filled with wounds, bruises and putrifying sores, and his blood has cleansed you from all uncleanness, and you are now able to rejoice in the prospect of
eternal Glory - All this has been the result of His mere pity, love and mercy - Under such circumstances ought not your hearts to filled with gratitude to Him, and your spirits rise superior to the beggerly elements of the world? Would it be too much for you to devote your time, talents and money; your souls and bodies to his service? Have you considered this matter fully? Do you remember when you first found Christ precious your souls and felt that [blurred] had a right under the promises, to look upon him as your Saviour, how your hearts expanded with love towards poor, fallen depraved human nature - how every thing which bore the impress of the handy work of the Almighty, was elevated in your affections? And how very desirous you were that your neighbours, relations and friends should also partake of the blessings of the Redeemer's Kingdom? Were not your hearts and hands then open to the cries of the distressed and were you not, during the stage of this first love, ernestly engaged in telling all with whom you associated, of the Greatness of God's Salvation; of his mercy to sinners and especially yourselves, and endeavoring to point out to them where and how the Pearl of great price might be found? Ah, brethren we are sure that you well remember all these things, and we prayerfully and tearfully exhort you to renew and keep alive first love [blurred] Salvation of the whole human race - let your bodies and spirits and your wealth become willing instruments in the hands of the Lord to spread His Gospel in every land, kindred and tongue, and cease not making efforts to produce this happy result till it be fully accomplished.
Do not keep the word of life from the heathen, but on the contrary send it to him, and let him unite with you in praises to our God for his unbounded goodness.
Suffer us also, brethren, to exhort you to nourish and cherish every moral and benevolent institution of the day, they being mighty instruments in the hands of God for the pulling down the strong holds of Satan. Encourage every effort to correct the vices, and improve the morals of the human race, no odds by whom made: And in short lay yourselves out for the doing the work of your Heavenly Master.
We thank God, brethren, that it has pleased Him during the past year, to add a number of hopeful converts to some of our Churches.
You will perceive by our minutes, which accompany this letter, the condition of the several churches and the manner in which our business has been conducted.
And now, brethren, we pray that you may be abundantly prospered in all your laudable undertakings, and that you may at last, rest in the mansions of eternal Glory.
[From the Minutes of the Concord Baptist Association, 1840; via Boice Digital Repository, Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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