CIRCULAR LETTER, 1845
Written by Lewis Webb
Sand Run Baptist Church
DEAR BRETHREN: Having been preserved by the kind providence of God, and again indulged with another annual meeting, we esteem it a high privilege to address you by Letter — feeling a desire to stir up your pure minds in the service of our heavenly father, and that as dear children, bound together by love and the hope of a blessed immortality, you may stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
In our last annual epistle your attention was invited to the utility of public worship, and the duty of sustaining it. We hope this subject has received your prayerful attention, and that all may be benefited by the lucid and forceful manner in which that subject was presented. This is a subject of the first importance, and one that deeply affects the interests
and religious enjoyments of the church, and therefore should receive that diligent and candid consideration it so justly deserves.
In our address previous to that, we presented some thoughts on the powers of this association, the independence of the churches and the rights and privileges of each member, and indeed at no former period has it been more necessary that these subjects should be properly understood and appreciated than the present. We are assailed on the one hand by the insidious encroachments of papal power and intrigue, which threatens the subversion of the civil and religious institutions of our beloved country. On the other hand, we are approached by fanaticism, equalled in atrocity, only, by the ends it is designed to accomplish. This phrenzy aided by infidelity and treason, has openly avowed that all church organization must be destroyed. It has ever denounced as an "unmitigated curse" the charter of our freedom, that secures to us the inestimable privileges, both civil and religious, that we have long been in the enjoyment of, and which should be dear to every christian. It does not require the spirit of prophecy to foretell that the papal hierarchy, which is ever on the alert, will seize every opportunity, by calling to its aid every circumstance which will in any degree promote the ultimate ect [act] of subverting our liberties both civil and religious, and subjecting this happy land to the control of the man of sin.
In this great conflict the Baptist church has an
important part to act: her free and liberal church discipline, which is so happily assimilated to our civil institutions; her correct understanding of gospel truth; her ardent devotion to civil and religious freedom, present a formidable obstacle to the ultimate triumph of the man of sin. Hence, when considered in this light, and in view of the great responsibilities that devolve on us as a church, we perceive the importance of understanding and appreciating our priviliges, and of disseminating that intelligence, which will enable us the more readily to detect and repel any attempt at their subversion. In view of the great crisis that seems to be approaching and that we may the better fill the high destiny to which we are called, it is the more necessary that we should gird up the loins of our mind, be sober and watchful unto prayer, that we should live in the lively exercise of all the christian graces that adorn the church of Christ.
In regard to the fanaticism, to which we have alluded, and which has so unhappily affected the church of Christ and threatens the subversion of our civil government, we can but feel and express the deepest sorrow, for we cannot see the most remote prospect of good resulting from it, either to the church, or to that class of the community whose interests it is ostensibly designed to promote, or in some way to affect, and we do see plainly that its tendency is to sever and destroy christian union and fellowship, and to involve our beloved country in scenes of carnage too dreadful to think of without
horror. And whilst we deprecate this phrenzy, and contemn it as fraught with portentous consequences, calculated to do a vast amount of evil and no good, we do sincerely deplore the countenance and support given it by the Baptist chruch in other parts of the country. In view of this state of case, we recommend our brethren here, whose peace, happiness and prosperity are deeply affected, to endeavor to overcome evil with good, to exercise christian prudence and forbearance, and not to indulge in crimination and recrimination, especially to our brethren of the Baptist church; yet at the same time we feel that duty to ourselves, devolves on us the necessity of standing firm in the maintenance of our rights. God may over rule this matter to the promotion of his own glory and the welfare of Zion. We are assured by his servant, that the wrath of man shall praise him and the remainer of wrath will he restrain.
Brethren we look upon the pesent as a time of great affliction to the church. We are not only called on to mourn under the afflcition of the disaffection of brethren of the same faith and order, but we are likewise called on to lament the great declension of true and vital religion throughout our borders. God has a purpose to accomplish in sending affliction. They are sometimes sent for the trial of our faith. The trial of our faith worketh patience -- Patience is exemplified in suffering affliction. It was perhaps more forcibly exemplified in the sufferings of our Saviour than in any other case.
Go to the foot of the cross, and there behold Jesus suffering for us — In agonies of death, he prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Look at Stephen dying under a shower of stones, meekly praying "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Paul and Silas, when scourged and imprisoned for the testimony of Jesus, "sang praises unto God," whilst their feet were made fast in the stocks. But it behooves us in the midst of trials to examine ourselves. Are we, as in the examples just alluded to, suffering for righteousness. If so, we are comforted with the assurance that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
But we fear our iniquities have separated between us and our God, that we have wandered far from him; for when we look at the coldness of our affections and the lukewarm state of the churches; the great neglect of giving heed to the word spoken, by unconverted sinners among us, the causes of grief are neither few nor small. Help us dear Lord to look unto thee with full purpose of heart, and to know that thou art a God, who will be sought unto by the house of Israel. Have we lived in the faithful dicharge of our duty, by "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless?" Have not we been drawn aside by the allurements of the world? Have not its honors, its riches alienated our affections from God? Have we not departed from the simplicity of the gospel, by conforming too much to the world? In view of our
dereliction of duty are we not ready to say, visit us not in thy displeasure, O Lord, but according to they loving kind- ness, judgment and righteousness which thou exerciseth in the earth.
But no age of christianity has been excepted from tribulation. Our afflictions are light in comparison with those of the apostles and primitive christians; and even with what is now experienced by God's people in various parts of the earth. We thank God that we are exempt from perecution, and are permitted to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and that we can "set every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid." Notwithstanding the many privileges we enjoy, we know that the most happy state of existence on earth is not free from tribulation. The most complete enjoyment of sublunary happiness is mixed with trials and disappointments. We should not, therefore, think it strange concerning the fiery trials which are to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you.
Let these things lead us to humility. Let us therefore humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt us in due time: casting all our care upon him; for he careth for us. Therefore seeing that the Lord is good and that he is mindful of his children, we should take encouragement to come boldly to the throne of grace — for behold the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear.
[From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1845. pp. 7-12. — [The grammar and spelling are unchanged.] — Jim Duvall]
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