Editor's note: This Circular Letter is found in R. S. Duncan's A History of the Baptists in Missouri. It was published by the North Liberty Baptist Association that was organized in 1844, in the very heart of Fishing River, the strongest antimissionary association in the state. The following circular letter was published by order of the association in the year 1848, and was substantially an end of the controversy on missions in Western Missouri. It is an elaborately prepared paper, and for clearness and force of argument has seldom, if ever, been excelled. Relieving it of an apparent redundancy, we give the argument in full. - RSD, pp. 519, 521.]
North Liberty Baptist Association (MO)
Circular Letter, 1848
"Dearly Beloved Brethren: Pursuant to the order of our association at her last annual meeting, we propose for your consideration —
"The Grounds upon which our Missionary Operations are Founded".
"Feeling that the subject is an important one, and that we are but poorly qualified to discuss it, we invoke the Divine assistance and crave your indulgence.
"Circulars as a general thing get but a cursory reading and are then forgotten. Shall this be the fate of the present? God forbid! Let every brother and sister into whose hands it may come read it thoroughly, Bible in hand, with the view of ascertaining the truth in regard to the subject on which it treats, and then file it away for future reference.
"1. We found our missionary operations on the belief that the world is to be filled with the knowledge and glory of God. This we gather from prophecy. God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12;3, and 18;18 and 22;18, is prophetical. His seed through whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed in Christ (Galatians 3;16.)
"This promise will be fulfilled. The Father's promise to the Son (Psalm 2;7, 8) is also prophetical. 'Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for thy possession.' Of the kingdom of God it is said (Psalm 145;13): 'Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.' Also, 'He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the endsof the earth.' See also Matthew 8;11 and Revelation 7;9. From these and similar predictions we anticipate the period when the world shall be filled with the knowledge and glory of God.
"2. In accomplishing this glorious result, God will employ human instrumentality. This position we prove by declarations from both the Old and the New Testaments — declarations prophetic and didactic. Isaiah 49;22, 23. Please turn and read the text. This gracious promise was in part fulfilled in the kings of Persia, when they patronized Ezra and Nehemiah in the re-organization of their nation, and the rebuilding of their city and temple. But it is more gloriously fulfilled in the missionary enterprise.
"Daniel 12;4: ‘But thou, o Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.’ What can this refer to but the active labors of faithful gospel ministers, and missionaries of the present day? How is knowledge increasing through their instrumentality, and also by means of the Bible Society.
"But let us come to the New Testament. At the birth of our Lord a heavenly messenger announced that the glad tidings of great joy should be to all people. To this end 'the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, as a witness unto all nations.' That God will employ human instrumentality is proven by His representing the churches as 'the salt of the earth,' 'the light of the world,' and His subsequent command, 'let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven' Matthew 5;14, 16). It is also proven by the fact that the Savior, just before his ascension, said to His disciples, 'Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.' It is also proven by those passages of Scripture which represent the truth as the medium of faith and the instrument of sanctification. As a medium of faith, John says John 20;30), 'many other signs truly did Jesus, which are not written in this book, but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through His name.' Again in Romans 10;13-15 (let the passage be read), 'How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?'
"3. We found our missionary operations on the property which God has in us. We are the Lord’s by creation, Acts 17;28, by providence, Isaiah 1;2, and by purchase, 1 Corinthians 6;20. All we have belongs to Him also. It is right that God should have His own, and that He should be served with, and by His own.
"4. We found our missions upon apostolic example. Our Lord's commission, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach,' &c., was certainly understood by the apostles, and their acts are a standing commentary upon it. How did they obey it? Let us see. At the first, the 'mystery,' 'that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel' (Ephesians 3;4, 6), was hidden from the eyes of the apostles, hence for some time they 'preached the gospel to the Jews only' (Acts 11:19). Peter finally arrives at Joppa, where in the vision, he is taught to call no man 'common,' but to regard all men as interested in the 'common salvation.' He was here taught that 'God is no respecter of persons' (Acts 10;34, 35).
"The church at Jerusalem calls Peter to account for going unto the Gentiles. He makes his defense — light beams into the minds of the brotherhood, and the truth is discovered that to the Gentiles also God is 'granting repentance unto life' (Acts 11;18). In the meantime 'men of Cyprus and Cyrene' come to Antioch, and, to the Grecians, 'preach the Lord Jesus.' The hand of the Lord is with them, and 'a great number believe and turn to the Lord.' 'Tidings of these things' reach the 'ears of the church at Jerusalem,' and behold Barnabas is sent forth to go as far as Antioch (Acts 11:22). This is the beginning of missionaryism in the church.
"Not long after Barnabas came to Antioch. the call for missionary labor became so great, that he deemed it prudent to have an 'assistant' and consequently sent for Saul. For 'a whole year they assembled themselves with the church and taught much people.' (Verse 26).
"After the church had increased, and other teachers had risen up amongst them (Acts 13;1) so that Barnabas and Paul could be spared, the Holy Ghost demanded their separation to the work to which he had called them. The church obeyed, and after laying hands on them, sent them away (Verse 3). For a moment note God's economy. Jesus commissions and the church co-operates. We are workers together with Him (2 Corinthians 6;1). May we not infer that what was God's economy then, is God's economy now?
"5. Missions are founded upon the fact that the missionary spirit is essential to the co-operation of the church with God in the great work of evangelizing the world.
"6. In the sixth place we found our missionary operations on what might be called a maxim in the gospel, viz.: 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them' (Matthew 7;12). We have the means of coming to a just conclusion, both as it respects the destitute at home and the heathen abroad, and we can by an effort of the imagination change conditions with them and then ask ourselves how we would have them act toward us. Would we have them make no effort to supply us with the Bible, the living ministry of the word, and the immunities of the church of Christ? We would want no anti-mission nor omission Baptists amongst them. Then of course there should be none amongst us." ________________
The residue of the circular is devoted to the answering of objections, but our space is full, and we can give no more. The above is submitted as an unanswerable argument in favor of missions, and embodies the sentiments of the North Liberty Association at the time of her greatest conflict with the opposition. - rsd ==============[From Robert S. Duncan, A History of the Baptists in Missouri, 1882; rpt. 1981, pp. 522-524. - jrd]
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