BELOVED BRETHREN: Having attended to the business that came before us, as exhibited in our Minutes, we call your attention to a few remarks on the duty of church members attending their stated meetings. We have witnessed with sorrow the neglect of this
duty, and seen its desolating effects in the languid state of Zion, which is traceable to this evil. It is at war with Christ on earth; the wisdom of God having united his people together in gospel churches, aad they being the only societies of Divine authority, the most honorable of all, and nothing less than the visible body of Christ; which presents a sphere of usefulness unequalled. What, then, must be the responsibility that rests upon each member of the same?
Ancient Israel mourned because so few attended her solemn assemblies. The Preacher endeavored to clothe the infinitely wise and perfect doctrine which he taught in perfect language. They were the words of truth, and were designed to prove quickening to the sluggish soul, as goads to the dull ox, and as nails driven through a sound board firmly binds and fastens where we will; and it was with reference to that, that the Apostles directed not to forsake the assembling of themselves together as the manner of some was, but to exhort one another, and so much the more as they should see the day of their salvation approaching; and when the whole church were come together in one place, he tells them what to do, and the manner in which they should do it. The neglect of this duty furnishes strong evidence that other duties are not well attended to; and it is to be feared that the standard of piety is not very high at home. He that can slumber over this delinquency, to say the least, has an accommodating conscience; therefore, we look not amongst those who choose to neglect the assemblies of the saints for patterns of piety, or ornamental to religion. Well for the cause of Christ that its safety was not entrusted to the hands of such men; if it had been, we might look for such things as were seen in the garden by a few good men, when Christ was taken by the designing Judas, and betrayed into the hands of ungodly men.
Let us now notice a few of the many evils involved in the negligence of which we complain. It amounts to nothing less than a breach of covenant, — it tends to the desolation of the church of Christ, and were it not for better men, would blot it from the earth. They are a nuisance to the clrurch — nominally they are members, practically they stand detached and living according to the course of this world, and show by their withering example, that "one sinner can destroy much good." All confidence is forfeited, for neither saint nor sinner can allow the religious claims of one who manifests a preference for worldly society. And we think the names of such should be stricken from the records of the church as being unfit for the kingdom. Who are they that sustain the minister, pay the sexton, and furnish the sacred table, but those that are always in place and labor in the vineyard of the Lord? When the church assumes her true dignity, she will become as "terrible as an army with banners" to vice. When members attend their meetings well, then their neighbors will attend with them, and good will he the result. If you wish your
friends to call at your house to partake of your hospitality, be at home yourself.
We conclude by adding a few words to young converts. We warn you against the withering example of many older professors. Resist the first feelings of indifference in this matter, regarding them as temptations, which, if once yielded to, will carry you back ruinous lengths. Give no ground here, consider the weakness of the excuses generally made, a want of time, worldly engagements, &c. Those that make them, squander away in a month four-fold the amount of time in indolence, in search of worldly amusements, and in gratifying idle curiosity, than would be required to do their duty as members of the church. Want of time may be a good reason for the absence of a slave, but not for a freeman who makes his own arrangements. No appropriation of time should be made by a Christian but with an eye to his duty as a church member. To place himself under circumstances which exclude him from the house of God, is sinful. The truth is, the want of a disposition lies at the bottom of the matter. If absence was felt to be a privation, it would supercede the necessity of writing this epistle; but while we design the above remarks for those to whom they belong, we know how to make allowances for the infirmities of age, the effects of sickness, and other things that justify members in not filling their seats, which is often no fault of theirs, but a misfortune. But it is willful disobedience which clouds the brow of the Almighty, and induces him to withdraw the manifestations of of his love. SMITH THOMAS, Moderator. S. VANNATTA, Clerk. ============
[From Long Run Baptist Association Minutes, 1853. From the Southern Baptist Seminary Library, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY. - jrd]
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