To the Churches composing Long Run Association, when convened with the Baptist Church at Long Run, Jefferson county, Ky., on the first Friday of September, 1861.
DEAR BRETHREN: Through a kind Providence you are once more permitted to meet in council in regard to the interests of Christ's kingdom upon earth. Often have you thus met, but never under so trying circumstances as now.
Since your last meeting, peace, harmony, confidence and fraternal feeling, have given place to a great extent to distrust, envy and hatred, and civil war, with its long train of untold evils, is environing our country with its blighting curse. Although the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, yet it is in the world, surrounded
by its pernicious influenees, and often is its progress limited by the affairs of this world.
In view of this fact, and of the great responsibility resting upon Christians in these exciting times, we have chosen as an appropriate subject for the present occasion - The duty of Christians in the present crisis.
Dear Brethren, we should remember that no circumstances can possibly arise that can release a professed Christian from a strict compliance with every religious obligation. As Christ is not conditionally put on, so are not the obligations of Christianity to be conditionally observed: but at all times and places, and under all circumstances, we are commanded to walk worthy of our high calling. We are living at a time well calculated to fully develop whatever of Christian principle dwells in the heart. In times of peace and quiet, when there is no germ of discord in our midst, it requires no sacrifice of feeling, or effort of mind, to keep the soul in a healthy state of religious enjoyment, and to extend to all the courtesies of social life, and to our brethren in Christ that Christian sympathy and love demanded by our holy religion.
But when friendship is being turned into bitterness, confidence into distrust, and love into hatred - when social ties are being severed, domestic tranquility destroyed, and society overthrown, and when father turns against son, and son against father: then it is that the child of God should stand forth, and clothed with the breast-plate of righteousness, let his light shine. Then the divinity of Christianity should be made manifest by its restraining influence over the feelings, words and actions of men.
While the duties of Christianity are distinct and positive in their character, and are at all times alike binding, yet there are times when their prompt and energetic performance produce more striking and beneficial results than at others. The present crisis is such a time - all else have failed.
Brethren, do we fully realize the all-important duties each has to perform? Do we fully realize the import of the glorious gospel - "Peace on earth, good will to men"? In our social intercourse, do we not manifest more of the spirit of the world than of Christ? Do we exercise toward those who differ from us that spirit of toleration and forbearance we so rigorously demand of them? How often is it the case, that political excitement swallows up religious principle, and brethren add fuel to the flame of blind passion that is sweeping like a wild tornado over our country. Let our deserted pulpits answer! Let the house of God, almost abandoned, reply! Let the gloom that like the pall of death broods over every Christian heart, send up its sepulchral response! O! let the millions of frenzied souls, rushing into eternity, with their hands imbrued in fraternal blood, send back their agonizing reply, though it hurl curses long and deep upon the Christian world. Nor is the evidence of Christian lethargy these alone; but will not your own violated conscience condemn you? Look into your own hearts, swayed, perhaps, by feelings of resentment and passion, rather than pity alone, and will you not feel condemned?
Perhaps you feel incompetent to still the storm. It is true, alone you cannot; but when God is for you, who can be against you? Let each brother and sister contribute their mite, by subduing their own hearts, and controlling their own passions. This done, leave the result with Him "who doeth all things well."
O, brethren, let us live nearer the cross - know less of the world, but more of Christ. Let our conversation be such as becomes the high profession we have made, ever glorifying God in our bodies and spirits, which are his.
B. F. H. ______________
[From Long Run Minutes, 1861, from the Southern Baptist Seminary Library, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
Benjamin Franklin Hungerford (1825-1916) was a noted Kentucky Baptist pastor serving the Clayville Baptist Church for twenty-three years, the Little Mount Baptist Chruch for twenty-four years and the Pigeon Fork Baptist Church for fourteen years. He also served as president of Shelbyville Female College. - Ben Stratton.]
More Long Run Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage