Baptist History Homepage

Elkhorn Baptist Association (KY)
Circular Letter, 1863
Fidelity to Christ
By Wm. M. Pratt

"Be faithful unto death," says the Savior, "and I will give thee a crown of life."

[p. 4]
The Christian is under the highest conceivable obligation of devotion to the cause of his divine master. To deliver him from the curse and dominion of sin, to reconcile him to God, Jesus Christ suffered and died, and thus made an adequate atonement. To procure for him an abundant entrance into the heavenly estate, Christ ever liveth to intercede in the presence of God, and has prepared mansions of glory. He also has under his control all agencies in heaven and on earth, and directs them to the grand consummation "of bringing many sons to glory." On that final occasion, when he shall gather together in one, all things that are in Christ, whether they be things, on earth, or in heaven, the subjects of his redemption will stand on Mount Zion justified, purified, saved, with harps of rejoicing and palms of victory. The burden of their song, through eternity, will be, thanksgiving to him for their redemption.

If Christ should fail to carry on and complete our salvation, our condition would be deplorable indeed. We are wholly dependent upon him for the beginning and comsummation of the whole work. But he will never disappoint the hopes of his people. "He that believeth shall never be confounded." Upon his thigh and vesture is written the sentiment "Faithful and True.

This sentiment of Jesus Christ to our highest and most endearing interests, imperatively demand reciprocal fidelity on our part to whatever pertains to the interests of his cause and kingdom on earth. We can not reasonably expect him to confess us before his father and the angels, unless we confess him before men, or that he will be faithful to us, unless we are faithful to him. Reciprocal fidelity is demanded, and if it is wanting, our hopes of heaven are vain.

The Savior has committed important matters to our trust. He represents himself as a lord going into a far country, and calling his own servants, committed to them his goods and commanded them to occupy till he come. The Savior has committed to us his glorious gospel, it promulgation into all lands, the vindication of its essential truths, -- the maintenance of the worship of God, the ordinances of his house, the affairs of his church. The grand mission of that church is to witness for the Redeemer, to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. As a component part of the church, every member should feel under the highest obligation to employ every talent and capability he possesses for the benefit of the cuase of Christ, and to exert himself in behalf of whatever will benefit the world -- to be ready to every good word and work. "Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your bodies and spirits which are his."

We inquire in respect to what matters, pertaining to Christ's kingdom, is fidelity on our part demanded, especially in the present times. We specify:
[p. 5]
1. Fidelity to our Christian Profession. -- The profession of religion involves the idea of a possession of religion. To possess religion is to partake of the divine nature, to possess the spirit of Christ and to imitate his bright example. A Christian man is a living epistle of Christ known and read of all men. The unregenerate have knowledge of the moral attributes of God, only as seen manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, the "word of God;" and they only have knowledge of the nature of holiness as they see it manifested in the persons of the godly. As the father was seen in Christ, so Christ is to be seen in his real disciples. Hence the Savior denominates his followers "his witnesses." Wicked men have a better apprenhension of the nature and power of religion as manifest in the life of a true disicple of Jesus than by the clearest and most powerful exhibit from the pulpit. Hence says the Savior, "Ye are the light of the world," and Paul exhorts believers "to hold forth the word life, that he may rejoice in the day of Christ that he has not run in vain, or labored in vain." To be faithful is illustrating the principles of our profession, in a well developed Christian character, should be the first aim of every Chrisitian man. To this end he should conctantly "take head [heed] to himsel," to possess the spirit of Christ, and to have reproduced in himself the moral image of the Savior. The world should take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus.

Would that this was the fact with reference to professors of religion generally. But, alas, it is not so. The character and life of vast numbers is in palpable contradiction to their profession, involving absolute falsehood. The aged John says, "if we say we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness (i. e. live iniquitously) we do lie, and do not the truth." What multitudes of professed disciples of Jesus are yielding to the "lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eye, and the pride of life," are strangers to self-denial, gratifying their pride, ambition, covetousness, and sensual desires, and take little heed to the law of God, on the admonitions of his ministerial servants, but elect their own course of conduct, and follow worldly motives that are most prevailing for the time being.

Is it a matter of surprise, that there is much scepticism in the land? As long as multitudes of professors give the lie to their profession by their wicked conduct, we must expect infidelity, and iniquity to abound. "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jeruslaem, shake thyself from the dust, arise and sit down, O Jeruslaem, loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion."

2 Fidelity to the Church. -- The Church is a divine institution, "The pillar and ground of the truth." Christ hath established it. He is head over all things to it. It is his will that all his followers should be assembled into it and share equally of its blessed privileges. Every member of the great spiritual family should therefore, be in the fellowship and constant communion of the church. Among the churches and various persuasions, it becomes the honest inquirer after truth to connect himself with that which conforms in her doctrine, government and ordinances most nearly to the teachings of God's word. And being received into the fellowship of such a church, he should bring with him his talents and capabilities and lay them on
[p. 6]
her altar, "present his body a living sacrifice." If Christ "loved the church and gave himself for it," surely we should love it too. The sentiment of Dwight is felt by every devoted disciple.

"I love thy church, O God;
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye
And graven on thy hand.

For her my tears shall fall;
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy,
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise."

How strange that professors should seek fellowship in the institutions formed by men and prize it equally, if not more so, than that which they find in the church. But can it be wondered at, when so many of the ministers of our holy religion are setting the example. We lack fidelity to Christ's Church, when we divide our affections that should be given to it, with any other institution -- when we seek communion with the irreligious rather with his people -- when we neglect the assembling of ourselves with his followers, the withholding of our aid to sustain his worship, or any capacity we possess to render that worship interesting and profitable to others. O, could every Christian man and woman be persuaded to bring even a tythe of their talents into the house of the Lord; the windows of heaven would be opened and God would pour out such blessings, that there would not be room to receive them.

3. Fidelity in Civil Relations. -- Civil government is by ordination and appointment of Jehovah. "The powers that be are ordained by God." -- Rom. 13:1. Dr. Gill, in his body of divinity, sums up the duties of citizens to their rulers under four heads: 1st. "To honor them and show reverence to them." -- Rom. 13:7. 2d. "To speak respectfully of rulers" 3d. "To pray for them." -- 1 Tim. 2:1-2. 4th. "To support them in their government." -- Rom. 13:7. The master has said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's while you render to God the things that are his." The Chrisitian does not loose [lose] his rights , and is not freed from his obligations as a citizen of the civil government, by becoming a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. His duties and obligations as a citizen are as clearly taught and enjoined as his duties to his God and to the church. The whole matter is embraced in the admonition of Paul to the Phillipian church, "Let your conversation be such as becometh the disciple of Christ." The original word translated conversation is that from which our English word "politics" comes, and the simple meaning of the passage is, let your course, in reference to poitical matters, be such as becometh a disciple of Christ. Act as a Christian citizen.

A Christian citizen should be a law abiding man, should live a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and sincerity. He should endeavor to exert a wholesome and conservative influence, and promote the peace and prosperity of the city or country where he lives. A Christian should not become oppresive and bring much suffering upon
[p. 7]
the disciples of Christ, but let a religious men, who suffers from his government, be careful that he "suffers as a Christian not as an evil doer." In no relation in life, is the Christian principle more severly tried, than is his political relations, and under no circumstance does it exhibit itself in beauty and grandeur, than in his consistant course as a Christian citizen. The times on which we are fallen are a severe ordeal. The passions of men are the prevailing influences. May God grant that the trial of your faith and principles, being much more precious than Gold, though it be tried in the fire, may come forth from the ordeal, to praise, honor and glory.

4. Fidelity to the Family. -- Christian parents sustain somewhat the relation of kings and priests in the family. They rule and teach. The Scriptures enjoin upon us "to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." -- "To render to our servants that which is just and equal." Fidelity to Christ demands that we honestly and perseveringly endeavor, both by precept and example, to lead all under our immediate control and influence, in the paths of righteousness. To train them for usefulness in life and with a view to their final approval of God.

FINALLY -- We are taught by the Savior that, in the final day, the award of glory will be to the "Good and Faithful." "Well done thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joys of thy Lord." Jesus Christ will have respect to the elements of goodness, of godliness, possessed by his disciples -- to their faithfulness in all the relations of life, to the diligent employment of all their capabilities in his service -- the seizing upon all opportunities of usefulness, and readiness with which they co-operate, on every ocassion, offered to them, to glorify God and do good. That approval of Christ should be the Christian's highest aim. With reference to it, he should endeavor constantly "to maintain a conscience void of offense, toward God and toward men." To fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith. In the anticipation of that approval, he should be measureably indifferent to the praises and censures of his fellow man and seek to do his will, in whom are all our springs, and who holds our eternal destiny in his hands.

[From an original document at Elkhorn Baptist Association, Lexington, KY, 1863, pp. 4-7. - Transcribed by Jim Duvall]

American Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage