Concord Baptist Association (KY)
Circular Letter, 1865
To the Churches composing Concord Association of Baptists:
Your brethren convened with the Church at Long Ridge, in Association, wish grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. They have selected as a profitable theme for your meditations and prayerful investigation,
The duty of members of the Church towards ministers of the gospel.
We understand ministers to be the instruments, the heaven appointed means, to unfold the plan of salvation to a dying world; and the doctrine that all Baptists hold, is, that ministers are called to this important work by the Spirit of God. So soon, therefore, as a disposition and talent are properly manifested to this end, the Church sets them apart by solemn ordin1nce to the holy calling. This very act of the Church morally binds her to contribute to the physical necessities of the one set apart, outside of any Christian duty; and yet the New Testament clearly teaches it to be a Christian duty. If then it
be the moral obligation and sacred duty of the Church to give for such a purpose, it certainly includes every member of it - at least, every member that possibly can.
Again: the very nature of the labors and duties of an efficieut minister renders his support by the brethren an absolute necessity. What are some of his duties? The most import, or at least, the most laborious, is the office of teacher. This implies a preparation upon his part - a critical and diligent study of the word of God, and severe mental application; a kind of exercise that impairs physical strength much faster than manual labor. The office of teacher presupposes also superior attainments in knowledge; and then to break successfully to a congregation the bread of life, giving to each his portion in due season, requires a knowledge of the habits, customs and dispositions of the individual mem hers, which can only be acquired by visiting them at their homes; holding religious conversation with them, and becoming acquainted with the wants of the individual members of the family circle. Yet, in view of all this, and much more, many members of Churches composing this Association worth $20,600, give only $5 or $10 to their pastor; while others worth $10,000 refuse to give a single cent. The latter usually argue that inasmuch as God calls, He will, to some extent, at least, impart the preparation; and that, therefore, it is as much the duty of the minister to preach as for them to listen. What an argument! It is true that if called, they will receive spiritual strength in time of need, but the intellectual preparation is of themselves - and this is labor in its fullest sense - such labor, too, as in all other departments of life commands the highest price. But, is it a duty in the sense of labor, for a Christain to attend Divine service? Or does he not rather do so as a Christian privilege, to be instructed, built up, confirmed and established in the faith of the gospel? The answer of all Christians will annihilate the argument. The pittance that a pastor usually receives is such that his mind is often burdened, and his mental energies paralyzed with the cares and necessities of his family. Now, is it possible that God will wink at such neglect upon the part of the Churches? We ought, brethren, as far as possible to be co-workers with God; and how can we so effectually be instrumental in spreading the gospel as by giving to the ministry such a support as will enable them to devote their entire time, talents and energy, to the important work they have espoused.
In Ezekiel xxxiii, we read, "So then, O, son of man, I have set thee
a watchman unto the house of Isreal;" (and, addressing the watchman) "if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; hut his blood will I require at thy hand." Now, the church sets apart the watchman to "say unto that wicked man thou shalt surely die;" if the Church fails to sustam him in his arduous sentinel duties - if, by the very neglect of the Church he is unable to warn the wicked, &c., yet, "that wicked man shall die in his iniquity;" but at whose hands, brethren, will his blood be required? This question comes to us with fearful significance.
The Apostle Paul in acknowledging "the things which were sent" to him from the brethren at Philippi, calls them "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well pleasing to God." The Apostle Paul in acknowledging "the things which were sent" to him from the brethren at Philippi, calls them "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well pleasing to God."
Now, religion as taught and understood by all Baptists, consists of the implantation of a new principle in the heart, from which good works flow naturally as pure water from a transparent fountain. That is, the desires of the heart in the renewed man are for righteousness - the warfare with the flesh, &c., of course remaining. When professors, therefore, feel it in their hearts to refuse persistently year after year to offer what the Apostle terms a "sacrifice, acceptable, well pleasing to God;" are they not, to speak mildly, displeasing their Heavenly Master? And does it not savor of covetousness, a sin classed with adultery and drunkenness? Or, to be plain, is it not reasonable grounds to doubt true and genuine conversion? These are questions that come home to all of us, and are thrown out for our private meditation.
Brethren, look at the decline of the ministry in the bounds of our Association. Death has cut some off in the very prime and vigor of manhood and usefulness; others have removed to distant fields of labor; some have given up the ministry for the secular pursuits of life, under the the plea of gaining family subsistence; while but a few, very few of our young brethren manifest a disposition to assume the unwelcome calling of Zion's watchmen. These are facts which we know to exist, and which we must face. How account for them? - There seems to be but one rational interpretation, and that is upon the principle of "grace to help in time of need" - but only in need. - God will undoubtedly have a ministry as long as there is a Church; but Churches, as distinct organizations, sometimes cease to exist. We have a striking example or two in the bounds of our Association. All these things, view them as you will, are but so many chastisements to
teach us our duty; and they are wise indeed, who heed them. In the early history of Kentucky, the Baptists had a powerful ministry, and yet the brethren were unable from actual povery to give much for their support; still they did what they could, and God blessed it as an acceptable sacrifice. Compared with what is now contributed, and the relative means and facilities for accumulating worldly substance, it was truly "the widow's mite." We do not know in Church history of a more forcible exemplification of the promise to "help in time of need."
But, brethren, the times especially demand an efficient ministry-educated, talented, zealous, and persevering - men who devote their whole time and enegy to the work. We have just emerged from a bloody, fearful, devastating civil war, leaving in it" wake all the evils that strifes inevitably engender. Again: nearly all students of Biblical chronology agree that we are upon the eve of some great event. - Many argue, and with much force, that prophecy is about to be fulfilled in the second coming of Christ - that the time is at hand when "the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air."
We learn from Matthew xxiv, that in the latter times there shall be false prophets which, "if possible, shall deceive the very elect." How important then that we have vigilant watchmen - a zealous ministry; and it rests with the members composing the Churches of our denomination to make that ministry just what we desire it should be. If the brethren will but do their part, rest assured our Heavenly Master will do His.
Brethren, let us come up to the work in earnest.
(This letter was prepared by a lay member, and submitted for criticism to a committee of lay members.)
[From The Minutes of the Concord Association of Baptists, 1865, Owen County, KY; via SBTS Archives, Adam Winters, Archivist. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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