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The Philadelphia Baptist Association
Circular Letter, 1869
Christian Activity – Individual and Imperative
By Rev. A. F. Shanafelt
The Philadelphia Baptist Association, to the Churches of which it is composed.

      We live in a world, and an age, of marvelous activity. The universe is full of life and power. Mind and matter are in ceaseless motion. Hearts and hands are tasked to the utmost. Men of the world drive their work, and are driven by it.

      'Now what is expected of the christian churches, what they must furnish, what the condition of things around them urgently demands, is a consecrated and energetic membership. Each must work apart, and yet all must work together, thus presenting an array of effective workers, and challenging a comparison with the exemplary energy of the outside world. world drive their work, and are driven by it.

      The stress of superior motives pointing to the necessity, the awful authority, imposing the duty, are the all-suilicient stimulants. The vast and momentous work to be done, the brevity of human life, the urgent tone of the gospel of Jesus, all conspire to exact universal and individual enterprise and activity. This is an essential feature of christian character - a law, precluding both indifference and choice. It is no mere abstraction—a bare scientific principle. It demands alike the assent of the judgment, and the submission of the life. It is the real and legitimate evidence of regeneration and sonship—the normal condition and essential characteristic of the new creature.

      All will concede that this is the true and accredited theory of the christian life. But the question is pertinent, how far is the acknowledged theory actualized Z Is not a profession of religion, on the part of many, a mere profession, with out living faith in the realities of the Gospel?

      How seemingly slight the connection between the profession and its involved obligations. The glory of God, and the good of man, while in theory they constitute the grand and essential motives to christian activity, are in fact as uninfluential as the doubtful speculations of human philosophy.

      It is a cheering truth, that God has from the beginning, made ample and

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efficient provision for the redemption of His people. This provision is in the Gospel of His Son.

      This Gospel is, by divine order, to be preached to every creature. The preaching of it is committed to christians. Each christian soul is in “the Apostolic Succession,” each has a part in the fulfilment of the great commission.

      Acceptance of the Bible, as a rule of faith and practice binds him, who so accepts it, to the great duty which this letter enforces.

      Ministers, deacons and members, are “fellow workers.” We deny that this duty rests wholly on the ministry.

      We affirm that each believer in Christ is also solemnly bound, in his own sphere, to aid in this work. But the private christian is ready to ask, “What can I do? My sphere of influence and my opportunities are so circumscribed, there is seemingly nothing of importance for me to do.” Now in opposition to this false and unchristian assumption, the true principle we suppose to be this. God reckons strictly with every man, requiring an exact account of his means and ability to do good. The servant who has but one talent, may not hide it in a napkin, although it is but one. No christian, competent to discharge the ordinary duties of life, is without access to some of his fellow men, nor without power to contribute to their welfare.

      Now what is thus shown to be practicable as an individual duty, is made imperative, in the word of God.

      We do not propose to exhibit in detail, and unfold the divine teaching on this subject, further than to submit a few quotations.

      “Ye are the salt of the earth,” says the Master, in reference to all Christians. “Ye are the light of the world, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

      “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” “As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” “But to do good, and to communicate, forget not : for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” In these, and kindred passages, is seen the various work of the Christian disciple. We give special prominence to the high example of Him who went about doing good; we add also, the example of Peter, of Paul, of John, and of all the Apostles, whose self-sacrificing toils approve their affinity to Jesus. There is no higher honor, no nobler aim than to be joined in sacred fellowship of labor with these illustrious leaders. We should tread joyfully the same path of active service, should shine, as they shone, should salt the earth, as they salted it, and should never part company with these exemplars of the Christian life. Missionaries in forsaking country and home, encountering dangers among savage nations, proclaiming the Gospel to these needy souls, evince by this that they are in the same bright succession, and belong to the community of workers. The Hannahs who train their young Samuels, the Jeremiah’s [sic], who weep for the desolations, which they are striving to repair, the Daniel's [sic], who pray in their chambers, all toiling spirits are clustered in the same celestial galaxy. Oh! that every follower of Christ were thus active. How greatly would it increase the efficiency and power of the Churches.

      In the great day of reckoning, all who have lived for Christ and His cause, will shine as stars forever and ever, although on the page of human history they may never have been mentioned.

      A faithful christian may gather around him a holy influence, that shall extend far and wide, and never cease to operate.

      The widow's mite, and the rich man's abundance, cast into the treasury of

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the Lord, shall each multiply itself many fold, and bless the ages yet to come. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Thus are the possessions of the Christian blessed, thus do his charities return upon himself. “The liberal soul shall be made fat.” “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

      The preaching of the Gospel requires agencies; these demand pecuniary support, and the highest honor that can be conferred upon money, is its employment in carrying forward the interests of Christ's Kingdom.

      These objects of Christian charity are various and almost numberless, some of them have claims irresistible, none of them, perhaps, are without their significance.

      The sin and folly of Christian hoarding, should constitute the theme of the great prize tract of the age. The scriptural method of directing the vast accumulations of the rich into the Lord's treasury, would be a fitting title for a tract supplementing the former.

      Everywhere an earnest and active christianity is demanded. The sanctity and consecration of the members constitute the true glory of the churches, the efficient element of their prosperity. In the family, in the church, in the Sunday-school, in the world, a great work yet remains undone. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” The loud and unceasing cry, from all directions, to the Christian laborer is, come and help! The imperative order of the Master is, “Go work to-day in my vineyard.”

      In conclusion, permit us to inquire of each member of the churches represented in this Association, are you doing what you can to enlarge the Kingdom of Christ, to advance His glory? Many we are persuaded are applying their energies for this object. Still, we fear there are too many, who, wishing to retain the name and character of Christ's disciples, are willing to do as little as possible, refusing to render any service not positively enjoined. The anomaly, were it not so frequent, would be amazing. Such a character, palpably contradicts the Christian name - a living faith, bringing forth the fruits of death . It is nobler to do good than to get it, but these selfishly seek good, and refuse to impart it.

      Love to Christ, love to men, fills the soul of a convert with irrepressible ardor. This is the law, the principle of his being, and where it is not, he is not. It glows in his songs of praise, in his words of exhortation, and in the fervor of his supplications.

      Every Christian soul is a living witness, a suffering martyr for Jesus. Brethren in Christ, in view of the work, and of the reward, let us with fresh zeal contend for the faith, and the victory, not forgetting that “We are bought with a price;” let us “therefore glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are God's.”

      This is the record of our creed, and with it our practice should rigidly correspond.

           J. H. PETERS, MODERATOR.



[The Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1869, pp. 32-34; via the U. of Chicago digitized documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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