The General Convention of the Baptist Delegates, for Missionary purposes, assembled in the meeting-house of the first Baptist Church in Philadelphia, on Wednesday the 18th of May 1814; to their constituents, the churches of Jesus Christ, the ministers of the Gospel, and the friends of Religion in general, present their christian love, and cordial wishes.
Beloved Brethren and Friends,
In what manner, and to what extent, it has pleased the blessed God, of late, to direct the attention of many among us, to the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, some of you are already sensible, and others will learn from the preceding pages. Under the smiles of a propitious Providence, a convention has assembled, at Philadelphia; consisting of Delegates from parts of our Union, various and remote, to devise a plan, and enter into measures, for combining the efforts of our whole denomination, in behalf of the millions, upon whom the light of evangelical truth has never shone. The result of their serious and affectionate consultations, you have an opportunity of perusing.
Unpromising and disastrous as the present state of our world may appear, the period is surely approaching, and we trust is not distant, when the scene shall be reversed. - "The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it," "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." "The glory of the Lord" shall arise upon Zion, "Mountains and hills shall break forth, into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Our God will "create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and his people a joy." "The seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit, the ground shall give its encrease, and the heavens shall give their dew."
For this glorious period the Church has long and anxiously been waiting. For this, thousands of the petitions of the saints have already been presented by the great Mediator before the eternal throne, and thousands, more are continually ascending. It is a day of glory, embraced in the tenor of the covenant of promise, and which, as the reward of his conflict and suffering, the Redeemer is expecting: a result, to which the revolutions of empire, and the silent progress of time perpetually verge.
The agency by which whole nations shall be regenerated hereafter, is the same which takes one of a city and two of a family, and brings them to Zion now. The universal, moral change, like the erection of the second temple, shall be effected, "not by might nor by power," but by the Spirit of the Lord. The promise is recorded, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring." But assurances of divine assistance were
never designed to discourage human endeavours. They diminished not the zeal, and the labours of Zerubbabel. Paul and Apollos well knew that the "increase" must be of God, but this animated, not retarded them - in the services of planting and watering. In many of his mighty works, it is the pleasure of Jehovah to act alone. Alone he planted the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth. He asks the aid of no created arms when he balances the clouds, directs the thunder, or arranges the stars; day and night, summer and winter, seed time and harvest, obey no voice but his. But for effecting the conversion of sinners, sanctifying their hearts, and preparing them for everlasting enjoyment of his presence in heaven, he usually acts through the medium of instruments, He has commissioned his ministers to "go, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Treasures of grace are introduced into "earthen vessels." Even the private christian, as well as the pastor or the teacher, is permitted to enjoy the honour of being a "fellow worker with God." The preaching of the everlasting gospel "unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people," combined with the prayers and liberality of the churches, will usher in the day of Babylon's destruction, and the general triumphs of holiness and truth.
To considerations such as these, professors of the gospel have surely attached too little importance. They have looked for a harvest without a seed-time: or, where the necessity of the labours of the spring has been admitted, content with seeing others in the field, they have themselves stood "all the day idle." The indu»try, the privations, the successes of the Missionaries of Christ, may have excited a languid and transient admiration, but ah! how few have ventured on their labours, or imbibed their spirit? Who will pretend that the zeal of a Swartz, or a Vanderkemp, of Marshman, Ward, or the Careys has been excessive, beyond what the state of the heathen, the honor of Christ, or the duty of the Christian demands? But brethren, if theirs be correct, ours has been deplorably deficient. Shall their fervours for the divine honour exhibit a steady and sacred flame, and ours slumber in ashes? Rather let us profit by their examples, and aspire to their usefulness and honour. The gospel of Christ, above every other system, originates and sustains a public spirit. "None of us liveth to himself, and none of us dieth unto himself." The design of the obedience and sufferings of Jesus recognizes none of those inferior distinctions which divide man from man. The gospel secures the salvation of a multitude "which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues." It presents a sovereign remedy for all the diseases which awakened sinners of every rank, and of every clime, feel and deplore. The apostle of the Gentiles longed and prayed for the salvation of his countrymen, but he also travelled from province to province, from Jerusalem to Illyricum,publishing saltation through a Mediator's name. What advantages soever particular fields for missionary efforts may exhibit, the disciple of Jesus will contemplate the whole world as a scene demanding his sympathy and his prayers, his zeal aud his contributions. Four hundred millions of our fellow creatures spread over the countries of Hindostan, Siam, Tartary, China, and its neighbouring
islands, various parts of Africa, America, and the isles of the Pacific Ocean, are involved in the darkness of Paganism. Their idolatry is associated with customs, absurd, sanguinary, and obscene. The female character is sunk in servility and wretchedness. Millions in Europe, Africa, and Asia, are revering the Arabian Impostor as a messenger from God, and the Koran as their guide to paradise. Ten millions of our race are Jews, scattered throughout every nation, and are every where resting in their law, and rejecting the Messiah. In many sections of our globe, where Christianity is publicly professed, it has been so mixed with vain superstitions, its doctrines so misrepresented, its duties so mistaken, and the means by which it has been propagated and maintained, so repugnant to its pure and gentle spirit, that even Christendom itself presents scenes for pious exertions, which for ignorance and misery, are in heathen regions scarcely exceeded.
Who can contemplate the prospect our world presents without exclaiming, "mine eye affecteth my heart?" The soul of a Tartar, or a Hindoo, of an Indian, or a Musulman, is as wonderful a faculty, as immaterial and immortal, as the soul of a Christian. It is as susceptible as his, of hope and fear, of extacy and anguish, but alas! it is dead in trespasses and sins, destitute of the light of revelation, and in danger of eternal fire. "For as many as have sinned without the law, shall perish also without the law." Were circumstances reversed; were we in a moral darkness, and the pagan world enjoying the light of life, self-love would instantly suggest to us the benevolent duties which it would become them to discharge. Those very duties are our own. The holy men who saw our forefathers prostrating themselves before the shrines of a Woden, or a Tuor, and who exhorted them to turn from idols to serve the living and the true God, have left us, in their toils, an example of duty, and in their successes encouragement for our liveliest hopes.
Within the last few years, it has pleased the good Spirit of our God to awaken in his churches, a serious concern for the diffusion of the Saviour's cause. Numerous, and, in some instances, large associations of christians have been formed for the purpose. Considerable sums of money have been collected; Bibles and Religious tracts are extensively and gratuitously circulating, and the hope which thousands cherish, that the glory of the latter day is at hand, is as operative as it is joyous. The blessing which has succeeded the efforts of our denomination in India demands our gratitude. In a few years, the word of life will probably be translated into all the languages of the East. The change of sentiment, relative to the subject of baptism, that has lately occurred in the minds of two respectable characters, who were sent out Missionaries, by another denomination of our christian brethren, appears to have been of the Lord, and designed as a means of excitiug the attention of our Churches to foreign missions. The engagedness of these worthy brethren in the work of the Lord continues. They look to us for aid, are actually under our care, and have an undoubted claim to our united and firm support. One of them is about to travel through different parts of the Union, with a view of increasing the number of missionary establishments. We anticipate with pleasure your zealous co-operation. The brevity of life, the value of immortal souls, the obligations
under which divine merey has laid us, our past inactivity, the facility with which the great work may be effected, the excellent tendency of the spirit for foreign Missions in multiplying Missions at home, the examples of other christian persuasions, and the incalculable blessings that may follow our endeavours, form a body of motive, which we hope will kindle in many of our youth, an ardent desire to enter on Missionary services, and in you, the the holy resolution to minister of your abundauce, to all who shall go forth in the name of the Lord.
But, while we call your attention to the spread of Evangelical truth, we would impress ou your minds, that many other, and most important advantages may arise to the interests of Christ among us, from our acting as societies, and on the more extended scale of a Convention, in delightful union. The independence of the Churches, we trust, will ever among us be stedfastly maintained; but with this, as they are entirely voluntary, the holy combinatious we wish for can never interfere. Is it not a fact, that our Churches are ignorant of each other to a lamentable degree? But for the labours of one or two individuals, it is probable that whole associations might have assembled, in different parts of our Union, without being known, or knowing that others existed. We have "One Lord; one faith, one baptism," why should our ignorance of each other continue? Why prevent us from uniting in one common effort, for the glory of the Son of God? At the present convention, the sight of brethren, who had never met each other before, and who, a few months ago, had never expected to meet on earth, afforded mutual and unutterable pleasure. It was as if the first interviews of heaven had been anticipated.
The efforts of the present Convention have been directed chiefly to the establishment of a foreign Mission; but, it is expected that when the general concert of their brethren, and sufficient contributions to a common fund, shall furnish them with proper instruction, and adequate means, the promotion of the interests of the Churches at home, will enter into the deliberations of future meetings.
It is deeply to be regretted, that no more attention is paid to the improvement of the minds of pious youth, who are called to the Gospel Ministry. While this is neglected the Cause of God must suffer. Within the last fifty years, by the diffusion of knowledge, and attention to liberal science, the state of society has become considerably elevated. It is certainly desirable, that the information of the minister of the sanctuary should increase in an equal proportion. Other denominations are directing their attention, with signal ardour to the instruction of their youth for this purpose. They are assisting them to peruse the sacred writings in their original languages, and supplying other aids for pulpit services, which, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, may become eminently sanctified for the general good. While we avow our belief that a refined or liberal education is not an indispensible qualification for ministerial service, let us never lose sight of its real importance, but labour to help our young men, by our contributions, by the organisation of Education societies, and, if possible, by a general Theological Seminary, where some, at least, may obtain all the advantages which learning and mature studies can afford, to qualify for acting the part of men, who are set for the defence of the Gospel. Improvement of this nature will contribute to roll
away from the Churches, the reproach of neglecting to support the ministry of the word. They will be unwilling to receive for nothing that which has cost their ministers much.
Finally, brethren, “be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord”
Richard Furman, President.
[From The Baptist Magazine, January, 1815, pp. 21-25. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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