The Committee upon the State of Religion in the churches of the Hudson River Baptist Association, would respectfully submit the following Report.
The churches generally complain of the fewness of conversions from the world, and describe and deplore a prevalence of spiritual languor and lethargy among the followers of Christ in their several regions. There are perhaps in the recent agitations of the political, the commercial, and the religious world, and the exhaustion and inertness consequent upon these storms of excitement, influences that may explain, although they must not be allowed to excuse, this state of the churches. And on the other hand it should be remembered that while the Christian church has given to her, under the blesssing of God, in charge, the conversion of the world, there is another duty involved in this; it is that of her own edification in the truth, and consequent and continuous sanctification. In this latter form of duty, the people of God may be making advancement, when there is less progress in the other; as the tree that in winter lifts but a bare and leafless branch into the frosty air, is in the meantime, and on that very account, strengthening and deepening its roots below the reach of the winter's storms and snows. If seasons of intermitted influence, as to the ingathering of converts, are improved by the church in self-examination, in humiliation before God, in deeper study of the Divine word, and more thorough mastery of Christian doctrine, the periods thus spent are not lost either to the church herself, or to the world, or to her God. Our Master withdrew his disciples at times even from the pressure of an eager multitude, and from the working of miracles of mercy, into a desert place, that they might be themselves refreshed and recruited for their work, just as He had commenced his own ministry after a retirement of forty days in the wilderness of temptation. The church has times when she must be thus partially isolated from her aggressive work, and may thus consider the Providence and Spirit of God as calling her especially to the care of her own spiritual state. For formalism, far be it from us to weave coverings,or to build refuges for the shelter of lukewarmness and apathy. We but intend to note the fact that the church may be increasing her graces, when not augmenting her numbers, and training her recruits for their spiritual warfare, when she has for a time ceased to enlist them.
With union and temporal prosperity the churches seem generally blessed in an eminent degree. We glean from the several Letters brief notices as to the state of each body.
1. Poughkeepsie. -- This church speaks of the eventful and trying character of the year that is gone. Into the nature of the difficulties it is not our province to enter. We would sympathize with our brethren in all that has been afflictive; wherever wrong has been done we trust repentance may follow it; wherever wrong may have endured, we doubt not a merciful Providence will remedy it: and we trust that love to a common Saviour may dispose all hearts to oblivion of the past. Their house of worship and nearly all their property have gone from them; but with undiminshed courage they are preparing to erect a new house. They speak with strong atachment of their pastor, Bro. Van Loon. They have dismissed several members to form a new church; and will be henceforward known as the First Baptist Church of Poughkeepsie.
2. Oliver Street, N. Y.. -- This ancient and prosperous church still thrives under the long-continued and large blessing of God. For nine months meeting elsewhere, they now occupy the basement, and hope soon to worship in the body of the beautiful and costly edifice they have erected. Lamenting that they have not the ingathering of former years, they are yet blessed with harmony and zeal; and with their beloved pastor look to spend the strength given them cheerfully in the service of the Giver.
3. Sing-Sing.. -- A church of ancient date, their path has been a checkered one. They are now blessed with unity of sentiment and affection, under the pastoral labors of Bro. Morse. Have adopted a system for benevolent operations, and are repairing their house of worship.
4. Hudson. -- The hosts of our Association at their last Anniversary have not enjoyed all the prosperity they could desire. Have had no baptisms. Our esteemed brother Freeman, their pastor, is on the eve of leaving.
5. First Church, Troy. -- Are rejoicing in the success granted the new pastor given them, Bro. Baldwin, and the ingathering which accompanied and followed some protracted religious services conducted by brother Jacob Knapp. Have yet seen no reaction. Would be humble amid their prosperity.
6. First Church, Albany. -- The past a year of declension and rebuke. Ask the prayers of the Association. Bro. Coley, the pastor at our last session, was succeeded by our Bro. Bronson, who has recently resigned. One hundred members dismissed to form a new church.
7. Catskill. -- The privileges of a regular ministration still continued. Our esteemed brother Willis, their former pastor, having resigned, has been succeeded by Bro. Webster.
8. Hamilton Street, Albany. --
9. South Church, N. Y.. -- Still blest in the long-continued harmony, and in the raising up among them of youthful servants of Christ in the ministry. A flourishing Sabbath School, an improved attendance on the sanctuary, and interest, though without any special revival, among the hearers, call for their thankful acknowledgements to God.
10. First Church, Brooklyn. -- Discord unknown in the church, and the congregation large; but regret that piety is at a low ebb, as estimated by the fewness of conversions. Their beloved pastor was four months absent in Scotland -- his pulpit being acceptably supplied by brother Colby. Dropped forty-five names from the church list, as presenting but an unreal show of strength, the persons being no longer traceable.
11. Stanton-street, N. Y. -- Blessed with baptism of thirty-two, although this increase does not equal that of former years. Have diminished their debt without abridging their benevolent contributions. Death has made larger ravages than usual.
12. Lansingburgh. -- Never as during the last year felt the faithfulness of God, as a covenant-keeping God. Were debating the question whether they should dissolve or proceed to the erection of a new house. Decided on the latter; the Spirit of God descended on their dedication. Bro. J. Knapp has had a series of meetings, and there have been numerous hopeful conversions. Prospects never more flattering.
13. North Church, N. Y. -- Have been favored with temporal prosperity. Repaired their house at an expense of $2,000, mostly paid. The faithful services of their pastor still prized, although the church has not this year had the succession of converts that has gladdened former years.
14. West Troy. -- A few converted and others restored. At peace among themselves. Have reduced their debt $1,600, and hope soon to concel it.
15. Zion Church, Cornwall. -- Bro. Webster wished to resume his studies at Hamilton. Bro. Bailey is now their pastor. Lament the past as a year of coldness.
16. Cairo, Greene County. -- Have completed their unfinished house. Bro. Webster but a part of the Sabbath[s] with them. Congregation good, mostly of the young.
17. Lallington. -- God has granted them an efficient pastor in our Bro. D. Morris. Besides other bereavements, their pastor's wife has been taken by death. Unity, but mourn want of spirituality.
18. West Hillsdale. -- Without a spiritual harvest, have yet enjoyed some refreshing. A series of meetings conducted by Bro. Gros, of Athens. Truth faithfully but ineffectually presented. union and peace.
19. Schenectady. -- The late beloved pastor, Bro. Church, went out, carrying their warmest and best wishes. God has since given them a successor in Bro. Arthur. The removal to other regions of some wealthy brethren and the translation by death of some valued members, but whose death was eminently triumphant, have saddened but not disheartened them. Ties between pastor and people strengthening.
20. Kingston. -- After a series of meetings, organized a branch at Woodstock. This offshoot are preparing to erect a house. Speak of the conversion of a man near fourscore. Find difficulty to sustain necessary expenses of worship, but most lament want of higher spirituality.
21. Westkill. --
22. Athens. -- Numerical strength weakened by continual removals to other regions. Yet grateful to God for mercies vouchsafed. Had purposed uniting with other churches in a new Association. At present wish continuance with this body.
23. Amity-street, N. Y. -- In those influences of the Spirit, that issue in conversions, lament that they have not been largely blest. Yet in brotherly union and deepening piety, trust the same blessed Comforter is not far or long withdrawn. Still casting their aid into the various channels of religious benevolence.
24. Corsakie. -- Have had no regular meeting since April last, when their esteemed pastor, Bro. Field, from failure of health, resigned. Religious state low, but interests of the church still dear to its members, and harmony reigning amongst them.
25. Saugerties. -- For eight months of the year Bro. Kelly was with them. Two months following his departure, a season of much trial. Bro. L. L. Hill now with them. Have had a series of meetings and hopeful conversions. Unless aided to extinguish their debt, fear they may loss their house.
26. Sand Lake. -- Hopes of a revival again and again overclouded by objects of absorbing public interest, that came in. Wish to mark their approval of action of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions on slaveholding.
27. Kinderhook. --
28. Phillipstown. -- Lament lukewarmness, but acknowledge divine goodness and faithfulness. No cheering intelligence, they remark, can rear and inscribe their Ebenezer to God as their helper.
29. Pearl-street, Albany. -- Tranquillity has blest them, but unite in the common mourning over a state of spiritual dearth. The more felt by them as the last eighteen years of their history have been blest with much prosperity. Strength of the church recently spent on her own walls rather than upon the enemy's gates.
30. Hamburg, Germany. --
31. Pittstown. -- Are few, and have known trials. Their former pastor withdrawn with some of the members. Full results of this recent step unknown. Wish yet to adhere to the Association, and persevere in the duties and privileges of a chruch. Bro. Tinkham has preached part of the time. Now have no pastor, but hope to obtain one.
32. New Durham, N. J. -- Sorrow that their minds have been but too much abstracted from the cause of Christ. Yet blest with unity, and not relaxing in efforts. Have preaching at five places. In one, Hoboken, a scene of Sabbath resort from the city of New-York, occupy in conjunction wih the Methodist Episcopal brethren, a house erected for them by the liberality of R. L. Stevens. Pursuing, and not, we trust, faith.
33. Tabernacle Church, N. Y.. -- This large church have been blest with union, although without large effusions of the Spirit during the past year. A growing affection binds together pastor and people. A large Sabbath school, and in addition, several of tehir members engaged in other Sunday schools. Have been compelled to discipline some adherents to Millerism [Seventh Day Adventism], who had forsaken their place in the church. Have by private liberality, been enabled to improve the front of the house.
34. Cannon-street, N. Y.. -- Accessions of last year less numerous than heretofore. Cheerful support, however, given to the cause amongst them and abroad, and unabated harmony in their borders. Bro. Van Gilder, an ordained minister, one of their number, died the last year.
35. First Church, Jersey City. -- With many causes for thanksgiving, find room for humiliation, that there has not been more of stability and consistency in Chrisitians, and that the means of grace have not been more largely blessed. Their pastor about to remove.
36. Williamsburgh. -- But two years past were dependent in part on extrinsic aid to sustain the ministry. Now, in the growth of their beautiful village, and the removal into its bounds of Baptists from abroad, find their position changed to that of dispensing instead of receiving assistance. Prospering and hopeful.
37. Sixth Street, N. Y. -- Address to us probably their last epistle, being on the eve of dissolution. Most of the members have already been dismissed, and the few that remain together do so but to await the close of what they deem a vexatious and unjust suit. Have had no pastor during the year.
38. Pierrepont-street, Brooklyn. -- This church with whom our present session is held, and whose hospitalities, and those of its sister church, the First Baptist Church of Brooklyn, the members of this body have so largely experienced, were five years since weak in numbers and resources, at their first union with our body. They are now a church of 326 members, with an attractive house. Their pastor during that period has baptized 200 persons, and nearly $25,000 have been contributed by the church to the cause of religion, as sustained among themselves, or as disseminated abroad. Favored with union, their prospects encouraging, and their congregation increasing, they rejoice before God, and to him give earnestly and entirely the praise. May their boughs still spread, and their roots strike deeper, growing upward as the lily, while fragrant in lowliness, while their roots sink and strengthen as the cedar in Lebanon.
39. Norfolk-street, N. Y. -- Without the large assessions of former years this church with their beloved pastor, yet rejoice in continued growth and union. Trusting God, they go forward. Like the church of his former charge, may this body be the parent stock of yet other churches, colonizing still other destitue districts.
40. First Church, Guilderland. -- Bro. Ferguson, their former pastor, has been succeeded by Bro. Fisher. Regret their inability to yield him competent support. Like Paul, his hands minister to necessities, whilst he is the servant of the church in the gospel.
41. North Church, Staten Island. -- Their esteemed pastor, Bro. Seely, expects soon to leave. Church enjoy peace. Have two meeting houses. Call the attention of our missionary committee to Staten Island as a wide, destitute and accessible field of labor.
42. Putnam Valley. -- Had prepared last year a letter, but missed the opportunity of forwarding it. Enjoy the acceptable labors of Bro. Griffin, which have not been without fruit. Much peace the last two years. Have, though with difficulty, entirely discharged their debt.
43. Fourth-street, N. Y. -- Amid embarrassments from small means, toil on, pray, hope, and are not unblest. Acknowledge gratefully the aid of brethren in New-York and Brooklyn. Have secured a lot, and would fain, if aided, erect a house. Children of their Sabbath school have raised $175 during the year.
44. Laight-street, N. Y. -- Planted in a part of the city heretofore without a church of our denomination, have been moving onward with youthful energy. Lament they cannot report the revivals of other years, but are united in counsels and efforts. Have made some improvements in their edifice, and reduced their debt within a manageable compass. Licensed one brother to the ministry, whose conversion was marked by peculiar interpositions of Divine Priovidence.
45. North Church, Troy. -- Their language is that of mingled regret and gratitude -- regret for the exclusion of some of their members, and that more conversions have not been witnessed -- gratitude for a large increase by letter, and unbroken harmony. Heavy responsibilities in the erection of their house restrict them from aiding as they desire the cause of religious benevolence abroad.
46. South Church, Albany. -- Speak strongly of the acceptableness and usefulness of their pastor and of God's gracious dealings with them. Have held a series of meetings, and received large accessions. Some exclusions of those adhering to Millerism, after the event had rebuked the delusion. Unbroken peace in their own body.
47. Rosedale. -- Have valued their late pastor, Bro. Fay, but his engagements elsewhere forbidding his residence with them, and they needing such residence, are now without a minister. Are not without embarrassment from restricted means, but lament most the want of greater zeal and activity.
48. First Church, Hyde Park. -- Speak warmly of the devotedness of their pastor, Bro. D. Morris, who divides his services with them and the church at Lattingtown, thirteen miles distant. Speak as did the the brethren at L. of his heavy bereavement. Are erecting a house on an eligible site presented them by a friend.
49. Eleventh-street, N. Y. -- Are moving cheerfully and prosperously onward. Besides the influences of the Spirit, in the growth of Christian character, have found their special efforts blessed in the ingathering of converts. A youthful church full of promise.
50. Beekman Church, Tarrytown. -- Speak of themselves, as a young, united, and prosperous church, planted in a region heretofore unacquainted with and prejudiced against us. Amid opposition have thrived unimpeded. Acknowledge the value of aid received, and solicit its continuance in the hope soon to be able to aid others. Will need an edifice of greater space than their hired room.
51. Laurens-street, N. Y. -- Enjoy interrupted peace, but deplore the want of higher devotedness in Christians, and refer to the abstraction of strength from the churches by the undue attention given by some Christians to certain societies aiming merely at partial reformation, from some single sin. Hope for prosperous times, and trust it is in the prayer of faith they seek it. Sabbath school regaining its interest.
Three churches have applied for admission into this Association, and have been welcome into our fellowship at the present session. They are:
52. Central Church, Pooghkeepsie. -- Under the charge of our long-tried and beloved Bro. Perkins, were organized in April last. Have already begun to aid in the benevolent objects of the day, though as yet but few in numbers. May he who overruled the parting of Paul and Barnabas, though the result of human infirmities, to the furtherance of Divine truth, give to either of the churches of this thriving and influential village much peace, and establish entire harmony in advancing the interests of a common Redeemer.
53. Harlem. -- A small band of brethren were in October last, organized as a church in this place, one of the outer suburbs, as it may be called, of New-York, and though eight miles distant from the City Hall, likely, in a few years to be absorbed into the overgrown metropolis, whose Sabbath filterings it weekly receives. Are without a pastor, although, Brn. Bigelow and Parmly have preached for them. Wish to erect a house, and ask the sympathies, prayers and aid of the brethren. Much unanimity.
54. Woodstock, Ulster County. -- Were constitued in July last. The labors of their pastor, Bro. Sampson, have been crowned with a blessing. Sympathize in the Missionary and Bible and Sabbath school cause, and ask the prayers as well as the associational fellowship of your body.
Of fifty of the fifty-four churches, now combined in this association, we have thus reviewed the condition, stretching from Schenectady at the North to Staten Island at the South. From four of the churches no report has this year reached us. They are those at Hamilton-street, (Albany,) Westkill, Kinderhook, and Hamburg, beyond the Atlantic.
As to the latter church, from the communications of our Bro. Oncken, its pastor, to the Board of Foreign Missions at Boston, it would appear that some internal diffiuclties from which the church had suffered, are subsiding, and persecution on the part of the government has ceased. The members of the church have been increased by some converts from Romanism, natives of Hungary, Austria, and other distinct portions of Europe, who were returning to the scenes of their nativity, there to testify for Christ. Two of the brethren of the church had performed a missionary tour, mostly on foot, along the southern shore of the Baltic, as far as into Lithuania, distributing 15,000 tracts in their journey, and reaching even to the verge of Russia. Amid the domestic afflictions that have pressed heavily upon him, our beloved Bro. O. seems laboring and training his people to labor assiduously. Besides the influence that has already gone forth from that church, to Denmark on the north, and Prussia on the south-east, they have hopes of an opening for usefulness in Holland at the south-west, and in Lithuania far to the east, in both the latter countries having met with and sought to influence the Mennonites planted there long since. "Whenever general and simultaneous effort is made to advance the glory of our risen Lord," writes Mr. Oncken, "we may confidently expect such manifestations of God's power, as we have not witnessed before since the Apostolic age. I expect yet before I finish my course, to see great things effected on the continent of Europe." May the angel of the Apocalyptic vision hold up on our brother and his church, as a star in his right hand, until its rays stream yet farther and yet brighter, over the face of that Europe, itself but a small portion of the world-wide kingdom, assured to the Son of God as His inheritance.
Your Committee would suggest the appointment by this Association at each session, of a brother, whose duty it shall be four months in advance of the next session, to write to the Hamburg church, asking a report for the meeting of your body; and that the clerk of this Association be instructed to notify the brother so appointed during the fifth month before your annual meeting. As to the other churches not represented by letter or delegation, a committee might be appointed from pastors nearest any such church, whose duty it should be to visit and if possible, to encourage and aid the church, then report forthwith their condition to the Missionary Committee of your body, and also report at your next Anniversary to this Association, unless the church herself he represented there.
In the absence of the Corresponding and Circular Letters which once formed a portion of the acts of your body, your committee may be forgiven, if they append to the details of the condition of individual churches, some remarks on the general religious condition of our body, coming also, as the theme does, within the legitimate purposes of our appointment as a Committee upon the state of religion.
In the maintenance of harmony generally among the several churches composing this Association, in their mutual relations to each other, and the degree of internal peace and concord their letters portray, in the continued growth and prosperity of this Association, that has now but reached its 30th anniversary, in the more elevated standard of literary culture in our ministry, in the larger and more attractive houses of public worship several of our churches have within a few years reared, and in the growing spirit of systematic liberality, your Committee see causes for wondering thankfulness to Him who is the giver of every good gift.
But they would not overlook or disguise, on the other hand, the dangers to which we are as chuches specially exposed in the present day. If a spirit of worldly reliance take the place of the old simplicity and devout spirituality of our forefathers, we shall impoverish ourselves by the exchange. The world, when subsidized to do the work of the church, has, like a dishonest servant, always robbed the Zion of God of more than it earned. If our trust be in worldly refinement, learning, taste, and policy, we shall betray the secret of our God-given strength to the aliens; and other denominations of greater worldly resources will win from us eventually, the adherents that mere worldly arts have obtained for us. As to circumstances in the country generally, and without the bounds of our churches, that demand of us particular vigilance and payerfulness, it is evident that the spirit of controversy is becoming rife. Various evangelical churches that have wrought together in harmonious co-operation, are beginning to look on each other with distrust; and each section of the Christian host seems disposed to fall back upon, and strengthen with new outworks, its own sectarian position. Over our world again the means of an impending conflict between the anti-christian church of Rome, and those churches that hold a purer faith, seem thickening and darkening every day. Placed in trust with the truth, we need cherish a holy jealousy and an enlightened self-distrust lest we impair its influence by the temper, in which we propound and defend it, lest we hold the truth not so much in the love of it, the truth, as in the love of self; and mingle strange fire in the censors that should revolve before God's altars, not only filled with a pure incense, but lighted by a flame that has fallen from heaven.
Among the needs of the time, as growing out of such [a] spirit of controversy, and as required also by the large numbers added to our churches in recent years, who are as yet little versed comparatively, in the great mysteries of godliness, your committee suppose that a more doctrinal style of preaching may be found requisite than has heretofore prevailed. The world must be told, with fearless fidelity, of her doings, and their character before God; and the church must be told of her duties and the claims of her Lord; but of these practical teachings, the great doctrines of the gospel must furnish the lever to move either the world or the church. God indited not his word in vain; and the storms of delusion, that from time to time sweep over the churches of the land, and spare not those of our denomination in their ravages, admonish us that the disciples of Christ need learn all the lessons that the Master has thought worth preserving and transmitting in the New Testament. As the church gathers in her raw recruits, she must train each to become " a good soldier of Jesus Christ," capable, as the apostle requires, of "enduring hardness," and bold to achieve wonders of valor under the Captain of his salvation. Our churches, if they were to sink into a mere unarmed and undisciplined horde, without watchword or standard, uniform or weapons, could scarce be entitled to claim the success or honor that belong to
"The sacramental hosts of God's elect,"
It is especially in the emergencies and exigencies of our time that we need to see in our membership an army, equipped out of the armories of God's word, united in sentment, discipline, and practice; rallying around one standard, lifting one shout, like the primitive disciples, "of one heart and of one mind" and moving upon the common foe in one dense phalanx, as befits the church and bride of the Redeemer, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." To arm and array her thus, we must ransack the arsenals of Scripture. Mere appeal to feeling, mere exhortation, and mere argument, are not any or all of them enough. We need the great systematic principles of the Bible urged home on the intellect and the heart, backed by united prayer, and sent into the soul by the Spirit of God, ever honored, ever involked, and trusted absolutely and alone, as the Giver of union, of holiness, and faithfulness. "In the name of the Lord will we set up our banners," and "look unto the hills whence our help cometh."
Pastors then must train themselves that they may train their people. And as bearing upon this matter, with regard to the best mode of insuring pastoral efficiency, the Committee would submit to the Association whether it would not cast light on a very important practical question of our times, if the Association should add to their table of delegates, number of members and ministers -- three additional columns -- the one headed "Pas. since org." to follow the column containing the date of the church organization, and to show how many pastors the church has had since it formation; the second, "Time pr. pas.," to show the number of months or years the minister now with them has served them as their under shepherd; and the third, "How Hired," stating if they renew each year the pastor's call, designating the fact by the letter Y; and if they give him an absolute and unlimited call to labor as long as may be mutually profitable, this to be denoted by the letter U. Both systems prevail in our churches. Both have their adherents and seeming advantages. Your Committee would not favor the making or treating the church as the patrimony and inheritance of the pastor, on whom they may have once fixed; and as little would they be understood to desire a perpetual itineracy of our pastors from year to year, unless that system be preferred and avowed by the churches as the more useful. The friends of either system will of course, for the truth's sake, and for the benefit of their churches, wish to have this matter spread on our annual records, that the two methods of calling a minister, may have the testimonies of experience in regard to their comparative advantages to the churches and to the ministry. It will add also to the available materials of the future annalists, of our churches in the times of our descendants. If the suggestion meet with approval, the columns might be added to the Minutes of this year, and those of next year would have the blanks filled.
But beyond the pastoral relation there is a relation more important still to the well-being of our chruches, it is the close and constant relation to be kept up between the individual Christian and his God. The piety, the prayerfulness, the faith, the brightening holiness of Christain caharacter, in you, the private members of our churches, brethren beloved in the Lord, are the chief resources and reliance of your pastors, next after their paramount trust in Christ Jesus, and the Divine Paraclete; "Ye are our epistles." If Baxter truly testified that he saw generally the character of his own private exercises in the closet and the study reproduced in the same week in the feelings and spirit of his people, we as pastors, would take to oursleves a large share in the humiliation that is forced upon the church, when she becomes remiss, inert, and self-indulgent. We would read our sins in your deficiencies. And if, on the other hand, the love you have often and warmly professed, and liberally exemplified towards your pastors, be all you sau it is, and sincerely say it, show it, we entreat of you, by lives of prayerfulness and high spirituality. Crane yourselves up to the high level of the demands of the times. Be even here and even now, to your exulting pastors, are the splenors of the Last Judgment burst on a starled and doomed world, -- be already "our joy, and the crown of our rejoicing." Let not a listless, fruitless membership impeach us, your servants in teh gospel, of a faithless pastorate, and a dishonest pulpit.
In an era of controversy, we need to be cautioned against being carried about by every wind of doctrine. Amid the novelities of our times, and the continual craving for change -- amid the boastful professions of a vain philosophy, that would be wiser than the everlasting gospel, remember that the great truths of religion, the primal doctrines of Christ's word, can never become obsolete, antiquanted or inefficient. An Athenian spirit, ever seeking the new, is little likely to find and hold the true. Theology should not, consult like millinery and tailoring, the latest fashions. The law of God is as indestructible as the throne whence it was fulminated; the gospel of Christ as enduring and eternal as the judgments of the bar where its hearers are to meet and answer its claims. Nor should we suppose that freedom implies license of perpetual change. You belong to a denomination that rejoices in its freedom and in the strict jealousy with which it guards the independence of each church and of each church member. But it is not the freedom of innovation, or the independence of a lawless self-will. Neither a church nor church member is free to improve by any new-fangled doctrine, or discipline, or philosophy, or revelation, on the great truths of the Holy Ghost's giving, as the first believers received them. To the additions of the visionary, the philosopher, or the votary of traditions, return the one reply, "It is written:" and thus preserve to your churches the only true liberty, that wherewith Christ maketh free, and that is found in believing His word, and His whole word, doing His commandments, and bearing His yoke, and no other yoke but His. To a liberty thus guarded adhere evermore; but lean not to the fickleness of those ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Like the noble stream that gives name to your Association, whose rock-built precipices frown fixed and unchanging now, as when the Indian's bark canoe was paddled at their base, whilst the waters that lave them are ever fresh and ever changing, with each hour that rushes over them, let us learn, as Christians and as chruches, to unite the permanence of true principles with the unfettered freedom of a love that delights ever in new acts of obedience to its Lord. Let us combine the fixedness of old and immutable doctrines with the freshness of a continued progress in all that can adorn our profession, bless our race, and honor the Master that bought us; and if we retain to our death the old faith that we had in our spiritual birth into the Israel of God, and that is as stable and immutable as the everlasting hills, let us add to it the freshness of a new baptism of gracious influences, daily experienced anew, as our souls are again plunged in that heavenly river, ever the same, and yet ever new, "the streams whereof make glad the city of our God."
By the Committee: William R. Williams, Asa Bronson, Edward Lathrop, William Arthur, William W. Everts.
[From Hudson River Baptist Association Minutes, 1845, pp. 18-27. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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