By Gabriel Conkling, 1842
The Warwick Baptist Association, convened with the New Vernon Church, To the churches of whom it is composed, Greeting:
Beloved Brethren: - In addressing you a short Circular epistle at this time, we propose suggesting for your consideration and edification, a few thoughts on the subject of : Brotherly Love.
We esteem this, like every other subject embraced in the Gospel, an important one to the saints, therefore every way worthy their attention. Its origin is in God, whom the Apostle John declares is love. From this blessed fountain issues a stream that finds its way to the ends of the earth, empties itself into every vessel of mercy, being afore prepared unto Glory for the reception of eternal life, and causes the redeemed of the Lord to return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sinning shall flee away. Loved with the same everlasting love; redeemed by the same blood, the blood of Jesus; begotten of the same Father; born of the same mother (Jerusalem, the mother of us all); nourished at the same breast; brought up in the same house; fed at the same table; dressed in the same apparel; governed by the same laws; ruled by the same authority; believing the same doctrine; pursuing the same biblical practices – in a word, having “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism;” such are indeed brethren in a Gospel sense, and unquestionably possess brotherly love.
In looking into this subject a little further, it may not be amiss to observe that such as are in the possession and enjoyment of brotherly love, love Jesus not only as God, but in the relationship of Elder Brother, giving Him the preeminence in all things. And as sure as we love Jesus, so sure we shall love His word and keep His commandments; we shall seek no other lovers, nor gad about to change our ways like Israel of old; neither will our affections be divided, but Jesus will have the whole of them. His Truth will be precious in our estimation; we cannot turn it out of doors, or trample it under foot; nor can we revile those that preach and believe it; nor condone such that would. But on the contrary, possessing brotherly love, we shall rejoice in the Truth and in the proclamation of it, and highly esteem those whom Jesus has specifically called and qualified to preach it and receive it, and notwithstanding the opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil, we are constrained to love one another, to love the brethren; and we know by this, we have passed from death unto life. The direction or exhortation of the Apostle is, “Let brotherly love continue,” from which it would seem that there is a liability of a discontinuance in this matter by the saints, at times, in a measure, at least. Paul was not ignorant of the devices of Satan, neither the weakness of the flesh, therefore he speaks advisedly.
But why is it, that brethren sometimes fall out by the way, or if not fall out exactly, indulge in a sort of shyness of, and indifference toward each other; evidently in this way manifesting a coolness of affection, an abatement of that warm feeling and brotherly love which had previously existed between them? When the natural sun passes beyond the western horizon, it is night with us; and when he goes beyond the equator and arrives at his southern extreme from us, though he shines upon us, it is with feeble rays, it is cold, it is winter with us. So when Jesus the Sun of Righteousness withdraws His felt presence, and clouds intervene, and He hides Himself, whether it be on account of our disobedience, or more especially for the trial of our faith: we are troubled, it is dark, and a cold wintry time with us; nor can we with sparks of our own blowing, or fires of our own kindling, obtain either light or heat. May not the cause of a discontinuance of brotherly love among the saints, though it be only in a measure, be found, generally speaking, in our disobedience: disobedience is rebellion, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. When, therefore, there is a turning away or stepping aside from the blessed precepts and examples of the Master, by any of the brethren, whether it be in doctrine or in practice, it is almost sure to produce a coolness of affection in other members of the family – their unity is broken. If a brother’s walk and deportment be unexceptionable, but in his doctrine is discovered new and then a streak of Arminianism, or vice versa, if his doctrine be unexceptionable and his practice be incorrect, his walk crooked, and his daily deportment not upright, the certain effect of a course of this kind upon the minds of his brethren, will be a weakening of the bond of brotherly love and Christian affection. The reason is obvious – Jesus is wounded in the house of His friends, and because Jesus is wounded His brethren are wounded, for they are one. It is undoubtedly true, that the saints love one another in proportion as they discover to each other, and in each other their love to the Master. The nearer we approach Christ in the observance of His word in all things, the more we shall manifest our love to Him. It is all in vain to talk of loving Jesus, and at the same time hate our brother – such abide in death. Let us then, brethren, one and all, give heed to the admonition of the Apostle: “Let brotherly love continue,” and in giving heed to this, we shall be quite sure to be found in the path of Christian duty. Let us remember that obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. Hearken then to the voice of Jesus, ye children of the Heavenly King,
“And as you journey, sweetly sing-
Sing your Savior’s worthy praise,
Glorious in His works and ways.”
“Let brotherly love continue;” it will cause us to be faithful in the discharge of our duty to each other; it will excite in us a spirit of forbearance and forgiveness towards one another, and make us careful of each others name and character, and cautious how we speak of them; it will move us to sympathize with each other in all our afflictions; to bear one another burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ; to be kindly affectionate one to another, in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer. Finally, brethren, let love be without dissimulation; abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good; abstain from all appearance of evil, and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.
And may your whole spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Gabriel Conklin, Moderator.
Gilbert Beebe, Clerk.
By Gilbert Beebe
The Warwick Baptist Association, convened at New Vernon, N. Y., June 8th and 9th, 1842, To all Associations, Corresponding Meetings, Churches and brethren with whom we correspond, send assurance of continued fellowship and love:
Dear Brethren: - If we have not egregiously mistaken the “sings of the times,” we are at this moment upon the verge of a new and very important epoch in the history of the Christian church, and of the world. To us, the present aspect of the affairs of the “moral and religious world” seems portentous of some fearful event at hand. A growing spirit of profligacy in the world bears equal pace with the abounding abominations of “the man of sin.” (2 Thess. 2:3-8.) Spiritual wickedness in the high places in, according to Scripture prophecy, waxing worse and worse, and all the corruptions of both church and state approximate one central point, and seem to have in view the final amalgamation of the secular with the ecclesiastical affairs of the world; the oppression, persecution and extermination of the Redeemer’s kingdom from the earth, by swallowing it up in grandiose delusion. A lying spirit is in the mouth of all the prophets of Satan, and a corresponding profligacy may be traced among the rulers of the earth – a loss of confidence in and among those who sit in human legislation is becoming but too apparent. An insatiable disposition is also manifested by those who are called the clergy of the present age, to convert to their own purposes every thing they can make to subserve their ambitious desire to arrogate to themselves supreme authority and dominion over the whole world.- Bigotry, superstition, idolatry and bondage are now being riveted on the unsuspecting necks of the rising generation of our country. All our fountains of mental training, bookmaking, our common school institutions are monopolized, and this overreaching and overbearing disposition of designing religionists is encouraged by the powers that be. Men are led to believe that the powers and wealth of men have greater effect in the salvation of sinners than has the election of grace, or the precious blood of the Lamb. Places of carnal amusement are made tributary to the general flood of corruption, sacrilege and religious speculation; the theatre, the ball-room and the gaming house are rifled of their magic lanterns, wheels of fortune, sham post offices, fiddles, pianists, &c.; as the booty is solemnly consecrated to what they profanely call the cause of religion, and these as church property, together with religious fairs, cake-sales, consecrated by the blessings of the clergy are suppose to be of vital importance in the winning souls to Christ. Statesmen, forgetful of their responsibility to their constituents, descend from their proper sphere of action, to deliver eloquent harangues in defence of the numerous religious devices of such men as are reputed defenders of the faith, and fearful of losing the patronage of such men, and with it their own popularity and offices, condescend to legislate in favor of exclusive privileges and unconstitutional monopolies. Truly, the heavens gather blackness, while a general concentration of the various interests of all the branches of anti-Christ, give flattering promise of a speedy consummation of their long expected and ardently labored for millennial glory. We are fully convinced that nothing short of the slaughter of the witnesses of the Lord and a trampling of the testimony of the Truth will answer their desire or expectation.
We call your attention, dear brethren, to these things, not because we would make you sorrowful, or excite unnecessary alarm; but because we are under a fearful responsibility to admonish you that we see the day approaching. Let us watch and be sober, and not sleep as do others; let us have on the whole armor of righteousness, and every man with his sword, the word of God, upon his thigh, because of fear in the night. We have no occasion to be discouraged; the things of which we write have been long predicted, and with the record of them, God has graciously given an infallible pledge that, “As our day is, so our strength shall be.”
Gabriel Conklin, Moderator .
Gilbert Beebe, Clerk.
Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – May 2009