Traveling Experiences of God’s People
The Elders and brethren of the Warwick Baptist Association convened with the church at New Vernon, Orange County, New-York, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 5th and 6th days of June, 1850, to the churches whom we represent as messengers, send love and Christian salutation.
Beloved Brethren: – In an address to the children of Israel, Moses the servant of the Lord declared to them, “that they should remember all the way the Lord their God had led them during the forty years” they were engaged in traveling from Egypt to the land of Canaan which had been promised to them as an inheritance from the Lord. It is doubtless profitable to the people of God to recall to mind the evidences of the Lord’s goodness to them, not only as an encouragement to them to rely upon Him at all times and under all circumstances, but as verifying His gracious promise that He will never leave them or forsake them. We find recorded in the Scriptures of Truth numerous instances of the Lord’s merciful dealings with His people referred to by the most eminent of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles of the Lord. Moses often calls the attention of his brethren to these things and urges upon them obedience to the commandments and statutes which had been given them, as a manifestation of their gratitude to God for their miraculous deliverance from bondage, and for the great mercies they had experienced. Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of the people of Israel, and conducted them safely into the promised land, frequently addressed them in the most solemn and impressive manner, recounting the various acts of goodness which they had experienced at the hand of the Lord, and exhorting them to obedience by a reference to past and the promise of future blessings.
The gracious dealings of the Lord with His people appear ever to have been pleasing topics with the saints both in the Old and New Testaments, and those who feared the Lord were often engaged in their rehearsal.
They found a favorite theme with the Psalmist David and many of the most beautiful and sublime of the productions of the sweet singer of Israel are upon these subjects. In the 105th Psalm he breaks forth in the following enraptured strain, “O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him; talk of all His wondrous works. Glory ye in His holy name, let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face forevermore. Remember His marvelous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth; O ye seed of Abraham His servant, ye children of Jacob His chosen. He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations: Which covenant He made with Abraham and His oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law and to Israel for an everlasting covenant; saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan the lot of your inheritance: When they were but a few men in number, yea very few and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people. He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, He reproved kings for their sake; Saying, Touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no harm.”
In the 107th Psalm, he exclaims no less than four times, “O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.” It is then, dear brethren, becoming in us at all times to speak of the goodness of the Lord, and to praise Him for His wonderful works.
About sixty years have elapsed since the organization of the Warwick Baptist Association. What great and important changes have occurred upon the earth during this period of time! Kingdoms have risen, flourished and decayed; monarchs and conquerors have excited the admiration or the terror of mankind, and to satisfy the cravings of ambition, or gratify the thirsting of revenge have arrayed millions of their fellow beings upon the battle fields and crimsoned the earth with human gore. During this period of time what changes have taken place even in our own land! Dating from near the time of the adoption of our Federal Constitution, and coeval with our National Government, under the auspices of a kind and beneficent Providence, our nation has grown from a people few in numbers and impoverished by a long and bloody contest for their independence from foreign dominion, until they have attained a front rank among the most powerful and prosperous nations on the globe. Wonderful discoveries have been made in the arts and sciences until the world appears scarcely the same that it was sixty years since when first our fathers met for the worship of God under the name of the Warwick Baptist Association in 1791. Great changes have been wrought among us in that time.
Probably not one of those who assisted in that organization is left to tell us of the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows which animated or depressed them as they then endeavored to draw the scattered branches of the church of Christ into a closer union and fellowship*, and to promote the honor and glory of their Redeemer, and the good of His cause and people. Those of our brethren who then contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints have rested from their labors and are gathered with those who preceded them, to the tomb. But some of them lived to see and participate in many of the changes to which we have alluded.
They also lived to see changes in the visible kingdom of God which filled their hearts with grief and pain, and caused them to cry “Help Lord, for the godly man ceaseth and the faithful fail among the children of men.” – Psalm xii.1. They lived to see the propagation of errors among the denomination of which they were members, and as iniquity prevailed they beheld the love of many wax cold, and those whom they once loved as brethren began to heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, who introduced among the Baptists another “gospel” which was not another, as Paul said, but a perversion of the Gospel of Christ – Galatians i. 6-7. Such having crept in unawares turned the truth of God’s free grace into a lie, – Romans i. 25, and His grace into lasciviousness, – Jude iv, and many followed their pernicious ways into will-worship, by reason of whom the way of Truth has been evil spoken of – 2 Peter ii.2. Many and various have been the trials and afflictions through which we have been called to pass since the organization of our Association. There have been foes without and fears within. Also among ourselves have men arose speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. – Acts xx.30. And we have often been compelled to say as did a prophet of old, “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side when men arose up against us; then they had swallowed us up quick when their wrath was kindled against us,” – Psalm cxxiv, 2,3.
But, dear brethren, God had foretold these things which came upon us therefore they did not occasion surprise as though some strange thing had happened unto us. – 1 Peter iv. 12. For He had assured us in His word that perilous times should come, and from time to time He raised up many valiant men who resisted the progress of error, and as they were set for the defence of the Gospel, (Phil. i.17,) raised their voices in solemn warning, rebuke and exhortation, until they were compelled for the sake of peace, and in obedience to the commands of their divine Master, 2 Thess. iii.6, to withdraw their fellowship from all who had turned unto fables, and had become entangled with the schemes and inventions of men. Since that time God has in a great degree given rest to the churches composing this association, although the enemies of Truth have repeatedly made their assaults upon us, but have not been able to prevail.
But brethren, we are admonished from what God has declared in His word, as well as from what has transpired in the history of the church, that we are not to look back for long continued peace or rest while here upon earth. Our Lord and Savior has declared that in the world we shall have tribulation, and His word has been verified; for each age has brought its peculiar trials upon the church of Christ. Persecutions have frequently raged when the saints have been called to seal their testimony to the Truth with their blood, and their spirits have ascended to God from the midst of flames, or from the engines of torture prepared by the ingenuity and brought into use by the malice and cruelty of their enemies. At other times the church of God has been distracted with heresies which have made their way among the brethren, and however strange and mysterious it may appear to us, even heresies are among the things which necessarily must prevail in order that they which are approved may be made manifest – 1 Cor. xi.19. But it is a source of great consolation to the poor and afflicted people of God that their Heaven Father, hath assured them that no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper. – Isaiah liv.17. Persecutions have resulted in the spread of the Gospel, and is the major means used of God to do so; and the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom. – Acts viii. 4. Tribulations and afflictions tend to wean the children of God from earthly and transitory things and to fix their affections more strongly upon the Lord, for “tribulation worketh patience, patience experience, experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us,” – Romans v. 3-5.
Heresies are used by the Lord, to separate from His people those who are not approved of Him, so that we have the assurance that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans viii. 28. There are some things however, dear brethren, which make their appearance among us, which are more to be dreaded, and cause more pain and distress than persecutions, tribulations and heresies. These are not the fruit of the Spirit of God; “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” – Galatians v. 22-23. But these things to which we allude, are in the Scriptures declared to be the works of the flesh, and among them are: variance, emulations, strifes, envyings, etc. – Galatians v. 20-21. And the apostle Paul affectionately warns his brethren against these, admonishing them if they bite and devour one another, to take heed lest they be consumed, one of another. – Galatians v. 15. Have we not reason to fear that some of the works of the flesh are but too manifest among us at this time? Have not the hearts of many been pained at witnessing dissensions growing among us and at the evidences of excited feelings to which they have given rise? And they have been at a loss to know why these should exist among brethren.
Ought we not at this time, dear brethren, to endeavor to cultivate a spirit of peace, of love, of gentleness, and meekness among us, that the fruit of the Spirit may be manifested by and prevail within us, that if we live in the Spirit we may walk by the Spirit. A walk contrary to the Spirit of God, not only greatly afflicts and pains our brethren, but it causes the enemies of Truth to exult, and gives great occasion to them to blaspheme the name of the Lord. 2 Samuel xii.14. They have long since learned that the position occupied by the people of God is impregnable to all their assaults, and having witnessed their repeated failure they have ceased in some measure the violence of their attacks. When united, and at peace among themselves, we have but little to fear from open foes, while we experience that it is indeed “good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Believers in our Lord Jesus Christ find the name of the Lord to be a strong tower into which the righteous run and are safe. Great and peculiar are the privileges which have been conferred upon them:
Chosen from the beginning unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth, – 2 Thess. ii,13; they should be holy and without blame before Him in love. As the divine “power of our Lord Jesus Christ hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue; Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust,” let us by giving all diligence add to our faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, “For if these things be in us and abound they make us neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter i. 206.
Gilbert Beebe, Moderator 1850