Written by G. W. Slater
The Warwick Old School Baptist Association, to the churches composing the same. Greeting.
In accordance with the long established practice of this association, we submit for your consideration, this, our Annual epistle of love.
Dearly Beloved: - We have abundant reason to be grateful to our heavenly Father, for His kind protection which has been manifested in the preservation of our lives, and in permitting us to meet once more upon the shores of time in an associated capacity. The past year has been an eventful one, which will constitute an epoch in the history of our world. Wars, and rumors of wars, have been abroad in the earth. Garments have been literally rolled in blood. Many who were regarded as the great men of the earth have fallen a prey to him whose reign is universal. The anti-Christian church, or the powers of darkness have been marshalling their forces; already has she made some desperate attacks upon our civil and religious rights. She has commenced to judge us in drinks, and holy-days, and has succeeded in placing her agents at the seat of our government, and in our legislative halls. What will be the result of her machinations is beyond our feeble comprehension; yet we rejoice in the precious truth, that our God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” But our design at this time is to present for your consideration, some things, in relation to that kingdom which is not of this world. We will call your attention to the following words addressed by the Apostle Paul to the Hebrews, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” – Hebrews x. 25. This language seems to have been addressed to the Hebrews, on the ground of the profession of their faith in Christ, iii. 1. This had been evinced by their following the Lord Jesus Christ in the ordinance of baptism, and they were now called upon as His followers to maintain the order of the house of God. Thus when we enter the house of God, we profess an attachment to Him, His cause, and people. We cannot abstractly love God; for both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren – Hebrews ii. 11. Hence the evidence that we have passed from death unto life, is that we love the brethren. Do we not remember our love and attachment to the brethren when first God gave us a name and place among His dear people? We could then say in the language of Ruth to Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and whither thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be my people and thy God, my God.” Then we took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company. Then we mounted on wings as eagles, we run and were not weary, we walked, and were not faint. Then we experienced how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
Let us not then forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is. But brethren, have we not need to take heed to the admonition of the Apostle? Has it not become to a great extent our custom? Have we not become too much absorbed in the affairs of this life? Are we not too easily deterred from filling our places in the Zion of God? It may not be improper to notice some of the excuses rendered by those who forsake the assembling of themselves together. One of the most common is the weather. It storms, or has the appearance of one, on the day appointed to worship. We say it looks imprudent to go to meeting to-day, we do not feel very well, and it seems wrong to expose our teams (of horses) to inclement weather; we will remain at home. We thus try to satisfy or excuse ourselves for disregarding the commandment, and spend the day in idleness or perhaps in vain and unprofitable reading or conversation. In the meantime the pastor, in the performance of his ministry, goes to the house of worship, his heart is pained to find it almost deserted. He feels sad, and with depressed spirit returns to his home. The care of the churches weighs heavily upon his mind, and almost deprives him of sleep, and he feels to say in the language of the Prophet, “O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” When the next morning comes, those who forsook the assembling of themselves together have worldly business to transact. Yet our health or the weather has undergone no change, but our team is procured and we enter upon the business of the world. The team seems now healthy enough, and no ill comes to us in the inclement weather. Perhaps the ensuing Saturday is appropriate for the church meeting, but disregarding it, we continue engaged in worldly affairs. Thus to the grief of our brethren, and our own loss, we deprive ourselves and them of these precious privileges. We at other times attempt to excuse ourselves upon the ground that affairs of an unpleasant nature require the attention of the church, and that we are unworthy of a place among the children of God.
Or perhaps the church, as many of the churches are, is destitute of a pastor, and we think that we have no gift of exhortation, discussion, prayer, or song, and shrink from the post of this privilege. Dear brethren these things ought not to be. We do contend that every member is under covenant obligation to attend all the regular appointments of their church. When we allow the affairs of this life to gain an ascendency over us as to prevent us from assembling ourselves together, we desert the solemn profession we have made before many witnesses. For when we profess our faith in the Lord Jesus and follow Him in the ordinance of baptism, we have professed an attachment to His people which far exceeded anything of a worldly nature. Therefore let us still manifest our love to our Redeemer, and His people by obedience to His commandments, and thereby denying ourselves, and taking up our cross and following Him, who laid down His life for us. And if there are some things of an unpleasant nature in the church, that does not afford a justifiable excuse for us or our brethren. Never forsake Zion when she is in trouble. He is a very poor soldier to leave his post when the enemy approaches. Therefore if there are trials to encounter, let us a members one of another bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ; although we may feel unworthy of a seat among those who we esteem as the excellent of the earth. - Dear brethren, do we find in the world that comfort which our souls desire? We are desirous that with one accord you will reply, “We do not.” We then certainly gain nothing by forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, and exhorting one another.
But some may, if I had a gift which would be useful to the church, I would cheerfully meet with them. It is an old saying that, acts speak louder than words. If this be so, then by our deeds we are constantly conversing, therefore let our conversation be as becomes the Gospel of Christ. It is becoming the Gospel to assembly ourselves together and exhort each other to maintain the precious order of the church, and the ordinances which Christ has instituted, and the commandments to be observed and to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. Let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and never sacrifice truth to conciliate or gain the esteem of friend or foe. Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Let us then exhort one another and so much the more as we see the day approaching. May not the day to which the Apostle alluded be the day of persecutions, the falling away, the departure from the truth, which had already commenced? Some had been put to death for teaching and believing in the name of Jesus. The day was then at hand when the Hebrew brethren would be driven from Jerusalem, and their homes destroyed. - They were to become partakers of the afflictions which are a part of the heritage of the people of God in all ages. Then,
“Shall we be carried to the skies,
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas!”
The day was not closed, and we have reason to believe from the testimony of the Scriptures that persecutions yet await the church of Christ. The children of the bondwoman are now combining their efforts and compassing sea and land, to make proselytes, who are already to mock and scoff the children of promise. We must draw to a close.
May God enable us to heed the admonition, to endure hardness as good soldiers of the cross of Christ, and ever be found striving for the faith of the Gospel, and maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. - Amen
Gilbert Beebe, Moderator.
Wm. L. Benedict, Clerk.