The Warwick Old School Baptist Association, in session with the church at New Vernon, June 4th., 5th., and 6th., 1862, to the several Churches of which she is composed:
Very Dear Brethren; - It is our privilege, in the good Providence of our covenant-keeping God, to meet once more on the shores of time, and our meeting together, reminds us that our God is the same preserving and merciful God as ever, unchangeable and of long forbearance, continuing to rule in the armies of heaven, and doing His pleasure among the inhabitants of earth (Daniel 4:35), and whilst the governments of this world are temporary, subject to changes and dissolution, His Kingdom and government is as durable as His eternal throne.
In addressing to you this, our Annual Epistle, according to our uniform custom, we will call your attention to the consideration of some things which stand in connection with our Redeemer’s Kingdom. God, for our encouragement and comfort while here in the wilderness, has given us a precious record of the great things which He has done for His church and people, and He has likewise furnished us with a long catalogue of witnesses who have lived in former days, all of whom testify unitedly of the power and triumphs of faith. Hence the apostle has said, not to the disciples of His day only, but unto us also, (“for whatsoever was written aforetime, was written for our instruction,”) that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” We are reminded by the words of the apostle addressed to his Hebrew brethren, that it becomes us in this dark, cloudy and trying day, to lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and that we should run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God. We discover, by the teaching of inspiration, the importance of “looking unto Jesus,” as we pursue our journey onward. Although the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, we are taught the importance of laying aside every weight. God has furnished us a cloud of witnesses whose testimony is calculated to cheer us by the way. (See this cloud of witnesses in Hebrews Chapter 11.) The apostle, after having enumerated many of the victories of the saints, through faith, which he seemed to regard as a great cloud of witnesses testifying to them that they were the peculiarly favored children of God, and that they should thereby be encouraged to run patiently the race that was set before them, He then, as though He would enforce His exhortation on their minds by the same considerations, says, “Wherefore, seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside,” &c. Truly, brethren, there is a great cloud of witnesses in the Scriptures testifying to us at this time, that we are the children of God, and the true Gospel church of Jesus Christ on earth. This should be sufficient inducement to us, realizing our high calling, and our exalted position, to prompt us to the faithful discharge of our Christian obligations to our great God and Savior, and also one to another. Our subject is the Weights That Doth Hinder Us.
But we will only recite a few of these weights at this time for your consideration.
First, - We are the only people that the types and shadows prefigure or set forth, as the people that should “dwell alone,” as God hath declared, “and not be reckoned among the nations of the earth.” Are we not the only people, among all who profess Christianity, that bears this description, and that dwell alone? We are alone in our experience of grace, and in the doctrine of the Gospel. We have not learned Christ as the popular religionists profess to have learned Him. While the religious world professes to believe and hold the doctrine of conditional salvation, we believe in salvation by grace alone, having nothing else to trust in, but the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. With us there has been a great change in our situation, in our change from nature to grace; old things have passed away, and all things have become new. But they have undergone no such change. With them all rests upon conditions. They manifest the same opposition to the doctrine of Christ as ever - and His humble followers they despise and hate. We have been brought to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and to delight in the law of God, after the inward man; and we no longer love the legal system which we loved when we were in nature’s darkness. While others are despising and deriding g Christ and His doctrine, we rejoice in Him, His doctrine, and His sovereignty, and we regard the doctrine of Election and Predestination, which they reject, as the very marrow of Gospel truth: and we love it dearly. And having been made free from the law of sin and death, by the law of the Spirit of Life which is in Christ Jesus, we can not live in sin any longer; God having, in His own work of grace, given us a holy principle of life, which is in opposition to that of sin and death. So then, dear brethren, we are dwelling alone in these things, as also in many other respects. We have no confidence in the flesh, and we might go much farther in drawing the line of distinction, and prove that we are the antitype of that of which Israel was the type.
The Savior says, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” and, as His disciples, we are not of this world; for Jesus says, “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you.” Does not the world hate us, and persecute us? If we were of the world, the world would love us; for the world loves it own. Again, the religion of Christ is distinguished from that of anti-Christ by the different effects it has on its subjects. That of anti-Christ leads its subjects to esteem themselves better than others; but the religion of Christ leads its subjects to esteem their brethren better than themselves, and as less than the least of all saints, and to confess that without Christ they can do nothing. Anti-Christ talks of doing great things, but Christ has said that He will say unto such, “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” But, on the other hand, He will say to His children, “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Seeing then, beloved brethren, that we are “compassed with so great a cloud of witnesses,” should we not endeavor, so fat as we have ability and grace given us, to “lay aside every weight?” It will be admitted by all that weights are impediments in running a race; hence the necessity of laying them aside, for they are many, as the apostle speaks of them as being more than one; we should, therefore, diligently search for such as may be about us, and try, as much as in us lieth, to lay them all aside. But how are we to know what these weights are? Answer – Anything and everything that hinders us from a faithful discharge of all our obligations, as Christians, to God and to one another. Some of them we will name:
Covetousness, which is idolatry, is a heavy weight, preventing us from the discharge of many duties. It is our duty to minister to the necessities of the poor, to visit the sick, the fatherless, and widows in their afflictions, and not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together; all of which covetousness forbids us to do. Hence, it is a great weight, which should be laid aside. Sometimes it is the case when we have succeeded so far in laying this weight aside, as to assemble ourselves together for the worship of God, we take a great weight with us, and we are so much troubled about the things of this world, as to have but very little satisfaction in the privileges of God’s house. Brethren this world is not our home; neither does our life consist of the abundance of the things we possess. All these weights are calculated to impede our progress on our way. These things ought not so to be.
Another weight or hindrance, we will name, is a neglect to observe and faithfully attend a Gospel Discipline. This neglect occurs from different causes. Sometimes members, and even churches, neglect their duty through ignorance of what their duty is, and sometimes for want of faithfulness to discharge their duty; but be that as it may, it always proves a great impediment to their progress. We should, therefore, endeavor to lay aside this weight, by a diligent search of the Scriptures on the subject, and a faithful obedience to what we find therein laid down; for the Scriptures are a throughly furnisher unto all good works; consequently, there never has been a case of difficulty that the divine rule will not reach, and that upon the principle of justice, and equity; nor can there be a case of difficulty between members that can not be brought before the church, in Gospel order, if Gospel steps are taken (see Matthew 18:15 etc), and it can not be settled without. It should always be remembered that the Gospel church, in her Gospel order, is the only divinely authorized religious tribunal on earth, and of course she is the sole judge by whom all hard cases must be tried; so that, he that is angry with his brother without cause, is in danger of the judgment, although the angry one may only profess to have ought against the one with whom he is angry. The church, as judge, has the supreme law of Christ by which to try and decide all cases, and, therefore, should always be governed by it as a divine rule. She has no right to act contrary to that law; whenever she does, she is sure to find it a great weight! Let us then, dear brethren, endeavor to lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us. Is it unbelief and fleshly selfishness? It is said, “The love of money is the root of all evil;” and selfishness is connected with this love, and prompts to every evil word and work. Selfishness produces partiality and jealousy, which is cruel as the grave. Partiality is also cruel. It is possible for us to be so partial to our friends, that it will make but little difference what they say or do, all is right with us; and we may be so prejudiced against others, that all they say or do is wrong with us. Under these influences we may be led to act partially, and prefer one above another: both influences are contrary to the law of Christ. Oh! How this sin besets us on every hand. We pray the Lord to deliver His people from both Partiality and Prejudice, that we may run with patience the race that is set before us. Our pathway is through tribulation. But we are assured that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart.
Dear brethren and sisters, let Patience have her perfect work, and in order thereto, we should remember that our heavenly Father sits at the helm, of all the affairs, and that He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; and, as we are the body of Christ, so we are the objects of His love. Hence, all our chastenings are but so many evidences that God deals with us as with children, and that He will not lay on us one stripe more than shall be for our good, and His glory. These light afflictions which we experience by the way, are but for a moment, and work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Let us then, run with patience the race, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.
Be of good cheer. Christ has overcome the world. He has taken His seat, and when the days of our tribulation are ended, we shall be seated also with Him, at His right hand, in the Kingdom of glory, to go out no more forever.
Gilbert Beebe, Moderator
Benton L. Beebe, Clerk.