Dear Brother Beebe: Times, religiously, are quite as flattering as when I last wrote. Since my last letter was written, I have baptized some fifteen or more. How long these happy seasons of refreshings from the presence of the Lord will continue I cannot tell; for at present the public mind, and also the mind of the church, is much disturbed by the distracted condition of our once happy country. I herewith send you a copy of a resolution passed by the Bethlehem Church of Regular Baptists, at her regular meeting of business, Saturday, May 4,1861:
Resolved: That this church order and ordain that Thursday, the 6th day of June, 1861, be observed and kept as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer to Almighty God, for the interposition of his wisdom and power in the settling of our national difficulties, and that he would restore peace to us as a nation and a church. And further
Resolved: That a copy of this resolution be sent to all the churches of our Association, that they may join with us on that day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, for the purpose above stated.
Joel Hume, Moderator.
William Williams, Clerk.
I believe all our churches will respond to the call, and not only ours, but all the churches of our sister Associations, who may hear what the above church has done. Please publish this at the earliest possible day.
Your affectionate brother,
Remarks on Fasting - We have complied with the request of our esteemed brother Elder James Strickland in publishing the order and appointment of the Bethlehem church of Regular Baptists, to observe a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, for the interposition of divine power to save our beloved country from the calamity of civil and fratricidal war and anarchy. While we most heartily approve their object, and would most devoutly join them in humble supplication to God to allay the fury of the belligerent elements, and roll back the cloud of strife, and extend the peaceful spirit of the gospel far abroad, we cannot easily suppress our doubts in regard to the manner proposed. The instructions of our Lord on the subject forbids us to fast after the manner of those who make a public display of their fastings and prayers. These are the words of instruction to the disciples of Jesus on the subject: “Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which is in secret shall reward thee openly.” Our fasting should be a secret matter with our God. But if we pass resolutions appointing a day for fasting, and publicly announce our appointments, wherein do we in those particulars differ from the hypocrites? We do not mean to be understood as doubting the purity of the motives of our brethren. In their object there is a very wide difference; but in manner, in making their fasting a public matter, do they not transgress the instructions of their Lord? We cannot set a day in the future when we will be humble, devotional, prayerful and abstineous. But when immediately under the humbling power of the Spirit, then, and only then, can we abase ourselves before God, while our outward appearance must not betray to men that we are fasting. The New School Baptist State convention in Georgia has recently presented to the Congress of the seceded States a set of resolutions, in which they pledge themselves to sustain the war, and request the Congress to appoint a fast day; while nearly all the pulpits in the Northern States are equally bent on war and public fasting. In all candor we ask, do not those ostentatious religious flourishes justify the words of the Lord, by Isaiah 58:4, “Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness,” etc.?
It is truly a time when christians should fast and pray and cry mightily unto the Lord to visit our guilty land in mercy, pardon our sins, blot out our transgressions and spare us in mercy from the consequences of our own madness and folly. And we do hope that not only the Bethlehem church of Illinois, and those in her vicinity, but every branch of the church of God in our country, both North and South, may pray without ceasing for a return of peace and prosperity to all parts of our country, and for a general outpouring of his Spirit, and revival of his cause. But in our humiliation and devotion let us observe the instructions of our Lord, and avoid ostentation and parade.
June 15, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 7 - 9