Circular Letter: The Brethren assembled with the Mount Pleasant Church, Fairfax County, VA, August 9,10, 1849, in a Meeting for Correspondence: To the Churches, Associations and Corresponding Meetings, in correspondence with us, send this token of love.
Beloved Brethren: - Having received and read your communications to us, we would reciprocate the correspondence by addressing our epistle to you in return. The Psalmist says: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Ps.133:1. In order to unity, they who dwell together, must be brethren, children of the same family, having a common interest. Such is the case with the children of God, when not bewildered; the truth of God, the order of His house as established by the Head, the peace and prosperity of Zion, are with them a common interest, as well as the joys and sorrows of the individual members. But when strange children get in among the household of faith, her sons become stunted in growth - her daughters lose their polish - her oxen become weak to labor - her garners become impoverished, and there is a breaking in, and going out, thus breeding confusion. These strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood, Ps.144:11, are children of the strange woman, Prov.7:5. How careful should we be to keep, and to be kept separate, from all religious intercourse with such, that our harmony and unity be not broken, and an interest averse to the interest of Zion be not set up in our midst. We have mentioned the truth of God, as one of the items connected with the interest of Zion, and which is of vast importance toward the brethren’s dwelling together in unity. By the truth of God, we mean that which God has revealed as truth, and which is according to the standard of truth as He hath given it in the Scriptures. When we begin to bring in other standards, or the writings and opinions of men as standards, however eminent they were or may be, they are but the opinions of men, and we shall feel here to indulge in our partialities, as they did in the Church of Corinth, and one will say: I am of Paul, another, I am of Apollos, &c., and this will cause bickerings and divisions and wrestings of the words of Scripture to make them conform to our standards. But, when brethren are agreed to let the thus saith the Lord, and as He has said it, decide all points, our unity in doctrine will then be preserved; as Watts says:
“This is the judge that ends the strife,
Where wit and reason fail.”
We have named, as another item in the interest of Zion, the order of His house as established by the Head, the one King of Zion. Where a number of heads are acknowledged, unless they form a unity among themselves by deciding by majorities, there will be conflicting orders, and clashings in practice. But where Christ alone is acknowledged as King, and His directions as the order, there will be no confusion, nor contention in the observance of the order of the house. In thus acknowledging Him alone as King, we render to Him no more than is His just due, both in reference to His claims on us, and to His claims to qualifications to be Head. This order includes ordinances, discipline, the choosing of officers, and the manner of their officiating, the meeting of the Church, the worship, the business transactions, and the manner of publishing the Gospel abroad. As we value the good of dwelling together in unity, let us therefore, be careful to observe its commands, to confine ourselves to them, and to His directions through Apostolic example for observing them.
We named, as a third item, The peace and prosperity of Zion, as belonging to the common interest of the children of Zion. In promoting the peace of Zion, and her prosperity, in the showing forth her salvation, in attracting those who love the Lord, within her borders, and in her being built up in purity and love, it is important that the several members should conduct themselves orderly, meekly and affectionately in the Church, and toward one another; that they see that the discipline of the Church be exercised faithfully and impartially, and that they submit when subject to it, quietly and patiently; that each be found occupying his proper gifts, station, or sphere in the Church; that in the support of the ministry, the relief of the poor, and in meeting other rightful demands for contributing of our temporal goods, none hold back through covetousness, but that each contribute freely as the Lord has prospered them; that the brethren show their love toward one another, by a manifest preference for each other’s society, comfort and welfare, and that they be not estranged from these things by indulging in the love of the world, or by being entangled in alliances or pledges, with other societies, whether secret or otherwise; and further, that the brethren conduct themselves honestly, humbly, quietly and blamelessly toward them that are without, and who may differ with us; and in all their intercourse with men, aiming to be governed by the directions in the New Testament. Brethren, if these things were so, would not the people of the world be again constrained to say, “Behold how these christians love one another!” And, if we were found fearlessly and earnestly contending for and bearing testimony to the faith once delivered to the saints; bearing patiently and quietly, the scoffs, reproaches, indignities and persecutions if they come, incident thereunto, from those who oppose the truth, would not others be made to acknowledge that we are actuated by another spirit than that of the world? And would we not then experience; How good it is to dwell together in unity?
Brethren, although the children of God are now somewhat scattered by localities, and perhaps worse, by different standards set up, and consequently different views of doctrine and order entertained, yet, even in this day of darkness, and of the scattering of the flock, our Churches are generally permitted to dwell together in a good degree of unity, and from time to time many of the brethren, from distant parts are permitted to meet together, and sit together, in a good degree of unity. How long we shall be permitted to enjoy these privileges, without for a little season being deprived of them, is known only to Him, who orders all events. But come, when it may, whilst it will come in accordance with prophecy, it will come as a just chastisement upon the Church and people of God, for permitting their unity to be so much marred by clinging to the creeds and systems of men as their standards, instead of taking heed to the more sure word of prophecy; and in other cases for suffering the peace of Churches to be broken by winking at, and countenancing disorderly walk among the members. It will also come as a needful fire, to purge away all this dross from the Churches. The seven thunders mentioned in Revelation, chapter 10, which are a prelude to the killing of the two Witnesses, are apparently sounding. Whether the seven thunders designate seven particularly astounding events, or whether they denote seven years duration of such events or rather, whether as is frequently the sense of the number seven in the Scriptures, it is here used to denote that full shaking of the governments of the world, necessary so to concentrate the powers and branches of antichrist, as to enable them to accomplish the killing of the Witnesses, we will not say. But, as before said, we think we hear the sound of the thunders, and hear the voice from Heaven, saying, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not, in that such dark obscurity hangs over every event which transpires, as that all the expectations and calculations made on the particular event, are disappointed. It is not improbable that some of these thunders, before they cease, may burst over the head of our government, and shake it to its foundation.
But, Brethren, let what will come, and come when it may; God grant that we may be found standing in our lots, being neither traitors nor cowards towards the cause of our Lord and His truth, but enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. And may God, by His grace, so keep us from all corruption in doctrine, or in walk, that the enemy may have no evil thing to say of us justly.
Our meeting has been pleasant; your ministering brethren came to us bringing the precious gospel of the grace of God in its fulness; our congregations have been large and quite attentive.
The Bethlehem Church having invited our next Meeting to be held with them, we have appointed to meet with them, to commence on Thursday, before the 2nd Lord’s day in August, 1850. We continue our cordial invitation to Churches, Corresponding Meetings and Associations, to meet with us by their Letters and Messengers, at that time and place.
S.TROTT. Moderator. 1849.