Written by William M. Smoot, Moderator of:
The Virginia Annual Meeting in session with the Occoquan Church, at their meeting place at Oak Grove, in Prince William County, Virginia, August 17, 18, 19, 1898, to the churches whose messengers we are and to all of “like precious faith,” greeting:
Beloved Brethren, in a precious and blessed hope: - With inexpressible joy we embrace the time honored, Baptist custom of addressing you in a yearly epistle of love, fellowship, and esteem. We do, we trust, deeply realize that we have great reason to be thankful to our God for His great goodness and mercy toward us, unworthy recipients as we most surely are, in and of ourselves considered, of such depth of amazing grace, such heights of wondrous love. We do not, dear brethren, feel ourselves capable of instructing you, but we would, if God willing, drop a word to encourage you in the holy ways of Zion, in the paths of Gospel peace, of Gospel grace and glory.
Since last we met our homes have been saddened by the removal of some of the dearly beloved membership of our churches and congregations. Though we miss their pleasant faces, their cheerful voices, their bright presence from our midst we would not, if we could, bring them back to a world of sin and toil, from the climes of bliss and unending rest. Many of us who remain are enfeebled by age and infirmities, and realize that it can not be long before we shall lay aside our mortal body, that we shall be done with the things of time and earth. Such anticipations often cause us pleasure for we have long since learned that we’ve “No abiding city here.”
The joy of meeting in Zion’s courts and the worship of our God constitute the real pleasure of saints. All else is fading, fickle, changing, dying. This is however, lasting, changeless and eternal. Hence it should most surely affords us comfort to realize that our mortal pilgrimage is nearly over, and that the unfading glory of eternity is at hand. The inspired apostle admonishes us, that the “end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”
Dear Brethren, we have through rich, free, reigning grace endured “a great fight of affliction,” in misrepresentation, in persecution, in falsehood, and bitter, unrelenting enmity. Our Master, Savior, Brother, and Friend has said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” By every sacred and holy testimony, by all our remembrance of the past and our hope of the future, we are pledged to the maintenance of the principles of Truth eternal which have distinguished apostolic Baptists of every age. For near a century and quarter of years our brethren in this part of Virginia have been made to rejoice in the blessed Gospel of our Lord. We have experienced persecution for Truth’s sake, and in former years, our ministry have been imprisoned for preaching the distinctive doctrine of Truth, hence it is not surprising the misrepresentation, bitter enmity and falsehood of our enemies of to-day. They follow the slimy track of antichrist of every age. The prophet refers to their religious systems as a “refuge of lies.” In such a refuge they hide, turning, squirming in every way from one lie to another, but do not dare to face the light of the open, Gospel day. Continually this “man of sin” is being developed. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. . . . Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. . . . And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” – 2 Thess. ii, 7-12.
But dear brethren, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” – 1 Thess. v, 5-8. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” – Romans xiii, 13, 14. Truly “the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” These solemn admonitions fall in holy power upon us who are redeemed unto God. May they give evidence of their indwelling power in our outward walk and conversation. And when our days on earth are over, may our God grant, if embraced in His holy and righteous will, to open before us the portals of unending bliss.
Our meeting upon this occasion has been a season of great refreshing, we hope, from the presence of our God. A large and attentive congregation and church has been in attendance. We have been favored with more than a usual attendance of our brethren from abroad, and their coming has been much to our comfort and encouragement. As unworthy recipients of infinite goodness and grace, we have great reason to be thankful to our God who alone can bless, sustain and keep us, and from whose cloudless, light beaming skies alone such showers must fall. Beyond the dark ways of earth, infinitely beyond the storm tossed way of mortal life we see by faith the topless, eternal throne, before which we bow in humble adoration and praise, and a foretaste of the worship there we have in these holy, solemn and sacred gathering here. Today those everlasting gates seem near. We bask in the light that falls in ceaseless, refulgent rays from the throne of God. But when the dark clouds of earth have forever passed, then in the image of the blessed, adorable Redeemer, in the brilliant light of heaven, by side other crystal river, before the great white throne of God in changed, glorified form, forever done with the sin, toil, and trial of earth.
“The saints of all ages shall in harmony meet,
Their Savior and brethren transported to greet,
While the anthems of rapture unceasingly roll,
And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul.”
Our next meeting is appointed to be held, if the Lord will, with the church, at Frying Pan Spring, Fairfax County, Virginia. At the usual time in August, 1899, when and where, if God will, we hope to again meet you in the precious bonds of Gospel fellowship and free grace.
William M. Smoot, Moderator. 1898.
No. 2603 Delaware Street, St.
Joseph, Mo., June 22, 1898.
Dear Brother W. V. Mulberry: -
Whilst I was in Kentucky, visiting among the brethren and sisters of Elk Lick Church the forepart of last April, I was told that a dear sister, I do not remember her name, requested that I would write an account of the journey I was then engaged in, for her sake and others. Because of the great love and fellowship I have for all the brethren and sisters of Elk Lick Church I will try to write a letter, which I design, not particularly for that sister alone, but for all of the fellowship of kindred saints. I could not mention them by name, for they are too many, but will direct it to you in behalf of all of them. Wishing you all grace, mercy and peace, from God, our Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord, because I hope I love you all in the Truth. “For the Truth’s sake which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever.” And I trust that we are “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
But first, something about the journey. I left Missouri in the forepart of February and spent all the latter part of that month in Indiana. There I attended the regular church meetings of the three churches of Lebanon Association; that is, the Lebanon, Mt. Gilead, and Mt. Carmel churches. And in each case, and at each place, the meetings were good and pleasant, the spiritual intercourse was edifying and enjoyable, and the feeling that it was good to be there seemed to prevail; tokens of love and fellowship were freely extended, which we hope are of a lasting character, and we are sure will be long remembered.
After this I went into Kentucky, and the first meeting I attended there was that of Sardis Church, in Boone county, on the first Saturday and Sunday in March. The character of this meeting was such that the words of the Savior appear to me to be very applicable, – “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” For this was indeed a little flock, small, weak, few in numbers, but there was abundant evidence that the Kingdom was there! As it is written, “Hearken, My beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which He has promised to them that love Him.”
From here I went into Henry and Trimble Counties, Kentucky, and spent several days, but the weather was rainy, and interfered with our meetings some, but I had a very pleasant meeting with Providence church, the second Sunday in March, and also some very profitable social interviews. After this I spent three or four days very pleasantly with some of the membership of Salem Church, having a meeting with them the third Sunday in March. The week following we were favored with two very enjoyable meetings in Jessamine County, Kentucky, with some of the members of Bryan’s Station Then on the fourth Saturday and Sunday in March, met with Georgetown Church in solemn convocation to the Lord, wherein there was sweet and precious sitting “together in heavenly places in Christ,” and much comfort to loved.
I went into the bounds of Elk Lick Church, and spent more than a week among the membership, and attended their regular church meeting the first Saturday and Sunday in April, which was a season of heavenly enjoyment and spiritual satisfaction. The Lord was pleased to show His smiling face, and we could say, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love.” And also, “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.” After my sojourn was ended with this estimable people, and most highly favored of the Lord, I went into Bourbon County, Kentucky, and attended the church meeting of Elizabeth Church, the second Saturday and Sunday in April. At this meeting love, peace and fellowship richly abounded, much to the comfort and encouragement of the “Little Flock,” who, though they feel weak in themselves, and unprofitable servants, yet, “endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace,” and, “Can do all things through Christ that strengthens me,” because they are strong in the Lord, and “in the power of His might.” Then in a few days I went into Clarke County, Kentucky, and attended a meeting of the Mt. Carmel Church the third Saturday and Sunday in April. During my few days sojourn in the bonds of this church, I was much refreshed and encouraged not only in the meetings, but the social interviews and spiritual conversations of the little remnant that is left there, in fulfillment of the Divine testimony, which says, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Though in the world, yet not of the world, consequently hidden from the world, and therefore not seen nor discerned by it. A separate and distinct people. It is written of them, “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” Jesus was in the world, and the world knew Him not although the world was made by Him; so His people are in the world, and the world knows them not, although it is for their sake that the world continues to stand. And though they are in the world, they are not of the world; and He has given them the words which the Father has given Him, and they have received them. Hence, He says, “I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Our fleshly being is of this world, therefore it loves the world, and the world loves it. It takes delight in the things of the world, and seeks them. But our spiritual life existence is not of this world, but is from above, and therefore it seeks those things which are above. This spiritual life existence of the saints is like Christ’s spiritual life existence. It is born of the Spirit, and is manifested in the body of the flesh, which is prepared for it, in which it receives those gracious dealings of God, whereby are manifested His love and grace; His pity and compassion; His mercy and faithfulness; His goodness and longsuffering; and His unerring wisdom and unfailing power. And we cannot know the perfect fullness of all the things as comprehended in His character without being made to know our need of them, because of the corruptions of the flesh – the old man – the vileness of our earthly state of being, the pollutions of our worldly life, and the exceeding sinfulness of our natural being, that we are by nature the children of wrath. Then can we know the wonders of His love, the fullness of His grace, and the riches of His mercy. But it is not of the flesh to know them, for these are the things of the Spirit, and the spirit only can know them. As it is written, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
But I must desist. I know it is but a weak effort, but it is the best I can do, and is done in love and fellowship for those to whom it is written, whom I hold in fond remembrance, and hope they kindly remember poor unworthy me. Dear brother, I have written this to you, and with you to all the members of Elk Lick Church, brother S. P. Smith and sister Smith, brother Silas Jones and sister Mary, brother John Scarborough, the brethren Neals and Pluukett, and the brethren Mulberry, old and young, and all the sisters, Mulberry, James, McCabe, Neal, I can’t name all, but I mean all.
Yours in hope, R. M. Thomas, 1898