The elders and messengers of the several Baptist churches, meeting at Pennepek, Middletown, Piscataqua, Cohansie, Tredyffrin, Cape May, Hopewell, Brandywine, Montgomery, Southampton, Philadelphia, Cranberry, Scotch Plains, New Britain, Salem, Newtown, Dividing Creek, New Mills, Upper Freehold, Lyon's Farms, and Pittsgrove.
To the said churches send our Christian salutation.
Beloved Brethren, -- At the close of our annual Association, we now address you on the solemn subject of the sixth chapter of our Confession of faith, which treats of the Fall of Man.
Such is the excellency and usefulness of divine revelation contained in that sadly neglected book, the Bible; that it affords us an infallible certainty respecting things past, present, and to come, which do so nearly concern us to know; among other articles, man's creation, who was made upright, righteous and holy, after the likeness, or image of God, happy in the favor of God, and communion with him, endued with power to fulfil[l] the law, given him for the rule of his obedience to his Creator, in that perfect state.
Moreover, by the same word of truth, we are assured of the sorrowful change which befel[l] our first parents, by their acting contrary to the command of God; beguiled by Satan, the father of lies, man fell, lost his creation excellencies, his honor, his God, -- his favor, knowledge of him, communion with him, fitness for his service, and ability to perform it; lost his life, his life to God, even his natural or animal life being forfeited, he became subject to death, the sanction of the law, the penalty denounced in case of disobedience; then the consequents of his evil deed immediately took place, which are guilt and depravity, with all the miseries which do accompany the same, both present and future. Thus man became separated from God, an enemy unto him, to his glory and government, from the first sin, even until now -- obnoxious to the curse of a just law violated, and under the wrath of God due to transgressors; also, wo[e]fully polluted throughout soul and body, "We are all as an unclean thing," Isa. lxiv. 6.
Man, by his departure from God, is become idolatrous, turned from the only true God unto self, which is the grand idol of the whole world ever since Adam's revolt. Self was the very alluring bait, wrapped up in the first temptation, "Ye shall be as gods." Now it cannot be otherwise, but that He who will not give his glory to another, should always abhor and detest anyone, and everyone, that sets up another god in the room of the true God, and lives to him as man doth to self.
Again, what further aggravates the evil of the first sin of man, is the capacity which Adam stood in, viz., as the public head and representative of all his posterity, -- that in him, and with him, all have sinned, and fell from happiness in his first transgression, "All have sinned," Rom. v. 12; which is evident not only by divine testimony, but is also universally manifested by the aversion to good, -- the ignorance, stupidity, selfishness, and propensity to evil apparent in everyone by nature, Eph. ii. 3.
May we all, therefore, brethren, not only assent to the truth of the historical narration of these things, but also know the absolute necessity of a real, abiding convincing sense of our case, thus ruined, guilty, and depraved. In order,
1, To suppress all pride, and high conceits of ourselves, our supposed excellency and goodness;
2, Truly to acknowledge whatever favors mankind receive, that they are every way gratuitous, and wholly undeserved;
3, For our humiliation before God, confession of our sins, and deep distress of soul;
4, To raise in our minds a becoming admiration of God's patience and forbearance with a sinful world, in that vindictive justice is not immediately executed on transgressors;
5, To learn the true and proper cause of his forbearance, - viz., the interposition of the Mediator, Christ Jesus, between the execution of the penalty and man's desert;
6, To give us enlarged views of rich mercy and grace with God, in constituting a way whereby to restore creatures so unworthy from present ruin and future misery, even by his own beloved Son;
7, To teach us the necessity we are under of a renovation;
Again, an abiding sense of our case is necessary, in order to make us all anxiously inquisitive about our acquaintance with, and an interest in, Christ the Mediator; and to excite all believers in him to continued thanksgiving and praise, that they should not henceforth live to themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again.
God, who is wise in counsel, and excellent in working, suffered or permitted man to fall, and thence took occasion to bring the greatest good out of the worst of evils, or overruled the fall of man, to the more abundant display of his divine perfections -- to the everlasting disappointment and confusion of his enemies, the security of his elect, and the endless praise of his glorious name.
By order, ISAAC STELLE, Moderator. WILLIAM ROGERS, Clerk.
[Taken from Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1780. - jrd]
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