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Georgia Baptist Association
Circular Letter, 1801
"The Present State of Religion Amongst our Churches"
By Jesse Mercer

[p. 99]
"To the Churches composing the Georgia Association:
Beloved, in Christ, -- Being again, through unchanging goodness, constitutionally convened for the purpose of deliberating on those things which relate to Christ's mystical body; and having taken into view the present state of religion amongst the churches in our limits; we think it our duty to communicate to you some of our hopes and fears, and to suggest some other considerations which may seem best calculated, in a proper manner, to affect and influence you: not as lords exercising sovereignty over your faith; but as helpers of your joy in the Lord. We have endeavoured to adjust the business which cause before us, with coolness and increasing affection. The good tidings of a revival amongst some of you, connected with the same kind of intelligence, from various parts out of our boundaries gave us much joy and good hope. And from which We feel a disposition at least, to hope, the day is almost to break, and the shadows to flee away; when God will shine gloriously out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, and his name shall be feared from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. But the old epidemic complaints with which many of your letters were crowded, produced in us sensations which were painfully disagreeable.

Dear brethren, we fear you have drunk deeply into the intoxicating spirit of the world, by which you have conceived an eager lust for the flesh-pots in Egypt, or an anxious solicitude after the flattering fooleries, vain fashions and carnal pleasures of this wicked world, which children and fools admire, and by which you have greatly lost that meek, quiet and: harmless spirit, which abode in Christ, and which should designate you as the children of God in the midst of this adulterous and sinful generation.
[p. 100]
Brotherly love too, we fear abounds too much in word and tongue; while you foster in your hearts that ungodly, nay that unchristian disposition of, be ye clothed and be ye filled, and at the same time close all the bowels of mercy towards those objects of compassion, which are placed in your way as proofs of your love to God.

Amongst many of you, a friendly, uniting and endearing spirit is too little cultivated; you often meet each other with an air of as cold indifference, as you do a wicked neighbor. It has become extremely difficult to distinguish you, as a body or as individuals, from a surrounding wicked world, except in a few formalities. The phrase brother and sister is kept up, in some sort; but that too has lost its savor, having become formal, it communicates little or no christian affection. We fear you are too great strangers to the spirit of prayer and earnest travail, for the out-pouring of the spirit of God from on high, and the coming of the Kingdom of Christ with power.

And in this time of Jacobís trouble, instead of being helpers one of another, bearing each others burdens, and grieved for the affliction of Joseph, every one pulleth away his shoulder from the burden of his brother, and careth, almost, if not altogether, alone for his own individual, and perhaps carnal concerns while the things of the blessed Jesus and his people, are out of sight, or looked on with indifference.

Brethren, these things ought not to be so. And that they may not be so, we call upon you in the most pressing manner, to seriously consider, and make a pious and practical improvement on the following engaging thoughts:

1. View your high calling, with which nothing on earth can vie. That calling which separates a man from the mass of his equals, and seats him on a throne of elated glory, and puts the royal ensign in his hand, falls infinitely below that calling of which you are gracious partakers; and by which, you have been taken from the mass of sinners, your guilty equals, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, made heirs with Christ, and happy expectants of a blessed immortality. O delightful thought! O glorious expectation! Never, O never, lose sight of it, but keep your eye intent on it while you run for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

2. Be mindful of the designs of grace through you. Remember that God has purposed by you, to make known to principalities and powers, the exceeding riches of his wisdom; and therefore, you are called to be instruments of his glory; to appear on the same theatre; to engage in the same exercises; and to act on the same exalted plan of action with himself, in the accomplishment of those things, in which very intimately consists the glory and perfection of Saints, the glory and joy of Angels, the glory and honour of God, and in short the glory and excellency of all heaven. O amazing, stupendous and ineffable grace! That will delight to take such futile creatures as sinful men, deformed with wickedness, absorbed in darkness, emaciated with woe; brands of the burning, all vile with pollution, and fit only to be engines of perfidy for the
[p. 101]
devil; and make them the very means by which he will accomplish such all important events. O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Let a sense of these things, at once humble and exalt you, fill you with pious grief and ineffable joy, and with unfeigned delight, not only to know, but to do the will of God unreservedly.

3. Earnestly anticipate that weight of glory, which God has prepared for you, and for which he is keeping you through faith unto salvation. Know ye, that here you have no continuing city; but are as sojourners turned in for a night; your promised land, your everlasting portion, your final rest, your Heavenly home, are all before; let your hearts he also there; and with steadiness pursue the happy road till you in person arrive at the Mount of God. Let nought be the sun beguile your cautious feet. Let nothing court your stay on this side Jordan, save to do the will of God, which you cannot do in Heaven. And he ready, like laboring children, at sunset, to go home at the call of your Heavenly Father. To whose gracious guidance, faithfulness and love, we commend you; wishing you an abundance of peace, with eternal glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. ó Amen.


[Jesse Mercer, History of the Georgia Baptist Association, 1838, pp. 99-101. -- jrd]

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