DEAR BRETHREN — We have selected the subject of personal piety as the foundation of our annual letter to you; for, amidst the general prosperity of the church in relation to her numerical strength, it is also of the greatest importance that her graces be multiplied. The "stakes of Zion should be strengthened as well as lengthened."
The Redeemer impresses this subject emphatically upon his disciples, in exhorting them to "let their light so shine before men, that they may sec your good works, and glorify your Falher who is heaven."
Dear brethren, we are permitted to live in a very eventful era of the Christian church; and it becomes us, as followers of the Lamb, to walk as children of light, letting the mild rays received from the Sun of Righteousness beam all around us, so that they may exert a beneficial influence on the respective communities of which we are a part.
It is certainly true that the active graces of Christianity have been displayed, and still are, in an uncommon degree; for neither the frozen regions of the north, nor the torrid climes of the south, have deterred the faithful missionary from presenting the claims of Christianity to the enemies of the Saviour. Under the divine command, "Go ye," they have trodden the hallowed ground of Palestine, as well as the classic earth of Greece. Unarmed with sword and spear, David like, they have met the enemies of the Lord of hosts, and have conquered. Once success was doubtful. But now every breeze that swells the proud canvass of our happy land wafts to our shores the gladsome intelligence of sinners' conversion unto God. Our periodicals teem with revival notices; and even this floor has been recently bedewed with many a penitent's tears.
But amidst these heart-cheering scenes it becomes every professor of our holy religion to look to his own ways, and see if they are right; for it is questionable whether personal piety has kept pace with the active energies of the church. There are three causes actively engaged in hindering the growth of personal piety. The first is a spirit of controversy, so often fatal to that quiet and peaceful spirit which is of great price in the sight of God. The second is an inordinate love of gain, in search of which God is so often forgotten and the duties of religion neglected. The third is, participation in those political contests which have divided citizens and rendered the streams of human life as bitter as the waters of Mara. From these streams flow a hundred streamletes, all in their
tendencies calculated to prevent our growth in grace and mar the beauty of the Lord's house.
It is not our design to enter into a theological discussion of this subject, but simply to present a few facts drawn from the word of God, that we may be mutually benefitted. It is neither the light of nature nor science to which our attention is now cited, but the light of revelation, and called "yours," because freely derived from the sun of righteousness, through the word of truth and by the Spirit of the Lord. Indeed, the church is the great light-house of the world, and the Bible the gqlden lamp in its centre. Hence David could say that the word of God was a lamp to his feet. Christians should at all times reflect, the heavenly glory. And now, brethren, the nearer we can get to the fountain of all light the more luminous shall we be. When Moses was on the mount with God, his face beamed forth the supernatural light of heaven; and when the three Apostles were with Jesus on the mount they were baptized in a flood of light. And so it will be now, in a less degree, with all who struggle to conform themselves to the holy image of Jesus, by following him in all things.
If, then, it be conceded that the church is the light-house of the world, (Jesus says ye are the light of the world,) ought this light to be put under a bushel? No — but rather let it irradiate the darkest corner of our globe. Yes — startle not, gentle reader — through .the instrumentality of the church the Bible light should shine around the world — the whole world — and in the light of personal piety the principles bf the Bible proven to be of divine origin.
Dear brethren, bear with us, whilst we endeavor to enforce this doctrine; and what we say to you we apply to ourselves. What gives an edge to the truth of the Bible, but the fact that professors of religion walk as become their high vocation? What gives edge to the ministrations of the pulpit, but the fact that the herald of salvation performs himself what he exhorts others to do. Therefore in all we do, whether publicly or privately, collectively or individually, "holiness to the Lord" should be stamped thereon.
Particularly in the personal relations of life should the light of personal piety shine. Are you a parent or guardian of children? Your holy conduct and conversation become the most powerful commentary to illustrate the truth of Christianity. And on the contrary, infidelity is confirmed within them when they behold an empty profession of religion, and nothing else. Are you elevated to posts of honor in the Government? There too let the beams of sacred truth play around you, that the power of our holy religion may be felt and its glorious light seen afar off. No matter what be the condition in life, let your light shine, and so shine that others may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Finally — to the young converts, who have recently taken up the cross, we would particularly address ourselves. Young friends, we look upon you with the deepest interest. Now is the time, the very time, for your character for future usefulness to be formed. We, your seniors in the church, are fast passing. away, and we look to you to hold up the standard of the cross in our stead. And our hearts' desire and prayer to God is that you may do it with purer hands than we have. Let your fathers in Israel exhort you to heavenly mindedness and holiness, without which "no man shall see the Lord!" Be prayerful, be humble, be affectionate and kind one to another. And if any of our young brethren feel a strong dosire for the salvation of sinners, and believe it their duty to warn them of their danger, do not stifle the convictions of conscience; get behind the cross and "hold forth the word of life" with pure Hands.
Farewell, dear brethren in the Lord. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
[From Elkhorn Bapitst Association Minutes, 1838. The document is from SBHL&A, Nashville, TN and was provided by Stephen duBarry. — jrd]
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