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Written by William Burns   

The PRIMITIVE BAPTIST—May 1847

    DEAR BRETHREN: As it is a cold day, literally speaking, and perhaps more so spiritually, I would just say in these few lines I think it is the coldest time in matters of religion, and the most trying time with the churches I have ever seen since I have professed to know the way of life and salvation. And it seems to me so generally, or so far as I can hear.

    But, brethren, I think there is a difference in just simply speaking of coldness in religion, and actually feeling our dead and lifeless state. I think when the believer in Jesus begins to feel in his own soul his lifeless and torpid state, he begins to examine his former course, and his plea will be something like this Oh! that I knew where I might find him: that I might come even to his seat! 1 would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. Job xxiii 3-4. But this examination and searching of heart is produced by the Holy Spirit. We can no more produce lively feelings in our soul, than we can make a world; hence the promise of God; And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only Son: and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for hi first born. Zech. xii. And the Lord Jesus said to his disciples, without me ye can do nothing.

    When I first joined the church which will be twenty one years ago, if I should be spared to see the fourth Sunday in April; I joined the church at Winn’s Creek meeting house, Halifax county, Va. and was baptized the fourth Sunday in April 1826 by Elder Hurt: I can truly say as it was said by one of old, I went on my way rejoicing until the tempter, (the devil) told me I had committed the unpardonable sin, for joining the church and being baptized without religion. I began to think it was so, and got powerfully alarmed about my condition and deeply distressed until it pleased the Lord to deliver me from my distress. This text of scripture was pressed to my mind: We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. I John  iii. 14. This promise seemed to suit my case, for I thought if I was not deceived I did love the brethren.

    In those days we would meet at church meeting and sing the songs of Zion; and were glad when it was said, let us go up to the house of the Lord. Then it was all peace and love, the Baptists were then all as one family; no divisions then in churches and Associations. We traveled on in this way until the little petty societies of man’s invention was introduced in the church. The first was called temperance society. Nearly all the church joined. Myself and a few others refused to join,

    About this time I began to feel impressed to declare the way of life and salvation thro our Lord Jesus Christ publicly; but feeling too unfit to engage in a work of so much importance, until I actually got to fear the Lord that he would inflict some severe punishment upon me. I believed he had all power in heaven and earth. I at length submitted and engaged to try in my feeble manner to hold up Christ as the only way of acceptance with God. The church saw cause to send to the Association for a presbytery for my ordination, and I was ordained to the ministry in August 1829, by Elders G. Dickinson, W. Blair. D. B. McGehee. S Mustain, and J. G Mills. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, &c. Acts, xxvi. 22.

    The Roanoke Association at her spring session in 1823, appointed me a messenger to the General Association of Va. held in Petersburg; and there I think I saw about as proud a body of men calling themselves Baptists, as I had ever seen. Money appeared to be the mainspring of action. At that association they altered the 3rd Article of the constitution, charging $10 for every messenger that was sent from any church, society, or Association and a messenger for every additional $10. When I reported to the fall session of the Roanoke Association the alteration of the 3rd article of the Constitution of the General Association, it was then referred to the churches whether they would become a member of that body or not. A large majority of the churches said in their letters they would not. Then a shyness took place and confusion, until twelve churches were dismissed off to form the Dan River Association. We hoped for peace and love them as formally, but no: Achan was in their camp. No peace yet.

    The Mount Zion church, where my membership was and is, left them and joined the Country Line Association. Then, the churches composing the Stanton River Association left them; and the old Roanoke was left like Gideon’s fleece, very dry. Judg vi chap.

    And now, brethren, I will tell you why I have taken this ramble. I have been looking over the old minutes of the Association and comparing former times with the present. May we then, brethren, indulge in the pleasing hope that our God has in store a shower of divine blessings for his poor children that cry unto him day and night. My belief is that he has and will in his own time visit them in mercy. This ought to encourage us to look to him and plead with him for his blessings upon us.

    And now brethren, suffer a word of exhortation, Preach the truth as it is in Jesus, shun not to declare the whole counsel of God, contend for the truth of God’s elect. The Lord ha promised to be with his servants to the end, and will nut forsake them.

    A few words to the brethren and sisters generally. Beloved, if God so loved us we ought also to love one another. God’s love is displayed in his choice of us in Christ. Here we are brought into a sacred union to him and each other. Also in his quickening us when dead in trespasses and sins, again in revealing to us Christ as the Lord our righteousness, our peace, our hope of glory. Also in leading us to trust on this foundation laid in Zion, and in sweetly constraining our wandering feet to churches in paths of obedience; thus bringing us to his banqueting house, where his banner over us is love. The reception of these mutual blessings freely bestowed upon us as the objects of his love, surely should influence us to love him supremely, and each other fervently. This bond of union to him, and to one another renders our joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, our interests and ends, one common jot. Why should not persons thus united, love one another?

    Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, think on these things. Phil. iv. 8. I remain yours in the bonds of the gospel.

 WILLIAM BURNS

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.