Editor's note: Lewis Webb was a deacon of his church and was the clerk of the Association for many years. He wrote several historical accounts of the churches. The Minutes say: "The Circular Letter by brother Webb was called for, read and laid on the table until to-morrow." This was the usual practice on the first day of their meeting. The next day: "The Circular Letter was again read and adopted." It was published along with the rest of the record of the meeting. — Jim Duvall]
North Bend Association of Baptists
CIRCULAR LETTER, 1840
Written by Lewis Webb
Sand Run Baptist Church
Boone County, KY
DEAR BRETHREN, —
God in his providence has conducted us through the various toils of another year. Again we have met and united with many of our brethren in the work and worship of the Lord. Again our hearts have been refreshed with the joyful news of salvation to perishing sinners, through the merits of the crucified Redeemer. In contemplating the goodness of God to us as a part of his church militant, we desire to return him our most unfeigned thanks for his kind and merciful dealings to us, for in looking back to our origin and the progress of the christian religion in this part of the earth, we find that forty-six years ago last June, a few of the pioneers of the western wilderness were gathered together by those faithful servants of our Lord, Joseph Red[d]ing and William Cave, and constituted into a church which was called Bullittsburgh Baptist church. This little band, consisting of seven members, were situated on the margin of the Ohio River, nearly opposite the North Bend, which at that period was the border of civilization, and exposed to the fury of the savage of the wilderness. They adopted the Philadelphia confession of faith as received by the Elkhorn Association for a constitution. This was the first church of any kind in our limits. This was the beginning of what has since under the blessing of God, been denominated North Bend Association, for it will be recollected that for a time the boundary of this church was almost coextensive with the present limits of the Association. Fortunately for the welfare of Zion, this little band of brethren and those who were afterwards united to them, with a very few exceptions, were distinguished for those virtues which adorn the character of the follower of Christ. A distinguished brother who knew them well, highly commends them "for filling their seats in the house of God, both for business and worship, and also for plainness and faithfulness in their discipline, and for friendship in their deportment to each other. That during a wintry season that ensued, they exceeded any thing he had ever seen in peace and good will among themselves, and well tempered zeal in religion." Happily for their immediate successors, and for those who now fill their places, that they had an example so worthy of imitation. None of them are now with us, to cheer us by their presence, or to instruct us by their counsel. The most of them have gone down to the tomb in peace, comforted with the hope of a blessed immortality. May we follow their example of love and peace, while we continue here below, so that when we shall have been gathered home to our fathers, we may have the pleasing consolation of having followed them in the paths of peace, of love, and of zeal in the cause of our heavenly Father. In adverting to the events of the early period to which we have referred, we are but giving our own history at that date. In tracing the history of this little band of brethren thus harmoniously harnessed, it is with emotions of gratitude, we contemplate the goodness of divine providence towards them. Early in the year 1800 they experienced a wonderful display of divine grace in the out pouring of the Holy Spirit. This happy revival (yet in the recollection of many of us) continued about twelve months, in which time considerably upwards of 100 were added by baptism, and several ministerial gifts sprung up among them. So shall this little band become a strong host. Several flourishing churches as the country filled up, were constituted principally from Bullittsburgh, so that it has with great propriety been called a mother church, and a greater number of useful ministerial gifts have been from time to time raised up there than is usual for any one church.
From this refreshing season a time of general prosperity ensued, so that in July 1803, the North Bend association was organized with nine churches, comprising an aggregate of 429 members. At its first formation this Association adopted and were "constituted upon the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the only infallible criterion of faith in practice, and (in general) upon the Philadelphia Baptist confession of faith, except the third and fifth chapters, if so construed as to make God the author of sin -- and a clause in the 23rd chapter, respecting legal oaths being part of religious worship," — and when organized the Association shall be an advisary council and not an authoritative body.
We are apprised that a continuation of our narration would swell our remarks beyond the ordinary limits of a circular, and as a beloved brother (who is now deceased, whose praise was in all churches) who had an intimate knowledge of the most interesting occurrences of this Association from the beginning, in the circular of 1825, has in a very concise and forcible manner brought them forward up to that period, we refer you to it for this interesting interval of our existence as an association, and we will endeavor, further to present some of the most important events that have transpired since that time.
At the time last referred to the association consisted of 25 churches, with an aggregate of 1656 members. We were then a strong host zealously united, for the same brother remarks, "That we esteem it a great blessing that no jar, discord or unpleasant feeling has ever been excited in the Association from its formation to the present." This when contrasted with our present attitude and diminished numbers would seem to present matter of (dread? /blurred) humiliation and abasement before God. The discouragement however is not so great as at the first glance might appear. It will be recollected that a few years thereafter, at different periods, two other Associations were principally formed of churches dismissed from us for that purpose, which we shall notice in order. But before we do this, it is with unfeigned pleasure we record the goodness of God in again refreshing several of the churches, so that in this happy revival 169 were added by baptism, but chiefly to the churches at Wilmington, Twelve Mile, Ten Mile and Salem. At our session in the year 1827, eight of the churches which were located in the upper end of the Association, on application were dismissed to form the Campbell County Association, with whom we have enjoyed the most friendly correspondence until it was unhappily interrupted at our last meeting; when this friendly intercourse was withdrawn by North Bend for reasons assigned in our last Minutes. This dear brethren, is an event deeply to be deplored. It is with unfeigned sorrow that we advert to this occurrence, but in laying before you a brief sketch of passing events, candor sometimes compels us to present those that are unpleasant. We hope, however, that the unpleasant feelings produced by this event may be buried in oblivion, and that all will cheerfully unite in restoring the friendly intercourse that has been unhappily disturbed.
It affords us some relief to pass from an occurrence that has produced so much sorrow to record the goodness of God in the salvation of sinners. In the year 1829 the churches at Dry Creek and Crew’s Creek, experienced a precious visitation, and at the session of that year 186 had been received by baptism. At our annual meeting in 1831, four of our churches in the lower end of our boundary were dismissed from us and united with others in forming Ten Mile Association, a friendly correspondence has been kept up with them from the beginning. This with the church at Visalia, which was dissolved, reduced our number of churches to 12 and the aggregate to 985. Since this period our numbers have gradually diminished, so that at our last session our total number was 745. In this interval the Association traveled in peace, attending to but little except public worship, and sustaining our correspondence with other Associations. It may not be amiss, however, to remark that at the session of 1833 in answer to a request from the church at forks of Gunpowder, in reference to the various benevolent societies, &c., this Association after due deliberation, decided "that it was willing to leave the whole subject of those societies with the brethren who compose our churches, trusting that each one will act in that matter so as to have a conscience void of offence towards God, and that they will bear with one another in love." This resolution was entered into in a spirit of forbearance and compromise of individual opinion. It was so offered and so accepted after mature deliberation, and we hope will be so observed by the brethren.
We have already adverted to our last session as a time of sorrow and great discouragement. Many of us were faultering at every step almost ready to faint, a gloomy fore-boding shrouded the future in fearful apprehension. But we bless God that he again remembered several of our churches in mercy undeserving as we are, so that in this kind visitation 124 have been received by baptism, principally by the churches at Bullettsburg, Middle Creek and Sand Run.
And now dear brethren, having in this address given you a brief sketch of the rise and progress of the Baptist churches in this part of the earth, from its first settlement up to the present, and the kind dealings of our heavenly Father to us, and those who have gone before, we desire with hearts of gratitude to appreciate the manifold blessings so freely and bountifully bestowed upon us, and with reverence and humility entreat our heavenly Father to continue his blessings to us and those who may succeed us, so that, when we shall have done down to the tomb, others may be raised up to glorify God even at North Bend.
Lewis Webb Gravestone in Sand Run Cemetery
[From microfilm records at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Louisville, KY. Northbend is now known as the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association. — jrd]
1825 History of Northbend Association
1850 History of Northbend Association
Kentucky Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage