North Bend Baptist Association
Written by Lewis Webb
Sand Run Baptist Church
DEAR BRETHREN:-- It has been intimated to us by some of the brethren, that is was desirable that the history of this Association should be brought up to the present period, and as this intimation accorded with our own views of propriety we therefore make an effort to meet this desire. In recurring to our early history, it is with unfeigned thankfulness we contemplate the goodness of our heavenly Father, so freely and bountifully bestowed on those who have gone before us; and for His kind dealings towards us who remain -- in preserving us, unworthy as we are, in the midst of raging pestilence and death, for whilst some have fallen on our right and others on our left we have been kindly preserved through the vicissitudes of another year and afforded another opportunity of uniting with our kindred in Christ in the work and worship of the Lord. Happily for us and the region of country which we inhabit, that among the pioneers of this our place of abode, were men who feared God and delighted in his service; for at an early period, if not simultaneously with the first settlement in the wilderness on the margin of the Ohio, the standard of the Redeemer was raised by a little flock of his followers, not exceeding seven in number, who styled themselves Baptists. To wit: Lewis Dewees, John Hall, Elizabeth Hall, Chichester Matthews, Agnes Matthews, Jos. Smith, Leannah Smith. Here at Bullittsburgh, with which church we are now assembled, fifty six years ago, last June, the flag of the Cross was first erected, by those men of God, when their lives were in peril from the savage of the wilderness. Many difficulties and privations were encountered by them, owing to their remote location from any permanent abode of the white man at that early period, but as the country filled up, many valuable brethren were added to them (by successive emigration) of men who were calculated to subdue the heavy forest, and acquire for themselves a renown, as eminently pious and efficient servants of the Redeemer, that has long survived them, and notwithstanding they have gone down to the tomb, their memories are still fondly cherished by those of us who retain a recollection of their piety and devotion to the cause of Immanuel. It would seem that great harmony and unity of purpose pervaded this little body of christians, for each esteemed his brother better than himself -- no jars, no discord, no contentions sprung up amongst them, but all united in sweet accord to advance the cause of God, and whilst they were thus gloriously harnessed, they were visited by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They experienced a precious refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Early in the year 1800 this precious revival spread over nearly the entire region of the then inhabited country, and many were added by baptism to this church, which at the commencement of this refreshing was the only church in our present limits.
But the limits of our present address admonish us to progress with our history, and not to dwell too long in rendering tribute to those early pioneers whose memories are consecrated by so many happy events. We therefore hasten with our detail of passing events, though necessarily much abridged.
In the course of two or three years subsequent to this revival, several churches were constituted in various parts of the country, consisting chiefly of late accessions by baptism, and in July 1803, messengers from nine churches met at Dry Creek, and then and there organized the North Bend Association with an aggregate of 429 members. In their constitution they refer to "the scriptures of the old and new testaments as the only infallible criterion of faith and practice," but in order to be more definite they adopted the "Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith, with exceptions to the third and fifth chapters if so construed as to make God the author of sin;" and in defining its powers they declared that "the Association should be an advisory council, and not an authoritative body." After the organization of this association the blessings of God attended them in their progress for many years; harmony and brotherly love abounded; no schisms, no unpleasant feelings sprung up among them; they continued to increase in numbers until 1825, the total number amounted to 1656 members.
We are aware that a continuation of the more important occurrences of this Association from the beginning to the present, would enlarge our Circular more than we desire, and as our history has heretofore been brought up to the year 1840, we omit much interesting matter, and hasten to the narration of events subsequent to that time. We are now approaching a story time in our history, and indeed for several years previous it was evident that discontent existed among the brethren, to a very considerable extent. Individuals from a distance had been sowing the seeds of discord in the various churches. The first overt act in the association, however, was in opposition to the reception of the church at Covington, upon grounds that were thought untenable by many of the brethren. The correspondence with Campbell County Association was also withdrawn at the instance of the discontented part of this Association together with some other peace at home. In each case it was evident that a majority of the brethren in the aggregate believed the action of the Association was premature and not called for by the circumstances, and at the ensuing association the act of withdrawing correspondence was reconsidered, promptly rescinded and the correspondence renewed. The church which had been rejected was also received into the Association, with the apparent acquiescence of those who had heretofore been in opposition. It is known to all, that no church has been received by this Association, but by unanimous consent. But this apparent acquiescence was deceptive. It was in fact the calm that precedes the bursting of the tempest, as subsequent events fully testify. Persons who had been active in effecting the discord, that had in so many and varied aspects manifested itself, were on the ground, and the portion of the Association that had purposed to secede, were urged into a separation without delay. A very short time elapsed before a new Association was organized in our midst, by the churches that had withdrawn, without the counsel or approbation of North Bend Association. Neither was asked -- neither was desired. But those who seceded did not stop at this. They charged us with the "introduction of doctrines and practices unknown to the constitution, and unsustained by the standard of our faith and practice -- the Bible -- and that we had waged war against our constitution and was reckless of the feelings of said churches."
These allegations were met by a prompt denial. They were told that they "had not, nor could not afford the proof" to the charges they had preferred against us. This challenge has not, as far as we are advised, ever been met, and for the obvious reason that the proof can no where be found.
If this Association has departed from its original faith and practice, we are not aware of any particular instance in which this has been the case. We reiterate: "This Association still adheres to its original constitution, and her principles of faith and practice are in accordance with her earliest action, and the doctrine and views of the Regular Baptists throughout the United States." It is a mournful task to recur to the foregoing events -- we would gladly have drawn a veil over them, and we assure those who have separated from and preferred those grievous charges against us, that in detailing these facts, we are not actuated by unfriendly feelings towards them, but in repelling those charges we are but doing ourselves justice. It is a duty we owe to ourselves, to posterity, and to the religious community in which we live. It is indeed painful to announce to the world, that the divider of brethren has separated us from those with whom we long lived in sweet accord as brethren, and who united with us in effort to glorify God, and especially when many of the brethren thought the causes of separation too triv[i]al to produce so much sorrow and contention. It is also a fact that we are bound to record that the churches which have withdrawn, have declared they do not hold in fellowship those from whom they have seceded and so continue until this day.
In consequence of the painful occurrences which we have just detailed, it was thought advisable by the churches that still adhered to North Bend Association to hold a called meeting, and in pursuance of an invitation to that effect a meeting was held with the church at Bullittsburgh, on Friday, April 2nd, 1841, in which the churches of Bullittsburgh, Dry Creek, Middle Creek, Sand Run, East Bend and Covington were represented. At this meeting nothing farther than preliminary arrangements for convening with the East Bend church was done; and at the usual time of holding our annual meeting the Association met with said churches, at which meeting the churches above named were represented with an aggregate of 611 members. -- We were now reduced to a number much smaller than at any former period, for at the time of the separation the Association consisted of thirteen churches, with an aggregate of 882 members. Our limits were also much circumscribed, but as peace was restored, many believed that we had lost more in number than efficiency. It was, however, a time of great discouragement, and many of the brethren were much depressed in spirit. It affords us unfeigned pleasure to turn from the recital of the foregoing distressing events, in order to record the goodness of God in again refreshing the churches and converting sinners. It was manifest at the meeting of the Association in 1842, that God was converting sinners. It is also worthy of remark that the churches in their letters breathed a spirit of prayer for a revival of pure and undefiled religion and the conversion of sinners, and the brethren, individually and collectively, manifested more than ordinary desire for a refreshing from the presence of the Lord. From these favorable indications, brethren who had become faint through discouragement, took fresh courage, and the blessed work prospered, so that at our next annual meeting 364 had been added by baptism. The aggregate then was 964, a number much larger than that at the secession. The churches of Burlington, Pleasant Ridge, and Big Bone, having been recently constituted, were received into union with this Association, and a season of general prosperity ensued. Several young ministers have been reared up amongst us, who promise to be useful and efficient.
From this time up to the present the Association has enjoyed peace. Their progress had not been distinguished by any remarkable event. For several years past, a wintry season has been experienced and a state of supineness hangs over us. And now, dear brethren, in conclusion, it is with painful sensations we advert to the chilling influences of the present languishing and declining condition of the church of Christ. We greatly fear that as soldiers of the cross, we have slumbered on our posts; the weapons of our warfare have not been employed as they should have been. They are spiritual and not carnal, and when used as directed by the great Captain of our salvation, the subversion of the armies of the enemy is certain to ensue. But alas this is not the case. The enemies of the cross are shouting in triumph in our midst. Hence the necessity of girding on the whole armour of God -- of facing the foe and pressing on to the overthrow of the numerous hosts that have taken counsel against the Lord, and against his anointed.
[From microfilm records at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Louisville, KY. Northbend is now known as the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association. This letter was amended somewhat before the Association approved its reading and printing (p. 6 of Minutes). The grammar and spelling are unchanged. jrd]
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