Editor's note: The Association met about four months after the beginning of the Civil War. Several of the associations that Campbell County corresponded with were sympathetic with the Southern cause. This article shows some of the anguish experienced by the churches as a result of the war. The Minutes state: "Circular Letter called for and read and referred to a committee consisting of J. M. Jolly, N. C. Pettit, and the writer, W. P. Jones, to report at future period of meeting" [p. 4.]. On page 5 of the Minutes, "The committee on Circular Letter reported as follows: -- We regard the letter as appropriate and well-timed, and with two very slight alterations recommend its adoption as our letter to the churches. The report was received." - Jim Duvall
Campbell County Baptist Association
CIRCULAR LETTER, 1861
by W. P. Jones
DEAR BRETHREN AND SISTERS OF THE CHURCHES COMPOSING THE CAMPBELL COUNTY ASSOCIATION: --
According to the usage of the Association, we again address you through our Circular, feeling thankful, as we ought, under all circumstances, that God our Heavenly Father is an unchangeable being, ever true in the fulfillment of his promises; to-day, as heretofore, inviting us to drink at the rich fountains of his unfailing grace; his arm full of power to save all committed to his trust.
Dear brethren, while dreadful reverses are assailing all the fabrications of man, and worldly troubles are so thickening in our paths, that even our social fabric is trembling at its foundation, we should cast our eyes to Heaven, reflecting upon that home where our treasure ought to be, and "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal." Our Master says, if our treasure is there, there our hearts will be also.
In having been selected by the different Churches to transact business for the mutual benefit of each other, we feel the responsibility resting upon us; we feel that our convening should not be an idle ceremony, but that our acts should be of such a character, as will meet the approval of the "Master of Assemblies," and the hearty cooperation of the Churches for good.
Little did we think at the farewell parting of our last annual meeting, that at this, we should be compelled to suit our Circular to the condition of the Church, as affected by a threatened revolution in our national government; yet, as leaf after leaf of the book of time has been unfolded to our gaze, such we find to be our condition.
The most important question to be asked and answered is, shall the Church, or in other words, shall the cause of our Redeemer suffer from these things? The answer to this question involves other questions. Will the individuals composing the aggregate number of all our Churches, be watchful and prayerful? Will the love of brothers and sisters in Christ be so strong, that their Christian fellowship shall be a reflection of Heaven? Will it be that when brethren disagree, as we know they will, that they can take each other by the hand, and in unison, with full purpose of heart, say, Our Father in Heaven, the blood of thy Son is our atonement, we are thy children, thy house is our house, thy cause is our cause, use us according to thy will, and forbid that discord between us may give courage to the enemies of the Cross.
Oh! that this would be so, for then would the Churches prosper, then would "the word of the Lord have free course and be glorified," and then, though the war-cry should even grow more alarming, yet amid its din would be heard the man of God, inviting the erring and undone into "the house of refuge," the tears of repentance would continue to flow, and shouts of souls set free from the thralldom of sin would become a familiar sound.
The whole tenor of Scripture goes to prove, that christian love and union should be a stronger tie than any other associated union which can be formed. We find Scripture to apply in time of trouble, such as, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another: if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
How often we hear the charge that priestcraft has drenched the earth with blood, and has blasted the fair prospects of countless victims. Notice the term, not a faith in Christ, but priestcraft. Has the time come for seeking another term? Must it be said, that the nineteenth century has prostituted the purity of the gospel to so base a purpose as arming brother against brother? Or if this must, in truth, be acknowledged, shall it be, that the elements of Campbell County Association must carry out the same intolerant spirit? God forbid! If Christian love and fellowship were as the spirit of the gospel would have them, this could never be: yet the fellowship of churches, (not in this Association) has been entirely destroyed by the introduction of political issues. And what effect has this overthrow? It suggests to the world, that political affinity has a firmer hold upon the feelings, and cements hearts more closely, than the triumphant song of redeeming grace and dying love. How humiliating to our cause, to acknowledge the force of this statement and how fearful the ground upon which any brother stands, if he feels in his heart a rising hatred towards a brother whose greatest fault may he honestly differing upon the politics of the day. Fearful we say, because he is throwing reproach upon the cause of religion, sinking it below its lofty level, and it may be, when the bridegroom cometh, his lamp will not be found trimmed and burning. It pains us to state, that we see signs of the love of some waxing cold from this cause. God's undying care is over us as heretofore; the great plan of salvation, over which the angels in heaven marvel, is now as before our only hope of pardon; the injunction of Scripture, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven," is as much binding upon us now, as upon the day in which we first believed; sinners are thronging the road to ruin, and all things call in thunder tones upon the professed Christian to labor in his Master's vineyard with redoubled energy. Let Christians once suppose, that the exigencies of the times debar them, in any measure, from manifesting the christian graces: let them but conclude, that their church obligations are in any degree less binding than they ever have been, the great and vital question, regarding the prosperity of Zion during our present troubles, will he answered in the dwindling, if not in the downfall of churches; it will be answered in the boldness with which the scoffer will point to the grass growing in the paths to the sanctuary; it will be answered in the fulfillment of the Scripture, "From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have." If on the other hand, the bond of union among Christians is rather strengthened than weakened, if they make a free use of the means of grace placed within their reach, it will he answered at our next annual, by reports from all quarters, of the great and good things which the Lord hath done, for when "The righteous cry, the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles." Committing ourselves to the "Father of Mercies," we close by using the language of the Apostle; "Finally brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
[From the Minutes of the Campbell County Baptist Association, pp. 8-11. From a photocopy from the Kenton County Public Library, Covington, KY. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
Kentucky Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage