Baptist History Homepage

Revised 12/2004
     No one likes controversies, but Baptists have had their share of them. They seemed especially prominent in the 19th century when our nation was growing so quickly and opening up so much new territory for settlement. There is no evenness of the articles relative to the seriousness of the controversy, many of these essays have a local sentiment. I have included some articles I have located; more will be posted.

     It is difficult to keep up with entries on this introduction. The order on the Index page does not now agree with the order of this essay; I started out chronologically, but I am now trying to list the documents as to subject, as much as that can be done.

     The first document to be posted in this section is John Taylor's 36 page booklet: Thoughts on Missions, written in 1820. John Taylor was one of the earliest Baptist preachers to come to frontier Kentucky. He was involved in the constitution of the Clear Creek Baptist Church in Woodford County and was chosen its first pastor. He came with representatives from the Great Crossing Baptist Church of Scott County to help constitute the Bullittsburg Baptist Church in northern Kentucky, in what was referred to as the North Bend of the Ohio River area, in 1794. This was the first church of any kind in the region. He and his family later moved to what became Boone County and he became the first stated preacher at Bullittsburg, though he refused to accept the role of pastor. He was preaching at Bullittsburg when revival began in 1800. This and other revivals on the frontier during that time became known as the "Second Great Awakening" and over a hundred people were converted and added to the Bullittsburg church in about a year's time.

     In the 1820s as Missions representatives from the eastern United States came into Kentucky, Taylor did not approve of how they were raising money for foreign Baptist missions. He is especially critical of Luther Rice and his methods in this article.

     Taylor never aligned himself with those known as "anti-mission" Baptists; he associated himself with the Regular Baptists and continued that association as long as he lived. It is interesting that neither William Cathcart, editor of The Baptist Encyclopedia (1881) nor Sylvester Hassell, historian of the Primitive Baptists, mentions John Taylor as being associated with the anti-mission movement. Cushing B. Hassell finished the work begun by his father, Sylvester, and published the History of the Church of God, in 1886. The book is considered by many as the definitive history on Primitive (Old School) Baptists and "anti-mission" Baptists.

     In Taylor's booklet, Thoughts on Missions, he criticized mission societies and their methods in soliciting money from the local churches on the frontier. Many say he had a leading role in the anti-mission movement that erupted in the United States in the 1820s among Baptists. This controversy included Elder Daniel Parker of Illinois and his "Two-Seed Doctrine" as well as Alexander Campbell, who for a time identified with Baptists and then began his Restoration Movement (Church of Christ/Disciples).

     John Taylor later said he probably made a mistake in writing the pamphlet. Larry D. Smith, in a journal article, pointed out that Taylor was opposed only to "mission societies;" he was never opposed to missions. The Baptist Encyclopedia says of John Taylor, "He traveled and preached extensively and probably performed more labor, and was more successful than any other pioneer Baptist preacher in Kentucky."

     Another document is the Circular Letter, written in 1830 on Campbellism, to the Franklin Baptist Association (KY). It is placed in this section as well as the Circular section. Silas M. Noel was the first Baptist pastor in Kentucky to systematically analyze Alexander Campbell's teachings from Campbell's own writings. He presented them in "Thirty-nine Articles" as a warning to the churches that Campbell was not orthodox in his theology and that he should not be invited into their churches to preach. J. H. Spencer, early Kentucky Baptist historian, says this was probably the most important associational meeting ever held in Kentucky.
     There are now several other articles on Campbellism.

     The William Whitsitt Controversy concerning immersion as Baptist baptism now has four documents.
Whitsitt was at The Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, KY in the late nineteenth century. William Whitsitt caused a controversy in the Northbend Baptist Association and generally throughout the South when it was revealed that he had written encyclopedia articles anonymously on baptism that were contrary to many Baptists' belief on the matter. The Association published a resolution regarding Whitsitt. The Boone's Creek Association of central Kentucky also passed a resolution that is posted here.
     Another document is a series of essays written by Jesse B. Thomas, who was a contemporary of Whitsitt and a professor of Baptist history in a seminary in the eastern United States. He questions some of Whitsitt's assertions.
     W. D. Nowlin describes the events from a Kentucky perspective, with statements he solicited from some of those close to the matter commenting on his essay.

     An article is by Alvah Hovey, then (1887) Professor of Theology at Newton Theological Seminary, Massachusetts. When writing on the elements of the Lord's Supper, he began: "The writer has decided to lay before his brehren the results of considerable study of this question, though with much reluctance. For his sympathies are heartily with the active friends of temperance, and it is natural to fear that some of them will count him an enemy for stating to them what he believes to be the truth." This was a controversial subject when he wrote and remains so today.

     The slavery issue within the churches in the early 19th century is discussed by William Dudley Nowlin; this essay is from his History of Kentucky Baptists.

     The article by Samuel H. Ford, editor of Ford's Christian Respository and other Baptist journals in the late 19th century, is a short essay on the issue of baptism and church membership. This editor does not agree with the writer on this matter. Ford was a Landmark Baptist and apparently this was an issue of his time.

      The article written in 1928 by M. R. Ellis asks a question that is often asked: "Was Roger Williams A Baptist?" Because of Williams' transient indentification and questionable baptism, Ellis says he wasn't a Baptist. Ellis devotes much of this article to Dr. John Clarke of Rhode Island.

     Several articles on Landmarkism are posted, as well as several links to other sites with Landmark documents.

(As additional articles are posted, this intro will be revised.)

James R. Duvall
[October, 2018: Since writing this Intro fourteen years ago, the website has become so expanded that it is not possible to summarize all the documents. Many other websites are now available, but when I began this site there was very little Baptist history on the 'new Internet.' I hope you are able to find something helpful in your quest for Baptist information. jrd]

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