Chapter VIII. - South Kentucky Association - Separates and Regulars
In the present county of Larue, about one miles above Hodgenville, a beautiful knoll rise to the height of thirty feet above a broad creek. It contains about two acres of ground, and on its level surface now stands a convenient dwelling. This natural curiosity was early chosen as a station, and received its name from an incident we shall here introduce.
Early in the year 1781, as Lewis Craig and his traveling Church in passing through the wilderness, had turned the Cumberland Gap, another company, from Virginia, were passing in flatboats down the Ohio to land at Beargrass, or the mouth of the Salt River. These, also, had been martyrs of the plebian sect, and had suffered their share of persecution in the Old Dominion. They were Separate Baptists, from the neighborhood of Winchester. Among them were three preachers, John Larue, after whom the county is now called, John Garrard, and Benjamin Lynn. Landing at Beargrass, they plunged into the wilderness, directing their course towards Philip's Fort, which was situated some three miles up the creek, above the knoll. They reached their destination, but not without hardship and suffering. Selecting the knoll as their fort or station, they prepared to survey the county and make provisions for the approaching winter.
In one of their hunting expeditions Lynn was separated from his companions, and was bewildered and lost in the forests. The company returned at night, but could give no tidings of Lynn. A consultation was held, and it was resolved that the wearied hunters should spend the night in search for their lost friend and pastor. The camp-fires blazed on the brow of the hill, and beside them, in agony, watched through the long night, the wife of the lost one. The distant sounds of the horn came mingled with the moan of the chill winds, and through each hour of the night was heard the approaching tread of some returning hunter, as he came towards the knoll to report, and learn if the lost had yet been found by the searchers. "No Lynn," would break the silence as the fort was approached. "No Lynn yet," was the answer from the sentinel on the knoll, and back again, went the weary hunter into the depths of the midnight forest.
Morning came. The company, one after another, returned. "No Lynn yet," was still the report, and the answer. Again they renewed the search. Some fifteen miles from the knoll they found where he had encamped, and called it "Lynn Camp Creek." They soon found the object of their search. Worn and exhausted he was borne back to his family and friends. That night was never to be forgotten; and the loved man of God, who, on the beautiful knoll, was the first to announce the glorious gospel of peace in all that region south of the Salt River, impressed his name and his memory on the scenes of his sufferings. The knoll was called "No Lynn;" the creek that sweeps by it is called "No Linn" creek; and the No Linn Association, together with other local names, perpetuates his memory. But deeds were his unnoticed by the pen of the historian, which are recorded in heaven. To the scattered huntsman he was the messenger of peace. In Phillip's fort, at No Linn, all along the stations on the Green River, wherever a settlement was made, Lynn was found an early visitor; swimming rivers, passing through the most perilous dangers; on his hands and knees at midnight, crawling through or near the Indian encampments. He counted not his life dear unto him, that he might preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, instruct, confirm and comfort the suffering forefathers of Kentucky. Like that well-known dome, on which he so often preached, ere one tree had fallen in the dark forest around it, his memory should stand forth prominent and familiar; a symbol, a memorial, of the endurances and the principles of the denomination to which he belonged.
The first Church, collected and organized by Benjamin Lynn, was on No Linn creek. This was in 1792. It was the second Baptist Church, and the second of any other denomination in Kentucky. It was composed of thirteen members, and met at Phillip's fort, about a quarter of a mile from the knoll. Three years afterwards he settled on Pottinger's creek, in Larue county, and founded a Church of eighteen members. These were both Separate Churches, and till recently, never united with their Regular brethren.
Allusion has already been made to the distinctions among the Baptists of the last century, marked by the terms "Separate" and "Regular."
Simply to distinguish themselves from others, and for no other reason, have those, now known as Baptists, adopted the various names, originating with their friends or foes. The time will come when they will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. The people of God are, by him and his inspired servants, called saints - the holy ones - the sanctified. But derision or malice have given them appellations of various significance. They were called Christian first at Antioch. They were called Ana-baptists because they denied the validity of ceremony invented by a human and anti-Christian priesthood. In putting forth a vindication of their principles and practices in what is called the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, they styled themselves "Congregations of Christians" (baptized on profession of faith). From the fact of these having usually been denominated Baptists or Baptizers - a concession from all parties of the validity of their baptism - they have adopted that appellation. Their name may change, as it has done, with the change of language; but their principles are indestructible; they can never die. But the party names of Separate and Regular did not arise in the denomination. The former was transferred with the Separates from the Congregationalists of New England, who afterwards became Baptists, and brought this appellation with them. They had been kindled to ardent zeal under the preaching of the great Whitfield. Extravagances, as is usual, marked their appeals and their exercises. As a new addition to the Baptist ranks, and still known as Separates, their older brethren were, of course, called the Regular Baptists.
When Lewis Craig and the majority of his Church moved from Lincoln county into the neighborhood of South Elkhorn, the remnant remaining at Gilbert's Creek, few and scattered as they were, met seldom, and soon virtually dissolved. In the mean-time, Joseph Bledsoe moved into the vicinity, and preached in the little Gilbert's Creek meeting house. He finally, in October of 1783, constituted a new Church in the same house, with the same name, and, indeed, with the same principles as the other Church. The secret of this course was obvious to his contemporaries. He was a pious, zealous man, but strongly tinctured with Arminianism, and jealous of the tendency of his brethren of the Separate order towards the opposite extreme.
At the Conference, held at South Elkhorn, for an Association, Moses Bledsoe, Joseph Bledsoe, S. Smith, and Joseph Craig were present. They were alike in their views, and all violently opposed to the Calvinism of the Regular Baptists. This extreme opposition doubtless decided Craig, Taylor and Hickman, old Separates in Virginia, to unite with the few Regulars among them, and adopt the Philadelphia Confession.
The opposition to the doctrines advocated by the more Calvinistic brethren, was directed against the adoption of a creed, or confession of any kind. This was the rallying point of the Separates.
On the other hand it was argued that the opposition to the Confession could not be to it, but to the truth it embodied. For were the Confession buried, they would still oppose what the Regulars cherished, and must ever preach.1
As an expression or publication of their convictions as received from God's book, has ever been the only object of Baptists in their confessions or articles of faith, these convictions were their's before any such confession was given to the world. They would have been as fixed and as thorough had no such confession ever seen the light. To hold the principles they do, and to avow them, are equally right or equally wrong. But while they are held with a steadfastness which time, and change, and persecution have never been able to weaken; to avow them tangibly and fearlessly, was a consequence, not a cause, to be looked for and expected. Such an avowal, every honest and earnest man is ready to make; and such an avowal, nothing more and nothing less, was the Baptist Confession of Faith. True manliness, if opposed to them, would attack the principles therein embodied; sophistry would attack the instrument in which they are set forth. If the principles are baseless, let them be scattered to the winds; if founded on truth, the confession of them is noble, and their advocacy true valor.
But the Baptists never designed or adopted this confession as a standard of doctrine or discipline; nor could it, in the very nature of things, be the denominational creed. Such a thing Baptist have never had, and never can have while they continue to be Baptists. The sovereignty of each independent Church renders such a thing impossible, and no Baptist, understanding his own principles, would subscribe to a confession or human formula, as a standard of doctrine or discipline.
As the Philadelphia Confession will often be appealed to in the course of this history: as its character and authority among Baptists, have been either unknown or misrepresented; as its influence has been invoked and its name clung to, even when the principles it embodies were departed from; as in the dust and battle of the current reformation, it was made the butt of ridicule and the antagonist of truth; and as it is now but little known and sparsely circulated - a few words about its history and character will not be out of place.
Early in the seventeenth century, the ministers and messengers of seven congregations of English Baptists, including one French congregation, met in London; and being charged with holding gross errors and denying the Protestant faith, together with opinions subversive of the government, they put forth this Confession of Faith to clear themselves from those baseless allegations, In 1689, a Convention of ministers and members from upwards of one hundred baptized congregations (thus they styled themselves) met in n London on the 3d of July, The Confession, put forth forty-six years previously, was revised and re-published in the name of the Convention, as an exponent of the principles held by these Baptized congregations. As an evidence of their object in this publication, we quote from their introductory address:
"COURTEOUS READER: - It is now many years since divers of us (with other sober Christians then living, and walking in the way of the Lord - we profess), did conceive ourselves to be under the necessity of publishing a Confession of our Faith, for the information and satisfaction of those who did thoroughly understand what our principles were, or had entertained prejudices against our profession, by reason of the strange representation of them, by some men of note, who had taken very wrong measures, and accordingly led others into misapprehensions of us and them. And this was the first put forth about the year 1643, in the name of seven congregations, then gathered in London; since which time divers impressions [editions] thereof have been dispersed abroad, and our end proposed, in a good measure, answered inasmuch as many (and some of these men eminent, both for piety and learning) were thereby satisfied, that we were no way guilty of those heterodoxies and fundamental errors, which had too frequently been charged upon us without ground, or occasion given to our part.
* * * * *
"One thing that greatly prevailed with us to undertake this work, was, not only to give a full account of ourselves to those Christians who differ from us about the subject of baptism, but also the profit that might from thence arise unto those who have any account of our labors, in their instruction and establishment in the great truths of the gospel; in the clear understanding and steady belief of which our comfortable walking with God, and fruitfulness before Him, in all our ways, are most nearly concerned; and therefore we did conclude it necessary to express ourselves the more fully and distinctly; and also to fix on such a method as might be most comprehensive of those things we designed to explain our sense and belief of.
* * * * * * *
"In those things wherein we differ from others, we have expressed ourselves with all candor and plainness, that none might entertain jealousy of ought secretly lodged in our breasts, that we would not the world should be acquainted with. Yet we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty and humility, as will render our freedom, in this respect, inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours.
* * * * *
"There is one thing more which we sincerely profess, and earnestly desire credence in, viz: That contention is most remote from our design in all that we have done in this matter. And we hope the liberty of an ingenuous unfolding of our principles, and opening our hearts unto our brethren, with the scripture grounds on which our faith and practice, will by none of them be denied to us, or taken ill from us. Our whole design is accomplished if we may obtain that justice, as to be measured by our principles and practice, and the judgment of both by others, according to what we have now published; which the Lord, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, knoweth to be the doctrine, which with our hearts we most firmly believe, and sincerely endeavor to conform our lives to.
"We shall conclude with our earnest prayer, That the God of all grace will pour out those measures of His Holy Spirit upon us, that the profession of truth may be accompanied with the sound belief, and diligent practice of it by us, that His name may, in all things, be glorified through Jesus Christ, our Lord: Amen."
A clearer proof than this cannot be asked, that Baptists never made this Confession as a standard, or as having any binding authority on the Churches or ministry. To defend themselves against the slanders of their foes was their sole object, and this object it measurable accomplished.
This English work was revised by the Philadelphia Association in 1742, and was afterwards, in America, called the Philadelphia Confession.
The Separates in Kentucky, however, dreaded it as a yoke on the neck of Christ's freedom. The Regulars, or at least some of them, were inclined to make it the standard of ultimate appeal. Had both parties understood its object, and believed the principles it embodied, no dissension could have occurred from its publication or adoption. As it was, the possibility of a union was abandoned; and the Separates prepared to constituted a new Association of Churches whose views were in harmony.
In October, 1785, five Churches met, by their delegates, at Gilbert's Creek, to form a Separate Baptist Association.
Present, from Gilbert's Creek, Joseph Bledsoe, Moses Bledsoe.
No Linn, Joseph Dodge.
Pottinger's Creek, Benjamin Lynn, Jas. Milburn.
Head of Boone's Creek, Robert Elkin, William Bush.
Rush Branch, John Bailey, James Smith.
Joseph Bledsoe was chosen Moderator, James Smith, Clerk.
They formed the South Kentucky Association. Small was its beginning. It did not number, in all, more than on hundred members. Without a meeting-house; without singing books, frequently without Bibles; surrounded by the wilderness and the savage; privations and dangers; they erected their simple altars; they clung to the teachings of God's own word, and steadily they progressed in knowledge, in numbers, and in usefulness.
In 1792, the South Kentucky Association comprized eighteen Churches, nine ordained ministers, and eight hundred and thirty-six members. Among these Churches were the Forks of Dix River, 2d Boone's Creek, Tates Creek, West Fork of Cox's Creek, Howard's Creek, Jessamine Creek, and Huston Creek.
It will be seen, by reference to the minutes of the Elkhorn Association, that in 1793, an effort was made to reconcile any differences existing between the Regular and Separate Baptists. A union had been effected between them in Virginia, and in the Carolinas. In 1789, a letter had been received by the Elkhorn Association, from the General Committee of Virginia, informing them of union. On the reception of this letter, it was,
"Agreed to drop the appellation, Regular, in all letters going from this Association."
Following this was a communication from the South Kentucky Association, where a similar letter, from Virginia, had been received. A Committed bore this letter, composed of John Bailey, Joseph Bledsoe, William Bledsoe, and A. Treble. They were invited to seats, and endeavored to effect a union. A Committee - Jas. Garrard (afterwards Governor of Kentucky), R. Johnson (the father of Richard M. Johnson), John Taylor, and A. Eastin, were appointed to confer with the Committed from South Elkhorn.
A General Association was appointed at Herod's Meeting-house the following August, of two lay members from each Church. The meeting was held; but the union was not consummated. In 1793, the same Committee, having visited the South Elkhorn Association, reported as follows:"We do agree to receive the Regular Baptist Confession of Faith; but to prevent its usurping a tyrannical power over the consciences of any, we do not mean that any person is bound to a strict observance of everything contained therein; yet that it holds forth the essential truths of the gospel; that the Supreme, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancients writers, doctrines of men and private spirits are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest - can be no other but the Holy Scriptures."This preamble being unanimously adopted by the Elkhorn Association, it was believed that the union between the two bodies was finally formed. At the next Association of South Kentucky the preamble was presented, and by a large majority rejected, and the probability of a union made more hopeless than ever. Fresh misunderstandings arose, and old animosities rekindled. The names, Regular and Separate, were dropt. Both were in correspondence with the General Committee of Virginia. And thus, with the same name (United Baptists), and the same principles, an apparently impassible barrier divided them.
And here we shall leave them till we enter on the second period in the history of the denomination which naturally follows the Great Revival.
Minutes of the Seventh session of the Elkhorn AssociationOccasional - at Bryan's.
On the 26th of Dec., 1791 - James Garrard, Moderator, John Price, Clerk.
Messengers from thirteen Churches present.
Received the Church at Cedar Creek; also that at Columbia, in N. W. Territory of Ohio.
The Church at the Crossings, having complied with the advice given, took her seat, by her messengers, E. Craig, Wm Cave, Robert Johnson and John Payne.
Resolved, That this Association disapprove of the memorial which the last Association agreed to send to the Convention, at Danville, on the subject of Religious Liberty, and the Abolition of Slavery.
Received a letter from the General Committed of the United Baptist Churches of Virginia, and agreed to correspond.
Eighth SessionOn the 31st of August, 1792, at Tate's Creek - Introductory by James Garrard.
John Gano, Moderator, Aug. Eastin, Clerk.
Present, messengers from twenty-three Churches; three of which (Indian Creek, South Licking, and Sugar Creek), received at this meeting.
Agreed, that the advice given to the Church at the Crossings, not to consider persons, received by eaith party after the division, as members, etc., was not agreeable to the principles on which this Association is united.
Appointed a Committed to visit Cane Run Church, to inquire into the difference existing between her and the Church at the Crossing.
Ninth SessionAt Bryan's, on the 18th of May, 1793. Introductory by Wm. Wood.
James Garrard, Moderator; A. Eastin, Clerk.
Present, members from twenty-five Churches - counting 1,847 members.
The Churches at Grassy Lick and Flat Lick, received at this meeting.
Query - Is baptism valid when administered by a Pedobaptist minister? Agreed to advise the Churches at act with care and caution in this particular.
Nothing is more earnestly to be desired, among the people of God, than Union and Fellowship. Agreed, therefore, that an attempt be made for a Union with the Baptist Association, on the South of Kentucky, and that A. Dudley, James Garrard, James Taylor, John Price, and A. Eastin, be appointed a Committed to attend their next Association, with full power to confer freely on terms of Union, and if hopeful appearance of effecting the same, they may, with their brethren, appoint a time and place for the Churches in both Unions to convene by their Delegates, to carry said Union into effect.
Agreed to correspond with the Redstone Association.
The Committed, appointed to receive the Confession of Faith, report two amendments, too trivial to be named. They are directed to revise the discipline.
Appointed Edward Payne, Treasurer of General Fund.
Occasional - At South Elkhorn, on the 12th of October, 1793.
Introductory by A. Eastin.
John Gano, Moderator; A. Eastin, Clerk.
Church at Springfield received.
A happy reconciliation between the Church at the Crossings, and that at Cane Run, reported.
The Committee, appointed to visit South Kentucky Association, report an agreement to unite on the following terms, to wit:
We do agree to receive the Regular Baptist Confession of Faith; but to prevent its usurping a tyrannical power over the consciences of any, we do not mean that every person is to be bound to a strict observance of everything contained therein; yet, that it holds forth the essential truths of the gospel, and that the Doctrines of Salvation by Christ, and free and unmerited grace above, ought to be believed by every Christian, and maintained by every minister of the gospel; and that we do believe in those doctrines relative to the trinity, the divinity of Christ, the sacred authority of the scriptures, the universal depravity of human nature, the total inability of men to help themselves without the aid of divine grace, the necessity of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the justification of persons entirely by the righteousness of Christ imputed; believers baptism by immersion only, and self-denial; and that the Supreme, by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men and private spirits are to examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the holy scripture, delivered by the Spirit, into which scripture, so delivered, our faith if finally resolved.
A large majority of the Association acceding to these terms, the Union was formed by mutual consent.
Agreed tot appoint a Committed to continue correspondence with the General Committee in Virginia, and the Association South of James River; also with an Association on Holstein.
Agreed that this Association meet annually, on the second Saturday in August.
Tenth SessionAt Cooper's Run, on the 8th of August, 1795. Jas. Garrard, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Introductory by E. Craig,
"Several strange ministers invited to seats." Four Churches to wit: Bracken, Licking, Forks of Licking, and Great Bend, received.
Query, from Town Fork, now more than two years ago under consideration -
What is the origin and divine authority of an Association? The use and extent of its power? The principles on which admission into, or rejection from it are justifiable?
Jno. Gano, Jo. Redding, and Francis Dunlavy, were appointed to answer it.
Answer. The divine authority of an Association are the commands in God's word, for Christians to assemble together in His name, for worship and counsel, and union to Christ and one another; and that its use is for mutual edification and assistance; to cultivate uniformity of sentiments in principle and practice; and that its power is to regulate and govern itself as a body, and give such advice to the Churches as may be for their peace. And that any Church, who agrees to the principles on which we ourselves are united, ought to be admitted; and any Church, who openly oppose these principles, ought to be rejected.
The report, in favor of an Association Fund, voted out.
Marble Creek asks if the last Association were not guilty of covenant breaking, in dissolving the union? &c.
Another Committee appointed to negotiate a union.
Agreed, That there is no necessity to re-ordain a Deacon.
Eleventh SessionAt Town Fork, on the 13th of August, 1796. Introductory by John Gano. A. Dudley, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Letters from twenty-eight Churches, counting 1,934 members.
Two Churches, M'Connell's Run and Stone Lick received.
Elder H. Toler invited to seat.
Received a letter from the United Baptists, and appoint a Committee to confer with them, respecting a union.
Complaints were received against Boone's Creek Church. She is advised to call helps from sister Churches, to adjust her difficulties.
Agreed, In regard to a union with the United Baptists, it is the wish of this Association, that every possible and friendly effort be made, in Christian love, to cultivate intimacy and harmony in conversing, praying and preaching together, which will give an opportunity to know how near we agree in gospel principles anmd discipline; and that a Committed be appointed to confer with any Committed they may appoint; and that any plan agreed upon, be made known to the different Churches for their consideration.
Gano, Eastin, Redding and Dudley, appointed.
REMARK. In the future prosecution of these sketches, I shall present the General history of the Denomination as a distinct theme. It will include,
1st . The Great Revival, and its effects.
2d. The division of Elkhorn and formation of Licking Association.
3d. The Union of the Separate and Regular Baptists.
4th. The Formation of the Emancipationist Association.
5th. The Rise of the Current Reformation.
Separate from this, I shall give a succinct history of each Association, as gathered from the minutes. Thus presenting and preserving the history of each distinct Association. The field is a rich one, but to harvest it, is no trifling labor.
1 Circular Letter, Elkhorn Association, 1788.
[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, October, 1856, pp. 203-214. The Footnote is changed to an endnote; symbol changed to number. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
Ford's Kentucky Baptist History
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