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History of the Kentucky Baptists
The Christian Repository, 1857
By Samuel H. Ford

Chapter XII. - Elkhorn Association - Questions and Answers

Having noted the principle events which marked the progress of the Elkhorn Association down to the beginning of the present century; noted the steady increase of churches and members; dwelt on this worldliness and apathy which preceded the great revival, together with the extravagant fanaticism of that memorable epoch; and having summed up the statistical results of the first twenty years' labors in Kentucky - a rapid glance at the opinions of those early Baptists will prepare us for the troubles then thickening upon them. And perhaps no method will be briefer, and at the same time more comprehensive, than to select the various "Queries" which were from time to time presented to the Association.

The Association was strictly, perhaps hyper, Calvinistic. At the first conference of brethren to organize the Association, held at South Elkhorn on Saturday, the 22d of June, 1785, the following was introduced:
"Query - Whether the Philadelphia Confession of Faith adopted by the Baptists shall be strictly adhered to as the rule of our communion, or whether suspension thereof for the sake of society be best.
"Ans. It is agreed that the said received Confession of Faith be steadily adhered to."

The clause, "for the sake of society," refers to the Separate Baptists, who, though Calvinistic as their brethren, objected to all confessions.

In the constitution of the Association are these words:
"The Baptist Confession of Faith, put forth by the seven congregations met together in London in 1643, we do heartily believe in and receive, but something in the third and fifth chapters in said book we do reject, if construed in that light that makes God the cause or author of sin."

Query from Tate's Creek Church:
"What may be thought best to be done with members that hold conditional salvation.
"Ans. We would give it as our opinion to the churches to use all tenderness to reclaim such persons from their error."

Yet it will appear evident that this nor no other confession of faith was regarded as a creed to which appeal was to be made, or the language of which must be accepted as final or decisive. In that sense - a sense in which creeds in general are received - the Baptists have not and never had a creed. In the minutes of the year 1793 is recorded:

"We do agree to receive the regular Baptist Confession of Faith, but to prevent it usurping a tyrannical power over the consciences of any, we do no mean that every person is to be bound to the strict observance of every thing therein contained; yet that it holds forth the essential truths of the gospel, and that the doctrines of salvation by Christ, and free and unmerited grace alone ought to be believed and maintained by every minister. . . . and all decrees of councils, ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits are to be examined, and the sentence of the Holy Scriptures, delivered by the Holy Spirit, our faith is finally resolved."

These extracts speak for themselves, and vindicate our fathers from the false and oft-refuted charges of pinning their faith to a human creed. On these terms of Bible truth and Bible freedom the great family of Baptists in Kentucky then united, and around those principles they cling in thousands still. To a withering tyranny of opinion on the one side, and to an unscrupulous license of all shades on the other, two extremes have departed, of which we say nothing here.

Concerning Material Support
That the early Baptists of Kentucky appreciated the office and work of the ministry has been shown from the course pursued by nearly all the first constituted churches. That appreciation is still more marked in the following, which occurs in the minutes of 1787:
"Query - In regard to the duty of supporting a minister, whether it be a deb or a liberal contribution?
"Query - Whether it is agreeable to Scripture for churches to suffer men to preach, and have the care of them as their ministers, that are trading and entangling themselves with the affairs of this life.
"Ans. - That it is not agreeable to Scripture; but it is the duty of the churches to give their ministers a reasonable support, and restrict them in these (business) respects."

Query from the church at Limestone, (1788):
"Whether churches belonging to the Association that do not comply with the solemn duty of supporting their ministers with a comfortable living, so as to keep them from worldly encumbrance, shall be held in the fellowship of this Association?"
Debated and answered:
"That a committed be appointed to visit the church at Limestone in particular, and all the churches in general, and to set in order and make report to next Association. Committee - John Gano, A. Dudley."

At the next Association the committee reported that the church was willing to comply with her duty. Other and numerous instances might be given, all loudly protesting against the allegation made, even by Baptists, against the pioneer churches in Kentucky -- that they were opposed to a liberal support of their ministers.

Ministerial Operations
In the year 1786, ere the echo of the war-whoops had ceased to reverberate, and the congregations worshiped in their garments of skins, Kentucky was emphatically a missionary field; nor had a missionary, or agent, or delegated preacher from any society or organization appeared in any of the settlements. In fact, each church was a missionary organization, each preacher an evangelist. As a consequence, in their Associations they recognized their responsibility to supply with preaching each destitute field; and in their third annual gathering they undertook to supply each destitute church with preaching.

Boone's Creek had been organized a year previous, but had not pastor. Each church in the Associaiton was thus placed under contribution of labor for its supply.

From Clear Creek the first Saturday and Sunday in September. From South Elkhorn the First Saturday and Sunday in October. From Bryant's the first Saturday and Sunday in November. The same of Crossings, Town Fork, and Tate's Creek, thus supplying the church with monthly preaching.

Labor was then, as it frequently is now, not to be obtained for mere compensation. To part with a pastor for a Sabbath, or for a pastor to go to a distance and destitute region, is generally a far greater sacrifice than a contribution from the one, or a missionary speech from the other. The man who supplys [sic] the destitution is the real missionary, and the church that feels bound to contribute even its own minister's labor, is the real missionary body. And such were our early churches and ministers -- thoroughly missionary.

At the session of 1783, the case of the church at "Tennessee line" was taken up "to try to engage ministering brethren to assist them. Brethren James Sutton and John Mason agreed to pay a visit the first of July, and at their return John Sutton and F. Addams will also visit them, and remain with them a like term. A subscription was proposed in the Association to defray the expenses of the above brethren, and the sum of ten poinds six shillings and eight pence was raised." No small sum, most certainly, for that day. Had not these men the spirit of missions?

INDIAN MISSIONS were early the subject of prayer and effort among those who had witnessed their savage cruelties. On a request being made by the church at South Elkhorn to send missionaries to the Indians, it was "agreed to appoint a committee of five members to hear and determine on the call of any of our ministers, &c., and if satisfied therewith, to give them credentials for that purpose -- to sell subscriptions on foot, to receive collections, for the use of our missionary brethren. And it is recommended to the churches to encourage subscriptions for said purposes, and have the money lodged with the deacons till called for by the committee. And Brethren Barrow, Ambrose Dudley, John Price, A. Eastin, and G. Smith appointed said committee."

Thus was the Elkhorn Association the first missionary body west of the mountains

Provision for Aged Preachers
Among us it is painful, if not a discreditable fact, that those who have born the heat of the day, and bowed beneath the weight of years and infirmities have retired from the harvest fields, are often left to linger in loneliness, and sometimes in want. A poor old minister of Jesus Christ, who has spent his best days and life-labor in the service of the denomination, who has never stopped in his course to gather up the wealth of this world, as the evening of life flings its shadows over him, to find himself neglected, penniless. Sad sight, indeed!

At the Elkhorn Association of 1801, a committee was appointed to solicit from each church contributions for "our aged brethren, John Gano, David Thomas 'the old blind preacher,' and John Sutton, as an indication of our love and care of them in their old age," &c.

Query from South Elkhorn:
"What constitutes Baptism valid?
"And. The administrator ought to have been baptized himself by immersion, called to preach, and ordained as the Scriptures direct, and that the candidate make a profession of his faith, and be immersed in the name of the Trinity."

This subject was again introduced in 1822, when it was decided "that it is not regular to receive persons baptized by an administrator not regularly ordained."

These queries and resolutions give us an insight to the spirit and usages of this venerable body. It commenced in feebleness in the wilderness; it had now, in the space of sixteen years, increased to a strong, efficient, and influential body. But though it suffered but little from the extravagances of the "great revival," it was not entirely to escape trouble. Barton W. Stone had progressed from formal Presbyterianism to the wildest fanaticism. He had now coolly settled down into a rational semi-Arianism, denying the deity of Christ, and the atonement. Several Baptists were found treading the same path. Prominent among them were Ausustus Easten, pastor of Cooper's Run Church, Bourbon County, and James Garrard, then Governor of Kentucky.

To meet as soon as possible the difficulty, an extra session of the Association was called at Great Crossings the third Saturday in August, 1803. A committee was appointed to visit the three churches infected with Arianism -- Cooper's, Flat Lick and Indian Lick. At the next Association, "It was resolved, that the Cooper's Run be dropt from the union of this Association for denying the doctrine of the Trinity, and that Jesus Christ is truly God." The majorities of the other two churches adhered to the principles held by the Association.

Although talents, wealth, and extensive influence were possessed by the expelled party, their race was a brief one, and the injury inflicted but slight. Stone and his colleagues were then Pedo-baptists and sprinklers, an insuperable bar to any union between Easten and the New Lights; and without any ecclesiastical association or support, his party soon entirely disappeared.

The Regulars and Separates were soon after permanently united; peace and prosperity smiled on them, and promised a continued harvest. But a new difficulty arose. Originating in personal misunderstanding, it spread its influence through the bounds of the Association, and, becoming more and more serious at every step of its progress, at length threatened the dissolution of the whole organization. Of this we shall next speak.

Having given a synopsis of the minutes of this Association up to 1801, a continuation here follows:

Sixteenth Session
At Cowper's Run, on the 14th August, 1802.
Introductory by Elder Redding.
A. Eastin, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Letters from thirty-six churches, members, and twelve new churches received, in all forty-six churches, counting 5,310 members.
New churches - Ridge of Dennon's Creek, Union, Mount Gilead, Mount Pleasant, Mill Creek, David's Fork, Hillsborough, Bank Lick, Brush Fork, Clover Bottom, Rockbridge, Twelve Mile.
A serious difficulty between the church at Crossings and that at McConnell's Run. A committee sent to heal it.
South Elkhorn enquires what constitutes baptism valid?
Ans. The administrator ought to have been baptized himself by immersion, legally called to preach the gospel, and ordained as the Scripture directs. And that the candidates for baptism make a profession of his faith in Jesus Christ; and that he be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by dipping the whole body in water.

Mode of Receiving Persons Excluded in other States.
The church which the person wishes to join should write to the church which excluded him for a statement of the offense committed; of which, with the acknowledgement, they are to judge. But if the remote church be dissolved, the other may act at discretion.
Town Fork church is dissatisfied with the union with the Separate Baptists. A committee sent to comfort her.

Seventeenth Conference
At Great Crossings, on 3d Saturday in April, 1803.
David Barrow, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Letters received from thirty-three churches; also from eighty-six churches on Green River.
Appointed a committee (Barrow, Price, Dudley, Redding, and Tarrant,) to visit the churches at Cowper's Run, Flat Lick, Indian Creek, and Union, to endeavor to convince them of their heresy respecting the Trinity, and make report.
Enquiry - Does this body believe the doctrine of the Trinity, as contained in the Confession of Faith?
Answered, unanimously - They do.

Eighteenth Conference
At Town Fork, on the 13th of August, 1803.
Introductory by G. Eve.
A. Dudley, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Letters from 40 churches; members, 4,422.
Cowper's Run church dropped from the union of this Association for denying the doctrine of the Trinity, and holding that Jesus Christ is not truly God.
Agreed, That that part of the Flat Lick church who hold to their constitution, and believe in the divinity of Christ, be considered the church.
Voted unanimously, That the union formed with the Baptists South of Kentucky does not remove them, in the least, from their constitutional principles.

Nineteenth Conference
At North Elkhorn, the 2d Saturday in August, 1804.
Introductory by Lewis Corbin, Ps. 84:11.
A. Dudley, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Present Creath from Town Fork; Vardeman from South District.
Mount Gilead. Query - Is it constitutional of a member in good standing to have a letter of dismission to join a sister church nearer to him?
The Association modestly refused answering.
Sundry churches dismissed with leave to join other Associations.
A request from sundry black brethren, who dissented from Cowper's Run, when she embraced the Arian heresy, attended to.
Agreed, To insert in the minutes the death of our beloved brother, John Gano, who departed this life August 9, 1804, in about his 80th year. He lived and died an ornament to religion.

Twentieth Conference
At Bryans, on the 10th of August, 1805.
Introductory by Carter Tarrant, Mark, 16:15.
A. Dudley, Moderator; John Price, Clerk.
Letters from 35 churches; members 3,550.
Preached on Sunday - Elder Redding, from 2 Corinthians, 5:17; Elder Vardeman, from 1 Corinthians, 16:22; Elder Barrow, from 2 Corinthians, 5:10.
Circular Letter, by Brother James Johnson rejected.
Query from Boone's Creek - What is a member to do, who, when in good standing, applies for a letter of dismission, and is denied?
"Answer - Withdraw."
Several churches request a revision of the confession of faith and discipline. Accordingly, a committee was appointed, viz: Dudley, Redding, Price, Tarrant, R. Johnson, Bart, Collins, and Payne, to revise and report any necessary amendments.
Query from Glenn's Creek - Is it right for Baptists to go to barbecues on the 4th of July.
Answer - No.

This Association judges it improper for ministers, churches, or associations, to meddle with emancipation from slavery, or any other political subject; and as such, we advise ministers and churches to have nothing to do therewith in their religious capacities.

{Note. - Here began the emancipation dissension. - S.H.F.}


[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, October, 1857, pp. 581-588. - Jim Duvall]

Chapter Thirteen
Ford's Kentucky Baptist History
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