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The Characteristics and Mission of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association
By R. P. Johnson, Moderator
Biblical Recorder, 1909
     (This address was delivered by R. P. Johnson, before this Association at its opening session at Tyson's Creek, Chatham County, (NC) September 30, 1909. A copy is sent to the Biblical Recorder for publication by request of the Association.)


      Perhaps no dictionary nor encyclopedia has yet correctly defined a Baptist Association. Other religious assemblies meet under various names, but in which does the spirit of independence and freedom of thought and action equal that in an Association? And yet where do you find greater harmony prevailing, more unity of purpose exercised and a freer-spirit of co-operation in working to build up the Master's Kingdom in the world than in a Baptist Association? It is a very important meeting and cornea quite close to the churches. To consider its characteristics, it is necessary to consider the characteristics of the churches composing it.

      This Association is composed of forty-five churches whose purpose it should be to execute the laws which Christ has given. The churches are the executive department of the Kingdom of God in this world. Each church is a perfect democracy and a complete republic in one. A Baptist Church is a local and independent assembly; it is an organization separate and apart from all others, and is a full and complete church in its organization, government, officers and, discipline; it is independent of all other churches and ecclesiastical bodies, whatever. There is no court of appeal from the decision of a local church to a higher tribunal. Hence it follows that this Association is independent of any and all other associations or conventions, but it is ever and always ready to exercise a brotherly love and Join hands with other associations in the work of promulgating the gospel, and is always willing and glad to do its part in the State Convention in helping to evangelize the world.

      The New Testament speaks of the churches in terms tike these: "The church at Jerusalem;" "The church at Antioch;" "Salute the church In Nympha's house." These quotations and many others like them, which could be quoted, prove that the New Testament was a local assembly. No church in Scripture is ever called a part or branch of the church in Macedonia, or anywhere else.

      At one time in her history, however, this Association fell into a mistake as to her power and jurisdiction over the churches. "She carried matters so far as to leave hardly any power in the individual churches," All the while it was admitted that complete power was in each church, but it was argued that this power could be transferred. This error was soon corrected by reference to to teachings of the New Testament.

      Now the present constitution of this Association fully explains the relation of the Association to the churches composing it, in Article 4, which reads as follows: "All members thus chosen and convened shall have no power to lord it over God's heritage, nor shall they infringe on any of the internal rights of any church belonging to this Union, but shall sit as an advisory council." Christ has placed in each church all the power he has given; and the church can not transfer it to any body!

      As Baptists are strict-constructionists, take the Bible for what it says, and demand a "Thus saith the Lord" for their theory and practice in all divine things, you say, "Where is their authority for Associations?" In Proverbs 24:6 we have, "In the multitude of counsellors there is safety," which we think, is authority for advisory councils like associations.

      The Jewish annual meetings, endorsed by Christ by His attendance at them, suggest the idea of our annual meetings. And what was that council at Jerusalem, described in Acts 15 th chapter, but a real Baptist association, composed of representatives of the two great churches, one at Jerusalem and the other the mother-church of Gentile Christianity at Antioch? Perhaps, most of the leaders in that council had been disciples of John the Baptist; hence, they were Baptists. But what was done at this council? Some careless reader has said that an appeal was taken up to the church at Jerusalem from the decision of the Antioch church. This was not the case, because no decision had been made by the church at Antioch; and "certain which came down from Judea." The delegates or representatives carried the question up to Jerusalem for information and advice. They did not legislate; they made no laws, but the apostles, elders, and brethren discussed the matter, and by a majority vote, a letter was ordered to be written - a letter of advice - and it was done, and sent back to Antioch. A doctrinal question was decided, whether or not a man must become a Jew in order to become a Christian. This letter gave consolation to many, and was a very important decision for the Gentile converts especially. So far as the record goes, this was all the business transacted at this meeting. Great harmony and brotherly love prevailed. So may it be in this Association.

      Then some more characteristics of an association are:

(1) It is only an advisory council.
(2) It has Scripture authority for its organization.
(3) It Is independent of all other organizations.
(4) All of its members have the right to vote on all questions coming before the body.
(5) All questions are decided by a majority or by a two-thirds majority of its own members.
(6) It sends no one anywhere against his own will.
(7) It calls for volunteer service, and free-will offerings.
(8) In its every exercise, it discourages ritualism and formality.
(9) It has no confession of faith and no book of discipline other than the New Testament, and "is not shackled by human creed."
(10) It is an effort to obey the command, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
(11) It recognizes no titled dignitaries nor rulers in its membership, but all as brethren in Christ.
(12) It has no bond of union among its members except the constitution, rules and regulations made by its own members, and the bond of brotherly love in Christ Jesus.
(13) It assumes no responsibility nor control in regard to the relation of pastor and church.
(14) It works in perfect harmony with the State Convention.
(15) It stands for the right and for God in all lines.


[From the Biblical Recorder, November 17, 1909, p. 5.



      Why have these delegates left their homes and various vocations and traveled ten, twenty, or even thirty, miles to attend this meeting, and what, is the purpose of this Association? It is to transact business for the Lord. This work must be of a two-fold nature, devotional and executive. The object of any Christian life should be to glorify God. This must be done in two general ways: in bringing sinners to Christ, and in building up Christian character in self or in others, or in both. What is true of the individual Christian is true of the individual church, and what is true of the individual church is true of the representatives of these individual churches - the Association. We are here to get power to work for God when we return to our homes. This is a kind of coaling station, on our great sea of life. We are here to get wisdom to work wisely for our Saviour in winning souls to His Kingdom and in expanding Christian character.

      I remark in the first place, that successful service to God can be rendered only by looking to Him for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The devotional exercises of this Union are to the collective body in its work what the morning prayers of the singular servant of God are to him in the discharge of his dally duties. For one to go forth to the fearful responsibilities of life in the morning without asking God's guidance and protection is a perilous thing to do; it is like embarking on the ocean without helm, rudder or compass. Many days of prayer preceded the day of Pentecost; and so must we put ourselves In readiness for God's blessings if we would have Him bless us.

      Again, tae interchanging of plans, thoughts and experiences has always been a large part of the work of this Association. Peter, Barnabas and Paul profited by their experiences; for by this means they solved the difficulty before them. And we are told in Malachi 3:16: "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard It, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." This was a method used by the brethren in the early history of the Association in developing the church membership, in all the Christian graces and gifts in order to obey the marching orders of their Saviour: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." They all the while realized that the essential qualifications necessary for soul-winning must be a regenerate heart, a love for souls and a confidence in mankind.

      Elder G. W. Purefoy In his "History of the Sandy Creek Association," says in regard to the first few sessions held: "By means of these meetings, the Gospel was carried Into new places.... At their Associations their chief employment was preaching, exhortation, singing and conversation about the various exertions in the Redeemer's service, the success which had often attended them and the new and prosperous scenes which were opening before them. These things so inflamed the hearts of the ministers that they would leave the Association with a zeal and courage which no common obstacle could impede." The same author quotes from Elder James, Reade who was present and a member of the first meeting of this body: "At our first Association we continued together three or four days.... The great power of God was among us, the preaching every day seemed to be attended with God's blessing. We carried on our Association with sweet decorum and fellowship to the end." If these quotation do not show us the object, they show us the effect of these annual meetings at first. And some of us have known of gracious revivals immediately following where these annual meetings were held.

      It seems to me that at this meeting the Association is entering upon a new era in its history and work. The published program is a new departure, and an advance step, I hope, in the right direction. And we are due the committee thanks for their careful arrangement of our program. There are other changes that will, probably, be made at this time which will lead to get us out of the old ruts and former routine plans.

      Along this line allow some questions to be asked and some suggestions to be made.

      On the temperance report, a chairman has been selected who will deal with the subject carefully and prudently. On this topic we need no speeches. It is time now for action. Every good citizen should be thankful to God for the success that is attending the prohibition cause, and should feel it his imperative duty to do what he can to see that the law is properly executed.

      Hitherto the report on Sunday-schools has been somewhat "side-tracked," and considered one of the minor reports, but this year it has been rightly given a prominent place on the program, and one of the best Sunday-school workers in the Association has been appointed chairman of this report in order to magnify the work. We have a Sunday School Association which meets once a year, and this year there has been organized a Teachers' Institute in this Association. These are encouraging features, but great need of development is shown by reference to the minutes of last year. The total membership of the Association last year was 4,142; the total enrollment, in all the Sunday-schools, was only 2,554. Now, If the number of our people who attended the Sunday-schools of other denominations balances the number of those from other denominations to ours; and if the number of non-church members who are of the Baptist "persuasion," and of the children of school age of Baptist families who are not church members, equals the total membership in the Association, then there were last year in the Sandy Creek Association over 5,700 Baptist people who did not enter the door of a Sunday-school anywhere! If these calculations are true, is there not a great work of development needed, and a paramount mission to be performed in this Association in this great cause next in importance to the preaching of the Gospel?

      State, Home and Foreign Missions, the Orphanage, Education and Aged Ministers' Relief, are the objects to which this Association contributes annually. That the State Convention may have some basis on which to estimate the amount that we should try to raise for these objects of the Convention In the State, pledges have been taken at most of the Associations; but last year the pledges were about $20,000, while the amount raised for State Missions was $37,000. For this reason the pledge system seemed to the Convention to be unreliable; so it instructed the State Mission Board to appoint a committee from its own members to suggest to the several Associations the amounts they should undertake to raise for these objects of the Convention. This Committee on Finance then urges that the Associations divide out, by committees or otherwise, the amount suggested among the several churches. (At this point was read the letter of Committee on Finance, as Bro. Livingston Johnson had, several months ago, requested to be read.) It is entirely with you, brethren, which of these plans you will use. If pledges are taken, will not the three delegates from many churches who here pledge do most of the paying of those pledges? Or if the suggestion of the Finance Committee is adopted, will not a few of the liberal members, in many cases, do most of the paying? To use a figure from farm life, if It is considered a burden, as a tax to raise these amounts, shall the free-pulling horse be whipped up to pull most of the load while the lazy horse lags behind? Or if it be regarded as a privilege to contribute to these objects, ought the fat, sleek horse to be given most of the food, while the poor horse is fed on a scanty supply? Ought not the rank and file of our church membership be developed in the grace of giving? Ought they not to be taught that "it is more blessed to give than to receive?" That God loves a cheerfull giver? That giving is a privilege - is a part of divine worship? Is there not foundation mission work to be done here? And should not this subject claim the special attention of this Association?

      The report on Education should be divided into three parts: (1) Ministerial Education; (2) Our Denominational Schools and Colleges; (3) The Elementary Public Schools. If our denomlnational colleges are to live, they must be fed mostly by our denominational preparatory schools. Perhaps some one may ask what has this Asaociation to do with the public schools? Will not the State take care of them? Yes; but will it, or can it, take care of the moral life of your child without your help? Who pays the tax to run these schools? Largely Christian people. Then has not every Christian parent a right to demand that his or her children shall be taught by Chrlstian teachers? And Christian teachers only?

      In regard to periodicals, it may be said: "As people read, so are they." Our young people are going to read something; and what shall it be? They are going to read some kind of newspapers and what shall they be? A taste for good reading may be acquired by them if wholesome literature is put within their reach. Shall we not do it?

      The Orphange is near and dear to us all; but there is this problem before us: Shall we limit the number of children to four handred who can enter this institution, and leave the remainder to be cared for elsewhere, or let them be thrown upon the "cold charities" of the world? No, we can not do that, and please God. The number of orphans seeking admittance is increasing; our contributions must increase also.


[From the Biblical Recorder, November 24, 1909, p. 4.]


(Concluded from Last Week.)

      It was customary until recent years to send corresponding messengers to sister Associations and to receive such messengers from other Associations. Was this custom discontinued because of the increased circulation of our church papers, as the Biblical Recorder, Charity and Children and other religious papers, reports being given in these? Might we not benefit and be benefited by a renewing of this custom?

      Again, some one has said that the Association has become such a large body that it is difficult for some of our churches to entertain the representatives, and that the distance to travel, In some cases, is very far, should not the Association be divided or the representation reduced? If this matter should come up for discussion, let as consider the fact that other denominations have been exceedingly liberal in helping entertain the delegates - as for instance, at Carthage last year, where the other denominations vied with each other in entertaining them. We should consider, whether either of these would not decrease the interest to our work. We would not wish to get in the plight of an Association recently held In a North Carolina city; when it; convened the people did not know of it, and some of the pastors were gone from the city. "There was not to be seen even one woman on Thursday or Friday afternoon, and only about ten on Thursday night" You would not have cared to be there Thursday or Friday afternoon, would you? We surely do not intend to let the Sandy Creek Association come to that "pass,"

      Let us not do anything to decrease the interest in the work. Much has recently been said about saving time in the Association. It seems that little need be said here on that point, for our program has done much along that line. It seems that the report on Sunday-school Libraries might come under the report on Sunday-schools and be included in it. The report on Prayer-Meetings might appropriately come in the time of devotlonal exercises. These recommendations, however, need not affect the printed program.

      Allow us here to say that it is the volunteered duty of every delegate to be here at the opening of every session of the Association, and to remain until all the business is transacted, or until it adjourns, unless providentially hindered from so doing.

      It is hoped that the delegates will require the Moderator not to allow. injected into the regular work of the Association, any subjects that do not belong to the work of it. or that properly come under same report, or any other foreign subjects. It was once customary for the churches to bring up to the Association points of doctrine for advice and decision. Are there not questions of vital importance, sometimes, watch might be discussed at these sessions? We are all aware that it is a day when people are afraid of doctrine and doctrinal sermons; but Jesus speaks, in John 7:17, of his doctrine. If Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost was not a doctrinal sermon, what was it? And that at the beginning of a revival meeting, too. And, to be sure, that was a great doctrine that Jesus proclaimed, in Matthew 28:18, 19, and 20 (according to King James's version): "All power la given unto me in heaven and In earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

      Much has been done in the last few years in the way of building better, more comfortable and attractive meeting-houses; but are there not yet some which would not make good barns? And, perhaps, the members may be well able to build better houses. If there are such church houses, there is need of development there. Oh! that the feeling might take hold of such Christians, as that which took hold of David and made him say: "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains." The Lord would have the best we have of everything - the first fruits of the field and the lamb of the flock without a blemish - and should he not have the best house to dwell in? Away with the idea that God is not pleased with the beautiful of earth! Was not Solomon's Temple the most expensive and one of the most beautlful buildings ever erected by man? And where do we find God charging Solomon with extravagance? On the other hand, we hear God saying in 1 Kings 9:3: "I have hallowed this house which thou hast built to put my name there forever." Is there not room for development here?

      The pastors of this Association have preached the Gospel faithfully; and in many cases the Lord has given them visible pledges of His divine approval of their service rendered Him, to the way of gracious revivals, for which we should thank the Lord. But how about their salaries? According to my best information, last year there were twelve churches in this Association which paid their pastors each $50, and under, as salaries; and there are seven which paid their pastors $40 and under, apiece. Paul labored in making tents, but a pastor with a salary of $40 or less from each of his churches would have to make quite a number of tents to support his family. Have we forgotten the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 9:14 which says to us: "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel"? Am I a layman, I speak freely on this subject, brethren. For us to pay the faithful pastor a mere pittance, and allow him to have to make great sacrifices to live and support his family, and let him incur debt to keep the wolf from his door, is but to dishonor God. Let us go and learn what that command means In 1 Corinthians 9:9: "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn." Is it not a part of the work or mission of this Association to try to inspire Into the members of the various churches a desire to make the place of God's worship attractive and to pay the pastors a living salary?

      Gratitude to the great Giver of all mercies demands that we do that much for those upon whom He has laid the responsibility of proclaiming the everlasting Gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

      In the National Superintendence Association held in Washington, D. C., February 25-27, 1908, the key-note of the meeting was industrialism or vocationalism. On this occasion President Roosevelt, in his address to the two thousand teachers present, in speaking of what education should mean, said it should educate "toward labor - toward the country - not from it," and thus "struck the chord that was played throughout the meeting." So Bro. J. R. Edwards awhile ago, in his introductory sermon, on the subject, "The indwelling Christ, or, The Ever-Present Jesus," struck the key-note of the meeting. So if every one in this assembly could consciously feel the presence of this "indwelling Christ," then for the three or four days of Its session this Association would be prepared to discharge the responsible duties devolving upon it; and we would be on the eve of a Pentecostal shower of God's blessings upon us.

      May the Holy Spirit be our Guide in all our deliberations.


[From the Biblical Recorder, December 1, 1909, p. 5.]


[This is a three-part essay from the Biblical Recorder, 1909, Oncn-line edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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