Editor's note: The Philadelphia Baptist Association, the first in our nation, was established in 1707. Many of their records have been preserved. During some of their annual meetings, a church or various churches needed answers to questions concerning doctrine or polity in their churches. They submitted queries and the Association recorded their answers. — Jim Duvall
Queries and Answers — from the Baptist Churches
of the Philadelphia Baptist Association
From the Annual Minutes
1723 At our Association, convened September 23, 1723, a query from the church at Brandywine came, viz.,
which way they might improve their vacant days of worship, when they have no minister among them to carry on the public work.
Solution We conceive it expedient that the church do meet together as often as conveniency will admit; and when they have none to carry on the work of preaching, that they read a chapter, sing a psalm, and go to prayer and beg of God to increase their grace and comfort, and have due regard to order and decency in the exercise of those gifts at all times, and not to suffer any to exercise their gifts in a mixed multitude until tried and approved of first by the church.
1724 In the year 1724, a query, concerning the fourth commandment, whether changed, altered, or diminished.
We refer to the Confession of faith, set forth, by the elders and brethren met in London, 1689, and owned by us, chap. 22, sect. 7 and 8.
Whether a believer may marry an unbeliever, without coming under church censure for it?
Answered in the negative.
Whether an officer in the church, who forfeits his office, forfeits his membership?
Answered in the negative. But if he forfeits his membership he forfeits his office. Whether he, if restored to his membership, must also be restored to office, is another case, not here considered.
Concluded and agreed, that a church ought to be unanimous in giving their voice in choosing and setting up, or deposing one set up, to act in any church office, or to act as an officer in the church. Any act of that nature, commenced without common consent, is void, and hath no power in it.
Concluded, that the letter from the churches to the Association hereafter, may contain salutations, contemplations, congratulations, &c., in one page; and the complaints, queries, or grievances, &c., be written apart; for it is agreed that the former shall be read publicly the first day of the Association's meeting, and the latter, the church's doubts, fears, or disorders, &c., be opened and read to the Association only
1726 One query from the church at Montgomery, viz: —
In case there might be a division, and on the division a rent and separation follow in any church in Great Britain, and each party combining together in church form, each being sound in the faith, and during the separation both parties recommend members unto us here, as in full communion with them, how may the churches here proceed in such a case?
Answer. We do advise that the churches here may take no further notice of the letters by such persons brought here, than to satisfy themselves that such are baptized persons, and of a regular conversation, and to take such into church covenant as if they had not been members of any church before.
1727 In answer to a query from the Great Valley, viz: —
How far the liberty of marriage may be between a member and one that is not a member?
Answered, by referring to our Confession of faith, chaper 26th in our last edition.
1728 1. Query from Hopewell:
What course to take in choosing a ruling elder in the church?
We answer, that a church wanting ruling elders or deacons, as in other cases, should set a day apart, and by fasting and prayer, seek the guidance and direction of God, and then unanimously pitch upon one or more of their brethren to act upon trial in the office of ruling elder or deacon; and our judgment is, that persons called upon trial in the said offices, may act by authority of the church, with as full power as if completely qualified; but not so teaching elders or ministers of the word and ordinances.
2. Query from the church at Montgomery:
Whether a church is bound to grant a letter of dismission to any member to go to another church, while his residence is not removed?
Answered in the negative, we having neither precept nor precedent for such a practice in Scripture. See Discipline.
1729 Query from the church at Philadelphia.
Suppose a gifted brother, who is esteemed an orderly minister by or among those that are against the laying on of hands in any respect, should happen to come among our church; whether we may allow such an one to administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper or no?
Answered in the negative; because it is contrary to the rule of God's word: see Acts xiii. 2, 3; and xiv. 23: compared with Titus i. 5; 1 Tim. iv. 14; from which prescribed rules we dare not swerve. We also refer to the Confession of faith, chap. xxvii., sect. 9.
1730 In the year 1730, a query from Cohansie:
In case a member of a regular church separates himself on the account of the seventh day, and join himself to those that hold the same for a Sabbath, when, at the same time, the church he was member of allowed, if it was to him a matter of conscience, he might observe it, and keep his place where he was a member, and that they would respect him as they used to do; yet, nevertheless, he goes away, and presumes to be a leader among the aforesaid seventh-day people. What must the church do in such a case in order to discharge their duty?
Resolved, That it is the duty of such a church, in as moderate a way and manner as they can, to disown such a member, so as he may not be looked upon to be a member any further with them on any account.
1732 In the year 1732, a question was moved:
Whether a person, not being baptized himself, and presuming, in private, to baptize another; whether such pretended baptism be valid or no, or whether it might not be adjudged a nullity?
Resolved. We judge such baptism as invalid, and no better than if it had not been done.
1734 Several queries from Middletown came to the Association, viz. —
1. Whether we may accept and take in a minister of a different persuasion at our appointed meetings.
Answered in the negative; unless the church see cause, upon some particular occasions
2. Whether it may not be more convenient for us to keep up our meetings, as usual, by reading the Scriptures, singing of psalms, and prayer, than to admit men of idfferent persuasions?
Answered in the affirative.
3. Whether it be justifiable for our members to neglect our own appointed meetings, and at their pleasure go to hear those idffering in judgment from us?
Answered in the negative. Heb. x. 25.
If any member, or members, of a congregtion grow scrupulous about matters merely indifferent in themselves, such as the mode of administration, as is usual in our churches, or the quality of the bread or wine, or the manner of serving, as the cup upon a plate, or without, making the same a matter of conscience, and therefore totally refrain their communion. What is best to be done in such a case?
Solution. That such persons, contending, quarreling, and so refraining church communion upon on such light grounds -- since such things are left undetermined by our great Lawgiver -- are much to be blamed; and a church is nowise obliged to yield to such vain humours, yet may continue their order, according to the rules of expediency and harmless decency, and deal according to the word with such delinquents; for it is to be doubted that such person or persons have not a design to make a rupture, seeing the matter in debate is so trival.
2. Upon a motion moved by some members of the Association:
Whether a person that is a well-wisher to us, and desires to be admitted a member into a church far distant from the place of his abode; whereas a church of the same order is nearer to him than the church that he proposed to join with; whether it be orderly for the distant church to receive such an one? Yea or nay?
Resolved in the negative, there being substantial reasons to the contrary. Such practice is contrary to the intendent, in instituting particular churches. -- See Confession of Faith, chap. xxvii. See also our Treatise of Discipline, 28, 29.
Whether a person, ordained by laying on of hands, for a ruling elder, who should afterwards be called by the church, by reason of his gifts, to the word and doctrine, must be again ordained by imposition of hands?
Resolved in the affirmative.
1739 A query from the church at the Great Valley:
In case that members will absent themselves from the communion of the church, and will give no reason for their so absenting, nor any account why they withdrew, notwithstanding messengers have been sent to such divers times, what ought the church to do further?
Solution. That the church shall send messengers once more to such, to inform them, that if they further absent themselves, without giving sufficient reason, the church may deal with such offenders as covenant breakers, and as despisers of the authority that is given to the church by Christ her head.
1740 A query from Cohanise:
Whether a pious person of the number of Pedo-Baptists, who forbears to have his own children sprinkled, may be admitted in to our communion without being baptized? And doth not refusing admittance to such an one, discover want of charity in a church so refusing?
Given to vote, and passed all in the negative. Nemine contradicente.
1. It is not for want of charity that we thus answer. Our practice shows the contrary; for we baptize none but such as, in the judgment of charity, have grace, being unbaptized; but it is because we find, in the commission, that no unbaptized persons are to be admitted into church communion. Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 16. Compare Acts ii. 41; 1 Cor. xii. 13.
2. Because it is the church's duty to maintain the ordinances as they are delivered to us in Scripture: 2 Thess. ii. 15; 1 Cor. xi. 2; Isa. viii. 20.
3. Because we cannot see it agreeable, in any respect, for the procuring that unity, unfeigned love, and undisturbed peace, which is required, and ought to be in and among Christian communities. 1 Cor. i. 10; Eph. iv. 3.
Query 2, from Piscataqua:
Whether it is regular to baptize persons proposing for baptism, upon the plea that they may be at liberty to communicate where they please?
Answered in the negative. Nemine contra dicente, for these reasons: —
1. Because, in the great commission, we are commanded to teach and observe all things which Christ hath enjoined upon us in the gospel. Matt. xxviii. 20.
2. Because it is not agreeable to the practice of the Apostles, who acted according to the said commission, as appears by Acts ii. 41, 42, compared with 2 Cor. viii. 5.
3. Because such a practice is directly destructive to all gospel rule, order, and discipline; for by such way all offences and irregularities, yea, even the most scandalous immoralities and fundamental errors must escape without proper censures, according to the gospel rule, Matt. xviii. 17; Rom. xvi. 17; Phil. iii. 16, 17; 1 Cor. v. 5; xi. 16, and xiv. 32, 33.
1741 Queries from the Great Valley:
Suppose a difference happening between two of the brethren, and both refer their difference to the church to be determined; and the church take upon them to pass a judgment upon the matter in debate, according to the best of their understanding, and according to Scripture rule; yet one of the parties is dissatisfied with the judgment, though he cannot render any substantial reason for his so doing: what may be done with the brother so contending?
Solution. The Association having maturely considered the matter, according to the best light we could obtain, cannot help but to judge that the church acted rightly; and we judge the contending person worthy of reproof, because he, having submitted and preferred the matter to the church for final determination, yet, contrary to what might be expected from him as a man, much more as a Christian, refused to comply with the church's determination; (except the said person can give substantial and convincing reasons to make it appear that the church was not well informed of the matter;) as Matt. xviii. 17.
Suppose a brother is put out of his full communion in the church, upon some dissatisfaction at his conduct, and afterwards shall give satisfaction to the majority of the church, by confession of his faith; but some are not satisfied, and have no substantial reason to render for the same, what may the church do in such a case?
Solution. We advise the church and the persons dissatisfied to use moderation for some time, and endeavor, by private means, to gain the dissatisfied party. If that fails, at yourr monthly meeting, urge such persons to produce sufficient reasons for their dissatisfaction; and for want of such reasons, or upon their refusing to produce such reasons, the church may deal with such as disorderly persons, according to Rom. xvi. 17, 18; 1 Cor. xi. 16, and xiv. 33.
1744 The Association convened September 22d, 1744. Query from the church at Bethlehem:
Suppose a person baptized by a man, who takes upon him to preach the gospel, and proceeds to administer the ordinances without a regular call or ordination from any church; whether the person so baptized may be admitted into any orderly church. Yea or nay?
Resolved: We cannot encourage such irregular proceedings; because it hath ill consequences every way attending it; it is also opposite to our discipline. We therefore give our sentiments that such administrations are irregular, invalid and of no effect.
1746 1. Query from the church of Philadelphia:
Whether it be lawful or regular for any person to preach the gospel publicly without ordination?
Answer: that which we have both rule and precedent for in the word of God, is, and must be, both lawful and regular, in 1 Tim. iii. We have a rule for proving such; for, having spoken concerning bishops, at the 10th verse the apostle speaks of deacons, saying, Let those also be proved. The words have as immediate a reference to bishops as to deacons, else the word also would be superfluous. We may here argue from the less to the greater; for if the deacons, who are concerned but with the outward affairs of churches, must be proved, how much more ministers, who are to be stewards of the mysteries of God. 1 Tim. v. 22.
2. We have an undoubted instance in the case of Paul and Barnabas, who were teachers before their ordination. Acts xi. 25, 26. We have an account of Barnabas going to Tarsus to seek Saul; his finding him, his bringing him to Antioch, and their assembling with that church, and of their teaching much people; at which time neither Paul nor Barnabas were ordained; and had it been either unlawful or irregular for men to preach without ordination, such a good man, full of the Holy Ghost as Barnabas was, would not surely be guilty of such a thing himself, nor promote Saul in doing so. But teach they did, and teachers they were called before ordination. Acts xii. 3. But their ordination is expressed Acts xiii. 3, after they had been a long time teachers, and with others, had taught much people, as Acts xi. 26. And it seems, by what Paul writes to the Galatians, chap. i. 18, and ii. 1, to be at least fourteen years, if not seventeen.
Seeing men are called teachers, as Paul and Barnabas are in Acts xiii. 1, and did undoubtedly teach profitably in the church of Antioch, before and without ordinantion, what reason can be given why there may not be in churches men of useful gifts, and profitable to teach all the days of their life without ordination? It is very probable that the Apostle Paul, seeing he occupied such a station himself a long time, speaks of such gifted brethren, Ephes. iv. 11, by the name of teachers. Seeing they are mentioned besides the pastors, or that such useful men may be the helps the same apostle mentions, 1 Cor. xii. 28, for helps cannot be more useful in any thing than in teaching. Our churches have had such teachers very frequently, as we might instance in many of them by name, if need were as well as the church of Antioch.
Here it will be proper to consider what time of trial or probation is, or ought to be taken, in proving church officers in general. We must note that the Holy Ghost hath no where limited or bounded the time that a church is to take for the trial of any of her officers; and therefore every particular church is at liberty to use her discretion in this matter; the call, choice, and ordination of her own officers being a special privilege that Christ hath given to his church under the gospel dispensation. See Davison's vindication of the Protestant ministers' mission. Since the Lord Jesus Christ hath left these important affairs to his church, and intrusted her to apply his directions, according to her circumstances, by the rules of prudence and discretion; therefore it must be an intrenchment upon her liberty and privilege, for any to use means to force or constrain a church, either to put a person on trial or to hasten his ordination; both of which ought to be the free, joyful, and unconstrained acts of a church. It is an indication of a heavy, self-willed, obstinate, and ungovernable temper in any gifted brother to refuse to exercise his gifts as the church shall be inclined to call him; and a specimen sufficient to foreshow what may be expected from such a one if preferred. It is therefore running an imprudent risk, to ordain to office in the church of God men of such fluctuating temper, who, if in any wise offended, will behave strangely, and leave the assemblings of the church, and frequent other assemblies. Though they may have some fine endowments, yet they can hardly be deemed faithful men. How the steady, sound, and orthodox principles and regular behaviour of men shall be found without considerable time of trial, none can tell.
Besides, is it not a great honor to a man, if God fits him with gifts to be helpful in the ministry of the word in any measure? But such as will not exercise their gifts upon trial, or without ordination, or as gifted brethren, seem to come near to what the apostle speaks of, 1 Cor. xii. 15; "If the foot say, because I am not a hand, I am not of the body." Such arguings plainly say, If I am not admitted to be bishop I will not be a helper; and such reasonings do cast a reflection on some worthy persons who have labored joyfully as helpers all their days, and whose memory is precious and honorable among the saints, when themselves are gone to rest.
Whether it is regular for any to use the office of deacon, or to exercise the office of a ruling elder in a church, without ordination?
Solution. As touching ruling elders or deacons; if there had been no other rule but mere parity of reason, it would appear necessary to have a proof of the persons delegated to those offices by a trial in the office itself; for experience teacheth that some very regular members cannot become useful officers when tried, and if persons, likely to bear the ministerial function, may be found unfit for the office when tried, though sound in the faith, and of approved conversation, so may well minded and well respected persons he found, when tried, to he unfit for inferior offices. If it he objected that we have a precedent for choosing and ordaining deacons, without any proof or trial, it may be sufficient to answer, that the precedent in Acts vi. is very proper to inform us of the nature and property of the deacon's office; but cannot reasonably be pleaded to be imitable in future times, in that particular, in debate; because, 1, that was an extraordinary time, and done by extraordinary persons; and therefore not imitable in ordinary times nor ordinary persons, unless we could bring extraordinary times and persons to be alike, which we cannot. 2. Because the Holy Ghost, since that precedent, hath given us a positive rule to direct the church in ordinary times, which we are bound to follow, 1Tim. iii. 10; from which the church in after ages ought not to deviate. Ordinarily it is improbable we should find the qualifications of a man for office without a trial; therefore, to ordain men to office in the church of God, without first being proved and approved, is against both rule and reason, and is therefore unlawful to be done by any church of Christ.
In ordinary, we see the churches of Christ inclined, and God's people are, by apparent motives, freely, lovingly, and affectionately moved, though not infallibly, to promote the ordination of such persons whose gifts, upon due exercise, they find to be useful by long experience, and whose apparent growth and proficiency, by long trial, is become manifest, and whose steady and circumspect behaviour in all things in doctrine and practice, are agreeable encouragements to intrust them, as men found faithful and fit for the office intended.
Whether women may or ought to have their votes in the church, in such matters as the church shall agree to be decided by votes?
Solution. As that in 1 Cor. xiv. 34, 35, and other parallel texts, are urged against their votes, as a rule, and ought, therefore, to be maturely considered.
If, then, the silence enjoined on women be taken so absolute, as that they must keep entire silence in all respects whatever; yet, notwithstanding, it is to be hoped they may have, as members of the body of the church, liberty to give a mute voice, by standing or lifting up of the hands, or the contrary, to signify their assent or dissent to the thing proposed, and so augment the number on the one or both sides of the question. But, with the consent of authors and casuists, such absolute silence in all respects cannot be intended; for if so, how shall a woman make a confession of her faith to the satisfaction of the whole church? or how shall the church judge whether a woman he in the faith or no? How shall a woman offended, after regular private proceeding with an offending member, tell the church, as she is bound to do, if the offender be obstinate, according to the rule, Matt. xviii. 17? How shall a woman do, if she be an evidence to a matter of fact? Shall the church grope in the dark for want of her evidence to clear the doubt? Surely not. Again, how shall a woman defend herself if wrongfully accused, if she must not speak? This is a privilege of all human creatures by the laws of nature, not abrogated by the law of God.
Therefore there must be times and ways in and by which women, as members of the body, may discharge their conscience and duty towards God and men, as in the cases above said and the like. And a woman may, at least, make a brother a mouth to ask leave to speak, if not ask it herself; and a time of hearing is to be allowed, for that is not inconsistent with the silence and subjection enjoined on them by the law of God and nature, yet ought not they to open the floodgate of speech in an imperious, tumultuous, masterly manner. Hence the silence, with subjection, enjoined on all women in the church of God, is such a silence as excludes all women whomsoever from all degrees of teaching, ruling, governing, dictating, and leading in the church of God; yet may their voice be taken as above said. But if a woman's role be singular, her reasons ought to be called for, heard, and maturely considered, without contempt.
Whether churches may regularly associate with such other churches that will not admit their members into transient or occasional communion, and will not dismiss their members whose residences are removed; nor receive such whose residences are removed to them if dismissed? Or whether a church, by refusing transient communion to the members of another church, whose messengers are received in to associate with their own messengers, do not forfeit their own right in the Association, unless some new offence be given, or some undiscovered error be found in the church so refused?
We answer, that churches ought to unite in faith and practice, and to have and maintain communion together, as it is expressed in our abstract of church discipline, in order to associate regularly, because the latter is founded upon, and arises from the former; and we count that such a practice, for churches that cannot hold free communion together, to have their messengers, notwithstanding, admitted into the Association to be inconsistent, and not to be continued in nor winked at; because it opens a door to greater and more dangerous confusions, and is in itself subversive of the being and end of an Association.
Whether it is regular for an Association to receive in, and admit as members of the Association, such as at the same time they would not admit to the church communion, if opportunity offered?
We answer, no.
1747 Query from Pennepek:
Whether it is agreeable to gospel rule for a church to permit a gifted brother to preach the gospel, who refuses to communicate with them, unless they will comply with his own terms?
Andwered in the negative.
2. Query: Whether such brother, by so refusing, does not forfeit his right not only to communion, but also to preach the gospel.
Answered in the affirmative.
1748 Queries from the church at Horseneck, in New England:
1. Whether to deny the foreknowledge of the eternal God, concerning all future evil as well as good, be not a fundamental error?
Answer. We look upon such an opinion to be directly repugnant to Scripture; therefore exceeding erroneous and pernicious. First: Because it supposes God imperfect, and so no God, Psalm cxlvii. 5; Heb. iv. 13. Secondly: If so, there would be no room for the divine Being to make provision for the redemption of mankind before the fall of man, which is contrary to express Scripture testimony, Prov. viii. 28, 35; 2 Tim. i. 3. Thirdly: It is an error, which, in its nature and consequences, cloth oppose and tend to overthrow the whole Christian religion, Acts ii. 23; iv. 28; Titus iii. 10.
2. Whether a member of the church holding such an opinion, endeavors to propagate it, and obstinately persists in it, is not worthy of the highest censure, notwithstanding he pleads matter of conscience?
Answer. We judge such worthy of the highest censure; because a church is to proceed against a person who is erroneous in judgment, as well as against one vicious in practice, notwithstanding they may plead conscience in the affair. Tit. iii. 10; 2 Thess. iii. 14.
A query from the church of Bethlehem:
Whether a man who hath two wives living may be received into communion on his profession of faith.
Answer. By no means. Matt. v. 32; xix. 9.
Concluded, that the churches in general be advised for the future not to send any queries to the association before the matter has been well debated at home among themselves first.
1749 Two queries from the church at Pennepiek:
1st. Whether persons that make themselves parties with dismembered ones, after due admonition given them, and they continue obstinate, do not expose themselves to the church's highest censure; and whether the church ought not to deal with them as such? Secondly, how often admonition ought to be repeated in such a case?
In answer to these queries, it is resolved, we entirely disapprove of such members continuing in their obstinacy, and condemn such a practice, and leave the church to their Christian prudence and discretion, to use all possible forbearance and lenity towards such members, if there is any probability of reclaiming them.
A query from the church at the Scotch Plains:
Whether a person baptized by one that was not ordained, shalt be received into the church, on the baptism already received; or whether he shall be baptized again, or shall such abide without the church's privileges all their days?
In answer, we refer to the solution of the like query, in the year 1744.
1752 Query from the church at Kingwood:
Whether a person denying unconditional election, the doctrine of original sin, and the final perseverance of the saints, and striving to affect as many as he can, may have full communion with the church?
Answer: That the very consequence of it opposeth the absolute sovereignty of God over his own creatures contrary to express scriptures, which do declare and fully prove, the three parts denied by said guestionist.
1st. That personal election is the truth of God, Eph. i. 5; Matt. xxiv. 23; and our infallible hope is proved by John, chap. x. 28; as also, the saints' perseverance, verse 29, John xvii. 6; they are the gift of the Father to his Son Christ, who will, and is able to keep them and secure their happiness, John xvii. 24.; Acts xiii. 48. The foundation of God standeth sure, whatever becomes of the presumptuous counsels of obstinate men. 2 Thess. ii. 13.; Titus i. 1.; 1 Peter i. 2-5.
2. That we are originally sinful or partakers of the first sin of human nature, being all included in Adam when he was created, and partakers of that happiness, with which he was indued, as his rightful heir; but he, forgetting that great favor bestowed freely upon him and his posterity, we, as well as himself, are justly shut out of our native happiness, and have lost our right thereunto forever, unless our title be restored by the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, by being effectually called in time. Eph. ii. 12, 13; Rom. v. 12 to the end; Ecl. vii. 2. Upon which fundamental doctrines of Christianity, next to the belief of an eternal God, our faith must rest; and we adopt, and would that all the churches belonging to the Baptist Association be well grounded in accordance to our Confession of faith and catechism, and cannot allow that any are true members of our churches who deny the said principles, be their conversation outward what it will.
1753 1. Query from the Church at Kingwood:
Whether the assurance of faith be absolutely necessary in order for admission to baptism?
The judgment of this Association is: It appears to us, both from scripture and experience, that true saving faith may subsist where there is not assurance of faith. - Therefor, in answer to the second query, That a person sound in judgment, professing his faith of reliance on Christ for mercy and salvation, accompanied with a gospel conversation, ought to be baptized.
Query from the church at the Scotch Plains:
Whether a person, observing the seventh day as a Sabbath, and keeping the first day in condescension, may be received into membership?
Resolved, That such may, provided nothing else appear to the contrary.
1756 Query from the church at Morristown:
Whether a woman may be received into the church that is married to her sister's husband, after her said sister's decease, said man having had children by both?
Resolved, that because such marriages are not tolerated by the laws of our hand, we judge it unadvisable to receive such persons.
1761 Query from Oyster Bay:
1. Whether it be entirely proper to call the Scriptures the rule, and the Spirit the guide?
Resolved: The Holy Scriptures we profess to be our full, sufficient, and only rule of faith and obedience, and caution all to beware of every impulse, revelation, or any other imagination whatever, inconsistent with, or contrary to, the holy Scriptures, under the pretence of being guided by the Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit, illuminates the understanding to know the mind of God, contained in the Scriptures, and may properly be called a guide.
2. Whether it is right to alter the expression in the answer to the tenth question in our catechism, concerning God's fore-ordination, and read "whatsoever he bringeth to pass," instead of "whatsover comes to pass."
Resolved: God worketh all things after the council of his own will, Whatsoever comes to pass is either by his agency or permission; and, though he permit sin to be, is not, therefore, the author of it; neither is the said answer in the catechism expressive or productive of the inference and conclusions the adversaries of God's sovereignty would fain charge upon it.
1763 A question was moved by the church of the Great Valley to this effect:
Whether it be the prerogative of a church to receive applications for baptism, examine the candidates, and to judge of their qualifications for baptism? or whether those be the distinct and peculiar prerogatives of the ministers, exclusive of the laity?
The occasion of this question was the opinion and practice of the church of Philadelphia, who by a general veto have allowed the said prerogatives to belong to the minister, by the tenor of the commission relative to baptism, and the universal practice of the commissioners; and that there is neither precept nor precedent for the contrary in scripture. All allowed that this may be, and in some cases must be; but that the other practice was more expedient. However, none pretended to say it was warranted by scripture. The question was put, -- Whether the point was a term of communion? and whether it should be debated, or dropped? None stood up for either. So that it was dropped.
2. In the letter of Cohansie it was queried:
Whether it be best to excommunicate delinquents before the church only, or publicly before the congregation?
Answered: If the offence be public, the cutting off should be so too; if private, it should be as private as may be.
1765 Query, from Smith's Creek:
Whether it be proper to receive a person into commmunion who had been baptized by immersion by a minister of the church of England, if no other objection could be made?
Answer: Yea, if he had been baptized on a profession of faith end repentance.
1766 It was queried, Whether a complaint from any member of the associated churches, or from one excommunicated, might be received into the Association?
Resolved, That the query be considered, and determined next Association.
1767 The following query was left on the book last year for consideration: Whether an appeal from any member of the associated churches, or from one excommunicated from any of said churches, may be made to the Association?
Resolved: That in some cases they may, as every church may sometimes suspend their prerogatives, of which every church is to judge for itself.
Query from Hopewell:
Whether a ruling elder is to be ordained by imposition of hands?
Resolved: To leave this matter to the discretion of the churches.
Query from Kingwood:
Whether a church ought to suspend or excommnunicate one for not keeping his place in the church, on account of his not approving the order of preaching used by the minister of the place?
Resolved: That the complaint is trivial, nevertheless that forbearance should be used, but how long, is left to the discretion of the church.
The query from Cohansie respected a person who had married his first wife's sister, and was answered thus: The case is doubtful.
1769 In a letter from Bateman's Precincts, it was queried: How a church should proceed towards members who deny family worship to be a duty, and so disuse it?
Advice: Let the church bear with them, till it has used endeavors to convince them of their error, and reduce them to their duty by argument.
Odered: That some thoughts on this subject be put together and printed.
1771 It was queried in the letter from Goshen: What is to be done when a member of a church that is dissolved offers to become a member of another church?
Advised, That inquiry be made, whenther he was a member at the time of said dissolution, and whether his faith and practice are agreeable to the gospel or not, and then proceed as the state of the case requires.
To a query from Dividing Creek, relative to washing the saint's feet, the following reply was made:
This query being founded on John xiii. 1-17, can no othrwise be determined than by fixing the genuine sense of that Scripture, which to do is earnestly recommmedned.
1774 After deliberations on some queries from the church at the Welsh Tract, it was finally agreed, that our Brethren Abel Morgan, Isaac Backus, Isaac Stelle, and Samuel Jones, form a minute in answer to them, which being done and approved, is here inserted:"Whereas, a book was published, entitled, 'The Customs of the Primitive Churches,' which the author proposed should be altered, amended, and corrected, by his ministering brethren, and then re-printed for the use of the churches, which was never done; and whereas, we have reason to think, that it is understood by many abroad to have been adopted by us in its present form, as our custom and mode of church discipline and practice; it is therefore thought meet, that we should thus publicly testify to the contrary, as it is not, nor ever has been adopted by us, or by any of the churches belonging to the Assocation."
1781 The committee appointed to consider the proposals and queries from Pennepek, Hopewell, and Philadelphia churches, respecting the doctrine of "universal restoration," and the proceedings of the Philadelphia church on that affair, do report:First. That the proceedings of the protesters in that business were regular and fair.
Secondly. That the declaration of the ministers who were called to their assistance, respecting the protesters, was weighty, full, and decisive.
Thirdly. That although the non signers are already virtually excluded, yet, in order to their more formal excommunication, the Philadelphia church be advised to appoint at their meeting of business, two of their regular male members to go with the protest to the non protesters, one by one, in order to their signing it, and warn them, that in case they refuse to sign, they should openly and formally, by name, be excommunicated.
[From A. D. Gillette, editor, A History of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, 1707-1807, 1851; rpt., 2001. — jrd]
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