Baptist History Homepage

Kentucky Baptist History -- 1770-1922
By William Dudley Nowlin

Chapter VI
The Regular and Separate Baptists in Kentucky United -- 1801

[p. 66]
Many of our people of the present time do not understand what is meant by "United Baptists," as the term long since has fallen into disuse.

In the early history of Baptists in Kentucky they were divided into "Regular Baptists" and "Separate Baptists," which, as Doctor Spencer says, "was a distinction without a difference," very largely. These distinctions continued for some years, but effort after effort was made until a union was finally effected.

I use here a part of an address by Dr. W. M. Pratt, and published in Jubilee Volume 1887 (p. 46).
"The early Baptist churches in Kentucky had troubles within.

"First. To secure unity between the two classes of Baptists -- the Regulars and the Separates.

"The Separate Baptists had their origin in New England about the middle of the last century as the result of the great revival under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. Those who withdrew from the 'Standing Order' (Congregationalist) were called Separates or New Lights. Among their number was Shubal Stearns, who subsequently, on investigating the Scriptures, united with the Baptists and was baptized by Elder Wait Palmer at Tolland, Connecticut, and was ordained to the Baptist ministry by Elders Palmer and Moore. He felt impressed that his work in the ministry was to be outside of New England, as in 1754, together with his wife, sons, and his two brothers and their wives, his brother-in-law, David Marshall and wife, Joseph Breed and wife, Enos Steinson and wife, and Joseph Polk and wife, he left for the South, and located on Sanday [sic] Creek, North Carolina, and immediately formed a church of these members of his household. David Marshall and Joseph R. Breed were appointed by the infant church to assist the pastor in his ministerial work. On his way to North Carolina he stopped for a short time in northeast Virginia and formed acquaintance with two churches in that region. The spirituality of the Christian religion was then untaught, and only in isolated instances was unknown in that region. The most wonderful effects resulted from the preaching of these men of God, and the spirituality of this little church on

[p. 67]
Sandy Creek, Guildford County, North Carolina, in the middle of the state, and about forty miles east of the Yadkin River, where Daniel Boone resided, at the time when he explored Kentucky. Doctor Cathcart says, 'The parent body in a few years had 606 members, and in seventeen years from its origin it had branches southward as far as Georgia, eastward to the sea and the Chesapeake Bay, and northward to the waters of the Potomac. It has become the mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother of forty-two churches, from which 125 ministers were sent out as licentiates or ordained clergymen. And in after years the power that God gave Shubal Stearns and his Sandy Creek Church in North Carolina with resistless force brought immense throngs to Christ and established multitudes of Baptist churches.' (Baptist Encyclopedia). Probably no one minister in America has exerted so extensive and permanent influence. George Whitfield was Calvinistic in his view, so was Shubal Stearns. A peculiar feature of his church was a refusal to formulate articles of faith. They merely had a written Church Covenant, and took the Bible alone as their rule of belief. He possessed the spirit and activity of the early Methodists, and communicated the same to his disciples.

"The large majority of the earlier ministers of Kentucky were baptized by Separate Baptist ministers, imbibed the spirit and pursued the course of

[p. 68]
Shubal Stearns, traveling to distant fields of evangelical labor, organizing churches and becoming themselves pioneers in church enterprise. The Philadelphia Association was constituted 1707, and at one time comprehended nearly all the churches from New England to South Carolina. She was the originator of Eaton's Academy at Hopewell, N. J., and Brown's University in Rhode Island, and her ministers were of considerable culture. She adopted and published her creed in 1742. (Printed by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1743). This was the 'Confession of Faith' by Baptists in London and the country in 1689. This mother of Baptist Associations in America exerted a most conservative and wise influence over these newly formed churches in the South. She commissioned her wisest men to visit the settlements, and to give wholesome instruction to the churches and their ministers. The churches connected immediately with her body were called 'Regulars,' and those which arose from this new movement were termed 'Separates.' As a result of this judicious course most of the early ministers who came to Kentucky and established churches adopted the 'Philadelphia Confession' as an exponent of their faith. The churches south of Kentucky River mostly organized on the original platform of Shubal Stearns, with simply a church covenant. The associations of the Regular Baptists, both in Virginia and Kentucky, made overtures to the Separates for a union, which, after some delay, was consummated in Virginia, August 10, 1787, and in Kentucky, partially in 1797, and fully in 1801, under the name of 'United Baptists,' adopting in both states the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, with certain 'explanations.' Thus the Baptists of Virginia and Kentucky possess the two-fold elements of Calvinistic faith of the oldest association in America and the holy fervor and boundless zeal of the Separates -- a most excellent combination. The two classes are so thoroughly wedded, that for years past not only party names dropped, but the word 'United' also, and 'Baptist'

[p. 69]
alone remains to indicate our distinctive views."
This shows that the union was effective. Benedict (page 812) in speaking of "The Regulars and Separates in Kentucky," says: "These distinctions which we have described under the head of Virginia, the Carolinas, etc., began early to appear in this western region; the parties which maintained them, were lineal descendants of the same people in the east, and here again we find the successors of Stearns, Marshall, and other New England New Lights.

"The Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations embraced the substance of the two parties in the early movements of the Baptists in this new region, and by these bodies a reconciliation and union was effected similar to those which have been described in Virginia and North Carolina.

"The meeting for this purpose was held at Howard's Creek, N. H., in Clark County, in 1801. A. Dudley, J. Price, J. Redding, D. Barrow, and R. Elkin represented the Regulars; D. Ramey, Thomas J. Chilton, M. Bledsoe, S. Johnson the Separates."

The Terms of Union: The terms of the union as given by Benedict (page 821) are: "We, the committees of the Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations, do agree to unite on the following plan:

"1. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the infallible word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice.
"2. That there is one only true God, and in the God-head or divine essence, there are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
"3. That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures.
"4. That salvation, regeneration, sanctification, and justification, are by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
" 5. That the saints will finally persevere through grace to glory.
"6. That believers' baptism, by immersion, is necessary to receiving the Lord's Supper.

[p. 70]
"7. That the salvation of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
"8. That it is our duty to be tender and affectionate to each other, and study the happiness of the children of God in general; to be engaged singly to promote the honor of God.
"9. And that the preaching Christ tasted death for every man, shall be no bar to communion.
"10. And that each may keep up their associational and church government as to them may seem best.
"11. That a free correspondence and communion be kept up between the churches thus united.

"Unanimously agreed to by the joint committee. Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding, Robert Elkin, John Price, David Barrow, Daniel Ramey, Thos. J. Chilton, Samuel Johnson, Moses Bledsoe."

Benedict says "This was the last body of the Separate Baptists which relinquishes the appellation by which they had been distinguished about fifty years." For a short time the term "United Baptists" was used, but it soon dropped out of use and our people were known simply as "Baptists," until the split over the mission question, (about 1832), and then we were called "Missionary Baptists" to distinguish us from the Anti-missionary Baptists. However, as the Anti- missionary Baptists have about disappeared the term "Missionary" is not now necessary in connection with the name "Baptists" as we are now called. Our churches today are known simply as Baptist churches, which is quite sufficient, since other bodies using the name "Baptist" use some designating term as, "Free-will," "General," "Old School," etc. Our denomination is put down in history and in statistics simply "Baptists."

[From: William Dudley Nolin, Kentucky Baptist History, 1922, Chapter VI, pp. 66-70. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Go to next Chapter
Baptist History Homepage