The last annual meeting of the Cumberland Association was held with the church at Friendship, Davidson county, commencing Saturday September the 28th 1835. Elder James King was chosen Moderator. This association numbers 16 churches, 10 ordained and 3 licensed ministers, and 1185 members. The names of the ministers mentioned in the minutes are L. Heath, W. Herrin, Jesse Cox, H. Walker, J. Atkinson, J. King, C. Payne, P. Dodson, J . Ragsdale, E. White, and Wm. Gladden. They report 69 baptised, received by letter 70, and 11 restored, making 110; dismissed by letter 67, dead 14, and 18 excluded, making 99 and leaving a nett [sic] increase of 11 during the year. Two new churches were received, Lebanon and head of Lepers Fork, containing the former 42 members, and the latter 20 members, and White's Creek church was "suspended" (?) from membership because it refused to condemn the Convention. The language of the association is us follows.
"At our meeting in 1834, the association in accordance &c. gave their advice to the churches of this association respecting the conduct of what is called the Tennessee Baptist Convention in which advice they set forth their objections to the course of the Convention and advised the churches, (in effect) to have nothing to do with them, andto deal with such of their members as supported those, or similar errors; and upon examination of the letter from the church at Whites Creek, we find that said church, or a majority of them, have rejected the advice of the association, in which act, they as we conceive, are "covenant breakers" &c.&c. Documents of an official character, were published in November last, in this paper from the church at Whites Creek, defending themselves from these attacks, and therefore we need add nothing now. But we will make a remark or two in relation to the singular attitude assumed by the Association, in the above quoted article.
Which tribunal is superior, the church or the association? Every one replied the church, even the letter before us, says "the church is the highest ecclesiastical tribunal on earth." Is an inferior tribunal competent to arraign, a superior tribunal at its bar, pronounce upon its official acts, and declare it guilty of high crime, and misdemeanor, "covenant breaker," and then proceed to punish it for the offence? Certainly not - everyone will answer - certainly not. And yet this is the very thing done by this association in relation to Whites Creek! And what makes the matter worse, Whites Creek, even if the Association had possessed authority to put her on trial, was not guilty of the crime alleged. Had Whites Creek church ever covenanted with the Cumberland association, that she would never assist in the support, or spread of the Gospel, or that she would expel any of the members who did so? No never - and God forbid she ever should. Whites Creek only proposed to assist in the support, and spread of the gospel; how then was she condemned as a "covenant breaker"? Besides - even admitting the church had so covenanted. At the time when she was condemned and sentenced by the association, she was not guilty. At that time, not a single member of that church had joined the Convention, nor to our knowledge, contributed a cent to its funds: What then was their offence? They happened to think the advice of the Association, proposing to "deal with any member" who should contribute to the support of the Gospel, in destitute places, rather rash and precipitated and in the most affectionate manner besought them to reflect, before they proceeded too far. This was the "head and front of their offending" - for presuming thus to speak the church was "suspended"! It will be seen from the facts here noticed, l st. That the association had no jurisdiction in this case. 2nd. That such a covenant as they were charged with violating, they had never made, and 3rd. Even if they had made such a covenant, they had never violated it. Into such acts as these do the opposers of the Convention find themselves betrayed, in order to maintain their ground. A cause which requires such acts to support it, ought to be abandoned at once, and forever. We observe printed in the minutes a
of most singular character. As a sentinel on the "watch tower" of Zion, it is probably our duty to notice a few point, in this circular, which we now proceed to do, and ask the friends of truth, to weigh well the consideration we offer.
Several thing, in the letter before us, are entirely correct. Such for example, as that the people of the United State, are all members of one great political family(!) that as patriotic citizens we are bound by our civil compact -(!) with other similar obstruse (?) theological expositions. It is also true as stated, that we sustain relations to God and each other, the church, the ministry, &c., and that important duties grow out of each of these relations. Our object, however, in the review of the circular letter before us is not to waste our time in idle encomiuma upon what may be correctly stated , but briefly to consider a few points of objectionable character, and we beg the reader to forgive us, if we should find ourselves obliged to use much candor and plainness of speech.
1. The writer of this letter deprecates, in the strongest terms, the existence, number, and influence of religious periodicals. He says -
"The country is teeming with religious periodicals, employing its (their) best talents, all enlisted on the side of the societies of the day, and advocating their cause, which is man's, cause, make the best of it; we tremble for the ark of God."
What societies have we here in Tennessee, of such corruption and strength, that these good brethren should have reason to "tremble for the ark of God?" The first is the Bible society, the object of which is to put into the hand of every individual, able to read a copy, without note or comment, of the authorized translation of the scriptures. The second is the Sunday School, which proposes to teach those who are now unable to read the word of God. The third is the Temperance Society, which proposes to use all proper mean, to diminish the evil of drinking ardent spirits. None other of importance now occur to our recollection, but the Baptist State Convention which proposes to aid feeble Baptist churches to support their pastor, and to extend into all destitute places the preaching of the gospel, by orthodox Baptist ministers, approved by the churches. If the Bible should be placed in the hands of every man, should these brethren "tremble for the ark of God"? If the ignorant are taught to read the word of God, is it a cause why these brethren should "tremble for the ark of God"? If men should no more drink ardent spirits, we ask will "the ark of God" be in danger from such obstinence [sic]? If every Baptist church in Tennessee should have a pastor, and approved Baptist ministers preach in every destitute neighborhood, should these brethren "tremble for the ark of God"? All this we confess is strange to us, and we leave those who can, to account for this singular fearfulness of our brethren of the Cumberland Association.
This country, (we suppose he means Tennessee) is teeming with religious periodicals!! The "country teeming with religious periodicals"!! We do not know how to understand this remark. We have but one Baptist paper in the whole State, and by Baptists, Pedobaptist periodicals are not taken, or if they are they exert no influence. The only paper we have, you see before you, a little monthly with scarcely subscribers enough to keep it in existence. Not one Baptist in forty in the whole State, take, or read, either this or any other "religious periodical." Yet the Cumberland Association says, and deplores the fact; that "the country is teeming with it." "Veritas nihil veretur, nisi abscondi". This is a maxim in law and is not out of place in Divinity.
2. The letter before us charges the religious periodicals, and the friends of effort as follows -
"We see attempt making, which as we think, tends (English tend!) to the destruction of the unity of the church of God" &c. "calculated to deface the beauty of the virgin daughter of Zion; mar the peace of the churches, and prostitute the truth."
What a tremendous charge!! Do the brethren of the Cumberland themselves believe it! Seriously we suppose, the writer only designed to make a high sounding sentence, and round a handsome period. Does he understand the force of language? The only excuse we can find for him, is that which Peter offered for his hearers, on a certain occasion (Act. 3:17.) "and now brethren I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." But who are they against whom this charge of awful crime and corruption is brought, and published to the world? The latter itself shall answer - the "best talents" of the church, are all employed in this design! What do these Christians comprising all the best talents" wish to do that is to result in the destruction of unity - deface Zion - mar the peace of the church - and prostitute the truth? The letter gives two answers to the enquiry which are the antipodes of each other, we shall quote them both and the reader may take his choice.
1. "They wish to promote "missions, and the support of mininsters."
2. "To gratify the ambition of a few aspirants."
The second answer the reader may, if he please consider the same with the former. Christian, are always careful not to attribute evil motives to the acts of their fellow Christians and we will not suppose our brethren of the Cumberland capable of departing from this courtesy. According to the doctrine of the Cumberland Association, therefore to use efforts to obey the command of our Saviour, to "preach the gospel to every creature," and to give food and raiment to those who go, which Christ has also commanded, is not indeed a solemn duty, but practised only "to gratify the ambition of a few aspirants"!! And what is remarkable too - now think of it - all the best talents" we have are so prostituted. These same charges apply, not to Tennessee alone, but to nine-tenth of the whole church, and ministry in both Europe, and America, and indeed all over the world. We will here ask, are our brethren of the Cumberland altogether prudent is charging upon us all, such enormous guilt! Will the world believe them? And if not believed, how will they be regarded, by the unprejudiced. Even a pagan philosopher could say - Quid de quoque viro, et cia dicus sape carepo." And should we not take special care not only what we Say, but particularly what we publish; and to whom we express ourselves; hence the scripture declaration, (Psalm 15:1, 2, 3) "Lord who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor."
3. The Cumberland Association has made an important discovery and published it in the letter before us. It is a discovery which astonish all the world, except Joshua Lawrence of Kehukee memory, for if our youthful reminiscences do not fail in their correctness, North Carolina has the honor of claiming the author of this, and most of the other sentiments in this letter, as her citizen. Yet we do not say that a thing cannot be discovered twice, for "there is nothing new under the sun." It is published in these words -
"The first missionary society we have any account of, is recorded in church history &c. It was set up in Rome in the 17th century, by Pope Gregory XV. That Pontiff, in the year 1622, formed the establishment then called the congregation for the propagation of the faith, which was amply endowed by Urban, &c."
This discovery reminds us of another of the same sort. Some wise Pedobaptists have discovered, from church history too, the origin of the Baptist church, and they have announced to the world that these Baptist had their beginnings with a German mob in Munster, a few centuries since. These two discoveries are worthy to go together. But we will notice this society, set up in Rome a little further.
What was this popish establishment called? Let us look at the letter - ah - "congregation." Then it was not a Baptist State Convention, was it? No - but says the Cumberland, "it was a missionary society". How then was it a "congregation"; is a congregation necessarily a missionary society? Certainly not. Then there is no evidence that this any more than any other religious congregation was a missionary society, but the ipse dixit of the Cumberland. And even if it were, and sent out ministers who were not successful it is to be remembered that they were papists and the reason God did not bless their preaching was, not was that they were supported by a society, but because they did not preach the truth. We have read Ecclesiastical History too; in the course of which we have had occasion to examine Euesebius, 1 vo. Jones 2 vols. Milner 4 vols. Mosheim 4 vols. and some three or four others. We too remember something of popish business. This letter says that the society in question was called "the congregation &c." Now if the reader will look into Buck's Theological Dictionary, article congregation, they will see that this term was "used for the assemblies of Cardinals, appointed by the Pope for the discharge of certain functions" as "the congregation of the Inquisition, the congregation of rites, of aims, &c." But was not this "congregation" called the "ASSOCIATION de propaganda fide"! Yes - indeed this was the name. Then it was at all in our sense a missionary society nor a state convention, but truly an Association.
In this renowned Association there was as they said, some infallible men who took upon them, as do some modern associations, to dictate the faith of the people. What further did they do! They prohibited the Bible, and declared if it was read by the people, the church might "tremble for the ark of God." They declared that all this noise about lightening the world, was but an "attempt of the designing to destroy the unity of the church, to deface the beauty of the virgin daughter of Zion, to mar the peace of the church; and prostitute the truth, to gratify the ambition of a few aspirants;" and if any one dared doubt, or whisper objections, he was immediately "suspended." If this ancient association has any modern successor, everyone sees it is not the State Convention, nor a missionary society; for neither of them bear any resemblance to it, but in one thing - ideal, supporting the ministry, and in that only point they have the sanction of the Cumberland. For though they denounce every feasible [sic] method of doing the work, still they say "it is the duty of the minister who is called of God to preach - it is equally the duty of the church to sustain him." We leave the reader to imagine where the association is to be found of which the Association depaganda fide was the prototype.
4. We designed noticing particularly, a singular remark in the letter before us, not because it involves any principle but mainly for its ogling insinuation. It is this - "the advocates of modern missions are, with a few exceptions, men of style and fashion, pictures of elegance, and are for the most part, rolling in luxury and ease at the expense of the labouring classes of the community."
Do our Cumberland brethren mean here to describe those merely, who are the patrons of missions, or the missionary ministers. If the former we suppose they mean to say they arc rich. Well then they ought to contribute. For Paul says - "charge them that are rich in this world, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." But if they mean to describe the preachers of the Convention, which from their closing sentence they certainly do, they have missed the mark most egregiously. Elders Phillips, Evans &c. are our preachers. We will take these for a sample, for they are a fair sample. Will not these plain brethren dressed in "homespun," made up by their wives, be astonished when they find themselves published to the world as men of style and fashion, pictures of elegance rolling in luxury. Now we ask for the fact, let the world answer, is this charge true? No It is not. How then stands the case. Have not these brethren violated the plainest scripture injunctions, to convey an impression that convention men are dishonest, selfish, and hypocritical cheats? We will say no more on this point.
5. "This constituting societies," says the circular before us "creating offices, conferring titles, such as President, Vice President, Recording and corresponding Secretary, Board of Director, Executive committee &c.&c. is a departure from the simplicity of the gospel, and forms one grand objection against the order of the day, and Saviour of this world &c." It is added - "O brethren this selling membership, this creating offices, this funding, this conferring titles" and so it goes on, and goes on - "is not of the Lord."
On this quotation we remark, that there are strange objections for the Cumberland, or any other association to make against either a missionary or any other society, or the State convention. From what part of the New Testament, does any association conducted as theirs obtain the warrant of its existence. We ask the question in seriousness and desire that it may be weighed deliberately. Does not the Cumberland Association constitute societies, create offices confer titles, collect and pay funds &c.&c. as well as the Convention! Yes she has funds, and she creates, as many offices and titles, as pompous and high sounding, and that too, without a syllable more of authority than we have. And if in us, this saviours of the world, does it not equally in her a saviour of the world!
We will now by way of argumentum ad judicium, or ad verecundiam, prove every word we say. We constitute societies - do they not constitute societies also? What is their association, but a number of people other than a church assembled together, for a certain end, and governed by rule? This is a society. Do we create offices, such as President, Vice President &c? Do they not create offices such as Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer, &c! We see in the minute, before us, printed in capital, and italic, James King, Moderator! From what part of the Bible do they get the "title" of Moderator? We see also in the same type, James Pugh, CLERK. From what part of the Bible do they get the "title" of Clerk? Have we a Board of Directors, or Executive committee! The minutes before us tell us of their "COMMITEE of arrangement," of their "committee of finance" (mark this) and other committees. Do we receive and pay out money! So does the Cumberland Association. The 9th article in these minutes, is the report of "committee of finance" (mark "this funding") "in the hands of the Treasurer" (again observe the office, and TITLE, and think where it is to be found in the word of God.) "In the hands of the Treasurer $9.43 1/2 - received from the churches 26.75 - Total 36, 18 1/2 , &c. &c."!! They pay out money too - "7 The Clerk (!) will have 1000 copies of these minutes printed, and distribute them as usual; and received $6. 00 for his services."!!
Are these arguments of our brethren, worth any thing against the Convention? Every one will see they are precisely of the same weight against the Association. Why then could they not see the fact? Ah - here lies the secret. There is a vast difference between muem and teum. Is not the admonition of the blessed Redeemer appropriate to them? "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and considerest not the beam in thine own eye." If they reply that the errors of the association, do not justify the convention in doing wrong; we will answer, they have not yet proved "the doings of the convention wrong. When they do, they will prove by the arguments that the association is equally wrong. If they will be consistent, let them first dissolve, and abandon their association, and we shall be ready to hear them patiently. Christ requires this very thing of a reprover, or that he shall not open his lips. "First cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shall thou see clearly to cast to the mote out of thy brothera eye."
Here we will close this defence. Much more perhaps ought to be said, but the cause required no less. Let no one think that in these remarks, we have been severe. It is true we have used great plainness of speech; we could have been severe, but we have suppressed out feelings. We know, and sincerely love many of the members of the Cumberland association, and knowing them to be men of amiable spirit, our wonder is that they allowed the publication in their minutes of such a circular as that before us. We presume it was written, and forced upon them by three or four men, who have recently published the tracts of Joshua Lawrence, in Franklin, which they sell at twenty fire cents each, and which use the same form of words, and breathe the same spirit with this truly acrimonious letter. They no doubt, from their mere amiability, and desire not to offend the writers let it pass. We regret that they did so. We hope it will not always be so, that a better spirit will arise among them, and that they will banish the disposition and abjure those measures so strongly condemned by the gospel, and so much at variance with the dictates of kindness and brotherly love. When they do so we shall most gladly receive them to our bosom and joyfully exclaim, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity."
Our friend of the Franklin Weekly Review published the Circular; will he, as an act of justice to the friends of liberal principles, give this defence also an insertion?
[From R. B. C. Howell, editor, The Baptist, January, 1836. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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