(This declaration was Published
November 1826 in Volume III of the Universalist magazine Christian
Telescope and again in December 1826 in volume IV of the Universalist
magazine Gospel Advocate. This
declaration was introduced in the 1826 Kehukee Association being tabled
for the churches to give their opinion at the 1827 session. The
Kehukee patterned their 1827 declaration after this one and reafirmed it in the 1828 and 1829 sessions...Editor)
Declaration of the Reformed Baptist Churches
ln the State of North Carolina, August 1826
“cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people.” --Bible.
Whereas, from twenty years experience of the progress of missionary plans and proceedings among us, we find that no benefit has arisen to the cause of Christ or his church, but on the contrary, that they have been the fruitful source of argument, strife, and contention, destroyed the peace, fellowship and union of brethren, and even the ministers of different churches, more than any thing else which has taken place in our denomination during the above period, and whereas we plainly see and realize that they have given rise to reproaches, backbitings, whisperings, and evil speaking, causing discord and disagreement amongst the Baptist on the subject of missions, whereby that brotherly love and fellowship which have heretofore been enjoyed and ought to abound, are destroyed. We do most sincerely believe that it is the missionary proceedings and beggars that have come among us, that have been the principal cause of our distresses, and which we see to be daily increasing; being well assured that Missionary Societies, Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Theological Schools, &C. and begging money, and hiring agents to beg for the support of such institutions, nether engaged the attention nor received the countenance in the example or practice of our early ministers, who bore the burden and heat of persecution and sufferings, and by their faithfulness and devotedness to the cause of truth, brought the Baptist society to that amount of numbers and influence which they have since attained. They would indeed have been ashamed, and blushed at such conduct and proceedings as have been resorted to in order to get money and subscriptions, under pretense of promoting religion and spreading the Gospel, while in this day there are too many that seem to glory in these very proceedings, and bring dishonor on the Christian name. We hesitate not to say that the societies and practices already referred to, have no warrant from the New Testament, nor in the example and practice of Christ or the Apostles.
We also well know that our unhired and unlearned but laborious and faithful predecessors in the ministry, brought the Baptist community to a greater state of purity, peace and prosperity, that all these unhallowed schemes and missionary operations have done, or ever will be able to do, with all their parade and begging of money. And indeed ever since these modern schemes and societies have been invented, and persons of by ends and worldly principles have engaged in them for the sake of the honor or profit which they might bring to them, thereby forming a connexion with this world, the cause of vital godliness, peace and union, has been declining among us. From these considerations, we do most solemnly declare a NON-FELLOWSIP with all such societies and proceedings, and with all churches who hold members of such societies in them, and that we cannot, as independent churches of Jesus Christ, travel further in communion with those churches or individuals that disregard our feelings, break our peace, and disturb the tranquility of the churches to which we belong.
We do therefore covenant and agree to and with one another, as independent and accountable churches of Jesus Christ, by our subscribing to endeavor to maintain the following articles, and to strive by divine assistance once more to restore purity of principles, brotherly love, peace and union, among ourselves if possible.
Article 1. Our body of churches shall be known by the name of the “Reformed Baptist Association of Churches.”
Article 2. Knowing from long and painful experience the strife, contention and evils cause in all the churches with which we are acquainted, by Missionary Societies and their proceedings, and fully convinced that begging money under pretence of spreading the Gospel and aiding the kingdom of Christ, is without any warrant from the New Testament, or any example in the purest ages of the Church , and that these modern schemes and Missionary Societies are only the inventions of men, and like all other such inventions will only prove a curse to the church of God, we therefore declare that no person who is a member of any Missionary Society shall have membership in any of our churches while he continues in such society, or if any who are already members of our churches, shall join such societies, they shall no longer be entitled to membership with us. And we further more declare, that no missionary preacher or beggar, being known to be such, shall , by any of us, be invited into our pulpits, or have his appointments published by us, to beg and cheat the people, contrary, as we conceive, to the precepts of the Gospel, and the long standing and ancient practice of the Baptist in these United States.
Article 3. Believing that the Tract Societies often frame fictitious accounts and narratives to mislead the mind and promote the interest of their own sects, and that one great design of those societies is to bring the youth of our country as they arrive to manhood, to be of some sectarian opinion, and thus pave the way in time for an established religion and priestly dominion, and that such an event ought to be guarded against by every friend to true religion and the rights of conscience, we therefore declare that no person who is a member of any such Tract Society, shall have membership with us except he first renounce his connexion with the society; and no minister or preacher in membership with these societies, shall be invited into our pulpits if it be known to us that he is a member of such societies.
Article 4. Convinced that Theological Seminaries are the inventions of men, and have no warrant or sanction from the New Testament, nor in the example and practice if Christ and the Apostles, who when called to preach the gospel, never went to such places to be taught rhetoric, oratory or other human accomplishments to prepare them for the work of their ministry: And knowing, more over, that the Baptist denomination in these United States have long existed and flourished without any such institutions, and that there is at present a strife among the different sects which shall be the greatest in the esteem and honor of this world, which strife must be injurious to the simplicity and purity of the religion of Jesus Christ. For already, since the commencement of these seminaries, and the numerous societies for their support, there is less vital and practical godliness, less harmony, peace and Christian feeling, than has ever been within our remembrance. And so far as we are able to see and judge from the word of God, and the past history of the Church, we believe that this new invention of training up young men for the ministry, will be the greatest curse to our own as well as other denominations, and in the end be productive of evils too numerous here to be described: substituting forms for realities, introducing a proud, pompous and fashionable ministry, instead of a humble, pious and self-denying one. And since in all ages it has been like priest, like people, true religion under such a ministry, must be expected soon to be reduced very low. We therefore fell constrained to declare a non-fellowship with all such human institutions and devices, and to discountenance all societies and travelling beggars for their support, believing them to be the emissaries and agents of Anti-Christ, and opposed to the true kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Article 5. In regard to the spread of the Bible, and Bible Societies, we believe that no one man is competent to the task of translating the Scriptures into another language, in the short time which seems to be practised in India. Nor do we think any two or three men of a particular sect, very likely to give the heather, or others, a correct and impartial version of the Bible, by reason of those particular views and prepossessions which influence, more or less, the members of every religious persuasion. We fear, indeed, that there will be as many incorrect of spurious Bibles as there were in the time of King James, when he was induced to select fifty four person, eminent for learning and knowledge in the ancient tongues, to give his subjects our present translation of the Bible. The first Bible that was ever printed in America, we are informed , was printed for the Nantick Indians, and in their tongue, more than one hundred an fifty years ago. Since that time, how many missionaries have been sent amongst the American Indians, how many of their youth have been educated for the ministry, and what incredible sums of money have been expended for converting the various tribes, and yet, where are the fruits of these mighty doings, and what has resulted from the vast expenditures? For want of a true call to this work, bad management, or through a neglect to set a proper example, or all these put together, the Indians in almost every instance have been only made worse, more profligate and dissipated, and been bro't to a more speedy and certain destruction. What has been already done, may be done again, not only to the few remaining Indians tribes in this country, but to the inhabitants of India, and elsewhere, particularly when no better instruments are employed, and much worse measures and proceedings are adopted,. But with respect to Bible Societies, so called, who can believe these societies will advance the interest of Christ's kingdom, when the great men of this world, the mighty, the rich, the fashionable and ungodly are received into half-brothership with the church, and are made life members, managers and directors in these societies, for carrying on the work of the Lord, and conversion of the world—and all this to get more money and obtain greater renown in the eyes of this world? Will such men, and such measures, promote the humble and self-denying religion of Jesus Christ in the earth? As well may it be expected that darkness will produce light. It would be well for some of the officers and donors to these popular societies to recollect the proverb, that charity should begin home, and first learn their own negroes to read the Bible, who have sweated and toiled for the very money perhaps they are giving to others. Are there not often poor laboring ministers and destitute individuals in their very neighborhoods, who stand in need of , and have a claim on their charity, whom they pass by, and give with a liberal hand to some distant object for the sake of having the praise and honor of great and wicked men?-- To us it seems surprisingly strange that those who neither read the Bible, nor live its truths, nor practice its precepts, should undertake to send the Bible to others, since they can feel no interest in the duties enjoined in it, if they do not even disbelieve its divine authority. We therefore declare our discountenance of, and non-fellowship with all such societies, and such connexion between the church and this world, knowing that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, and no person who is a member of any such Bible Society shall have membership with us except he first renounce this connexion therewith, for we are fully assured that if a worldly minded Judas betrayed Christ, so will these worldlings in Bible Societies betray the cause and church of God.
Article 6. Any person at present being a member of any of our churches, and feeling himself aggrieved by these our articles, where there is a majority in any particular church in favor of adopting them, shall have the liberty, by letter of dismission, to remove his membership, and to join any church he or she may think proper. It has already been stated, that any who are now members of our churches, may continue their membership by promising to renounce connexion with such societies as are herein by these Articles declared to be out of fellowship with us, and desisting from such practices as have been stated to wound and hurt the feelings of their brethren. For we claim the right of thinking for ourselves, and of worshipping God in the way we deem right, and also of choosing our own company for associates. These rights we believe to be given to us by our Maker; they were established by the blood and sufferings of our fathers, and are secured by the constitution; and we feel every willingness freely to grant them to others.
In testimony of agreement to the foregoing Articles of our declaration, We, the undersigned Baptist Churches, after due deliberation and decision in our conferences, have appointed our several clerks to sign the names of our churches, and the number of members belonging thereto, the 27th day of August, 1826. – N. Y. Telescope.