Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sharon Confession of Faith

The Georgia Baptists in the late 1820s and early 1830s experienced a theological stir as some ministers and churches pushed back against the prevailing soteriology that emphasized unconditional election and an atonement made for only these predetermined elect. Yellow River Baptist Association dismissed the Sharon Church of Henry County.[i] Sharon Church applied to the Flint River Association. Flint River appointed a committee to investigate the Sharon Church. Suffice it to say that this set off a series of events that led to division. Cyrus White’s “schism” was occurring about the same time,[ii] but the Sharon Church apparently kept that movement at arm’s length. After the 1830 session of the Flint River Association, the Sharon Church called for a convention, which met with them in December 1830. One product of the Sharon Convention was a doctrinal statement, sometimes called “the Sharon Faith”[iii] or the “Sharon Confession of Faith.”[iv]

I have been unable to locate the Sharon Confession, and still have not seen an original document. Nevertheless, the 1848 Minutes of the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association identify their Abstract of Principles as the Sharon Confession of Faith.[v] The identification appears on page 2, and the document is reproduced on page 4. Because this document seems not easily accessible, I am posting it here.

4th. Agreed to re-publish, as a summary of our doctrinal views, what is usually termed the Sharon Confession of Faith. (Appendix A.)[vi]

(A)—Abstract of Principles.
1. We believe in one only true and living God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, and only Law-Giver, and that there are three persons in the God Head, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and these three are one.
2. We believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, and only rule of faith and practice.
3. We believe in the doctrine of original sin.
4. We believe in man’s inability to recover himself from the fallen state which he is in by nature, by his own strength.
5. We believe in a Covenant between the Father and Son, in which all Grace is treasured up; and in the doctrine of Election, according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth according to 1st Peter, 1st chapter, 2d verse; and 2d Thessalonians 2d chapter, 13th verse: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” But that Election should not be so construed as to make God the author of sin either directly or indirectly. Nor on the other hand do we believe the creature can do any thing meritorious in his salvation.
6. We believe that good works are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification; that they are the evidences of faith, and absolutely necessary to justification before men.
7. We believe in a general Judgment, when all shall be judged according to their works; that the happiness of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
8. We believe that Saints will persevere in Grace to the end of their lives.
9. We believe that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are standing ordinances of the Church of Christ, and that immersion only is Baptism, and believers the only subjects.
10. We believe that no Minister has the right to administer the ordinances of the Lord’s house, except such as are called of God, approved by the churches, and regularly ordained.
11. We believe that men by nature are so morally depraved that they will not come to God for life and salvation, and but for the influences of the Holy Spirit none would ever come to him.
12. We hold that it is the command of God to his people, to publish His Word, and promulgate the Gospel of Christian to all nations, making known to the human family the plan of redemption through the atonement of Christ; and we believe it is the duty of every rational descendant of Adam, to whom the Gospel message of reconciliation is addressed, to exercise repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.[vii]

To compare to the “Abstract of Principles” of the Georgia Baptist Association, the oldest Baptist association in Georgia, click HERE.

[i] The Sharon Church is about seven miles east of McDonough, Georgia, and was founded February 28, 1824 Historical marker, Henry County Courthouse, McDonough, Georgia.
[ii] From whom and his church, Bethlehem, the Ocmulgee Association withdrew in their 1830 session. At this point it is not clear to me how much contact there was between the “Sharon group” and the “White group”.
[iii] Georgia Baptists: Historical and Biographical, J. H. Campbell, Macon, GA: J. W. Burke & Company, 1874, p. 111; Campbell wrote, “To the articles known as ‘The Sharon Faith’ there can be no great objection, because it pretty much the language of scripture.”
[iv] “Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia,” Daniel Williams, in The Journal of Baptist Studies, Volume 6 (2014), 31-59, p. 45
[v] Made more interesting in light of the 1842 statement: “...for we never did adopt the Sharon Confession of Faith; and neither did we ever design so to do...” (Minutes of the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association, October 28, 1842, p. 5) Thanks to Robert Picirilli and the Free Will Baptist Historical Collection for making these available to me.
[vi] Minutes of the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association, October 14-17, 1848, p. 2
[vii] Ibid., p. 4

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