Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Theological Trouble in Texas

What follows is the circular letter of Union Association of Regular Baptist Faith and Order from the October 1844 associational meeting at the Fort Houston Church in Houston County, Texas. At the time, Daniel Parker was moderator (and possibly wrote the circular letter). The letter spells out (though not exactly) fellowship troubles related to the Bethel Church, Union Church, Elders J. L. Bryant & Asa Wright, as well as Elder Allen Samuel.

            The messengers of the churches composing the Union Association of Regular Baptist Faith and Order—
To the Churches and Brethren of whom the said Association is composed, and those who have obtained
like precious faith with us:—
            Beloved Brethren—By our minutes you will see the progress and state of our Union, and although we are few in number, and remain a poor and afflicted people, while the world is rejoicing, yet we should not be discouraged nor dismayed, for the Lord saith to Zion “As a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou was refused, saith thy God; for a small moment have forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord they redeemer.” Now is the dark, afflicted, mourning time of poor Zion, while her enemies and the world are rejoicing in apparent prosperity and glory, and perhaps will remain so until the image of the beast with its power and number, &c., is accomplished, and the Lord take to himself his great name, and reigneth as the God of Zion, while the vials of wrath is pouring out, &c, then the state of things will be turned right about, the righteous will be delivered out of trouble, and the wicked will come in their stead. Until these things are brought about, the church of God will witness the truth of her Saviour’s words: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world; therefore the world hateth you. In the world you shall have tribulation,” &c..; also, “Take heed that no man deceive you,” &c; “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Dear brethren, while this state of things exists, and “ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” We should be close on our watch, and not be surprised at the enemies of truth who are untiring in their exertions using every stratagem in their power to make innovations upon the faith and order of the church of God, and thereby disturb our peace, and bring us into contempt; and should we for the sake of peace, or through timidity, give way to the sacrifice of one point of gospel truth, or church order, pertaining to the house of God, we may pursue that course until all is gone—this is what the enemy is after: for the more we surrender the weaker we shall grow, or be. Old Israel was always strongest when she was most unlike the surrounding nations; and as we are members one of another, being united in an associated compact, it becomes our duty to watch over each other for good, and thus guard against every appearance of evil. This led to the particular object of this short epistle, which is to warn the churches in our union against the disorder of the Bethel church in Sabine county. This church was by legal authority constituted upon the articles of faith, upon which our association stands united, and agreed to unite with us, or surrender their constituted authority to the churches composing this association, from whom she received it; but in place of doing either, she has united in forming an association, calling herself the “Sabine Baptist Association.” In this, the said Bethel church has not only forfeited the right of her constitution, and proved herself unsound in the faith of the Regular Baptist, but has also become, as we view, in a state of disorder, by uniting with and thereby partaking of the disorder of the Union Baptist church of Nacogdoches county, which church hold a number of members who were baptised by a Mr. Bryant, a man who had no ordained or legal authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel. This sacrifice of the right of the gospel church, and abuse of her ordinances is a crime of too high magnitude to be borne with, or overlooked by us; for if we surrender one point, we may thus progress, until all is gone; and thus the members of the said Bethel church, with their preacher, Mr. Asa Wright, who formerly claimed some relationship with us, should not be admitted as visiting brethren to church privileges with us; nor can our members sit in union with the said Bethel church, without producing distress and cause of grief in their own union; and it is evidently disorder, and inconsistent to invite preachers to preach with us to whom we will not extend the right hand of fellowship; nor can it be done with peace and safety to our own union. And we will further inform our union, and the public, that Elder Allen Samuel, who was formerly one with us, is now excluded from us; and we, brethren, might do well to guard against all such designing men and their associates , or kindred spirits—that he has gone out from us, because they were not of us, &c.; and thereby preserve peace and union amongst ourselves, and knowing that it is God’s good pleasure to give the kingdom to his little flock, we should bear our afflictions with patience, until the God of Zion makes an end of sin, and crown Zion with the glory of her salvation. We comment you to God, and the word of his grace, who is able to make you wish unto salvation, and preserve you blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As printed in The Baptist (Nashville, Tennessee), Saturday, April 12, 1845, pages 3-4 (531-532); R. B. C. Howell and W. Carey Crane were editors at the time.

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