1816 & ’45 docs move Sandy Creek away from Calvinism

September 25, 2013

by Ron F. Hale

Those with an agenda to rewrite Southern Baptist history will inappropriately use the early historical documents of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association to gain devotees to their staunch brand of New Calvinism. Their obsessive desire to take Southern Baptists back to the so-called glory days of Calvinism clouds their judgment in disclosing the unfettered truth about our humble Sandy Creekers.

The Sandy Creek Baptist Association in North Carolina was constituted in 1758, but did not adopt a set of faith principles until 1816. This was 45 years after the death of Shubal Sterns (1706-1771). Most websites highlighting Baptist Confessions only mention the early Sandy Creek document, or the edition identifying more with the doctrines of grace (Calvinism). This article will show both the 1816 and the 1845 Sandy Creek documents, and readers will clearly see their historic shift away from Calvinism.

Twenty-eight years after the first principles of faith was published, the Sandy Creekers adopted a longer and more detailed confession of faith clearly showing their reposition. This is unmistakably seen by comparing section four of the earlier version to section six of the later version.

Please remember that 1845 was the year that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia.  Therefore, with the Sandy Creekers publishing their 1845 Declaration of Faith showing their move away from strict Calvinism, it must be noted that the Southern Baptist Convention was not totally dominated by Calvinists in its inaugural year as some suggest.

Students of Baptist history will clearly see that the 1845 Sandy Creek document used the very popular 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith as its prototype. The New Hampshire Confession was a clear move away from the Calvinism espoused in the 1743 Philadelphia Baptist Confession that the Triennial Baptist Convention began with in 1814.

Dr. E.Y. Mullins, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, would use the 1833 New Hampshire Confession as he led Southern Baptists to adopt the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message. He could have used the Abstract of Principles from SBTS, but Dr. Mullins represented a people making a conscious and open choice to soften its stance and move away from the Princetonian Calvinism reflected in the theology of the founders of our first theological seminary.

On another historical note, in 1835, 10 years before the later version was adopted, Sandy Creekers took a stand against their members owning slaves; they advised their churches “to exclude members who will not abandon the practice, after the first and second admonition” (Purefoy, pages 163-164). Seeing no moral equivalence to undergird a biblical framework supporting slavery, the Sandy Creekers made a decision to abandon this ingrained economic and legal institution. On the other hand, leaders within the Charleston tradition were steadfast defenders of the institution of slavery with some serving as chaplains to the Confederacy.

Believing that Southern Baptists are a judicious people and smart enough to see the truth without being imposed on, the rest of this article will hold up before Southern Baptists both the earlier and later versions of the Sandy Creek Baptist belief statements – you make the call!

Principles of Faith of the Sandy Creek Association – 1816

1. We believe that there is only one true and living God; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Equal in essence, power and glory; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.

2. That Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, and only rule of faith and practice.

3. That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.

4. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit, and justification in his sight only by imputation of Christ righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will perservere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

5. We believe that there will be a resurrection from the dead, and a general judgment, and that the happiness of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.

6. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have obtained fellowship with each other, and have given themselves up to the Lord and one another; having agreed to keep up a godly discipline, according to the rules of the Gospel.

7. That Jesus Christ is the great head of the church and that the government thereof is with the body.

8. That baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the Lord, and to be continued by his church until his second coming.

9. That true believers are the only fit subjects of baptism; and that immersion is the only mode.

10. That the church has no right to admit any but regular baptized church members to communion at the Lord’s Table.

=  = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association (1845)

Approved September 25, 1845 by the Sandy Creek Baptist Association at the Mineral Spring Meeting House in Chatham County, North Carolina, as recorded by George W. Purefoy, in A History of the Sandy Creek Association: From Its Organization in A.D. 1758 to A.D. 1858 (New York: Sheldon and Co., 1859), 199-216.

WHEREAS, in the opinion of this association, Articles of Faith, with Scripture references, would be beneficial and useful to the members of our churches; and that they may be better prepared to defend the leading doctrines of the Bible:

Resolved, therefore, That we adopt the following sixteen articles, with the Scripture references, as the faith of this association; and that they be appended to our minutes, and recommended to the different churches for their adoption.


We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,and truth without any mixture of error for its matter;that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union,5 and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions, should be tried. 6

Places in the Bible where taught.
2 Tim. iii. 16, 17: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Also 2 Pet. i. 31. 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. Acts i. 16 ; iii. 21. John x. 35. Luke xvi. 29- 31. Ps. cxix. cxi. Rom. iii. 1, 2.

2 Tim. iii. 15: Able to make thee wise unto salvation. Also 1 Pet. i. 10-12. Acts xi. 14. Rom. i. 16. Mark xvi. 16. John v. 34-39.

Prov. xxx. 5, 6: Every word of God is pure. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Also John xvii. 17. Rev. xxii. 18, 19. Rom. iii. 4.

Rom. ii. 12: As many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. John xii. 47, 48: If any man hear my words — the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. Also 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4. Luke x. 10-16 ; xii. 47, 48.

 Phil. iii. 16: Let us walk by the same rule; let us mind the same thing. Also Ephes. iv. 3-6. Phil. ii. 1, 2. 1 Cor. i. 10. 1 Pet. iv. 11.

I John iv. 1: Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God. Isaiah viii. 20: To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 1 Thess. v. 21: Prove all things. 2 Cor. xiii. 5: Prove your own selves. Also Acts xvii. 11. 1 John iv. 6. Jude 3d v. Ephes. vi. 17. Ps. cxix. 59, 60. Phil. i. 9-11.


That there is one, and only one, true and living God, whose name is Jehovah, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth;* inexpressibly glorious in holiness;** worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love;*** revealed under the personal and relative distinctions of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost****equal in every divine perfection,***** and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.******

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Ps. Ixxxiii. 18: Thou whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth. Heb. iii. 4. Rom. i. 20. Jer. x. 10.

** Ex. xv. 11: Who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness? Isai. vi. 3. 1 Pet. i. 15, 16. Rev. iv. 6-8.

*** Mark xii. 30: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Rev. iv. 11: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Mat x. 37. Jer. ii. 12, 13.

**** Mat. xxviii. 19: Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. John xv. 26: When the Comforter is come, whom I will send you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. 1 Cor. xii. 4-6. 1 John v. 7.

***** John x. 30: I and my Father are one. John v. 17; xiv. 23. Acts v. 3, 4. 1 Cor. iii. 10, 11.

****** Ephes. ii. 18: For through Him [the Son] we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father. 2 Cor. ii. 14: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Rev. i. 4, 5.


That man was created in a state of holiness, under the law of his maker;1 but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state it in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners,** not by constraint but choice;*** being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, wholly given to the gratification of the world, of Satan, and of their own sinful passions, and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin,**** without defense or excuse.*****

Places in the Bible where taught.
Gen. i. 27: God created man in his own image: Gen. i. 31: And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Ec. vii. 29. Acts xvii. 20. Gen. ii. 16.

** Gen. iii. 6-24: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise; she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat; therefore the Lord God drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Rom. v. 12.

*** Rom. v. 19: By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners. John iii. 6, Ps. Ii. 5. Rom. v. 15-19; viii.7.

*** Isai. liii. 6: We have turned, every one to his own way: Gen. vi. 12. Rom. iii. 9-18.

**** Ephes. ii. 1-3: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others. Rom. i. 18:  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Rom. i. 32. Gal. iii. 10. Mat. xxv. 41. Rev. xx. 15.

***** Ez. xviii. 19, 20: Yet say ye, Why ? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? — the soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Rom. i. 20: So that they are without excuse. Rom. iii. 19: That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Gal. iii. 22.


That the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace,* through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God,** who took upon him our nature yet without sin:*** honored the law by his personal obedience, **** and made atonement for our sins by his death;***** being risen from the dead he is now enthroned in heaven,****** and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, is every way qualified to be a suitable; a compassionate, and an all- sufficient Savior.*******

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Ephes. ii. 5: By grace ye are saved. Mat. xviii. 11. 1 John iv. 10. 1 Cor. iii. 5-7. Acts xv. 11.

** John iii. 16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John i. 1-14. Heb. iv. 14 ; xii. 24.

*** Phil. ii. 6, 7  Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God ; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Heb. ii. 9 ; ii. 14. 2 Cor. viii. 9.

**** Isaiah xlii. 21: The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable. Phil. ii. 8 Gal. iv. 4, 5. Rom. iii. 21.

***** Isaiah liii. 4: He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Mat. xx. 28. Rom. iv. 25 ; iii. 21-26. 1 John iv. 10 ; ii. 2. 1 Cor. xv. 1-3. Heb. ix. 13-15.

****** Heb. i. 8: Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever. Heb. i. 3 ; viii. 3. Col. iii. 1-4.

******* Heb. vii. 25: Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Col. ii. 9: For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Heb. ii. 18 : In that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted. Heb. vii. 26. Ps. lxxxix. 19. Ps. xlv.


That the great gospel blessing which Christ of his fulness,* bestows on such as believe in him is justification;** that justification consists in the pardon of sin***and the promise of eternal life, on principles of righteousness**** that it is bestowed not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done,***** but solely through his own redemption and righteousness; that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.******

Places in the Bible where taught.
* John i. 16: Of his fullness have we all received. Ephes. iii. 8. i Acts xiii. 39: By him all that believe are justified from all things. Isaiah liii. 11. Rom. viii. 1.

** Rom. v. 9: Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Zech. xiii. 1. Mat. ix. 6. Acts x. 43.

*** Rom. v. 17: They which receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, 6hall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Titus iii. 5, 6. 1 Pet. iii. 7. 1 John ii. 25. Rom. v. 21.

**** Rom. iv. 4, 5: Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Rom. v. 21 ; vi. 23. Phil. iii. 7-9.

***** Rom. v. 19: By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Rom. iii. 24-26. 1 John ii. 12.

****** Rom. v. 1, 2: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ; by whom also we have access by faith into his grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Rom. v. 3: We glory in tribulations also. Rom. v. 11: We also joy in God. 1 Cor. i. 30. Mat. vi. 36. 1 Tim. iv. 8.


That the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel;* that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial and obedient faith,** and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, except his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ;*** which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation.****

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Rev. xxii. 17: Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. Isaiah lv. 1. Luke xiv. 17.

** Rom. xvi. 26: The gospel, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. Mark i. 15. Rom. i. 15, 17.

*** John v. 40: Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life. Matt, xxiii. 37. Rom. ix. 32. Prov. i. 24. Acts xiii. 46.

**** John iii. 19: And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Mat. xi. 20. Luke xix. 27. 2 Thess. i. 8.


That in order to be saved, we must be regenerated or born again;* that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind;** and is effected in a manner above our comprehension or calculation,*** by the power of the Holy Spirit, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; **** and that its proper evidence is found in the holy fruit which we bring forth to the glory of God.*****

Places in the Bible where taught.
* John iii. 3: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John iii. 7. Rev. xxi. 27.

** Cor. v. 20 : If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Ez. xxxvi. 26. Deut. xxx. 6. Rom. ii. 28, 29 ; v. 5. -1 John iv. 7.

*** John iii. 8: The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. John i 13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. James i. 16-18. 1 Cor. i. 30. Phil. ii. 13.

**** 1 Pet. xxii. 25: Ye have purified your hearts by obeying the truth through the Spirit. 1 John v. 1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Ephes. iv. 20-24- Col. iii. 9-11.

***** Ephes. v. 9: The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. Rom. viii. 9. Gal. v. 16-23. Ephes. iii. 14-21.


That election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners;* that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end;** that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable;**** that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy;***** that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree;****** that it is ascertained by its effects in all who believe the Gospels is the foundation of Christian assurance;******* and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves, demands and deserves our utmost diligence.********

Places in the Bible where taught.
* 2 Tim. i. 8, 6: Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God; who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. Ephes. i. 3-14. 1 Pet. i. 1, 2. Rom xi. 5, 6. John xv. 16. 1 John iv. 19. Hos. xii. 9.

** 2 Thess. ii. 13, 14: But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you unto salvation, through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth; whereunto he also called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts xiii. 48. John x. 16. Mat. xx. 16. Acts xv. 14.

*** Ex. xxxiii. 18, 19 : And Moses said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And He said, I will cause all my goodness to pass be fore thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee ; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Mat. xx. 15: Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own ? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? Eph. i. 11. Rom. ix. 23, 24. Jer. xxxi. 3. Rom. xi. 28, 29. James i. 17, 18. 2 Tim. ii. 9. Rom. xi. 32-36.

**** 1 Cor. iv. 7: For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Cor. i. 26-31. Rom. iii. 27; iv. 16. Col. iii. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 5-7; xv. 10. 1 Pet v. 10. Acts i. 24. 1 Thess. ii. 13. 1 Pet. ii. 9. Luke xviii. 7. John xv. 16. Ephes. i. 16. 1 Thess. ii. 12.

**** 2 Tim. 10: Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 1 Cor. ix. 22. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Rom. viii. 28-30. John vi. 37-40. 2 Pet. i. 10.

***** 1 Thess. i. 4-10: Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God : for our Gospel came unto you, not in word only, but in power, etc .

****** Rom. viii. 28-39: Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? if God be for us, who can be against us ? Isaiah, xiii. 16. Rom. xi. 29.

******* 2 Pet. i. 10: Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Phil. iii. 12. Heb. vi. 11.


That such only are real believers as endure unto the end;* that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors;** that a special Providence watches over their welfare,*** and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.****

Places in the Bible where taught.
* John viii. 31: Then said Jesus, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. 1 John ii. 27, 28; iii. 9; v. 18.

** 1 John ii. 19: They went out from us, but they were not of us ; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that it might be made manifest that they were not all of us. John xiii. 18. Matt. xiii. 20, 21. John vi. 66-69.

*** Rom. viii. 28: And we know that all things work together for good unto them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. Mat. vi. 30-33. Jer. xxxii. 40. Ps. xci. 11, 12; cxxi. 3.

**** Phil. i. 6: He who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. ii. 12, 13. Jude 24, 25. Heb. i. 14. 2 Kings vi. 16. Heb. xiii. 6. 1 John iv. 4.


That the law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government,* that it is holy, just, and good;** and that the inability which the Scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfil its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin;*** to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the Gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.****

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Rom. iii. 21: Do we make void the law through faith ? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law. Mat. v. 17. Luke xvi. 17. Rom. iii. 20 ; iv. 15.

** Rom vii. 12 : The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good, Rom. vii. 7, 14, 22. Gal. iii. 21. Ps. cxix. t Rom. viii. 7, 8: The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Josh. xxiv. 19. Jer. xiii. 23. John vi. 44; v. 44.

*** Rom. viii. 2-4: For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Rom. x. 4. 1 Tim. i. 5. Heb. viii. 10. Jude 20, 21. Heb. xii. 14.


That a visible church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers,* associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel;** observing the ordinances of Christ;*** governed by his laws**** and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his word;***** that its only proper officers are bishops or pastors, and deacons,****** whose qualifications, claims, and duties, are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.

Places in the Bible where taught.
* 1 Cor. i. 1-13: Paul, (unto the church of God which is at Corinth,) Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Mat. xviii. 17. Acts v. 11; viii. 1; xi. 26. 1 Cor. iv. 17; xiv. 23. 3 John 9. 1 Tim. iii. 6.

** Acts ii. 41, 42: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls: 2 Cor. viii. 5: They first gave their ownselves to the Lord, and then unto us by the will of God. Acts ii. 47. 1 Cor. v. 12, 13.

*** 1 Cor. xi. 2: Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you. 2 These, iii. 6. Rom. xvi. 17-20. 1 Cor. xi. 23. Mat. xviii. 15- 20. 1 Cor. 5 and 6. 2 Cor. 2 and 7. 1 Cor. iv. 17. i

**** Mat. xxviii. 20: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. John xiv. 15; xv. 12. 1 John iv. 21; John xiv. 21. 1 Thess. iv. 2. 2 John vi. Gal. vi. 2. All the Epistles.

***** Ephes. iv. 7: Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 1 Cor. xv. 12: Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Phil. i. 27: That I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 12. 1 Cor. 14.

****** Phil. i 1: With the bishops and deacons. Acts xiv. 23. Acts xv. 22. I Tim. 3. Titus 1.


That Christian baptism is  the immersion of a believer in water,* in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit;** to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem our faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its purifying power;*** that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation, and to the Lord’s Supper,**** in which the members of the church, by the use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ;***** preceded always by solemn self-examination.******

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Acts viii. 36-39: And the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. Mat. iii. 5, 6. John iii. 22, 23. John iv. 1, 2. Mat. xxviii. 19. Mark xvi. 16. Acts ii. 38; viii. 12; xvi. 32-34; xviii. 8.

** Mat. xxviii. 19: Baptizing them” in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Acts x. 47, 48. Gal. iii. 27, 28.

*** Rom. vi. 1-14: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Col. ii. 12. 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21. Acts xxii. 16.

**** Acts ii. 41, 42: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and there were added to them, the same day, about three thousand souls: And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers. Mat. xxviii. 19, 20. Acts and Epistles.

***** 1 Cor. xi 26: As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord’s death till he come. Mat. xxvi. 26-29 Mark xiv. 22-25. Luke xxii. 14-21.

****** 1 Cor. xi. 28: But let it man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. 1 Cor. v. 7, 8 ; x. 3-32 ; xi. 17-32. John vi. 26-71.


That the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath,* and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes,** by abstaining from all secular labor and recreations;*** by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private**** and public***** and by preparation for that rest****** which remaineth for the people of God.

Places in the Bible where taught.
*Acts xx. 7: On the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them. Gen. ii. 3. Col. ii. 16, 17. Mark ii. 27. John xx. 19. 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.

** Ex. xx. 8: Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Rev. i. 10: I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day. Ps. cxviii 24: This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.

*** Isai. lviii. 13, 14: If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord honorable; and shall honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasures, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob. Isai. Ivi. 2-8.

**** Ps. cxviii. 15: The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacle of the righteous.

***** Heb. x. 24, 25: Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is. Acts xi. 26: A whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. Acts xiii. 44: The next Sabbath Day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. Lev. xix. 30. Ez. xlvi. 3. Luke iv. 16. Acts xvii, 2, 3. Ps. xxvi. 8; Ixxxvii. 2.

****** Heb. iv. 3-11 : Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest.


That civil government is of divine appointment, for the interests and good order of human society;* and that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored, and obeyed,** except in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ,*** who is the only lord of the conscience, and the prince of the kings of the earth.****

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Rom. xiii. 1-7: The powers that be are ordained of God. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Dent. xvi, 18. 2 Sam. xxiii. 3. Ex. xviii. 23. Jer. xxx. 21.

** Mat. xxii. 21: Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. Titus iii. 1. 1 Peter ii. 13. 1 Tim. ii. 1-8.

***Acts v. 29: We ought to obey God rather than man. Mat. x. 28. Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Dan. iii. 15-18; vi. 7-10. Acts iv. 18-20.

****Mat. xxiii. 10: Ye have one master, even Christ. Rom. xiv. 4: Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? Rev. xix. 16: And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written King, of kings and Lord of lords. Psalm ii; Ixxii. 11. Rom. xiv. 9-13.


That there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked;* that such only as through faith are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the spirit of our God, are truly righteous in his esteem,** while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in his sight wicked, and under the curse;*** and this distinction holds among men both in and after death.****

Places in the Bible where taught.
* Mal. iii. 18: Ye shall discern between the righteous and the wicked ; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. Isai. v. 20. Gen. xviii. 23. Jer. xv. 19. Acts x. 34, 85. Rom. vi. 16.

*** Rom. i. 17: The just shall live by faith. Rom. vi. 18: We are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. 1 John ii 29: If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. 1 John iii. 7. Rom. vi. 18-22. 1 Cor. xi. 32. Prov. xi. 31. 1 Peter iv. 17, 18.

*** 1 John v. 19: And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. Gal. iii. 10 : As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. John iii. 36. Isaiah lvii. 21. Ps. x. 4. Isaiah lv. 6, 7.

**** Prov. xiv. 32: The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death. See, also, the example of the rich man and Lazarus. . Luke xvi. 25: Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. John viii. 21-24. Prov. x. 24. Luke xii. 4, 5; ix. 23-26. John xii. 26, 26. Eccl. iii. 17. Mat. vii. 13, 14.


That the end of this world is approaching;* that at the last day Christ will descend from heaven,* and raise the dead from the grave to final retribution;* that a solemn separation will then take place**** that the wicked will be adjudged to endless punishment, and the righteous to endless joy;*****and that this judgment will fix forever the final state of men in heaven or hell, on principles of righteousness.******

Places in the Bible where taught.
* 1 Peter iv. 7: But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 1 Cor. vii. 29-31. Heb. i. 10- 12. Mat. xxiv. 35. 1 John ii. 17. Mat. xxviii. 20; xiii. 39; xiii. 49. 2 Peter iii. 3-13.

** Acts i. 11: This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Rev. i. 7. Heb. ix. 28. Acts iii. 21. 1 Thess. iv. 13-18, v. 1-11.

*** Acts xxiv. 15: There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 1 Cor. xv. 12-59. Luke xiv. 14. Dan. xii. 2. John v. 28, 29; vi. 40; xi. 25, 26. 2 Tim. i. 10. Acts x. 42.

**** Mat. xiii. 49: The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked, from among the just. Mat. xiii. 37-43; xxiv. 30, 31; xxv. 27-33

***** Mat. xxv. 35-46: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. Rev. xxii. 11: He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Mark ix. 43-48. 2 Peter  ii. 9, 10. Jude 7. Phil. iii. 19. Rom. vi. 22. 2 Cor. v. 10, 11. John iv. 36. 2 Cor. iv. 18.

****** Rom. iii. 5, 6 : Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance ? (I speak as a man). God forbid; for how then shall God judge the world? 2 Thess. i. 6-10. Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them who trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us — when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe. Heb. vi. 1, 2. 1 Cor. iv. 5. Acts xvii. 31. Rom. ii. 2-16. Rev. xx. 11, 12. 1 John ii. 8; iv. 17.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God ?
2 Peter iii. 11-12.

The following churches were represented:
Churches. Counties. 6. Mount Olive* Chatham. 7. Love’s Creek… Chatham. 8. May’s Chapel . .. . 9 . Mount Zion 10 . Mount Carmel . . . 11. Mount Gilead 12. Mineral Spring.. 13 . Pleasant Grove . . Chatham . Orange . ., Orange. ., Chatham . . Chatham . Chatham . , Chatham . . Chatham . . Chatham . Randolph . Orange . . Chatham . 8 67 10 66 2 172 3 43 2 127 65 1 80 43 Names of Delegates. ( Elder Levi Andrews . < William Gean (William Robertson. ( Daniel Hackney . . . . < John Lambert ( D. Murchison (J. W. Stedman . 1 William Burns ( Sherwood White . . . ( David Patterson . < David Johnson ( Samuel Barker ( Eloer W. H. Merritt , 1 John Hutchins ( William G. Weaver. (William Griffin .? A. G. Hinton ( H. J. Stone f. Samuel Dowd . < James Cmtchfield . . ( William Culberson . ( Augustus W. Bynum . 1 Kelleo Mitchell . . . < Allen Ellis ( John Dark 14 . Beave’s Chapel . . . 1 Eli Webster ; 1 105 (John R. Marsh (William H. Bridges. 15. Rocky River …. . < Henry Dorsett 8 63 ( Elder Wm. Lineberry ( John Thompson …. 16. Bock Spring < E. A. Moore 3 47 ( Stephen Moore ( Leander York …. 17. Sandy Creek . < Solomon S. Siler. 1 75 ( William Reece . . . ( Hasten Poe 18. Sandy Field…. . 2 Ruffin Andrews . . 37 112 ( Neverson Cates . . ( James S. Lasater. 19. Gum Spring . < James Gross 19 125 ( Abner Lasater . . . * Formerly Lick Creek. No. Churches. Counties. …..m,.* .v …/l(.r,fi.-:f …. ^, v JElisha Cagle ) 20 Mechanic’s Hill, Asa Williamson >• 1 38 B. P. Person ) 21. Fall Creek Chatham Alston Jones ». Bethlehem Moore { JJ£ ^awhorn. . . . J j „ ( Spencer Dorsett ) 23. Cedar Falls Randolph .? Matthew Sumner. . . > 2 16 ( James F. Marsh ) 146 1660 In 1846, this body met at Love’s Creek M. H., Chat

A History of the Sandy Creek Association, from its Organization in A.D. 1758 to A.D. 1858, by Elder George W. Purefoy, (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1859), 199-213.

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Rick Patrick


Thanks for demonstrating so clearly the move of the Sandy Creek tradition away from Calvinism as demonstrated in their two confessional statements. Laying these two documents side by side make the case definitively.

While such confessional statements are very important pieces of evidence, I would also argue that the sermons preached in the churches of this association would be the clearest indicator of their theology. My hypothesis is that they began preaching less and less Calvinistically long before the second confession was drafted, just as revisions of the BFM today arrive AFTER we have embraced certain doctrines. I don’t think we reduce our beliefs to writing and then start preaching differently. I think we start preaching differently and finally get around to updating the confessional statement.

Thanks again for your superb contribution.

    Norm Miller

    Rick: Your hypothesis is demonstrated in the commitment to, and convictions regarding inerrancy, which was *the* motivating force of the Conservative Resurgence; and then the BFM 2000 not only reflected the preaching and beliefs of that milieu, but what we had believed and preached for generations. Such documents define and declare beliefs already held rather than serving as papal edicts.
    My thanks to Ron Hale, too, whose pen is guided by history and whose point is the future.

      Ron F. Hale

      Thanks Rick and Norm … The Separate Baptists led by Shubal Sterns and Daniel Marshall were known as passionate evangelists, preaching with a “holy whine” and employing emotional appeals to come repent at the mourner’s bench to be “born again.” Sterns became the Apostle to Appalachia. Thank goodness that the passion and fire of the Separate Baptists (Sandy Creekers) mixed with the more formal and educated tradition of the Charleston tradition helped produce many Baptists with a good head and heart for planting churches, sharing the Gospel, and becoming the largest missionary sending force in the world. Without this great history of Sandy Creekers running through the fabric of our history, Southern Baptists would not have seen the great growth that we have experienced.


Ron, thank you for your contribution. Your article supports a comment that Dr. Lemke made in August of 2012 at the Calvinism discussion in Kentucky. He made a statement that the Southern Baptist Convention was started for the most part by Calvinist and had Calvinistic leanings but we have been moving away from that position ever since. This is not an exact quote; I’m working form memory. Thanks again for your contribution.

Norm Miller

A site known as the Reformed Reader does not have the 1845 confession, but the earlier one. Yet it claims to be “committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs.” The ampersand in the preceding quote seems therefore to accurately function as a symbol of division and not conjunction.

dr. james willingham

I hate to be a kill-joy at this love feast about the past, but the Sandy Creek Confession of Faith of 1816 is not a departure from the Sovereign Grace Faith of the Separate Baptists, and it is clear on the reading of it in Articles 3 & 4. Article 3 plainly states that man can do nothing by his own free will or ability to save himself, that is, he is utterly impotent. That is based upon such texts as Jn.6:44 & 65. Secondly, Article 4 speaks of Election from Eternity and Effectual Calling, the latter an item on which John Gano had written in the Philadelphia Minutes some years earlier. And I would point out that Sandy Creek was in correspondence with Philadelphia, having sent them their minutes. Likewise, there was a member of the Confession Committee, the clerk of the Association, who would be about 9 years later become the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, Dr. Basil Manley, Sr., Moreover, the Chairman of the Committee was Rev. Luther Rice who declares boldly in his Memoirs that election and predestination are in the Bible and that a minister had better preach them. That “had better” implying that he would give an account to God for not preaching them. Likewise, the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church from which came the first Southern Baptist missionary to China, Matthew T. Yates, and which had been organized in 1814 upon the basis of Articles of Faith that not only held to the standard Sovereign Grace views of salvation, but spoke of Christ dying for the church and not a word about him dying for the world.

    Rick Patrick

    Unless I am mistaken, Dr. Willingham, the gist of Ron’s post is not to deny the Calvinistic language of the 1816 confession, but rather to highlight the movement away from Calvinism between 1816 and 1845 that is clearly evidenced by the less Calvinistic language in the 1845 confession.

      Ron F. Hale

      You are correct.

      Dr. Willingham please look at paragraph three again in my intro. Blessings!

        Norm Miller

        I must add that my faulty editing of the original title Ron submitted gives impetus to Dr. Willingham’s impression and comment. The error is mine. Comparing the two docs clearly shows the departure from Calvinism.

    Norm Miller

    Dr. Willingham:
    Per these verses you cited:
    44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
    65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

    I have repeatedly noted to you and others that there is no disagreement on these verses among us all. We *all* believe that God initiates the call to salvation. We do, however, disagree on what happens after that. However, your repeated citation of these verses seems to indicate division where there is none. Perhaps you would quit citing them as an apparent point of disagreement?

    Thank you.

      dr. james willingham

      Dear Norm: Sorry, if I stress the obvious, but those verses were cited by such back in the period of the writing of that 1816 Confession. In any case, what they specify, as following such evaluations of man’s condition as is found in those two verses, is Election from Eternity and Effectual Calling. Election from Eternity was then understand to be unconditional or, as a convert of one our Southern Baptist Missionaries to Japan put it in his autobiography, “God one’sidedly chose me.” The point to be made is that the doctrines of grace are evangelistic doctrines; they are invitations to receive God on His terms. The doctrines were certainly initiatives of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the launching of the Great Century of Missions, the latter in view of the Memoirs of Rev. Luther Rice. It would also appear to be germane to call attention to the Points made by Dr. Paige Patterson on the doctrine of election which, in essence, puts all of the dissident as well as the affirming elements in the controversy on the same side of the issue.

        Norm Miller

        Candidly brother, I do not see what you claim is obvious in these verses: “In any case, what they specify, as following such evaluations of man’s condition as is found in those two verses, is Election from Eternity and Effectual Calling.” There is no explicit element of eternity specific to the verses, nor of irresistible grace. Calvinists imply those elements, but they are not in view.

          dr. james willingham

          Dear Brother Norm: I call your attention to John Gano’s circular letter in the Philadelphia Assn. on effectual calling and to the writings of James Petigru Boyce regarding both doctrines as he grew up under the ministry of Basil Manly, Sr. I also would refer you to the Georgia Baptist Assn. and the Circular letters written there, one of which was by Silas Mercer, the father of Jesse, who wrote on the doctrines of predestination and irresistible grace as soul winning doctrines. I would also call your attention to Rev. Luther Rice’s Memoirs wherein he very specifically says these truths must be preached. And then there are circular letters in many of the Assns. across the South in this early period which are very clear. Basil Manly, Sr., wrote one in Alabama on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. J.L. Dagg’s writings are quite specific. And the Assns., especially the early ones and the early churches, which were established by Separate Baptists fleeing the problems over the Regulator Movement in North Carolina, established their churches on the basis of the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of 1742. John Gano who was in Kentucky at an early period, dying there about 1806, helped the early Baptists of that state to adopt Sovereign Grace views. The folks behind Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope history wanted the theology of the Baptists to change along with the other denominations; they were determined to move them away from those views that had produced the Great Reformation, the First and Second Awakenings and the Great Century of Missions. They had certain folks move in and push the doctrines and practices to the extreme on either pole, all in order to get people off of the theology that was threatening their plans for world domination. Much the same thing has been done by certain groups (e.g, the folks of the British East Indies Company and others (not so much commercial as religious) seeking a change in eschatology. If you want the sources for the view you are promoting, you might want to read, The Life and Times of Elder Reuben Ross. He was won to Christ by Sovereign Grace ministers, and his funeral was preached by a believer in it, Dr. J. M. Pendleton. In between, it is evident that he fits what the Traditionalists were arguing is the norm. But back in the 1700s, such a position was held by the General Baptists whose views were not accepted by the Regulars, generally, because Arminianism has a tendency to Unitarianism, although Dan Taylor in Great Britain managed to call some of their churches back to a more Trinitarian approach. I think the Sovereign Grace believers were the ones who represented and presented a more catholic spirit in the 1700s, realizing that there were some who, for whatever reasons in the Divine will, would not see the truth of Sovereign Grace in this life. My own brother-in-law was won to Christ by a Calvinist, and he was ordained to the ministry by the same Suspralapsarian Hyper Calvinist as I was. Even to this day he holds to a more Traditionalist view point. However, in any case, the prayers I have made for a Third Great Awakening for 40 years this very Fall are due to be answered some day. Since that theology produced the First and Second Great Awakenings in this country and also the beginnings of the Great Century of Missions, it follows that such a theology would have a renascence in view of the answers to such prayers that others as well as myself have prayed. The doctrines are evangelistic; each one of them is an invitation to take God on His terms. Like the lady said to a friend of mine whose name is Spurgeon, “Oh, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” Eventually, after about nearly 40 years, he came to the persuasion that salvation is irresistible in the best sense of the word, in the sense that what is true and right and good and holy ought to win the day and will. The promises seem to indicate a 1000 generations of souls saved on earth and a million billion other planets in order to have the number spoken of in Rev.7:9.

            Norm Miller

            With all due respect, Dr. Jim, I would call your attention back to the verses you cite as saying they hold meaning for effectual call and election from eternity. Despite your verbiage on the topics and what men have said, the verses in view do nothing to support your claimed meaning in those verses. They are simple statements of fact. No one comes unless called. Upon that we agree. Any claim beyond that is not exegesis.
            Because I reject the calvinistic interpretation of total depravity as total inability, and because I reject the calvinistic understandings of election that cannot hope to qualify the content of foreknowledge that leads to election, then I would also reject the positions as seem to be held by you on those topics.
            Most certainly do I not accept that theology is the cause of revival. The great movements of God came because of prayer, and I daresay God asked to see anyone’s theological union card. It is a righteous man’s whose prayer is heard. That is the qualification, and not what branch of theology he embraces.

              dr. james willingham

              Last night I had typed an answer to you brother Norm, when a virus ate my reply as I was in the process of sending; something that said this account is closed. I managed today to fwd something from that outfit to my internet carrier. Hopefully, I won’t have the same thing happen to today. First, I have a difficulty recalling all I said, due to so many interruptions which I have had yesterday and today (caring for an invalid wife is a process of interruptions from the time of getting up until the time of retirement, not counting phone calls and sundry other matters that must be handled. As to the truths of the verses to which I had reference, were you referring to Jn.6:44,65 or Jn.5:25? In any case, it is the cumulative effect of all the verses taken together, verses that fit together like pieces of a puzzle although each set within their teachings present enough truth to back up the message of Sovereign Grace. Even so I would call your attention to that fact that the preaching of Edwards and Whitefield, two of the leading lights of the First Great Awakening was Sovereign Grace preaching or Calvinism as some are want to call it by mistake. Ben Franklin noticed the change in the religious atmosphere of Philadelphia after a visit by Whitefield. Under that man’s preaching Shubal Stearns was converted and associated with Stearns was the founder of the oldest Baptist church in Georgia, Daniel Marshall, who helped to establish the Georgia Baptist Association which has a circular in its minutes (I forget the year, but I( saw it on the Internet) in which Silas Mercer, the father of Jesse, who wrote on the doctrines which you conveniently do not seem to recall. A lot of this discussion goes no where due to the lack of knowledge among the correspondents. I have spent the time and the effort to acquaint myself with the writings and minutes of the Baptist Assns. Just consider how the Sandy Creek Assn. people who fled Governor Tryon’s effort to crush the Regulator Movement in 1771. A friend of mine who pastored a church in Eastern Tennessee which came from the Sandy Creek Area told me that the churches and associations there were often organized on the basis of the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (I don’t have to tell you what that Confession sets forth, surely)(and I should add that I know some of this from reading some Tennessee records). In addition, two ministers from the Philadelphia Assn. came to North Carolina in 1755, Peter Peterson Van Horn and Benjamin Miller, and persuaded some General Baptist churches to become Particular Baptists. They went along having about 25-30 baptisms a year, and then in 1801 they experienced the Second Great Awakening. Strangely enough, the Regulars and Separates who were United by that time, experienced the Great Awakening and still there were many who did not hold any more than that Christ died for the elect, for the church. I admit to being very tired, but I think you need to study that period in our history in the original sources, not in what some historian says about them…unless he is on the scene at the time, like Morgan Edwards was in 1771, apparently visiting Sandy Creek Church and Assn. before the death of Shubal Stearns that same year.

dr. james willingham

Did not wish to go over the length in my preceding response to Brother Hale’s comments. Permit me to continue my response. On that committee in 1816 was the first named member Elder Hezekiah Harmon, evidently a follower of Sovereign Grace. In the 20th century at least 4 of the pastors held to Sovereign Grace. The Sovereign Grace view point will continue among Southern Baptists, in part, due to the influence of another member of the committee, Dr. Basil Manly, Sr. He moved to South Carolina to get his education, and this was at the invitation of Rev.. W.T. Brantley. During that period, Dr. Manly would found a church which would later be pastored by Dr. Robert G. Lee in the early 20th century, and he would go on to pastor the First Baptist Church of Charleston, following the death of Richard Furman who had been pastor for about 50 years. Dr. Manly would suggest the founding of Southern Seminary and served as President of the Educational Conventions in 1857,1858, and 1859, which established that institution. Dr. Manly, Sr.’s son, Jr., would chair the committee that drew up the Abstract of Principles for Southern Seminary. Dr. Manly, Sr., would be the first President of the Board of Trustees, and a preacher boy from his church in Charleston, Dr. James Petigru Boyce, whose mother was baptized by Dr. Manly, and upon whose head Dr. Manly laid his hand and said he (Boyce) would be a preacher. In any case, we see two Separate Baptists, noted for their Sovereign Grace views or Calvinism as some are wont to call it, serving as pastor for a Regular (Particular) Baptist church noted for its staunch Reformed views. The Association of which FBC was a member recommended to its members the works of John Gill. The Manlys represent one of the Sovereign Grace strands of Sandy Creek. Daniel Marshall who founded the oldest continuing Baptist church in Georgia (Kiokee) is another. The Georgia Association was noted for its rather Calvinistic theology along with Silas and Jesse Mercer, with the latter even holding to limited atonement. another noted minister in Georgia was Jeptha Vining who was noted for being quite successful in preaching the doctrines of grace for the conversion of sinners.

George Purefoy’s History of Sandy Creek Association does note a change in the theological climate during the period from 1820-1848. Duri9ng this period there occurred the Primitive-Missionary split, a situation ready made for those who had a desire to end a theology that threatened a certain group’s role in world power. Cf. Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope with a list of the group’s beliefs and the beliefs they oppose. George Washington made reference to this group and its influence in America and his opposition to it. The Confession of Sandy Creek in 1845 is basically the New Hampshire Confession of 1833. The late Rev. Kenneth Good, a minister in Ohio, wrote a book on this confession, pointing out how one could be a Sovereign Grace believer (my preferred term due to its closeness to the reference in Roms. 5 about grace reigning) or a Calvinist and hold with that confession. In any case, the Regular Baptists of Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, and elsewhere made an agreement whereby the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man should be no bar to communion (1787-1800 was the period in which the agreement was made. 50 years later, 1827, the old Sardis Baptist Church was organized on that basis by a man noted in the history of Missouri Baptists for his Calvinism, Elder J.B. Longan.. I served as pastor of the church in 1965-66, for about 18 months, then known as the Elston Baptist Church and now as the First Baptist Church of Elston, Mo.

Greg Harvey

First: good stuff. The ability to follow the trajectory of history is helpful for all of us who wish not to repeat its worst mistakes.

Second: The Abstract of Principles also softens from both the Philadelphia and New Hampshire confessions as well. Which is to say: there is no stream in Southern Baptist life that has trended more towards the Doctrines of Grace since the churches that make up the convention today were founded or since they joined in unity in 1845. Which is what makes the present situation somewhat frustrating: today there are more congregations that have trended towards the Doctrines of Grace than at any point in the history of the Convention. But I’d argue they are nowhere near any kind of plurality or majority even if they are a meaningful minority now.

Third: It’s good to see how much similarity there is between the New Hampshire, the 1845 Sandy Creek Declaration of Faith and all three of the SBC BFMs. And that isn’t specifically a comment on their similarity from a Calvinism perspective but is rather a broader comment on how American Baptist faith is distinguished from English Baptist faith especially the London Confessions. There is this sense when you read through those American Baptist confessions that they’re solidly grounded in the Bible and provided a substantial interpretative framework for conversation and discussion that leads the reader TO the Bible. We ought to celebrate that!

I think it’s a mistake to argue that the Convention as a whole ought to “return” to Calvinism. But I think most of the discussion is more a matter of creating room for Calvinism in the Convention. I think the bigger issue is the one of the practical result of congregational polity: there is every reason to believe that over time certain doctrinal positions will change. Our goal shouldn’t necessarily to be to ELIMINATE all doctrinal shifts. It should be to categorize the shifts that are consistent with scripture and determine–congregationally–which are acceptable and which aren’t. The argument of the Calvinists should be that Calvinism is based on scripture and results from the acceptance of different theological nuance and speculation than some other, “traditional” perspectives including the one that I’ve referred to as the “traditionalist” or even “mainstream” SB soteriology (note the lack of a capital t on traditionalist…this was before Hankin’s statement.)

Calvinism should be acceptable in Southern Baptist life because it is one of the contributing streams. Harsh or strict Calvinism–I think of the term “hardboiled” as I write that–has no place here because it generally rejects evangelism (at least other than to those that have been “revealed” by God to be in the elect…which is a tautological argument for doing nothing in my opinion.) Calvinism that accepts the challenge of the Great Commission as a call to intentional corporate and personal evangelism is Calvinism that is generally consistent with the BF&M (all of them in all honesty) and with Southern Baptist life.

I love the fact that this great act of discipleship is becoming the substance of the debate: that we look in detail at our history and consider what that means for our future. I’m also susceptible to the argument that all “parties” should carefully consider (and reconsider then reconsider again) rhetoric that demonstrates a rejection of approbation based on doctrinal variation for other brothers and sisters in the faith that have demonstrated faithfulness to scripture. If we reconsider rejection of approbation, of course, we consider extension of some form of approval.

That doesn’t mean I “blame” folks who highlight disagreements for “causing problems”. I’m sympathetic to the need for discussion. But I think when we credit them for the efforts they are taking to remain faithful to not just the faith that has been handed down to them but to key doctrinal concepts that we as Southern Baptists share, that it creates unity by demonstrating love…the love that Jesus Christ calls to us to demonstrate. Then when we highlight the differences, it still remains a serious discussion.

Shortcutting the discussion in the effort to make it “go away” or to “hide the disagreement” is the wrong approach in my opinion. And the challenge to each of us is how to celebrate the active work of the Holy Spirit in the work of all Southern Baptists while having that discussion. But it isn’t impossible…it is merely a denomination-confirming challenge.

    dr. james willingham

    Dear Brother Harvey: I am glad that you added the last two paragraphs. That attitude is perhaps the reason why the Limited Atonement folks of the 1787-1800 period chose to accept folks that preached that Christ tasted death for every man. A Dr. Leonard, having recourse to an Episcopalian who made some comments about the Baptists and their controversies, wrote and told (at a meeting of the Moderate Baptists) some interesting stories about the Baptists and their arguments over Sovereign Grace in the 1700s. The Episcopalian did not approve, but the folks of whom he disapproved were the ones who brought us religious liberty, the Awakenings, and the Great Century of Missions, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention with its perennial static over such issues as we are now discussing. If anyone thinks this is recent, I would call attention to the man who was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention more times than anyone else in the history of the convention (seems like it was 12 without access to the records I have), He wrote a work on predestination which I have in my library and which I have read.. In fact, as to the SBC, every President elected from 1845 until E.Y. Mullins (and even he held to unconditional election. I have his work, The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression as well as some other items by him) was Sovereign Grace in view.

    Ron F. Hale

    Greg Harvey,

    You make some great points and you have presented well and straightforward. That is the essence of my article and most of the writings on this blog; to put ideas on the table and to discuss them openly and honestly and leave with a feeling of koinonia. Blessings!

Robert Vaughn

Ron, I always enjoy you putting up historical posts. The Sandy Creek folks can easily be abused (and have been) to prove all sorts of things, depending on which view you want to prove. But I think your narrow point here is well taken. By 1845, the Sandy Creek Association churches were modifying the soteriological views away from a more strictly stated Calvinism. The “missions/anti-missions” split would have had some effect on this, since it happened in the intervening period between 1816 and 1845. I do believe I remember, though, that the old Sandy Creek Church was the only one of the churches in this particular association that did not take the missionary side of the division. (The division was not so much about soteriology, as some suppose, as it was about methodology, so “Calvinistic” churches went both ways.)

Speaking generally, a cautious approach is the best way to analyze the Sandy Creek Association (and other Separates). The theology of the first 50 or so years of the Association may remain something of an enigma, and the width and breadth of the movement allowed for variety. The Separate Baptists had a general antipathy towards creeds/confessions of faith. In my opinion, one of the outgrowths of that was that they did not always draw as strict a soteriological line as others (e.g. Regulars). We know that there were those among them, even before 1816, who believed that “Christ tasted death for every man.” I think this was a minority opinion, but one that confirmed words of scripture (as opposed to a creed) and therefore was not a test of fellowship. This can be ascertained from some of the union statements of Separates and Regulars, and also from John Asplund’s Annual Register of the Baptist Denomination in North America (1791) where he made notes about some of these churches/associations holding a general atonement or that Christ “tasted death for every man”.

Rick’s point is worth emphasizing. Change in actual practice/preaching almost always precedes a change in a confession of faith, and not the other way around. In fact, I know of some “traditional” local associations (not SBC) that have preached a general atonement and conditional election based on repentance and faith for a hundred years or more that have never bothered to change their very strict Calvinistic articles of faith. Somewhere along they way they just reinterpreted the meaning of it!

    Ron F. Hale


    Good point concerning …”By 1845, the Sandy Creek Association churches were modifying the soteriological views away from a more strictly stated Calvinism. The “missions/anti-missions” split would have had some effect on this, since it happened in the intervening period between 1816 and 1845.” Yes, our old buddy the Rev. Daniel Parker of the Two Seed in the Spirit Predestinarian Baptists kicked up a lot of dust during the missions/anti-missions debate. Thanks for your additional input it is always helpful.

Robert Vaughn

I want to add a few words about “direction”. Regardless of the reasons and whether it was a good or bad thing, the American churches in general and in this case Baptists in particular were moving in a direction away from Calvinism. So in 1845, and in my opinion probably at least for the first 3 quarters of the 19th century, a still photograph would show them as “Calvinists.” But this does not capture the idea of direction. In my ministry I have had several occasions of good but temporary fellowship with another minister who was moving in a different direction than I. We might be at the same place — halfway between “A” and “B” — only to find out he was moving from “A” to “B” while I was moving from “B” to “A”. Soon we would move on in our separate ways.

So the trajectory of “United” Baptists in the South, for the most part, was away from Calvinism. Some stopped at different points along the continuum, while the body that retains the name Separate Baptist went all the way to Arminianism. Running to one extreme or the other usually makes sense when a modifying or restraining group is removed.

All that rambling to say, what we often do is take still shots of history and say it was this or that way, rather than using a video camera to catch the motion.

Ron F. Hale

Robert …

Your point on “direction” is spot on. This was true during the Charismatic movement back in the mid-70’s within the SBC and other denominations. It took a number of years for people to find their true bearings, make directional commitments, and find their new home, or lead their old home to new paths in worship, etc. The camera (camcorder) is rolling …

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