History of Middle Tennessee Baptists
by J. H. Grime, 1902
In August 1822, A. D., Concord Association, while in session at West Station Camp Church, Sumner County, Tennessee, for the sake of convenience, agreed to divide. A number of churches on her eastern boundary were set apart to form a new Association. In October of the same year, these churches met in Convention with Cedar Creek Church, which, at that time, stood a short distance south of Big Spring, Wilson County, Tennessee, and constituted Salem Association. This body at the constitution consisted of twenty-seven churches, as follows: Smith's Fork, Hickman's Creek, Salt Lick, Dixon's Creek, Salem, Round Lick, Bledsoe's Creek (now Hopewell), Hogan's Creek, Spring Creek (now Linwood), Peyton's Creek, Brush Creek, Cedar Grove, Knob Spring, Second Creek, Union, East Fork, Goose Creek, Philadelphia (now Bradley's Creek), New Hope, Cedar Creek, Lebanon, Goshen, Lancaster, Enon, Saunder's Fork (now Auburn), Falling Creek, Brawley's Fork (now Marion), and Testament. Three of the above churches are extinct, and two are anti-mission churches. The remainder, either the original organization or one in its stead, still exist, and most of them are in a thriving condition. These churches at that time aggregated a membership of 900. Now you could easily select three of the number that would aggregate more than 900 members.
Salem Association was constituted upon the fo1lowing:
ABSTRACT OF PRINCIPLES.
Article I. We believe in one true and living God the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost.
Art. 2. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and the only rule of faith and practice.
Art. 3. We believe in the doctrine of Election, and that God chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world.
Art. 4. We believe in the doctrine of original sin, and in man's impotency to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by nature, by his own free will and ability.
Art. 5. We sinners are justified in the sight of God, by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Art. 6. We believe in God's own appointed time, and way, by means which he has ordained, the elect shall be called, converted, regenerated, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Art. 7. We believe the saints shall persevere in grace, and never finally fall away; and that good works are the fruit of faith, and follow after justification.
Art. 8. We believe that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of Jesus Christ, and that true believers are the only proper subjects, and that the only proper mode of Baptism is by immersion.
Art. 9. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and general judgment, and that the punishment of the wicked and joy of the righteous will be eternal.
Art. 10. We believe that no minister has a right to administer the ordinances. only such as are regularly baptized, and come under the imposition of hands by a presbytery.
The ministers present at the formation of Salem Association were Joshua Lester, Miles West, John Wiseman, Elijah Maddox, Thomas Durham, Wm. Flowers, John Jones, Malcolm Smith, John Bond, Hiram Casey, John Borum, Josiah Rucks, Presley Lester, John Fite, James Bond and Clark Hubbard. Perhaps a finer body of ministers never assembled on the soil of Tennessee. They were certainly masters of assemblies. They possessed that strong, rugged character, which pioneer life would impart, and that they were Baptists of the true type will be seen by reference to the Abstract of Principles.
The size of the present volume forbids an itemized account of all the meetings of this body, but the reader is invited to a running account of the leading events in a history of seventy-eight years. At the time of the organization of this body, the heresy of Campbellism was just beginning to attract attention. As early as 1824, A. D. we find brethren asking advice of the Association how they should deal with preachers claiming to be Baptists and yet preaching the heresy of A. Campbell. The invariable advice given was that they should not be recognized as gospel ministers. But it is needless to say that this heresy was fast doing its work. In the rupture of 1827 A. D., formerly mentioned, which resulted in the establishment of the Separate Baptists this Association was not left undisturbed. Six of her ministers were caught in the meshes of this subtle doctrine, viz.: Calvin Curlee and Elisha Bell, of Brawley Fork (now Marion); Clark Hubbard, pastor of Round Lick; John Whitlock of Smith's Fork; Wm. J. Bomer, of New Hope, and James Barry, of Brush Creek. While some of these were men of note, yet they had not sufficient prestige to create a rupture in the body, though they were able to gather a few small churches together, composed of disaffected members which they carried into Duck River Association of Separate Baptists. But having started on their Arminian career, they could not be satisfied with this result, and five out of the six now launched head long into Campbellism. John Whitlock remained true to his Separate Baptist affiliation. (See another chapter for account of Separate Baptists) From that time on, this territory has been a battle ground between Baptists and Campbellites, but to-day, as then, the Baptists hold sway, and this section is often spoken of as "the Baptist kingdom."
The body moved smoothly till 1835 A. D., when the question of mission methods began to be agitated. This war raged with more or less severity till 1837, when the Association met with New Hope Church, two miles east of Alexandria, Smith County (now DeKalb County).At this meeting thirty-one churches were represented, and organized by electing Elder James Bond, Moderator, and Elder Joshua Lester, Clerk.
It seems that the question of missions had very much agitated the church at Salt Lick, of which Elder Miles West, Sr., was pastor. The majority had taken a firm stand against the existing mission methods. This had reached a point where the minority felt called upon to memorialize the Association, asking advice as to the best course to pursue. The consideration of this memorial letter was the signal for action in the Association. Perhaps the matter would be best told in the language recorded in the minutes for that year (1837) as follows:
"On motion the third item of the Committee of Arrangement, to whom was referred the letter from the majority, and a memorial from the minority of Salt Lick Church was taken up. After some debate it was agreed that the messengers, Miles West and Barnet T. Dillehay, be admitted to seats and their names enrolled.
"A good deal was said pro and con as to the best way of disposing of the memorial. At length it was proposed to appoint a committee of brethren to wait on the said church (Salt Lick) and labor to bring about a reconciliation between the conflicting parties, and on which Brother Miles West, pastor of the church, took the floor and in a highly inflammable speech, said in substance that it was unnecessary to send a committee that it would effect no good, that the whole difficulty had proceeded from the convention, that the church had taken her position against the Institution, which she never would abandon-that fellowship was broken, not only in that church, but throughout the Association, and that it would be better for all that they separate, and finally said: Brethren, I wish you all well, and as many as wish to follow old West come along-on which he abruptly moved off, followed by Sion Bass, pastor of Round Lick Church, and some eight or ten others, in quite a tumultuous manner. They collected in another part of the house and commenced singing and after regaling themselves in this way awhile they retired.
"During this commotion, the sound of the Moderator's voice was lost in the confusion occasioned by this-and unchristian-like behavior. The Association was then called to order, and it was discovered that ranks were but little thinned. They then proceeded to the business before them with much harmony, being freed from all incumbrance, which had long paralyzed her energies.
"In conformity with a memorial from a minority of the members of Salt Lick Church.
"Resolved, That a presbytery to consist of Elders John Wiseman, William C. Bransford, William Flowers, and Jonathan Wiseman, meet at the X Roads, on Defeated Creek, on Friday before the fifth Lord's day (inst., October 1837), in order to constitute said brethren, and as many others as may wish to join them, into a church and report to next Association."
This marks the origin of Defeated Creek Church, which is now one of our very best churches.
The party led by Elder Miles West, of Salt Lick Church, retired to the grove a short distance away. They in council appointed a meeting to convene with Cedar Creek Church on Friday before third Sunday in November, 1837, to organize a new Association. This meeting resulted in the organization of a New Association consisting of five churches, viz.: Salt Lick, Round Lick, Spring Creek, Mount Pleasant and Testament. They denomination this new venture as "Round Lick Association of Primitive Baptists."
The result of this division was the total loss of Mount Pleasant Church to Salem Association and the division of many more: in many of them a majority going into this venture calling themselves, "Primitive Baptists." In a few instances, it became necessary to disband, but in the majority of cases, the churches were not hindered. In fact, this seemed to mark an epoch of prosperity for Salem Association as a whole, and with rapid strides she moved on to possess the land. Suffice it to say that Round Lick Association, which was weak to begin with, has barely held her own.
It might be remarked in passing that there was no doctrinal difference-it was solely a question of methods.
From this time forward the Association grew in churches, members and work. In 1843 they passed a resolution to continue in session four days each year.
In 1849 the Association convened with Bethel Church, four miles south of Lancaster, Smith County. The body had grown till it numbered forty-three churches; an increase of sixteen churches since the division, twelve years previous. The territory covered by these churches was so extensive it was deemed prudent to divide the Association for the sake of convenience. The Cumberland River served as a natural line, and it was mutually agreed that the churches on the south side of the river should retain the name and constitution, while those on the north side would form a new Association. This resulted in the constitution of Enon Association of which we shall speak more fully later on.
Of the forty-three churches, twenty-six remained in the old (Salem) organization and seventeen began housekeeping on the north side of the river.
Immediately following this division is the most remarkable period in the history of Salem Association. In no longer time than three years they had grown from twenty-six to thirty-eight churches; and in 1852 another division was effected. The line of division this time was the Caney Fork River, those on the west side retaining the name and constition. The churches on the east side of the river met in convention Saturday before the second Sunday in May, 1853, at Hutchin's Creek, three miles south of Cookeville, Putnam County, and constituted Johnson Association. This body was name in honor of Elder Jesse Johnson, to whom, more than any other man, this great work of the three years was due. A more extended notice will be given of this man of God and this new Association in another place. That the reader may have some idea of the efficient mission work of this period, by reference to the report on the State of Religion for 1851, we learn that eight new churches came into the Association with a membership of 281. These churches were all located in destitute sections, and were gathered by missionaries of Salem Association.
From this time on the bounds of Salem Association were more circumscribed. But still there were many places within her bounds where churches could be established. She wisely occupied these, and, though more slowly, yet she continued to increase until 1888 when she numbered forty-five churches.
At her meeting in this year, when convened with Marion Church, near Readyville, Cannon County, a number of churches on the north boundary secured letters to constitute a new Association. The line in this new division, with few variations, was the Lebanon and Sparta Pike. The churches south of this retained the name and constitution, while those on the north met in convention at Buena Vista Church at Grant, Smith County, Tennessee, on October 30, 1888, and constituted New Salem Association. Out of the forty-five churches, nineteen went into the new organization, and three others came at the second meeting, making an equal division-though depleting the ministry of the old body.
No other material changes have occurred in the organization of this Association. The body is now composed of the following churches: Auburn, Barren Fork, Beech Grove, Cooper's Chapel, Dry Creek, Dowelltown, Fall Creek, Greenvale, Indian Creek, Mt. Pleasant, Mt. Zion, New Hope, New Home, New Union, Providence, Prosperity, Ramah, Salem, Smith's Fork, Smithville, Sycamore Fork, Snow's Hill, Union, Wharton Spring, Woodbury, and Wolf Creek.
A separate sketch of each church will be given in another chapter.
Salem Association from her very incipiency has been an active missionary body, as the following facts will attest: This body at its organization in 1822 A, D. consisted of twenty-seven churches with a membership of less than 2,000. Now the borders have been enlarged till they embrace five Associations which number 118 churches, with a membership of some 12,000. In addition to this, they have constantly contributed to the support of heralds of the cross in foreign fields. While they have not done as much as they might, yet so well have they occupied their territory that it is known as the "Baptist Kingdom." All in all, we have a right to be proud of what the Lord has accomplished through his people in this section. There are, perhaps, twice as many Baptists in this section of country as all other denominations combined.
Perhaps the success of Baptists in this section is attributable to their unflinching fidelity to Baptist doctrine more than any other one thing. "The Bible and the Bible alone" has been their slogan through all these years of conflict. A "thus saith the Lord" has been demanded at every point. They have stood a "peculiar people zealous of good works," and have ever refused to form any alliance with the advocates of error. They have been Landmark Baptists in the strictest sense of the term. A few quotations taken from the minutes from time to time will give an idea of the doctrinal cast of this people. In the minutes of 1850 we have the following:
"Resolved, That the churches be advised to receive none but those who have been BAPTIZED on a profession of their faith in Christ, by a legal administrator; and that we esteem legal only such as act under the authority of the regular Baptist Church, as organized after the model of the gospel."
In the minutes of 1844 A. D., we have the following:
"WHEREAS, The Freedom Association has proposed a correspondence with us; resolved, therefore, that we send a friendly letter and delegates to inform them that we are willing to correspond with them, provided they will correct the error of one of their churches, for receiving members into their fellowship who were immersed by unauthorized administrators."
It might be remarked for the benefit of those who would brand us as "Gravesites," that this record was made before J. R. Graves ever appeared before the public as editor. All honor to J. R. Graves; but he was simply a Baptist, such as he found when he came upon the stage.
In the minutes for 1854, we find the following record of a resolution presented by the Association:
"Resolved, That it is inconsistent for
Baptists to recognize Pedo-baptist preachers, as gospel ministers, denying as we
do the legality of their official acts, by inviting them to occupy our pulpits,
or preaching with them.
Again in the minutes for 1855 we find the following entry:
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Association, that it is a violation of the usage of Baptist churches, and disorganizing in its tendency, for a minister to receive and baptize individuals in the presence of churches, or within their jurisdiction, without their authority; and we hereby enter our protest against such action."
The above quotations demonstrate that this Association has stood, through her history, with a fixed purpose against alien-immersion and pulpit affiliation with preachers of error.
It might be remarked just here that these principles were never applied to either the "Primitive" or "Separate" Baptists. They were always regarded as sound Baptists, only differing in methods, while they agreed in doctrine. With reference to the attitude of this body toward the "Primitive Baptists" we find in the minutes for 1849 this entry.
"Resolved, That E. W. Haile, A. W. Meachem and N. Hays be appointed to write a letter to the Round Lick Association (of Primitive Baptists) and bear it to their next session for the purpose of laboring for a union between us, and to become one body."
Again, in the minutes for 1870, we find the following:
"Moved and seconded that a committee be appointed to meet with the Round Lick Association (Primitive Baptists) next fall, carried, and H. Bass, T. H. Gold, J. W. Bowen, H. T. Rucks, N. Smith and L. D. Smith, were appointed."
Also, in 1871 we find the following:
"By motion, Brother P. G. Magness, of Round Lick Association, was invited to a seat."
In regard to the people known as Separate Baptists, in the minutes of 1842 we find this language:
"WHERAS, That union so desirable among brethren of the same Christian family does not exist between the united Baptists, and those denominated the Separate Baptists, and as this Association think there is no good reason why all the relations of Christian fellowship should not exist between them and us; therefore,
"Resolved, That we open a correspondence with Mount Zion Association (of Separate Baptists) with the view of effecting a union of the two parties, which have so long stood aloof from each other; and for this purpose have appointed our brethren, Elders Elijah W. Haile, James Bond and Brother William Martin to attend their next Association, and confer with them on this subject, and report the result to our next Association."
Also, the following foot note is appended:
"The reason why a communication as above was not made to the Duck River Association (of Separate Baptists) was because our brethren of Concord, in union with us, are in correspondence with them and Concord 2nd (of Separate Baptists) on the same subject."
The above is sufficient to show that they always regarding the Primitive and Separate Baptists as parts if the same family, and hence they always recognized their administration.
Salem Association has always been aggressive along educational lines. Her members have always stood in the front rank in building up schools in the community where they have chanced to live. In addition to this, Salem Association has owned and controlled several good schools, from whose walls numbers, of men and women, have gone out to bless the world. Among these, we mention first Marion College, situated near Readyville, Cannon County. Tennessee. This institution of learning was established in 1850 A. D., and was ably manned for many years by that scholarly man, James A. Delk. This was the pride of Salem Association and the idol of the lamented J. M. D. Cates, near whose home it was located, and who was president of the Board of Trustees. Though long a thing of the past, its influence is still felt.
In 1851, she began the operation of Central Female Institute in the town of McMinnville, Warren County. This institution prospered for many years under the efficient tutorage of Elder John Powell, a man of fine accomplishments and sterling worth. This school was kept in successful operation for several years by the Association and was quite an impetus to the Baptist cause in this section.
In 1852, Salem and Enon Associations purchased property near Castalian Springs in Sumner County and began the operation of a school with the title of Enon College. This school has a prosperous career of a few years, but owning to some financial mistakes the institution was closed and the property sold.
Apart from her own schools, she for many years kept a beneficiary in Union University at Murfreesboro.
Her ministry, in the main, has been a strong body of men-strong in intellect, many of whom possessed fine scholarly attainments, and a courage which laughed at difficulties and cried, "it must be done." The sacrificing energy of these men of God cries with thunder tones to the marshaled hosts of the King of Zion, urging them on to nobler deeds of chivalry in this holy war.
Many people become confused in regard to the Baptist denomination because of prefixes attached to the name Baptist. Let me say once for all that in history they are known simply as Baptists. Sometimes we are spoken of as "Missionary" Baptists. In the sense that we practice missions, this is correct, provided you use the prefix as an adjective and not as a title. In history, we are known simply as Baptists. Different prefixes have been used at different times in consequence of peculiar surroundings; when the conditions cease to exist, the prefixes are dropped. In the early part of the century in the States most all Baptists were spoken of as "United Baptists." This grew out of the union of the General and Separate Baptists who afterwards were denominated United Baptists. This, however, by degrees, was being dropped off and the simple title of Baptist was again coming into use, when the Campbellites came on the stage and sought to propagate their doctrine, while they wore the name Baptist. This caused the Salem Association to pass the following resolution which we find recorded in the minutes for 1830:
"WHEREAS, There has grown up around us, various sects of professed Christians denominating themselves Baptists, and between whom and us there are such marked lines of distinction as to bar them from our union and communion. In order, therefore, to have a definite prefixed character for ourselves in this respect, and to prevent the confusion to which this state of things exposes us, in our official interview; be it
"Resolved, That in future, this body be known and distinguished by the name of the Salem Association of United Baptists; and so denominated in all its official acts, and that it be recommended to the churches of this Association, that they, in all their official acts, use this appellation as well in letters of dismission to members to join other churches, as in letters to the Association," etc,
This resolution was strictly observed till 1872 A. D. when the Association convened at Sycamore Fork Church. Up to this time all the minutes are headed "Salem Association of United Baptists." At this meeting T. T. Eaton was present and suggested that the conditions no 1onger existed which made the prefix necessary. Then it was duly dropped from the minutes. From that time on, they have borne the title of Baptists.
Before closing this chapter, we will append a tabulated statement of the meetings of Salem Association as follows: Click here for table of Preachers and Meetings
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