Baptists and the American Civil War: October 9, 1863

North Carolina MapBaptists of the Roaring River District Baptist Association gather this day at Reddie’s River Church in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Like most other Primitive Baptist associational gatherings during the war, they decline to focus on the war. Primitive Baptists of the South, more than Southern Baptists, tend to maintain their heritage of strict separation of church and state–so much so that references to the Confederacy or the war are uncommon in church or associational records.

The Circular Letter issued by today’s associational messengers is indicative of Primitive Baptist efforts to remain focused on spiritual matters within churches, despite the war that is of surely of constant concern to all present.

According to an appointment of last year, to write upon an important subject, of what is the duty of church members on church days, in order to stir up delinquents and absentees, which are so prevalent in our churches.

In the first place, we shall endeavor to show what composes the true church of Jesus Christ, which is his body and members one of another, which is united to Christ, their living Head, to Him be glory in the church throughout all ages, world without end.

In the original, it was called an ecclecia, which signified a called assembly to transact business; thus the church of Jesus Christ is called of God, chosen of God in Christ, out of the world to show forth the riches of his grace and the glory of his power. Being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; and quickened together by Christ, and subjects of his initiatory ordinance, to wit: baptism by immersion, which is the door into his church : “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptised into his death; therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into his death, that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.”

The above quotation shows what a true member of the church is. It is composed of baptised believers; no other is recognised in the New Testament; for sprinkling and pouring, has its origin from the Pope of Rome.

Now, brethren and sisters, you that have joined this Church and have come out from the world, and have set days to meet together to worship God and look into the affairs o f his house and keep it in order, and to love one another, which is the Christian’s commandment, and be helpers together by prayer, and meet in the name of Jesus, that he might make one in our midst; for God has ordained the preaching of the gospel to feed his flock.

It is the duty of every one to fill their seat at church as often as they can; for God has called men to go, and as they go, preach, saying: repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. The preacher leaves his wife and children and all his earthly ties, and at all times suffers loss and rides ten or fifteen miles to preach in your church, and you are not there. Then your preacher feels rejected; seeing his congregation so thin, he mourns and will not God see his sorrows? Brethren, guilty or not guilty? guilty, guilty, many must say. Is this the duty of church members? Nay, but a shame; for such absentees do advocate the works of darkness. Take heed that the light which is in thee be not darkness; for if the light which is in thee be darkness, how great shall that darkness be. Do come to your church and fill your seat, and not have your character saddled with the guilt of being drunk. Know ye not the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. No thief, nor drunkard, nor reviler, nor extortioner, shall inherit the kingdom of God. But follow after righteousness and peace with all men; for without no man can see the Lord in peace, for the whole world lies in wickedness, and the great day of his wrath will come, and who shall be able to stand? Oh brethren, if God sends men to preach the gospel to you and a perishing world, have you no sons and daughters in the road that leads to death? It is your duty to bring them with you to church to hear the gospel preached, and pray God to save them with an everlasting salvation for this is the appointed means!

It is your duty, when your preacher comes to preach for you, to go and hear him, and if he is a man of God, pray for him, and bid him God speed, and God Almighty will bless you. And if you refuse to go to your own, you bring a reproach upon your Christian character and surely advocate the cause of the wicked one. For Jesus says: If you love me you will keep my commandments.

Source: Minutes of the seventeenth annual session of the Roaring River District Baptist Association, held with Reddie’s River Church, Wilkes County, N.C., on Friday and Saturday the 9th & 10th days of October, 1863 (link)