Thursday, May 17, 2007

Free Will Missionary Baptist Association

This post diverges from our Rusk County theme, but relates to a bit of information brought up in my last post.

Relative to the division in the Sabine Baptist Association, Z. N. Morrell wrote, "One extreme, if pressed persistently, usually begets another, and this furnished no exception to the rule. Antinomianism, founded on predestination and election, pressing the eternal purposes of God, without the proper consideration of the means leading to the end, drove some brethren to the opposite extreme, who, under the influence of Arminianism, waged a relentless war against their 'iron jacket' brethren. These opposing elements, both alike at war with truth, finally resulted in the dissolution of the Sabine Association, at its sixth or seventh session, held with Mount Olivet church, Cherokee County.
1 The anti-missionary and free-will elements, went off into small and separate organizations....

"The extreme measures adopted by these brethren in their opposition to all mission organizations drove other brethren off to the other extreme, even into fanaticism, under the name of 'Free Will Baptists'.

"These gave man more to do than the Bible allowed, while the others placed less upon his shoulders than it required of him. The exact date of the organization of the 'Free Will Missionary Baptist Association' I cannot give, but the minutes of October, 1850, show that it met with the Ayish Bayou church, in San Augustine County, Elder G. W. Slaughter as moderator. The churches composing the Association in 1850 were four,-- Ayish Bayou, Bethel, Milam and Sardis. So zealously did these brethren advocate instrumentalities, that the following resolution appears in the minutes alluded to: --

"'Resolved, That this association recommend to the prayerful consideration of all the friends of the Redeemer, that, in place of building tents out of wood on such occasions, each head of a family make a tent of cloth, and take their wagon, with forage enough to feed their horses for a few days, and enough of light diet to feed their families, and approach the door of the sanctuary, as the Israelites did the tabernacle, and take God at his word, and lay hold of his promises, and see if he will not pour you out a blessing, that wilt fill your heart with gladness, and make you rejoice in place of mourn when you come to press a dying pillow.'

"Trembling under a sense of their responsibility, and aroused by the inactivity of their predestinarian brethren in their very midst, the messengers of these four churches passed a second resolution in favor of missionary combinations and extensive operations: --

"'Resolved by this association, That it is our prayerful desire to see three thousand six hundred missionary boards organized in our bounds, and see flowing therefrom, as a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, one hundred and seventy thousand itinerant preachers, such as Paul and Silas, going forth in the name of Israel's God, conquering and to conquer, till iniquity becomes ashamed and hides its head. Then will the church of the living God come together like Solomon's temple, without the sound of a hammer.'

"Distressed by what they termed illiberality on the part of the Regular Predestinarian Baptists, touching church order and the atonement, they aspired to an enlarged liberality, and passed another resolution: --

"Resolved, That the ministers and deacons of other associations are respectfully invited to be in attendance in all our churches and meetings that are convenient, and that all Christian ministers shall receive a cordial welcome in our stands, at any time, of every denomination.'

"But little progress was ever made by this organization. The leaders and followers alike possessed a zeal without knowledge, and if they have maintained an organization in later years, I have been unable to find any published statements of the fact."

-- Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness by Z. N. Morrell (Boston, MA: Gould & Lincoln, 1872, pages 189-193)

Morrell terms the above group "Free Will Baptists". The name is given as the "Free Will Missionary Baptist Association." From the way he writes, it appears that he had a copy of the 1850 minutes. Other information puts the beginnings of Free Will Baptists in Texas in the 1870s.

Information on George Webb Slaughter (1811-1895) probably points us toward the right direction here. In 1850, Slaughter was the moderator of this association. The 1847 minutes of the Sabine Association list him as a "licensed minister", and other sources state that he left the Methodist Church and united with the Baptists circa 1842. Open communion was the official reason that Bethel, Bayou and Milam churches (3 of the 4 churches named by Morrell) were excluded from the Sabine Association in 1848 (p. 5). Slaughter is later connected to the Brazos River Association, the
Brazos Institute in Palo Pinto County, and men like Noah Byars and Choctaw Bill Robinson. He evidently "re-entered" Southern Baptist life after his stint with the "Free Will Missionary Baptist Association." If I'm not mistaken, his son C. C. Slaughter was a major financier of Baptist General Convention of Texas causes.

The Free Will Missionary Baptist Association came out of the old Sabine Association and probably died out after a few years. It is very likely that they never had any connection with the Randall or Palmer branches of the Free Will Baptists. I think they probably should be considered Free Will Baptists only in the general sense.

Other Links
G. W. Slaughter, Handbook of Texas online
G. W. Slaughter, 1st married in Republic of Texas
Colonel C. C. Slaughter

1. The Sabine Association dissolved itself in 1849 at the meeting of the Mt. Olive Church Oct. 6-8, 1849. Many of these churches met together to form the Eastern Texas Association of United Baptists in November of that year. An almost complete set of Sabine minutes (1843-1845, 1847-1849) is available at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. (And Baylor also, I think)


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