1. Our object is to glorify God. This we would endeavor to do by urging the importance of the doctrine and precepts of the Gospel in their moral and evangelical nature; commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God; not pretending to have authority over any man, nor over the churches, whose representatives form this Association: But we act as an Advisory Council only, disclaiming all superiority, jurisdiction, coercive right and infallibility, and acknowledging the independence of every church, who has received authority from Christ to perform all the duties enjoined which respect the government of His Church in this world.
2. The utility of such an Association appear in many respects; as the obtaining a more general acquaintance with the state of the churches; maintaining a friendly intercourse with each other; giving advice in cases of difficulty; supplying destitute churches with helps; and guarding ourselves against innovations which the churches of Christ may expect always to be troubled by those who lye (sic) in wait to deceive.
3. The messengers chosen and sent to this Association by the churches, should be judicious, well versed in Scripture, prudent and men of integrity. We judge men of such a description best qualified to represent churches who profess the Scriptures to be the only rule of faith and practice in matters of religion. It is therefore expected that the churches will have respect to such qualifications, in order that they may be benefitted by the considerations of their representatives.
4. With the Messengers, the churches are to send letters to the Association. These letters are to contain the names of the Messengers and their authority from the churches; the state of the churches respecting their continuance in the faith; their number baptized and added, received by letter, dismissed, restored, excommunicated, deceased, and their total number remaining. When any church wants counsel of the Association, the church is to state their case by query, in their letter, by which they may expect the judgment of the Association.
5. The Association is to meet annually at such place and on such time as may be determined by them at their preceding session, and to continue till business be finished. It is to be opened with Divine Service; after which a Moderator and Clerk are chosen; the letters from the churches are read; the names of the messengers are written, that they may be called over after the meeting; then business is attended to and minutes thereof made. – A Circular Letter is prepared and signed, and a copy of it sent to every church, containing the minutes of the Association; the state of the churches; when and by whom vacancies are to be supplied; who to preach the next Association Sermon and whatever else is needful for the churches to know.
6. All matters are to be determined in the Association by the suffrage of the messengers: all that speak are to address the Moderator, who is to take care that none be interrupted while speaking, and that no indecorum take place.
7. Churches are to be received into the Association by petition, setting forth their desire to be admitted; their faith and order and willingness to be conformable to the rules of this Associate body.. When it is read and matters ripened for vote (they being found correspondent to the faith and practice of this body) the Moderator states the question; the suffrage being given in favor of the petition; the Moderator declares that such a church is received into this Association: in token of which he gives the messenger, presenting the petition, the right hand of fellowship, and bids him take his seat.
8. The churches belonging to this Association are to maintain stated times of church meeting in each church for the performance of church-business, as discipline and other matters. – In order that peace and unity be maintained, and the administration of the Lord’s Supper be attended, such churches as have no Administrator among them, are to apply to such as have for assistance. And the Association are to see that they be supplied from among us by an appointment at our general meeting: Except such vacant churches can be supplied by ministers of the same faith and order, who do not belong to this Association.
9. The faith and order of this Association are grounded and stand upon the authority of the Scripture of the Old and New Testament; the whole of them being a record of God, which record is true. And it is by experiencing the power of, and our understandings agreeing to that testimony, that we have any expectation that our persons and services will be approved by God. And whoever denies them, as many confessedly do in part where they do not please them, is guilty of infidelity.
10. The faith and practice of this Association are set forth in a confession of faith published in England by upwards of one hundred churches of the Baptist denomination and adopted by the Philadelphia Association and others of the Baptist order in America. This confession of faith we adopt not only to maintain our united agreement, but as a help to increase our understanding and establishment.
11. But as no composition of uninspired men is to be considered as perfect, it ought to be carefully examined by the Scriptures, and received and improved only so far as it agrees with them. There are some things directed to in this confession of faith which are not held as scriptural by the churches of this Association in general; we therefore think it proper to mention them. (I) The opinion of ruling Elders who are not authorized to preach the Gospel and administer ordinances, being officers in the church, is objected to; as this must make three distinct orders of officers in the church, and that, the exercise of church government lies in such hands, which cannot be proved. (2) Respecting the laying on of hands on baptized persons as such, we observe, That the texts of Scripture mentioned as proof for said practice, are more likely to have other meanings: as those in Acts viii. 17, and xix. 6. That these instances of laying on of hands were acts peculiar to an Apostle for the conveyance of the Holy Ghost or some extraordinary gifts. – The other passage alluded to, is in Heb. vi. We find there is no positive proof, whether the Apostle meant (as some think) a Jewish rite which was to be left, or that act of an Apostle of conveying extraordinary gifts, or that of laying on of hands on persons setting them apart to some particular office. This text seems to us in general with more probability to allude to one of these cases than to the one pleaded for in the confession. We accordingly agree to leave this to the Elders and churches to discharge their own consciences and not to admit it into this Association in any query, or as that which may concern its fellowship.
12. The sentiments respecting the apostasy of mankind; the consequences which follow it as such; how it came; the recovery, justification and salvation of such as shall be saved, and how that is effected, are excellently expressed in our Confession of Faith; that of the Kirk of Scotland; that of the Reformed Dutch church; that of the Congregational church, and in the Saybrook Platform in Connecticut, wherein there appears an agreement. This Association agree with them in the following articles:
The Apostasy. Our first parents sinned in eating the forbidden fruit – By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, wholly defiled in all their faculties, they being the root and head of all mankind. The guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupt nature conveyed to all their posterity by ordinary generation; whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all that is good. Every sin both original and actual doth, in its own nature bring the wrath of God and the curse of the Law; death temporal and eternal.
The Recovery. God from all eternity did decree, for the manifestation of His own glory, some men, not all, to everlasting life; gave a people to be a seed of Christ, and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified and finally glorified, their number so certain and definite that it cannot be increased or diminished; wherefore they that are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called by the Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified and kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved but the elect only. To all those for whom Christ hath obtained redemption by His blood, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe, governing their hearts, and overcoming all their enemies by His Almighty power; God justifies not by infusing righteousness, not for any thing wrought in them; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them – Christ by His obedience and death fully discharged the debt of all those that are justified and did by the sacrifice of Himself, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make proper, real and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf. Evangelical faith in its least degree is different in the kind and nature of it from the faith of common grace of temporary believers.
Here we have the great doctrines of the Christian religion easily and familiarly expressed; as the transgression of our first parent Adam – The imputation of his sin to his posterity – the inability of man to recover himself – eternal unconditional election in Christ – particular redemption – effectual calling by sovereign and efficacious grace – the efficacy of the atonement of Christ, implying in it a discharge from the penalty annexed to the sins of the elect, by which the certainty of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ comes upon all the seed of Christ. These doctrines, fully and jointly asserted by the foregoing Confession of Faith, are held by this Association.
The Baptist Confession of Faith is preferred to all other human compositions, being more uniform with the Gospel respecting the qualifications of persons for Gospel privileges – the nature of the authority of the Church – its independence – keeping the ordinances as they were first delivered. In order that the churches of Christ be guarded from all snares, and walk in the well-pleasing before God, it is essentially necessary to keep the ordinances as they were first delivered; that no person be received into a church, except by giving personal satisfaction of their being subjects of effectual calling by efficacious grace, and that by personal profession; and that the same person on such profession be baptized, by dipping or immersion into water, which is essential to the administration of that ordinance and church communion. Let all churches take particular care that persons admitted support in their life and conduct, a character agreeable to their profession.
Signed, in behalf of the Association,
Ebenezer Ferris, Moderator
Marmaduke Earle, Clerk.
Transcribed by Stanley Phillips – February 2009