The delegates and brethren of the Contentnea Baptist Association assembled at White Oak, Edgecomb County, N.C. 22th and 23rd of October, 1836, to the several churches of said association with brother kindness.
Dear Brethren in Christ: - God in His providence has granted us the privilege to meet and sit together again according to our last year’s appointment. It affords matter for unfeigned humility and thankfulness that amidst all our frailties, follies, and exercises, our sloth, ingratitude and lukewarmness, our worldly mindedness vanity and pride we yet enjoy these manifestations, that the loving kindness of our God changes not, and His tender mercies fail not. Praying that we all may feel deeply sensible of this great grace, and that we may pass the time of our sojourning here in fear, and in the love of God. We will call your attention to a few remarks, touching:
And First; ought this to be observed as a practice among the people of God or not?
Secondly, If it ought to be observed, then under what circumstances should it be practice?
Thirdly, Have not the circumstances under which it is to be performed been made the occasion for shunning this condescending duty and so of evading the cross of Christ?
1st. Ought this to be observed as a practice amongst the People of God, or not?
With respect to the obligation our Lord has said, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet;” - John 13. 14th. We consider that it would be vanity and impiety for any to argue that the form of this injunction differs from an express command by saying, for instance, in the institution of the Supper there is an express command, “This do;” while in the case of washing feet it is said, “ye ought.” For if we can exercise a discretion to dispense with what Christ has said we “ought” to do, then it is difficult to say, where such a discretion might not carry us: and whether it might not lead us to dispense with any of His commands. The obligation is enforced by Christ’s example itself. “As I have washed your feet, so ye also ought to. . &c.” With regard to the people concerned that were the people of God. The words were addressed specially to them and to no others: “Ye ought to wash one another’s feet.” As it regards the continuance as a practice our Savior does not express how often His disciples should repeat it; but simply speaks the obligation and leaves the subject. Yet 32 years after the command was given, the apostle, Paul, who understood the subject, mentions it as a requisite practice amongst the saints (1st Tim. 5th-10th), we therefore conclude that it “ought” to be observed as a practice amongst the people of God.
2d., If it “ought” to be observed, then under what circumstances should it be practiced?
Should it not be practiced in the churches as a church ordinance, (we answer no) because women perform it (1st Tim. 5#-10#) Women were no where required to administer or to assist in the public ministration of church ordinances.
3d. Members of the church were not required in the management of their houses and families or in entertaining the brethren to practice a “church ordinance,” but it should be performed: 1st by both men and women, 2d. at their own private dwelling, 3d. to professors of religion who come to lodge with them, 4th. As an act of kindness and hospitality in affording them hearty entertainment, 5th as among the good works which Christians should be careful to maintain, 6th. And the whole in honor to Christ. “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washes the saint’s feet, if she have relieve the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. (1st Tim. 9th, 10th.) These are the chief of the circumstances, by which this practice should be regulated.
4th. Have not the circumstances under which it is to be performed, been made the occasion for shunning this condescending duty, and so, of evading the cross of Christ?
There are among the Baptists, those who think feet washing should be publicly celebrated in the churches, as an accompaniment of the Supper; yet the more part have given up this point as untenable. Having once settled the question that it is not to be practiced in the churches, many have, it is to be feared, laid aside the subject as having no farther concern with it. The act requires a stoop which the old man in every Christian feels a repugnance to make. And if it is to be performed as an act of hospitality in cases of necessity, then we too easily persuade ourselves that such cases of necessity seldom or never occur.
We are apt to take up the proverb, and plead that, in sandy countries where people travel afoot, feet washing becomes necessary; but in our own country, and by our manner of travelling, the necessity of the practice is superseded. Besides, says pride, it were impolite to ask a man or woman at our houses to have his or her feet washed. But we think, Brethren, it is safer to abide by the Scriptures. Abraham did not think it impolite. (Genesis 18-4- ) to ask them to eat, to drink, to go to rest, to wash their face, are acts of kindness; and Christians diligent to follow every good work would ask them to have their feet washed, and the humble Christian would not refuse, if it were to be conducted before the eyes of the church, few perhaps, would draw back; but as it is, we can neglect it without our brethren’s knowledge. Hence we think that the circumstances connected with its right performance, have been unjustly rendered as occasion for shunning this duty, and evading the cross.
If we are not mistaken, Beloved Brethren, the practice of washing one another’s feet has long been almost entirely neglected. It has not by many been practiced in any form. We wish you to examine this our Circular and compare it with the Scriptures: and if you find we have taken a Scriptural view of the subject let us with one accord agree not to pass it by as a thing of naught; but practice among all other “good works,” that which is our duty, and the humblest stoop in the Christian’s life; and yet in another sense, it is no stoop, since it is in conformity with the example of our Lord and Savior. Trust in the testimony of Jesus – try to live in the faith and patience of the Saints. May the Lord preserve you by His grace, and keep you by His power, through faith unto Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Worship God. “Unto Him be glory in the Church by Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Transcribed by Stanley Phillips - May 2009