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SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE.

Near Lexington, KY., Feb.8, 1861.

MY DEAR BROTHER HALBERT: - I received your kind letter of interrogation, bearing date Dec.27, 1860, in which you refer to a short communication written by me, and published in the Messenger, and in which you say, “I find the Primitive Baptists in most sections, Democrats and States-Rights men of the strictest sort, and they have no fellowship with an Abolitionist, let him be of what order he will.” In my political sentiments, I too, am a Democrat, and a States-rights man, and have as little sympathy for abolitionists as you can possibly possess. And I will say further, that I am acquainted, perhaps, with some thousands of Primitive, or O.S. Baptists in the North and the South, but know not that there is one Abolitionist amongst them. They like us, take the Bible for their guide, but find in that Book of books no such thing as our modern abolitionism. You ask me the question, “Have not you and your brethren a perfect right to meet in convention, at Lexington, and draw and pass resolutions, expressing your political opinions,” and then add, “I say, most certainly we have, and so have others, as they do not interfere with Church or State.”

Now my Brother, this thing of interfering with Church and State, or intermingling Church and State business as a Society or Church, is what I would depreciate among Primitive Baptists. When the Northern abolition fanatics met in conventions, and passed their abolition resolutions, &c., did we not consider them interfering with, and mingling Church and State matters? And if Baptists, North and South, meet in conventions, and pass resolutions politically, as a Society, however plausible, those resolutions may be politically considered, is not that also interfering with State matters, as a Church? But, in reply to the question, “Have not you and your brethren a perfect right to meet in convention, at Lexington, and draw and pass resolutions?” &c., I answer, If we have the right, as a Church or Society, where is the grant, the command, or precedent given or exhibited by the King who reigns in righteousness, or the Princes who rule in judgment for the government of the Church?

Are we not told that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works? If we are thoroughly furnished in the Scriptures, and find no warrant there for meeting as a Church, in a political convention to meddle in State matters, are we not transcending our limits, and “adding” to the things written in the book? Where did the Apostolic Church hold a political convention? What resolutions did they pass? Who were their Chairman, Secretaries, &c.? I have said in the communication alluded to, “As individuals and citizens, we have, and should exercise our common rights in the government, as others; but, as a Society, or Church, while we maintain the rectitude of our King and Counsellor, we said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ we should not be found meddling with the civil authority.” I shall not here undertake to question the correctness of the political sentiment expressed by the “State Convention of Baptists,” but it is the precedent that I object to, simply because we have no precept or command given us in the premises, by an all wise Lawgiver, to enter into these State matters as a Church, and thereby mingle in the same society, Church and State business. I think it is a tacit acknowledgement of a dereliction on the part of our Lord, in not furnishing us with rules by which to regulate those State matters. And if we make one step outside of the limits assigned in the Scriptures, by the same rule we may make others, and then, who is to be the judge of the stopping place? I certainly have no disposition or wish to curtail the laudable political privileges of any, because they belong to this or that religious society; but, at the same time, I do prefer to “let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth,” rather than see my dear brethren, as a Church, step into the politico-religious fanatical organizations that have contributed so largely in bringing about the sad catastrophe so visible around us. As before intimated, I know of no division among our order of Baptists, on the subject of abolitionism; and while we remain within Bible limits, even a dissolution of the Union need not disturb the harmony that has hitherto characterized our Church – North and South, while other societies who have engaged as such, in the political strife have been torn piecemeal, and torn into factions and fragments – “North” and “South.” There certainly is nothing in the laws and institutions that Christ has given us as a Church, to produce such a state of things, as we now see portrayed among the various religious orders. Then let us endeavor to avoid the rock on which they have been shipwrecked, and live in peace.

In conclusion, my dear brother, permit me to say, that some were disposed to taunt us as Baptists, for entering into the political strife that is agitating our once prosperous country; and as I had never known the Apostolic or Primitive Baptists to pursue that course, I wrote that short correspondence of inquiry, to disabuse the minds of those who might desire the truth of the case. I hope you will excuse me for the privilege I have taken to write so long a letter on the subject, and accept my thanks for the freedom you have used in writing to me. If this should prove satisfactory to you as you think it will be so to others, you are at liberty to have it published in the SOUTHERN BAPTIST MESSENGER, or SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Meantime, I remain,

Your Brother, most truly,
J.F. Johnson.