In the Fall of 1854, several churches from North Carolina's Moriah Baptist Association—an association birthed by The Charleston Association in 1815--decided to organize another association. Meeting at the Wilson Chambers School House (school located across the road from Mt. Olive Baptist Church), the Brown Creek Baptist Association was constituted.1 The association may have taken its name from Brown Creek Baptist Church (1773). In 1884, the name changed from the Brown Creek Baptist Association to Union Baptist Association.2
The minutes of the meeting reveal the mindset the churches possessed toward the existence of confessions of faith.
"The Baptist denomination have [sic] ever maintained that the Word of God is the only standard of Christian doctrine and duty. The Confessions of Faith, which, from time to time, have been put forth by portions of the denomination, have been intended merely as a Declaration of Principles generally received among them, and not as standards of their Faith. To the Bible they have ever appealed, as the only authoritative rule and arbiter, in matters of faith and practice."3
Even so, in order to show their "true position" openly and freely, they presented a "declaration of principles of the Brown Creek Baptist Association." The confession contained twenty-two relatively short articles including the full text of Scripture proofs which makes the confession seem much longer than it actually is. A strong Calvinistic thread seems to stitch the confession's articles together. For example, Article III "Of the Sovereignty of God" makes God the "first great cause of all things"; One Who "exercises an absolute sovereignty over the universe; One Whose "decrees and purposes are fixed and immutable, and will be fulfilled in every particular"; and Who "overrules and controls all events to the furtherance of His glory and the accomplishments of His designs."4
On the other hand, however, what seems to be a weakened view of Total Depravity robs Calvinist polemicists from claiming this confession so quickly. Below is Article 5 "Of the Fall, and Depravity of Man."
Section 1. By a wilful [sic] act of disobedience in the garden of Eden, through the temptation of Satan, our first parents fell from the state of innocence and glory in which they had been created, lost the favor of God, were brought under the curse of the law, and made themselves liable to the penalty of temporal, spiritual and eternal death (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:12-13; biblical text cited in original; also below).
Sec. 2. In consequence of the original disobedience of our first parents, all their descendants are born with a corrupt and depraved nature, which leads to sin, and consequently to condemnation and death; and they must, without the intervention of sovereign grace, be forever banished from the presence of God, and the glory of his power (Rm. 5:12; 3:23; Ps. 51:5; 53:3; Ez. 18:4).5
Comparing the language above with strongly Calvinistic confessions, Sec. 2 reflects a clear confessional move away from strong Calvinism.
For example, the 1689 London Baptist Confession says "Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them…They [Adam and Eve] being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and their corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity… [and therefore are]… the subjects of death and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal…" (embolden added).
According to 17th Century London Baptists, all Adam's descendants fell with him, his guilt imputed to our account. Leaving aside the unsolved theological riddle in this statement,6 note the significant difference between London Baptists' statement about human sinfulness and Brown Creek Baptist Association's statement. Brown Creek knows nothing of either Adam representing all mankind, imputation of Adamic guilt, or our supposed falling in Adam. Instead it merely confesses, as consequential to Adam's act, all human descendants are born with a corrupt, depraved nature which leads to sin, and then to condemnation and death unless God's sovereign grace intervenes.
Candidly, there's nothing particularly Calvinistic about Brown Creek's statement on sin and moral depravity. Indeed Brown Creek Baptists in 1854 sound very much like contemporary Southern Baptists in 2000. Note the excerpt below taken from the Baptist Faith and Message 2000's Article III on "Man" and its similarities to Brown Creek:
Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God (embolden added).
What is more, Brown Creek Baptist Association also included in their declaration of principles two articles which strongly suggest that a robust Calvinism flowing from the Charleston Association had, by 1854, apparently receded to a weakened trickle. Articles VIII and XVI are provided in full below (minus the full text of Scripture in original).
Article VIII: Of the Freeness of the Gospel
The salvation which the Gospel provides is freely offered to the children of men. Its invitations are alike extended to all, and none are excluded from the participation in its benefits, excepting those who wilfully [sic] reject our Lord Jesus Christ (Isa. 55:1; Ezek. 33:5; Rev 22:17; John 5:40).7
Article XVI: Of Free Agency
God is pleased so to exercise his sovereignty that man, notwithstanding the fall and depravity of his nature, whether doing good or working evil, whether accepting or rejecting salvation—acts freely and from choice. And therefore those who are finally lost will be alone responsible for the consequences of their guilt; and those who are saved, while they freely choose the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, will ascribe the choice of it, as well as the redemption itself, all to sovereign grace (Josh. 24:15; Ezek. 18:31; John 5:40; Phil. 2:13-14).8
If strict Calvinistic confessions exist which speak explicitly about either the freeness of the gospel or of the free agency of post-fall, totally depraved human beings, then someone should produce them. While the 1689 confession has a section on "Free Will," the type of liberty portrayed in the article hardly matches the statement on free moral agency composed by the Brown Creek Baptist Association.
There appears little doubt that Brown Creek Baptist Association had theologically distanced itself from the strict Calvinism of the Charleston tradition, a confessional tradition wedded to the Philadelphia Baptist Association and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. Instead the new association of churches in 1854 followed the much milder and more recent Calvinistic expression in the New Hampshire Confession of Faith published in 1833.9
1Black, C. J. (Charles Jefferson), 1872-1939; Bivens, Joseph A., b. 1838; Preslar, M. D. L., b. 1872. A History of the Brown Creek Union Baptist Association, 1854-1918 (Kindle Locations 156-157). Nashville, Tenn.: Marshall & Bruce Co.
2Kindle Location 2077.
3Kindle Locations 230-233.
4Kindle Locations 266-267.
5Kindle Locations 290-299.
6The confession initially says when Adam and Eve fell, so did we. It then says their guilt was imputed to us. But if we fell with Adam (i.e. sinned when Adam sinned), then why was guilt for Adam's sin imputed to us? If we sinned with Adam, there's no need for imputation of guilt. We have our own guilt for our own sin in Adam.
7Kindle Locations 332-336.
8Kindle Locations 415-419.
9Assuming, of course, New Hampshire was Calvinistic at all. Compare W.L. McGlothlin's estimation that it's doubtful the New Hampshire document should be considered Calvinistic.