Between 1828 and 1832, Jesse Mercer (1769-1841) led a theological witch-hunt against popular Georgia Baptist leader, Cyrus White. White had published a small tract advocating General Atonement--The Scriptural View of the Atonement (1830). Mercer responded with a series of 10 letters to Cyrus White first published in a pamphlet then later printed in the Christian Index.1
Ultimately, White and his church were disfellowshipped from Georgia Baptists' Ocmulgee Association which was the occasion for constituting the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association (CUBA). Mercer and his theological posse succeeded in branding White and the so-called "White-ites" as thoroughgoing Arminians and therefore heretics.2
The problem is, neither White nor the CUBA were Arminian.3 Rather they merely denied Limited Atonement.
"If I have understood Election, it means the sovereign right of God to choose whom he will...Such is the enormity of the human heart, it will not submit to God's government and grace. All men do most willingly, reject the gospel, and forever will, until the enmity of their heart is slain, and their stubborn wills subdued by sovereign grace. This application of the grace of God is made by him to whom he will; his people are made willing in the day of his power, and this is Election" --Cyrus White, The Scriptural View of the Atonement (p. 18)
So continues far too often the mindless, immature theological detectives who shoot first and ask questions later.
From the way I see it, Jesse Mercer theologically hung an innocent man.
1Chute, A. L., 2004. A Piety above the Standard: Jesse Mercer and Evangelistic Calvinism. Macon: Mercer University Press. pp. 83-92; Snyder, R. A., 2013. A Southern Unionist: The Ministry of William T. Brantly and the State of Evangelical Unity in the Triennial Convention. Michigan: Spring Branch Book House. pp. 86-91. Chute indicates Mercer bound the letters into a volume after they were published in the Index (p. 86) while Snyder indicates the reverse (p. 86). If Snyder is correct that the first of ten letters was published in the Christian Index August 28, 1830, then it seems reasonable that the bound volume was first produced as Snyder indicates contra Chute. UPDATE: Snyder is correct; Chute has it backwards. According to Brantly in an article in the Columbian Star and Christian Index, "We have received a pamphlet of near 50 pages containing ten letters addressed to the Rev. Cyrus White, by the Rev. Jesse Mercer, of Georgia, on the Atonement" (Brantly, W. T., 1830. The Columbian Star and Christian Index, 28 August, III(9). Thus, the articles followed the pamphlet.
2The Ocmulgee Association was for the most part, Anti-missionary, and became a Primitive Baptist Association in the late 1830s. See, Williams, D., June 2014. Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia. The Journal of Baptist Studies, Volume 6, p. 37.
3The Chattahoochee association held to what was called the "Sharon Confession of Faith" (Minutes, 1848. pp. 2, 5)--at least early on. The Sharon confession was definitively not Arminian in theology but was similar to though fuller in content than Kentucky's 1801 Terms of Union. Unlike the Terms of Union, however, it did not explicitly but only implicitly expressed General Atonement. Note: most every historian I have consulted in my research thus far maintain White and the Chattahoochee were Arminian in doctrine and constitute the beginnings of the Free Will Baptist movement in Georgia. Even some Free Will Baptist historians claim Cyrus White as their spiritual ancestor. See for example, Williams, D., June 2014. Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia. The Journal of Baptist Studies, Volume 6, pp. 31-59. And many Southern Baptists are quick to jump on board with the claim. SBTS historian, Greg Wills credits White with the first enduring Arminian Baptist church in Georgia. The research project I'm presently pursuing hopefully will set the record straight on some weakly documented claims about the history of Calvinism in the SBC.