header image
Home arrow Griffin's History arrow The Towaliga Problems
The Towaliga Problems PDF Print E-mail
Written by W.M. Mitchell   

OPELIKA, ALA, Nov. 10th, 1880. 

BELOVED BROTHER RESPESS:—It is probable that I have never felt nor understood the troubles fully as others do, which are growing out of the Towaliga complications. I can hardly believe what I see with my own eyes, and hear with my own ears, that brethren who are of the same spirit of faith, kindred in Christ in all the conflicts, and joys of the heavenly kingdom, are to be divided, and severed asunder, as though they were two separate and distinct denominations. About what? Yes. What? Who can tell? I cannot get at the root of this excitement. There is a troubler, or troublers of Israel some where in the camp. “One sinner destroys much good.” “Cast out the scorner and contentions will cease.” Solomon says, “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water; therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with.” Prov. 17: 14. This meddlesome, self-constituted officiousness, often does much harm to all parties. It harms or injures the meddler and also those who are meddled with. Paul speaks of some among the churches who “seemed to be somewhat.” Now these “somewhats,” are always meddlers. If the “truth of the gospel” in doctrine and order “continues with the churches,” they should “never give place by subjection one hour” to their usurpation. Gal. 2. 

It has appeared to me that a mild, gentle, kind and forbearing course would do more towards a better understanding and healing the breach, than a harsh, censorious spirit could do. If Associations are not disciplinary bodies to try and condemn disorders in churches, (and I know they are not,) then how does it come that individual members of churches assume that right? If I as an individual member, assume the right to bid defiance to the discipline of a church and declare her action void; am I right in so doing? If I should say that I will, or will not fellowship such and such things before it has I ever been tested or tried before a proper tribunal, am I not usurping an authority that belongs to the church? 

I would like to hear from you, and get all the information possible, suggestions, &c. on this or any other subject. Designing to go to the office this afternoon I have hastily written these few lines for your disposal. 

Very affectionately your Brother.


And for what indeed? as our beloved and venerated brother Mitchell says. To such men as brother Mitchell, we would do well to listen; one whose life has been stainless as a christian and a minister, and is now speaking to us as a father; and above all this, he speaks to us in the language of inspiration. What is all this trouble about; this trouble that threatens the peace, unity and brotherly love of christians, who have for the greater part of their lives walked together in fellowship, and taken sweet counsel together? Is not the cause a common cause; and one cause? Are we not all and each equally interested in its prosperity? If guilt attaches to me in matter and it be shown me, I am ready to make all the reparation in my power. I know I am vain and sinful, and it is to be seen in my writing and preaching, and I have regretted and deplored it hundreds of times myself. There are some churches in the Towaliga Association that seemed anxious to set themselves right, and restore themselves to the fellowship of the Associations them; and they m together and declared their position, and made application, to the Western Association, informally, to see if they would be received. Now the trouble seemed to start. It was suggested by somebody that to retain brother Head in the church was to leave an open door for their reception, and to close this door he was exscinded, so to speak, from the church. Now I don’t know who was to blame for this, whether brother Head was, or some body else; but whoever started that movement, was very evidently, in my opinion, to blame. If those opposed to the reception of the manifesto brethren did it, they were providing for the evils of to-morrow; evils that would probably never have come. Suppose, for argument’s sake, he was improperly received, it was a worse evil to dig up the past after so long a time to disturb the peace of the present. Suppose a family in Israel had had a case of leprosy, and had not put the case out of the camp as the law directed, and it had not spread, and the case got well and 16 years after, it was found out the family had had a case and had not separated themselves from it, and the family was in health and peace, and a dozen other families bring charge against this family and whet their swords and come upon them an cause the death of many of them; do they not in carrying out the letter of the law at so late a day, cause the same evil that the law of leprosy was designed to prevent; viz, death in the camp? The law of separation from leprosy was to prevent its spread; and if, providentially, it did not spread, the law was not violated in spirit; and those who would, after years had passed away, revive it, and cause thus the death of many, would in my poor judgment, do violation to the law themselves and be guilty. 

It would be an impossible task to correct the evils or irregularities of the past. Over 100 years ago the Philadelphia Association, the oldest one in this country and from which we are in direct line, received the baptism of the church of England when it was done by immersion, and upon confession of faith. Now how would we remedy that error? Why we can’t do it. The present is our concern and not the past. “Hezekiah proclaimed a Passover, for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written; “ For a multitude of people even many of Ephraim, and Manassah, Issacher and Zebulin had not cleansed themselves, yet they did eat the Passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them saying, “The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary, (2 Chron. xxx), and the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.” The law given the church was never designed for its destruction; other instances might be referred to, wherein irregularities were pardoned; not, be it remembered, as precedents for wrong actions or violation of law, but when an execution of the letter of the law would kill rather than restore, and work evil rather than good. 

Athalia was queen by usurpation several years, but when she was deposed, and the right king came to the throne, the kingdom was not reconstructed; if one had bought land his title remained good, as it did under our confederacy. There are things that can’t be remedied, and to attempt it would involve much greater evil. The best way is never to get wrong of course, but to this we re liable. I am not in favor of receiving these manifesto brethren over the heads of any our brethren with whom we have been so long associated, but think it best to wait, in the hope that all opposition will eventually cease. If I might venture to suggest a remedy, I would say to the brethren of the Western Association to settle their troubles with Enon church without any regard whatever t the act of the two last Associations. And in doing so, have an eye whatever to the manifesto churches, either their reception or rejection, but to their own peace only. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. If Head brought the issue to open a way for the manifestoes, he did wrong; if others done it to bar the way they did wrong. The advice of the Association, of 1879, was wrong in words; but the churches should act without any regard whatever to what the Association has done or said. And if the Western will make peace themselves, as churches, there will be peace everywhere else; because no Primitive Baptist dare contend with the Bible in his hands for Associational power over the churches. 

I am sick, and broken down in mind and body from excessive fatigue and anxiety in regard to my son, for over three weeks dangerously sick, with typhoid fever; and what I have written has been in confusion and what in it is unsavory, I ask for charity and indulgence; and to be prayed for, myself and family.—ED. (J.R. Respess)

< Previous   Next >


The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.