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Written by Ephraim Rittenhouse   

ZION'S ADVOCATE -- AUGUST 1897

From State Road Delaware

Elder T. S. Dalton, I sat down to write under the impression that you are the publisher of the Advocate and to offer what I say to you for publication, l have never written anything to the Advocate; neither have I in any way patronized the paper, still I presume my name must be quite well known among your people, I have all the while been identified with what are called the North Eastern associations, I was with them then, as I am now: when the Ketocton, Ebenezer and Rappahannock, were all in regular correspondence with the North Eastern associations, and no difference among them was known on any point of either doctrine or order, I know whereof I speak, for I was present, and know all the preachers and most of the members of these North Eastern Associations; and also a number of the preachers of the Virginia associations, and have heard them preach, all of whom are now passed away.

I was for some years connected with the Delaware River, serving as their clerk at times; and forty years have been connected with the Delaware. So, I know where there was no division, and no cause for division, and when division came; I know what was made the occasion for it.

There is no man now living who was conversant with all the vexations as I was; and it is on that account that I now write and give some information to those who should know whatever can be known of the facts. Among the contributors to the "Signs of the Times" a few advanced some sentiments, and indulged in the use of some phrases that I never accepted. And I never the considered the churches and associations as such, responsible. There were undoubtedly individuals who would accept what their paper, or their preacher said, without question, or examination. But the bulk of the people took little interest in the discussions and were never committed to the sentiments that were particularly complained of.

I have made no secret of it that some things were advanced in the "Signs" that I did not then, and never have accepted. But I did not think there was cause for division, if individuals had taken up some errors, the truth was still free to combat them, and sooner or later they would fall to the ground. The churches were not only not committed, but to a considerable extent, were ignorant of all the questions involved in the discussions. In the Delaware Association, where Eld. Barton and myself; were the Pastors, if there was ever a single individual who believed, or advocated those sentiments that were charged against us as heresies, I never knew it.

The division was made by the action of these associations in Virginia. it was a cause of sorrow and distress at the time to our people, we had never questioned the soundness of the Ketocton and Ebenezer Associations. The resolutions of non- fellowship and non-correspondence was all on this side.

The original resolution of the Ketocton was as I understood it, to drop correspondence with the Warwick, and with all who continued to correspond with the Warwick. It soon grew as you know to non-fellowship. If the Ketocton did not find it profitable to correspond with the Warwick, they could discontinue that correspondence Without assigning any reason. They need not exercise censorship over us, as to whom we might correspond.

I have before me the minutes of the Kehukee for last year, in which I find this expression, "That the resolution of the Ketocton and Ebenezer Associations in 1852 and 1853, did not declare non-fellowship for any other Association by name, but declared non-fellowship for those who denied the Divinity &e.

"While we have been all these years involved in all these consequences of this have declared non fellowship, so far as it could he inflicted upon us. Do you know that we have uniformly and continually denied the charges of Arianism and other errors and heresies, that were charged against us. Now the Kehukee brethren can say that "We never believed those errors, and we do not think they ever did." Then on what ground break fellowship? The Advocate formerly labored hard to convict us of some grievous heresies, that we solemnly and continually denied. Constructions were put upon extracts from our writings that we claimed unfair, and that we did not believe what we were charged with, and that our language would not bear the construction that was endeavored to be upon it.

I want to call rather special attention to one phrase embraced in those non-fellowshipping resolutions. It is this: "Those who claim that when Christ lay in the grave there was not a living saint in heaven nor upon earth." You will allow that for half century, I have enjoyed a pretty thorough acquaintance with all the Old School Baptists of this country and I have never yet met with anyone affirming any such thing. The phrase has never appeared in the letters of our associations nor has it been advocated in any of our religious periodicals. The query in my mind is, where they got it, and why it is there! I remember hearing of such a phrase being used by a; young, preacher who was somewhat given to making wild shots, and though I was not present, word came to me directly by several brethren, no one endorsing it, and a general regret that it had been used. This certainly afforded no warrant to charge the sentiment upon whole associations of brethren, when it never had the endorsement of a single individual. I have perhaps known a few public men, but they have been few indeed, who never did speak unadvisedly with their lips. I would be glad if they all spake always with sound speech that could not be condemned. If we go to making men offenders for a word we shall have but few approved. I have not in what I have now written hinted any objection to the doctrinal sentiments of the Advocate, I did not support the paper because 1 was opposed to division. I did not approve the Spirit in which was brought about.

If Eld. Clark could publish a paper that would be more acceptable to Old School Baptists than the papers they had, he had a perfect right to do so. He might leave the people to judge for themselves, which was the better labor. I am not aware that we have ever indulged in denunciation of the Ketocton or Ebenezer People or that our papers have ever spoken unkindly or disparagingly of them. We have felt all the time that they separated from us without just cause and that there has not been anything in the way on our part of a return to our former friendly intercourse except the unkind and unwarranted things published and spoken against us.

We shall always encounter more or less irregularities and disorders while in this imperfect state. If any of us know the better way let us approach our brother in a brotherly spirit and not treat him as an enemy but admonish as a brother. They that have the clearest understanding of the word of the Lord will be likely to manifest most of the Spirit of Christ and will be found forbearing one another in love.

The above is respectfully submitted

E. RITTENHOUSE. 

Last Updated ( Friday, 08 September 2006 )
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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.