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Written by Hassell/Mitchell   


Below is pretty convincing proof as to why Elder Hassell did not attend the Fulton Convention as both his corresponding editors of the Gospel Messenger were very opposed to it. Their opposition was so strong that it became the official position of the "The Gospel Mesenger." It is important to note that Elder Hassell did write a very favorable article on the results of the Convention after it convened. When I get to heaven (by the Lord’s grace) I intend to query Brother Hassell about all this.

Too many questions, too little information.

David Montgomery


The Gospel Messenger—January 1899


Dear Brother Hassell: The writer has been frequently consulted by several of our  able ministers as to the propriety of having a general Convention of our preachers at some convenient place in the United States, to take under advisement the settlement of different points in doctrine and practice about which we differ and he has concluded to make public his views upon the subject. If there ever was a time in the history of the Old Order of Baptists when such a meeting was necessary, it is now. It has occurred to the writer that some such plans the following would be the better course to pursue, viz:  

1. Let the meeting be voluntary, after due notice.

2. When convened, let it be organized by the election of a Moderator and Clerk, and have all the final acts faithfully recorded and published.

3. After organization, take the Old London Confession of Faith as our guide, and where the differences of opinion are known to exist to us as to the true meaning of that Confession, more fully explain what we understand its real and true meaning to be.

4. In cases where other questions of doctrine and practice have arisen, not take under advisement by the London meeting, strive to come to an agreement upon them if possible.

5. Advise that the adoption of the acts of the meeting be voluntary on the part of the churches. There certainly would be no harm resulting of a meeting of this kind, but the results be of great benefit to the denomination.

With good wished and peace, union and harmony among the Old Baptists. I close for the present.

J. W. Richardson,  Petersburg, IND



Most heartily do I approve of all meetings of the people of God for Divine worship and mutual edification, whether the members that meet belong to one church or to any number of churches, and whether the meet­ings be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly; and I see nothing essential or objectionable in the name by which such meetings are called, whether Associa­tions, or Union or District or Section Meetings, provided such meetings do not assume to exercise authority over the churches of Christ or over other such meetings. This has always been my position in both the Church History and in THE GOSPEL MESSENGER. Everything that I have ever said or written apparently against Gen­eral Meetings has been really against their unscriptural and injurious evils and abuses. And I have always ear­nestly exhorted all the people of God to forbear with one another in love in regard to their little differences on these and all other forms not plainly set forth in the Scriptures. I have endeavored to examine these mat­ters in the light of the Divine Oracles, and I believe that such investigations can only result in the glory of God and the benefit of His people. The more closely we fol­low God in His Written Word, the better will it be for us and the more do we honor Him.

In regard to the proposition of Elder John M. Rich­ardson of Petersburg, Ind. (published in this number of THE MESSENGER), that there should be a General Meeting of all our ministers and members who can attend, from the North, outh,

East and West, for the purpose of personal acquaintance, and a better under­standing of each other, and the promotion of brotherly feelings and relations with one another, and the preparation and adoption of some statement of our faith and practice as was done by the Ministers and Messengers of more than a hundred Baptist churches in London in 1689, such statement not to be imposed upon any church, but to be left to the voluntary adoption of each church that endorsed it,. I would be glad myself to wit­ness and attend such a meeting. The wise Solomon says that “in a multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. xi. 14; xxiv. 6). Christ says: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. v. 9k And Paul says: “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there he no divis­ions among you but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. i. 10). And again he says: “Let us follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another” (Rom. xiv. 19). Of course, on all matters of faith and practice, the Scriptures are the only authoritative standard for all Bible Baptists.



The most innocent, delightful and edifying General Meetings that I know of are such Union Meetings as we have in Eastern North Carolina. These Union Meetings are composed of from half a dozen to two dozen churches, and generally meet on every

Fifth Sunday, with one or two days preceding—thus occurring four or five times a year. They have no connection at all with Associations. They do not exercise the slightest authority over the churches or over other Unions or Associations. In the brief Conference held on Friday or Saturday, the pastor of the church with which the Union convenes is the Moderator; and he and the Clerk of the Union and two members of that church appointed by the Moderator form a committee to decide which of the ministers present shall preach. and on what day; and the conference decides where the next Union shall be held—-the churches that desire the next session peti­tioning for it, and the conference generally giving it to the church that has the oldest petition. Sometimes a messenger or two is received from another Union and sometimes a member or two who volunteers to go is appointed a messenger to another Union, though this seems unnecessary. No other business is done. The Minutes of the meeting are not published. There are not such crowds as at Associations. The time is pleasantly and profitably occupied in conversation, singing, praying, and preaching. Sometimes we are favored with the presence of ministers from other Unions and other States. The services close with communion on Sun­day. There are no controversies, jars, or discords but all is humility and love and peace and joy in the Lord. These Union Meetings are little heavens on earth. I would be glad to attend one every day of my life.





DEAR BROTHER HASSELL: A proposition has appeared in two or three Primitive Baptist papers, and now ap­pears on third and fourth pages of “Messenger” for January 1899, that there be a voluntary assembling of Primitive, preachers from all parts of the United States to discuss and settle points of difference among our peo­ple, and that when organized for business they take the “London Confession of Faith as a guide,” etc.

Now, if this Convention is to be organized by the vol­untary assemblage of preachers and to be composed exclusively of only one class of church members, having neither church nor Bible authority to form such an or­ganization for such a purpose, would it not be ignoring the authority of both the church and the Bible to give sanction to such a grand National Primitive Baptist Convention?        

W.M. Mitchell

 REPLY BY ELDER HASSELL—I do not suppose that such a meeting will be held in our day. If it is ever held, it should be alto­gether voluntary and unauthoritative, and more for the purpose of personal acquaintance and the promotion of brotherly feeling and relations and a better understand­ing with one another than anything else. As I have said on the sixteenth page of the January “Messenger,” “of course,  on all matters of faith, and practice, the Scriptures are the only authoritative standard for all Bible Baptists. The Scriptures that I quoted in my edi­torial on the 16th page of the January “Messenger” (Prov. xi. 14; xxiv. 6.; Matt. v. 9; 1 Cor. i. 10; and Rom. xiv. 19) seem to me to justify an humble and lov­ing meeting of even the largest number of the people of God, at any time and place, for the promotion of mutual understanding and brotherly peace and union among us; and any one of our churches might request such a meeting with itself at any specified time. Of course, all the private members as well as all the ministers who desired and were able to attend could do so; and those not desiring or not able to attend would be at perfect liberty to remain away. The labors of the Baptists in London in 1689, in producing the old London Confes­sion of Faith, and those of the Old School Baptists at Black Rock, Maryland, in 1832, in producing the Old School Baptist Address, seem to have been blessed of the Lord, and to have been acceptable and beneficial to the most of our people. As the warring tribes of Israel went in peace to Hebron to make David their only king (1 Chron. xii. 38), so our dear departed brother J. R. Respess said to me that he thought it would be well for the Primitive Baptists to have a general meeting, at which, uncrowning all their little sectional and factional kings, they should crown the Son of  David, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the great and only King in Zion.  S. HASSELL

The Gospel Messenger—March 1899   Page 77


Dear Brother Hassell, The Proposition which I have seen published in two Primitive Baptist papers and now see in the Messenger for January 1899, to hold a National Convention to be composed of volunteer Primitive Baptist preachers to take into consideration the settling of differences on all points of gospel doctrine and order, and to take the “London Confession of Faith as a guide” has caused some fears that the evils sought to be removed will be augmented.

I do not question the motives of brethren who are agitating such a proposal, but with the lights before me now, I cannot look favorable upon such a movement. I cannot as yet believe that it would accomplish what its advocates seem to desire, from the very fact that whenever we resort to unscriptural expedients for settling points of difference among brethren on gospel doctrine and order, by any rule outside the church and outside that divine standard by which the man of God is furnished unto all good works, we cannot hope for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the deliberations, not in the final results. The letter of the Scriptures which God hath given by inspiration and the Hold Comforter and Spirit of truth in the heats of the true disciples of Jesus are in perfect harmony. They testify of Jesus.

If our churches could be brought to see and ask for the old paths and walk therein and each attend strictly and promptly to its own church business according to the authority of Scriptures, executing discipline and thereby letting even their ministry know that they must be subject to church authority as well as other members, there, in my opinion, be a better state of things than will ever result from any classes of volunteers who may volunteer their services to harmonize difference among brethren.

If the suggestion for a general convention of our preachers, and that their meeting be voluntary is construed to mean that this grand national convention shall be composed of nothing but preachers voluntarily assembled in their own individual capacity with neither Bible nor church authority…of what avail will the deliberations and decisions of such council be to the church of God in settling doctrinal or practical differences among its members? And is this is not what the suggestion of the 3rd and 4th pages of the Messenger of January ’99 means, what does it mean?

I have nothing to say as to the London Confession of Faith. Let it stand on its merits for all it is worth as the production of a few hundred uninspired men; but it is not the Bible, nor is such convention as is proposed recognized in the Bible as a guide for settling doctrinal or practical differences among brethren. We have amore sure word of prophesy to which we would do well to take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place. We have Moses and the prophets, the law and the gospel, Christ and His apostles; and if we hear not them, would we be persuaded though a thousand volunteer preacher conventions should warn us?

In support of calling the aid of uninspired counselors to settle church troubles, I have often heard brethren quote “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov xi. 14. It is true indeed that “In the multitude of counselors there is safety,” and their counsel is valuable or useless according to the capacity in which they assemble to give it. But in all matters of dispute or difference concerning gospel doctrine or order, this multitude of counselors form whose wise decisions safety results to the church of God, must be composed of such holy men of God as have been moved by the Holy Ghost.

Their instructions and decisions on all points of doctrine and order constitute a perfect standard of judgment for the church of God in all occasions, and for all time to come.

We should never ignore the wise counsels of our brethren as far as they go; let them be received for all they are worth. But let us not be drawn away from the infallible standard and guide which the Lord has so graciously given His church and people in the SCRIPTURES.


P.S. If the above letter is published, I wish it distinctly understood that no one is responsible for its sentiments but myself.  W.M.M.                                                


As set forth in an editorial in this number, the proposition for a Primitive Baptist Convention is entirely withdrawn so far as the GOSPEL MESSENGER is concerned. The Old and New Testament Scriptures are the only standard of faith and practice for all Bible Baptists.  S. HASSELL

The Gospel Messenger—March 1899   Page 83


In deference to the views of wise and worthy brethren, Elder J. W. Richardson of Petersburg, Ind, withdraws his proposition for a General Convention of Primitive Baptist Ministers for the Settlement of Differences among out People in Doctrine and Practice. To his proposition, I added the suggestion that all our members also, who could attend such a meeting, from the North, South, East and West should do so. One of my chief reasons for endorsing the proposition with this addition was, as I stated, the promotion of personal acquaintance and a better understanding of each other and of brotherly feelings and relation with one another. The conclusions of the meeting were not to be imposed upon any church, but to be left of the voluntary adoption of each church that endorsed it. If it had been proposed that the action for the meeting should be authoritative and binding upon our churches, such a feature would have been plainly unscriptural, and I would have utterly opposed it. The position of THE GOSPEL MESSENGER is, as it has always been, that the Old and New Testament Scriptures are the only authoritative standard of faith and practice.

It is proper to state that bother Elders W. M. Mitchell and J. E. W. Henderson are altogether unfavorable to the position of either the Elder Kirklands or Elder J. W. Richardson for a Primitive Baptist Convention. S. H.

The Gospel Messenger—APRIL 1899


An esteemed brother in Baltimore, Md., in a long letter to Elder Mitchell criticizes the latter’s editorial, “No Advisory Council,” in “The Gospel Messenger” of December, 1898, (1) misunderstanding Elder Mitchell to imply that each church has all the spiritual gifts and therefore needs no help from the members of other churches; and also (2) maintaining that local churches are but branches of the church, while an Association is the church; and (3) that pastors and elders now are inspired just as the Apostles were. These are the only three points that I see in his long letter. In the part of Elder Mitchell’s reply published below, the first of the above points is shown to be an entire misunderstanding. In regard to the second point, I see no scriptural authority for calling a local church a branch of the church subordinate to some higher earthly authority; nor have I ever seen, in the Scriptures, any mention of an Association; the church is spoken of one hun­dred and ten times in the New Testament, but an Association is not spoken of one time. In reference to the third point, there are many passages in the Gospels and in the Acts proving that even the Apostles were not always infallibly inspired, but were so inspired in their writings in the Scriptures (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17); and, although Christ dwells in His people and has promised to be with them to the end of the world, He suffers all of them, including pastors and elders, to go at times into error and sin, and the perfect Word of God, the O]d and New Testament Scriptures, are the only infallible standard by which to try all doctrine and all practice. The Scriptures are perfectly harmonious; but the views of parts of the Scriptures held by some of our pastors and elders are utterly contradictory of the views held by others, and, therefore, we well know that they are not all divinely inspired. Primitive Baptist editors no more claim to be inspired and infallible than others of our ministers; but no godly, honest, and conscientious editor publishes a periodical to advocate views and practices which seem to him inconsistent with the Scriptures, and no human being is under the slightest obligation to take a periodical conflicting with the Scriptures.

The Baltimore brother says that Associations ought not to be Courts of Appeal, nor to exercise supervision or authority over the churches, but that they should be loving meetings of the saints for mutual instruction, exhortation, comfort, and strength. If to these characteristics it be added that Associations should not exercise authority over other Associations—that is, if the recent invention of formal correspondence between Associations, with its great and distressing evils of non­fellowship and division, were done away with, “The Gospel Messenger” would not object to Associations— they thus becoming simple yearly meetings of the saints for Divine worship and mutual edification. I have received for publication long and extreme articles both for and against Associations, and I have published none of them, preferring, in this as well as other matters, to pursue a moderate, scriptural course.   S. HASSELL.


Those who know the evils and abuses of Associations, in some sections, in assuming  disciplinary rights and authority over churches, have sought to correct those abuses, but never once have they sought to abolish or interfere in any way with the God-given and scriptural rights of any church to assemble for the worship of God, or to attend to any business pertaining to the order of the house of God, such as receiving members, adminis­tering the ordinances of Baptism and Communion— preaching, praying, singing the praises of God, ordaining preachers, settling difficulties among members, or, if need be, withdrawing church fellowship from disor­derly members. These are all church duties and church acts, with which Associations, as distinct bodies, should never interfere. But members of sister churches, when assembled with any church and invited to seats and requested to aid and assist the church in any matter that may come before it, are certainly  scripturally right to do so, and are useful to the whole body of believers.

This is precisely what was done in the church at Jerusalem, of which we have such an instructive example in the 15th chapter of Acts. And you seem to fully agree with me in this when you ask the important question, “Shall we not confer today as they did at Jerusalem?” Yes, my brother, confer together as they did at Jerusalem.

That is precisely what I insisted upon in that whole article in the December “Messen­ger, to which you have presented your objections and criticisms. That is what I still hold and contend for, because I fully believe the manner in which the church at Jerusalem proceeded in settling a church trouble, is a scriptural model for all churches under similar circumstances, down to this present hour.

If you agree that it is right for an orderly church now to invite visiting brethren to sit with the church in conference and to aid and assist the church in the in­vestigation of any matter, as the church did at Jerusalem, then I heartily agree with you on that point.

Yours in love,                         W. M. MITCHELL.

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