Mississippi Baptist church discipline in the 19th century
During the 19th century, Baptist churches in Mississippi maintained strict discipline over their members. Henry Nichols was excluded from Sarepta Church in Union Association “for drawing his knife and offering to stab his brother and for spitting in his face.” Benjamin Brown was excluded from Ebenezer Church in Amite County for “attending a horse race and wagering thereon.” James Dermaid was excluded from Providence Church in what is now Forrest County “for “disputing, quarreling, and using profane language, and absenting himself from the church.” Providence Church also excluded “brother Alexander Williams and sister Leuizer Maclimore upon a charge of their attempting to go off and cohabit together as man and wife.” In 1828, the African Church at Bayou Pierre had a query for Union Association: “Is it gospel order for a Baptist church to hold members in fellowship who have married relations nearer than cousins?” The association answered that it was not. Jane Scarborough, wife of Rev. Lawrence Scarborough of Sarepta Church accused “Sister Harris” of being drunk at a wedding and for hosting “Negro balls” (debutante balls for blacks). Instead, the church charged Mrs. Scarborough of gossip without evidence, and excluded her for making the accusations!1
Mississippi Baptists moved gradually from a policy of tolerating mild use of alcohol, toward a policy of complete abstinence from alcohol. A Committee on Temperance made an enthusiastic report to the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 1838 of “the steady progress of the Temperance Reformation in different parts of Mississippi and Louisiana; prejudices and opposition are fasting melting away.” In 1839, D. B. Crawford gave a report to the Convention on temperance which stated, “That notwithstanding, a few years since, the greater portion of our beloved and fast growing state, was under the influence of the habitual use of that liquid fire, which in its nature is so well calculated to ruin the fortunes, the lives and the souls of men, and spread devastation and ruin over the whole of our land; yet we rejoice to learn, that the cause of temperance is steadily advancing in the different parts of our State.” Local churches consistently disciplined members for drunkenness, but they were slower to oppose the sale or use of alcohol. For example, in May 1844, “a query was proposed” at Providence Church in Pearl River Association on the issue of distributing alcohol. After discussion, the church took a vote on its opposition to “members of this church retailing or trafficking in Spirituous Liquors.” It is significant that in the handwritten church minutes, the clerk wrote that the motion “unanimously carried in opposition,” but then crossed out the word “unanimously.” In January 1845, Providence Church voted that “the voice of the church be taken to reconsider” the matter of liquor. The motion passed, but then tabled the issue, and did not come back up. In March of that year, a member acknowledged his “excessive use of arden[t] spirits” and his acknowledgement was accepted, and he was “exonerated.”2
The Mississippi Baptist Convention heard frequent reports on how to defend against desecrations of the Sabbath. In 1840, M. W. Chrestman reported, “The Sabbath, or Lord’s Day, is an institution of Divine Origin, and is therefore of universal obligation… On the Lord’s Day all manner of servile labor is positively prohibited, with the exception of works of necessity and mercy… Every necessary arrangement and sacrifice should be made; every carnal pleasure and sensual gratification should be denied… Resolved, That we recommend that our ministering brethren with greater zeal and diligence explain and enforce the proper observance of the Lord’s Day.” Local Mississippi Baptist churches considered violation of the Sabbath a serious matter. In March 1837, William Dossett, a member of Providence Church in what is now Forrest County, confessed to the church “that he had been hunting a deer on the Sabbath, which he had wounded on the preceding evening.” After “considerable discussion of the subject,” the church was satisfied with his explanation.3
SOURCES (All available at the Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission Archives, Leland Speed Library, Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi):
1 Minutes, Sarepta Baptist Church, Jefferson County, Mississippi, August 1815, June 1828, July 1828; Minutes, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Amite County, Mississippi, February 6, 1813; March 6, 1813; Minutes, Providence Baptist Church, Forrest County, Mississippi, December 10, 1842, September 2, 1843; Minutes, Union Baptist Association, 1828.
2 Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1838, 1839; Minutes, Providence Baptist Church, Forrest County, Mississippi, May 11, 1844, January 11, 1845, March 8, 1845.
3 Minutes, Mississippi Baptist Convention, 1840; Minutes, Providence Baptist Church, Forrest County, Mississippi, March 4, 1837.
Is gluttony as bad as drunkenness?
We rarely equate beer with banana pudding, but scripture says nearly as much about gluttony as it does about drunkenness. The Bible teaches that all addictions have the same basic effect: they destroy your mind, your money and your mood.
Look at the warnings in Proverbs against these two addictions: drunkenness and gluttony.
1. Your mind. Your mind will be led astray and deceived.
“Wine is a mocker, beer a brawler, and whoever staggers because of them is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1, HCSB).
“If you are the type who eats too much too fast, do whatever is necessary to curb your enthusiasm for food.” (Proverbs 23:2, The Voice Translation)
2. Your money. Your addiction will drain your finances and leave you poor. “Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine or with those who gorge themselves on meat. For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor…” (Proverbs 23:20-21, HCSB)
3. Your mood. You will suffer sorrow and disgrace. You will descend into depression if you persist in feeding your addiction.
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? … Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine…” (Proverbs 23:29-30, NIV).
“…a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.” (Proverbs 28:7, HCSB).
We are not able to overcome our addictions until we first see how much they hurt us and others. The reason we become addicted to something is because we like how it makes us feel. Do we want to lose control of our minds? Do we want to lose our money? Do we want to descend into depression? If not, then we need to break free from our addictions, whatever they are. The first step is to recognize that the problem is real. We need to stop making excuses like, “I’m just a social drinker,” or, “It’s only food, and I have to eat.” The second step is to call on the Higher Power of Jesus Christ to give us victory. For most people with addictions, we will need a third step of counseling and/or a support group.
Don’t wait—do it today!
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