This section of the site was originally for British Baptist documents, but a few about Wales and Scotland are also included at the bottom of the Index Page. At first Circular Letters from the associations were posted so most of this essay is about the CLs, but now histories and bios are included.
These are Particular Baptist Circular Letters as can be noted from the doctrinal statement given prior to the Circular. They were located by the editor on a visit to England a few years ago. Many of these Baptist Associational records have been lost, but many are still tucked away in libraries and have never been republished. They contain valuable doctrinal and historical information. In these documents I have made very few editorial comments; they are inserted when it is believed it will help with the reading of the documents. For instance, in these British Circulars, some of the printers used an "f" instead of an "s." These have been changed in the scanning and editing and are noted at the beginning of the article. A few archaic words are interpreted. Some of the words are spelled differently than is common today. If this isnít apparent, a [sic] has been inserted so that the reader will not think it is a typographic error. I have tried to keep this to a minimum. Any insertion by the editor has been noted with [ ].
Baptists have been writers for many years. Many of them were not noted for their writing abilities as they were mostly pastors and were busy at the task of preaching the gospel and pastoring their churches. However, for many years the various Baptist associations met and commissioned someone to write a Circular Letter that was addressed to the churches within their particular association. A basic doctrinal statement was often at the beginning of each Circular. Generally a subject was assigned when the writer was chosen. The author's name was usually mentioned in the Minutes of the year he was selected. Often the first name of the writer is not recorded; that is why "Bro." or "Mr." is given in my index. The associations usually published a very limited number of their Minutes and distributed them to their associated churches.
Various subjects were addressed. The author of the 1777 Rutlandshire (Western England) Circular Letter refers to the Circulars as "a body of divinity in miniature." He wrote,"In our annual letters, for many years past, we have stated, explained, defended, and improved the glorious principles we profess at the head of our letter, to the end that you might form an easy and familiar acquaintance with your own doctrines, and adorn them by an holy life and a beautiful conversation. You have already had views of the doctrine of the sacred Trinity -- the gracious assistances of the Holy Spirit in a course of gospel obedience -- the eternal, immutable, and free love of God in choosing you to holiness and eternal happiness -- the fall and ruin of mankind, as involved in the guilt and corruption of the first head and root of the human race -- special, absolute, certain, and perfect redemption by the death of Christ -- free justification, by the righteousness of Christ, placed to our account by an act of God, as a father and a judge -- invincible and victorious grace in regeneration and sanctification -- and the final perseverance of the saints to glory. We hope those essays will never be forgotten , but often reviewed by you, as they contain a body of divinity in miniature, and will prepare your minds for reading larger treatises on the same glorious subject" (page 2 of the original).These CLs are arranged in the index in chronological order, instead of by subjects. Most of the Letters have a stated subject, but some have a more exhortive theme. That's why the index in some cases just lists the year the Letter was written and gives no subject.
You will note some changes in writing style at later dates. Some of the documents have details of their meetings and some have advertisements of books available.
There is a history of several churches in an association that is included in this group of documents. I hope these will be a blessing to all who read them.
James R. Duvall
2375 Hathaway Road
Union, KY 41091 (USA)
Slightly revised March, 2005
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