Home > Baptists > Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptist Tradition

Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptist Tradition

by Josh Powell

This article was written in collaboration with Tom Nettles. Dr. Nettles has expanded and edited this material further for inclusion in The Baptists, Vol. 2.

The year was 1758 and God had richly blessed the gospel strategy of the Separate Baptists in North Carolina. Just three years before, a group led by Shubal[1] Stearns had settled at Sandy Creek and constituted a church. Within those short three years with “a few churches having been constituted, and these having a number of branches which were fast maturing for churches,”[2] Stearns thought it would be a good idea to start an association. The Separates’ remarkable personalities, novel practices, and fiery style of worship and preaching prompted some special attention from the Particular Baptists. Because some gave credit to disturbing reports about these ecclesiological kin, John Gano , who had been commissioned to his work in North Carolina by the Philadelphia Association, attended the 1759 meeting of the Sandy Creek Association. “He was sent, it seems, to inquire into the state of these New Light Baptists.”[3] Robert Baylor Semple reports the visit in this way:

He was received by Stearns with great affection. But the young and illiterate preachers were afraid of him, and kept at a distance. They even refused to invite him into their Association. All this he bore patiently, sitting by while they transacted their business. He preached also every day. His preaching was in the Spirit of the Gospel. Their hearts were opened, so that before he left they were greatly attached to him…. This Association was also conducted in love, peace and harmony. When Mr. Gano returned to his own country, being asked what he thought of these Baptists, he replied, that “doubtless the power of God was among them; that although they were rather immethodical, they certainly had the root of the matter at heart.”[4]

Read the entire article here.

Tom Nettles expanded article can be downloaded here.

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