Should a Gospel Church be Incorporated?

Let Godly men of the past answer

Page 327 - Isaac Backus: A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists –Volume 2

"A Baptist church was formed in New Gloucester in May, 1782, and they tried various ways to get clear of oppression from the Congregational party, and to support their own worship, until they applied to our legislature, and obtained an incorporation of a Baptist society, invested with all the powers and privileges of other parishes. But in about four years many of them found this to be such a bondage, that they renounced the scheme, and formed a new Baptist church in October, 1794, and they joined the Bowdoinham Association in August, 1795."

Page 394 – Same book as above:

"And is it not evident that the late increase of Baptist churches has been caused by the influence of the Spirit of God? For before he poured out his Spirit in the county of Hampshire, in and after 1734, there were but six Baptist churches in all New England, except in Rhode Island government, wherein are now two hundred and eighty-five churches. And in these four States, where ministers have been supported by law, all the power of such ministers and rulers has been against the Baptist churches; and they have found so much difficulty in supporting their own ministers, and in guarding against oppression from others, that some societies have obtained incorporations by the laws of men. But our Associations have published testimonies against all such incorporations, as they implicitly deny that the laws and Spirit of Christ are sufficient to govern his church, and to support his ministers. And while they act all the affairs of their Associations openly, before all men who have a mind to hear them, and then publish their conclusions to the world, how can they hope for any earthly advantage thereby? If heavenly influence has not increased their churches, what cause can be assigned therefor?"

Robert Baker, "A History of the Southern Baptist Convention," 1974, "The Memorial Against Incorporation of the Protestant Episcopal Church and Possession of the Glebe Lands" December, 1784:

Page 72: New Testament Churches, we humbly conceive, are, or should be, established by the Legislature of Heaven and not earthly power; by the Law of God and not the Law of the State; by the acts of the Apostles and not by the Acts of an Assembly. The Incorporating Act, then, in the first place, appears to cast great contempt upon the divine Author of our Religion, whose Kingdom is not of this world. Secondly, to give all the property of the State established church to one Society, not more virtuous or deserving than other Societies in the Commonwealth, appears contrary to justice and the express words of the IV Art. of the Bill of Rights, which prohibits rewards or emoluments to any Man, or set of men, except for services rendered the State; and what services that Church has rendered the State, either by her Clergy or Laity, more than other Churches have done, we know not.

Page 194, same book above: (The Incorporation of the Southern Baptist Convention)



Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia, in General Assembly, met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That William B. Johnson, Wilson Lumpkin, James B. Taylor, A. Dockery, R. B. C. Howell, and others, their associates and successors, be, and they are hereby, incorporated and made a body politic, by the name and style of the "Southern Baptist Convention," with authority to receive, hold, possess, retain and dispose of property, either real or personal, to sue and be sued, and to make all by-laws, rules and regulations necessary to the transaction of their business, not inconsistent with the laws of this State, or of the United States: Said corporation being created for the purpose of eliciting, combining and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of christians, for the propagation of the gospel, any law, usage or custom to the contrary notwithstanding. Approved, December 27th, 1845.

R.C.B. Howell – "The Early Baptists of Virginia," 1857, quoting the Memorial and Remonstrance of James Madison, signed by the Baptists:

Page 115 - "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of religion been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Inquire of the teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre. Those of every sect point to the ages prior to its incorporation with the civil policy. Propose a restoration to this primitive state, in which its teachers depended upon the voluntary reward of their flocks. Many of them predict its downfall!"

History of the Church of God by Cushing B. Hassell, 1885

Page 842 – "A petition, Memorial and Remonstrance to the Legislature of North Carolina and to the Congress of the United States against the incorporation of Religious Societies, 1848"

"1. They remonstrate against the passage of any laws in this State favoring religious societies or churches of any cast or denomination; since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world.

"They beg that you grant no monopolies or exclusive privileges to any sect or denomination of religious persons, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Pagan or Mahometan; and that you pass no acts of incorporation for the benefit of any religious society or convention whatever.

"2. They humbly conceive that in the passage of laws heretofore, incorporating purely sectarian institutions, societies, conventions, academies and colleges, and exempting from taxation property owned by religions denominations, the provisions of our State Constitution have been transcended, and a strict regard to equal rights and privileges among the people has been overlooked; and that wisdom, justice, and a jealous regard for peace, harmony and equal rights, require that all such laws, promises or enactments should be repealed, especially that one contained in the forty-seventh chapter of the Acts of the Assembly, passed in 1844, entitled ‘An Act to Amend the Revised Statutes entitled ‘Religious Societies."

"Your memorialises require no legislation for their special benefit, since the fundamental law of our land guarantees to all the high privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and think furthermore that all other citizens should rest contented with the privileges already conferred on them by the Constitution and laws, without seeking to augment them at the expense of others.

"Whatever therefore seeks to unite itself with the State, and trusts in the aid of human enactments for existence, your memorialists most respectfully suggest, is not and cannot be the religion of Jesus of Nazareth; and, though it have the form of godliness, is destitute of the power thereof.

"By order October 2d, 1848.



The Following are from the book "The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland" by L.F. Greene, 1845

Pg. 213 Greene – "The Writings of John Leland"

This power is to be used to oblige the people "to make suitable provision at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God." I have long been of the belief that Jesus Christ instituted his worship; and if my faith is well founded, then it is not left for rulers to do in these days; but, surely nothing more can be meant by it, than that the legislature shall incorporate religious societies, and oblige them to build houses for public worship. Parishes, precincts, and religious societies politically embodied, are phrases not known in the New Testament; convey ideas contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and pave the way for force and cruelty, inadmissible in Christ's kingdom, which is not of this world. If any number of real saints are incorporated by human law, they cannot be a church of Christ, by virtue of that formation, but a creature of state.

Pg. 215 Greene – "The Writings of John Leland"

It is true that one sect of Protestant Christians has as fair an opportunity to be incorporated as another, but there are many who justly despise the idea of religious incorporation by human law, and therefore those who do not, have an undue advantage over others. Supposing, in France, the National Convention should decree that all sects of Christians, that believed that kings, in certain cases, might wear their heads and crowns upon them, should have equal privileges in France, I ask, whether the Jacobin party would share equal favors with the royalists? So, in this case, all sects of Protestant Christians that choose to be incorporated, may elect their own teachers and contract with them for their maintenance, and assess it upon all within their respective precincts; but those who cannot, in conscience, accord with this legal religion, must pay their tax with the rest, and be at the trouble of drawing it out of the treasury again, which sometimes occasions vexatious lawsuits.

Pg. 216 Greene – "The Writings of John Leland"

Now, if it should be argued that a great many in this commonwealth believe, in their consciences, that it is the best way to serve God, to have societies incorporated by law, and levy a tax upon all to support their worship and maintain their teachers, how easily the above evils might be prevented, and all enjoy liberty of conscience. If those only, who are conscientious in legal religion, are incorporated, and tax none but themselves, there will be no cruel distraining from those whose consciences dictate another mode of worship. A man can cheerfully work when he verily believes he is doing God service; a man, therefore, who believes in religious incorporation, can joyfully give in his name to be taxed; and he who believes that the law has nothing to do about religious worship, can as joyfully stay at home. The last of these have as good grounds to judge that the first plead conscience for cruelty, as the first have to judge that the last plead conscience for covetousness.

Pg. 238 Greene – "The Writings of John Leland"

From a sermon titled: "A Blow at the Root: Being a Fashionable Fast-Day Sermon, Delivered at Cheshire, April 9, 1801

The New Testament never calls in the aid of the magistrate to carry folks to prison, or take away their cows, or other property, to pay men for preaching, or build temples, and therefore, we will not. The apostles never taught the churches, which they planted, to be incorporated bodies politic, to make use of the civil law to regulate their concerns, nor will we.

Pg. 256 Greene – "The Writings of John Leland"

From: An Oration, Delivered at Cheshire, July 5, 1802

The most explicit language of the Pharoah of Massachusetts is, "Go ye and serve the Lord, but serve him as the majority do." Be incorporated by law, and become bodies politic; make use of the tool which we are so fond of; kill yourselves and we will not kill you.

Pg. 343 Greene – "The Writings of John Leland"

From: A Speech Delivered in the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, On Religious Freedom, 1811

According to a late decision of the bench, in the county of Cumberland, which, it is presumed, is to be a precedent for future decisions, these non-incorporated societies are nobody — can do nothing, and are never to be known except in shearing time, when their money is wanted to support teachers that they never hear. And all this must be done for the good of the state.

Pg. 344:

Let Christianity stand upon its own basis, it is the greatest blessing that ever was among men; but incorporate it into the civil code and it becomes the mother of cruelties.

Pg. 345:

The second section of the bill before the house, I object to. It recognizes principles which are inadmissable — invests all non-corporate societies with corporate powers — puts the mischievous dagger into their hands, which has done so much mischief in the world, and presents no balm for the wounds of those who cry for help. The petitioners do not ask to be known in law, as corporate bodies, but, to be so covered, that religious corporate bodies shall not know, and fleece them; but, this section puts the knife into their hands against their wills; a knife, sir, which is more pestiferous than Pandora's box. The interference of legislatures and magistrates, in the faith, worship, or support of religious worship, is the first step in the case, which leads in regular progression to inquisition; the principle is the same, the only difference is in the degree of usurpation.

Pg. 479 Greene "The Writings of John Leland"

From: Which Has Done the Most Mischief in the World, the Kings-Evil or Priest-Craft?

The scheme of uniting believers and unbelievers together in religious society — of having some in the pales of the church, who are not in the church — of being incorporated by law, and becoming bodies politic — of levying money for building meeting-houses and paying the priests, as is done for the state and county tax, etc., may be justfied on the principle of enlarging society and getting money; but meets with no support from the New Testament.

Compiled by Ben Townsend

Up until Jerry Falwell challenged the state of VA, it was illegal for churches in VA to incorporate. He wanted to feed at the Federal trough. Admittedly, the State has made it quite convenient to operate if a "church" will simply submit to its authority through Incorporation. But who is the Head of the Church. Through incorporation, the "church" and the State admit that the State is the head, and Christ can only operate as the State gives him permission. Read the corporation papers.