Jacob Creath, Jr.: Willing to Be Ruined

By Andy Sochor | Kentucky, USA

Jacob Creath, Jr. (1799-1886) was one of many preachers in the nineteenth century who began to question the commonly held doctrines among the denominations of which they were a part. Creath had been associated with the Baptists. In 1826, he received a letter of commendation from the Baptist Church in Great Crossings, Scott County, Kentucky in which he was called a “beloved brother,” a “faithful minister,” and one who “earnestly and zealously contends for ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’” (Memoir of Jacob Creath, Jr., p. 24-25). However, in 1829, Creath received another letter from this same congregation, requesting that he address reports of the “heresy” that he was preaching.

“DEAR BROTHER — I send you the request of the greatest portion of the Crossing Church. Their desire is, that you will give your views of man as a sinner, and how the change takes place, so as to constitute him born again. Or, in our familiar way, as Baptists, we want your views of experimental religion; how a sinner is brought from a state of enmity against the Saviour to be a lover and worshiper of Him.

“This request has grown partly from reports, and partly from a number of brethren, who have heard you preach since your return from the South, conceiving that you had abandoned your old mode and views of preaching, under which their hearts were many times gladdened, and have sat under your ministry with great delight; and we would ask our divine Master to grant you his Spirit, that you may rightly divide the word of truth, giving saint and sinner ‘his portion in due season.’” (Ibid., p. 29)

When Creath’s uncle, Jacob Creath, Sr., heard of the letter, he paid a visit to discuss it and see how the younger Creath intended to respond. Both men were connected to the Baptist Association at that time; and while Creath’s uncle agreed with him on this matter, he wanted to be more cautious in dealing with the issue. When he heard what his nephew planned to reply, the elder Creath said “it would ruin our cause.” The younger Creath answered, “What I had said was true; and if truth ruined us, I was willing to be ruined” (Ibid., p. 30).

Creath summarized the point of contention with the Baptists:

“The main item in the indictment was, ‘a denial of the direct operation of the Spirit of God upon the sinner’s heart, previous to the exercise of faith upon his part, in order to produce faith.’ I took the ground, then, that ‘the word of God is the grand instrumentality by which the hearts of sinners are changed; and that when the evidence of our Saviour’s Messiahship or Divinity is fully set forth, the human mind finds no difficulty in believing it, as it believes any other well-sustained proposition, either in morals or mathematics. And if something has to be added to this evidence, beyond our own resources, before we can believe and obey, we are nearly in the condition that we would have been in if God had not spoken to us at all.” (Ibid., p. 30).

Though the Baptists with whom he was previously associated would want to label Creath’s position as “heresy,” his contention that the word of God was the instrument that would change sinners’ hearts and produce faith in them was the truth. Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The apostle told the brethren in Ephesus that “listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation” was what led to their belief (Ephesians 1:13). Cornelius was told to send for Peter who would “speak words to you by which you will be saved” (Acts 11:14). The gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16); therefore, it is through the word of God that people are turned to the Lord and develop faith.

Once Creath learned the truth on this, he changed his teaching to conform to the message which the apostles taught. He was also willing to face any consequences that would come from this – even the disapproval and withdrawal of fellowship from his brethren in the Baptist church.

Paul was another one who changed his views once he learned the truth and, as a result, fell out of favor with his Jewish brethren and forfeited what he stood to gain had he continued in his previous course. He wrote about this to the brethren in Philippi:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

It is far more important to be faithful to Christ and to follow His word than it is to gain (or hold on to) anything in this life. Paul was willing to give up prominence in the Jewish community and a place among the rulers. Creath was willing to give up the fellowship and support from the Baptist Association. We may need to give up certain beliefs, practices, relationships, monetary gain, and more in order to faithfully follow the truth. Yet we must be willing to do this because it is through the “love of the truth” that we will “be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). We need to have the same attitude as Creath – if truth ruins us, we are willing to be ruined.

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