committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

a history of the baptists

By Thomas Armitage

THE AMERICAN BAPTISTS

X. THE BAPTISTS OF NORTH CAROLINA, MARYLAND, NEW HAMPSHIRE, VERMONT AND GEORGIA

Still following the chronological order, we note the rise of Baptists in these several colonies. We have seen that individual Baptists from Virginia were found, in NORTH CAROLINA in the middle of the seventeenth century; but the Shiloh Church, formed by Paul Palmer in Camden County, on the Chowan River, in 1727, was the first Church founded in that colony. Palmer was from the Welsh Tract, in Delaware, and was a correspondent of John Comer, according to whose Journal this Church numbered thirty-two members in 1729. Joseph Parker, probably one of Palmer's converts, formed the second Church, at Meherrin, in 1729; but it was not until 1740 that the third was formed, at Sandy Run, by members dismissed from the Meherrin Church. Emigrants from Virginia, in company with William Sojourner, formed the fourth Church, in Halifax County, in 1742; and in 1752 these had increased to sixteen Churches, all being General Baptists.

They were not thoroughly spiritual Churches. They held to the scriptural authority of the ordinances of Baptism and the Supper, but some of them did not demand faith and conversion before receiving these, and they added to them, as of about equal authority, the rites of lovefeasts, laying on of hands after baptism, washing of feet, anointing the sick, the right hand of fellowship, the kiss of charity, and the public devoting of children without christening, or what John Leland called 'dry christening.' This state of things existed when that region of country was visited by Robert Williams, of South Carolina; Benjamin Miller, Peter P. Vanhorn, and John Gano, of New Jersey; with Shubael Stearnes, of Virginia. Then God raised up a spiritual people who accepted the whole truth.

It is remarkable to see what a missionary spirit pervaded our American Churches from the very first, especially put forth in practical efforts to take the Gospel into the new settlements. This subject is too interesting and vital to pass in silence, for the journey of a Baptist missionary meant the personal visitation of the scattered pioneers, who had gone to make homes for themselves in the wilderness. These men of God gathered the families in the region round about, preached to them, and frequently found members from the older settlements who, far away from the helps and restraints of Christian fellowship, had become careless about their religious life. The godless were led to Christ, the careless were reanimated by the missionary's earnest appeals, those who believed were baptized, frequently the whole community was moved religiously, and often a Baptist Church was organized. A second visit commonly resulted in the settlement of a pastor and the establishment of a branch Church in some adjacent neighborhood. The South was particularly favored by such labors. Such men as William Tristoe, Abraham Marshall, Oliver Hort and Richard Furman caught much of the primitive, apostolic zeal and entered with all their powers into this work. An unknown correspondent of 'Rippon's Register' gives us a glimpse of such toils, in a letter of August 24th, 1790. He writes:

'In several counties of North Carolina I have preached to very numerous assemblies. At a "big meeting," as they call a convention, or when a stranger of any note visits them, it is seldom that the place of worship will contain half the congregation. If they have timely notice, hundreds think nothing of a distance of ten or twenty miles to meeting. Everyone has a horse, yes, even our poorest people have a horse to ride, and hence, when you arrive at the place appointed, you will see more horses tied all about the roads than can be seen at a fair in England, my native country. A stage, also, is erected, which you stand on to preach, and sometimes to two or three thousand hearers. I have preached, as was supposed, to three or four thousand. The meeting continues two or three days. There are frequently ten or a dozen ministers present, most of whom pray, preach, or exhort, as they find freedom. After the public service, those who live near the place of meeting, whether members or not, ask every person who comes from a distance to go home with them; and generally the greater the number who accept the invitation the better are they pleased, especially if a minister can be prevailed upon to be one of the guests. When you come to the house, they entertain you with the very best they have, both horses and men, and as soon as you have all dined, to preaching, praying, exhortation, etc. Near midnight you retire to rest; by sunrise in the morning, to prayers; then breakfast, and to public worship again, but not before your company is requested for the next night, if the meeting continues. This is the common practice in Georgia, South and North Carolina, in what we call the back part of the country. To a great many of these meetings I have been, and sometimes have seen a great deal of religion, and enjoyed the most solemn pleasures and comfortable opportunities I have ever had.'

The West and Northwest in those days meant Central and Western New York, but there, many of these inspiring features of large and enthusiastic meetings were lacking. The journeys were often long and perilous, attended with much hardship. Then, sometimes, these godly men were not welcomed, and they found it necessary to shake off the dust of their feet against American settlements as Christ's Apostles did against the towns of Palestine. The missionaries were generally volunteers, but sometimes the Associations commissioned them. Messengers from the South appealed to the Philadelphia Association, in 1754, for the labors of a missionary, and they sent John Gano, who traveled as far as Charleston, lion. C. S. Todd, formerly the American Representative to Russia, draws this picture of Gano:

'He was, in person, below the middle stature, and when young, of a slender form, but of a firm, vigorous constitution, well fitted for performing active services with ease, and for suffering labors and privations with constancy. . . . His presence was manly, open, and engaging. His voice strong and commanding, yet agreeable and capable of all those inflections which are suitable to express either the strong or tender emotions of an intelligent, feeling mind. In mental endowments and acquired abilities he appeared highly respectable; with clear conception and ready discernment, he formed readily a correct judgment of men and things. His acquaintance with the learned languages and sciences did not commence till he arrived at manhood, and was obtained chiefly by private instruction. To the refinement of learning he did not aspire; his chief object was such a competent acquaintance with its principles as would enable him to apply them with advantage to purposes of general usefulness in religion, and to the most important interests of society; and to this he attained.'

Thus endowed and armed, this holy man and his brethren of like spirit went to the Sandy Creek region in North Carolina. An Association was formed there in 1758. a monument to their fruitful labor, and by 1766 the Sandy Creek Church had aided in forming forty-two Churches. The Little River Church was another remarkable body. Formed in 1760, it increased to five hundred persons in three years and built five meeting-houses. These Churches had many contentions and alienations as Regulars and Separates for years; but these passed away when they became a thoroughly working people; they were too busy to quarrel, and now there is not a more efficient body of Baptists in the United States than those of South Carolina. Some of the mightiest names in our history have arisen in that State. Silas and Jesse Mercer, William T. Brantly, Basil Manly and a long line following, as Kerr and Howell, Poindexter and Mims, Brooks and Saunders, Emerson and Solomon, with a host of living men who would honor any Christian community. As far back as 1793, Asplund reports that they had 112 churches, 172 ministers, and 8,017 communicants. But in 1886, they have 2,177 churches, 915 ministers, and 211,984 communicants.

MARYLAND. The question of religious liberty in this colony will be noticed in another place. For the present it is only needful to note that in 1649 the Assembly enacted:

'That no persons professing to believe in Jesus Christ shall be molested in respect of their religion, or the free exercise thereof, or be compelled to the belief or practice of any other religion, against their consent, so that they be not unfaithful to the proprietary, or conspire against the civil government. That persons molesting any other in respect of his religious tenets shall pay treble damages to the party aggrieved and twenty shillings to the proprietary. That the reproaching any with opprobrious epithets of religious distinctions shall forfeit ten shillings to the person aggrieved. That any one speaking reproachfully against the Blessed Virgin or the Apostles shall forfeit five pounds, but blasphemy against God shall be punished with death.' When the first Baptist Church was founded in Maryland, it was a Roman Catholic colony, but our brethren were not persecuted in the proper sense of the term, although their protest against Rome was very strong. Henry Sator, an English General Baptist, appears to have formed the first Baptist Church in the colony, at Chestnut Ridge, near Baltimore, in 1742. Four years afterward it numbered 181 members, and, though feeble, it continues until this time. In 1754 it supplied members to form the Winter Run Church, in Harford County, and this, in turn, dismissed eleven members in 1785 to form the First Church in Baltimore. This last body has been greatly blessed, is now surrounded by many strong Churches, and has enjoyed the pastoral care of Dr. Williams for thirty-six years. The Waverly, Seventh and Leo Street Churches are all offshoots from the First. The Seventh is the Church served so long and successfully by the late Dr. Richard Fuller before he formed the Eutaw Place Church. His successor in the Seventh Church was that lovely spirit, Dr. W. T. Brantly.

From the first, Baptist growth has been very slow in Maryland. It contained only 17 churches, 13 ministers and 920 members in 1793; to-day it has 56 churches, 40 ministers, and 12,162 members. The Accomack Association of Virginia, however, was set off from the Salisbury in 1808.

There is no name which the Maryland Baptists more delight to honor than that of REV. RICHARD FULLER, D.D. He was born at Beaufort, S. G., April 22d, 1804, and was prepared to enter Harvard College by Rev. Dr. Brantly, but broken health compelled him to leave that institution when in his junior year. Able to return after an absence of five years, he was graduated in 1824 at the head of his class. He then studied law and rose to eminence in his profession. In 1831 he was converted at Beaufort, and says: 'My soul ran over with love and joy and praise; for days I could neither eat nor sleep.' He was baptized by Rev. H. O. Wyer, of Savannah, and united with the Baptist Church in his native place. He was soon chosen its pastor, was ordained in 1832 and labored in this field for fifteen years. When he left his lucrative law business to enter the ministry the Church was feeble, but under his faithful care it increased to about 200 white persons and 2,400 colored. His zeal was so great that he preached for weeks together in various parts of the South, and great numbers were brought to Christ. But in 1836 he was obliged to travel in Europe for his health. In 1847 he became pastor of the Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore, a Church which numbered but 87 members at that time. Under his faithful toils it grew to the number of 1,200, and a body of its members retired with him to establish the new congregation, in which he remained five years, and from which, after much suffering, he was called to his reward on high, on the 20th of October, 1876.

As a preacher Dr. Fuller was appreciated throughout the nation, for he found but one answer to the question, How can a man preach with power? He believed the word of God with all his soul and walked with its Author continually. His might lay where his heart was, in his holy breathings after the Holy Spirit. Richard Fuller would have retired from the pulpit in a moment, if the balancing query of skepticism had arisen in his mind as to whether the line of Divine Inspiration ran here or there through the Book of God. He rested with all his weight on the Bible as God's book, and came to his congregations not with every kind of light and idle speculation, but fresh with holy ardor from the footstool of that throne from which that word had been spoken. To this he added the most painstaking study to ascertain by every form of help what the Scriptures required him to preach. Aside from the dutiful visitation of the sick and sorrowful, and other indispensable duties, his mind was bent upon the divine results of the coming Sabbath. Superficial men, who are total strangers to the throbbings of soul-agony and the toilsome exertions of soul-thought, flippantly attributed his great power to the absence of half a quire of paper from his pulpit, and prated about his being an extempore preacher. But neither paper nor its absence ever made preachers of them, simply because they were flippant. Dr. Fuller's printed sermons bear the attestation of noon-tide and midnight to the industry of his pen. Each sermon witnesses that it had been curiously inwrought in the depth of his soul from Monday morning till Saturday night, and when it went with him into the pulpit it was a part of himself, whether the paper which contained its words went with him or stayed at home. Hence, no offensive froth, fustian, rant, or dilletanteism, found a home in his pulpit. There he found nothing unworthy of his crucified Lord and the solicitude of perishing men, because he took nothing with him but the worthy.

He preached like a man of God, who had received from him a majestic personal presence, bordering on the imperial. He feared God enough to cultivate his voice and manner, framing their management on the best of rules and using them with consummate skill. Having a message from the Man of Calvary, he wished to deliver it as an accomplished pleader with men, for Jesus' sake. Believing that his body belonged to the crucified One, he gave himself no liberty to abuse it by injurious food, the use of degrading stimulants, or any other indulgence which showed that ho despised the gift of God. He placed his great power of fancy, his vividness of perception, his methods of clear statement and his heart-pathos upon the altar of God's Lamb, and altogether the zeal of God's house consumed him. The writer once heard him when he showed himself to be a perfect master in the art of oratory, by denouncing the tricks of the orator in preaching. He wove one of the most fresh, vivid, and finished pieces of oratorical denunciation against dependence on pulpit oratorical effect, that man could put together. Under this spell he held his audience in breathlessness, and when they found a free breathing place men grew pale and nodded to their neighbors with a look which plainly said: 'What a horrible thing it is to be eloquent in the pulpit!' The Dr. did not intend to soar to the third heavens on the winds of inspired invective against pulpit eloquence, but he did, whether he intended it or not, and when we all returned to the earth with him, every man of us was ready to subscribe to the new litany: 'From false doctrine, heresy, and eloquence, good Lord deliver us!'

The Sator Church started with a keen zest against the Roman Catholic Communion. In what she called her 'solemn league and covenant,' her members bound themselves to 'abhor and oppose' 'Rome, Pope and popery, with all her antichristian ways,' which was all well enough, but it had been much better to have set up a strong defense against the grinding Antinomian and Anti-mission Pope, which divided and crippled the early Baptists of Maryland so sorely. A prairie fire does not desolate the plain worse than this blight crippled our people there at one time. In 1836 the Baltimore Association was rent asunder by this double curse. That year the Association met at Black Rock, and those who arrayed themselves against missionary movements, Sunday-schools, Bible and other benevolent societies, under the abominable pretense that they conflicted with the sovereignty of God in the kingdom of Christ, found themselves in a majority. They denounced these institutions as 'corruptions which were pouring in like a flood upon the Baptist Church,' and as 'cunningly devised fables.' Then they resolved that the Association could not hold fellowship with such Churches as united with such societies and encouraged others to do so, and dropped all these Churches from their minutes. Of course, the efforts of a few aggressive brethren were neutralized, and for a time all missionary work was suspended, lest the Churches should be doing the Lord's work instead of their own. Instead of being left free to spread the Gospel, the faithful minority found their hands full to resist this mad tide of ultra-Calvinism, and in a small degree its influence is felt there to this day. Yet, as if to illustrate the truth that extremes meet and embrace, it is true that some of the most wise and zealous advocates of missionary work amongst Baptists have sprung from the bosom of our Maryland Churches. Amongst them we find Noah Davis, the real founder of the Publication Society, and Benjamin Griffith, its great Secretary; William Crane, William Gary Crane, Bartholomew T. Welsh, Franklin Wilson, and the present Baptist leaders there generally, who love missionary work as they love their lives. The very repression which they were obliged to oppose with all their might has only increased the intensity of these missionary advocates and supporters, and so the valiant little band of Baptists in Maryland are not a whit behind their sister Churches elsewhere in their sacrifices for Christ.

NEW HAMPSHIRE. Massachusetts claimed jurisdiction over New Hampshire in 1652, and it remained under that jurisdiction until 1679; but when the separation took place, New Hampshire retained the law which compelled all to support the Congregational Churches by public tax. The first unquestionable Baptist of that colony is found in the person of Rachel Scammon. Before her marriage she was a Miss Thurber, and lived at Rehoboth, Mass., but removed with her husband to Statham, N. II., in 1720. After entering her new home, she held to her Baptist convictions and frequently talked of them to her neighbors, but for forty years only one woman embraced her sentiments. This friend went to Boston and was immersed by Elder Bound, of the Second Church. Late in life Mrs. Scammon found Norcott's work on baptism, and went to Boston to get it printed for circulation, when the printer told her that he had one hundred copies on hand, which she bought and distributed in and around Stratham. She believed that a Baptist Church would arise in that place and her faith was honored, but not until after her death. Some years before this result of her faithfulness, independent influences were at work in the small town of Newtown, near Haverhill, Mass., which resulted in the establishment of a Baptist Church in that place, as the first in the colony. As in some other provinces, the preaching of George Whitefield had much to do with the origin of this inception of Baptist life. He had visited Ipswich, Newbury and Hampton in the autumn of 1740, and the Congregational Churches in that region were all astir, for the Half-way Covenant was in danger.

In Boston, this Covenant had been a fire-brand from the first, and twenty-eight members having seceded in consequence of its adoption formed the Old South Church. Many of the Churches of the Standing Order went to such an extreme as to vote that: 'Those who wish to offer their children in baptism, join with the Church and have a right to all the ordinances and privileges of the Church.' Dr. Dexter puts the point clearly in these words: 'Starting with the theory that some germ of true faith, in the absence of proof to the contrary, must be assumed in a child of the covenant, sufficient to transmit a right of baptism to his children, but not sufficient to entitle him to partake of the Lord's Supper; not many years passed before the inference was reached that an amount of saving faith, even in the germ, which would justify the baptism of a man's children, ought to justify his own admission to the table of the Lord.' In keeping with this idea, Stoddard, of Northampton, wrote to prove that 'the Lord's Supper is instituted to be a means of regeneration,' and that men may and ought to receive it, 'though they knew themselves to be in a natural condition.' Of course, this state of things in the membership of the Churches was succeeded by an unconverted ministry. Right here Whitefield struck his first blow. In 1741 he describes his preaching in his New England Journal: 'I insisted much on the necessity of a new birth, as also on the necessity of a minister's being converted before he could preach aright. Unconverted ministers are the bane of the Christian Church. I think that great and good man, Mr. Stoddard, is much to be blamed for endeavoring to prove that unconverted men might be admitted to the ministry. A sermon lately published by Gilbert Tennent, entitled "The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry" I think unanswerable.'

In this condition of things Whitefield's preaching startled the community about Newtown, where Francis and Abner Chase were converted under his ministry. They desired to hold prayermeetings in connection with the Congregational Church at West Amesbury, of which they were members. Their minister, Paino Wingate, opposed them in this, for he and the neighboring ministers had signed a remonstrance, dated December 26th, 1744, against the admission of Whitefield into their pulpits. As the Chases could not enjoy the ministry of one whom they thought unconverted, they left his ministry and held prayer-meetings in their own houses. The records of the Amesbury Church [West Parish] show, that from 1747 to 1749 Francis Chase was under discipline in that Church 'for greatly neglecting the public worship of God.' A committee of the same body also visited Mr. Abner Chase in 1749 for 'absenting himself from public worship.' The reason that he gave for doing so was: 'A discord or contention that then was between the Church or parish and Mr. Wingate, as also the Church meeting [treated] Francis Chase, as he thought, unhandsomely.' Worth says that Mary Morse, of West Newbury, 'after Mrs. Abner Chase, experienced religion when about seven years of age, and was baptized when about sixteen, Mr. Francis Chase, of Newton, a member of the Congregational Church in Amesbury, was baptized two or three weeks previous. These are supposed to have been the first persons ever baptized in the Merrimack, which was probably in 1750. It is believed that the administrator was Rev. Mr. Hovey, who was afterward settled at Newton.' These and some of the following facts are taken from the discourse preached before the New Hampshire Baptist Convention, October, 1876, by Rev. W. H. Eaton, D.D., of Keene, who says in a private note: 'In the fall and winter of 1871-2 I spent six months in Newton, N. H., preaching to the little Church there and spending much time in searching old papers in families that descended from the earliest settlers, also the records of neighboring Churches.'

There is no doubt that the Newtown [now Newton] Church was the first of the Baptist order founded in New Hampshire, but there is a dispute as to whether it was organized in 1750 or 1755. Backus and others have fixed upon the last of these dates. But there is an old manuscript preserved amongst his unpublished papers, which appears to throw light upon this point, written by Francis Chase, who was one of the constituent members of the Church, for some years its clerk, and toward the close of life a deacon in the First Church at Haverhill. Chase writes: 'A brief account of the first incorporation of the First Baptist Church and Society in Newtown, N. H., in the year 1750, January 10th. We increased in number till the year 1755. In June 28th Elder Powers was ordained our pastor.' Dr. Eaton says that he submitted this document to Dr. Weston, the late editor of Backus's History, who gave the opinion as most probable: That the history of the Church in Newton is analogous to that of the Church in Bellingham; that it was formed January 10th, 1750, was weak and had no stated preaching till 1755, when it had become strong enough to settle a pastor and let its existence be known; that Backus, as in the case of the Bellingham Church, gives the date of its revival as that of its constitution, but that its seal as given by the first clerk in his sketch is 1750.' Chase's direct statement, with all the collateral evidence, renders this the most likely. No records of this Church are found earlier than October 7th, 1767, when the minutes of a meeting occur, but they reveal its severe struggle for existence. Two of its members were in the firm grip of the law, and the Church resolved that if one member suffered all would suffer with him. It was therefore 'voted' thus:

'1. To carry on Mr. Steward's and Mr. Carter's law-suits, which are now in the law on account of rates imposed on them by the Standing Order.

2. To give Mr. Hovey for the year ensuing for his labors with us fifty pounds lawful money in such things as he wants to live on.

3. That Andrew Whittier, John Wadleigh, and Joseph Welsh be chosen to say what each man's part shall be of what we promised to give Mr. Hovey.

4. That these men shall take the province rate for their rate, and do it as light as they can.

5. That these men are to abate such men as they think are not able to pay their parts with the rest.

6. That those who will not pay their equal proportion according as these men shall tax them, their punishment is this, that they shall have no help from us to clear them from paying rates other where.'

It is as refreshing as a breeze from their own mountains to find so much human 'granite' in this little band of New Hampshire Baptists. They refuse to support a State Church by force, and they resolve to support their own chosen pastor cheerfully. This suit continued for three years, and must have been very vexatious, for at a 'meeting legally named, holden at the Antipedo-Baptist meeting-house,' they resolved to 'proportion the whole costs of these suits; to examine the account and settle what is honest and right.' Such a Church deserved to live, and it exists today. At Stratham a young physician, Dr. Shepard, a member of the Congregational Church, chanced to be visiting a patient, and taking up Norcott's book he carefully read it, became a Baptist and one of the fathers of the denomination. Soon a Church was established in that place, and, becoming a minister, he was a burning and shining light to the whole colony. The Churches at Madbury and Weare appear to have been formed in 1768, but it was not till 1770-71 that our churches began to multiply rapidly, when we have Brentwood in 1771, Gilmanton in 1772, and a number of others by 1780. The itineracy of Whitefield and others had stimulated several men of God to visit many destitute places. Amongst the most prominent of these was Dr. Hezekiah Smith, of Massachusetts, an able preacher, full of zeal. He visited Concord in 1771 and preached there with great power. But the Standing Order resented his presence as a daring impertinence which threatened the peace of the town, and, in the absence of newspapers; Parson Walker advertised him extensively by thundering at him from the pulpit, as much exasperated as a farmer could well be to find strange cattle in his cornfield. In the same year Dr. Smith preached at Nottingham, Brentwood and Stratham, and baptized thirty-eight persons, amongst whom were Dr. Shepard and Rev. Eliphalet Smith, the pastor of a Congregational Church. In Deerfield many were baptized, amongst them Joshua Smith, who afterwards became an evangelist of great power. Thirteen others were baptized with Pastor E. Smith, and on the same day were organized into a Baptist Church at Deerfield. The Brentwood Church was formed in 1771, and soon spread out into twelve branch Churches, which in 1793 numbered 443 members, with Dr. Samuel Shepard for their pastor.

Eight persons from Killingworth, Conn., in 1766, and another band from Worcester County, Mass., in 1780, settled at Newport, near Croydon. Most of them were Baptists, and their settlement was soon known as 'Baptist Hill.' The religious destitution of that region of New Hampshire was soon made known to the Warren Association, which sent Messrs. Jacobs, Ledoyt, Seamans and Ransom as missionaries. Ledoyt and Seamans followed the Connecticut Eiver as far as Woodstock, preaching mainly on the New Hampshire side, but also on the Vermont side of that stream. A Church of eight members was organized at Baptist Hill in May, 1778, called the First Church of Newport and Croydon, but was soon after known as the Newport Baptist Church. Biel Ledoyt became pastor of this body in 1791, and in 1795 it numbered eightynine members. Seamans established a Church in New London, of which he was pastor, which numbered about one hundred members at the close of the century. For years the Newport Church worshiped in a barn by the side of the river, which became noted chiefly because Thomas Baldwin the Good, afterwards of Boston, preached a most memorable sermon there. At that time he was the pastor at Canaan, in New Hampshire. On this great occasion the Assembly was so charmed that it was reluctant to leave, and the meeting continued to a late hour in the night, but Mr. Baldwin was obliged to return to meet an engagement at home in the morning. He mounted his horse, picked his way through the almost trackless forest as best he could by the light of the stars, and as he mused over the precious meeting in the barn his heart burned, and he began to sing. The words which sprang to his lips were those of his union hymn, which have since been sung all over the continent:

'From whence doth this union arise,
That hatred is conquered by love.'

Those who love that hymn may be glad to know that it was born at midnight in the New Hampshire wilderness, while its author was alone with God, after preaching to his despised Baptist brethren in a barn. This Church built their first meeting-house in 1798, a building forty feet square, which Dr. Baron Stow describes in 1810. He says:

'I am in that plain edifice, with a superabundance of windows, and a porch at each end; with its elevated pulpit, sky-blue in color, overhung by a sounding-board; with the deacon's seat half- way up the pulpit; with the square pews occupied by families; with a gallery containing one row of pews fronted by the singers' seats. There is the horse-shed, there is the horse-block; there are the horses with men's saddles and pillions, and a few women's saddles, but not a carriage of any description. On occasions of baptism the whole congregation would go down the hill, and, standing in a deep glen on the banks of Sugar River, would witness the ceremonies. Ehas McGregor played the bass-viol, Asa, a brother, led the choir, and his sisters, Lucy and Lois, sang soprano and alto. In the choir were Asaph Stowe, Moses Paine Durkee, Philip W. Kibbey, and more than one of the Wakefields.'

It was in this church that Baron Stow was converted and baptized, and from it he went to the Academy at Newport and the Columbian College, Washington, whence he graduated and was ordained pastor of the Church at Portsmouth, N. H. where he served five years before he removed to spend his wonderful life in Boston. He was succeeded at Portsmouth by the late Duncan Danbar, of New York. In 1820 the Newport Church introduced the system of supporting itself by assessing a tax upon its members, ' in proportion to the invoice of each member of the society, as taken by the selectmen.' For years this self-imposed tax wrought only contention and it was abandoned. This body was in the Woodstock Association till 1828, when the Newport Association was formed, which has frequently enjoyed the hospitality of the old Church. When the Woodstock Association met with it in 1826, a committee of four was appointed 'to distribute cake, cheese and cider to the members of the Association during the session.'

These were the beginnings of Baptist history in New Hampshire, from which powerful Churches and able ministers of the New Testament sprang in every direction. Our people have now increased to six Associations, eighty Churches, and 8,851 communicants. In consequence of the severity of the New Hampshire climate and the limited area of its territory, this State has sent forth a large and valuable population to all the new States and Territories, especially to California, which immigration accounts in part for its small Baptist statistics. And a second reason for this is found in the fact that in 1780 Rev. Benjamin Randall, a Baptist preacher of ability and influence, established the Free-Will Baptist denomination, which absorbed a number of our Churches and became a strong body in the State. The Free Baptists differ from the old body chiefly in rejecting Calvinistic doctrine and the practice of strict communion.

The list of noble ministers which New Hampshire has given to our Churches in addition to those already named is very marked. It includes Alonzo King, the biographer of George Dana Boardman, Enoch and Elijah Hutchinson, and John Learned. Thomas Baldwin served the Church at Caanan for seven years, during which time he planted other Churches at Grafton, Hebron and Groton. In later years, one of the most noted men of the State was found in Dr. E. E. Cummings. He was one of the most faithful of men to his trusts. Born in Claremont, N. H. November 9th, 1800, he joined the Baptist Church there in 1821, graduated at Waterville College in 1828, and was that year ordained pastor of the Church in Salisbury. He became pastor of the First Church, Concord, in 1832, and remained there till 1854, when he took the pastorate of the Pleasant Street Church. After serving these two Churches for thirty-three years, he spoilt the last years of his life as a missionary in the State at large, dying February 22d, 1886. It is said that he left a manuscript on the history of our ministry for the first hundred years of its existence in New Hampshire, which certainly than be given to the world.

VERMONT. The Great Awakening, or New Light revival, had swept over Vermont quite as powerfully as it had over New Hampshire, or even more so, possibly because it was nearer the scene of the sternest conflict. JONATHAN EDWARDS had succeeded his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, as pastor at Northampton, and had attempted to close the door of Church membership against the unconverted, when that Church, wedded to the Half-way Covenant, dismissed him, and he was obliged to go into the wilderness to preach the Gospel to the Housatonic Indians. There, though broken in health, the great metaphysician and theologian spent six years in coming nearer and nearer to the truth on all that related to the anti-sacramentarian doctrine and a regenerated Church, until on these points he stood side by side with the Baptists. His doctrine spread rapidly through Vermont; but nowhere did it take firmer hold than in the town of Shaftsbury. In 1768, the first Baptist Church of Vermont sprang from the movement in that town, chiefly under the leadership of Bliss Willoughby, the pastor of a Separatist Church, who went a step further than Edwards in the proper observance of Gospel ordinances, and became a Baptist in 1764. Three other Churches went out from this Church, in the same town, within the ensuing ten years; after which came a number of other Churches in quick succession; amongst them that at Pownal in 1773, at Woodstock in 1779, those at Guilford, Dummerston and many others, numbering 41 Churches in 1793, with 40 ministers and 2,221 members.

As these interests increased Baptist ministers were sent for from other parts of New England, and some removed to Vermont for permanent residence. More than a score are mentioned by name, amongst them Ransom and Ledoyt, Elisha Ransom becoming pastor at Woodstock in 1780. As in the rest of New England, the Vermont Baptists paid a great price for their liberty; everywhere having to fight the old battle with the Standing Order. Ransom, under date of March 23d, 1795, writes of a member of Elder Drew's Church at Hartford, Vt., who was sent to jail for refusing to pay the State Church rates, yet was obliged to pay them. He contested the case with the authorities at a cost of more than ,50, but in each trial the decision was against him. Ransom says that five petitions with more than two hundred signatures were sent up to the Assembly asking for redress; then he adds:

'I went to speak for them; and after my averment that the certificate law was contrary to the rights of man, of conscience, the first, third, fourth and seventh articles of our Constitution, and to itself, for it took away our rights and then offered to sell them back to us for a certificate, some stretched their mouths, and though no man contradicted me in one argument, yet they would shut their eyes, and say that they could not see it so. I had many great friends in the house, but not a majority.'

The Baptists of Vermont have been characterized by both ministers and laymen of signal ability. Some of our first educators have sprung from their ranks, for they have always been distinguished for their love of learning. Amongst these we have the late Irah Chase and Daniel Hascall, 'Rev. Drs. A. C. Kendrick and T. J. Conant. Laymen of note are found in Hon. Jonas Galusha, at one time Governor of Vermont; Hon. Ezra Butler, also Governor of the State, and Hon. Aaron Leland, Lieutenant-Governor; yet each of these preached the Gospel. Ephraim Sawyer and John Conant (though born in Massachusetts) were men of renown, the former as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and the latter as a justice of the peace and a member of the Vermont Legislature for many years. But our denomination has never been strong in that State. Like New Hampshire, its people have removed West with the great tide of emigration, especially to western New York, in earlier times, and then markedly to Ohio and the still newer States. At present we have 7 Associations in Vermont, 116 churches, 104 ministers and 8,880 members. It may be well here to note the excitement which existed in many of the Vermont Baptist Churches in the year 1843, on the question of our Lord's second advent. Deacon WILLIAM MILLER lived near Pouitney, a man of strong but uncultivated mind, who devoted most of his time to the study of the prophecies and Rollin's 'Ancient History,' making this and other such works an index to the interpretation of prophecy. Having created for himself a system of interpretations, by a method peculiarly his own, he believed that he had demonstrated that Christ would come on or about February 15th 1843. He exerted large influence on all who knew him, from his many excellencies and spotless character. He had been a captain in the War of 1812 and fought valiantly at the battle of Plattsburg; he was also a civil magistrate in his own town. In person he was large and heavily built, his head broad and his brow high, with a soft and expressive eye, and all the inflections of his voice indicated the sincerest devotion. His imagination was quite fervid, and having drawn his conclusion from a defective premise it became to him a real fact. In this state of mind he went about lecturing, using large charts illustrative of the visions of Daniel and John. Immense throngs came to hear him, a number of ministers and laymen of large mind embraced his views, and the greatest excitement prevailed over the eastern and northern parts of our country. Many Churches, especially amongst Baptists, Methodists and Congregationalists, were seriously disturbed by the controversy and some were rent to pieces. The press teemed with discourses and pamphlets on the subject, many of them absurd enough on both sides. Much ill-feeling also sprang up as is usual in such cases, and both sides arrogated to themselves a tone of plenary infallibility in the interpretation of disputed passages. The controversy surged for months around the passage, 'Of that, day and hour knoweth no man,' the anti-Adventists taking the sage ground that as they did not know that he would come, therefore he would not; and the Adventists replying, that because they did not know that he would not come, therefore he surely would. What made the excitement the more furious was the sudden rush of an enormous comet upon the heavens, unannounced, early in January, which blazed for weeks, until its sword-like train divided into two blades. Then came a heavy fall of red snow, such as is often found in the Arctic regions and the Alps; and although Professor Agassiz had demonstrated, three years before, that this tinge was occasioned by the presence of animalcules in the flakes, it made no difference in the interpretation of the phenomenon, which was to the effect, that they were supernaturally impregnated with some gelatinous and chemical element, which was simply fuel for burning up the earth. The craze went so far that many made white ascension robes and stood shivering in the snow on the nights of February 14th and 15th, expecting to be caught up into the air, and meetings were held in hundreds of places of worship during those nights, while many sold all that they had and proved their sincerity by giving the money to the sick and suffering. The writer had much conversation with Mr. Miller, and has in his possession a number of books bought from the library of the late Rev. George Storrs, one of the leading advocates of Mr. Miller's doctrine, who so used his money. The same order of delusion has appeared in the earth several times during the ages, and is sure to occur again, judging from present appearances.

GEORGIA. Governor Oglethorp settled this colony in 1733, and at least two Baptists, Messrs. Campbell and Dunham, came over in the ship with him; others soon followed, amongst them Mr. Polhill. When Whitefield came, in 1751, Nicholas Bedgewood accompanied him to take charge of the Orphan House, which was soon erected near Savannah. This young man had a classical education and was a fine speaker. Five years after his arrival he was baptized by Rev. Oliver Hart, pastor of the Baptist Church at Charleston, and two years later, he was ordained, and baptized Benjamin Stirk and several other converts at the Orphan House, where many suppose that a branch Church to that at Charleston was formed; in his turn, he became a minister in 1767, preaching in his own house at Kewington above Savannah, and formed a branch Church to that at Eutaw, S. C. Edmund Botsford came from England in 1771, was converted in the Charleston Church, and went as a missionary into Georgia. Daniel Marshal also removed from South Carolina into Georgia in 1771; and Botsford falling in with Colonel Barnard, at Augusta, introduced him to Marshall at Kiokee, where he had formed the first Baptist Church proper in the colony, in 1772. Botsford was then but a licentiate, and his meeting with this veteran was very interesting. Marshall said: 'Well, sir, you are to preach for us.' 'Yes, sir, by your leave,' Botsford replied, 'but I am at a loss for a text.' 'Look to the Lord for one,' was Marshall's answer.

He preached from the words, 'Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul.' Marshall was greatly blessed under the sermon, and at its close said: 'I can take thee by the hand and call thee brother, for somehow I never heard conversion better explained in my life; but I would not have thee think thou preachest as well as Joe Reese and Philip Mulkey; however, I hope thee will go home with me.' He did, and they were like David and Jonathan to each other to the close of life.

Botsford's ministry was greatly honored of God, and he organized several Churches, amongst them the second in Georgia, called the Botsford Church, near Augusta, in 1773. Other Churches were soon formed, for in 1784 the Georgia Association was organized by five Churches, which number increased so rapidly that in 1793 there were in Georgia sixty-one Churches, with 3,227 communicants.

Baptist interests were established too late in this colony to subject our brethren there to the persecutions which they endured in many of the older colonies. Yet, on January 11th, 1758, the General Assembly, meeting at Savannah, passed a law making the Church of England the Church of the province. It established two parishes, 'Christ's Church,' at Savannah, and 'St. Paul's,' at Augusta, and provided for their support by public tax, also for the establishment of other parishes in due time. Under this law Daniel Marshall was arrested one Sabbath 'for preaching in the parish of St. Paul' contrary to the 'rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.' His congregation was assembled in a beautiful grove, under the blue sky, and he was on his knees making the opening prayer, when a hand was laid on his shoulder and a voice interrupted him saying: 'You are my prisoner!' He was then sixty-five years of age and his hair was white as snow. The man of God arose and gave security to appear for trial the next day at Augusta, and the constable, Samuel Cartledge, released him, without a word of remonstrance or rebuke from the venerable preacher.

But Mrs. Martha Marshall, a woman of a most powerful mind, and, as she demonstrated on several occasions, of remarkable eloquence, not only remonstrated stoutly, but with all the solemnity of a prophetess exhorted Cartledge to flee from the wrath to come and be saved from his sins. Dr. J. H. Campbell says that the man was so moved that he did repent and seek his salvation, that Marshall baptized him in 1777, when he first became a deacon in the Church at Kiokee, and in 1789 he was ordained a minister. He was little more than twenty-one when he was converted. and preached the Gospel for half a century, dying in 1843 at the ago of ninetythree years.

The early history of the Georgia Baptists was marked by many EXTENSIVE REVIVALS of religion, sometimes adding many thousands to their Churches in a year, as in 1812-13, 1820 and in 1827, when between 15,000 and 20,000 persons were added to them. This great revival was largely promoted by the labors of Adiel Sherwood, D.D., who seemed to be endued with power from heaven. He was pastor at that time of the Churches at Milledgeville, Greeneborough, and Eatonton, at the last of which places he taught in an academy. One Sabbath in September he was preaching in the open air, before the Ocmulgee Association, at Antioch Church, in Morgan County, when the power of God fell upon the people in the most wonderful manner. At the close of his sermon he asked all who wished for the prayers of the assembly to present themselves. The first one to accept the invitation was one of the most accomplished young gentlemen in Georgia, in all that relates to grace of person, courteous manners, breadth of mind and natural eloquence. This was Dr. John E. Dawson, who afterwards became one of the most brilliant and pathetic preachers in the South. It is estimated that 4,000 persons followed him that day in asking the prayers of the congregation, and within two years about 16,000 people, according to Dr. Sherwood's private memoranda, were added to the Churches, as the fruit of that meeting more or less directly.

Dr. Sherwood was one of the most godly men in America. He was born at Fort Edward, N. Y., in 1791, and was the son of a Revolutionary soldier, a firm personal friend of General Washington. In 1817 Adiel graduated at Union College, and then passed a year at the Andover Theological Seminary, when, his health becoming somewhat impaired, he went to Georgia. He was ordained to the work of the ministry in that State, and in 1828 he preached 333 sermons in forty counties, with astonishing success. After filling many places of trust, he became the Professor of Sacred Literature in Marshall College and finally its President. In person he was large and dignified, very vehement in manner, though tender in spirit, possessing a prudent and executive mind; thoughtful and learned, he stood in the front ranks as a speaker and writer. Georgia owes much to him for its pre-eminence as a Baptist State, especially in that zeal and intelligence which have made our Churches and ministry so strong within its bounds. No one else has exerted so wide and healthy an influence in advancing our cause there excepting his true yoke-fellow, Rev. Jesse Mercer, whose apostolic wisdom, zeal and spirituality have rendered him immortal. And yet, a noble army of godly men have filled their places and each done an order of work which none other could have done. This is equally true of the living and the dead. Amongst the laymen we have had Governors Rabun and Lumpkin, with the Reeveses, Wellborns and Stocks, statesmen and jurists of the first class; and the names of her ministers are held in universal reverence, as, the two Marshalls, the two Mercers, with Holcomb, Saunders, Clay, Johnson, Binney, Crawford and Dagg.

From the first our brethren there have been Calvinistic in their doctrines, strict in their communion, as well as the firm friends of educational and missionary work. Taking all things into the account, the Georgia Baptists have been characterized, and still are, for their mental vigor, their extraordinary knowledge of human nature, their deep convictions of Gospel truth, and an overpowering native eloquence in winning men to Christ. Hon. Joseph E. Brown, United States Senator from Georgia, has long been one of the leading Baptists of that State. He was born in South Carolina April 5th, 1821, but while young his father removed to Georgia. He enjoyed no educational advantages until he was nineteen years of age, when he determined to leave his father's farm to procure a collegiate education. His mother made him a suit of homespun clothes, his father gave him a pair of young oxen for his patrimony, and he started on a nine days' journey to the Calhoun Academy in South Carolina. A farmer agreed to give him eight months' board in payment for his oxen, Wesley Leverett, the principal of the school, promised his tuition on credit, and so the young hero began life. He made rapid progress with his studies, and at the end of the eight months he taught school. Having earned money enough to pay his instructor, he returned to the academy and began a new credit both for tuition and board. In two years he was ready to enter an advanced class in college, but was obliged to forego that high privilege, to teach school in Canton, Ga. While again earning money to pay his debts he became a private tutor in the family of Dr. Lewis, at Canton, and gave his spare time to the study of law. In 1845 he was admitted to the bar, after a searching examination; but not satisfied with this, by the aid of the doctor he entered the law school at Yale College, where, in 1846, he was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Laws, when he returned to Georgia and rapidly rose in his profession. He was elected to the Senate of Georgia in 1849, Judge of the Superior Court in 1855, and Governor of the State in 1857. He served in this high office for four terms, being re-elected the last time in 1863. In 1869 he was appointed Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia for the term of twelve years, but resigned his office after filling it with much ability for two years, when he accepted the presidency of the Western and Atlantic Railroad Company. He was appointed by Governor Colquitt, in 1880, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of General Gordon in the United States Senate. Since, he has been elected to the Senate, the last time with but one vote against him.

While at Calhoun Academy, and when but twenty-two years of age, he was baptized, on the profession of his faith, by Elder C. P. Dean, and has been marked for his devotion to the cause of Christ ever since, he is a man of well balanced and strong mind, but of few words. His understanding is clear, his temper calm, his will firm, and he possesses that sagacious, matter-offact common sense which never fails him in time of trial. Withal, being blessed with large wealth and a benevolent heart, his liberality is widely felt in supporting charitable, educational and religions plans. When the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was passing through its most trying days, he quietly gave it $50,000 and infused new life into its endowment. This act could not fail to reach the public ear, though he was unostentatious in his gift. Senator Brown is a, trustee of the University of Georgia; and foremost in all the important movements of the Baptist denomination in that State.

The Georgia Baptists of early times firmly withstood all the aggressions of the State upon the Church until they secured their religious liberties. On the one hand they could not be forced to pay a tax for the State Church, and on the other, they could not be cajoled into the acceptance of State money for the support of their own Churches. On the 21st of February, 1785, an Act was passed by the Legislature for the support of religion, which provided that 'thirty heads of families' in any community might choose a minister 'to explain and inculcate the duties of religion,' and 'four pence on every hundred pounds valuation of property' should be taken out of the public tax for the support of such minister. The Baptists formed a large majority in many parts of the State, and could have chosen many ministers under this Act, but instead of doing so, they united in a remonstrance to the Legislature in the following May, and sent it by the hands of Silas Mercer and Peter Smith, insisting that the obnoxious law should be repealed, on the ground that the State had nothing to do with the support of religion by public tax, and it was repealed. (Pub. Bees. of Ga. MS. vol. B., p. 284, Marshall Papers.)

Yet as late as 1863 they found it necessary to fight another battle on that subject. The New Code of Georgia provided, in Section 1376, that 'it shall be unlawful for any Church, society or other body, or any persons, to grant any license or other authority to any slave or free person of color to preach, or exhort, or otherwise officiate in Church matters.' This aroused the Baptists of the State, and a very powerful paper, drawn by Dr. H. H. Tucker, and largely signed by his brethren, was sent in remonstrance and protest to the Legislature, demanding the repeal of this iniquitous provision. They denounced it 'as a seizure by force of the things that are God's, and a rendering them unto Caesar,' an 'usurpation of ecclesiastical power by civil authorities.' They resisted it as a trespass upon the rights of conscience and a violation of religious liberty. They claimed that 'it is the sacred right of the black to preach, exhort or pray, if God has called and commanded him to do either.' They protested that it was an offense against 100,000 Baptist communicants in the State, and that the Baptist Church in Columbia, ' with the new Code spread open before their eyes, and with a full knowledge and understanding of the intent and meaning of Section 1376, and after a thorough discussion of its provisions, deliberately violated the same, and ordained two negroes to officiate in Church matters in the office of deacon.' They claim that the obnoxious law 'trespasses not only on the rights of men but on the rights of God. It dictates to the Almighty what color his preachers shall be . . . and says to Omnipotence: "Thus far shalt Thou go and no farther." It allows Jehovah to have ministers of a certain complexion, and so exacting and rigid are these regulations imposed on the Almighty that they not only forbid his having preachers such as he may choose, but also prescribe that none shall even exhort, or in any way whatever officiate in Church matters, unless they be approved by this self-exalted and heaven-defying tribunal. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the spirit which prompted the act now under protest would stop, if unchecked, at its present point of audacity. Having prescribed color as one qualification for the pulpit, it might prescribe another qualification to-morrow.' The obnoxious section was repealed, and the State no longer imposes restrictions on the freedom of the Churches.

The contests which the Georgia Baptists pushed against all that is narrow in ignorance and bigotry, especially from 1827 to 1840, in the shape of Anti-effort, has made the entire denomination their debtors. As in Maryland, the old school, or Primitive Baptists, as they loved to call themselves, arose in great strength, dividing Churches and rending Associations with great bitterness. This Antinomian element assailed their brethren with bitter satire, an element not known in the New Testament. One of the periodicals of the times published a sermon intended to caricature their missionary brethren who were spending their lives in beseeching men to be reconciled to God. Its text was taken from Prov. 27:27: 'Thou shalt have goats milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance of thy maidens.' The preacher said that those who raised money for missions were first milking the sheep of Christ's flock; then turning to the non-professing goats, they obtained goat's milk enough for their editors, agents and secretaries, who were the maidens of the household, and so the poor drained goats fattened a few sinecures. Hard pushed with such trash, they brought ridicule upon our Lord's commission to 'go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.' Our brethren had the wisdom and firmness to resist this blight most steadfastly; one result of which is seen in the fact that now the laborious and aggressive Baptists are left nearly alone in the field. Their success has been astonishing, so that today they have the largest Baptist population of any State in the Union. They have 102 Associations, 1,601 ministers, 2,623 Churches, and 261,314 members.

Yearly half the Baptists of Georgia are colored people, who in latter years have been greatly aided by forming separate Churches and Associations of their own, and the present prospect, both of the white and colored Baptists, is more bright and prosperous than ever before.

Chapters

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved