A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST
DENOMINATION IN AMERICA, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
By David Benedict
London: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, No. 53, Cornhill, for the Author
This State was at first settled by Roman Catholics, who are still considerably numerous in it; but as the government gave free toleration to all religious sects, in process of time it was settled by protestants of various denominations, and among them were some Baptists, the most noted of whom was Henry Sator, who removed hither from England about the year 1709, and settled in the northern parts near Chesnut Ridge. Soon after his settlement, he invited Baptist ministers to preach in his house, by which means a number were, from time to time: proselyted to his sentiments, and after many years, a church was formed in his neighborhood.
The Baptists gained ground but slowly in Maryland, for more than half a century, after the first emigrants arrived here; and, indeed, there is now the smallest number of the denomination in this State of any in the Union, except that of Delaware. In 1779, except the Tunkers and Mennonists, it contained but two Baptist churches, and both of these were in the county of Baltimore, one of which were, in their doctrinal sentiments, General, and the other Particular Baptists; the former had for its minister, though an unprofitable one, Henry Loveall; the other was under the pastoral care of the late much-respected John Davis. [M. Edwards?s Materials towards a History of the Baptists in Maryland.] There were, however, at this time, two little societies of Baptists near the Potomack, which were branches of churches in Virginia.
In 1794, (Asplund?s Register) Maryland contained 17 churches, in which were about 950 members. There has been a gradual increase of the denomination since, so that now, as near as can be ascertained, there are in this State, two Associations, viz. the Baltimore and Salisbury, about 23 churches, and about 12 or 1400 communicants.
The Methodists have had great success in this State, and in it their community is now considerably large. In 1785, they constituted Cokesbury College, at Abington, Harford county, which was so called in honor of Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, bishops of the Methodist Episcopal church, which, after existing a few years, was unfortunately consumed by fire, and has never been rebuilt.
The commencement of the General Baptist church at Chesnut Ridge, has already been suggested. It appears that George Eglesfield, from Pennsylvania, was the first minister that Mr. Sator obtained to preach in his house, after his settlement in Maryland. After him, Paul Palmer came into the neighborhood, and baptized nine persons; he was succeeded by Henry Loveall, who baptized forty-eight more, and in 1742 formed them into a church, which, at the time of its constitution, contained 57 members. The instrument of their confederation, which is somewhat singular, and which was laid before the Governor and Court in 1742, when the society was taken under the protection of the toleration laws, is as follows:
"We, the humble professors of the Gospel of Christ, baptized upon a declaration of faith and repentance, believing the doctrine of general redemption, (or the free grace of God, extended to all mankind) do hereby seriously, heartily, and solemnly, in the presence of the Searcher of all hearts, and before the world, covenants agree, bind, and settle ourselves into a church, to hold, abide by, and contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, owned by the best reformed churches in England, Scotland, and elsewhere, especially as published and maintained in the forms and confessions of the Baptists in England; differing in nothing from the articles of the church of England and Scotland, except in infant baptism, modes of church government, the doctrine of absolute reprobation, and some ceremonies. We do also bind ourselves hereby, to defend and live up to the protestant religion, and abhor and oppose the whore of Rome, pope, and popery, with all her anti-christian ways. We do also engage with our lives and fortunes, to defend the crown and dignity of our gracious sovereign, King George, to him and his issue for ever, and to obey all his laws, humbly submitting ourselves to all in authority under him, and giving custom to whom custom, honor to whom honor, tribute to whom tribute is due. We do further declare, that we are not against taking oaths, nor using arms in defense of our king and country, when legally called thereto; and that we do approve and will obey the laws of this province. And further, we do bind ourselves to follow the patterns of our brethren in England, to maintain order, government, and discipline in our church, especially that excellent directory of Rev. Francis Stanley, entitled "The Gospel?s Honour, and the Church?s Ornament," dedicated to the churches in the counties of Lincoln, Nottingham, and Cambridge. We also engage, that all persons upon joining our society, shall yield consent to and subscribe this our solemn league and covenant. Subscribed by us whose names are underwritten, this 10th day of July, 1742."
Mr. Sator bore an excellent character, and may be considered not only the founder of this society, but of the Baptist interest in Maryland. His assistance in building the place of worship, and his gift of land to the minister, are mentioned as peculiar marks of his liberality.
This church immediately increased very fast, and began to spread over the country, and soon extended over to Opeckon and Ketockton in Virginia; insomuch that in four years the number of communicants amounted to 181.
Mr. Loveall became the pastor of the church at its beginning, and continued still to act in that capacity; but by many accounts, he was a man of great blemishes of character, and his misconduct soon checked the growth of the church at Chesnut Ridge, and caused it to disperse and dwindle away. He was a native of Cambridge, England; came to America when young; and was baptized in New England in 1725; probably in Newport; for it appears by Mr. John Comer?s Journal, that he was in that town in 1729, and had then begun to preach. And being desirous of traveling into the Jerseys, he, by his request, received a letter of introduction to the churches there, signed by James Clark, Daniel Wightman, and John Comer, who certified that they then "knew nothing, but that his conduct and conversation was agreeable to the Gospel of Christ." But it was not long after that he was found to be a man of bad character, having been guilty of some shameful acts of uncleanness, a sin which most easily beset him; and that his real name was Desolate Baker. [John Comer?s Diary, a letter from Nathaniel Jenkins to the church at Piscataqua dated Dec. 1730.] He was ordained at Piscataqua, New-Jersey, 1730, but never officiated there in a pastoral capacity; for the foul blemishes of his character were soon discovered by the church, which had been too hasty in ordaining him. After causing much confusion at Piscataqua, he came to Maryland in 1742, and the same year became the minister of the church whose history we are now relating. In 1746 he went to Virginia, and raised the Mill-Creek church, from which he was shortly after excommunicated for his misconduct, and returned to Chesnut Ridge, where he resided in 1772, in the 78th year of his age, an unhappy proof, that ministerial gifts and a good life and conversation do not always go together.
The church of Particular Baptists was at first called Winter Run, which appellation has since been exchanged for Harford, the name of the county in which it is situated. In 1772, besides the main establishment at Winter Run, it consisted of three other branches, one near Chesnut Ridge, which met for worship in the house belonging to the General Baptists, the second was at Petapsco, and the third near Winchester. These branches have, probably, since become distinct churches, although they do not bear the names which are here given them. In this church, which was so extensive in its bounds, there were, at the date above mentioned, 138 communicants. It originated from the General Baptist church at Chesnut Ridge, in the following manner: About the year 1747, some of the members of that church, being inclined to the sentiments of the Particular Baptists, invited their ministers to preach amongst them, who continued their visits until fourteen persons had embraced their sentiments, and these were constituted into a church in 1764, by the assistance of Benjamin Griffifths and Peter P. Vanhorn, and was the same year received into the Philadelphia Association. It is an old and respectable church, and was, for upwards of 50 years, under the pastoral care of the late venerable John Davis. Mr. Davis was born in Pennepeck, in Pennsylvania, Sept. 10 1721; was called to the ministry and ordained at Montgomery in the same State, 1766, and the same year came to Maryland, and took on him the pastoral care of this church, where he continued until his death, which happened in 1809, when he was in the 88th year of his age. He was own cousin to the late famous Benjamin Francis, of England. All that I can learn of him is, that he was a man of peculiar piety and usefulness, and no one who knew him, mentions his name without affixing some appellation expressive of his peculiar excellence. When he first arrived in Maryland, he was very roughly treated; for the people of the neighborhood, the magistrates and the court, publickly affronted him, and used indirect arts to drive him out of the country; but in a short time, the men who were his bitterest enemies became his affectionate friends, and treated him with honor and respect. The Harford church has been the mother of a number of others; for the churches which bear the following names, 1st Baltimore, Taney Town, Gunpowder, and Sator?s, were taken from it.
About 1770, some preachers from Virginia, particularly Richard Major and the Fristoes, William and Daniel, began to preach in the south-west borders of the State; their labors were attended with success; many were baptized, who united with the churches in Virginia, belonging to the Ketockton Association, and in this way the foundations were laid for the oldest churches in that region.
Respecting the remaining churches, in that part of Maryland, which, by way of contradistinction, is called the Western shore, I have obtained no information worth detailing, excepting of those in the city of Baltimore, The 1st church in Baltimore was constituted in 1785, with 11 members, all of whom, excepting Mr. Richards, were dismissed from the Harford church. The constituents were Rev. Lewis Richards, David Shields and wife, George Prestman and wife, Richard Lemmon, AIexander M?Kim, (now a member of Congress,) Thomas Coal and wife, William Hobby, and Eleanor Thomas. These members had kept up a meeting in Baltimore, for a number of years before the church was organized, and were regularly supplied with preaching once a month, by Mr. Davis, the pastor of the church with which they stood connected, until their present pastor removed and settled in the city.
Mr. Richards was born in 1752, in the parish of Llanbardarnvowr, Cardiganshire, South-Wales. He made a publick profession of religion at the age of 19, and joined a society of Independents, and was shortly after introduced to the attention of the famous Lady Huntington, and studied a short time in the college which was under the patronage of that remarkable woman. He, however, suspended his studies there, with a view of pursuing them at the Orphan House in Georgia, and embarked for America with a number of his fellow students, the names of whom, and many particulars respecting them, are related in the biography of Rev. Joseph Cook. Mr. Richards was baptized by Dr. Richard Furman, at the High Hills of Santee, South-Carolina, in 1777, and was ordained the same year, in Charleston, by Rev. Messrs. Hart and Cook; and after traveling about a year in different parts of South Carolina and Georgia, removed to Northampton county, Virginia, on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeak Bay. From this place he removed to his present station in 1784, a few months before the church over which he presides was constituted.
Some time before the constitution of this church, a number of persons had purchased a lot in the city, containing half an acre, on which the congregation have since erected their present place of worship, which is a neat brick building without galleries, 60 feet by 40. They have also erected, on the same lot a very commodious brick dwelling-house, two stories high, for the use of their minister.
The origin of the 2d church in Baltimore, is somewhat singular, and is thus related by Rev. John Healey, their present pastor:
In 1794, Mr. Healey and wife, Matthew Hulse and wife, and William Lynes and wife, all members of the General Baptist church of Friar Lane, Leicester, England, having resolved to go to America, covenanted, before their departure, to remain together as a religious society, and to maintain the worship of God among themselves, in the distant country to which they were bound. They landed in New-York, in October, 1794, and tarried in that city through the following winter. The succeeding spring they removed to Baltimore, and immediately commenced their meetings in a warehouse, which had been occupied as a place of worship by the Episcopalians. In this, and in other places, they continued to assemble until 1797, when they had acquired sufficient ability to erect a decent brick building 40 feet by 27, with a vestry l0 feet wide, which is attached to one end of it. It stands in that part of the city called Fell?s Point.
About the time the meeting-house was built, there remained of the constituents of the church, only Mr. Healey and his wife; for Lynes and his wife went off to the Methodists soon after they came to Baltimore, and Hulse and his wife had died with the yellow fever. But others had united with the little establishment, which, in the same year the meeting house was built, began to travel in a church capacity.
As Mr. Healey and his associates were General Baptists, they were, on that account, for a time, exposed to many suspicions and much embarrassment; for the Baptists, in these parts, are, generally speaking, strongly Calvinistick. And between this church and the first in the city, there was no fellowship for a number of years. But the differences between them have gradually subsided, and a full and happy union has been formed.
This church, in 1809, had some peculiar trials with a number of its members who went off from them in a manner which they considered disorderly, and united in forming a church which was founded that year by Rev. William M?Pherson. Mr. M?Pherson was formerly one of Mr. Haldane?s connection, in Scotland; but he became a Baptist soon after he came to America. Some further account of the church, which he founded in this city, will be given in the history of the community, with which it is connected.
This body was organized in 1792, and includes all the associated churches in Maryland, on the western side of the Chesapeak Bay, excepting the church of Nanjemoy, which belongs to the Ketocton Association. It also includes three churches in Pennsylvania, which have been noticed in the history of that State, and two in the city of Washington. It was at first known by the name of the Association on the western shore of Maryland. The churches of which it was, at its constitution, composed, were those of Harford, Fredericktown, Seneca, Taney Town, Huntington, and Hammond?s Branch. The only ministers present, or at least, who belonged to it, were John Davis, Samuel Lane, and Absalom Bainbridge, the last of whom has since removed to Kentucky, and the number in all the churches was but 253.
The first church in Baltimore, at that time, belonged to the Philadelphia Association, from which it did not see fit to obtain a dismission until 1795, when it united with this little establishment, which, after that time, assumed the name, which it at present bears.
As the churches in the city of Washington belong to this Association, and being in the District of Columbia, do not properly belong to any State, we shall give their history a place here.
The 1st church in this city was constituted in 1802, and arose in the following manner. When the General Government was removed from Philadelphia to this newly established metropolis, a few Baptist members, some of whom were in its employment, belonging to different churches, removed hither, about the same time. These persons had frequent conversations on the advantages which might result to them, from church fellowship; and having made previous arrangements for the purpose, were, on the 7th of March, 1802, in the Hall of the Treasury Department, constituted into a church by the assistance of Messrs. Jeremiah More, Lewis Richards, William Parkinson, and Adam Freeman. Their number was only six, viz. Charles P. Polk, from Baltimore, John Burchan, from New-York, Charles Rogers, from Maryland, Cephas Fox, from Virginia, and Joseph Barrows and wife, from Philadelphia.
A few days after the church was constituted, the brethren began to solicit the aid of the citizens, towards erecting for them a place of worship: in their attempts they were greatly assisted by Rev. William Parkinson, who was then officiating as Chaplain to Congress; and so successful were their exertions, that they soon obtained sufficient means to purchase a lot in the west end of the city, 75 feet by 37, and to build a handsome house, 42 feet by 32, in which the first sermon was preached by Mr. Parkinson, on the 14th day of November, 1802.
Previous to this event, the church had received the addition of five members, and continued gradually to increase for a number of succeeding years. It was supplied with preaching pretty frequently by the neighbouring ministers, both in Virginia and Maryland, but had no pastor until 1807, when Rev. Obadiah B. Brown, a native of Newark, New-Jersey, and who was then preaching in that town, by the call of the church, removed amongst them, and assumed the pastoral office, which he still continues to fill with reputation and success. Mr. Brown also generally officiates as Chaplain to one branch of the National Legislature, during its sessions. [Mr. Polk. who furnished the substance of the above articles, adds the following note: "Mr. Benedict will, it is believed, do much service, by recommending to traveling Baptist ministers, or those of them who wish to remove south, to visit Maryland; for, perhaps, no part of the Union has more need of Gospel preachers than it has; I mean the country parts of it."]
The 2d church in Washington, was formed at the Navy Yard, in 1810, partly of members dismissed from the first.
This Association lies wholly on the eastern shore of the Chesapeak Bay, and by this Bay is separated from the other churches in Maryland.
Baptist sentiments were first propagated in this region, by the pious and laborious Elijah Baker, as related in his biography. Soon after he began to preach in these parts, he was joined by Philip Hughes, whose ministry was also crowned with much success. These two ministers labored on the eastern shore, both in Maryland and Virginia, rather as evangelical itinerants, than as stationed pastors, and often visited the churches they had planted, as fathers do their children. A number of ministers and exhorters were raised up in the churches which they had established, who were instrumental in forwarding the work which they had begun. Mr. Baker, it appears, first visited these parts in 1776; and in 1782 [M. Edwards?s Materials, etc. for Delaware, p. 246] a sufficient number of churches having been organized, they met at Salisbury, and formed themselves into an Association, which, from that circumstance, received its name. For 26 years from its establishment, viz. until 1808, it progressed without any special occurrence, but gradually increased, and was in circumstances moderately prosperous. It was now thought proper that a division should be made; and as the churches of which it is composed were in the two States of Maryland and Virginia, the State line was fixed upon as the line of division, and the churches in Virginia were dismissed and formed a new Association, which was called Acomack.
The preachers in the Salisbury Association have, from the first, been distinguished rather for their piety than their parts.
Dr. Robert Lemon, at whose house the venerable Elijah Baker died, appears to have been a man of note in this body, and has, from the commencement of its sessions, almost uniformly officiated as Moderator. John Asplund, the author of the Baptist Register, was drowned from a canoe, in 1807, in Fishing Creek, which gives name to one of the churches in this Association.
The churches now belonging to it, are in the counties of Caroline, Dorset, Somerset, and Worcester, and are all in the State of Maryland, except the one called Bethel, which is in Sussex county, in the State of Delaware. The Baptists in Maryland have never endured any thing from the civil power, which may properly be called persecution. There appears to have been a considerable outcry against them in 1741, and also in 1746, which was occasioned by the misconduct of Loveall and Palmer, two very disreputable preachers of their society; but the clamor and violence ceased, when it was found that the Baptists abhorred their conduct as much as any other society could do.
At a very early period, the Assembly of this State, (then a province) enacted, "that no persons, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, should be molested in respect of their religion, or in the free exercise thereof, or be compelled to the exercise of any other religion, against their consent; so that they be not unfaithful to the proprietary, or conspire against the civil government. That any person molesting another in respect of his religious tenets, should pay treble damages to the party aggrieved, and twenty shillings to the proprietary; that those, reproaching any with opprobious names of religious distinction, should forfeit ten shillings to the person injured; that any one speaking reproachfully against the Blessed Virgin, or the Apostles, should forfeit ten pounds. But blasphemy against God, should be punished with death." This act passed 1649, and was confirmed in 1676, among the perpetual laws of the province.
Virginia, at this period, animated by a very different spirit, passed several laws against the Puritans, whose ministers were not suffered to preach. This occasioned numbers to emigrate to Maryland.
"Extraordinary scenes were, at this time, exhibited on the colonial theatres. In Massachusetts, the Congregationalists intolerant towards the Episcopalians, and every other sect; the Episcopal church retaliating upon them in Virginia; and the Roman Catholicks of Maryland, tolerating and protecting all." (Morse?s Geography.)
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