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A History of the Baptists

The Baptists and the Destruction of the Establishment.

The Evils of the Establishment in Virginia?The Baptists Render Service to the Country?Dr. Hawks on the Situation-The Convention at Williamsburg?Petition of the Clergy?Terrible Charges Against the Baptists?The Statement of Fristoe?The Tax Law Suspended?Counter Memorials?The Law Repealed?The Statement of Rayner?The Historians Speak?The Glebe Lands?The General Assessment Proposed?The Presbyterians?The Reasons the Baptists Opposed the Measure?The Bill Examined and Rejected?The Bill of Thomas Jefferson?Bishop Perry on the Baptists?Jefferson and the Baptists?The Union of the Regular and Separate Baptists?The Terms of Union?A Revival.

Another phase of the liberty of conscience must now be recorded. Already the persecutions of the past, the enlistment of soldiers in the army, the struggles of the War of the Revolution, the adoption of the Constitution and the first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States have been considered. In all these measures the Baptists had an honorable part. There was proceeding at the same time another conflict which was scarcely less intense. Several of the States had establishments of religion incorporated into the government by law. The most oppressive of these was in Virginia. The laws supporting this Establishment were exacting and had been administered with severity. Dissenters were loaded with taxes to support a system of religion for which they had no love; the marriage laws were unsatisfactory; the glebe lands belonging to the Church brought in rich revenues which were a constant menace to the peace of the people, and, indeed, there were many vexatious things which disturbed the public welfare Entrenched as was the Establishment in the laws of the land, endorsed by the aristocracy and by many time servers, it was a tremendous problem to overthrow such an institution. It was this task that the Baptists, together with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other noble heroes, undertook to accomplish.

Something toward this end, by 1776, had been accomplished. Persecutions had greatly added to the numbers and determination of the Baptists. They were patriotic and hearty supporters of the Revolution. This brought them into favor with Washington and assisted their cause. Their ministers were officially permitted to preach among the soldiers; and thus, so far as the army was concerned were on a level with the others.

Dr. Hawks sums up the matter as follows:

No dissenters in Virginia experienced, for a time, harsher treatment than did the Baptists. They were beaten and imprisoned, and cruelty taxed its ingenuity to devise new modes of punishment and annoyance; but the men, who were not permitted to speak in public, found willing auditors in the sympathizing crowds who gathered around the prisons to hear them preach from grated windows.

Persecution had taught the Baptists not to love the Establishment, and they now saw before them a reasonable prospect of the overturning it altogether. In their Association they had calmly discussed the matter and resolved on their course; in this course they were constant to the end; and the war which they waged against the Church was a war of extermination. They seemed to know no relentings, and their hostility never ceased for seven and twenty years. They revenged themselves for their sufferings by the almost total ruin of the Church; and now commenced the assault, for, inspired by the ardor of patriotism, which accorded with their interests, they addressed the convention, and informed that body that their religious tenets presented no obstacle to their taking up arms and fighting for their country; and they tended the services of their pastors in promoting the enlistment of the youth of their persuasion. A complimentary answer was returned, and the ministers of all denominations, in accordance with the address, placed on an equal footing. This, it is believed, was the first step toward religious liberty in America (Hawks, Contributions to Ecclesiastical History in the United States, I. p. 121. New York, 1836-1839).

The Convention at Williamsburg, June 12, 1776, passed a Declaration of Rights, of which Article 16, is as follows:

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and, therefore, that all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other (Rives, Life and Times of James Madison, I. p. l42).

This action incorporated the rights of conscience in the fundamental law of the State.

There is interest in the viewpoint of the contestants. A petition of certain of the clergy of the Establishment was presented, November 8, 1776, to the legislature, which is as follows:

A memorial of a considerable number of the clergy of. the Established Church was presented, November 8, 1776, to the legislature, which was as follows:

A memorial of a considerable number of the clergy of the Established Church of Virginia was presented to the House and read: setting forth that, having understood that various petitions have been presented to the Assembly praying the abolition of the Established Church in the State, wish to represent that, when they undertook the charge of parishes in Virginia, they depended on the public faith for receiving that recompense for their services during life or good behavior which the laws of the land promised, a tenure which to them appears of the same sacred nature as that by which every man in the State holds, and has secured to him his private property, and that such of them as are not yet provided for entering into holy orders expecting to receive the several emoluments which such religious establishment offered; that from the nature of their education they are precluded from gaining a tolerable subsistence in any other way of life, and that therefore they think it would be inconsistent with justice either to deprive the present encumbents of parishes of any right or profits they hold or enjoy, or to cut off from such as are now in orders and unbeneficed those expectations which originated from the laws of the land, and which have been the means of disqualifying them for any other profession or way of life; also, that, though they are far from favoring encroachments on the religious rights of any sect or denomination of men, yet they conceive that a religious establishment in a State is conducive to peace and happiness; they think the opinions of mankind have a very considerable influence over their practice, and that it, therefore, cannot be improper for the legislative body of a State to consider how such opinions as are most consonant to reason and of the best efficiency in human affairs may be propagated and supported; that they are of the opinion the doctrines of Christianity have a greater tendency to produce virtue amongst men than any human laws or institutions, and that these can be best taught and preserved in their purity in an established church, which gives encouragement to men to study and acquire a competent knowledge of the scriptures; and they think that, if these great purposes can be answered by a religious establishment, the hardships which such a regulation might impose on individuals, or even bodies of men, ought not to be considered, etc. (Journal of the House of Deputies, for 1776, p. 47).

Likewise terrible charges were brought against the Baptists and others for their preaching and methods. The following is a fair sample of some of the charges made by members of the Establishment "setting forth that they are greatly alarmed at the progress which some of the dissenters from the church as by law established are daily making in various parts of the country by persuading the ignorant and the unwary to embrace their erroneous tenets, which the petitioners conceive to be not only opposite to the doctrines of Christianity, but subservient of the morals of the people and destructive of the peace of families, tending to alienate the affection of slaves from their masters, and injurious to the happiness of the public; that while such attempts are making to pull down all the barriers which the wisdom of our ancestors has erected to secure the church from the inroads of the sectaries, it would argue a culpable lukewarmness tamely to sit still and not to make known their sentiments, so contrary to such innovations; that all of these bad effects have been already experienced in their country, and the parts adjacent, to the dismal consequences of the doctrines of these new teachers; that through their means they have seen, with grief, great discontent made between husbands and their wives; and there have been nightly meetings of slaves to receive the instructions of these teachers, without the consent of their masters, which have produced very bad consequences; that the petitioners, not actuated by the narrow and bloodthirsty spirit of persecution, wish to see a well-regulated toleration established; by which these conscientious brethren, who, from principle, cannot join with the church, may be permitted to serve God in their own way, without molestation. But they wish, also, that nightly meetings may be prohibited under severe penalties, and that those who, after due examination of their morals, shall be found worthy may be authorized to preach, and that only in such public meeting-houses as it may be thought proper to license for the purpose; that they apprehend those purposes may be answered without destroying those gentle and wholesome restraints which the wisdom of ages and the policy of our laws have established; and praying that the church may be maintained in all its legal rights, and that the sectaries may be indulged with such a regulated toleration as shall be thought reasonable, and that the clergy of the Established Church may be made accountable for their conduct, and removable for misbehavior."

The Baptists were, however, unrelenting in their warfare upon the Establishment. They were criticized that during the Revolutionary War they pursued their opposition to the Church. They felt now that above all other periods they were likely to secure their rights. "The Baptists having labored under oppression for a long time," says Fristoe, "inclines them to seek redress as soon as a favorable opportunity offered. In the year 1776, they united in a petition to the Assembly of Virginia, stating the several grievances they labored under, requesting a repeal of all such laws as might occasion an odious distinction among citizens."

"This position the Baptists were determined to persevere in presenting to the Assembly till such times they were attended to and they were rescued from the hand of oppression, and their just liberties were secured to them. And it appeared at this juncture the most favorable opportunity offered that had ever been?a time when the nation was struggling for civil liberty and casting off British tyranny?a time of aiming to support their independence and relieving themselves from monarchial usurpation. It became a common saying about this time, ?United we stand, divided we fall.? There was a necessity for a unanimity among all ranks, sects, denominations of people, when we had to withstand a powerful nation and expel her by force of arms or submit to her arbitrary measures, and the State Legislature became sensible that P: division among the people would be fatal to this country; but the Assembly being chiefly of the Episcopalian order, and being in the habit heretofore of governing with rigor, it was with great reluctance they could pass a law favorable to dissenters and raise them upon a level with themselves. What inclined dissenters to be more anxiously engaged for their liberty was that, if time passed away and no repeal of these injurious laws, and the nation to whom we belonged succeeded in supporting their independence, and our government settled down with these old prejudices in the hearts of those in power, and an establishment of religion survive our revolution, and religious tyranny raise its banner in our infant country, it would leave us to the sore reflection: What have we been struggling for? For what have we spent so much treasure? Why was it from sentiment we united with our fellow citizens in the cause of liberty, girded on our sword or took our musket on our shoulder, endured the hardships of a tedious war? Why clash to arms? Why hear the heart affecting shrieks of the wounded and the awful scene of garments enrolled in blood, together with the entire loss of many of our relations, friends, acquaintances, fellow citizens, and, after all of this, to be exposed to religious oppression and the deprivation of the rights of conscience in discharge of the duties of religion, in which we are accountable to God alone, and not to man? The consideration of these things stimulated and excited the Baptists in Virginia to use every effort and adopt every measure embracing the particular crisis as the fittest time to succeed, which, if past by, might never offer again, and they and their posterity remain in perpetual fetters under an ecclesiastical tyranny" (Fristoe).

The only point gained by the Baptists, in the Legislature of 1776, was that the law taxing dissenters for the support of the clergy of the Establishment was "suspended." Jefferson sums up the proceedings of that Legislature as follows:

Against this inactivity (of the clergy), the zeal and industry of sectarian preachers had an open and an undisputed field; and by the time of the revolution a majority of the inhabitants had become dissenters from the established church, but were still obliged to pay contributions to support the pastors of the minority. This unrighteous compulsion, to maintain teachers of what they deemed religious errors, was grievously felt during the regal government, and without a hope of relief. But the first republican legislature, which met in 78, was crowded with petitions to abolish this spiritual tyranny. These brought on the severest contests in which I have ever been engaged. Our great opponents were Mr. Pendleton and Robert Carter Nicholas; honest men, but zealous churchmen. The petitions were referred to the committee of the whole house on the state of the country; and, after desperate contests in that committee, almost daily from the 11th of October to the 5th of December, we prevailed so far only, as to repeal the laws which rendered criminal the maintenance of any religious opinions, the forbearance of repairing to the church, or the exercise of any mode of worship; and further, to exempt dissenters from the contributions to the support of the established church; and to suspend, only unto the next session, levies on the members of that church for the salaries of their own incumbents. For although the majority of the citizens were dissenters, as has been observed, a majority of the legislature were churchmen. Among these, however, were some responsible and liberal men, who enabled us, on some points, to obtain feeble majorities. But our opponents carried, in the general resolutions of the committee of November 19, a declaration that religious assemblies ought to be regulated, and that provisions ought to be made for continuing the succession of the clergy, and superintending their conduct. And, in this bill now passed, was inserted an express reservation of the question, whether a general assessment should not be established by law, on every one, to the support of the pastor of his choice; or whether all should be left to voluntary contributions; and on this question, debated at every session, from 76 to ?79, (some of our dissenting allies, having now secured their particular object, going over to the advocates of a general assessment), we could only obtain a suspension from session to session until 79, when the question against a general assessment was finally carried, and the establishment of the Anglican church entirely put down (Jefferson, Writings, I.).

It is mentioned by Jefferson in the above extract that Edmund Pendleton was a determined opponent of the Baptists, and a most ardent churchman. The following letter from him will show something of his zeal and methods:

Caroline, Sepr. 25, 1777.

Revd. Sir; ?Understanding that the Baptists and the Methodist Societies, encouraged by something which passed last Session, mean to push their application, for the sale of the Glebes and Churches, to the Assembly at the next. It may be necessary to meet them by Counter memorials, which induced me to throw upon paper my thoughts on the subject as annexed; which though in the form of a memorial, was rather intended as a historical statement of the laws and facts on the Subject, from whence to form one, and therefore I have not attempted to shorten or correct it, but left it, imperfect as it is for your consideration.

My reason for taking the liberty of enclosing it to you, besides a wish to have it correct, is that it occurred to me that you might, after perfecting one, think proper to have a copy struck off and forwarded to each parish, to preserve uniformity of sentiments, which might otherwise Clash and do mischief; but this is as you .please, if not approved, I will thank you to forward me a corrected copy; Or if you judge it best to leave each Parish to its own mode, and reserve yourself for a Conventional one, be pleased to return mine, and excuse the trouble I shall have given you, when I will endeavor to correct and have it subscribed.

As I have never been present at Public discussions of the Subject, nor heard it much Canvassed in private, from a recluse life, my Sentiments are drawn chiefly from contemplation, and may not meet their grounds, your information may supply and correct this. The distinction between it being a Public of parochial claim, seems to me to be well founded, and to be very important in the decision. With sentiments of much respect and esteem, I am sir, Your Mo. Obt. Servt

Edmd. Pendleton.

(Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society, 1908-1909, XLII. pp. 346, 347).

The final vote on the measure came December 13, 1779, when the law enforcing the Established Church was repealed. This destroyed the Establishment in Virginia. "We are not to understand," says Semple, "that this important ecclesiastical revolution was effected wholly by the Baptists. They were certainly the most active; but they were also joined by other dissenters. Nor was the dissenting interest, all united, by any means at that time, equal to the accomplishment of such a revolution. We must turn our eyes to the political state of the country to find adequate causes for such a change.

"The British yoke galled to the quick; and the Virginians; as having the most tender necks, were among the first to wince. Republican principles had gained much ground, and were fast advancing to superiority. The leading men of that side viewed the Established clergy and the Established religion as inseparable appendages of monarchy-one of the pillars by which it was supported. The dissenters, at least the Baptists, were republicans from interest as well as principle; it was known that their influence was great among the common people; and the common people of every country are, more or less, republicans. To resist the British oppressions effectually, it was necessary to soothe the minds of the people by every species of policy. The dissenters were too powerful to be slighted, and they were too watchful to be cheated by any ineffectual sacrifice. There had been a time when they would have been satisfied to have paid their tithes if they could have had liberty of conscience; but now the crisis was such that nothing less than a total overthrow of all ecclesiastical distinctions would satisfy their sanguine hopes. Having started the decaying edifice, every dissenter put to his shoulder to push it into irretrievable ruin. The revolutionary party found that the sacrifice must be made, and they made it.

"It is said, however, and probably not without truth, that many of the Episcopalians who voted for the abolishing of the Establishment did it upon an expectation that it would be succeeded by a general assessment. And considering that most of the men of wealth were on that side, they supposed that their funds would be lessened very little. This, it appeared in the sequel, was a vain expectation. The people having once shaken off their fetters, would not again permit themselves to be bound. Moreover, the war now rising to its height, they were in too much need of funds to permit any of their resources to be devoted to any other purpose during that period; and we shall see that when it was attempted, a few years after the expiration of the war, the people set their faces against it" (Semple, 44, 45) .

The historians all agree to the share the Baptists had in the passing of this measure.

Hawks says:

The Baptists were the principal promoters of this work, and in truth aided more than any other denomination in its accomplishment (Hawks).

Bishop Meade says:

They took the lead in dissent, and were the chief objects of persecution by the magistrates, and the most violent and persevering afterward in seeking the downfall of the Establishment (Meade, Old Churches of Virginia, 1.).

Campbell says:

The Baptists, having suffered persecution under the Establishment, were of all others the most inimical to it, and the most active in its subversion (Campbell, History of Virginia).

Tucker says:

In the two following years, the question of providing for the ministers of religion by law, or leaving it to individual contributors, was renewed; but the advocates of the latter plan were only able to obtain at each session a suspension of those laws which provided salaries for the clergy?the natural progress in favor of liberal sentiments being counterbalanced by the fact that some of the dissenting sects, with the exception of the Baptists, satisfied with having been relieved from a tax which they felt to be both unjust and degrading, had no objection to a general assessment, and on this question voted with the friends of the church. But the advocates of religious freedom finally prevailed, after five suspended acts, the laws for the support of the clergy were, at the second session of 1779, unconditionally repealed (Tucker, Life of Jefferson, I.).

Randall says:

This was the best arrangement the Anglican church could now hope for, and most of the dissenters, it would seem (the Baptists being said to be the only exception, as a church), were ready to join the former on this ground and unite in a strenuous effort in favor of the measure (Randall, Life of Jefferson, I.).

270 A History o f the Baptists

Rayner says:

This question, the last prop of the tottering hierarchy, reduced the struggle to one of pure principle. The particular object of the dissenters being secured, they deserted the voluntary champion of their cause, and went over in troops to the advocates of the general assessment. This step, the natural proclivity of the sectarian mind, showed them incapable of religious liberty upon an expansive scale, or broader than their own interests, as schismatics. But the defection of the dissenters, painful as it was, only stimulated his desire for total abolition, as it developed more palpably the evidence of its necessity. He remained unshaken at his post, and brought on the reserved question at every session from 1776 to 1779, during which time he could only obtain a suspension of the levies from year to year, until the session of 1779, when, by his unwearied exertions, the question was carried definitely against a general assessment, and the establishment of the Anglican church was entirely overthrown (Rayner, Life of Jefferson).

The bill cut the purse strings of the Establishment, so that the clergy were no longer supported by taxation. But they still obtained possession of the rich glebes, and enjoyed a practical monopoly of marriage fees. It was at this session of the legislature that the famous bill of Jefferson on Religious Freedom was introduced. The bill attracted both favorable and unfavorable notice. It was reported to the house June, 1779, just after Jefferson was elected governor to succeed Patrick Henry. Several years elapsed before it became a law.

A complete victory was not yet won. The period which followed the Revolution was favorable to a renewal of an Establishment upon a more liberal basis than formerly; and it came dangerously near a passage. Various petitions were sent up by religious bodies asking for such an Establishment. The Baptists alone stood firm.

The "Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of Religion," otherwise known as the "General Assessment Bill," was reported to the legislature December 3, 1784. The preamble was as follows:

WHEREAS the general diffusion of Christian knowledge hath a natural tendency to correct the morals of men, restrain their vices, and preserve the peace of society, which cannot be effected without a competent provision for learned teachers, who may be thereby enabled to devote their time and attention to the duty of instructing such citizens as from their circumstances and want of education cannot otherwise attain such knowledge; and it is judged that such provision may be made by the legislature, without counteracting the liberal principle heretofore adopted and intended to be preserved, by abolishing all distinctions of preeminence amongst the different societies or communions of Christians.

The bill passed its third reading but was finally postponed until the fourth Thursday, November, 1785. With the Episcopalians, Presbyterians and others supporting it the passage seemed inevitable. Foote, the Presbyterian historian, explains the relation of the Presbyterians to the measure. He says:

When the bill for a general assessment was brought forward, with such an advocate as Patrick Henry, and with the Episcopal church to support it, it was generally supposed that it would certainly become a law. To those who had been paying to support their own church and another, foreign to it, this bill proposed relief; they were to pay only for the rapport of the church of their choice. As it was a relief from their former burdens, and as the Presbyterian congregations would not be called on to pay more for the support of their own ministers than they would cheerfully give by voluntary subscription, Mr. Graham was agreed with his brethren to send up a memorial which gives their sentiments on the subject of support of religion, disclaiming all legislative interference, and, under the conviction that the law would in some form pass, proposed the least offensive form in which the assessment could be levied (Foots, Sketches of Virginia, I.).

The Baptists on the other hand "considered themselves under the necessity of appearing again on the public theater and expressing their disapprobation of the above proposition, and using their influence to prevent its passage into a law." The Baptists opposed the bill for the following reasons:

First, it was contrary to their principles and avowed sentiments, the making provision for the support of religion by law; that the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical governments ought to be kept up blending them together; that Christ Jesus has given laws for the government of his kingdom and direction of his subjects, and gave instruction concerning collections for the various purposes of religion, and therefore needs not legislative interferences.

Secondly, Should a legislative body undertake to pass laws for the government of the church, for them to say what doctrines shall be believed, in what mode worship shall be performed, and what the sum collected shall be, what a dreadful precedent it would establish; for when such a right is claimed by a legislature, and given up by the people, by the same rule they decide in one instance they may in every instance. Religion in this is like the press; if government limits the press, and says this shall be printed and that shall not, in the event it will destroy the freedom of the press; so when legislatures undertake to pass laws about religion, religion looses its form, and Christianity is reduced to a system of worldly policy.

Thirdly, it has been believed by us that that Almighty Power that instituted religion will support his own cause; that in the course of divine Providence events will be overruled and the influence of grace on the hearts of the Lord?s people will incline them to afford and contribute what is necessary for the support of religion, and therefore there is no need for compulsory measures.

Fourthly, it would give an opportunity to the party that were numerous (and, of course, possessed the ruling power) to use their influence and exercise their art and cunning, and multiply signers to their own party, and last, the most deserving, the faithful preacher, who in a pointed manner reproved sin and bore testimony against every species of vice and dissipation, would, in all probability, have been profited very little by such a law, while men-pleasers, the gay and the fashionable, who can wink at sin, and daub his hearers with untempered mortar, saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace, who can lay out his oratory in dealing out smooth things mingled with deception, the wicked, it is clear, would like to have it so; and it follows the irreligious and carnal part of the people would richly reward them for their flattery, and the undeserving go off with the gain (Fristoe, History of the Ketocton Association).

The bill was printed and circulated throughout the various counties of the State. A reaction took place among the people upon the examination of the provisions of the bill. Madison wrote to Monroe, May 29, 1785, that "the adversaries of the assessment begin to think the prospect here flattering to their wishes. The printed bill has excited great discussion, and is likely to prove the sense of the community to be in favor of the liberty now enjoyed. I have heard of several counties where the representatives have been laid aside for voting for the bill, and not a single one where the reverse has happened. The Presbyterian clergy, too, who were in general friends to the scheme, are already in another tone, either compelled by the laity of that sect or alarmed at the probability of further interference of the Legislature, if they begin to dictate matters of religion" (Rives, I.). So that it came to pass on October 17, 1785, the bill died in committee.

The bill of Jefferson was again introduced and on December 17, 1785, was passed and upon January 19, 1786, was signed by the Speaker. It is as follows:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever; nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

Bishop Perry describes the attitude of the Baptists and the results of their enmity upon the Established Church. "The most unrelenting opposition to the Church," says the Bishop, "as an establishment came from the Baptists, who, in the decade preceding the opening of the war of the Revolution had grown from an inconsiderable sect to a body of numerical strength sufficient to make their influence and support worth any price when the question of loyalty or revolution was to be settled. They had not been slow to take advantage of the position in which they found themselves at the opening of the war. Remembering the harsh treatment that had been ?meted out to them by the royal authorities, their ministers being ?imprisoned and the disciples buffeted,? as their chronicles describe it, they readily embraced the opportunity of weakening the ?establishment? as well as opposing the crown. Thus their dislike of the church and state was gratified at the same time. Conscious that a large part of the clergy, influenced by the ties of birth and the obligations of their oaths of allegiance, had espoused the cause of the king, they showed themselves to be ?inspired by the ardors of a patriotism which accorded with their interests,? and ?were willing to avail themselves of a favorable opportunity to present an advantageous contrast to a part of the church.? Consequently they formally addressed the Convention of the delegates to the Virginia Legislature, which succeeded the last royal assembly ever convened in the ?Old Dominion,? with a proffer of their cordial support. Their tenets placed no hindrance in the way of their members taking up arms for their country, and their preachers professed their readiness to further the enlistment of their young men. They accompanied this tender of service with a petition ?that they might be allowed to worship God in their own way without interruption; that they might be permitted to maintain their own ministers, separate from others; that they might be married, buried, and the like, without paying the clergy of other denominations.? This was the beginning of a series of assaults against the ?establishment? and the Church itself in which all the dissenters, with the exception of the Methodists, who had not at this time formally separated from the Church, united with zeal and untiring energy till the end was gained, and the ?establishment? was destroyed.

"The result was such as had been anticipated by those who had strenuously opposed the act of the Legislature. Deprived of their livings, the clergy, many of whom were politically, if not personally, obnoxious to the majority of their parishioners, found themselves reduced to the necessity of abandoning their calling, in the exercise of which they could no longer hope for support. Many left the country; the sacraments were no longer administered in the parishes thus abandoned, and, although a few faithful priests traveled over large circuits for the purpose of administering baptism and the holy communion, they could not supply the lack of the constant and regular services and administrations which had been of old. The churches, deserted and uncared for, went rapidly into decay. Often required for public uses in the necessities of the State arising from the struggle then going on; more frequently despoiled and desecrated by the hands of the sacrilegious and sordid, who coveted and appropriated for their private uses the very materials of the fabric of the Church of God; there was every prospect that the Church, whose officers were first celebrated on Virginia soil, would be utterly uprooted and destroyed. The gates of hell had prevailed against her" (Perry, History of the American Episcopal Church, II.).

The undermining of the State Church was a long process. "Upheld by the law of the seventeenth century," says Jennings Cooper Wise, "it was not until a later date, when the state as well as the church had been honeycombed by free thinker, that the old structure fell and the masses, who had long supported the religion of the minority, asserted their doctrinal independence. As we follow the history of the Eastern Shore, we find the Puritan from New England and New Netherlands, the Quaker, and the Presbyterian, each in turn seeking the shores of the remote peninsula as a resting place, where unmolested the new sects might hatch out their doctrines. The effect upon the people of such a process of religious incubation among them cannot be overestimated, and as we take the history of the peninsula in the following century, we shall see how the Baptists and Methodists also prospered upon these shores" (Wise, Ye Kingdom of Accawmacke or the Eastern Shore of Virginia, pp. 250, 251. Richmond, 1911) .

Jefferson was the statesman of the Revolution, Washington the general and Franklin the sage. The attitude of Jefferson toward liberty and the Establishment brought upon him much obloquy. He was thoroughly hated by that class and especially the New England clergy. They called him an infidel and an atheist. As a matter of fact ha was an Episcopalian with Unitarian tendencies.

On the other hand the Baptists loved and supported him. His views on liberty were so closely united with theirs that they were his devoted friends. When he was elected President the church at Cheshire, Massachusetts, made a cheese, which weighed fourteen hundred and fifty pounds, and sent it to Washington to Jefferson, in 1801, by the celebrated John Leland, their pastor, as an expression of the warm regard they entertained for their great leader in the battle of freedom. John Leland was a man of singular ability, independence, frankness, humor and piety. He wrote for the Baptists to the State papers.

Jefferson associated with the Baptists. They admired him, and he admired them. A few of his statements in regard to them are here recorded.

A letter addressed to Levi Lincoln, the Attorney General, January 1, 1802, was the occasion of the following comment on the general position of the Baptists:

The Baptist address, now enclosed, admits of a condemnation of the alliance between Church and State, under the authority of the Constitution. It furnishes an occasion, too, which I have long wished to find, of saying why I do not proclaim Fastings and thanksgivings, as my predecessors did. The address, to be sure, does not point at this, and its introduction is awkward. But I foresee no opportunity of doing it more pertinently. I know it will give great offense to the New England clergy; but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them (Jefferson, Writings, X.).

He addressed the members of the Baltimore Baptist Association, October 17, 1808, as follows:

I receive with great pleasure the friendly address of the Baltimore Baptist Association, and am sensible how much I am indebted to the kind dispositions which dictated it.

In our early struggle for liberty, religious freedom could not fail to become a primary object. All men felt the right, and a just animation to obtain it was exhibited by all. I was only one among the many who befriended its establishment, and am entitled but in common with others to a portion of that approbation which follows the fulfillment of duty.

Excited by wrongs to reject a foreign government which directed our concerns according to its own interests, and not to ours, the principles which justified us were obvious to all understandings, they were imprinted in the breast of every human being; and Providence ever pleased to direct the issue of our contest in favor of that side where justice was. Since the happy separation, our nation has wisely avoided entangling itself in the systems of European interests, and has taken no side between its rival powers, attached itself to none of its ever changing confederacies. Their peace is desirable; and you do me justice in saying that to preserve and secure this, has been the constant aim of my administration. The difficulties which involve it, however, are now at their ultimate term, and what will be their issue, time alone will disclose. But be it what it may, a recollection of our former vassalage in religion and civil government, will unite the zeal of every heart, and the energy of every hand, to preserve that independence in both which, under the favor of Heaven, a disinterested devotion to the public cause first achieved, and a disinterested sacrifice to private interest will now maintain.

I am happy in your approbation of my reasons for determining to retire from a station, in which the favor of my fellow citizens has so long continued and supported me; I return your kind prayers with supplications to the same Almighty Being for your future welfare and that of our beloved country (Jefferson, XVI.).

He addressed the members of the Ketockton Baptist Association, October 18, 1808, as follows:

The views you express of the conduct of the belligerent powers are as correct as they are afflicting to the lovers of justice and humanity. Those moral principles and conventional usages which have heretofore been the bond of civilized nations, which have so often preserved their peace by furnishing common rules for the measure of their rights, have now given way to force, the law of Barbarians, and the nineteenth century dawns with Vandalism of the fifth. Nothing has been spared on our part to preserve the peace of our country, during this distempered state of the world (Jefferson, XVI.).

The remainder of the above letter is the same as that addressed to the Baltimore Association. The following letter was written to the General Meeting of Correspondence of the Six Baptist Associations represented at Chesterfield, Virginia, November 21, 1808:

Thank you, fellow citizens, for your affectionate address, and I receive with satisfaction your approbation of my motives for retirement. In reviewing the history of the times through which we have passed, no portion of it gives greater satisfaction, on reflection, than that which presents the efforts of the friends of religious freedom, and the success with which they were crowned. We have solved by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government, and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason, and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.

It is a source of great contentment to me to learn that the measures which have been pursued in the administration of your affairs have met with your approbation. Too often we have had but a choice among difficulties; and the situation characterizes remarkably the present moment. But, fellow citizens, if we are faithful to our country, if we acquiesce, with good will, in the decisions of the majority, and the nation moves in mass in the same direction although it may not be that which every individual thinks best, we have nothing to fear from any quarter.

I thank you sincerely for your kind wishes for my welfare, and with equal sincerity implore the favor of a protecting Providence for yourselves (Jefferson, XVI. pp. 320, 321).

On his return from Washington he received a letter of congratulations from the Baptist church of Buck Mountain, Albemarle county. In reply, April 13, 1808, he says:

Your approbation of my conduct is the more valued as you have best known me, and is an ample reward for my services I may have rendered. We have acted together from the origin to the end of a memorable revolution, and we have contributed, each in the line allotted us, our endeavors to render its issue a permanent blessing to our country.

These persecutions and victories drought about a very desirable union between the Regular and Separate Baptists. In origin, and frequently in methods, they were diverse; while in doctrines there were variations, yet in some points substantial agreement. It was felt that the union of the two parties was desirable.

The actual union was slow of accomplishment. The first public movement was inaugurated in 1767 but received no definite form. Three years afterwards the Ketockton a Regular, or Calvinistic Association in Northern Virginia, addressed the Sandy Creek, a Separate, or Arminian Association, in Southern Virginia, but mostly in North Carolina, on the subject. They said in their letter:

Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ

The bearers of this letter (Garrett, Mager, and Saunders) will acquaint you with the design of writing it. Their errand is peace, and their business is a reconciliation, if there is any difference subsisting. If we are all Christians, all Baptists, all New Lights, why are we divided? Must the little appellatives, Regular and Separate, break the golden band of charity, and set the sons and daughters of God at variance? Behold how good and how pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity! But how bad and how bitter is for them to live asunder and in discord! To indulge ourselves in prejudice is surely disorder, and to quarrel about nothing is irregularity with a witness. Oh, dear brethren, let us endeavor for the future to avoid this calamity.

The messengers were cordially received, the address was read, and the subject entertained and mutually considered. It was allowed that some details remained to be adjusted. The Sandy Creek Association, which then embraced large districts in Virginia, North Carolina, and western South Carolina, was soon divided into other associations and the project failed.

The Kahukee Association, in 1772, occupied a part of South Carolina, and all the region of Virginia south of the James river. To this body the General Association, which was composed of both parties, addressed themselves and sent Samuel Harris, Elijah Craig, John Waller and David Thompson, to treat with them.

At the meeting of the General Association there was much excitement. There were two meetings but in contiguous places. The Regulars asked the assent of the Separates on two propositions, that "salvation is of the special electing grace of God," and that "salvation is without merit on the part of the creature."

The Separates, after consultation, sent the following reply:

Dear Brethren: A study union with you makes us willing to be more explicit in our answer to your terms of reconciliation proposed. We do not deny the former part of your proposition, respecting particular election of grace, still retaining our liberty with regard to construction. And as to the latter part, respecting merit in the creature, we are free to profess that there is none.

To this reply the Regulars sent the following answer:

Dear Brethren: Inasmuch as your Christian fellowship seems nearly as dear to us as our lives, and seeing our difficulties concerning your principles with respect to merit in the creature, particular election, and final perseverance of the saints are in hopeful measure removing, we do willingly retain your fellowship, not raising the least bar, but do heartily wish and pray that God in his kind providence in his own time may bring it to pass, when all Israel shall be of one mind, speaking the same things.

The decision of the General Association was generally received with much joy. When, however, some years afterwards the General Association was dissolved and the General Committee, composed of chosen messengers from all of the associations in the State, was instituted to take its place, much solicitude was felt on the subject. At a meeting of the General Committee on Saturday, August 5, 1786, the whole subject of union was taken up. "The schism which took place among the Regulars and Separate Baptists soon after their rise in Virginia had never been, as yet, entirely removed, although a very friendly intercourse had been occasionally kept up among them."

The time was now at hand when all differences and party spirit were about to be forever wiped off. The Ketockton or Regular Baptist Association sent delegates to this General Committee, and they were received upon equal footing with those of the other Associations. This gave rise to the following recommendation:

It is recommended to the different Associations to appoint delegates to attend the next General Committee for the purpose of forming an union with the Regular Baptists.

Upon Friday, August 10, 1787, "agreeable to appointment the subject of the union of the Regular and Separate Baptists was taken up, and a happy and effectual reconciliation was accomplished.

"The objections on the part of the Separates related chiefly to matters of trivial importance. On the other hand, the Regulars complained that the Separates were not sufficiently explicit in their principles, having never published or sanctioned any confession of faith; and that they kept within their communion many who were professed Arminians, etc. To these things it was answered by the Separates that a large majority of them believed as much in their confession of faith as they did themselves, although they did not entirely approve of the practice of religious societies binding themselves too strictly by confessions of faith, seeing there was danger of their finally usurping too high a place; that if there were some among them who leaned too much toward the Arminian system they were generally men of exemplary piety and great usefulness in the Redeemer?s kingdom, and they conceived it better to bear with some diversity of opinion in doctrines than to break with men whose Christian deportment rendered them amiable in the estimation of all true lovers of genuine goodness. Indeed, that some of them had now become fathers in the Gospel, who, previous to the bias which their minds had received, had borne the brunt and heat of persecution, whose labors and sufferings God had blessed, and still blessed to the great advantage of his cause. To exclude such as these from their communion would be like tearing the limbs from the body.

"These and such like arguments were agitated both in public and private, so that all minds were much mollified before the final and successful attempt. at union.

"The terms of the union were entered in the minutes in the following words, viz.:

The committee appointed to consider the terms of union with our Regular brethren reported that they conceive the manner in which the Regular Baptist confession of faith has been received by a former Association is the ground work for such a union.

"After considerable debate as to the propriety of having any confession of faith at all, the report of the committee was received with the following explanation:

To prevent the confession of faith from usurping a tyrannical power over the conscience of any, we do not mean that every person is bound to the strict observance of everything therein contained; yet that it holds forth the essential truths of the Gospel, and that the doctrine of salvation by Christ and free, unmerited grace alone ought to be believed by every Christian and maintained by every minister of the Gospel. Upon these terms we are united; and desire hereafter that the names Regular and Separate be buried in oblivion, and that, from henceforth, we shall be known by the name of the United Baptist Churches of Christ in Virginia (Semple).

Semple, the Virginia Baptist historian, in 1809, says that "this union has now continued upwards of twenty-two years without an interruption. The bonds of union are apparently much stronger than at first. It is quite pleasing sometimes to find that members and even ministers of intelligence among Baptists have manifested a total unacquaintance with the terms Regular and Separate, when they have been occasionally mentioned in their company. From this it is plain that all party spirit is now laid aside, and that it was a union of hearts as well as parties.

"It is worthy of remark that this conjunction of dissevered brethren took place at a time when a great revival of religion had already commenced, and not far from the time when it burst ,forth on the right hand and left throughout the State. Some of our reflecting readers will impute this to .a providential interference of God, disposing the hearts of the people to love and peace in order to prepare them for the day of his power. Others may say rather the work already having begun, a revival of true religion always tends to open the hearts of the friends of God and make them stretch the robe of charity so as really to cover a multitude of faults. Whether to one or the other, or to both these causes may be ascribed the accommodating temper of the two parties, certain it is that nothing could be more salutary." The results of this union were far-reaching in their effects.

The war, though very propitious to the liberty of the Baptists, had an opposite effect upon the life of religion among them. As if persecution was more favorable to vital piety than unrestrained liberty, they seem to have abated their zeal, upon being unshackled from their manacles. They had been much engrossed with thoughts and schemes for effecting the revolution. They had much engaged in political strife. The opening of free trade by peace served as a powerful bait to entrap professors. There were many wild speculations in lands. From whatever cause, certain it was that there was a wintry season. With exceptions the declension was general throughout the country. The love of many waxed cold. Iniquity greatly abounded. Associations were thinly attended, and the business was badly conducted.

Fortunately, about the year 1785, a revival began. It was not general but it covered many sections of the country. John Taylor had a season of refreshing in Clear Creek Church, Woodford county, Kentucky. In Virginia "thousands were converted and baptized, besides many who joined the Methodists and Presbyterians." The revival, however, did not produce many young preachers. John Leland says:

In the late great additions that have been made to the churches, there are but few who have engaged in the work of the ministry. Whether it is because the old preachers stand in the way, or whether it is because the people do not pray the Lord of the Harvest to thrust out laborers, or whether it is not rather a judgment of God upon the people for neglecting those who are already in the work, not communicating to them in all good things, I cannot say.

The revival continued in many places until 1792; but in its effects it was limited.

Books for further reference:

Charles F. James, Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia. Lynchburg, Va., 1900.

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