A History of the Baptists
THE BAPTISTS IN NEW YORK, DELAWARE, CONNECTICUT AND VERMONT
The Baptista in New YorkDutch SettlersThe Reformed ChurchThe Baptists Conventicles SuppressedLady MoodyBaptista in FlushingFrancis DoughtyLawsFinesValentine WightmanThe Various SectsGovernor AndrosGovernor HunterFirst Baptist Church, New YorkNicholas EyersFinesThe Baptists in Central New YorkDelawareThe Settlement of the StateThe Welsh Tract ChurchElijah Baker and Philip HughesThe Bouiakdo Baptist ChurchConnecticutThe Severity of the LawsEarly BaptistsThe Slow ProgressVermontThe Rise of the Baptists.
THE Dutch, who first settled New York, set up the Reformed Religion, according to the Acts of the Synod of Dort, and the colonial clergy were commissioned by the Classis of Amsterdam. No formal constitutional restriction was enacted until 1640, when the East India Company, which then controlled the colony, decreed that "no other religion shall be publicly admitted," "except the Reformed Church" (Documents of Colonial History of New York, I. 123).
In a description of the New Netherlands, in 1644, by Father Isaac Jogues, a Jesuit missionary, is found the following statement:
No religion is publicly exercised but the Calvinist, and orders are to admit none but Calvinists, but this is not observed, besides Calvinists in the Colony are Catholics, English Puritans, Lutherans, Anabaptiffts, here called Menegtes, &c. (Documentary History of New York, IV. 22. Albany, 1851).
There were, therefore, Baptists in New York preceding 1644; but their location is not indicated. A grant of worship had been given the town of Flushing for sectaries. It was soon discovered that the Lutherans and other dissenters were using these privileges, and the authorities became alarmed. "In the meantime we already have the snake in our bosom." These persons were required to abstain from all "church services or holding any meetings." On February 1, 1656, the authorities decreed that all 14 conventicles and meetings" held in the province, "whether public or private," should be "absolutely and expressly forbidden"; and that "only the Reformed Divine service, as this is observed and enforced according to the Synod of Dortrecht," should he held,
Under the penalty of one hundred pounds Flemish, to be forfeited by all those who, being unqualified, take upon themselves, either on Sundays or other days, any office, whether of preacher', reader or singer, in such meetings differing from the customary and legal awmblies, and twenty-five like pounds to be forfeited by every one, whether man or woman, married or unmarried, who is found at such meetings.
A noted woman called Lady Moody bought a plantation near Lynn, Massachusetts. "She soon embraced Baptist principles, and suffered therefor. And divers of those at Aquidneek turned professed Anahaptists" (Backus, I.). She was on this account compelled to leave Lynn. For a period she was in New Haven where she is reported to have brought over to her views Mrs. Eaton, the wife of the governor of the province and the daughter of an English bishop. This brought much distress to the Congregational pastor. She finally settled at Gravesend, near New Amsterdam. She took out, December 19, 1645, a patent of land, which, among other things, guaranteed "the free libertie of conscience according to the custom of Holland, without molestation or disturbance from any magistrate or magistrates, or any other ecclesiastical minister that may pretend jurisdiction over them." Without regard to her patent the authorities were not always amicable. Many others of like sentiments gathered around her, "with liberty to constitute themselves a body politic as freedmen of the Province and town of Gravesend." James W. Gerard says: "The settlers at Gravesend seem to have been generally affected with Anabaptist views, and to have had no settled church" (Gerard, Discourse Before the New York Historical Society, May, 1880, 28).
There were likewise Baptists in Flushing where some toleration had been granted. George Gardyner, in his description of America, remarks that the Northeast part of Long lslaxfd is inhabited by "some English, who have been thrust from New England for their judgment. The most of them holding the Christian Tenet of confession before baptism" (Felt, II.). The following is the old record:
The four villages on Long Island viz.: Gravesend, Middleburg, Vlissingen & Meemstede were established by the English. Those of Gravesend are reported Menonists; yea, they, for the most part, reject Infant Baptism, the Sabbath, the office of Preacher, and the Teachers of God's word, saying that through these have come all sorte of contention into the world. Whenever they meet together the one or the other reads sometlaing for them. At Flushing they heretofore had a Presbyterian Preacher who con- formed to our church, but many of them became endowed with divers opinions and it was with them quot hotnines tot sententia. They absented themselves from preaching, nor would they pay the Preacher his promised stipend. The said preacher was obliged to leave the place to repair to the English Virginias" (Documentary History of New York, III.).
Clearly the preacher referred to above was Francis Doughty, who "had fled from troubles in England, and found that he got out of the frying pan into the fire." In Massachusetts he denied "baptism to infants." He was the first pastor in Flushing, but in 1656 he went to Virginia. "He was unquestionably the first religious teacher in Flushing, and had adopted Baptist views on baptism" (Prime, History of Long Island; Mandeville, Flushing Past and Present).
The documentary narrative continues:
Last year a fomenter of error came here. He was a cobbler from Rhode Island in New England & stated that he was commissioned by Christ. He began to preach at Flushing and then went with the people into the river and dipped them. This becomming known here, the Fiscaal proceeded thither and brought him along. He was banished from the province.
This cobbler was none other than William Wickenden, the pastor of the church in Providence. He was one of the foremost men in Rhode Island, and had served the State in various important positions. In 1656 he visited Flushing, dipped his converts in the river and administered the Lord's Supper. O'Callagan, under date of November 9, 1656, gives an account of these occurrences. "The Baptists at Flushing," says he, "were the next to feel the wrath of the law. William Hallett, sheriff of the place, 'had dared to collect conventicles in his house, and to permit one William Wickendam (Wickenden) to explain and comment on God's Holy Word, and to administer sacraments, though not calling thereto by any civil or clerical authority.' He had, moreover, assisted at such meetings and afterward, 'accepted from said Wickendam's hands the bread in the form and manner of the Lord's Supper as usually celebrated.' For this violation of the statute Hallett was removed from office and fined fifty pounds, and failing to pay he was to be banished" (O'Callagan, Laws and Ordinances of the New Netherlands, 1634-1678; Broadhead, History of the State of New York).
When the Council was informed that lie was a very poor man, "with a wife and many children, by profession a cobbler, which trade he neglects, so that it will be impossible to collect anything from him," the costs of the fines were remitted. He was condemned November 11, "to immediate banishment, under condition if ever he be seen again in the province of New Netherland he shall be arrested and kept in confinement till the fine and costs are paid in full" (Albany Recordq, VIII.).
These Baptists, in 1653, elected officers. The record is: "The English do not only enjoy the right of nominating their own magistrates, but some of them usurp the election and appointments of such magistrates, as they please, without regard to their religion. Some, especially the people of Gravesend, elect libertines and Anabaptists, which is decidedly against the laws of the Netherlands" (Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York, I. 318. Albany, 1901).
The laws were more severe as time went on. The authorities September 21, 1662, say that because they
Find by experience that their hitherto issued proclamations and edicts against conventicles and prohibited assemblies are not observed and obeyed as they ought, therefore, by these presents, they are not only renewed but enlarged in manner following. Like as they have done here- tofore, so they prohibit and interdict as yet, that besides the Reformed worship and service no conventicies and meetings shall be kept in this province, whether it be in homes, barns, ships, barks, nor in the woods nor fields, upon forfeiture of fifty guldens for the first time, for every person, whether man or woman or child that shall have been present at such prohibited meetings, and twice as much f(ir every person, whether it be man or woman or child, that has exhorted or talked in such prohibited meetings, or shall have lent his house, barn, or any place to that purpose; for ye second time twice as much, for the third time four times as much, and arbitrary punishment besides (O'Callagan, Laws and Ordinances of the New Netherlands, 1638-1674).
From time to time in the records there were various notices of the Baptists and others. Governor Dongan reported, in 1684, as follows:
Here be not many of the Church of England; few Roman Catholicks; abundance of Quakers preachers men and women especially; singing Quakers; Ranting Quakers; Sabbatarians; Some Anabaptists; some Independents; some Jews; in short all sorts of opinions there are some, and the most part, of none at all (Ecclesiastical Records, II. 880).
Governor Andros had made inquiries, in 1678, in regard to New York. The following answer was given in regard to the Baptists:
There are religions of all sorts, one Church of England, several Pres- byterians and Independents, Quakers and Anabaptists, of severall sects, some Jews, but Presbyterians and Independents most numerous and substantial (Ecclesiastical Records of New York, 1. 709).
The friends of Governor Hunter, in 1717, addressed the Bishop of London, as follows:
My Lord, we believe it is not unknown to your Lordship, in what manner this Province is on all sides surrounded by New England, Connecticut, Road Island, and other places, all which are chiefly inhabited by professed Dissenters from the Church of England; a set of men whose forefathers had a high hand in that wicked rebellion which at the same time destroyed the Church and Monarchy of England; and that they still retain the very same principles, and profess the many various religions, of their Ancestors; the Presbyterian, the Anabaptist, the Independent and the Quaker have each a large lot in this Continent, and such seems to be the combination among them, (however they may differ in other matters), that they doe not willingly suffer any other plants to take root here. My Lord, these Sectarys have spread themselves so widely, and grown so numerous in North America, and are so firmly seated, that wee of the Communion of the established church seem strangers in the land, and as if our worship were of such a foreign growth that it alone wanted the support of the royal hand. Neither my Lord is this Province begirt only with Colonies and Commonwealths of those men, but they grow up and thrive in the very midst of Her (Colonial Records of New York, 111. 2015).
The Dutch ministers of New York, August 15, 1728, wrote to the Clasris of Amsterdam, as follows:
Your Rev. Body must not conceive of us in any other light, as living among all sorts of errorists, as Independents, Puritans, Anabaptiks, the New-born, Saturday folks, yea, as living among some of the most dreadful heretics, etc. (Ecclesiastical Records, IV. 24n).
Valentine Wightman, of Groton, Connecticut, began to hold meetings in Broad Street, New York, in 1711. He preached in the house of Nicholas Eyers. Under his ministry many became serious and, in 1714, twelve persons were baptized. Wightman baptized, for fear of the mob, five women at night, and seven men stood ready to be baptized. The following text dropped into Mr. Eyers'mind: "No man doeth anything in secret, when he himself seeketh to be known openly." Accordingly he and his brethren put off their design till morning, when Eyers waited on the governor (Burnet)-told the case, and solicited protection, which the governor promised, and was as good as his word, for he and many of the gentry came to the water side, and the rite was performed in peace. The governor, as he stood by, was heard to say, "This was the ancient way of baptizing, and in my opinion much preferable to the practice of modern times" (Benedict, 541; John Dowling, Sketches of New York Baptists, The Baptist Memorial, 112, 113. 1849).
This church was said to have been Arminian in sentiment. Some of its members embraced Calvinistic doctrines, but the church continued only about eight years. The remnant became a part or arm of the Scotch Plains, New Jersey, church. In 1762 it became independent and settled John Gano as pastor.
The severity of the laws against the Baptists; the difficulties in which their houses of worship were licensed; the annoyances incident to their meetings; and the general difficulties attending their surroundings are all well illustrated by the documents here presented. These documents show the red tape and almost impossible legal barriers thrown around them. The following papers are taken from the Documentary History of New York:
To His Excellency William Burnet Esquire, Capt Genemil & Governor in chief of the province of New York & New Jersey and the Territories depending on them in America and Vice-Admimil of the same.
The humble petition of Nicholas Eyers brewer a baptist teacher in the City of New York.
Sheweth unto Yor Excellency that on the teusday of ffebry 1715 At a General quarter sessions at the peace held at the city of New York the hired house of Yor peticioner scituate in the broad street of this City between the house of John Michel Eyers and Mr. John Spmtt was registerd for an anabaptist meeting house with this City. That the peticioner has ti certifyed under the hands of sixteen inhabitants of good faith and credit that he has been a public preacher to a baptist congregaeon within this City for four years and some of them for less. That (he) has it certified by the Honble Rip Van Dam, Esqr., one of his Majestyes Council for the province of New York to have hired a house in this City from him January first 1720 only to be a public meeting house for the Baptists, which he still keeps and as he has obtained from the Mayor and Recorder of this City an ample Cerificate of his good behaviour and innocent conversacon. He therefore pubilcly prays
May it please yor Excellency
The Baptista in Central New York did not begin until 1773. The first church organized was Butternuts, out of which finally grew the Ostego Association. The old historian gives the following interesting story of the beginning of this church:
In the month of June, A. D. 1773, Ebenezer Knop and Increase Thurstin, removed with their families and settled on the Butternut Creek about fourteen miles from its mouth where it empties into the 'Undella river, about thirty miles southeast from the head of Susquehannah river. At the time there was no English settlement to the westward of them nearer than Niagam in the province of Upper Canada, which is upwards of two hundred miles distance, the immediate space was filled with several tribes of the aborigines nor any inhabitant with sixteen miles. A few more persons came on the same summer, and made some improvements, but in the winter they returned (except Benjamin Lull, jun., who had married Elizabeth the daughter of Ebenezer Knop and lived in the family with him) and these two families lived alone through the winter. Ebenezer Knop and his wife were members of the Baptist church in Warwick under the care of Rev. James Benedict. These persons notwithstanding their local situation, and their distance from civilized people, were not unmindful of the duties of religion;, but upon their arrival in this inhospitable wild they set up a religious meeting, which was held in the house of Ebenezer Knop, in which they attended to singing and paying (A. Hoemer and J. Lawton, A View of the Rise and Increase of the Churches Composing the Ostego Association, Whitestown, 1800, The Historical Magazine. June, 1871. Second Series, IX, 391).
In 1773 there were in New York twelve Baptist ministers who had congregations, some of them pretty large, and some but small. There were four vacant congregations, but no one of them very large (A Brief View of the State of Religious Liberty in the Colony of New York. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Second Series, V. 141. Boston, 1814). In 1790 there were thirty-four Baptist churches in the State.
It was early in the eighteenth century that William Penn granted to David Evans and William Davis thirty thousand acres of land, to be divided and deeded to settlers from South Wales, some of whom had,at that time settled in Radnor township, Chester county, Pennsylvania. This grant ever afterwards was known as "The Welsh Tract." It is located partly in Pecadur Hundred, New Castle county, Delaware, and partly in Cecil county, Maryland. Prominent among the original settlers upon the Welsh Tract were the founders of the Baptist meeting, who, with Thomas Griffith as their first minister, came from Pembroke and Carmarthenshire, South Wales, in 1101, and soon after erected a log meeting house in which they worshiped until the present structure was built in 1746. This was the third Baptist meeting house founded in America. The first house occupied the same location as the present one. The house constructed in 1746 is built of brick, and is said to contain some of the material used in the first building. The bricks were brought from England, and transported from New Castle, where they were landed in panniers upon mules. It is reported as still in a good state of preservation, regular services are held there, with a stated minister.
The following, "Our Beginnings as a Church," is taken from the old church records:
In the year 1701 some of us (who were members of the church of Jesus Christ in the countys of Pembroke and Carmathen, South Wales, in Great Britain, professing believers baptism; laying-on-of-hands; elections; and final perseverance in grace) were moved and encouraged in our own minds to come to these parts, viz.: Pennsylvania. and after obtaining leave of the churches it seemed good to the Lord and to us, That we should be formed into a church order, as we were a sufficient number; and as one of us was a minister: that was accomplished and, withal letters commendatory were given us, that if we should meet with any congregations of Christian people, who held the same faith with us, we might be received by them as brethren in Christ.
Our number was sixteen; and, after bidding farewell to our brethren in Wales, we sailed from Milford-haven in the month of June, the year above mentioned, in a ship named James and Mary; and landed in Philadelphia the eighth of September following.
After landing, we were received in a loving manner (on account of the gospel) by the congregations meeting in Philadelphia and Pennopek who held the same faith with us (excepting the ordinance of laying on of hands on every particular member) with whom we wished much to hold communion at the Lord's Table; but we could not be in fellowship with them in the Lord's Supper; because they bore not testimony to God touching the fore mentioned ordinance.
There were some among them who believed in the ordinance; but it was neither preached up, nor practiced in that church, for which cause we kept separate from them for some years.
We had several meetings on this account, but could not come to any agreement; yet were in union with them (except only in the Lordis Supper, and'some particulars relative to a church).
After our arrival we lived much scattered for about a year and a half, yet kept up weekly and monthly meetings among our selves; during which time it pleased God to add to our number about twenty members, in which time we and many other Welsh people purchased a tract of land in New Castle county, on Delaware, which was called Welshtract; in the year 1703 we began to get our living out of it, and to set our meeting in order, and build a place of worship which was commonly known by the name of the Baptist meeting house by the Ironhill.
In the year 1706 we, and the congregation (meeting in Philadelphia and Pennepek) appointed a meeting to come together once more, in order to try at union in the good ways of the Lord setting up our prayers and supplications on this great occasion and purposing to do as the Lord would give us light.
The following considerations induced us to come to the above appointment:
(1) Because they and we were so desirous of union in the privileges of the gospel.
(2) Because we were not like to gain them by keeping asunder from them.
(3) Because they without were taking occasion to mock because of so much variance among Baptists.
(4) Because some of our members were far from us, and near them; and some of theirs near us and far from them; and that these members might sit down in the meetings next to them.
(5) Because, as we all came to the yearly meetings, we might have a general union at the Lord's table.
In the said meeting (after seeking God by prayers and supplication) we came to the following conclusion, viz.: That they with us and we with them might hold transient or occasional communion; but that we might not be obliged to receive into membership any that were not under laying on of hands.
This agreement was set down in writing as follows: At the house of Richard Nliles in Radnor, Chester County, and province of Pennsylvania July 22, 1706.
The agreement of many persons met together from the congregation under the care of brother Thomas Griffith, and others, from the congregation (late under the care of our brother John Watts meeting at Pennepek, both congregations holding believer's baptism) to converse together on the subject of union and brotherly love, and occasional communion.
After making our supplication to God for a blessing, we came to the following resolutions, viz.: For as much as we are of the same faith and judgment in all things (as far as we understand one another, except in relation to the ordinance of laying on of hands), we have agreed in the following particulars:
(1) With regard to them who believe in the ordinance of laying on of hands on every believer. That they are to enjoy all liberty, within the bounds of brotherly love, to preach on the subject, and to practice according to their belief.
(2) And in regard to them who do not think it duty to practice the ordinance, that they be left to their liberty.
(3) And further it was agreed, That neither of the parties were to make opposition in any mixed assembly, but that the memberr, of either church might enjoy occasional communion one with the other (Records of the Welsh Tract Meeting Pencadur Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, 1701-182S, 3-10. Historical and Biographical Papers, IV. Wilmington, 1904).
The gospel was preached in this meeting in Welsh until 1800; and for several years the records were kept in the Welsh language.
There came from Virginia into Delaware, at the close of 1778, Elijah Baker, and in the spring of 1779 he was followed by Philip Hughes of the same State. They labored together as evangelists for about twelve months, preaching at Broad Creek, Gravelly Branch, and other places. Many converts "were baptized on profession of faith and repentance." They prepared material and resolved to build churches. At first they were known as Separate Baptists, but shortly afterwards the distinction was dropped. They were not only well received but were assisted in their efforts, by ministers and laymen, in organizing churches and ordaining ministers.
These men were instrumental in founding twenty-two churches in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and spent much time in "visiting them, as fathers do their children." The Salisbury Association was organized by them. It takes its name from a town in Maryland near the Delaware line, where this association was formed.
Baker died at the home of Dr. Robert Lemon, who was for years the moderator of this association. He testified to his exalted character, the faithfulness and power of his preaching, and his triumph in the hour of his death, which stemed to be a translation rather than a painful dissolution. Morgan Edwards gave an interesting account of how Baker came to leave Virginia, where he was born in 1742, and was baptized by Samuel Harris, in 1769. He suffered much for the cause of the truth. He came into Delaware upon "an invitation from Thomas Batston, Esq., who had heard him preach through the grates in Accomack jail about the year 1777. The rude Virginians, in order to get rid of him, put him on board a privateer, where he suffered much abuse, but he continued to sing, and pray, and exhort notwithstanding, till the crew was tired, and then let him alone, saying, 'He is not worth a curse'; but the privateer being detained in the harbor by contrary wind, the crew suspected the cause was that preaching fellow, and therefore put him on board another vessel; but the wind continued contrary, that vessel began to be of the same mind with the privateer, and therefore shifted him to a third, and the third put him ashore. When Jonah found himself on dry land he complied with Squire Batston's invitation." And be it said to the credit of Delaware that she had no prison, like Virginia, or whipping post, like Massachusetts, for Baptists, who were left undisturbed in their views and practices.
The account which Edwards gives of his co-laborer is not without interest:
Rev. Philip Hughes shares in the praise of Mr. Baker, as they were fellow laborers in most of the good that was done in this and other States. He was born in Colver county, November 28, 1750, bred a Churchman, &vowed his present sentiments, August 10, 1773, when he was baptized by Rev. David Thompson, called to the ministry in Rowanty church, was ordained at an Association held in Virginia, August 13, 1776. He published a volume of hymns in 1782, many of which are of his own composing; also an answer to a Virginia clergyman on the subject of baptism in 1784. He was also obliged twice to appear on the stage to dispute on the subject-once in Fouling Creek in Maryland in 1782. His antagonist was a Methodist preacher of the name of Willis. Victory was announced by both parties, but facts varied much, for after the dis- pute three class leaders and many others were baptized by Mr. Hughes. The other dispute was held near the mouth of the Potomac, in Virginia, in the year 1785. Mr. Hughes' challenger was one Coles, another Methodist preacher. Here the victory was decisive, for twenty-two of the audience were baptized the next day, and soon after as many more by Rev. Lewis Lunsford (Morgan Edwards, Materials for a Baptist History of Delaware, 247, 248. Cook, The Early and L4ter Delaware Baptist$, 22-24. Philadelphia, 1880).
The Sounds Baptist Church was the second church organized in Delaware and was one of the constituent churches of the Salisbury Association. It was formed August 12, 1779, with twenty-one members. During the first thirteen years six preachers came from this body (Scharf, History of Delaware, II. 1342. Philadelphia, 1888).
The laws of Connecticut were rigid against all sectaries. The following law was enacted by the General Court, in October, 1656:
That no town within this jurisdiction shall entertain any Quakers, Ranters, Adamites, or such like notorious heretics, nor suffer them to continue in them above the space of 14 days, upon the penalty of five pounds.
In 1658, the Court of New Haven made a similar law increasing the penalties and prohibiting all conversation of the common people with any heretics (Quakers, Baptists, etc.) and of all persons giving them any entertainment upon penalty of five pounds (Trumbull, History of Connecticut, I. 299, 300).
The following is the enactment of May, 1723:
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that whatsoever person not being a lawfully allowed (Congregational) minister of the gospel shall presume to profane the holy sacraments by administering them to any person or persons whatsoever, and being thereof convicted before the County Court, in such County where such an offence shall be committed, shall incur the penalty of ton pounds for every such an offence and suffer corporeal punishment by whipping, not exceeding thirty stripes for each offence (Records of the State of Connecticut, V. May, 1723. Trumbull, II. 38).
In December, 1740, John Merriman, pastor of the Baptist church at Wallingford, invited Rev. Philemon Robbins, pastor of the Congregational Church in Bradford, to preach for him. Mr. Robbins accepted the invitation and preached to the Baptist Church in Willingford, January 6, 1741; for this offense, the New Haven Congregational Association laid Mr. Robbins under censure, and finally deposed him from the ministry. A majority of the church in Bradford decided with the pastor rather than with the New Haven Association, renounced the Saybrook and adopted the Cambridge platform; for this act the New Haven Association held the Bradford church under censure till 1748 (Trumbull, II.). In 1741, Rev. Mr. Humphreys, of Derby, a Congregational minister, preached to a Baptist church, and on that account was soon after deprived of a seat in the New Haven Association (Trumbull, II.).
In February, 1744, fourteen persons were arrested in Sayville for holding a Baptist meeting; the charge brought against them was, "for holding meeting contrary to law, on God's holy Sabbath day." They were arraigned, tried, fined, and driven on foot, through a deep mud, to New London jail, a distance of twenty-five miles, where they were thrust into prison, without food, fire, or beds, and kept in dreadful sufferings for several weeks, and probably would have perished had not some Baptist brethren, residing in New London, Great Neck, carried them provisions. One of the imprisoned was an infant, who afterwards became the wife of Mr. Stephen Webb, of Chester. Another was an unconverted man by the name of Job Buckley; the prayers and Christian patience with which these Christians bore their sufferings in 'lail were blessed to his conversion; when they were released they formed a church in Sayville, placed his name first on the list of constituent members (Trumbull, II.).
The earliest operations of the Baptists in Connecticut were commenced by a small colony from Rhode Island, in the year 1705. It was in New London county, in the southeast part of the State. This part of the State was a distinguished resort for the advocates of the standing order. A great excitement was raised on account of the baptisms, and the Legislature was asked to suppress the innovations. At this time no Baptist church was formed, and the believers under this strong opposition united with a church in Rhode Island. Here, however, at a later date, Baptist churches multiplied and sent out branches in various directions; and here were revivals great and powerful.
The first church organized in the colony was planted at Groton in 1705, by Valentine Wightman. The second was organized at Waterford, then a part of New London, about the year 1710. The third was gathered at Wallingford, in 1735, with Timothy Waters as pastor, who was succeeded by John Merriman. Three were established in 1743: one in Stonington, one in Lyne, and one in Clochester. A seventh was gathered at Saybrook in 1744.
Their progress at first was extremely slow, and much embarrassed; they had to work their way against the deep-rooted prejudices of a people who had always been taught that the Baptists were the descendants of the mad men of M?ster; that they propagated errors of a pestilential and dangerous kind; that they were aiming to subvert all the established forms of religion in the land, and by their disorganizing and heretical principles to ruin all the Pedobaptist churches in the land; and for the people to hear them preach, or for the magistrates to permit them to meet, was an enormous crime.
These were only shadowy obstacles compared with the severity of the laws with which the Connecticut rulers had fenced their ecclesiastical establishment. In the New Light stir, the foundations of this establishment were sensibly shaken; many ministers opposed this extraordinary revival as the fruit of fanaticism and the devil; divisions ensued; Baptist principles almost everywhere prevailed; separate meetings were set up in towns and parishes; and many of the New Lights became Baptists.
By 1789, there were in the State about thirty Baptist churches, and twenty ministers. From that date the denomination increased much more rapidly than it had formerly; so that in 1795 the number of churches amounted to sixty, the ministers about forty, and the communicants a little over three thousand five hundred. Baptist churches were found in almost every township in the State. In 1842 there were over one hundred churches and sixteen thousand members.
"The first Baptist church in Vermont was organized at Shaftsbury in the latter part of August, 1768, at a time when the inhabitants were greatly excited over the contentions between New Hampshire. and New York, both claiming jurisdiction over the New Hampshire Grants. These grants had suddenly risen in importance, and a very strong current of immigration had set toward them for eight years previous.
"The earliest records of this pioneer church have been carefully preserved, and, in quaint language, tell the story of its origin, and incidentally of the other Shaftsbury churches. They reveal, too, somewhat clearly the character of the founders of this early church, and the course of their church life. The first entry in the old church records is as follows:
Scharfbury in the year, 1768
1 ly. A number of Christians, that had before Covenanted to watch over one another for Good, had much labour about the Doctrins of Christ and the form of his house. Some of them hold that the Doctrin of laying on of hands is to be Imposed on common believer, others hold not. Finally a held That laying on of hands Should not hinder Our building together in Church State, Not holding it as a Term of Communion.
2 ly. we had a dispute about Telling Experiences. Finally we agreed that Telling of Experiences of a work of Grace upon the heart of those who offer themselves to the Church, is in the general, Essential Steps toward admitting members Into the Church.
August ye latter End a number of Christians being met Together after labor upon points forementioned we proceeded into the Following order:
Cyprian Downer, John Millington, Samuel Waters, leabod West, Reuben Ellis, Thomas Matteson, Lydia Barr, Join together in a most Solemn Covenant as a Church of Christ to watch over one another in the fear of and to walk in all the Laws and ordinances of the Lord as members of Christ's church, depending upon God for Grace.
"That the church prospered in its earlier years is evident from the fact that, in August, 1774, they wrote that they had thirty-nine members, twenty of whom were men. Thomas Mattison, one of the original members, was one of the first settlers in the town, and its first town clerk, a position which he held for more than forty years.
"For twelve years the first church in Vermont was without a pastor. There were two members, with recognized ministerial gifts, whose record was interwoven with that of the church, and illustrative of its life (Crocker, History of the Baptists of Vermont, 15, 16. Bellows Falls, Vt., 1913).
Books for further reading:
Bamas Sears, The New York Baptist Missionary Convention, The Christian Review, IV. 217-243. Boston, 1839.
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