A History of the Baptists
THE BAPTISTS IN MARYLAND AND NEW HAMPSHIRE
Maryland?Claims of the Roman Catholics?Bishop Gilmour?Cardinal Gibbons?Lord Baltimore?His Views of Liberty?A Forced Baptism of Infants?The Protestant Charter?Ruffini?De Courcey?Religious Provisions of the Charter?The Testimony of Dr. Brownson?An Attempt to Establish the Roman Catholic Religion in 1638?The Famous Act of 1649?The Political Fortunes of Baltimore at the Time?Population Mostly Protestant?The Opinion of the Historians?The Law a Compromise Measure Between Roman Catholics and the Puritans?Governor Stone a Protestant?No Liberty of Conscience Allowed?Roman Catholic View?The Terrible Penalties?The Virgin Mary?The Sabbath?Imprisonments and Public Whippings?The Baptists in Maryland?New Hampshire?The Baptist Church at Newton?Other Baptist Churches.
The most extravagant claims have been made by Roman Catholics in regard to the introduction of religious liberty into Maryland. Bishop Gilmour says:
Seeing how the world writes and speaks of Catholics, you will hardly be prepared to believe that the Catholics in Maryland were not only the first, but the only people who, uninfluenced of their own free will, ever did proclaim religious freedom in these United States (Gilmour, Catholic National Series, Sixth Reader, 467).
Cardinal Gibbons says:
Turning to our own country, it is with no small degree of satisfaction that I point to the State of Maryland as the cradle of civil and religious liberty, and "the land of the sanctuary." Of the thirteen original American colonies, Maryland was the only one settled by Catholics. She was also the only ove that spread aloft over her fair lands the banner of liberty of conscience and invited the oppressed of other colonies to seek an asylum beneath its shadow (Gibbons, Faith of our Fathers).
For other Roman Catholic claims see Contemporary Review, September, 1876. Cardinal Gibbons does not appear to understand liberty of conscience. For further on he remarks: "The church is, indeed, intolerant in this sense, that she can never confound truth with error; nor can she admit that any man is conscientiously free to reject the truth when its claims are convincingly brought home to his mind" (Gibbons).
The facts are that religious liberty did not exist in Maryland in colonial days, and that Maryland did not carry a single one of its institutions into the national life. These statements are upheld by all of the great Maryland authorities, and even the toleration extended to alien faiths came through Protestant legislative enactment.
Maryland was settled by Lord Baltimore, a Roman Catholic. James I, who gave him the charter, was a bigoted member of the Church of England. "James is precisely the historical prodigy, to whom a reflecting mind would suppose the horrors of his parentage naturally gave birth. In royal chronology he stands between two axes,?the one that cleft the ivory neck of his beautiful mother?the other that severed the irresolute but refined head of his son and heir. His father, doubtless, had been deeply concerned in the shocking murder of his mother?s second husband. Cradled on the throne of Scotland; educated for kingship by strangers; the ward of a regency; the shuttlecock of ambitious politicians; the hope and tool of two kingdoms, James lived during an age in which the struggle of opinion and interest, of prerogative and privilege, of human right and royal power, of glimmering science and superstitious quackery, might well have bewildered an intellect, brighter and calmer than his" (Brantz Mayer, Calvert and Penn; or the Growth of Civil and Religious Liberty in America, 25, 26. Philadelphia, 1852).
James would not tolerate a convert to the Roman Catholic religion; but he promoted the old Catholic families to high political honors (Von Raumer, History of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, II.). He was, in 1611, mad against heretics and at this date Calvert was his trusted lieutenant. How much Calvert had to do with the burning of Edward Wightman and Bartholomew Legate is not known; but he was at Royston when Wightman was arrested by the king (Neill, Terra Mariae). The king was greatly agitated against Vorstius, a heretic of Holland. He wrote a book against the heresies of Vorstius and desired "to remand to hell such doctrines" (Wilhelm, Sir George Calvert; Maryland Historical Society Publications, No. 20) . The author of a part of this book was Calvert (Domestic State Papers, James I. 1611-18, III.). As a result the books of Vorstius were publicly burned.
Calvert wrote a tract entitled: "The Answer to Tom Tell Troth, the Practice of Princes and the Lamentations of the Kirk." Concerning the Independents he says: "I write not to confute these learned scribblers (more worthy to be contemned than answered), but to advertise your highness of them, that by an obsta principiis, you may upon such smoke prepare all things needful to quench such a fire, when it shall flame and first break out, which it may do when you least look for it; for by nature these spirits are fiery hotspurs, and fitter for anything than that they most profess, Piety and Patience" (Streeter, Maryland Two Hundred Years Ago).
Baltimore has been summed up in the following manner: "With reference to Lord Baltimore, the fact is patent that he was not a religious zealot, but a shrewd man of affairs; that, while he was more than willing to furnish an asylum for the people of his own persuasion in religion, he was much too wise to risk his own interest and theirs by adopting a policy that would raise against him the opposition of Protestant princes and people, whereby his charter would be sure to slip out of his grasp. His life, spent wholly in England, was one long struggle so to conform his administration to the revolutions in the superior government there, that he should not loose cast in the court, and so loose his plantation in the New World. Both James I, from whom the charter originated, and Charles I, by whom it was maintained, were violent defenders of the Protestant faith. They could readily confer privileges upon a favorite, even though he went beyond High Church all the way to Rome, but only in case he did not allow his ecclesiastical connection to influence his course as a public man and lord proprietor. Fortunate for his fame, fortunate for his church, which has scarcely another such an instance of leniency and liberality to show, fortunate alike for the Romanists and Protestants of Maryland at that day, that so singular an anomaly occurred" (Edwin John, Maryland Congregationalists Two Hundred Years Ago, The Congregational Quarterly, April, 1868. X. 202, 203).
Lord Baltimore in the colony, in 1628, forced the baptism of a Protestant child against the wish and protest of the father. The record is as follows:
Lord Baltimore, arrived in the colony about the 23d July, 1627, and with the two seminary priests Longvyll and Anth. Smith, but left for England with Longvyll, and returned with another priest named Hackett and about forty Papists. Every Sunday, mass and all the ceremonies of the Church of Rome are performed. The child of one William Pool, a Protestant, was baptized into the Church of Rome contrary to the, will of his father (Colonial State Papers).
The bulwark of the liberties of Maryland rested in its Protestant charter. It was the grant of a Protestant king, of an intensely Protestant government. The laws of England were at this time very stringent toward Roman Catholics. The zeal against Roman Catholicism was so intense that the residence of the Spanish minister was watched to see who went there for mass. "The glory of Maryland toleration," says Kennedy, "which has been so fruitful a theme of panegyric to American historians, is truly the charter, not to the celebrated act of 1649. There is more freedom of conscience, more real toleration, a hundred fold, in the charter of a Protestant prince to a Catholic nobleman, than in that act so often called to our remembrance" (Kennedy, George Calvert).
Ethan Allen says:
This charter made all the English emigrants English subjects, with all the rights and privileges of such. It gave them also, together with Lord Baltimore, authority to make all needful local or provincial laws, without reference to the king or parliament, not conflicting with the English law, and providing that no interpretation of the charter should be made by which God?s holy rites of worship and the true Christian religion should in anywise suffer change, prejudice, or diminution. All churches to be built were to be consecrated according to the laws of England (Allen, The History of Maryland, II. Philadelphia, 1866).
The position of James may be easily understood. "Toward the Catholics, however, from the time of his first speech to the Parliament," says Ruffini, Professor in the University of Turin, "he promised mildness, and that promise he kept in the application of the laws passed against them by his predecessors. But he did not abolish those laws; indeed, the jealous control of the Puritans compelled him to maintain the so-called laws of conformity even in regard to the Catholics. The latter, who expected something different from the son of Mary Stuart, turned against him, and some of the more fanatical of them entered into the conspiracy known as the Gunpowder Plot, the purpose of which was to blow up the king and Parliament (1605). For this incredible outrage the whole body of Catholics had to suffer. The laws against them were sharpened, and they all had to take the oath of allegiance. They had to swear to recognize James as their legitimate sovereign, to acknowledge that the Pope had no power to depose the king or to absolve his subjects from their oath of fealty, and to repudiate the Jesuitical doctrine?then in full flower?which justified regicide. The Popes?Paul V (1606) , Urban VIII (1626) , and Innocent X (1648) (whose decree, however, was not published)?prohibited the taking of this oath under pain of excommunication, but the majority of English Catholics had to obey. Thereby they secured for themselves a certain amount of toleration which, under Charles I, principally owing to the queen, who was French and a Catholic, increased to such an extent as to become not the least of the charges which the Protestant dissenters brought against the crown" (Ruffini, Religious Liberty, 150, 151. New York, 1912). It was under these conditions that the charter of Maryland was granted, under the protection of a Protestant king.
De Courcey, an eminent Roman Catholic author, frankly avows that this liberty came through the Protestant charter. He says:
When a State has the happiness of possessing unity of religion, and that religion the truth, we cannot conceive how the government can facilitate the division of creeds. Lord Baltimore had seen too well how the English Catholics were crushed by the Protestants, as soon as they were the strongest and most numerous; he should then have foreseen that it would have been so in Maryland, so that the English Catholics, instead of Ending liberty in America, only changed their bondage. Instead, then, of admiring the liberality of Lord Baltimore, we prefer to believe that he obtained this charter from Charles I only on the formal condition of admitting Protestants on an equal footing with Catholics (De Courcey, The Catholic Church in the United States, 30. Edited by Shea. New York, 1879).
There are two provisions in the charter looking toward religious matters. The first is a general one, which is found in most of the English charters, that he "being animated with a laudable and pious zeal for extending the Christian religion" (Bozman, History of Maryland, II., 9. Baltimore, 1837). The other provision is a distinct check on the Roman Catholics. The charter provided that the colony should be governed on Protestant lines. The words of the charter are:
And furthermore the patronages and avowsons of all the churches which (with the increasing worship and religion of Christ), within the said religion, islands, islets, and limits aforesaid, hereafter shall happen to be built; together with license, and faculty of erecting and founding churches, chapels and places of worship, in convenient and suitable places, within the premises, and of causing. the same to be dedicated and consecrated according to the ecclesiastical laws of our kingdom of England (Bowman, II).
Baltimore was no democrat and had no sympathy with the common people. "For instead of being a leader of men by gentleness," says Mereness, "sympathy, and persuasive appeal, he was cold, stern, and was not over scrupulous as to his choice of measures for immediate triumph over the opposition" (Newton D. Mereness, Maryland as a Proprietory Province, 33, 24. New York, 1901). "Baltimore had not the slightest sympathy," says Neill, "with popular government, and he viewed with displeasure the firm and manly opposition of the Parliament to the arrogant demands of the King."
"An analysis of the charter proves it to be destitute of a single democratic element. By it he and his heirs were created true and absolute Lords and Proprietaries of the region; with free, full, and absolute power to ordain, make, and enact laws; with the advice, assent, and approbation of the freemen of the provinces, and with authority to appoint all judges, justices and constables.
"The freemen could only meet in Assembly with his permission, and the eighth section expressly provides that he may make wholesome ordinances from time to time, to be kept and observed, on the ground that it might be necessary, before the freeholders of the said provinces could be convened for the purpose. As he could not, by the laws of England, make the Church of Rome the established church, a check was held on all religious denominations, by securing the patronage of all churches that might be built" (Neill, Terra Mariae, 54, 56. Philadelphia, 1867).
Dr. Brownson, himself a Roman Catholic, says:
But the first government of Maryland was not founded on the distinctive principles of American freedom. It was a feudal government; and the charter instituting it provided for a colonial aristocracy by subinfeudation. It recognized religious toleration; but toleration is not a principle of American freedom. The American principle is religious liberty, not religious toleration (Brownson, Quarterly Review, 253. A. D., 1856).
Streeter, in his address before the Maryland Historical Society, in 1852, says:
The policy of Lord Baltimore, in regard to religious matters in his colony, has, in some particulars at least, been misapprehended, and therefore misstated. The assertion has long passed uncontradicted, that toleration was promised to the colonists in the first conditions of plantations; that the rights of conscience were recognized in a law passed by the first Assembly held in the colony; and that the principal officers, from the year 1636 or 7, bound themselves by oath not to molest, on account of his religion, any one professing to believe in Jesus Christ. I can find no such authority for any one of these statements. Lord Baltimore?s first and earliest conditions breathe not a word on the subject of religion; no act recognizing the principles of toleration was passed in the first or following Assembly, until fifteen years after the first settlement, at which time a Protestant had been appointed governor, and a majority of the Burgesses were of the same faith; and when, for the first time, a clause involving a promise not to molest any person professing to believe in Jesus Christ; and "particularly a Roman Catholic" (Streeter. Also Mereness. Joseph Bangard, Tragic Scenes in the History of Maryland, 54. Boston, 1866).
Upon the charter Edwin D. Neill says:
When we examine the Maryland charter it is found to contain neither the elements of civil or religious liberty, but to be just such an instrument as the friend of James and his son Charles would wish (Neill, Lord Baltimore and Maryland Toleration, The Contemporary Review, September, 1876, p. 620).
The General Assembly, at St. Mary?s, on March 19, 1638, attempted to establish the Roman Catholic religion as that of the State. "Holy Church within this province shall have all her rights and liberties safe, whole and inviolable in all things" (Proceedings of the Acts of the Assembly of Maryland, I. 40). The reason Holy Church was not made the establishment is obvious. "It is probable," says Bozman, "however, that they felt themselves checked in carrying these intentions into execution by the reflection of their being still under the superintending domination of the Protestant hierarchy of the mother country, and therefore they permitted heretics to become colonists among them; though it does not appear that these heretics or Protestants enjoyed any immunity than a mere toleration of residence and a security in the protection of their persons and property" (Bozman, II.). It is certain Protestants were annoyed and had few or no privileges.
Many instances of this kind could be cited. The action of the Roman Catholic priesthood may be thus illustrated: "A certain one altogether to us unknown, but zealous in the religion of the Protestants, and staying with a host more fervent than himself, being bitten by a snake, expected death every instant. One of our people understanding this, having taken a surgeon with him to the sick man, who was now said to be deprived of his senses, was anxious for his soul, that he might in a measure heal it also. But his host perceiving the thing, interrupted his pious endeavors. And when the priest could think of no other opportunity, he resolved to spend the night with the sick man. But the host threw an impediment in the way of this also, and lest by night access might be granted to the priest, he set a watch who could sleep in a bed opposite to the door of the chamber. Nevertheless, the priest taking advantage of every means, at an unseasonable hour of the night, when he supposed the guard most oppressed with sleep, without his being aroused, found a way of entrance to the sick man, and admitted him into the Church as he desired it" (Allen). Not a Protestant minister, at this time, had been in Maryland.
Much has been said of the famous act of 1649. Lord Baltimore was in dire straits on account of affairs in England. The king had been beheaded, and Baltimore was compelled to accede to the demands of the Parliament. The following facts are related by Streeter that upon "March 26, 1642, Lord Baltimore was brought before the House of Lords on charges, the precise nature of which is not now known, but in consequence of which he was placed under heavy bonds not to leave the kingdom.
"It is possible that these charges had something to do with his Lordship?s management of his colony. Certain it is, that, from this time, he manifested great anxiety to avoid every act which would expose him to the charge of contravening, by his colonial policy, the established laws of the realm. His firmness in this particular, and his watchfulness in regard to compromising his proprietary rights, even placed him in opposition to the Jesuit missionaries in the colony, to whose aid he for a time refused to allow others to be sent, unless they would pledge themselves to make their practices conformable to the policy of the English government, and leave him to the full exercise of his prerogatives" (Streeter, Maryland, Two Hundred Years Ago, 29, 30. Baltimore, 1852) .
Under this pressure, August 17, 1648, Stone was appointed governor of the province. He was an intense Protestant, of the Parliamentary party, from Northampton county, Virginia (Allen, History of Maryland); so were his secretary and a majority of the Council. The population, on account of a rebellion, was mostly Protestant. The Assembly, April 21, 1649, wrote a letter to Baltimore in which mention is made of the rebellion "in which time most of your lordship?s loyal friends here were spoil3d of their whole estate and sent away as banished persons out of the province. Those few that remained were plundered and deprived in a manner of all livelihood and subsistence" (Bozman, II. 665). Ingle had banished the Roman Catholics from Maryland and as Hammond truly says, only "a few Papists" were left (Hammond, Leah and Rachael, 22. London, 1656). That state of affairs continued throughout the century. Dr. Hawks says: "It is indeed true that at this time, 1692, from the testimony of an eye witness, there were thirty Protestants to one Papist in the province" (Hawks, Maryland Ecclesiastical Contributions), Dr. Bray, in a Memorial to the House of Bishops, in 1700, says: "The Papists in this province appear to me not to be above the twelfth part of the inhabitants."
This fact was recognized by Lord Baltimore. "Witness the fact of so large a portion of the first Colonists being Protestants; his invitation to Captain Fleet; his invitation to Puritan Colonists of Massachusetts to come and reside in the Colony in 1643 (Hawks, Maryland); his constituting Colonel Stone his Governor in 1648, who was a Protestant, and was to bring in five hundred Colonists; his admitting the Puritans of Virginia in the same year; and in the year following creating a new County for Robert Brooke, a Puritan, and his Colonists" (Allen, Maryland Toleration; or, Sketches of the Early History of Maryland to the year 1660, 36. Baltimore, 1855) .
James McSherry, who was a Roman Catholic, admits that "hitherto, the most of those appointed to office by the lord Proprietary were Catholics, as were a majority of the early settlers; but now, the Puritans being triumphant at home, he hoped by this measure to propitiate them, at the same time, that, by the oath of office, he secured to all Christians the full toleration which had hitherto been observed" (McSherry, History of Maryland, 65. Baltimore, 1849).
The act seems to have been a compromise measure between the Puritans and Lord Baltimore as a protection for the latter, in this critical period. However, for many months after its passage the act was not approved by Lord Baltimore (The Record Book. Annapolis Manuscripts). This is the general view. For example, Browne says:
In the wording of this act we see evident marks of a compromise between the different sentiments of the Assembly. It was not such an act as a body of zealous Catholics or of zealous Protestants would have passed, nor, in all probability, did not come up, to Baltimore?s ideas of toleration (Browns, Maryland the History of a Palatinate).
"My investigation into the origin of these laws," says Streeter, "has convinced me that they originated primarily neither with Lord Baltimore nor the Assembly; that their provisions sprang from no congenial principles at that day active in either the Catholic or Protestant divisions of the church; that they were drawn up in deference to the progressive doctrines and increasing political strength of the Independents in England, as well as to meet the wants of the mixed population of the province; and their adoption was an act prompted far less by feelings of religious benevolence than by civil necessity" (Streeter).
Charles F. Mayer says:
The Protestant population appears to have been largely predominant, and it is therefore to be inferred that such was the prevailing religious cast of the Delegates, the Burgesses, when the Legislature paved the Act (Mayer, First annual Discourse before the Maryland Historical Society, 31. Baltimore, 1844).
Hawks, who lauds Lord Baltimore on all occasions, concedes that the famous law was created by Protestants. He says:
It has commonly been supposed, that the merit of having thus early made an escape from the spirit of bigotry and intolerance, belongs almost exclusively to the Roman Catholics; but from this testimony a contemporary, such would appear not to have been the fact. There doubtless were Roman Catholics in the legislature to share the honor with their companions in that body; but our authority informs us, that divers others had moved into the colony, every possible encouragement had been given for such removals, by the Lord Proprietor (Francis L. Hawks, A Narrative of Events Connected with the Rise and Progress of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Maryland, 34, 35. New York, 1839).
The Act (Bozman, II. 661) allows liberty of conscience to none, and toleration to some. "Toleration is not liberty," asserts Brownson, "and the act of the Maryland Assembly does not assert religious liberty. It tolerates all Christian denominations holding the divinity of our Lord, and belief in the ever adorable Trinity; but it does not recognize this liberty as a right prior to and independent of the civil power. The civil power grants or confers the right; and it does not recognize it as an existing right which the State cannot take away, and which it is bound to respect and protect for each one and all its citizens. In this respect, the Puritans of Massachusetts really went further in the assertion of religious liberty than the Catholics of Maryland (Brownson, Quarterly Review, 1856, p. 255) .
"The competency of the State in spirituals," he continues, "was a fundamental principle with the old Puritans; and this is the fundamental principle of that religious freedom, not granted, but recognized by the American people in their institutions. It is the Puritan doctrine of the spiritual incompetency of the State and the freedom and independence of the church, rather than the doctrine of toleration of the Maryland Assembly, that has prevailed and become incorporated in the fundamental institutions of the country."
"The pretense that religious liberty was first understood and applied by Lord Baltimore and his colonists, we look upon as ridiculous, notwithstanding it was supported by names we cannot but respect" (Ibid, 257).
The following is the first section enacted:
That whatever person or persons within this province and the islands thereto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, or shall deny the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or the Godhead or any of the said three persons of the Trinity or the unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachful speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons, shall be punished with death, and confiscation or forfeiture of all of his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heirs.
A person who denied, or made speeches in regard to, the "Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Saviour" or the holy Apostles or Evangelists shall be fined twenty-five pounds; in case he has no money, to be publicly whipped; for the second offense he shall be whipped and imprisoned; and for the third his good shall be forfeited and he shall forever be banished from the province. This law discriminates against the high and against the poor.
Other portions of the charter provide for fines, imprisonment and public whippings for religious beliefs. A Roman Catholic sums up the acts in the following words:
The assumption that the Maryland Colony was "The Day Star of American Freedom" (New York, 1855), enables the author (Mr. Davis) to give a poetical title to his volume, but it has very little historical foundation. We should not make that assumption exclusively for any one of the colonies, and, least of all for a colony which, however respectable in itself, exerted no leading influence on its sister colonies. Never in our colonial days was Maryland the heart and soul of the Anglo-American colonies. We have a high esteem for the first settlers of Maryland, and in the elevation of character, nobility of sentiment, and private and domestic virtues, they were unsurpassed, if not unrivaled, by the first settlers of any colony; but we cannot learn from history that they were propagandists, that they sent out missionaries and teachers to the other colonies, or that they were induced by their efforts or example to adopt the free institutions they had founded. Even if Maryland had the advantage of priority of time, we cannot award her the claim Mr. Davis sets up in her behalf. The leading colonies?those which exerted the greatest influence in moulding others, and determining the character of the American institutions?were unquestionably Virginia and Massachusetts. Maryland in her general colonial action, followed Virginia, and even now belongs to the Virginia family of States. We say not this in disparagement of Maryland, to which we are attached by the strongest of ties, but in vindication of simple historical truth (Brownson, Quarterly Review, 1856, 252, 253).
Gambrall further sums up the law as follows: "The whole animus of the law, legitimate but not exalted, is expressed in the words ?for the more quiet and peaceable government of the province and the better to preserve mutual love and unity amongst the inhabitants here.? The whole is a matter of policy, good policy, it is true, but policy; the more quiet and peaceable government. No recognition of a man?s inherent and inalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. He must profess to believe in Jesus Christ; so far must he be orthodox. A Jew might be placed under the ban; a Unitarian was liable to be punished with death and confiscation of goods, and family left in poverty, the goods to go to the proprietary. There was no protection for such. By the first clause of the Act they were liable to punishment and by this clause they might be molested, disturbed at pleasure.
"And this is all there is of this much vaunted law. Surely it must be of a general poverty of claims that so much is made of this one instance. There was no religion in it whatever, no recognition of inherent human rights, only a wise adaptation to an emergency by a shrewd and observant man, who felt that the whole drift of the times and the powers of numbers were against him and the general policy of his administration. He on the one side and the colonists on the other, each of free will considered the other, and united to establish by statute what had been from the beginning the common practice of the province, a practice always rendered necessary by imperative circumstances" (Theodore C. Gambrall, History of Early Maryland, 117, 188. New York, 1893).
The Quakers were, in 1659, persecuted in Maryland. In carrying out their practices they were accused of disturbing the government. "They were all, therefore, ordered to leave the province, before the 5th of the following month, under the penalty of being treated as rebels and traitors." When they paid no attention to this decree they were ordered to be "banished and it was directed that if found in the province again they should be whipped thirty lashes at every constable?s till they were out of it; no person was allowed to harbor or conceal them, upon a pain of a fine of five hundred pounds of tobacco" (Allen).
Charles Calvert visited England in 1675 and there he met a serious criticism against his government. A letter had been written by the Rev. Mr. Yeo, of Patuxent, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, presenting a picture which it must be confessed was hideous enough. "The province of Maryland," thus he wrote, "is in a most deplorable condition for want of an established ministry. Here are ten or twelve counties, and in them at least twenty thousand souls; and but three Protestant ministers of the Church of England. The priests are provided for, and the Quakers take care of those who are speakers; but no care is taken to build up Churches in the Protestant religion. The Lord?s day is profaned; religion is despised, and all of the notorious vices are committed; so that it has become a Sodom of uncleanness and a pest house of iniquity" (Hawks).
In this territory and under these conditions the Baptists were slow to enter. There were doubtless some Baptists in Maryland in 1649. "The language of this enactment," says Hawks, "furnishes us some evidence, of the mixed character of the population, in the enumeration of those terms of personal reproach which were made punishable; we find mention among them, ?Heretic, Schismatic, Idolater, Puritan, Independent, Presbyterian, Popish priest, Jesuit, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, and Separatist?; and it is not improbable, that the individual application which had been made to these several terms, led to their specific enumeration; it is to be supposed therefore, that there were some belonging to most of the classes above named" (Hawks).
The church at Chestnut Grove was founded in 1742. A layman by the name of Henry Sator, a General Baptist from England, settled here in 1709. He frequently requested pastors to preach and at length he had sufficient following to gather a church. Their covenant, which was presented to the Governor of the Court, in order to have the right of worship granted to them, is practically a confession of faith and an expression of their intentions in regard to the obedience of the laws of the government.
The covenant 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 to all mankind), we do hereby seriously, and solemnly, in the presence of the Searcher of all hearts, and before the world, covenant, 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 and Scotland, except in infant baptism, 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 Antichristian ways. We do also engage, with our lives and fortunes, to defend the down and dignity of our gracious sovereign, King George, to him and his i1sue forever; and to obey all the 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 the Province. And further, we bind ourselves to follow the patterns of our brethren in England, to maintain order, government, and discipline in our church, especially that excellent director Rev. Francis Stanley, entitled, "The Gospel Honor and Church 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 the 10th day of July, 1742 (Benedict).
Very slowly did the Baptists grow in this province. Outside of the Tunkers and the Mennonites, in 1772, there were reported only two Baptist churches; but in 1792 there were seventeen churches with 1,300 members.
The Baptist Church at Newton is the oldest in the State of New Hampshire. It was organized in 1755 (Lawrence, The New Hampshire Churches, 105. Claremont, 1856). This was in a period that foretold a dreadful struggle. Bancroft thus characterizes the times in the opening passage of the chapter describing the history of 1755. "Anarchy lay at the heart of the institutions of Europe; the form of political life was struggling for its development in the people of America. While doubt was preparing the way of destruction in the old world, faith in truth and in the formative power of order were controlling and organizing the free and expanding energies of the new. The world could not watch with indifference the spectacle?but yet the world could not see its deep significance. Those thirteen colonies were feeble settlements along the coast of a vast continent, and separated from among the civilized nations of the earth by a broad ocean, and yet in them was involved the future of our race." It was exactly at this date the Baptists entered New Hampshire.
The church dates back to 1755 but the first record on its books is twelve years later, October 1, 1767. It presents in a striking light some of the features of the times, and the vexations with which the fathers had to contend. It is supposed to be the earliest record extant of a Baptist church in New Hampshire. The record is as follows:
October 1, 1767. A Society meeting was called at the Baptist meeting house in Newton.
1. John Wadleigh was chosen moderator.
2. Joseph Welch was chosen Clerk.
3. Voted, To carry on Mr. Stewart?s and Mr. Carter?s law suits which are now in the law on account of rates imposed on them by the standing order.
4. Voted, To give Mr. Hovey for the year ensuing for his labors with us fifty pounds of lawful money in such things as he wants to live on.
5. Voted, That Andrew Whittier, John Wadleigh, and Joseph Welch be chosen to say what each man?s part shall be of what was promised to give Mr. Hovey.
6. Voted, That these men shall take the province rates for their rate and do it as light as they can.
7. Voted, That these men are to abate such men as they think are not able to pay their parts with the rest.
8. Voted, That those who will not pay their equal proportion according as these men shall tag them, their punishment is this, that they shall have no help from us to clear them from paying rates other where.
Joseph Welch, Clerk.
William Lamson, of Portsmouth, in his centennial address, says of the history of this church and the early Baptist movement in New Hampshire: "There is something deeply interesting in this old record of a meeting once held in this ancient town (of Newton), and not far from the very spot on which we are now assembled. It is significant of much. It is an opening in the veil which conceals the past through which we can look back and trace some of its marked features. It is a veritable record, of a meeting actually held by the Baptist society of Newton, and the first of the kind, of which we have any record, ever held in the State. It was a meeting for business, and business was done. We see the old standing order, with its stern inflexible countenance and its commanding mien, peering out upon us from the background of this rough sketch. Mr. Steward and Mr. Carter are there, and they are in trouble, already in the law, and they must not be left alone. The standing order has them in its iron grasp, and they must have help such as the Baptist society of Newton can give, they shall have. Sympathy and substantial aid are voted?the cause is a common one?and all must help to sustain it. One hopes, as he reads the record, that Mr. Steward and Mr. Carter and the Baptist society of Newton were the successful party in the litigation. His sympathies, whoever he may be, now all flow in that direction.
"This business disposed of, the question of the support of the ministry, that question which is even now an annually recurring one, and sometimes a very troublesome one, comes up. Mr. Hovey is to preach the gospel for one year which is to come, and must have things to live on. It is decided that he will need these things to the amount of fifty pounds lawful money. That sum is voted. Then Andrew Whittier and John Wadleigh, and Joseph Welch must see that this money is raised, and that every man bears his proportion. But there may be those?when or where have not such been?who would be glad to shift this responsibility of paying the minister. Some punishment must be devised by us?the Baptist society at Newton before we separate, by which these men may be deterred from pursuing so mean a course. Their punishment shall be this?we will not help them get out of the grasp of the standing order. This done and duly recorded by Joseph Welch, the clerk, the Baptist society at Newton adjourns. One imagines that there were some earnest words, as the members repair to their homes, spoken around the hearthstones of these homes after the meeting broke up that night?and he hopes that some believing petitions ascended to God. Plans are now settled, and things are in a fair way till next October, before which it is hoped that the lawsuit against Mr. Steward and Mr. Carter will have been carried to a successful issue. But this lawsuit proved to have been as lawsuits generally are, a protracted as well as a vexatious affair. Nearly three years after the date of this meeting, in which the whole business of this lawsuit pertained, we have the record of the same lawsuit:
June 25, 1770. A meeting was legally holden at the Antipedobaptist meeting house.
1. Chose John Wadleigh, moderator.
2. Voted, To choose a Committee to proportion the whole costs of the lawsuits of Mr. Stuart and Mr. Carter from the first to the last as has before been voted. Ebenezer Noys, John Wadleigh, and Abraham Kimball, were chosen a Committee to examine the accounts and settle what is honest and right.
"How this lawsuit, which after three years was brought to a close, terminated, we are not informed. But it is gratifying to know that the Baptist society redeemed its pledge and paid the whole cost from first to last.
"Such records as these let us into the heart of those distant times, and are worth more than whole chapters of rhetorical descriptions. These were brave men, fighting seriously for right, for what they believed God had given them?the right to worship and practice his ordinances as they understood them.
"Of this church what remains to be said may be compressed into a small compass. The records of its early history are very few. They are mostly the records of their litigations to avoid the payment of the obnoxious taxes of the standing order. These were continued, but with diminishing frequency, until by a change of the laws permanent relief was obtained. In 1782, March 1, we have the record of a meeting at the house of Noah Johnson, which was opened by solemn prayer to Almighty God, on matters of experience, in which Asaph Harriman and six others relate their Christian experience. Walter Powers was the first pastor of the church, and since its formation it has had, for a longer or shorter time, the labors of seventeen pastors. In the year 1767, an obligation to observe the ordinances and to sustain the ministry of the gospel according to the faith and order of the Baptist church, was drawn up and signed by seventy-five men?all of whom have long since passed away.
"This covenant which was drawn up and signed eighty-eight years ago, does not seem to have been a church covenant, but was, as I suppose, simply an agreement to sustain Baptist preaching in this place. It was as follows:
We whose names are hereunto subscribed by studying the Holy Scriptures believe the faith and order of the Antipedobaptists to be agreeable thereto, do honestly covenant and agree, and engage to uphold and maintain and support each man his equal proportion towards the support of the gospel ministry all the necessary charges arising relative thereunto in witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands.
"From the year 1755, the date of the organization of the church, there is little to be found in the history of the denomination, for sixteen years. I find it stated on one authority that during these years there was only one other church organized, and that at Marbury in 1768. From another source, in which there is no mention of the church in Marbury, we learn that a church was organized at Weare, in 1768. It is probable therefore that in 1770, fifteen years after the origin of the first church in the State, there were three feeble Baptist churches in New Hampshire; one at Newton, another at Marbury, and the third at Weare. Unquestionably the constant persecutions and repeated litigations to which the Baptists were subjected in those years had much to do in retarding their growth. The standing order believed that they were the church of God, and that they were truly serving God in compelling the Baptists and other Separatists into conformity, as they were in the prayers of the closet or in the Worship of the sanctuary. Scattered over the State there may have been many of our faith who were longing and praying for the time when they should be permitted to worship God and obey his ordinances, with none to molest or make them afraid. But the difficulty, under the circumstances, of sustaining churches, deterred them from becoming organized. They were as sheep not having a shepherd" (Lamson, a Centennial Discourse delivered at the one hundredth Anniversary of the formation of the Baptist Church, Newton, N. H., October 18, 1855, 24-30. Portsmouth, 1856).
Books for further reference:
Ethan Allen, Maryland, Toleration, or Sketches of the Early History of Maryland to the Year 1650, The Church Review, VII. 617; VIII. 264-293. New Haven, 1856.
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