A History of the Baptists
THE GREAT AWAKENING
Baptists in Massachusetts?Position of the Puritans? Reaction Against the Standing Order?Thirteen Evils?The Account of Jonathan Edwards of Conditions?A Minister in New Hampshire?The Historian Trumbull?The Drink Habit?The Half Way Covenant?The Burning of Witches?The Awakening in Northampton?The Sermons of Edwards?The Revival Begins?The Effects of the Revival?George Whitefield?The Estimate of Benjamin Franklin?Manner of Preaching of Whitefield?Calvinism?The Baptists Calvinistic?Disorders?Persecutions of the Standing Order?Edwards Ejected from His Church?The Boston Gazette?Opposition of the Episcopalians?Action of the Connecticut Legislature?The New Lights?The New Lights Become Baptists?Bacon's Account?Great Growth of the Baptists.
At the time of the Great Awakening in Massachusetts there were nine Baptist churches. After the Great Awakening, and as a result of it before the Revolution, there were organized in the State twenty-seven other Baptist churches. From these beginnings the Baptists spread, in the course of time, through all of the New England States. The Great Awakening began in 1734 with the third generation of the Puritans. With the origin of this revival the Baptists had nothing to do; but from it they reaped great results.
The churches of the Puritans, or the standing order, were intensely religious in their theory and organization. The connection between Church and State was close; and they confidently asserted that they were led of God in all of the affairs of life. They believed that the Scriptures prescribed not only grace for salvation, but laws for the government of the community. These laws were derived from Moses rather than from Christ. In the first twenty years about one hundred ministers came over from England. They were of a highly intellectual character and they were constantly consulted by governors and magistrates. Their advice was freely given, sometimes before it was asked; yet it was never unwelcome. In 1635 Rev. John Cotton drew up, for the use of the General Court, a law code based upon "Moses, his judicials"; and capital punishment was long continued for offenses specified in the book of Leviticus.
From necessity there came a reaction against the standing order. Men could not be made pious by law. Non-church members were not permitted to participate in the government. Until a profession of religion was made even the children of such unbelievers were barred from all the privileges of the church. There was a general lapse in morals. The General Court called, in 1679, a Reforming Synod to consider the evils of the day.
After a careful consideration of these problems thirteen evils were specified as being the cause of the disasters and calamities which had come upon them. They were as follows: decay of godliness on the part of professed Christians; pride and extravagance in dress; neglect of baptism and church fellowship together with a failure to testify against Quakers and Baptists; profanity and irreverent behaviour in the sanctuary; absence of Sabbath observance; lack of family government and worship; backbitings, censures, revilings, and litigations between church members; intemperance, tavern haunting and putting the bottle to the lips of the Indians, besides adultery, lustful dress and behaviour, mixed dancings, gaming and idleness; covetousness and a love of the world; opposition to reformation and leniency toward sin; a want of public spirit in causing schools and other common interests to languish; and finally a general unfruitfulness under means of grace and a refusal to repent.
Jonathan Edwards, writing concerning the year 1730, when he succeeded his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, as the pastor of the church in Northampton, says:
It seemed to be a time of extraordinary dullness in religion; licentiousness for some years greatly prevailed among the youth of the town; they were many of them very much addicted to night walking, and frequenting the tavern, and lewd practices wherein some by their example exceedingly corrupted others. It was their manner very frequently to get together in conventions of both sexes, for mirth and jollity, which they called frolicks; and they would often spend the greater part of the night in them, without any regard to order in the families they belonged to; and indeed family government did not much prevail in the town. It was become very customary with many of our young people to be indecent in their carriage at meeting, which doubtless would not have prevailed to such a degree, had it not been that my grandfather, through his great age (though he retained his powers surprisingly to the last) was not able to observe them. There had also prevailed in the town a spirit of contention between two parties, into which they had for many years been divided, by which was maintained a jealousy one of the other, and they were prepared to oppose one another in public affairs (Edwards, Narrative of Surprising Conversions. Works, III.).
A minister in the capital town of New Hampshire says of the state of the churches at this time:
No serious Christian could behold it without a sad heart, and scarce without a weeping eye; to see the solid, substantial piety, for which our ancestors were justly renowned, having long languished under sore decays, brought so low, and seemingly just ready to expire and give up the ghost. How did not only Pelagianism, but Arianism, Socinianism, and even Deism, and what is falsely called Free-Thinking, here and there prevail! The instituted means of salvation, in many places, were but lightly esteemed, and a horrid contempt was put upon the ministry of the word (Shurtliff, Defence of Whitefield).
Trumbull, the historian of Connecticut, speaking of the year 1734, says:
The forms of religion were kept up, but there appeared but little of the power of it. Both the wise and foolish virgins seemed to slumber. Professors appeared too generally to become worldly and lukewarm. The young people became loose and vicious, family prayer and religion were greatly neglected, the Sabbath was lamentably profaned; the intermissions were spent in worldly conversation. The young people made the evenings after the Lord?s day, and after lectures, the times for their mirth and company keeping. Taverns were haunted; intemperance and other vices increased; and the Spirit of God appeared to be awfully withdrawn. It seems also to appear that many of the clergy, instead of clearly and powerfully preaching the doctrines of original sin, or regeneration, justification by faith alone, and the other peculiar doctrines of the gospel, contented themselves with preaching a cold, unprincipled and lifeless morality; for when these great doctrines were perspicuously and powerfully preached, and distinctions were made between the morality of Christians, originating in evangelical principles, faith and love, and the morality of heathen, they were offended, and became violent opposers (Trumbull, History of Connecticut, II.).
And of the year 1739 he says:
But few persons offered themselves to the communion of the churches. It was also observed that those who did offer themselves gave no account of any previous convictions which they had obtained of their great sin and misery by nature and practice. It does not appear that ministers in general, at that time, made any particular enquiry of those whom they admitted to communion, with respect to their internal feelings and exercises. The Stoddardian opinion generally prevailed at this period, that unregenerate men could consistently covenant with God, and when moral in their lives, had a right to sealing ordinances (Trumbull, II.).
The drink habit had frightfully increased. "It is easy to praise the fathers of New England," says Theodore Parker, "easier to praise for virtues they did not possess than to discriminate and fairly judge those remarkable men . . . . Let us mention two facts. It is recorded in the probate office that in 1678, at the funeral of Mrs. Mary Norton, widow of the celebrated John Norton, one of the ministers of the first Church in Boston, fifty-one and a half gallons of the best Malaga wine were consumed by the mourners. In 1685, at the funeral of Rev. Thomas Cobbett, minister of Ipswich, there were consumed one barrel of wine and two barrels of cider; and, as it was cold, there were ?some spice and ginger for the cider.? You may easily judge of the drunkenness and riot on occasions less solemn than the funeral of an old beloved minister. Towns provided intoxicating drinks at the funeral of their paupers. In Salem, in 1728, at the funeral of a pauper, a gallon of wine and another of cider are charged as ?incidentals?; the next year six gallons of wine on a similar occasion. In Lynn, in 1728, the town furnished ?half a barrel of cider for the widow Despau?s funeral.? Affairs had come to such a pass that in 1742 the General Court forbade the use of wine and rum at funerals" (Parker, Speeches, Addresses and Occasional Sermons).
The year 1662 marks a transitional point in the churches of New England. The adoption of the celebrated half-way covenant that year opened the door for worldliness, formality, and dangerous errors. In 1670 a decay in spirituality was very apparent. Rev. Samuel Danforth, of Roxbury, spoke of "the temper, complexion, and countenance of the churches as being strangely altered" and "a cold, careless, dead frame of spirit" as having "grown steadily" upon them. In 1678 Increase Mather spoke of "conversions" as "rare." "The body of the rising generation is a poor, perishing, unconverted, and, except the Lord pour down his Spirit, an undone generation. Many are profane, drunkards, lascivious, scoffers at the power of godliness." In 1683 Rev. Samuel Torry, of Weymouth, spoke: "Of the many symptoms of death that are upon our religion!" "As converting work doth cease, so doth religion die away; though more insensibly, yet more irrevocably. How much is religion dying in the hearts of sincere Christians!" In 1702 Increase Mather said: "Look into our pulpits and see if there is such a glory there as there once was. Look into the civil State. Does Christ reign there as he once did? How many churches, how many towns are there in New England over which we may sigh and say, the glory is gone!" (Dorchester, Christianity in the United States).
The burning of the witches greatly lowered the religious tone of the country. New England suffered the consequences of a delusion which was at this period dying out in Europe. In the year previous witches had occasionally been tried and executed; but in 1692, processes of this kind commenced, especially in Salem, on such a scale that by degrees towards one hundred persons were brought to trial. The accusers represented themselves as tormented by these persons in a very singular manner, and as having seen and watched their secret conclaves with evil spirits. Not one of the number confessed his guilt. It was not until the accusers had impeached many persons of blameless character and members of distinction that the public opinion turned against the accusers. The cause of religion, however, was irretrievably injured (Uhden, The New England Theocracy, 222. Boston, 1859) .
There had been some manifestations of a better state of affairs. Theodore Frelenhuyson, a Dutch Reformed minister, near New Brunswick, New Jersey, was afflicted with a serious illness. After his recovery he seriously called sinners to repentance. "Which method," he said, "was sealed by the Holy Spirit in the conviction and conversion of a considerable number of persons at various times and in different places in that part of the country as appeared by their acquaintance with experimental religion and good conversation" (Tracy, The Great Awakening).
The Great Awakening, however, properly began in Northampton, Massachusetts, about the year 1734. The honor belongs to Jonathan Edwards. As a child he was precocious. At six he commenced the study of Latin, at ten he wrote an essay denying the materiality of the soul, and at thirteen he entered Yale College, from which he graduated in September, 1720, before he had quite reached the age of seventeen. During his second year in college he read Locke on the "Human Understanding," with which he said he was inexpressibly pleased and entertained; more so than the greedy miser, when gathering a handful of silver and gold from some newly-discovered treasure. After graduation he remained two years in college, studying and preparing himself for the gospel ministry to which he had already committed himself.
A genealogical study of the descendants of Edwards reveals very interesting facts. It has been computed that among them are presidents of eight colleges, about one hundred college professors, more than one hundred lawyers, sixty physicians, thirty judges, eighty holders of important public offices, twenty-five officers in the army and navy, and numberless clergymen and missionaries (Winship, The Human Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, The World?s Work, October, 1903).
With Edwards began a new period of American religious history, a period characterized on the one hand by revivalism and on the other by the appearance of theological parties and the growth of denominationalism.
After his settlement at Northampton he began preaching sermons on justification by faith, the justice of God in the damnation of sinners, the excellency of Christ, and the duty of pressing into the kingdom of God. These sermons greatly deepened the religious impressions of his hearers.
In these sermons the doctrine of God?s sovereignty was strongly insisted upon. Through the fall of Adam man had lost God?s favor and henceforth had no claim upon his mercy. Man is a sinner by birth as well as by choice and is possessed of no moral power of his own wherewith he may turn to God or please him. God is under no obligation to save any one. "His sovereignty is involved in his freedom to take whom he pleases, and to leave whom he pleases to perish." Special grace is communicated to such as he has chosen to salvation, but all others are left to die in their sins. Satisfaction must be made for the sins of those who are foreordained to eternal life. Such satisfaction was made in the vicarious sacrifice on the cross by Jesus Christ, who suffered thereby a penalty equivalent to the eternal sufferings of the elect, and thus their debt was literally paid. By the imputation of Christ?s righteousness to the believer soul salvation was effected (Beardsley, A History of American Revivals).
Under this preaching some persons were converted. Among these was a frivolous young woman, who it was feared would bring disrepute upon the gospel, but these fears were not realized.
"Presently upon this," wrote Edwards, "a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion, and the eternal world, became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees, and all ages; the noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things was soon thrown by; all the conversation in all companies, upon all occasions, was upon these things only, unless so much as was necessary for people carrying on their ordinary secular business. Other discourse than on the things of religion, would scarcely be tolerated in any company. The minds of the people were wonderfully taken off from the world; it was treated amongst us as a thing of very little consequence; they seemed to follow their worldly business, more as a part of their duty, than any disposition they had to it; the temptation now seemed to lie on that hand, to neglect worldly affairs too much, and to spend too much time in the immediate exercise of religion; which thing was exceedingly misrepresented by reports that were spread in distant parts of the land, as though the people here had wholly thrown by all worldly business, and betook themselves entirely to reading and praying, and such like religious exercises.
"But though the people did not ordinarily neglect their worldly business, yet there was the reverse of what commonly is; religion was with all sorts the common concern, and the world was a thing only by the way. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared pressing into it; the engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid; it appeared in their very countenances. It was then a dreadful thing amongst us to lie out of Christ, in danger every day of dropping into hell; and what persons? minds were intent upon was to escape for their lives, and to fly from the wrath to came. All would eagerly lay hold of opportunities for their souls; and were wont very often to meet together in private houses for religious purposes; and such meetings, when appointed, were wont greatly to be thronged.
"There was scarcely a single person in the town, either old or young, that wag left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. Those that were wont to be vainest, and loosest, and those that had been disposed to think and speak slightly of vital and experimental religion, were now generally subject to great awakenings. And the work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more; souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From. day to day, for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out o f darkness into marvelous light, and delivered out of an horrible pit, and from the miry clay, and set upon a rock, with a new song of praise to God in their mouths" (Edwards, III.).
The effects of the revival were far reaching; but the labors of George Whitefield greatly augmented the results. "The life of Whitefield reads like a romance. He was born in Bell Inn, in the city of Gloucester, England, December 16, 1714. His father, who had been a wine merchant and afterwards an inn keeper, died when the future evangelist was but two years of age. Notwithstanding her limited resources his mother determined to give him every advantage within her power. As a youth he was sent to the Grammar School of St. Mary de Crypt, and at the age of eighteen he entered Oxford University, where he secured a position as servitor in Pembroke College. With the assistance thus afforded and through the kindness of friends he was enabled to reach the end of his three years? residence at college with but twenty-five pounds indebtedness." At first he was reckless, but after he gave himself to the ministry he lived an austere life. He was an orator of unusual power. Of his first sermon it was reported that he had driven fifteen persons mad. Repeatedly he visited America and preached in every section of the country. In Philadelphia he spoke from the gallery of the Court House, on Market Street. It was said that "his voice was distinctly heard on the Jersey shore, and so distinct was his speech that every word was understood on board of a shallop at Market street wharf, a distance of upward of four hundred feet from the court house. All the intermediate space was crowded with his hearers" (Gillies, Memoirs of Whitefield).
"He seems to have no regard," says Prince, "to please the eyes of his hearers with agreeable gesture, nor their ears with delivery, nor their fancy with language; but to aim directly at their hearts and consciences, to lay open their ruinous delusions, show them their numerous, secret, hypocritical shifts in religion, and drive them out of every deceitful refuge wherein they made themselves easy with the form of godliness without power" (Tracy, The Great Awakening).
On the effects of the visit to Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin said:
The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation with me to observe the influence of his oratory on his hearers and how much they respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of the inhabitants. From being thoughtless and indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world was growing religious; so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms in different families in every street (Billingsley, Life of Whitefield).
The manner of his preaching is thus described by a contemporary: "He loudly proclaims all men by nature to be under sin, and obnoxious to the wrath of God. He maintains the absolute necessity of supernatural grace to bring men out of this state. He asserts the righteousness of Christ alone to be the cause of the justification of a sinner; that this is received by faith; that faith is the gift of God; that where faith is wrought it brings the sinner under the deepest sense of unworthiness, to the footstool of sovereign grace to accept of mercy as the free gift of God only for Christ?s sake. He asserts the absolute necessity of the new birth; that this new production is solely the work of God?s blessed spirit; that wherever it is wrought it is a permanent, abiding principle, and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it" (Dunning, Congregationalists).
The trend of the preaching was decidedly Calvinistic. The sovereignty of God was the central theme about which all else revolved. Jonathan Edwards wrote:
I think I have found that no discourses have been more remarkably blessed, than those in which the doctrine of God?s absolute sovereignty with regard to the salvation of sinners, and his just liberty, with regard to the answering the prayers, or succeeding the pains of mere natural men, continuing such, have been insisted on (Edwards, Works, III.).
On the subject of a "Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God" President Edwards says:
God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise, to keep any natural man out of hell one moment.... The bow of God?s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow for one moment from being drunk with your blood ....The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked ....You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you have ever done, nothing that you can do to induce God to spare you one moment.
The preaching of some Baptists was equally Calvinistic in tone. Ezra Stiles, in a letter to Chauncy Whittlesey, March 6, 1770, describes one Dawson, a Baptist minister of Newport, as follows:
He preaches that it is sinful for an unregenerate to pray at all; to use the Lord?s Prayer in particular, for if they said the truth, they would say?."Our Father which art in Hell," our Father, the Devil; that unregenerate are to use no means at all, there are no means appointed for them;?they are more likely, or at least as likely, to be seized by grace, not using than using means. Particularly, as to attending his preaching, he asked them what they came there for, he had nothing to say to them, only to tell them that they were heirs of damnation, and that would do them no good nor hurt....None but saints were the subjects of his preaching or ordination; and (he) forbid at length the promiscuous congregation to sing with them, or to pray with them,?and only a dozen or so now sing .... So that he does the thing thoroughly,?he makes no pauses or reservations. Now this, at this time, is a very wonderful looking glass (Stiles, Diary, I.).
Naturally there were many disorders which accompanied these revival services. A writer in the Boston Gazette, May 31, 1743, suggested that a convention be held to "consider whether they are not called upon to give an open, conjunct testimony to an event so surprising and gracious, as well as against those errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, which, through the persistent agency of Satan, have attended it, and in some measure blemished its glory and hindered its advancement." Such a meeting was held July following. After deliberation sixty-eight persons signed a manifesto. In part the ministers expressed themselves in these words.
With respect to a number of those who have been under the impressions of the present day, we must declare there is no good ground to conclude that they have become real Christians; the account they give of their conviction and consolation agreeing with the standard of the holy scriptures, corresponding with the experience of the saints, and evidenced by the eternal fruits of holiness in their live; so that they appear to those who have the nearest access to them, as so many epistles of Christ, written, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, attesting to the genuineness of the present operation, and representing the excellency of it. Indeed, many who appeared under conviction, and were much altered in their external behaviour, when this work began, and while it was most flourishing, have lost their impressions, and are relapsed into their former manner of life; yet of those who were judged hopefully converted, and made a public profession of religion, there have been fewer instances of scandal and apostasy than might be expected. So that, so far as we are able to form a judgment, the face of religion is lately changed much for the better in many of our towns and congregations; and together with a reformation observable in divers instances, there appears to be more experimental godliness, and lively christianity, than most of us can remember we have ever seen before.
The conduct of Whitefield sometimes savored of fanaticism. His Journal abounds in descriptions of the emotional effects of his preaching. "Shrieking, crying, weeping, and wailing were to be heard on every corner." "In almost every part of the congregation somebody or another began to cry out, and almost all melted into tears." "Some were struck pale as death, others wringing their hands, others were lying on the ground, and most lifting their eyes toward heaven, and crying to God for mercy." He was greatly influenced by impulses and impressions.
There were many protests from the State Churches which finally led to the organization of Separate or New Light churches. There are many examples of this kind. Ebenezer Frothingham, of Middletown, gives an account of conditions, in 1767, in Connecticut. He says:
I myself have been confined in Hartford prison near five months, for nothing but exhorting and warning the People, after the public Worship was done and the Assembly dismissed. And whilst I was there confined, three more persons were sent to prison; one for exhorting, and two for worshipping God in a private house in a Separate meeting. And quick after I was released by the Laws being answered by natural Relations unbeknown to me, then two brethren were committed for exhorting and preaching, and several others afterwards for attending the same duties; and I myself twice more was sent to prison for the Minister?s rates (Frothingham, A Key to Unlock the Door that leads in to take a Fair View of the Religious Constitution established by Law in the Colony of Connecticut, 51. Printed 1767).
He further informs us the Baptists were persecuted for the same reasons:
Young Deacon Drake, of Windsor, now in Hartford prison, for the Minister?s rates and building their meeting house, altho? he is a baptist;?is accounted a harmless, godly man; and he has plead the privilege of a baptist, through all the courts, and been at great expense, without relief, till at last the assembly has given him a mark in his hand, and notwithstanding this, they have thrust him to prison for former rates, with several aggravations, which I shall omit. But as to what the Constitution does to relieve the poor Deacon, he may there die, and the cry of blood, blood, go up to the ears of a just God (Frothingham).
To prevent Whitefield from visiting Connecticut, and to prejudice the people against him, the General Association of Churches of Connecticut, June, 1745, passed the following resolution:
That, WHEREAS, there has of late years been many errors in doctrine and disorders in practice, prevailing in the Churches in this land, which seem to have a threatening aspect upon the Churches; and WHEREAS, Mr. George Whitefield has been the promoter, or at least the faulty occasion of many of these errors and disorders; this Association think it needful for them to declare, that if the said Mr. Whitefield should make his progress through this government, it would by no means be advisable for any of our ministers to admit him into their pulpits, or for any of our people to attend his administrations (Frederic Denison, Notes of the Baptists, and Their Principles in Norwich, Conn., from the Settlement of the Town to 1850).
Even Jonathan Edwards was ejected from his church at Northampton. An ecclesiastical council, "convened not without elements of unfairness," voted "that it is expedient that the pastoral relation between Mr. Edwards and his church be immediately dissolved, if the people shall persist in desiring it." The action of the council was ratified by the church by a majority of two hundred and fifty votes. July 1, 1750, he preached his farewell sermon. For sometime he preached occasionally, until prohibited to do so by the town meeting.
The Episcopalians were likewise in opposition to Whitefield and the revival. This did much toward the unpopularity of that denomination in the American Revolution. Dr. Colman of the Battle Street Church invited Whitefield to Boston. Dr. Cutler, meeting him on the street, said to him frankly: "I am sorry to see you here"; to which Whitefield replied: "So is the Devil." Dr. Cutler described Whitefield?s visit in a letter to a friend, as follows:
Whitefield has plagued us with a witness. It would be an endless attempt to describe the scene of confusion and disturbance occasioned by him; the divisions of families, neighborhoods and towns; the contrariety of husbands and wives; the undutifulness of children and servants; the quarrels among the teachers; the disorders of the night; the intermission of labor and business; the neglect of husbandry and the gathering of the harvest.... In many communities several preaching, and several exhorting and praying, at the same time, the rest crying, or laughing, yelping, sprawling or fainting. This revel in some places has been maintained many days and nights together.
When Mr. Whitefield first arrived here, the whole town was alarmed. He made his first visit to church on Friday, and canvassed with many of our clergy together, and belied them, me especially, when he was gone. Being not invited into our pulpits, the Dissenters were highly pleased, and engrossed him; and immediately bells rang, and all hands went to lecture. This show kept up all the while he was here. The town was ever alarmed; the streets were filled with people with coaches and chairs, all for the benefit of that holy man. The conventicles were crowded; but he rather chose the Common, where multitudes might see him in all his awful postures; besides, in one crowded conventicle, six were killed in a fight before he came in; but he ever anathematized the Church of England, and that was enough.
After him came one Tennant, a monster, impudent and noisy, and told them they were all Damned! damned! damned! This charmed them, and, in the most dreadful winter I ever saw, people wallowed in the snow, night and day, for the benefit of this beastly brayings.
In order to correct these alleged evils the Connecticut legislature, in 1742, passed an act forbidding any minister or licentiate to preach in any church not his own, without the consent of its pastor and the major portion of the membership, under penalty of forfeiting the right to collect his legal salary, if a resident of the colony, and liability of expulsion from the colony if not.
The Great Awakening "was begun and carried on almost wholly by Pedobaptists, from which denomination their fathers had suffered much, most of the Baptists were prejudiced against the work, and against the Calvinian doctrine by which it was prompted" (Backus, II. 41) . Those who were converted in the Great Awakening found most of the churches of the standing order chilly and uncongenial and as a result became Separatists, or New Lights, founding churches of their own. The Separate churches organized in this movement continued to exist many years. Much complaint was urged against them because they were accused of being Americans (Reuben Fetcher, The Lamentable State o f New England, Boston, 1771) .
The explanation of how these New Light churches became Baptist churches in many instances is thus given by Bacon: "An even more important result of the Awakening was the swift and wide extension of Baptist principles and churches. This was altogether logical. . The revival had come, not so much in the spirit and power of Elijah, turning to each other the hearts of the fathers and of children, as in the spirit of Ezekiel, the preacher of individual responsibility and duty. The temper of the revival was wholly congenial with the strong individualism of the Baptist churches. The Separatist churches formed in New England by the withdrawal of revival enthusiasts from the parish churches in many instances became Baptists. Cases of individual conversion to Baptist views were frequent, and the earnestness with which the new opinion was held approved itself not only by debating and proselyting, but by strenuous and useful evangelizing. Especially in the South, from Virginia to Georgia, the new preachers, entering into the labors of the annoyed and persecuted pioneers of their communion, won multitudes of converts to the Christian faith, from the neglected populations, both black and white, and gave to the Baptist churches a lasting prominence in numbers among the churches of the South" (Bacon, A History of American Christianity).
Thus the Baptists greatly profited by the Great Awakening. "At this period," says Baron Stow, "the Baptist denomination on this continent was exceedingly limited, numbering only thirty-seven churches, and probably less than three thousand members. The preaching of Mr. Whitefield and others who caught from heaven the same hallowed fire, and the great awakening consequent upon their sanctified labors, gave currency to the principles which wrought undesired changes, and conducted to results which were neither anticipated nor desired. Little did those men of God who were such efficient agents in the ?New Light Stir,? as it was opprobriously called, and who pushed their measures with almost superhuman vigor, amidst a tempest of opposition and obloquy, imagine that they were breaking up the fallow ground of their own ecclesiastical system, and sowing seed from which a sect that was everywhere spoken against, would reap a bountiful harvest.
"The converts who received the name of ?Separatists,? were taught to throw aside tradition, and take the Word of God only as their guide in all matters of religious faith and practice. This was in perfect coincidence with all Baptist teaching, and, as was predicted by the most sagacious among the opposers of the revival, ultimately led thousands, among whom were many ministers, to embrace our views and enter our churches."
The method by which these Separate churches became Baptists may be illustrated by the history of the Sturbridge church, Massachusetts. "This church was in its origin one of those which claimed vital and practical godliness to be indispensable qualification for membership in a church of Christ. This principle was the whole ground of separation, in this case, as well as in many others.
"At first, the church believed in and practiced infant sprinkling. The fact that this is not an ordinance of scripture, probably, had never entered their minds. But still, the other principles which they had adopted, especially that of making the scriptures the supreme arbiter in religion, prepared the way for their giving up this unscriptural ceremony. Accordingly, some of the members soon began to entertain strong doubts of the correctness of their practice, and in this respect, and, soon after, openly to call in question the validity of infant sprinkling. Although a number of the members of the church became fully convinced that the scriptures point out no other baptism than that of believers, and no other mode than that of immersion. In May, 1749, thirteen of the members submitted to this ordinance, administered according to apostolic direction and practice. The ordinance was administered by Rev. Mr. Moulton of Brimfield. About fifty of the members were soon afterward baptized, including with those before mentioned the Pastor, the Deacons and the Ruling Elders. From the time of the first baptism, when the thirteen mentioned above were baptized, the sprinkling of infants, like the house of Saul, waxed weaker; while the baptism which the scriptures require, waxed stronger and stronger; till at length, the baptism of believers, as held and practiced by Baptist churches, at the present day, gained the complete victory.
"It will be seen by these statements, that this church was originally a Pedobaptist church?.The Presbyterian form of church government was the model by which the discipline of this church, in its early history, was conducted?.And it is presumed, that by tacit consent, the form of government in the church became congregational" (Joel Kenney, Historical Sketch of the Baptist Church in Sturbridge, The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Record, 201, 202. June, 1844).
This is a fair illustration of how many of the Separate became Baptist churches.
Books for further reference:
The Works of President Edwards in four volumes. New York, 1849.
Frank Grenville Beardsley, A History of American Revivals. New York, 1912.
Warren A. Candler, Great Revivals and the Great Republic. Nashville, 1904.
John T. Perry, In the Footsteps of Whitefield, The Baptist Review, VII. 13-27. Cincinnati, 1885.
J. D. Knowles, Life and Times of Whitefield, The Christian Review, III. 264-271. Boston, 1838.
A. P. Marvin, Three Eras of Revival in the United States, Bibliotheca Sacra, XVI. 279-301. Andover, 1859.
Joseph F. Thompson, Jonathan Edwards, his Character, Teaching and Influence, Bibliotheca Sacra, XVIII. 809-839. Andover, 1861.
Increase N. Tarbox, Jonathan Edwards, Bibliotheca Sacra, XXVI. 243-267.
Ezra Hoyt Byington, Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening, Bibliotheca Sacra, LV. 114-127. Oberlin, 1898.
Arthur W. Cleaves, The Significance of Whitefield, The Review and Expositor, XII. 577-594. Louisville, 1915.
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