A History of the Baptists
THE BAPTISTS OF VIRGINIA, NORTH CAROLINA, AND GEORGIA
The Third Company of Baptists in Virginia?The Separatists?Shubeal Stearns?Daniel Marshall?Stearns Unites with the Baptists?North Carolina Settled?Individual Baptists?Paul Palmer?William Sojourner?Kehukee Association?Vanhorn and Miller?The Preaching of the Separatists?The Character of Stearns?History of the Movement?Many Notices of the Growth of the Baptists?Baptists in Georgia?Nicholas Bedgewood?Benjamin Stark?Botsford?Gano?Marshall Arrested?Kiokee Church?Samuel Harris?Elijah Craig?The Election of Bishops by the Baptists.
third company of Baptists which came to Virginia extended their labors into North Carolina and Georgia. "North Carolina, in the days of her colonial dependence," says one of her historians, "was the refuge of the poor and the oppressed. In her borders the emigrant, the fugitive, and the exile found a home. Whatever may have been the cause of leaving the land of their nativity?political servitude?tyranny over conscience,?or poverty of means, with the hope of bettering their condition,?the descendants of these enterprising, suffering, afflicted, yet prosperous people, have cause to bless the kind Providence that led their fathers, in their wanderings, to such a place of rest" (Foote, Sketches of North Carolina Historical and Biographical, illustrative of the principles of a portion of her Early Settlers. New York, 1846).
The exact date of permanent settlement in the present limits of North Carolina has not been clearly ascertained. The first Assembly that made laws for the State convened in the fall of 1669. "Here was a colony of men," says Bancroft, "scattered among forests, hermits with wives and children resting on the bosom of nature, in perfect harmony with the wilderness of their gentle clime. The planters of Albermarle were more led to the choice of their residence from a hatred of restraint. Are there any who doubt man?s capacity for self-government? Let them study the history of North Carolina. Its inhabitants were restless and turbulent in their imperfect submission to a Government imported from abroad; the administration of the colony was firm, and tranquil when they were left to take care of themselves. Any government but one of their own institution was oppressive. North Carolina was settled by the freest of the free. The settlers were gentle in their tempers, of serene minds, enemies of violence and bloodshed. Not all the successive revolutions had kindled vindictive passions; freedom, entire freedom was enjoyed without anxiety as without guarantees. The charities of life were scattered at their feet like the flowers of their meadows" (Bancroft, History of the United States, II.). No freer country was ever organized by man. Freedom of conscience, exemption from taxation, except by their own consent, gratuities in land to every emigrant, and other wholesome regulations claimed the prompt legislative action of the infant colony. "These simple laws suited a simple people, who were as free as the air of their mountains; and when oppressed, were as rough as the billows of the ocean" (Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina, I. 30. Philadelphia, 1851).
This Baptist movement into North Carolina originated with the Separatists of Connecticut. It was led by Shubeal Stearns and Daniel Marshall. This Shubeal Stearns was a remarkable man. He was a product of the Whitefield revival, and in 1745 united with the New Lights. Immediately afterwards, his mind became impressed with the obligation to preach the gospel, and, accordingly he entered upon this responsible work. He continued with the Pedobaptists till 1751, when examining the Word of God, he became convinced that in failing to submit to the ordinance of immersion he had neglected a most important command of his Redeemer. The futility of infant baptism was also discovered, and he determined to take up his cross, be baptized, and unite himself with the Baptists. This he accordingly did and was immersed by Wait Palmer, at Toland, Connecticut, May 20, 1751.
For two or three years he continued his labors in New England; but he became impressed that he must preach the gospel to more destitute sections of the country. He pursued a southwesternly direction scarcely knowing where he was going. In the course of time he arrived at Opeckon Creek, where, as has been am, there was already a Baptist church. Here he met his brother-in-law, Daniel Marshall. This church under the influence of this new preaching became very warm and much animated in their religious exercises. They soon went such lengths in the New Light career that some of the less engaged members preferred charges against them in the association. The matter was finally adjusted favorably to the Separatists and the work continued to prosper.
It was not long till Stearns settled in Guilford county, North Carolina. Here he permanently remained. The great spiritual destitution which prevailed seems to have induced his removal to that section. Such was the anxiety to hear the gospel preached that people frequently traveled a day?s journey to hear it. He began his labors by building a house of worship and constituting a church of sixteen members.
There had been individual Baptists in the State as early as 1695. On May 2, 1718, there was one who pretended to "be a physician, fortune teller and conjurer, always chosen Burgess, for that precinct and a leading man in our assemblies" who was an Anabaptist (Colonial Records of North Carolina, I. 304). William Orr, the Episcopal rector, says he had "one convert from the sect of the Anabaptists" (Ibid, IV. 608). Clement Hall, 1745, baptized one "brought up an Anabaptist" (Ibid, IV. 753). Hall likewise rejoiced at Edenton, May 19, 1752, that he baptized four "brought up in anabaptism and Quakerism" (Ibid, VI. 1315). Mr. Reed likewise baptized the Honorable Chief Justice of the Province, July 2, 1771. "He was bred and born an Anabaptist, but had never been baptized, and as I suspected that he might still retain a particular liking for Anabaptism, I offered to baptize him by total immersion. But he refused and said his prejudices were vanished, that he regarded the moral more than the mode" (Ibid, IX. 6). Such are some of the examples.
The first church was gathered by Paul Palmer, about the year 1727, at a place called Perquimans, on Chowan river, in the northeast part of the State.
William Sojourner, an excellent man and minister, removed in 1742 from Berkeley, ,in Virginia, and settled at Kehukee Creek. Most of these Baptists came from the Burley church. Lemuel Burkit and Jesse Reed give the following account of some of these Baptists: "Some of the churches which at first composed the Kehukee Association were, the church at Toisniot, in Edgecomb county; the church at Kehukee, in Halifax county; the church at the Falls of Tar River, in Edgecomb county; the church on Fishing creek, in Halifax county; the church at Reedy creek, in Warren county; the church at Sandy Run, in Birtie county; and the church in Camden county, North Carolina. Most of these churches, before they ever formed an Association, were General Baptist, and held to the Arminian tenets. We believe they were descendants of the English General Baptists, because we find from some original papers that their Confession of Faith was subscribed by certain Elders, and Deacons, and Brethren, in behalf of themselves and others, to whom they belonged, both in London, and several counties in England, and was presented to King Charles the second.
"They preached, adhered to the Arminian, or Free-Will doctrines, and their churches were first established upon this system. They gathered churches without requiring an experience of grace previous to their baptism; but baptized all who believed in the doctrine by immersion, and requested baptism of them. The churches of this order were gathered by Elders Paul Palmer and Joseph Parker, and were succeeded by a number of ministers whom they had baptized; and of whom we have no reason to believe were converted when they were baptized, or first began to preach. We cannot learn that it was customary with them to hold an Association at all; but met at yearly meetings, where matters of consequence were determined.
"This was the state of these churches until divine providence disposed the Philadelphia Baptist Association to send Mess. Vanhorn and Miller, two ministers belonging to that Association, who lived in New Jersey, to travel into the southern colonies, and visit the churches and preach the gospel. It appears that this effort was attended with a happy effect. When they came into North Carolina, some of the members belonging to these churches seemed to be afraid of them, as they were styled by most people New Lights; but by the greater part of the churches they were cordially received.
"Their preaching and conversation seemed to be with power, the hearts of the people seemed to be open, and a very great blessing seemed to attend their labors.
"Through their instrumentality many people were awakened, many of the members of these churches were convinced of their error, and were instructed in the doctrines of the gospel; and some churches were organized anew; and established upon the principles of grace. These churches newly constituted adopted the Baptist confession of faith published in London in 1639, containing 32 articles, and upon which the Philadelphia and Charleston associations are founded. And it is customary for churches thus formed, at their first constitution, to have a church covenant, in which they solemnly agree to endeavor to keep up the discipline of the church" (Burkitt and Read, A Concise History of the Kehukee Association).
John Gano was appointed by the Philadelphia Association to travel in the Southern States. He visited these churches about the year 1754, arid his report to the association led to the visit of Miller and Vanhorn the following year and in the reorganization of these churches. The visit of Gano has been described as follows by Morgan Edwards:
Mr. Gano, on his arrival, sent to the ministers, requesting an interview with them, which they declined, and appointed a meeting among themselves to consult what to do. Mr. Gano hearing of it, went to their meeting, and addressed them in words to this effect: "I have desired a visit from you, which, as a brother and a stranger, I had a right to expect, but as ye have refused, I give up my claim and come to pay you a visit." With that, he ascended into the pulpit and read for his teat the following words: "Jesus 1 know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" The text he managed in such a manner as to make some afraid of him, and others ashamed of their shyness. Many were convinced of errors touching their faith and conversion, and submitted to examination. One minister hearing this (who stood well with himself), went to be examined, and intimated to his people, he would return triumphant. Mr. Gano heard him out, and then turning to his companion, said, "I profess, brother, this will not do; this man has the one thing needful to seek." Upon which, the person examined ?hastened home, and upon being asked how he came off, replied, "The Lord have mercy on me, for the northern minister has put a mene tekel upon me.
The coming of Shubeal Stearns brought a new day to the Baptists of North Carolina. He was in every respect an extraordinary man. He "was a man of small stature, but of good natural parts, and sound judgment. Of learning, he had but little share, yet he was pretty well acquainted with books. His voice was musical, and strong, and he managed it in such a manner, as one while to make a soft impression on the heart, and fetch tears from the eyes in a mechanical way; and anon, to shake the very nerves; and to throw the animal system into tumults and perturbations. All the Separate Baptists copied after him in tones of voice, and actions of body; and some few exceeded him. His character was indisputably good, both as a man, a Christian and a preacher. In his eyes was something very penetrating; there seemed to be a meaning in every glance. Many stories have been told of the enchantment of his eyes and voice."
Tidence Lane, who was afterwards himself a minister, tells of the curious effect Stearns had on him. "When the fame of Mr. Stearns? preaching," said he, "had reached the Yadkin, where I lived, I felt a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival, I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach tree with a book in his hand, and the people gathered about him. He fixed his eyes on me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I had never felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far. I walked about, sometimes catching his eye as I walked. My uneasiness increased, and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking hands would relieve me; but it happened otherwise. I began to think that he had an evil eye, and ought to be shunned; but shunning him I could no more effect, than the bird can shun the rattlesnake, when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach, my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sunk to the ground."
If the appearance of Stearns was singular, his methods were even more so. "The natives around the little colony of Baptists, although brought up in the Christian religion, were grossly ignorant of its essential principles. Having the form of godliness, they knew nothing of its power.
"The doctrine of Mr. Stearns and his party was consequently quite strange. To be born again appeared to them as absurd as it did to the Jewish doctor, when he asked if he must enter the second time into his mother?s womb and be born again. Having always supposed that religion consisted in nothing more than the practice of outward duties, they could not comprehend how it should be necessary to feel conviction and conversion: But to be able to ascertain the time and place of one?s conversion was, in their estimation, wonderful indeed. These points were all strenuously contended for by the new preachers.
"But their manner of preaching was, if possible, much more novel than their doctrines. The Separates in New England had acquired a very warm and pathetic address, accompanied by strong gestures and a singular tone of voice. Being often deeply affected themselves while preaching, correspondent affections were felt by their pious hearers, which were frequently expressed in tears, trembling, screams, shouts and acclamations. The people were greatly astonished, having never seen things on this wise before. Many mocked, many trembled, but the power of God attended them. In process of time some of the natives became converts, and bowed obedience to the Redeemer?s scepter. These, uniting their labors with the chosen band, a powerful and extensive work broke out. From sixteen, Sandy Creek church soon swelled to six hundred and six members, so mightily grew the work of God" (Semple).
There was not always harmony between the Regular and Separate Baptists. When a church had been formed at Abbott?s Creek there was a call for Daniel Marshall as pastor. When he was to be ordained Stearns was the only Separate preacher in the community; the Regulars would have nothing to do with the ordination, so a Mr. Ledbetter, from South Carolina, was called upon to sit in the council.
Something of the differences in origin and opinions existing between the Regular and Separate Baptists is expressed by Burkitt and Read. Some years after the Kehukee "Association was established on its original plan, in Virginia, and some parts of North Carolina, the Separate Baptists (as they were then called) increased very fast. The Separates first arose in New England, where some pious ministers and members left the Presbyterian, or Standing Order, on account of their formality and superfluity, viz.: 1. Because they were too extravagant in their apparel. 2. Because they did not believe their form of church government to be right. But chiefly because they would admit to the ministry only men of classical education, and many of their ministers apparently seemed unconverted. They were then called Separate Newlights. Some of them were baptized and moved into the southern provinces, particularly Elders Shubeal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, whose labors were wonderfully blessed in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Many souls were converted, and as the work of the Lord progressed many churches were established in Virginia and some in North Carolina. Their preachers were exceedingly pious and zealous men, and their labors were wonderfully blessed; and such a work appeared among the people, that ?some were amazed and stood in doubt, saying what means this.?
"The distinction between us and them was, that they were called Separates, and the Philadelphia, the Charleston, and the Kehukee Associations were called Regular Baptists" (Burkitt and Read).
There were from the accounts of the day many evidences that the Baptists were aggressive. The Pedobaptist preacher at Edenton, March 26, 1766, was disturbed, for he called for "tracts that may be effective for the confutation of dissenters and Skeptics in general. as that Parish abounds with such, especially those of the Quaker and Anabaptist kind; and some proper kinds of tracts distributed among the Parishioners would, I hope, be very prevalent for Exploding their Heterdox and Skeptical Tenets as their prejudices dont permit them to come to hear sermons preached by orthodox ministers" (The Colonial Records of North Carolina, VII. 192, 193).
Governor Tryon, March 20, 1769, complained "that the parish is full of quakers and anabaptists, the first no friend, the latter an avowed enemy to the mother church. It is certain the preeminence of the Church of England has been obtained over the sectaries by legislative authority and has drawn upon her their jealousies. The disturbances in the provinces have inspired no religious sentiments among us, and the difficulty in raising the taxes for a want of medium to pay them, makes many parishes very slack to encourage public worship" (Colonial Records, VIII. 14) .
Alex. Stewart, of St. Thomas? Bath Town, October 10, 1760, writing to the Secretary of his Church, says: "When I mentioned I baptized a person by immersion I should be sorry that it should be thought by the society that it was either through affectation or singularity. I assure you, sir (tho? I know that it is conformable to our Rubric, to the practice of the primitive Christians of the Apostles and of the Jews before the coming of our Saviour, generally to Baptize in that way) that it is only to keep people from falling off from the Church, that these persons and some others not mentioned, have been baptized that way by me, for of late years this province is overrun with a people that at first called themselves anabaptists, but having now refined upon that scheme, have run into so many errors and have so bewildered and, I may say also, bewitched the minds of people, that scarcely will they listen to anything that can be said in defense of the church we belong to. As far as my capacity and abilities would admit I have done my best endeavors to confute their errors" (Colonial Records, VI. 316).
Mr. Woodmason, in 1766, gives the following account of the Baptists: "The most zealous among the sects to propagate their notions and form establishments are the anabaptists....For the Anabaptists of Pennsylvania, resolving themselves into a body and determined to settle their principles in every vacant quarter, began to establish meeting houses also on the Borders. So that the Baptists are now the most numerous and formidable body of people which the Church has to encounter within the interior and back parts of the Province....But the Baptists have great prevalence and footing and have taken such deep root there in North Carolina that it will require a long time and pains to grub up their layers" (Colonial Records, VII. 287, 288).
John Reed, of Newbern, June 20, 1760, gives the following account: There are a "great number of dissenters of all denominations come and settled amongst us from New England, particularly, Anabaptists, Methodists, Quakers and Presbyterians. The Anabaptists are obstinate, illiterate, censorious and uncharitable; the Quakers, rigid; but the Presbyterians are pretty moderate except here and there a bigot or rigid Calvinist" (Colonial Records, VI. 265) .
There were Baptists in North West Parish, April 12, 1735, so John Boyd says to the Bishop of London: "We are very happy in having no different sects or opinions in this part of the country, but I have great reason to complain of a Laodicean luke warmness immorality. But lower down in the country there are a great many Quakers and Anabaptists. In my last journey I had a great many of them as Auditors" (Colonial Records, IV. 7).
Mr. Reed said that on the arrival of Mr. Morton, July 20, 1766, at Brunswick, "he was very creditably and, I believe, very timely informed, that the inhabitants of the County evaded the Vestry Act by electing the most rigid dissenters for vestrymen who would not qualify; that the County abounded with Dissenters of various denominations and particularly with Covenanters, Seceders, Anabaptists and New Lights; that he would meet with a very cold, if any reception at all and have few or no hearers and lead a very uneasy life" (Colonial Records, VII. 241).
C. E. Taylor, August 25, 1772, reports from North Hampton country: "In my last, I acquainted you there were being a great many Dissenters in this part of the country. I don?t know what they call themselves, some term them Anabaptists, some New Light Baptists, and others Baptists. I have talked with some of their preachers, who are surprisingly ignorant, and pretend to Illumination and assurance, they are so obstinately and wilfully ignorant themselves and teach their fellows to be so too, that they will hearken to no reason whatever, but are obstinately bent to follow their own absurd Notions. They increase surprisingly in Virginia, and in some parts of Carolina, but I bless God they rather decrease in my parish" (Colonial Records, IX. 326).
Thodore S. Drage, reports from St. Luke?s Parish, Salisbury, February 28, 1771, as follows: "The Dissenters countenance any fellow who will stand up and preach in any part of the Parish, but in their settlements in order to distract and make confusion amongst the rest of the people. This under the name of Anabaptists and to what they in part apply for under protection of Law, they have and do practice against the Laws which are in force at present, marry of their own Justices and Itinerate preachers, bidding me defiance and paying no marriage Fees. The Courts of Law are open to me, and the Penalty five pounds but they would represent me as litigious, and it might submit me to peculiar insult" (Colonial Records, VIII. 505) .
The Church Warden of Hanover county, October 1, 1759, says: "He is obliged to attend 6 different places, in order to render the benefits of his preaching more diffusive, and curb (if possible) an Enthusiastic sect who call themselves anabaptists which is numerous and daily increasing in this parish and which we affirm has already received a check from his labors" (Colonial Records, VI. 59).
There was an uprising in North Carolina in 1771 in which the Baptists were charged by Governor Tyron with having a part. Morgan Edwards makes the following curious remarks in regard to the battle: "Next to Virginia Southward is North Carolina, a poor and unhappy province where superiors make complaints of the people, and the people of the superiors, which complaints, if just, show the body politic to be like that of Israel in the house of Isaiah, ?from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head without any soundness, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.? These complaints rose to hostilities at Almance Creek May 10th, 1771, where about 6,000 appeared in arms and fought each other 4,000 Regulators killed three Tyronians and 2,000 (Tyronians) killing twelve Regulators besides lodging in the trees an incredible number of balls which the hunters have since picked out and killed more deer and Turkies than they killed of their antagonists."
The historian goes on to relate the part the Baptists had in the affair: "Governor Tyron is said to have represented a faction of Quakers and Baptists who aimed at overturning the Church of England. If the Governor said as here suggested he must be misinformed for I made it my business to inquire into the matter and can aver that among the 4,000 Regulators there were but 7 of the denomination of the Baptists; and these were expelled from the societies they belonged unto, in consequence of the resolve of the Baptist Association held at Sandy Creek the Second Saturday in Oct. 1769, ?If any of our members shall take up arms against the legal authority or aid and abet them that do so, he shall be excommunicated, &c. When this was known abroad, one of the four chiefs of the Regulators with an armed company broke into the assembly and demanded if there was such a resolve entered into by the Association. The answer was evasive, for they were in bodily fear. This checked the design much; and the author of the Impartial Relation, page 16, ?There in (Sandy Creek) the scene met with some opposition on account that .it was too hot and rash and in some things not legal; &c. One of the 7 Baptists by the name of Merrill was executed; and he, at the point of death, did not justify his conduct, but bitterly condemned it and blamed two men (of very different religion) for deceiving him into the rebellion" (Colonial Records, VIII. 655, 656).
John Barnett, Northampton, September 15, 1770, writes: "Last Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, two, three and four New Light Baptist teachers attended our service with many of their people; the teachers, I am informed, have since delivered themselves in more respectful terms of the Church of England than they were before accustomed. That sect has very much increased in the country among us; however, I am in great hopes that frequent weekly Lectures will fix the wavering, and draw back many of those who have strayed from us" (Colonial Records, VIII. 228, 229).
James Moir, Edgecomb county, November 22, 1748, writes: "When I was preparing to leave this province in the Spring, many of our communion told me they thought it my duty to continue not only because they were pleased with my labors, but more especially because a great number in County had turned Baptists for want of a clergyman" (Colonial Records, IV. 878).
Governor Richard Everard writes to the Bishop of London, from Edenton, October 12, 1729, as follows: "When I find Quakers and Baptists flourish among the No Carolinians, it behooved me that as the Gov here to enquire and look into the Original cause, which on the strictest examination and nicest scrutiny I can make, find it owing to the want of Clergymen amongst us. We in this great Province have never a one, and truly my Lord both Quakers and Baptists in this vacancy are very busy making Proselytes and holding meetings daily in every Part of this Govt. Indeed one new County next Virginia is well supplied by the Indefatigible Paines and industry of the Revd Mr. Jones of Nansemond who has the Character of a Pious, Good? and Worthy man but he is old and infirm. My Lord, when I came first here, there were no Dissenters but Quakers in the Govt and now by the means of one Paul Palmer the Baptist Teacher, he has gained hundreds and to prevent it, tis impossible," &c. (Colonial Records, III. 48).
Jas. Macarthey, Granville county and Parish, October 28, 1769, writes: "There are likewise many Baptists here, who are great Bigots; but be well assured, Reverend Sir, that I will (from a sense of my Duty and gratitude to the Society) take every prudent method I am capable of to abolish Dissention and make converts to the Church" (Colonial Records, VIII. 86).
John Barnett, Brunswick Cape, February 3, 1766, writes: "New Light baptists are very numerous in the southern points in this parish. The most illiterate among them are their Teachers, even Negroes speak in their meetings. They lately sent to one to offer the use of their meeting house when I propose to officiate in two months" (Colonial Records, VII. 164) .
There is no question from these Colonial Records, representing hostile accounts, that the Baptists were numerous; growing with great rapidity; and that they were giving the rectors of the Church of England much uneasiness.
Effort was made at this time to unite the Separate and Regular Baptists, but as yet this did not succeed.
The Whitefield revival was the occasion of introducing Baptists into Georgia. The first account of the appearance of Baptists in Georgia was in the year 1757. Mr. Nicholas Bedgewood, who was employed in the capacity of agent to the Orphanage of Whitefield, near Savannah, had several years previously been convinced of Baptist sentiments. In that year he went to Charleston, and was baptized by Oliver Hart, the pastor of the Baptist church in that city. He was soon licensed to preach, and his ordination to the ministry took place in 1759. In 1763, he baptized several persons in and about the Orphan House, among whom was Benjamin Stirk, who afterwards became a minister of the gospel. To these persons, who probably formed a branch of the Charleston church, Bedgewood administered the Lord?s Supper, the first Baptist communion ever held in the province.
Stirk appears to have been a man of good learning, fine natural parts, and eminent for piety and zeal. As there was no Baptist church in Georgia, he united with the Baptist church at Euhaw, South Carolina. He soon began to preach, and set up places of meeting, at his house, and at Tuckaseeking, twenty miles higher up in the country, where there were a few Baptists, who constituted a branch of the Euhaw church. But of the useful labors of this servant of Christ they were soon deprived, as he was called to his reward in the year 1770. This is the second sign of a Baptist church in the State; indeed, it is not certain that it ever became a regular church.
In the meantime Botsford, a young licentiate of the Charleston church, while on a visit to the Euhaw church, received an invitation to come over and help this feeble church and destitute field. Encouraged by the mother church, and accompanied by the pastor, he came and preached to them his first sermon, June 27, 1771. His labors were highly acceptable, he yielded to their solicitations and remained with them for more than a year. His anxious spirit would not permit him to remain in one place. He traveled extensively, preached in all the surrounding country; and toward the close of the next year, he went still higher up the river and commenced an establishment at what was first called New Savannah, but now Botsford?s Old Meeting House, about twenty-five miles below Augusta. Here he had the pleasure of seeing the work of the Lord prosper in his hands.
The following incident, which is characteristic of the times, is related of Botsford: In parts of Georgia where he labored the inhabitants were a mixed multitude of emigrants from many different places; most of whom were destitute of any form of religion, and the few who paid any regard to it were zealous Churchmen and Lutherans, and violently opposed to the Baptists. He preached in the court house in Burk county. The assembly at first paid decent attention; but, toward the close of the sermon, one of them bawled out with a great oath, "The rum has come." Out he rushed; others followed; the assembly was soon left small; and, by the time Botsford got out to his horse, he had the unhappiness to find many of his hearers intoxicated and fighting. An old gentleman came up to him, took his horse by the bridle, and in a profane dialect most highly extolling him and his discourse, swore he must drink with him, and come and preach in his neighborhood. It was now no time to reason or reprove; and as preaching was Botsford?s business, he accepted the old man?s invitation, and made an appointment. His first sermon was blessed in the awakening of his host?s wife; one of his sons also became religious, and others in the settlement, to the number of fifteen, were in a short time brought to the knowledge of the truth, and the old man himself became sober and attentive to religion, although he never made a profession of it.
A little previous to the coming of Botsford to Tuckaseeking, Daniel Marshall, with other Baptist emigrants, arrived and settled at Kiokee Creek, about twenty miles above Augusta. He began forthwith to preach in the surrounding country. His principal establishment was on the Big Kiokee, and from this circumstance it received the name of the Kiokee Meeting House. It was located on the site now occupied by the public buildings of Columbia county, called Applington.
The following record is given of one of his services: "The scene is in a sylvan grove, and Daniel Marshall is on his knees making the opening prayer. While he beseeches the Throne of Grace, a hand is laid on his shoulders, and he hears a voice say: ?You are my prisoner.?
"Rising, the sedate, earnest minded man of God, whose sober mien and silvery locks indicate the sixty-five years which have passed since his birth, finds himself confronted by the officer of the law. He is astonished at being arrested, under such circumstances, ?according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.? Rev. Abraham Marshall, in his sketch of his father, published in the Analytical Repository, 1802, says that the arrested preacher was made to give security for his appearance in Augusta on the following Monday to answer for this violation of the law, adding: ?Accordingly, he stood trial, and after his meekness and patience were sufficiently exercised, he was ordered to come no more to Georgia.? The reply of Daniel Marshall was similar to that of the Apostles under similar circumstances, ?Whether it be right to obey God or man, judge ye?; and, ?consistently with this just and spirited replication, he pursued his luminous course?" (History of the Baptists in Georgia, 13, 14. Atlanta, 1881).
Daniel Marshall was born at Winsor, Connecticut, in 1706, of Presbyterian parents. He was a man of great natural ardor and holy zeal. Becoming convinced that it was his duty to assist in converting the heathen, he went, with his wife and three children, and preached for three years to the Mohawk Indians, near the headwaters of the Susquehannah river, at a town called Onnaquaggy. War among the savage tribes compelled his removal, first to Connogogig in Pennsylvania, and then to Winchester, Virginia, where he became a convert to Baptist views, and was immersed at the age of forty-eight. His wife also submitted to the ordinance at the same time. He was soon licensed by the church with which he united and, having removed to North Carolina, he built up a flourishing church, of which he was ordained pastor by his two brothers-in-law, Rev. Henry Ledbetter and Shubeal Stearns. From North Carolina he removed to South Carolina, and from South Carolina to Georgia, in each State constituting new and flourishing churches. On January 1, 1771, he settled in what is now Columbia county, Georgia, on Kiokee Creek. He was a man of pure life, unbounded faith, fervent spirit, holy zeal, indefatigable in religious labors, and possessing the highest moral courage.
Although Marshall was neither profoundly learned nor very eloquent as a preacher, yet he was fervent, the Lord was with him, and he soon had the happiness of seeing many converts baptized. These with the emigrant Baptists were constituted into a church, in the year 1772. This was the first church constituted in Georgia. At this time he was the only ordained Baptist preacher in the State; but there were several licentiates including Abraham Marshall. By these the word was proclaimed in all the upper country, and many were in the remote forests.
The following is the act of incorporation of this ancient church at Kiokee:
The Act of incorporating the Anabaptist church on the Kioka, in the county of Richmond.
WHEREAS, a religious society has, for many years, been established on the Kioka, in the county of Richmond, called and known by the name of "The Anabaptist church of Kioka";
Be it enacted, That Abraham Marshall, William Willingham, Edmund Cartledge, John Landers, James Simms, Joseph Ray and Lewis Gardener be, and they are hereby, declared to be a body corporate, by the name and style of "The Trustees of the Anabaptist church of Kioka."
And be it further enacted, That the Trustees (the same names are here given) of the said Anabaptist church, shall hold their office for the term of three years; and, on the third Saturday of November, in every third year, after the passing of this Act, the supporters of the Gospel in said church shall convene at the meeting house of the said church, and there, between the hours of ten and four, elect from among the supporters of the Gospel in said church seven discreet persons as Trustees, &c.
Seaborn Jones, Speaker. Edward Telfair, Governor. Nathan Brownson, President Senate.
December 23d, 1789.
It was, however, in Virginia that the Separates succeeded in the most marked degree. They were here persecuted more vigorously than elsewhere, but they also met with the greatest success. "Here they pushed forward their operations with an ardor approaching the primitive times, amidst all that kind of vexations, ill-bred, ill-natured, and tantalizing hostility, which the minions of a declining hierarchy with but the shadow of power were able to maintain."
Stearns and Marshall remained in Virginia only a comparatively brief period. But "the power of God was effectual in the conversion of Samuel Harris, a man of great distinction in those parts. Besides being burgess of the county and colonel of the militia, he held several other offices. Upon being honored of God, he laid aside all his worldly honors and became a laborer in the Lord?s vineyard" (Semple). His conversion was effected by two illiterate preachers, Joseph and William Murphy, and he was baptized by Daniel Marshall.
It was a rare thing, in those times, for men of his worldly distinction to unite with the people who were, in the fullest sense of the passage, everywhere spoken against. His expansive benevolence in the use of his abundant means for doing good; the childlike simplicity which he always displayed after his conversion; his freedom of intercourse with the people of all conditions among his new and, for the most part, poor and despised associates; his blameless life; and, finally, his pious and irrepressible ardor in the ministerial service had a tendency to bind him to the denomination by strong and lasting ties. He was the evangel for the entire State.
He gave up all for Christ. "Being in easy circumstances," says Semple, "when he became religious, he devoted not only himself, but almost all his property, to religious objects. He had begun a large new dwelling house, suitable to his former dignity; which, as soon as it was finished, he appropriated to the use of public worship, continuing to live in the old one. After maintaining his family in a very frugal manner, he distributed the surplus income to charitable purposes."
In labors he was abundant. "He was destined of God to labor more extensively in Virginia than in any other State. Having done much good in the circumjacent parts, the time was now arrived for him to lengthen his chords. In January, 1765, Allen Wyley, an inhabitant of Culpeper, and who had been baptized by David Thomas, hearing of the Separate Baptist preachers, traveled from Culpeper to Pittsylvania in order to get one or more of them to come and preach in Culpeper. He traveled on, scarcely knowing whither he went. An unseen hand directed his course. He providentially fell into one of Mr. Harris? meetings. When he came into the meeting house Mr. Harris fixed his eyes on him, being impressed previously that he had some extraordinary message. He asked him whence he came, and Mr. Wyley told him his errand. Upon which, after some deliberation, believing him to be sent of God, Mr. Harris agreed to go. Taking three days to prepare, he started with Wyley, having no meetings on the way, yet exhorting and praying in every house where he went.
"Arriving at Culpeper, his first meeting was in Wyley?s own house. He preached the first day without interruption, and appointed for the next. He the next day began to preach, but the opposers immediately raised violent opposition, appearing with whips, sticks, clubs, &c., so as to hinder his labors; in consequence of which he went that night over to Orange county, and preached with much effect. He continued many days preaching from place to place, attended by great crowds and followed throughout the meeting by several persons, who had been lately converted or seriously awakened under the ministry of the Regular Baptists, and by many who had been alarmed by his own labors. When Mr. Harris left them he exhorted them to be steadfast, and advised some (in whom he discovered talents) to commence the exercise of their gifts to hold meetings among themselves.
"In this ministerial journey Mr. Harris sowed many good seed, yielding afterwards great increase. The young converts took his advice and began to hold meetings every Sabbath, and almost every night in the week, taking a tobacco house for their meetings. After proceeding in this way for some time they applied to Mr. David Thomas, who lived somewhere north of the Rappahannock, to come and preach for them, and to teach them the ways of God more perfectly. He came, but in his preaching expressed some disapprobation of the preaching of such weak and illiterate persons. This was like throwing cold water upon their flaming zeal. They took umbrage, and resolved to send once more for Mr. Harris.
"Sometime in the year 1766, and a short time after Mr. Thomas? preaching, three of the parties, viz.: Elijah Craig and two others, traveled to Mr. Harris? house in order to procure his services in Orange and the adjacent parts to preach and baptize the new converts. They found to their surprise that he had not been ordained to the administration of the ordinances. To remedy this inconvenience he carried them about sixty miles into North Carolina to get James Read, who was ordained" (Semple). It was in this manner that the Separates labored and won converts.
Harris was not persecuted to the degree that some of the other Baptist preachers were; but he was called upon to suffer for the glory of God. He was once arrested and carried into court as a disturber of the peace. In the court he was vehemently accused as a vagabond, a heretic and a disturber of the peace. On one occasion, in Orange County, he was pulled down as he was preaching and dragged about by the hair of his head, and sometimes by a leg. His friends rescued him. On another time he was knocked down by a rude fellow while he was preaching But he was not dismayed by these, or any other difficulties.
A singular thing connected with the Baptists of Virginia was that Col. Harris, and some others were elected and served as bishops. Many of these Baptists were of the General type from England who were strongly monarchial and prelatical. It may readily be perceived, with the democratic principles of the Baptists of Virginia, that such a plan would not ultimately succeed.
The whole procedure is thus explained by Semple:
At this Association the query respecting the proper interpretation of Ephesians 4th chapter, 11th, 12th, and 13th verses, was again debated, and by an almost unanimous vote, three excepted, it was resolved that the said offices are now in use in Christ?s church, and the said three submitted to the majority. It was further resolved that the said offices be immediately established, by the appointment of certain persons to fill them, provided any possessed of such gifts be found among them.
They then proceeded to the choice of an apostle, by private poll, and the lot fell, by unanimous consent, upon Elder Samuel Harris. For the discipline of this high officer, the following rule is entered in the minutes, viz.: If our messenger or apostle shall transgress in any manner, he shall be liable to dealing in any church where the transgression is committed, and the said church is instructed to call helps from two or three neighboring churches, and, if by them found a transgressor, a general council of the churches shall be called to restore or excommunicate him. They then proceeded to ordain him, according to the following method:
The day being set apart as a fast day, we immediately proceeded to ordain him, and the hands of every ordained minister was laid on him. Public prayers were made by John Waller, E. Craig, and John Williams. John Waller gave a public charge, and the whole Association gave him the right hand of fellowship.
His work was to pervade the churches; to do, or at least to see to, the work of ordination, and to set in order things that were wanting, and to make report to the next Association.
The discussion on this subject caused no little warmth on both sides. Jeremiah Walker first agitated it, and it was supported by most of the preachers of popular talents, not without suspicion of vanity and ambition. The opposition was headed by Reuben Ford, followed by a numerous party in the Northern District. Walker wrote a piece upon the subject, entitled Free Thoughts, etc., in which, as also in his arguments, both in Associations and private companies, he very ingeniously maintained that all the offices mentioned in the above texts were still in use. Mr. Ford also wrote a pamphlet in answer to Mr. Walker?s in which he rebutted the arguments with considerable ability. Both of these were read before the Association. The majority favored Mr. Walker?s system and an experiment was made.
At an Association holden for the Northern District this fall, John Waller and E. Craig were appointed apostles for the north side of the river.
It is sufficient to inform our readers that this scheme did not succeed. Either the spirit of free government ran too high among the churches to submit to such an officer or the thing was wrong in itself, and, not being from God, soon fell. These apostles made their report to the next Association, rather in discouraging terms, and no others were ever appointed.
The judicious reader will quickly discover that this is only the old plan of bishops, etc., under a new name.
In the last decision it was agreed that the office of apostles, like that of prophets, was the effect of miraculous inspiration and did not belong to ordinary times (Semple).
Books for further reference:
J. M. Campbell, Georgia Baptists: Historical and Biographical. Macon, 1874.
Charles B. Williams, A History of the Baptists in North Carolina. Raleigh, 1901.
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved