committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

CHAPTER I.

General Character of the Period—Baptist General Assembly in London—Questions—Particular Baptist Fund—Baptist Board—The Dissenting Deputies—The Book Society—Bristol College—Dr. John Ward—Toleration Act—Schism Bill—Dissenters excluded from Office—Restrictions—Relief—Decline of the General Baptists—Communion Controversy—Effects of High Calvinism on the Particular Baptists—Commencement of Revival—Fuller and Sutcliffe—State of the Denomination in England—Foreign and Home Missions

I have named this the “Quiet Period,” because it was not only a time of rest, persecution having ceased, but also a time of stillness—of slumber—of comparative inaction. The excitement had passed away. A season of exhaustion succeeded, in which there was little power or even will to engage in any religious enterprise. It seemed as if there must be an interval allowed for the gathering of strength, ere the churches could enter the field of labour which was opening before them. It is true that there had been displays, marvelous displays, of moral force, that had startled and confounded the tyrants of the age, and had brought to remembrance the best days of the old martyrdoms; and it might have been supposed that the power thus gained would be employed in the work of the Lord with success equally marvelous, after the obstructions were removed out of the way. But strength to endure is very different from strength to labour. If the conflict issues in death, the supernatural energy holds out to the end, and the triumph is complete. If, on the other hand, the struggle ceases, so that a calm succeeds to the storm, a reaction takes place, and it has not unfrequently happened that a state of spiritual languor has followed a time of sore trial. Other considerations might be adduced, chiefly drawn from the history of the Church, tending to illustrate and confirm this remark. But whether the explanation be admitted or not, the fact in the present instance is suffi?ciently obvious. The Baptist interest in England fell into decline after the Revolution. Liberty did not bring life. The sunshine had for a time a withering effect. After the lapse of more than sixty years after the close of the perse?cution the denomination was found to have decreased. “There is no reason to doubt,” says Ivimey, “that our churches were far more prosperous and numerous at the Revolution in 1688, than at this period [1753], sixty years afterwards; so that prosperity had indeed slain more than the sword.”1

A General Assembly was convened in London, in 1689, at which ministers or delegates from upwards of one hun?dred churches were present. The meetings continued nine days, from the third to the twelfth of September. The object was to unite the churches together, that by a com?bination of their energies certain useful purposes might be subserved, besides the benefit which might be expected to result from brotherly communication. It was particularly recommended to raise a fund, by “freewill offerings,” and yearly, quarterly, monthly, or even weekly contributions, “the proceeds of which were to be devoted to the following objects, viz.:—the assistance of such churches as were not “able to maintain their own ministry,” so that their ministers might be “encouraged wholly to devote themselves to the great work of preaching the Gospel;” the sending of ministers “where the Gospel hath or hath not yet been preached, and to visit the churches;” and the furtherance of the wishes of “those members that shall be found in any of the aforesaid churches that are disposed for study, have an inviting gift, and are sound in fundamentals, in attaining to the knowledge and understanding of the languages, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.”

Various questions were proposed at this meeting, and the opinions and advice of the brethren sought; from which it appears that commendable care was exercised in the matter of discipline. We furnish an extract or two:—

Question. Whether, when the Church have agreed upon the keeping of one day, weekly or monthly, besides the first day of the week, to worship God and perform the necessary services of the Church, they may not charge such persons with evil that neglect such meetings, and lay them under reproof, unless such members can show good cause for such their absence?”

Answer. Concluded in the affirmative (Heb. 10:25).”

Q. What is to be done with those persons that will not communicate to the necessary expenses of the churches whereof they are members, according to their ability?”

A. Resolved, that, upon clear proof, the persons so offending, as aforesaid, should be duly admonished; and, if no reformation appears, the Church ought to withdraw from them (Eph. 5:3; Matthew 25:42; 1 John 3:17).”

Q. Whether it be not necessary for the elders, ministering brethren, the messengers of the churches, to take into their serious consideration those excesses that are found among their members, men and women, with respect to their apparel?”

A. In the affirmative:—That it is a shame for men to wear long hair, or long periwigs, and especially ministers (1 Cor. 11:14), or strange apparel (Zeph. 1:8); that the Lord reproves the daughters of Zion, for the bravery, haughtiness, and pride of their attire, walking with stretched-out necks, wanton eyes, mincing as they go (Isa. 3:16), as if they affected tallness, as one observes upon their stretched-out necks; though some in these times seem, by their high dresses, to out-do them in that respect . . . We earnestly desire that men and women whose souls are committed to our charge may be watched over in this matter, and that care be taken, and all just and due means used, for a reformation herein; and that such who are guilty of this crying sin of pride, that abounds in the churches as well as in the nation, may be reproved; especially considering what time and treasure is foolishly wasted in adorning the body, which would be better spent in a careful endeavour to adorn the soul; and the charge laid out upon those superfluities, to relieve the necessities of the poor saints, and to promote the interest of Jesus Christ. And though we deny not but in some cases ornaments may be allowed, yet whatever ornaments in men or women are inconsistent with modesty, gravity, sobriety, and prove a scandal to religion, opening the mouths of the ungodly, ought to be cast off, being truly no ornaments to believers, but rather a defilement.”2

Similar meetings were held in London for several successive years. The difficulties of transit in those days, with other considerations, led to an alteration, by which Bristol was substituted for London every alternate year. At length those general gatherings were discontinued, and Associations of a smaller kind were instituted, similar to those now held; but we are inclined to think that the arrangements were not of a permanent character. The Western Association was an exception. That body has remained till the present day. The others gradually ceased to exist, and new Associations were afterwards organized. A large majority of those now existing were constituted or revived in the present century.

The churches in London and its vicinity were larger and wealthier than those in other parts of the kingdom. It is pleasing to observe that they were liberally disposed, and that the country churches were indebted to them for very valuable assistance. They originated the Particular Baptist Fund, which was established in 1717, and which still exists. Its objects were, the relief and aid of ministers whose incomes were insufficient for their support, and the encouragement of candidates for the ministry, by helping them to purchase books or to pursue their studies. Large sums were contributed for the establishment of the Fund, both by the churches and by individuals, and considerable additions have been since made by donations and legacies. The interest of the funded money constitutes the income, which is further increased by the proceeds of annual collections. In 1869 the income was ?3,232 1s. 1d. This institution has rendered most important service to the denomination. The General Baptists established a Fund of the same kind in 1726.

The ministers living in London and its vicinity formed themselves into a society, January 20th, 1723-4, which has continued till now. The original purposes of the society are thus adverted to by Mr. Ivimey:—“They gave their opinion and advice in any matters of difficulty in the churches that were referred to them by both parties; they received applications from the country ministers to assist them from the Baptist Fund; they sanctioned and recommended cases of building and repairing meeting-houses in the country, and to be collected for in London; they watched rigorously over the purity of the members composing the Board, whether it related to charges of immoral conduct, or of erroneous principles; they received to their friendship ministers upon their being settled as pastors in the churches, and young ministers who were introduced by the pastors of the respective churches which had called them to the ministry; and they appear to have generally acted in a body in assisting destitute churches, and at the ordination of ministers—to have very strictly discouraged separations in the churches—and to have affectionately supported each other against traducers.”3 The society is now called, “The Baptist Board.”

Certain other organizations from which the Baptists derived benefit were composed of the various bodies of Protestant Dissenters, with whom they united on these occasions.

The General Body of Protestant Dissenting Ministers of the Three Denominations was constituted in the year 1727. It consists of all approved ministers of the Presbyterian, Independent, and Baptist Denominations, resident within ten miles of the cities of London and Westminster. The objects for the promotion of which they are associated are not very strictly defined; but they may be said to embrace whatever affects the welfare of the Protestant Dissenting interest, in its general or political aspects. Many advantages have resulted from this Association. It is the privilege of this body to present addresses in person to the Sovereign on important occasions, such as the accession, royal marriages, deliverances from danger, great victories, restoration of peace, and the like. At such times the King or the Queen is seated on the throne, attended by the great officers of State. The first opportunity of the kind was the accession of King William and Queen Mary. Mr. Ivimey has preserved in his “History” copies of the addresses presented in the period now under review, and up to the year 1820, with the royal replies.

When the general body was formed, in 1727, forty-five Baptist ministers joined it; the present number is about sixty-four.

Another association, formed in 1732, has proved exceedingly useful. We refer to the body of Deputies, appointed to defend the civil rights of Dissenters. Two gentlemen are sent by each congregation of the three Denominations in and about the Cities of London and Westminster. They meet annually, and at such other times as may be needful. An Executive Committee is chosen from the Body once a year, to manage its affairs. The objects of this combination are, the maintenance of rights and privileges, the prevention of encroachments on the same, the redress of grievances, and the removal of restrictions and burdens incompatible with religious freedom.

Another society in which Baptists united with other denominations was the “Book Society,” originally called, “The Society for Propagating Religious Knowledge among the Poor.” It was instituted in 1750. The object of the society is stated to be “the gratuitous distribution and sale of Bibles and Testaments, and other books of established excellence, and the publication of original and standard works, adapted to promote religious and moral instruction.” It combines the purposes of the Bible and Tract Societies, but was formed before either of them, and continues in useful operation.

It was stated in a former chapter that Mr. Terrill had bequeathed considerable property for the purpose of providing for the education of candidates for the ministry by the pastor of Broadmead Church, Bristol. Possession of the property was not obtained till some years after his death. The Rev. Caleb Jope was the first minister employed under this arrangement. He entered on his duties in 1710, but his services do not appear to have been satisfactory. He was succeeded in 1720; by the Rev. Bernard Foskett, who held the office for nearly forty years. On his death, in 1758, the Rev. Hugh Evans became tutor, who was followed by his son, Dr. Caleb Evans, with whom, during the last seven years of his life, the Rev. Robert Hall was associated as assistant. Dr. Evans died in 1791, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. His father and he (and the same may be asserted of Mr. Foskett) were eminent men in all respects—as Christians, as ministers, and as theological tutors—and were held in high esteem throughout the denomination. The wishes of good Mr. Terrill were abundantly realized, and the advantages derived from his liberal bequest greatly extended, by the establishment of the Bristol Education Society, founded in 1770, chiefly by the exertions of Dr. Evans. Bristol College, as it is now called, has furnished a large number of excellent ministers and missionaries. About two hundred and fifty persons have received instruction there since its establishment.

Dr. John Ward, a learned Baptist, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Professor at Gresham College, placed in trust in the year 1754, the sum of 1,200l. Bank Stock, the interest accruing therefrom to be yearly applied, after his decease, “to the education of two young men or more, at a Scotch university or elsewhere, with a view to the ministry, preference being given to Baptists.” Dr. Ward was a member of the congregation in Little Wild Street, London. He died in 1758. Some of our most celebrated men have enjoyed the benefit of his useful benefaction. It is now administered by five trustees, all of whom are Baptists.

We will now call attention to the history of religious freedom during this period.

Although the sufferings of Protestant Dissenters ceased with the Revolution, their position was far from satisfactory. The Toleration Act, passed in 1689, legalized their assemblies, under certain restrictions presently to be mentioned; but the boon was very grudgingly granted. William III. did not grudge it; he would have removed all restraints, had not the bigotry of the age prevented him. In Queen Anne’s time the High Tory party attained such power and influence that measures were taken to place the iron heel once more on the Dissenters. The Schism Bill provided—“That no person in Great Britain or Wales shall keep any public or private school or seminary, or teach or instruct youth, as tutor or schoolmaster, that has not first subscribed the declaration to conform to the Church of England, and has not obtained license from the respective diocesan or ordinary of the place; that under failure of so doing, he may be committed to prison without bail or mainprise; and that no such license shall be granted before the party produces a certificate of his having received the sacrament according to the communion of the Church of England, in some parish church, within a year before obtaining such license, and hath subscribed the oaths of allegiance and supremacy.” It was further provided, that if any person so licensed should “knowingly or willingly resort to any Conventicle,” or “teach any other Catechism than what is set forth in the Common Prayer,” his license should be void, and he should suffer three months’ imprisonment. This iniquitous enactment passed both Houses, notwithstanding strenuous opposition, received the royal assent, and was to go into operation August 1st, 1714. On that very day Queen Anne died, the House of Brunswick ascended the throne, and a new policy was inaugurated. The Act was never allowed to be put into execution, and in 1719 it was formally repealed.

But during all this period the Dissenters were excluded bylaw from office and employment under the Crown and in corporations. Communion with the Church of England was a necessary pre-requisite. Several endeavors were made for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, but always unsuccessfully. Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Methodists, were considered unworthy to share in responsibilities and honours with members of the Church of England. Nay, more—the Corporation of the City of London meanly took advantage of their position to filch money from them. As no man who was not a member of the Church of England could take any office in a Corporation, and as it was well known that Dissenters would not “qualify” (as it was called) by taking the Sacrament, a bye-law was passed, imposing a fine of 400l. on every citizen who should refuse to serve as Sheriff when nominated by the Lord Mayor, or 600l. when elected by his fellow-citizens. This being done, Dissenters were, from year to year, nominated or chosen, and then compelled to pay the fines, which were appropriated to the rebuilding of the Mansion House. The sum of 15,000l. had been wrung from them in this manner: it was high time to put a stop to the unjust exaction. In 1754, three Dissenters (Messrs. Stratfield, Sheafe, and Evans) were elected to the Sheriffs’ office. The Committee of Dissenters encouraged them to refuse payment of the fine, on the ground of the illegality of the bye-law. For this they were sued in the Sheriffs’ Court, and condemned. The judges reversed the decision, whereupon the Corporation took up the cause, by writ of error, to the House of Lords, where the question was gravely and ably argued. By that time two of the defen?dants had died, and the death of Mr. Evans, the survivor, who was in the eighty-second year of his age, was daily expected. Lord Mansfield, the Chancellor, espoused the cause of justice, and nobly vindicated the rights of Dis?senters, at the same time censuring the course adopted by the Corporation in terms of indignant severity. The House confirmed the action of the Judges, February 4th, 1767; and so the oppression ceased for ever. Mr. Evans, we may add, who had persevered for thirteen years in his re?sistance to wrong, received the news of the successful issue as he lay on his death-bed.

It is pleasant to record that no Protestant Dissenters were implicated in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. During the first, there were riotous proceedings in various parts of the kingdom, when those who were friendly to the exiled dynasty raised the ecclesiastical war-cry that “the Church was in danger,” and wreaked their fury on Dissenting meet?ing-houses and other property. The Baptists lost two places of worship on that occasion. The breaking out of the second rebellion was the signal for loyal and patriotic demonstrations. The Dissenters took up arms in defense of their King; several of their distinguished men received commissions; and it was confessed that the vigor dis?played by them tended powerfully to repress the discon?tented, and to embolden the friends of the royal house. But they had incurred the penalties of the law by pre?suming to serve the King without first going to church, and taking the Sacrament; and, ridiculous as it may appear, it was absolutely necessary to pass an Act of Indemnity, graciously releasing them from the penal con?sequences of their loyalty and zeal!

It has been stated that freedom of worship was granted to Dissenters “under certain restrictions.” They  might worship when and where they pleased, but it was necessary to register their meeting-houses at the Quarter Sessions, and their ministers were required to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and to subscribe the doctrinal Articles of the Church of England (but the Baptists were not called on to subscribe the 27th article, which treats of infant baptism). The latter requisition was peculiarly offensive to them, not because they did not generally believe the doctrines enunciated in the Articles, but because they repudiated the authority of the State to demand subscription. In addition to this, Dissenting schoolmasters were still subject to penalties (notwithstanding the repeal of the Schism Bill), if they taught school without first signing a declaration of conformity to the Church of England. These grievances remained unredressed till the year 1779.

An attempt to remove them was made in the year 1772, and a Bill for that purpose passed the Commons, but was rejected by the Lords. Only one bishop voted for it. Another attempt was made the next year, with a similar result. On that occasion the Archbishop of York charged the Dissenting ministers with being “men of close ambition.” “This is judging uncharitably,” replied Lord Chatham, “and whoever brings such a charge without evidence defames.” His lordship paused for a moment, and then added: “The Dissenting ministers are represented as men of close ambition;—they are so, my lords; and their ambition is to keep close to the college of fishermen, not of cardinals—and to the doctrines of inspired Apostles, not to the decrees of interested and aspiring bishops. They contend for a Scriptural and spiritual worship—we have a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and Arminian clergy. The Reformation has laid open the Scriptures to all; let not the bishops shut them up again. Laws in support of ecclesiastical power are pleaded, which it would shock, humanity to execute. It is said religious sects have done great mischief when they were not kept under restraints;  but history affords no proof that sects have ever been mis?chievous when they were not oppressed and persecuted by the ruling Church.”4

“Christian liberty!” exclaimed Robert Robinson, “thou favorite offspring of heaven; thou first-born of Christianity! I saw the wise and pious servants of God nourish thee in their houses, and cherish thee in their bosoms! I saw them lead thee into public view; all good men hailed thee; the generous British Commons caressed and praised thee, and led thee into an upper house, and there—there didst thou expire in the holy laps of spiritual lords!”5

In 1774 Mr. Robinson (he was pastor of the Baptist church at Cambridge) published a work which probably influenced the public mind on this subject, and, prepared the way for the repeal of the obnoxious enactments. We refer to his Arcana, or the Principles of the late Petitioners to Parliament for Relief in the matter of Subscription. The book was written in the form of letters, and the subjects discussed were—Candour in Controversy—Uniformity in Religion—The Right of Private Judgment—Civil Magistracy Innovation—Orthodoxy—Persecution—Sophistry. Incomparable wit sparkled in this work. No Churchman could read it without being ashamed of the intolerance of his spiritual rulers.

At length, even the bishops were mollified. One of their number, Dr. Ross, Bishop of Exeter, in a sermon before the House of Lords on the 30th of January, 1779, expressed his wish that relief might be afforded to Dissenters. The hint was taken. A bill was speedily introduced, which passed both Houses without much difficulty, by which subscription to the Articles was abolished, and instead of it ministers were required to sign the following declaration:—“I, A. B., do solemnly declare, in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a Christian, and a Protestant, and as such that I believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as commonly received among Protestant Churches, do contain the revealed will of God; and that I do receive the same as the rule of my faith and practice.” Dissenting schoolmasters also obtained the desired relief.

We have narrated these transactions, in all which the Baptists were concerned in common with other Protestant Dissenters, in order to put the reader in possession of some facts which ought not to be lost sight of. Persecution in its violent forms existed no longer; but there were men still to be found, and the race is not yet extinct, who gladly embraced every opportunity of venting their spite against those who chose to think and act for themselves in matters of religion. Let us be thankful that this ill-conditioned tribe is dwindling away.

A sad degeneracy had taken place among the General Baptists, who, as the reader is doubtless aware, adopt Arminian views, the Particular Baptists being denominated Calvinistic. Arianism had crept in among them, and with it certain other errors. The loss of life followed the obscuration of light. Anti-Evangelical sentiments and practices prevailed to such an alarming extent, that the sound-hearted of that denomination felt the necessity of withdrawment. They peaceably withdrew in the year 1770, and formed the “New Connexion of General Baptists.” The blessing of God followed the movement. The new body thus constituted is now the General Baptist Denomination, the Arianised churches having for the most part fallen into Socinianism, or become extinct.

The Communion controversy was revived. Nothing had been published on the subject since the time of Charles II., when Bunyan advocated free communion, and Kiffin replied to him. In 1771 Robert Robinson wrote a pamphlet entitled, The General Doctrines of Toleration applied to Free Communion. Messrs. Ryland, of Northampton, and Turner, of Abingdon, men of note and power published essays, maintaining the same views. They were answered by Abraham Booth, whose Apology for the Baptists was the most masterly production that had yet appeared on that side of the question. No other publications on the subject were issued for many years.

We have remarked that the denomination had evidently fallen into a state of religious declension almost immediately after the restoration of freedom. The statistics prove this. To whatever other causes the condition of affairs may be ascribed, there can be little doubt that the paralyzing influence of the doctrinal sentiments entertained by many of the ministers must be regarded as mainly contributing to the result. John Brine and Dr. Gill were chief men in the denomination for nearly half a century. They were Supralapsarians, holding that God’s election was irrespective of the fall of man. They taught eternal justification. Undue prominence was given in their discourses to the teachings of Scripture respecting the Divine purposes. Although they themselves inculcated practical godliness, and so were not justly liable to the charge of Antinomianism, there is reason to fear that numbers of those who imbibed their doctrinal views kept out of sight, or but feebly urged, the obligation of believers to personal holiness. And this is certain, that these eminent men, and all their followers, went far astray from the course marked out by our Lord and His Apostles. They were satisfied with stating men’s danger, and assuring them that they were on the high road to perdition. But they did not call upon them to “repent and believe the Gospel.” They did not entreat them to be “reconciled unto God.” They did not “warn every man and teach every man in all wisdom.” And the churches did not, could not, under their instruction, engage in efforts for the conversion of souls. They were so afraid of intruding on God’s work that they neglected to do what He  had commanded them. They seem to have supposed that preservation was all they should aim at; they had not heart enough to seek for extension. No wonder that the cause declined!

The backsliding and coldness had affected all religious communities in England. Had it not been for the merciful revival which accompanied the labours of Whitfield and the Wesleys, evangelical truth would have well nigh died out. These extraordinary men were raised up for a glorious purpose. The effects of their ministry were felt by all denominations. The churches began to arise and shake themselves from the dust. A new order of things may be dated from the commencement of their itinerancy, indicating a gradual return to Apostolical simplicity and fervor. Christian ministers preached differently; if they uttered the same truths, there was more affection and power in the utterance. Some of them found that an addition to their creeds was necessary, to bring them into accordance with the heavenly standard, and Christian churches saw that there were duties incumbent on them, which they could not neglect without incurring guilt.

The restorative process did not take effect among the Baptists so soon as in some other denominations; but at length they also felt its influence, and then it was not long before improvement was discernible, as the statistical returns show. Another circumstance tended to bring it about. Some excellent ministers in the midland counties had long seen and lamented the prevalence of unscriptural opinions, and striven against the stream; they now saw a turn in their favour, and wisely resolved to avail themselves of it. Robert Hall, of Arnsby, father of the great Robert Hall, delivered a sermon before the Northamptonshire Association, at its Annual Meeting in 1779, founded on Isaiah 57:14:—“Cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of My people.” In compliance with the urgent request of his brethren, this discourse was shortly afterwards presented to the public, in an enlarged form, under the title of, Help to Zion’s Travelers; or, an Attempt to Remove various Stumbling? blocks out of the Way, relating to Doctrinal, Experimental, and Practical Religion. This instructive and useful book had a wide circulation. It corrected the religious senti?ments of many, molding after the Divine model, and was peculiarly serviceable to the cause of truth.

From that time we may discern religious progress. Thoughtful concern for the souls of others began to manifest itself. A monthly prayer-meeting far the revival of religion and the spread of the Gospel, was instituted in 1784. William Carey  meditated on the state of the world, and longed to evangelize it. His Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathen, was published in 1791. This paved the way for the missionary enterprise; but our fathers did not rush into it unadvisedly or in haste. They thought, and prayed, and marked the leadings of the Divine will, prepared to follow the light. God educated them for the work, and so, when they engaged in it, it was not so much to undertake a project as to develop a principle, trusting in the promises of Him who has said in His Word, “It shall not return unto Me void.”

Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliffe were “men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” When they saw that the time was come, they prepared to arouse the people. To this their discourses (delivered at a meeting of ministers at Clipston, Northamptonshire, in 1791) mainly contributed. Fuller preached from Haggai 1:2, on “The Pernicious Influence of Delay;” Sutcliffe from 1 Kings 19:10, on “Jealousy for the Lord of Hosts.” Decisive action followed shortly afterwards.

On the 2nd of October, 1792, twelve ministers, deputed by the Northamptonshire Association, met in the house of Mr. Beeby Wallis, at Kettering, and, after lengthened and prayerful discussion, adopted a plan of a mission, and formed a society, designated, “The Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel amongst the Heathen.” The names of the twelve were, John Ryland, Reynold Hogg, John Sutcliffe, Andrew Fuller, Abraham Greenwood, Edward Sharman, Joshua Burton, Samuel Pearce, Thomas Blundel, William Heighton, John Eayres, Joseph Timms. Their joint contributions amounted to ?13 2s. 6d.

William Carey immediately offered himself as a missionary. Mr. John Thomas, who had already performed some Christian labour in Calcutta, while practicing there as a surgeon, and was then in England, joined him. They sailed from England June 13th, 1793; John Fountain followed them in 1796; and in 1799 Messrs. Ward, Brunsdon, Grant, and Marshman were added to the little band. Difficulties and trials of no ordinary character oppressed the work for several years. At length the mission found a home at Serampore, under the protection of Denmark, to which country Serampore then belonged. There, on the 16th of May, 1800, the first sheet of the Bengali New Testament, translated by Carey, was put to press. Thus was a solid foundation laid, on which a fair and noble superstructure was afterwards erected.6

It is observable that, five years after the institution of the Missionary Society, the claims of home began to be deeply felt. Christians saw that, if one thing was to be “done,” the other was not to be “left undone.” The Baptist Home Mission Society was founded in 1797.

The denomination had been gathering strength for several years. In 1763 the number of churches was 200. In 1790 there were 326 churches in England and 56 in Wales, besides the churches of the General Baptists, the number of which is not given.

 

1 History, iii. p. 279.
2 Ivimey, i. p. 496.
3 History, iii. p. 179.
4
Ivimey, iv. p. 28.
5 Works, ii. p. 183.
6 See Dr. Cox’s History of the Baptist Missionary Society.

 
 
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