The First African Baptist Church Trying to Re-enter the Association--She Finally Enters--Her Identity Traced from 1788 to 1838, a Period of Fifty Years. In all these Years She is First African Baptist Church.
In 1832 the First African Baptist Church was expelled. In 1835 she applied for restoration. She was refused. The trouble was not settled to the satisfaction of the association, and hence they had to wait. A committee was appointed to investigate the case and report at the next session. This year was also full of trouble and characterized by committee meetings and such like. The church, however, was not content to remain out of the association. Rev. Marshall, its pastor, had a large heart and was ready to forgive and forget the past, and march on, unitedly, to a glorious victory.
The church felt it very keenly that they were out of the association, and great was the anxiety of the church to return to the association and the communion of the saints. Hence the disappointment of the church when the delegates returned and told them that they would have to wait another year before their anticipated joy of being united with the saints could be realized. Certain terms were proposed for reconciliation. The terms must have appeared stringent to the church and aggrieved pastor. They were called upon to deny any adherence to the doctrine of Alexander Campbell, and the pastor, Rev. A. C. Marshall, was called upon to disavow any belief in the doctrine of Mr. Campbell, which he had all along denied, and the contrary of which they had on every occasion failed to prove, even if Rev. Mr. Marshall entertained such views. The committee of the church (white) interposed and prevented the First African Church from joining the association. In 1836 the First African Baptist Church sent a petition again to rejoin the association, but was again denied upon the ground that they had not complied with the terms proposed by the association through its committee. This petition was accompanied by a letter from the trustees (white), the spirit of which the association said it admired. But the church had still to wait another year, as the committee recommended that the church be refused admittance until they had complied with the terms which had been proposed as the only ground upon which reconciliation could be effected. Though this pained the heart of the church she bore it Christ-like, and still endeavored to gain the fellowship of the saints and to be one again in the household of faith.
In 1837, the First African Baptist Church appears as fair as the moon emerged from a dreadful cloud. For five years she had been in trouble and out of the association. During these five years her faith had been put to the severest test. Her enemies were strong, influential and many; they were determined, untiring, and many of them learned. With these odds the church had to contend. The church was determined, meek, humble, and, for that day, remarkably intelligent. She had a strong pastor, of iron will, many true and lasting friends. Being united among themselves, they proved to be an army too invincible for the mightiest foe. As of Rev. Andrew Bryan and this same church, their bitterest enemies were turned to most ardent admirers. During all this time the church increased in power, intellectually, spiritually, solidity and piety. Her troubles tended to develop her unknown strength and greatness which otherwise might have lain dormant. But for this trouble she might not have been the great church she is to-day. When she was yet young, she learned self-reliance and to trust in God and go ahead.
The church was restored to the association in 1837 with a membership of 1,810. She was represented in this session by A. C. Marshall and R. McNish (the latter is still alive). She was expelled in 1832 with a membership of 2,795. At that session she was represented by A. C. Marshall, A. Johnson, J. Simpson and S. Whitfield. In 1837 when the First African Baptist Church returned to the association, the Third African Church, now the First Bryan Church, was represented by S. McQueen, with a membership of 189. At this session we have the First African Baptist Church with a membership of 1,810, a Second African Church with a membership of 1,263, and a Third African Church with a membership of 189. When Rev. Marshall went off from the old spot he carried with him 2,640 members, leaving with Deacon Adam Johnson 155 members. They returned as above stated. This was 830 members less than he left with. Where are these 830 members? They did not go very largely to the Second African Church, for their number was diminished. For at the session of 1832, at which the First African Church was expelled, the Second African Church represented 1,310 members, and at the session of 1837, when it returned, the Second Church had a membership of 1,263, 47 members less. They did not go very largely to the Third African Church, for in 1833, when it first joined the association, it represented 155 members. In 1837, four years afterward, when the First African Church was readmitted, the Third Church represented 189 members--just 34 more--only an average of 81/2 members a year. During the five years' trouble of the church many of the country members had been encouraged to leave the church by the white people. Many became indifferent; many had been taken out of the city on farms, and many had been hired out or sold out of the city. This accounts for the missing 830 members. It must be noticed that the church was expelled in 1832 from the association as First African Church, with Rev. A. C. Marshall, pastor and delegate, and returned as First African Church, in 1837, with Rev. A. C. Marshall as pastor and delegate. She was dealt with all between as First African Baptist Church. Thus through the terrible troubles through which the church passed she never lost her identity. The terrible missles of the enemies fell harmlessly at her feet. Through Christ she conquered and her fame became world wide, and Rev. Marshall acknowledged as one of the ablest men of the age. Strangers visiting Savannah would not consider their visit complete if they did not visit the First African Church. After this trouble, Rev. Marshall's greatness just begun to be acknowledged throughout the country. Settled down quietly to his work, the church under his leadership increased rapidly in membership and soon ran up to several thousands. Indeed, she did come forth, as fair as the moon, as bright as the sun, and as terrible as an army with banners. The First African Baptist Church was always liberal in its contributions to missions and to the cause of Christ generally. It has left its impress upon the hearts of many ministers and others whom she has helped in times of need. Notwithstanding her troubles she bought her house of worship, for which she paid $1,500, and supported her pastor at the same time. She never refused a call for missions.
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