committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER IV.

BAPTISTS IN AMERICA

 

The first Baptist church in America
Authorities differ very much as to the beginning of Baptist History in America. By some good authorities it has been maintained that the first Baptist church in America was organized by Roger Williams at Providence, R. I., in the year 1639. Other historians, who are just as reliable, dispute this claim. According to Vedder, "Sometime about March, 1639, therefore, Williams baptized Ezekiel Holliman, who had been a member of his church at Salem; and thereupon Holliman baptized Williams. Eleven others obeyed their Lord in this way, and the first Baptist church on American soil was formed." Williams had been banished from Salem, Massachusetts Colony, where he was pastor, because of his teachings with regard to the religious liberty and the separation of church and state had come to what is now Providence and founded a settlement based upon the above named ideas, thus giving to the world "its first government" whose corner-stone was "absolute religious liberty."

But Jarrell maintains, in his Baptist Church Perpetuity, that Hansard Knollys, who had come to America among the Puritan immigrants, was the pastor of Baptist church which had been organized at Newport by John Clark in 1638, the year before Roger Williams organized the Providence Church. Ray supports Jarrell's claim in the following statement: "We consider it a point now fully made out, that the Newport, and not the Providence Church is the oldest Baptist church in America." On the other hand, Cramp puts the organization of the Newport Church by Dr. John Clark as late as 1644. Thus goes the argument, but we are inclined toward the conclusion that the church at Providence, founded by Roger Williams, has the best of the argument. But soon afterwards, Baptist churches sprang up in all of the colonies with varying degrees of success and persecution attending them. The first Baptist church in Delaware originated in 1770 from an immigrant Baptist church from Wales.

Colonial church organizations
In Massachusetts we find the organization of a Baptist church at Rehoboth in 1662, which moved bodily to Swansea in 1667, the first in the colony and which has had continued existence to this day. This was followed by the organization of a church in Boston in 1665. These Baptists worshipped God under the fearful pressure, but they triumphed. Cramp tells us that "A church was formed at Kittery, Maine, in 1682, but it died in its infancy." In 1683 a church was formed at Charleston, S. C. There were two churches in Pennsylvania, Cold Springs, founded in 1684; Pennepek, in 1688. In the same year a church was established at Middletown, N. J. In 1688, the Baptist denomination in America comprised thirteen churches only seven in Rhode Island, two in Massachusetts, one in South Carolina, two in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey.

Great growth as shown by latest statistics
How the seed has multiplied and brought forth is shown in these statistics taken from "Bulletin 103," Census of "Religious Bodies 1906," published by the United States government in 1909: "Communicants" of members, 1906. (Regular white Baptists), Northern Baptist Convention, Number of organizations, 8272; number of members, 1,052,105; church edifices, 7,729; with seating capacity, 2,584,801; value of church property, $74,620,025; number of Sunday-schools, 8,220, with 102,506 officers and teachers and 851,169 scholars.

Southern Baptist Convention, Number of organizations, 21,104; number of members, 2,009,471; church edifices, 18,537, with seating capacity of 6,044,633; value of church property, $34,723,882; number of Sunday-schools, 15,035, with 106,017 officers and teachers and 1,014,690 scholars.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved