THERE are few things so advantageous, in the detailed study of history, as to establish ourselves at some definite point of the past, and look carefully around, until all that lies within the horizon of that time is thoroughly known. The period just named for this purpose is of peculiar interest to American citizens, as lying at the threshold of American independence, and also to Baptists, for then our brethren were just drawing near the end of their struggles and sufferings, and preparing the way for more joyous and prosperous work in a new and blessed day of freedom. The limits of a lecture will of course not allow any general study of that grand epoch. Even confining ourselves to the one theme of? the Baptist ministry at that time, we shall be able only to glance rapidly along the outlines of this single department in the wide field of view.
It requires a great effort of imagination to go back one hundred years. In 1774 there was nothing of our present magnificent country but the thirteen colonies along the Atlantic coast, from New Hampshire to Georgia. In many of these, as we look hack, we see that only the eastern part of the territory is settled, even in Pennsylvania and Virginia hardly one-half, and in New York and Georgia, only the southeastern corner. The first feeble settlements in Kentucky and Tennessee are but a few years old. There has been in the colonies great political discontent for some fourteen years, particularly manifested in Massachusetts and Virginia, which has grown into a wide-spread opposition to the home government. The ?Boston tea party? occurred last winter, December, 1773. The first Continental Congress is to meet in Philadelphia three days hence, September 4, 1774. The colonists intend to maintain their rights by force if necessary; but very few are as yet looking forward to independence. The Virginians have been engaged all summer in a great Indian war, which will end a few weeks hence with the ?bloodiest and most decisive? of all the Indian battles at the month of Kanawha.
Let us now survey the leading Baptist ministers of the several groups of colonies. Many able and useful men have long ere this passed away. In the previous century Hansard Knollys and Roger Williams were Baptist preachers in New England within less than twenty years after the landing of the Pilgrims, and John Clark founded the church at Newport in 1644, only twenty-four years after the landing. Still others were coming over from England and Wales, and by the end of the seventeenth century there were seventeen American Baptist churches in existence, situated chiefly in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but several of them in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and one in Charleston, S. C. Passing to the eighteenth century, we find that Elisha Callender, a graduate of Harvard College, and a Baptist pastor beloved by all denominations in Boston, died in 1788, which is thirty-six years ago. A few years afterwards died Valentine Wightman, a man of marked ability and extensive attainments, who founded many churches in Connecticut. And still earlier in the century was Abel Morgan, who came over from Wales to Philadelphia in 1711, and was greatly respected for his ministerial knowledge, zeal, and usefulness, until his death in 1722. These three?Morgan, Callender, and Wightman?are all that we have time to glance at of the departed worthies, though various other good ministers of the time are known to history.
Coming to those who are still alive in 1774, we must look first at leading ministers who are by this time growing old, or already widely known?those who belong mainly or largely to the past.
A number of these are found in New England. Timothy Wightman succeeded his father, Valentine Wightman, in Groton, Connecticut, and though a man of less power than his father, has been very devout and useful, and has brought his church into a very healthy condition, with repeated revivals. He is now fifty-five years old, and is greatly beloved and full of pastoral work. Gardiner Thurston, of Rhode Island, is a little younger, and has spent all his life at Newport. He was not educated at college, but has always had a great thirst for knowledge, and been very diligent both in general and in theological studies. At first assistant to an aged pastor for eleven years, and giving part of his time to business for a support, he after-wards succeeded him, and has for fifteen years been full pastor, and entirely supported by the church. He is a charming man in private intercourse, and in preaching is not only interesting and instructive, but pathetic and solemn, and plainly depends much on the special support and b1essing of the Holy Spirit. In Massachusetts is the famous Isaac Backus, now fifty years old, and in the ful[l]ness of his powers. Reared a Congregationalist in Connecticut, and converted during the ?Great Awakening? produced by the preaching of Whitfield and others, he presently went off with the Separatists or New Light Congregationalists, who contended for a converted membership and strict discipline, and for an internal call to the ministry. After preaching some years in this connection he became a Baptist, and at length pastor of a new Baptist church in Middleborough, Massachusetts, in which position he has now remained for eighteen years. Two years ago he was chosen agent for the Baptist churches in Massachusetts, to labor for securing religious liberty, and has done the work with great zeal and ability, corresponding with the English Baptists on the subject, and also corresponding with the patriotic Samuel Adams, as the Virginia Baptists are doing with Jefferson and Madison. He will shortly be in like manner appointed agent to attend the Continental Congress, which is about to meet in Philadelphia. Mr. Backus has already published several sermons and a number of pamphlets on questions of Scripture doctrine or of religions liberty. And he has been busily collecting materials for a history of the Baptists in New England, the first volume of which will be ready in two or three years. Very diligent and painstaking in the collection of material, and laborious in general, his writings are full of reliable information and vigorous argument, though somewhat deficient in literary finish. He is a man of powerful physique, strengthened by early work on a farm and by much travelling [sic] on horseback. His commanding appearance, deep-toned voice, grave argumentative style, earnest and masterful nature, and fervent piety, make him, though not exactly an attractive, yet a highly impressive preacher. And, together, he is at this time probably the most influential Baptist minister in New England. While passing over various others, we must not fail to notice Noah Alden, of Massachusetts, now forty-nine years old, who was originally a Congregationa1ist, but has been for nineteen years a Baptist minister, greatly respected for his wisdom in regard to politics as well as religion, and very useful in his pastoral work.
These are the older men among the leading Baptist ministers of New England at the time of which we speak, Wightman, Thurston, Backus, Alden. Several others are younger, though already well known and influential. Foremost among them are Manning and Stillman.
James Manning was born in New Jersey thirty-six years ago, attended the famous Baptist School at Hopewell, N.J., conducted by Rev. Isaac Eaton especially ?for the education of youth for the ministry,? and graduated with the highest honors at Princeton College. He speedily grew very popular as a preacher, and before long became pastor at Warren, Rhode Island. Here he was the most active person in founding, just ten years ago, Rhode Island College, which in a few years was removed to Providence, and is destined at a later period to be known as Brown University. Of this first Baptist College in America Mr. Manning was made President and Professor of Languages, and he and the college have already gained a warm place in the affections of the people of Providence and of the Baptists of all the colonies. Samuel Stillman, a native of Philadelphia, was brought by his parents to Charleston, S. C., when eleven years old, and converted under the ministry of Rev. Oliver Hart, of whom we shall hereafter speak. He received a classical education from Mr. Rind, ? a teacher of some celebrity? in Charleston, and then spent a year in studying theology with the assistance of his pastor, Mr. Hart. He began to preach in Charleston sixteen years ago, and settled first on James Island, but his lungs becoming diseased, he went to New Jersey as a better climate. After preaching there two years be visited Boston, where he was at first assistant in the Second Church, and soon afterwards, nine years ago, was made pastor of the First Baptist Church. Here he rapidly sprang into great popularity and influence. His preaching is attended for the sake of its eloquence by men having little sympathy with his thoroughly evangelical doctrines, including prominent lawyers and politicians. Highly cultivated and careful in preparation, he yet often indulges in ?sudden bursts" of unpremeditated, impassioned eloquence, and constantly makes free use of anecdote and other illustration. His religious visits are valued and solicited by persons of all denominations. He is also taking an active part in the support and management of Rhode Island College, and in all the work of the Baptists of New England, and has already published quite a number of excellent sermons. He is now thirty-seven years old. Universally admired and beloved, full of ministerial work in public and in private, in his own church and elsewhere, deeply devout and richly blessed, we shall find in all this survey no Baptist pastorate so truly brilliant as that of Samuel Stillman in Boston. Indeed it is doubtful whether there was at that time a more popular preacher of any denomination in America.
Hezekiah Smith, by birth a New Yorker, was educated, like Manning, at Hopewell School and Princeton College. After graduating, he travelled [sic] south for his health, and was ordained in Charleston, S.C. After preaching a while in the Pedee country, with great acceptance, he returned northward, went to New England, and finally built up a new and strong Baptist church at Haverhill, Massachusetts, of which for the last eight or nine years he has been the beloved pastor. He has also made numerous preaching tours as far north as Maine, and his dignified, solemn, truly eloquent preaching everywhere makes a great impression. He maintains an affectionate correspondence with Oliver Hart and other brethren in South Carolina. He is now thirty-seven years old, about the same age as Manning and Stillman.
There is little time to speak of Samuel Shepard, who was a young Congregationalist physician in New Hampshire, but was converted to Baptist views by reading a tract found at the house of one of his patients; and soon beginning to preach, founded three new churches in New Hampshire, and three years ago became their pastor. Nor of John Davis, the younger of that name, a native of Delaware, prepared at Hopewell School, and graduated at the College of Philadelphia, and after some years made pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Boston; a man remarkable for learning, abilities and usefulness, cut down by death two years ago, when but thirty-five years old.
Leaving New England, we come to the Middle Colonies. Of the older men who are still living three or four must be mentioned.
Ebenezer Kinnersley, an Englishman by birth, and brought to this country in childhood by his father (himself also a Baptist minister), is now sixty-three years old, and has spent his life in and about Philadelphia. Never engaging much in preaching, he has been otherwise a very distinguished man, both as a zealous co-worker with Franklin in discovering the properties of what they call the Electric Fire, and as the highly popular professor of English and Oratory in the College of Philadelphia. He has delivered scientific lectures in the chief cities, which attracted great attention. In 1772. two years ago, he resigned his chair in the college, and retired to the country in feeble health. Abel Morgan, Jr., nephew to the older minister of that name whom we mentioned, was born in a Welsh settlement in Delaware. After his ordination he came with a company of Baptists to South Carolina, and ?was a constituent member of a church called Welsh Neck, in 1736.? Returning, he became pastor in Middletown, New Jersey, and has now been there for thirty-five years. He never married, giving as a reason the wish that ?none of his attention and attendance might be taken off? from his mother, who lived with him more than thirty years, and died only three years ago. His learning is really extensive, and he is especially skilful in disputation. Years ago he had a public debate on Infant Baptism with Rev. Samuel Finley, afterwards President of Princeton College. It was Mr. Finley that proposed the discussion, and as he afterwards printed a pamphlet, Mr. Morgan replied, and each of them replied again. These were probably the first works issued in the New World in vindication of the baptism of believers only, and they are said to show decided ability and good learning. Though now sixty-one years old, Mr. Morgan is still a very laborious and useful minister. John Gano, born in New Jersey forty-seven years ago of a Huguenot family, after determining to preach, spent two or three years in studies preparatory to that work, meantime frequently preaching even before he was licensed. In response to earnest requests from the South for ministerial help he was induced, twenty years ago, to come southward, and travelled [sic] extensively. In Charleston he preached in Mr. Hart?s pulpit in the presence of a brilliant audience, including twelve ministers, one of them being George Whitfield, and for a moment (as he has recorded) felt the fear of man, but soon remembered that he ?had none to fear and obey but the Lord.? Two years later he made another tour to the South, and settled for two years in North Carolina, but being driven out by the Cherokee Indians, returned North, and for a while preached alternately in Philadelphia and New York. Twelve years ago a church was at last organized in New York, and Mr. Gano became its pastor, in which position his labors have been greatly blessed. A small man, yet of manly presence and commanding voice, of good mind, respectable attainments and deep feeling, he is a highly popular and effective preacher.
It is worth while to notice how late the Baptists were in establishing themselves in New York [C]ity. They organized a church in Boston in 1664; in Charleston, S. C., 1683; in Philadelphia, 1698: in New York no permanent church was formed till 1762.1 Somewhat older than Gano is Morgan Edwards, a native of Wales, a preacher from his sixteenth year, and educated in the Baptist Seminary at Bristol, England. After preaching a number of years in England and Ireland, he was sent to America thirteen years ago by the famous Dr. Gill, in response to a request from the Baptist Church at Philadelphia that he would send them a pastor. The story is that in writing to Dr. Gill the church ?required so many accomplishments? in a pastor, that the old gentleman told them he did not know that he ?could find a man in England who would answer their description;" but that Mr. Morgan Edwards ?came the nearest of any that could be obtained.? After remaining eleven years in Philadelphia, he removed two years since to Newark, N. J. Mr. Edwards is a man of genius and scholarship. His Greek Testament is ?his favorite companion,? and he has also a good knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, being accustomed to say that the Greek and Hebrew are ?the two eyes of a minister,? while his extensive travels and wide general reading have contributed to make him a very interesting man, both in public and private. He has thus far published three sermons, and a History of the Baptists in Pennsylvania, besides collecting much material for other works; and he is very careful and critical in respect to English style.
Beside these four older men in the Middle Colonies ? Kinnersley, Morgan, Gano, and Edwards ? we must notice two who are somewhat younger, but prominent and promising ? both of them named Jones.
Samuel Jones is a native of Wales, but was brought to this country in infancy. His father, himself a pastor in Pennsylvania, and a man of wealth, was determined to give his son a thorough education, and accordingly Samuel was graduated A. M. of the College of Philadelphia in 1762. For the last eleven years he has been pastor of a church near Philadelphia, and also occupied in teaching, being very successfu1 and highly honored in both vocations. By his excellent judgment and remarkable self-control he is particularly useful in meetings of the Philadelphia Association, and other ecclesiastical assemblies. This is noteworthy, for successful preachers much oftener possess fervor and fire than sound sense and equanimity. David Jones was born and reared in Delaware, and educated at Mr. Eaton?s Hopewell School in New Jersey, where he says he "learned Latin and Greek.? Having determined to become a minister he went, thirteen years ago, to Middletown to study divinity with his kinsman, Abel Morgan. For the last eight years be has been pastor in Monmouth County, N. J., but two or three years ago made three different journeys to the distant country about and beyond the Ohio river, preaching to the Indians, though without much effect. At the time of which we speak he is full of zeal for the political rights of the Colonies, as are the Baptist preachers everywhere, with rare exceptions. Some years ago he made a visit to New York city, and had an amusing experience which may help to show how scarce were our brethren in that place.
When I first came to New York (so he is said to have told the story) I landed in the morning, and thought I would try if I could find any Baptists. I wandered up and down, looking at the place and the people, and wondering who of all the people I met might be Baptists. At length I saw an old man, with a red cap on his head, sitting on the porch of a respectable looking house. Ah, thought I, now this is one of the old residents who knows all about the city ? this is the man to inquire of. I approached him and said: ?Good afternoon, sir. Can you tell me where any Baptists live in this city?? ?Hey?? said the deaf old Gothamite, with his hand to his ear. Raising my voice, I shouted: ??Can you tell me, sir, where I can find any Baptists in this place??? ?Baptists, Baptists,? said the old man musing as if ransacking all the corners of his memory; ?Baptists! I really don?t know as I ever heard of anybody of that occupation in these parts!"
We now leave the Middle Colonies and come to speak of some leading ministers in the Southern Colonies, from Maryland to Georgia.
In Charleston, S. C., we find, as already several times mentioned, Oliver Hart, who is now fifty-one years of age. He was born and reared in Pennsylvania, and when a young man often listened with great profit to Whitfield. Ordained at the age of twenty-six, he heard ?the loud call for ministers in the Southern Colonies,? and coming South, found the church at Charleston vacant, and becoming their pastor twenty-four years ago, has in that position been highly respected and widely useful. He takes an active part as a citizen in the movements for the maintenance of colonial rights and liberties, but does not ?mix politics with the gospel, nor desert the duties of his station to pursue them.? We are to think of him as a man of tall and graceful figure, with a pleasing countenance and voice, and while not exactly eloquent, yet an exceedingly instructive and impressive preacher. Though not bred in college, he has been a diligent student of the classics and of physical science, and has been the instructor in general learning and in theology of several other ministers, among them Samuel Stillman. Of these, Stillman and some others were furnished with the means of support by the ?Religious Society? which Mr. Hart organized in Charleston nineteen years ago (1755) for this purpose.
Shubael Stearns and Daniel Marshall were intimately associated in North Carolina, and are naturally spoken of together, though the former died three years ago. Shubael Stearns was born in Boston, in 1706, and under the influence of the Great Awakening, attached himself, in 1745, to the Congregationalist Separates, or New Lights, and began to preach. In 1751 he became a Baptist, in Connecticut, and after two or three years more, longing to carry the gospel to more destitute regions, he came with a small colony of brethren to Berkeley Co., Va. Here he was joined by Daniel Marshall, who was of the same age with him, and had also been a Congregationalist and a Separate in Connecticut. Believing that the second coming of Christ was certainly at hand, Marshall and others sold or abandoned their property, and hastening with destitute families to the headwaters of the Susquehanna, began to labor for the conversion of the Mohawk Indians. After eighteen months he was driven away by an Indian war, and went to Berkeley Co., Va., where finding a Baptist church, he examined and adopted their views, about 1754. He had married, while in Connecticut, the sister of Shubael Stearns, and the two became associated in Virginia, and soon sought together a still more destitute region in North Carolina, not far from Greensboro. Here they and their little colony taught the necessity of the new birth and the consciousness of conversion, with all the excited manner and holy whine, and the nervous trembling and wild screams among their hearers, which characterized the Congregationalist Separates in Connecticut. Though at first much ridiculed, they soon had great success, building up two churches of five hundred and six hundred members. Retaining their New England name of Separates, they called themselves ?Separate Baptists,? and these spread rapidly into Virginia and into Georgia, though destined, when their enthusiastic excesses should have been cooled down, to be absorbed, before the end of the eighteenth century, into the body of regular Baptists. Stearns died in North Carolina, but Marshall, ever looking out for new fields, came after a few years to Lexington District, in South Carolina, where he built up a church, and finally, three years before of which we speak, removed to Georgia, not far from Augusta, where he has already formed a considerable church. Among the unusual customs of the Separates, both Congregationalist and Baptist, was the practice of public prayer and exhortation by women; and in these exercises Marshall?s wife is said to have been wonderfully impressive.
In one of his preaching tours, from North Carolina back into Southern Virginia, sixteen years ago, Daniel Marshall baptized Col. Samuel Harriss, of Pittsylvania. This gentleman had a good local position, holding numerous civil and ecclesiastical offices, and possessing some wealth. He at once threw himself earnestly, with serious pecuniary sacrifices, into the work of preaching, and in the course of these sixteen years has made preaching journeys through a great part of Virginia, as well as portions of North Carolina. His overwhelming earnestness and wonderful pathos produced so great an effect that highly judicious men declared that even Whitfield did not surpass him in addressing the heart. He has also taken an active part in Baptist efforts to secure religious freedom, none the less that he himself has been shamefully persecuted for preaching in Culpep[p]er and Orange. He is a favorite presiding officer in the associations and other business meetings of the Separate Baptists; and in this year, 1774, these enthusiasts having concluded that the very office of apostle ought to be perpetual, Samuel Harriss and two others have been elected and solemnly set apart as apostles, an office which will be silently abandoned by all concerned the following year. Such a transient notion is but a spot on the sun of his noble Christian character and life. He is now fifty years old.
There are other well-known men in Virginia at the time in question of whom it would he pleasant to speak, such as David Thomas, forty-two years old, a Pennsylvanian educated at Hopewell School, and removing when still young to Virginia, where he has been very useful; but we must pass them by, as we have passed by many good men in other colonies. In Maryland, we find John Davis, the older of that name, fifty-three years old, another Pennsylvanian who removed eighteen years ago to Maryland, and has built up a strong country church. There is as yet no Baptist church in Baltimore.
It must have been noticed that with the single exception of Samuel Harriss, all the older ministers we have mentioned as particularly distinguished in the Southern Colonies came originally from the North. When the early Baptist settlers came over from England and Wales, the English went chiefly, for reasons not hard to discern, to New England, and the Welsh chiefly to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Next to these, the colony to which Baptists earliest came in considerable numbers was South Carolina, and here the number was small compared with New England and the Middle Colonies. Thus the Baptists were at first far more numerous at the North than at the South, and naturally produced a larger number of ministers. Besides, there were already more general opportunities for education in the Northern Colonies, so that ministers from that region were more likely to become distinguished. And furthermore, the work of Whitfield and others awoke the slumbering Congregationalists of New England, and brought out the enthusiastic Separates, many of whom became Baptists, and travelled [sic] southward in a missionary spirit, to supply the destitution. These considerations will help to account for the fact mentioned. And already, in 1774, if we look at the younger men just coming forward and giving special promise of usefulness, we shall see a very large number in the Southern Colonies, particularly in Virginia. Some of these young men we must briefly notice.
William Fristoe, hardly thirty years old, is already famous in Virginia, with many seals to his ministry, and in this year is chosen moderator of the great Ketocton Association. ?Swearing Jack Waller,? thirty-three years old, once a dissipated young man of good family, and a persecutor of the Baptists, was converted and baptized seven years ago, and some time after was long imprisoned for preaching. He blazes with unquenchable zeal, and turns many to righteousness in his native state, and has doubtless little idea that he will be buried in Abbeville District, South Carolina. James Ireland, twenty-six, a Scotch school-master in northern Virginia, and very wicked, was in a singular manner convicted and converted, and five years ago was baptized by Samuel Harriss, and beginning to preach with great zeal and effect, was soon after seized and imprisoned at Culpep[p]er Court House, where his enemies tried to blow up his room in the jail with gunpowder, and to suffocate him with fumes of sulphur, all for preaching the gospel; and he retaliated simply by preaching through the jail window to the people who would gather around. He is now at liberty and zealously at work. William Marshall, of Fauquier, now thirty-nine years old, was converted six years ago. Being of an influential family, and having been a conspicuous man of fashion, it made a great noise when he became a Baptist preacher, and the crowds who came to hear him have always been deeply impressed, and great numbers of them converted. He has a young nephew, John Marshall, who will in coming years be Chief Justice of a new nation. Lewis Lunsford, near Fredericksburg, is only twenty-two years old, but began to preach five ago, being called ?the wonderful boy,? and his preaching attended by great crowds. With all this, and while he must have been conscious of possessing extraordinary talents, he has not been spoiled, but is full of humility and devotion. But the time would fail to tell of Picket, Conner, Williams, Taylor, the brothers Craig, Courtenay, Koontz, Garnett, Webber, and many more of these promising young men, who have, in 1774, recently entered upon the ministry in Virginia.
We know of similar men in South Carolina and Georgia. Edmund Botsford, a young English soldier, came to Charleston some years ago, was converted under the ministry of Oliver Hart, and for the last three years has teen preaching with great acceptance in the southwestern part of the state, until in May, 1774, he moved across into Georgia, whence we know that he will after some years return to spend his useful life in South Carolina. Richard Furman, clarum et venerabile nomen, is now nineteen years old. His father, a surveyor at High Hills of Santee, has carefully taught him mathematics and the Bible. Uncommonly mature in intellect and piety, he began to preach at the age of sixteen. Some youths of the same age tried all the arts of insulting ridicule, but without seeming to move him at all; his father earnestly strove to dissuade him, being anxious that he should become a lawyer, and fearful that he was carried away by temporary excitement; but he respectfully urged an irresistible feeling of duty. Soon invitations came to visit destitute places in the country around, and he has been preaching far and near. Tall and handsome, serious and dignified even in youth, his grave and impressive eloquence commands the attention of young and old, and men can see that he will be a prince and a great man in Israel. Abraham Marshall, son of the Daniel Marshall we spoke of, is living with his father in Georgia aged twenty-six, and has been preaching several years. His educational advantages were confined to forty days at an ?old field school?; but his native gifts of mind, his athletic frame and noble voice, his knowledge of the Bible and of the human heart, make him a highly effective and promising young preacher.
In Philadelphia we find William Rogers, a native of Newport and graduate of Rhode Island College, who began to preach three years ago, and for two years has been pastor of the Philadelphia Church?a young man of fine gifts and culture, and refined manners, very useful as a preacher, and destined to distinction as a professor. Burgess Allison, of New Jersey, has been preaching in fact, though not formally, since the age of sixteen, and now at twenty-one, is studying classics and theology with Dr. Samuel Jones, near Philadelphia. He is fond of music and painting, and has great mechanical ingenuity, and with his singular good sense, is likely to turn out a useful preacher and famous teacher. Thomas Ustick, a native of New York, is also twenty-one years old, was baptized at thirteen, and graduated at Rhode Island College, has been teaching school in New York and studying for the ministry, and in this year has begun to preach. Modest gentle, devoted and diligent, he promises to be very useful.
In New England likewise, we hear of several very promising young men. Silas Burrows, of Connecticut. has been preaching nine years. Without much education, he is a man of good sense and the deepest feeling, and is wonderfully gifted in prayer and exhortation. Charles Thompson, a native of New Jersey, belonged to the first graduating class of Rhode Island College, five years ago, and for the past four years has been pastor at Warren, Rhode Island. Vigorous in intellect, and very diligent in study, with a fine figure and magnificent voice, full of tender pathos and of lofty passion, and devoted to his work, he is a young man of mark. His classmate at college, William Williams, also a Jersey man, of Welsh descent, was baptized last year by Thompson, at Warren, and licensed to preach, and in connection with the ministry will become famous in Massachusetts as a teacher.
It has seemed a long list, of older and middle-aged and young Baptist ministers, who were living in 1774. Yet it has been made short by reluctantly omitting names well worthy to be known and honored.
And there are youths who have not yet entered the ministry, but will one day be heard of. John Leland, twenty years old, was baptized in June, in Massachusetts. Thomas Baldwin, of the same age, is living in Connecticut, a diligent student, but not yet a Christian. Silas Mercer, in Georgia, is twenty-nine years old; originally an Episcopalian, he has become a Baptist in sentiment, but will not be baptized till next year. Henry Holcombe is a boy of twelve years, and his father has recently removed with him from Virginia to South Carolina. Jonathan Maxcy is six years old, in Massachusetts, a very precocious child, who will not die early. Robert B. Semple is five years old, in King and Queen; Andrew Broaddus, four years old, in Caroline Co., Va., and his father, a zealous member of the Establishment, designs that his son shall be a clergyman.
Glance a moment, too, across the water. Whitfield died four years ago. Wesley, though over seventy, has many years of work in him still. Of the English Baptists, Dr. Gill, the great Talmudical scholar, author of a giant Commentary on the whole Bible, an elaborate Systematic Theology, and many other works, and yet all his life a hard-working pastor, died three years since in London. Robert Robinson, at the age of twenty-nine, is already a well-known author, an omnivorous reader, and a highly popular preacher under the shadow of the University of Cambridge. Stennett and Beddome, authors of so many excellent hymns, are in their prime. Andrew Fuller is twenty years old, having been baptized at sixteen, and after several years of providential leading towards the ministry, has just begun to preach regularly. Robert Hall, son of an able and honored minister of the same name, is ten years old, and loves when out of school, to read over and over again such books as Edwards on the Will, and Butler?s Apology.
Let us now single out for brief observation some points in the opinion and practices of American Baptist ministers one hundred years ago.
1. These men felt themselves inwardly called to the ministry. Some of them indulged wildly enthusiastic notions as to the nature and evidences of this call, but at bottom it was a thoroughly correct conception which prevailed among them. And on this account it is not well to speak of the ministry as a profession. One ought not to choose the ministry at all as he might choose to be a lawyer, physician, teacher, or editor; but it ought to be entered upon from a sense of duty to God and man. We are not claiming any special sanctity for the pursuit itself as compared with the professions; but only urging the importance of carefully avoiding the notion that to enter upon the ministry is merely ?making choice of a profession.?
2. They endured great hardships in the prosecution of their work. Frequent and immensely long journeys on horseback, through thinly settled districts, devoid of comforts, were taken by almost all the pastors in their evangelizing labors, and burning zeal often impelled them to severer toils than they were able to bear. Besides, there was not seldom persecution involving indignities, discomfort, and sometimes positive sufferings. Many of us are familiar with the story of such persecutions in Virginia; but they began far earlier in Massachusetts, and were violent there at the time of which we speak, the Cavalier and the Puritan establishments being equally harsh and cruel. The Baptists are one of the few religious denominations that have never persecuted. We cannot say they have been personally too good, seeing that some of them have shown great bitterness towards other religionists, and even towards their own brethren who differed from them; but their immemorial principle of opposition to all union of church and state has always made it impossible that they should persecute. In so doing they would at once cease to be Baptists.
These hardships, from persecution and from ministerial labor, often told upon health. Many suppose that the frequent deaths from paralysis, for instance, are a peculiarity of our times. But among the men we have been speaking of, it is mentioned that Backus, Alden, Gano, Harriss, Stillman and Manning all died of paralytic affections. True, these had all passed through the long agony of the Revolution.
3. Many of our brethren of that day erred about ministerial support. What they called the ?hireling ministry? of the establishments, was an abomination to them, and they frequently went to the opposite extent, some of them even proclaiming that they wished no contributions for their support; and not being wise enough to see and explain, like the apostle Paul, the difference between the course which for temporary reasons they pursued, and the general right of ministers to be supported. Their undiscriminating teachings were but too acceptable to human selfishness, and left deep-rooted errors which we are still toiling to eradicate.
4. Our ministers a hundred years ago were in general heartily in favor of ministerial education, and many of them were themselves highly educated men. This last had been true from the beginning. Hansard Knollys and Roger Williams had both been clergymen of the Church of England, and educated at the English Universities; and John Clarke was a diligent student of the original Scriptures. In the eighteenth century, Elisha Callender was a graduate of Harvard, Samuel Jones and the younger John Davis of the college of Philadelphia, President Manning and Hezekiah Smith of Princeton, and Charles Thompson, William Williams, Thomas Ustick, and William Rogers of Rhode Island College. A number of others, though not college graduates, were diligent students and really well educated; for example, Valentine Wightman, Thurston, Kinnersley, Gano, Abel Morgan, (Senior and Junior), Morgan Edwards, David Jones, David Thomas, Oliver Hart, Stillman and Furman, several of whom were eminent for their general and theological attainments, and teachers of others. The only men we have, spoken of who became leading ministers without being what we might fairly call educated, were Isaac Backus and Silas Burrows, Shubael Stearns, Daniel Marshall and his son Abraham, Samuel Harriss, and some of the younger men in Virginia, and Edmund Botsford; and some of these were highly intelligent and well-informed. Great interest was also shown in institutions for higher education. An English Baptist merchant, Thomas Hollis, gave a large donation to Harvard College to found a professorship, about 172O. Besides the famous Hopewell School in New Jersey, established by Isaac Eaton with express reference to the preparation of young men for the ministry, and which we have had occasion to mention so often, several high schools conducted by Baptists, are known to us as in existence at the time. Rhode Island College, established in 1764 (now Brown University), awakened the liveliest interest among the Baptists everywhere. The Pennsylvanians, in fact, claimed to have originated the movement. The college was located in Rhode Island because there only was there absolute religious liberty. It received contributions of money, soon after its establishment, from Virginia and South Carolina, as wel1, as from New England and the Middle Colonies. We find the associations also early expressed interest in ministerial education. At the Philadelphia Association, in 1722, ?it was proposed by the churches to make inquiry among themselves if they have any young persons hopeful for the ministry, and inclinable for learning; and if they have, to give notice of it to Mr. Abel Morgan, that he might recommend such to the academy, on Mr. Hollis his [sic] account.? Mr. Hollis, besides endowing the professorship in Harvard, had apparently authorized Abel Morgan to send young men preparing for the ministry to the Academy in Philadelphia, and look to him for the money. The association wishes to co-operate in this, and the rather quaint phrase of their Minutes is worth remembering ?Any young persons hopeful for the ministry, and inclinable for learning." In 1756, the Charleston Association, South Carolina, recommended that the churches raise ?a fund to furnish suitable candidates for the ministry with a competent share of learning.? And we have seen that in the previous year, 1755, a society had been formed for that purpose by the church in Charleston, which aided Stillman, Botsford, and others, in pursuing studies for the ministry, Oliver Hart being their instructor in theology.
But while in so many ways showing that they valued, and striving to promote, the education of the ministry, our brethren were never disposed to confine the office to those who had passed through any specified course of study. They believed that God calls men to become preachers who have not had, cannot obtain, opportunities of regular preparatory education ; and that the only test which the churches ought to apply is the practical one suggested by the apostle?s expression, ?apt to teach.? At the same time, they generally maintained that every minister ought to gain all the knowledge he can. But a hundred years ago, there was among the Baptists in some quarters a disposition to underrate general education in ministers, arising principally from two causes. First, the Congregational and Episcopal Establishment had both shown a strong tendency to treat a course of education as not only an indispensable, but the only requisite preparation for preaching, many of their ministers making no pretension to an inward call, and some of them not even to personal piety. The Congregationalist Separates and the Baptists, opposing themselves strongly to this, naturally tended toward the opposite extreme, making piety and the inward call everything, and caring little for the general and theological education which was associated in their minds with so many unspiritual, and not a few immoral, clergymen. Secondly, the country was new, the people themselves were in general quite uneducated, sympathizing most strongly with preachers who were but little superior to themselves in general culture; and many of those among them who were efficient in other intellectual callings were self-taught men. These last considerations to some extent still hold good, in large portions of our country. The masses are still comparatively ignorant, and men who are even partially educated must take great care or they will fail to have the complete sympathy of this important class of their hearers. Alas for the education of ministers of Jesus if it ceases to be true that the com-mon people hear them gladly. And in a country where so many of the ablest and most successful statesmen, lawyers, physicians, teachers, journalists, have had. no regular education, there is a great want of propriety in requiring that no one shall be a preacher who has not gone through a certain fixed course of study. But it is proper to insist that every minister, as well as every other who aspires to instruct his fellow-men, must in youth and in age be a learner, a diligent student.
And one thing our brethren have always expected and required, that the minister, whatever else he knows or does not know, shall study the Bible. To explain and impress the teachings of the Bible is his great business. It is very desirable for the lawyer to know classics and history, but necessary that he know law. It is highly useful for the physician to know psyschology [sic], but indispensable to know medicine. The teacher of mathematics is much profited by classical training, but he can do nothing unless he is acquainted with mathematics. And so the minister of the gospel will find all knowledge useful, and general training of mind eminently desirable, but the Bible he must know. And how much it means to know the Bible!
Let us add that a large proportion of these ministers were highly educated in another sense ? they had the spirit, habits and manners of gentlemen. If it is not important for a preacher and pastor to be a gentleman, for whom is it important? It is in this respect a great privilege to have been reared in refined homes. But as Henry Clay and others of our American statesmen, so have many of our ministers shown that & man may come up from very inferior advantages, and by force of native delicacy and generosity of feeling, and by diligent use of the best social opportunities may become a noble gentleman.
5. Finally, notice the character of their preaching. It was eminently Biblical. Whether learned in other things or not, they all, as we have said, tried to know the Bible. Those ignorant of Hebrew and Greek, were yet most diligent, loving, and life-long students of the English Bible. And some who had read few other books were yet ?mighty in the Scriptures,? often teaching opposers the truth of the old adage, ?Beware of the man of one book.? They were familiar with the text of Scripture, able to turn to any passage they wanted without a concordance, committing to memory long passages, and some of them whole books of the Bible. It is an abuse of our multiplied helps if we fail to gain like loving familiarity with the sacred text. There is point in the words of an Elizabethan poet:
I would I were an excellent divine
That had the Bible at my fingers? ends;
That men might hear out of this mouth of mine,
How God doth make his enemies his friends.
And the preachers of whom we speak used their ready knowledge of Scripture in this way, both publicly and privately, whether men would hear or whether they would forbear. ?May it please your worship,? said an irate lawyer in Virginia, ?these men arc great disturbers of the peace; they cannot meet a man on the road but what they ram a text of Scripture down his throat.? Their preaching was also eminently doctrinal. The great Scripture doctrines of depravity, atonement, and regeneration, were almost unknown to many of their hearers, and disputed by many others. And so the preacher felt called continually to preach these and the related doctrines, proving and enforcing them by liberal quotations from the text of Scripture. Whenever men cease to preach these great doctrines of the Bible, drawing them directly from the fountain head ? believing something definite, knowing what they believe, and why they believe it, and how to prove it from the Inspired Word, then the pulpit soon loses its power. Their preaching was at the same time eminently experimental. It was very common for the preacher to tell the exercises of his mind at the time of his conversion. When modestly and wisely done, as it has been done by Bunyan, Augustine, Paul, this can never fail to be full of interest and impressiveness. The Washingtonian temperance speakers carried too far their narratives of a drunkard?s experience, and so may our old preachers have sometimes gone too far with their experience-telling; but the thing is natural, and lawful, and mighty, if it is fitly managed.
As to their manner of preaching, but little need be said. They had all the methods of preparation and delivery which we have, and differed about them as we do. Some of them, particularly of those who travelled [sic] widely and preached much in the open air?and chiefly, it would appear, among the Separates?acquired certain offensive mannerisms of delivery, the most striking of which was a peculiarity of tone, commonly called the ?holy whine,? which may still be heard in some very ignorant preachers in certain parts of the country. This unpleasing, and to some persons very ridiculous practice, had a natural origin. When men spoke to crowds in the open air, on a high key, with great excitement for a long time, the over-strained voice would relieve itself by rising and falling, as a person tired of standing will frequently change position. This soon became a habit with such men, and then would be imitated by others, being regarded as the appropriate expression of excited feeling. The same causes produce the same sing-song tone in the loud cries of street-vendors in our cities. But the whine of the preacher, associated for many ignorant hearers with seasons of impassioned appeal from the pulpit, and of deep feeling on their own part, has become a musical accompaniment which gratifies and impresses them, and like a tune we remember from childhood, revives ?the memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful.? Why should we wonder at all this? Extremes meet. What is the intoning, which modern ritualists in this country so much admire, but just another species of holy whine, originating long centuries ago in very similar natural causes to those just stated, and impressive to some people now by reason of its association with what is old and venerable in devotion? If any one doubts that it is the same thing, let him hear the intoning in the Armenian Convent Church at Jerusalem.
It suffices to add that the preachers of that day depended much on the aid of the Holy Spirit to give them liberty in speaking and the hearts of their hearers. Some of them carried this to an enthusiastic extreme. But every truth is perverted by somebody. And it is a great fundamental truth, to which we must cling, that God will help us in preaching, and himself ?giveth the increase."
The American Baptist ministers of one hundred years ago labored not in vain. The denomination was growing rapidly in the years before the Revolution, and it has continued to grow. In 1774, the membership of Baptist churches throughout the Colonies is estimated to have been not more than (30,000) thirty thousand, and many think this estimate too high. Thus the membership was less than one percent of the population. In 1874, we have in the United States of Regular Baptists, exclusive of cognate outlying bodies, at least (1,600,000) one million six hundred thousand members, which is four percent of the population. More than one-half of our present population is of German, Irish, French, Italian, or Spanish descent, and thus originally altogether averse to any such opinions as ours; there has been no Baptist immigration except from England and Wales, and to a small extent from Scotland; yet in the face of all this we have an increase in our membership from one per cent to four per cent of the population. This shows that the work of our fathers? hands has been blessed.
And yet how many of these church members are comparatively useless. And throughout the country what growing masses of noisy infidelity ? what a spread of irreligion and corrupted Christianity, of immorality and vice, of political corruption and social pollution. Not only the example of the past age but the pressing needs of our own age, call us to diligent, self-denying, devoted labor. And are we ambitious? Do we ask whether a hundred years to come men will be searching our history, repeating our names, rejoicing in our work? It matters little, for ?they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.? Nay, it matters not at all, if only we can hear at last that thrilling word, ?Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.?
John A. Broadus.
Greenville, S. C.
* Public lecture in opening the session of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Greenville, SC, September 1, 1874. The materials are of course drawn mainly from Benedict and Sprague, Taylor, Howell, Hovey, etc. Who among us will write the history of American Baptists?
1. There was Baptist preaching in New York as early as 1669, and a little church appears to have been formed there by Valentine Wightman about 1714. but it was afterwards dissolved.
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