Early Scotch Plains Meeting House
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE
SCOTCH PLAINS BAPTIST CHURCH
The name of Scotch Plains is derived from the nationality of its original settlers. In the year 1684, a number of Scotch emigrants, chiefly persons of education and distinction at home, landed at Amboy, and started back into the woods to select a suitable location for a new settlement. Arriving at the foot of the first mountain, they proceeded to take possession of the tract of land, including the whole of what is now occupied by Scotch Plains and Plainfield. Some of these pioneers, among whom we find the names of Barclay, Gordon, Forbes and Fullerton, were interested as proprietors of the province, and became afterwards well known as officers connected with the government of it. Attracted by the inviting character both of soil and climate, the Associates of Elizabethtown on the east, and the residents of Piscataway on the south, began, before many years, to push out their settlements in this direction.
Whether any of these early settlers were Baptists does not appear. If so, they were connected with the church at Piscataway, organized in 1689. The first movement on record for the dissemination of Baptist views was made in 1742. A subscription paper for the building of a "First Day Baptist Meeting House," on the east side of Green River, bearing date the 4th day of August in that year, is still in possession of the church. This movement originated with members of the Piscataway church living in the vicinity of Scotch Plains, and appears to have resulted in the building of a house of worship the year following.
At the end of some four years, an independent church was constituted. The names of the persons who received a letter of dismission from Piscataway to become the constituent members were, William Darby, Recompence Stanbery, John Lambert, John Dennis, John Stanbery, Henry Crosley, John Sutton, Jr., Isaac Manning, Mary Brodwell, Mary Green, Mary Dennis, Tibiah Sutton, Catharine Manning, Sarah De Camp and Sarah Perce.
According to the Minutes of the Philadelphia Association, corroborated by Morgan Edwards' "Materials," these persons, "appointed to come together on the 8th day of September, 1741, and having Abel Morgan and James Mott of Middletown for their assistants, they spent the fore part of the day in prayer and fasting; and afterwards gave themselves, in a solemn manner, to the Lord and to one another, by the will of God; and, after the usual solemnity, were owned as a sister church."
Thus, in accordance with the custom of the times, the church seems to have been constituted and recognized on the same day - Sep. 8, 1747. On the 22d of the same mouth, just two weeks afterward, the church united with the Philadelphia Association.
PASTORATESSoon after the organization of the church, Benjamin Miller, a licentiate of the parent body, was called to the pastorate and ordained February 13, 1748. Mr. Miller was born in the Piscataway neighborhood, about the year 1715. He is described as having been "wild and froward" in early life; but a sudden and surprising change was wrought in him by a sermon from the celebrated Gilbert Tennent, then a Presbyterian pastor in New Brunswick. Mr. Tennent, who, it is said, had christened Mr. Miller, encouraged him to study the languages and prepare for the ministry. He had hardly entered on his course of study, when a discourse by the Rev. Mr. Hiram, his instructor, at the christening of a child, together with subsequent conversations and independent investigations, led him first to doubt the scriptural grounds of the ceremony, and finally to become a Baptist.
Uniting with the church at Piscataway, about the year 1740, he relinquished his projected course of study, and gave himself with much zeal, tempered with humility and gentleness, to the work for which his natural abilities, and the grace of God, had so well fitted him. The character of the licentiate manifested itself in the work of the pastor. The new interest at Scotch Plains rapidly expanded. The list of members contains the names of forty persons under the same date with the constituent membership. Some of these may have united, by letters, from other places; but the most were undoubtedly baptized by the young pastor. Under date of June 11, 1748, four more names are recorded; October, 1748, sixty others.
When the Philadelphia Association published its first statistical table, in 1761, Scotch Plains reported a total membership of one hundred and thirty-four; more than three times the numerical strength of the parent body at the same period.
In the general itinerating labors of those days Mr. Miller did his full share; the church, by vote, willingly giving up his services to that end. His companions in these journeys, which sometimes extended over hundreds of miles, and occupied months of time, were frequently Rev. Isaac Stelle, of Piscataway, Rev. John Gano, of New York, father of the celebrated Dr. Gano, of Providence, Rhode Island.
In 1757, the Association appointed Mr. Miller and Peter P. Van Horne, of Pennepek, to visit a number of General or Arminian Baptist churches in North Carolina, "for the special purpose of instructing and reforming them." Dr. Benedict speaks in the highest terms of the result of this visit, together with a previous one from Rev. John Gano. These labors abroad did not interfere with his efficiency at home. The church continued to rise steadily in numbers, wealth and influence, until the Colonies became involved in the struggle with their Mother Country, when a small diminution of numbers resulted. At the close of the war one hundred and five members were reported to the Association - two hundred and sixty-one persons having been received into membership since the beginning.
Mr. Miller's pastorate extended over thirty-four years, and ended only with his life. He died in the full triumphs of the faith he preached so long and faithfully, November 14, 1781, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. A plain brown stone tablet, a few feet north of the old meeting-house, covers his remains. The inscription on it, less remarkable for poetic merit than for real truthfulness, records the judgment of his afflicted people concerning his worth:
"If grace, and worth and usefulness,
Could mortals screen from death's arrest,
Miller had never lain in dust,
Though characters inferior must."
After the death of Mr. Miller, the church remained destitute of a pastor nearly four years, being supplied in the interval by Rev. Reune Runyon, from December, 1781 to April, 1782; Rev. Benjamin Coles from the latter date to April 1784; and, Mr. George Guthrie from December of that year to April 1785. During these four years but five baptisms are recorded; and the spiritual interests of the church are reported in a low condition.
WILLIAM VAN BORNEAn invitation was given to Rev. William Van Borne, November 7, 1784, and renewed in the spring of 1785, to visit the church with a view to settlement. These invitations, after a visit and extended correspondence, finally resulted in a call, which Mr. Van Borne accepted and entered on his labors December 15, 1785, his salary being fixed at $250, with the use of parsonage and lot of fifteen acres, with firewood. Here he remained until September, 1807 - nearly twenty-two years.
Mr. Van Horne was born in 1746, at Pennepek, in Pennsylvania, where his father, the well-known Peter P. Van Home, was pastor about fifteen years. Dr. Samuel Jones, his father's successor at Pennepek, having opened a school, which at once became famous young Van Horne was soon found among its most diligent students. It was in this school where he laid the foundation of his subsequent fame as one of the best educated in the ministry of his times. As a testimony to his learning, Rhode Island College afterward conferred on him the honorary degree of Master of Arts.
Mr. Van Horne was ordained at Southampton, Pennsylvania, in 1772, where he remained some thirteen years. Part of this time he was chaplain in the American army. He was also a member from Bucks County of the Convention that met in Philadelphia for the purpose of forming the first civil constitution of the State.
His ministry here, like that of his predecessor, proved eminently successful. The first year witnessed the baptism of forty-seven persons - the largest number, with one exception, ever baptized in a single year. The whole number baptized by him was one hundred and sixty.
One of the first acts of Mr. Van Home was the preparation of a plan for connecting the church and congregation together for the support of the gospel and the care of the temporal interests of the Society. Initial steps had been taken in the direction of securing an adequate care of the property as early as June 3, 1761, when a vestry was chosen, consisting of seven members of the church, whose duties were to arrange the salary with the pastor; to give a call, upon trial, for the pastorate, subject to the approval of the church; to invite any gifted brother in the church to improve his talents for public speaking; to settle any temporal difficulties among the brethren; to have the care of the meeting-house and the parsonage property; and finally, to become the proper guardians of any gift or legacy bestowed upon the church. The slight admixture of spiritual with temporal duties imposed upon this body becoming distasteful to the brethren, it was soon relieved of that responsibility, and the temporal affairs only left in its hands. These it continued to manage, with a good degree of efficiency, until the action proposed by Mr. Van Horne became necessary. His "plan," whatever it may have been, continued in operation until February 20, 1788, when, in accordance with a law passed by the Legislature, in 1786, for incorporating religious societies, seven trustees were chosen, arid a certificate of incorporation filed in the Register's office, in Newark. In 1869, the corporation was confirmed and established by act of Legislature, the trustees being clothed with power to sell lands.
In 1790, in accordance with an agreement made between the two churches, Mr. Van Horne gave one-fourth of his time to the interest at Lyons Farms, receiving as compensation, at the latter place, the sum of $75. This arrangement continued but a single year, the whole time of the pastor being required at home.
Mr. Van Horne continued to labor faithfully until the summer of 1807, when failing health warned him that his public ministry was done. Resigning his pastorate, he started with his family, for the south-western portion of Ohio, where he had become proprietor of a large tract of land. On the journey his maladies increased so rapidly that he only succeeded in reaching Pittsburg, where, on the 31st of October, he entered into rest.
The preaching of Mr. Van Horne is said to have been "of the most solid and instructive character; never descending into careless frivolity, but always with becoming gravity, as a messenger from the Throne of God, making known to men the will of the Most High. Though the pulpit ever seemed his most interesting field of labor, yet, in the family, in society, or in the discharge of the ordinary duties of life, he was equally at home, encouraging, sustaining and controlling with a skillful hand, a penetrating mind, an[d] an affectionate heart."
THOMAS BROWNJuly 1, 1808, Rev. Thomas Brown took charge of the church. A somewhat singular incident is recorded in connexion with this call. Mr. Brown visited the church the previous winter and preached with so much acceptance that the members united in a call, and afterward, as the custom was then, and is still, submitted their action to the congregation for approval. The latter body, owing to some fancied want of respect in the action, refused to ratify the decision, and the church remained for several months under the control of the congregation, and without a pastor. The following April, an amicable arrangement having been effected, the call was renewed and accepted as above stated.
Mr. Brown was born in Newark, November 1, 1779. Converted at the age of seventeen, he united with the First Presbyterian Church of that city. From his conversion he gave tokens of unusual piety, and engaged at once in active labors in the cause of his Master. These exercises soon indicating a marked talent for public speaking, he was encouraged by his friends to prepare for the ministry. Like his predecessor in the work here, he had not proceeded far in his preparation, when a complete change of views compelled a change of church relations, and he became a member of the First Baptist Church of Newark. Afterward he spent some years in study, chiefly under the tuition of Dr. Samuel Jones, and, in 1805, assumed his first charge, in Salem, where he remained until his removal to Scotch Plains. Here he spent the strength of his best days and did the most of his life-work. More than twenty years of constant service bore their testimony to his faithfulness.
In November, 1828, much to the sorrow of an attached people, and to his own regret, after the action had passed beyond recall, he resigned his charge and removed to Great Valley, Pennsylvania. There the Master permitted him to labor only some two years before He sent the summons to quit the field. He entered into rest January 17, 1831, in the fifty-second year of his age.
Mr. Brown's labors, like those of his predecessors, commenced with revival. The flame did not rise high, but it continued to burn steadily during the whole term of service. Baptisms were reported, each year with one exception, the whole number amounting to one hundred and fifty. Deaths and removals, however, left the numerical strength of the body but little increased.
Mr. Brown is spoken of by the few who still hold him in personal recollection, as amiable and cheerful in private life, faithful in the discharge of pastoral duties, and, in the pulpit, always instructive and enteresting [sic], rising sometimes to the height of real eloquence.
During this period, Deacon James Brown left the sum of $1,200, as a legacy to the church, for the support of the poor. It is a singular illustration, of the vicissitudes of life and the care of Providence, that more than twenty years afterward. the former widow of Deacon Brown received necessary aid from the interest of this fund. This legacy is still in the possession of the church.
JOHN ROGERSRev. John Rogers succeeded to the vacant charge about the middle of August, 1829. Mr. Rogers was born in the north of Ireland, November, 1783. He was brought up under the influence of the Presbyterian Church, of which his parents were honored members. Converted at the age of seventeen, he united with the same body. Feeling himself called to the ministry he entered on a course of study at Armagh, and completed it at Edinburgh. About this time he connected himself with the Independents, among whom he labored some four or five years in Fifeshire, in Scotland, and Sligo and Belfast in Ireland.
In 1811 he became convinced of the correctness of Baptist principles, and, leaving his own denomination was baptized by Rev. Daniel Cook, a Baptist minister from Scotland. Five years afterward he came to this country, and, residing a short time at Hopewell, settled at Pemberton, where he was ordained in the spring of 1817. His work at Pemberton is spoken of, by one who there enjoyed his ministry, as one of-seed-sowing rather than of harvest-gathering. This fact had its weight, no doubt, in leading him to resign there and accept the call at Scotch Plains. Nor were his hopes disappointed. Two special works of grace here crowned his efforts. The latter one, especially, in 1837, proved to be, in respect to solemnity and thoroughness, a most remarkable religious movement. The numbers gathered in were not greater than at other times, but those who participated in the blessed influences of that occasion, and yet remain with us, speak of it as one of peculiar refreshing. Undoubtedly, the contrast with that memorable time of financial disaster and general gloom, had much to do with bringing this reformation into special prominence among so many similar displays of the power of grace. The whole number baptized by Mr. Rogers into the fellowship of the church was one hundred and thirteen.
In the work of domestic, as well as foreign evangelization, Mr. Rogers took a lively interest. In 1830 he joined, with a number of others, in the formation of the New Jersey Baptist State Convention, and gave it his support during the rest of his life. Regular collections for the Burma Mission and the Home Mission Society also began to be taken and the general benevolence of the church rose to a higher standard.
Mr. Rogers resigned in June 1841, and settled at Perth Amboy, remaining there some three years. From thence he went to Paterson, where he spent the remainder of his days without charge, but preaching frequently for neighboring churches. He died August 30, 1849.
Mr. Rogers is spoken of by a contemporary pastor as a "good and instructive preacher; but his highest excellence consisted in his extensive knowledge of the Bible and his clear views of the system of divine truth."
Thus closed the first four pastorates of the church, extending over a period of almost a century.
JOHN WIVELLTwo facts require the mention of the fifth pastor, Rev. John Wivell. The one is, that of historical completeness; and the other, the use God sometimes makes of unworthy means to secure his own ends. Mr. Wivell was born in England, about the year 1810; became in early life a sailor; professed conversion, and at first joined the Methodists, and subsequently the Presbyterians, among whom he commenced preaching; labored some time in Nova Scotia, and then came to New York, where, in 1840 he was baptized by Rev. Duncan Dunbar, into the fellowship of the North Beriah Baptist Church. Here his evident preaching talent, and his great energy, becoming conspicuous, he was almost immediately licensed and ordained. Spending some two yells in New York in work among the seaman, he removed to Scotch Plain in March, 1842. Here he continued for a year and a half, the church, in the meantime, enjoying an extensive revival of religion The membership at this period rose to two hundred - the highest point it has ever attained.
The prospects of the cause were never more encouraging, when, to the intense mortification of all, suspicions began to fasten upon the character of the pastor; and, in November, 1843, the evidence against him being conclusive, he was summarily excluded from the church. His subsequent career fully demonstrated the wisdom of this prompt action. Nothing so disastrous had over before occurred in the history of the church. But the blow fell heaviest on the good name of the cause. The church, almost unanimous in its action, felt humbled but not was divided. The number baptized during this period was fifty-six.
WILLIAM R. LOCKEMay 2 1844, Rev. William E. Locke became the pastor. Mr. Locke was born in New York City, November 28, 1811, and baptized by Dr. Cone, August 1,1831. He was licensed to preach by the Sandy Ridge Baptist Church, in this State, March 9, 1833; studied at Hamilton a number of years, and settled at Moscow, New York, where he was ordained in August, 1836; labored subsequently at Gouverneur, Trumansburg, and Sing Sing, New York, and began his work here, as stated, in 1844. He remained at Scotch Plains until September 1, 1849, when he accepted a call and removed to Amenia, New York. He afterward joined the Presbyterian denomination.
Mr. Locke found the church in the peculiar circumstances naturally to be expected from the recent large addition of members and the unhappy defection of the leader, who ought to have been best qualified to train them in Christian work. The labor was severe, and at times discouraging, but, by the judicious admixture of generous forbearance, and strict discipline, the church came out of its tribulation, and the work again moved on harmoniously. But four persons were added, by baptism, during this term of service.
Mr. Locke published, in 1847, a centennial discourse, and, at another time, a sermon of considerable ability, on the subject of Baptism.
In 1844, the church withdrew from the New York Association (whither it had gone from the Philadelphia in 1792), and united with the East New Jersey Association, where it has since remained.
JOSHUA E. RUEThe next Pastor, Rev. Joshua B. Rue was born at Hightstown, October 5, 1817. His parents were Presbyterians, and in that faith he was reared. After his conversion, he was led, by a diligent study of the Scriptures, to adopt Baptist views, and united with the Baptist church at Hightstown, in 1842. He was educated at Lafayette College and at Madison University. He was ordained at Jacobstown in the fall of 1844, remaining there, and doing good work, until the spring of 1847. After a settlement of nearly three years at Sandy Ridge, he removed to Scotch Plains at the beginning of the year 1850.
Like all his predecessors, he soon had the joy of welcoming new-born souls into the kingdom. A pleasant condition of spiritual awakening succeeded, and twenty-seven in all followed the Lord in his ordinances. But sorrow follows close upon the track of joy. In the midst of his work he was smitten by disease, and for many weeks life was despaired of. He was partially restored, however, just in time to follow the remains of his universally beloved companion to the grave. Thus deeply stricken, and with health ruined for life, lie resigned his charge, after a service of just four years. Since that time he has held agencies for the Borne Mission, and other societies, and is now a cotton planter in North Carolina.
During this period, some repairs were made upon the church property. The number of members in 1854 was one hundred and forty-six.
JAMES F. BROWNRev. James F. Brown, D.D., son of Thomas Brown, third pastor of the church, was born at Scotch Plains, July 4, 1819; united by baptism, with the Fifth Baptist Church of Philadelphia, at the age of fourteen; graduated at the University of Pennsylvania, in July 1841; was licensed by the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, in November, 1841; and ordained as pastor of the Baptist Church at Gainesville, Alabama, in March, 1842.
Leaving the South, he became a successor of his father in the pastoral office at Great Valley, Pennsylvania in April, 1846, and assumed the same relation at Scotch Plains, in April, 1854. After six years of labor here, he removed to Bridgeton, and from thence to Piscataway, where lie still presides over the mother church. While at Bridgeton, the University at Lewisburg honored him with the degree of Doctor of Divinity and elected him to the Chancellorship of that Institution.
The period of general religious awakening in 1868 did not pass by without fruit gathered at Scotch Plains, although the greatest interest occurred the year previous. That memorable year of financial adversity, 1857, was signalized in the history of this church as a year of spiritual prosperity. While fortunes were being lost in the centres of trade, the priceless pearl was being found in the Lord's field. Many then added still remain with us, aim some are the strong pillars of the church. Mr. Brown baptized fifty persons, and left the church with one hundred and eighty-five members.
WILLIAM LUKERev. William Luke was born in the town of Esopus, N.Y., Nov. 27th, 1821; baptized at Poughkeepsie March 3d, 1843, and licensed by the First Baptist Church of that city. He entered Madison University in 1848 and remained there till 1850, when he joined the movement to Rochester. Graduating in 1854, he accepted at once a call from St. John, New Brunswick. Failing health however compelled a return to his native climate. Ordained at Hornellsville, N. Y. Dec. 20th, 1854, he soon after removed to Forestville, N. Y., where he labored until the spring of 1857. At the latter date he took charge of the Eighty-third St. Church, N. Y. City; here he remained nearly four years, the Master permitting him to see a body small in numbers and weak in resources grow up to a position of comparative strength. In December, 1860, he came to Scotch Plains, the times were troublous, the little cloud of rational calamity was just rising, minds were heated with political discussion, few pastors escaped censure on the one side or the other, and Mr. Luke was not among the number. He took a lively interest in the stirring scenes transpiring. In prayer and sermon the country was not forgotten. A number felt aggrieved. The membership and congregation and influence of the pastor all perceptibly declined. But two baptisms were reported in six years and but few accessions by letter. These difficulties with the dismission of nearly twenty members to form the new interest at Westfield brought the membership down to one hundred and five, and a number of these could be found only in name. Mr. Luke resigned Jan. 1st, 1867, having already received a call to Greenport, L. I. Here he labored with encouraging success a little more than a year, when failing health compelled him to resign his charge. Relief was sought a second time at the home of his childhood, but this time it failed to come. He died at Wappinger's Falls, N. Y., May 16th, 1869, his last words were "The victory is mine."
JOSEPH C. BUCHANANThe present pastor graduated at Madison University in 1866; entered on his work at Scotch Plains July 1st, 1867, and was ordained to the gospel ministry Oct. 1st of that year. Rev. D. J. Yerkes, D.D., preached the ordination sermon, Rev. J. D. Merrell delivered the charge to the candidate, and Rev. L. O. Grenell to the church.
A pleasant state of religious feeling met the new pastor at the outset, and under The blessing of God culminated at the opening of the year following in a most important work of grace. An unusual solemnity pervaded every meeting. Persons of all ages were reached and brought to Jesus, and nearly fifty were baptized. Since that time the spiritual interests of the church have not materially advanced, owing, no doubt, in part to the occupation of all minds with the enterprize [sic] of building our new house of worship, the early opening of which is anticipated with earnest hopes of greatly enlarged usefulness.
LICENTIATESHenry Crosley, one of the constituent members was licensed about the year 1750, and ordained in 1750 at Schooley's Mountain.
David Sutton was baptized by Mr. Miller soon after the constitution of the church, licensed to preach in 1758, and ordained by Elders Isaac Eaton of Hopewell, Miller, Stelle and Crosley, June 1st, 1761. Nineteen years of his labor was spent at Kingwood.
John Sutton, a brother of David, was licensed and ordained at the same time with him. Of all the five brothers who became ministers of the gospel, John was perhaps the most ce1ebrated. He preached at Salem in this state, in Nova Scotia, Providence, R. I., and at Welsh Tract, Delaware. He died about the beginning of the present century.
James Manning, D. D, also baptized by Mr. Miller, was born at Scotch Plains in 1738, graduated at Princeton college in 1662, was licensed Nov. 30th, of the same year, and ordained at Scotch Plains, April 19th, 1763. John Gano, of New York, preached the sermon, Isaac Eaton of Hopewell gave the charge, and Isaac Stelle of Piscataway offered the ordaining prayer. The year following he removed to Warren, R. I, where he taught a Latin school and officiated as pastor of the Baptist Church just organized. The subsequent history of Dr. Manning as the founder and first President of the Rhode Island College, now Brown University, is too well known to need farther mention in this sketch.
Daniel Dane, baptized by Mr. Miller in 1771, was licensed to preach March 31st, 1773. All the subsequent account left of him is the simple record opposite his name on the church roll, "Died April, 1782."
Jacob F. Randolph was elected deacon in 1788, and licensed in 1791. He preached at Mt. Bethel, Samptown and Plainfleld. At the latter place he filled the first pastoral some ten years and rested from his labors.
Marmaduke Earl, a native of N. Y. city and educated at Columbia College, was for a time a member of the Reformed Dutch Church, and became a Baptist in 1789. About a year later he became connected with this church by which he was licensed in 1791. He was pastor for several years at Oyster Bay, L. I.
Hervey Ball, son of Deacon Aaron Ball was licensed to preach in 1805. He labored at Brookfield, N. Y. 27 years, and subsequently at other places in New York and New Jersey.
Obadiah B. Brown, of Newark, came to Scotch Plains to study under Mr. Van Horne's direction, and was licensed to preach Jan. 1st, 1806. Soon afterward he accompanied Deacon Ezra Darby, M. C., to Washington and became pastor of the Church at the Capital.
Hervey Ball, nephew of Henry Ball, born in 1800, graduated at Columbia College, Washington, and was connected for a time with the Newton Institution, licensed soon afterward. With the exception of a brief pastorate at Hingham, Mass., his life has been spent chiefly in teaching.
Elias Frost was licensed to preach June 12th, 1830, and removed to Hamburg, Sussex Co. soon afterward. It does not appear that he gave himself for any considerable time to the ministry.
HOUSES OF WORSHIPThe first house of worship (already alluded to) was erected in 1743, on the site of the one now about to be vacated. Its size and construction are not known. The congregation having increased rapidly under Mr. Miller's preaching it was soon found necessary to secure more ample accommodations. Accordingly, in the early part of 1759 the house was much enlarged, and the roof and sides covered with cedar shingles, and other improvements made. The seats were sold to pay the costs of these repairs. This house stood without further important alteration until the winter of 1816-17, when it was totally destroyed by fire. Subscription papers were at once circulated, most of the necessary funds were easily secured, and a contract signed for the building of a new house, to be finished by Dec. 1st of that year. This house was built in the best manner, is 39 feet by 48 feet in size, with galleries on three sides; roof and sides like the former building, covered with cedar shingles, and cost $2,492.00. Some twenty years ago the large windows on either side of the pulpit were closed up and a vestibule cut off from the main room in front. In 1866 a belfry and bell were added.
The growing wants of the congregation, called for the renovation of the old house or the building of a new one. Several attempts were made in that direction but owing to war and other causes nothing was accomplished until very recently. A little more than a year ago the work of building was commenced and is now just completed. The house stands on a fine corner near the old one, is Gothic in style with clear story and transept, and corner tower and spire. The size is 50 ft. by 110 ft, including the lecture-room in the rear, the main room 50 feet by 70 feet, with recess pulpit; spire 120 feet in height. The material is pressed brick with Ohio stone and white brick trimmings, slated roof and spire. The cost, including furniture and organ, exclusive of grounds, $30,000. It will be dedicated about the end of the present month.
PARSONAGE PROPERTYWhat is known as the Parsonage property was purchased in 1775 from the executors of the estate of William Darby, one of our constituent members, a first deacon of the church. It consisted of fifteen acres on the plain and twelve acres on the mountain. Previous to this purchase a parsonage had stood on the former tract, a little nearer the street than the present. This house was consumed by fire in 1786, and a new one erected under the supervision of the pastor, Mr. Van Home. It was built in a very substantial manner, of stone, and is still in use, although much in need of some rejuvenation to render the contrast less striking with the new house of worship.
In the early part of 1869 an act was procured from the Legislature authorizing the trustees to sell land, and give a legal title. During the summer, part of the property was divided into building lots, and in the Fall sold at auction, and the money turned into the general fund for building the church edifice. Upwards of three acres are still retained.
CHURCH EXTENSIONIn the Year 1753, the Baptists in New York City, numbering only thirteen persons, united themselves with the church at Scotch Plains, and in accordance with the custom of the times, were regarded as a branch of this body; Mr. Miller visiting them regularly once a quarter, preaching and, administering the ordinances. The number having considerably increased, they were dismissed from this body June 2nd, 1762, and formed into the First Baptist Church of New York City, with Rev. John Gano as Pastor.
The Mt. Bethel Church was organized from the Western portion of this field in 1767.
Lyons Farms Church was constituted in 1769, by eleven members, who took their letters from this church for that purpose.
The Samptown Church was organized December 1st, 1792, by twenty-one members of this church, with others from Piscataway.
The church at Westfield, organized in 1866, received many of its constituent members front Scotch Plains.
These are all the churches that may be said to have been formed from this, although Rahway, Elizabeth, Plainfield and Morristown being within the limits of the original field, have all drawn more or less upon the strength of the older body. The church and community have suffered much from the absorbing power of larger centers, but the remedy to be found in a growing population is already at hand.
OFFICERSThe present officers of the church are Joseph C. Buchanan, Pastor; Henry Hetfield, Jared S. Stout, Randolph G. Silvers and Henry Hetfield, Jr., Deacons.
The Trustees are J. S. Stout, L. H. K. Smalley, A. L. Jimerson, N. Drake, Wm. Darby, A. Dobbing, and H. E. Needham.
MISCELLANEOUSAt the organization of the church a class of officers unknown to Baptist usage was appointed, denominated "ruling elders." Their duties were much more advisory than legislative, but the name adopted was unfortunate. The office seems to have been continued for a number of years, and then allowed quietly to drop out of sight.
The practice of receiving members by the laying on of hands adopted at the beginning, was also discontinued without any recorded controversy, in the time of Mr. Van Home.
Rigid discipline was insisted on at the first. In 1748 it was resolved, "That any brother belonging to this church and not praying in his family, shall be admonished, and if he will reclaim well, arid if otherwise, he shall be suspended."
This body seems to have been a pioneer in the cause of temperance: a resolution appearing as early as 1766, strongly denouncing the use of intoxicating liquors at funerals. Three quarters of a century afterward, sufficient advancement had been made to discover that what was indecorous at funerals, was wrong at all places.
Lay preaching was encouraged as long ago as 1791, when it was "voted that the Deacons exercise their gifts in case of disappointment by the minister."
CONCLUSIONThe church has existed nearly one hundred and twenty-four years. It has never known - with pardonable pride we write it - a dissension era controversy worth recording. No council has ever been called to settle its affairs or arrange a difficulty with a neighboring body.
It has had ten pastors. The longest term of office continued thirty-four years - the shortest, twenty months. The average is more than twelve years. The largest number baptized in a single year was fifty-three - in 1843. In any decade, one hundred and seventeen - between 1830 and 1840. The whole number baptized is seven hundred and sixty-three. In the centennial year in 1847, one hundred and forty-seven members were reported to the association, which is precisely the number on the roll, this year. But the church has not, as it seems, stood still. With the limits of an extensive field circumscribed on every hand by the formation of new interests, and no growth in population at home, until within the last four years, to maintain our number, has been to make even gratifying progress. And now, with a growing community, a beautiful and commodious church edifice, a devoted membership, and above all, the help of the God of Israel we are hoping for and expecting great things. May the Lord grant it for his name's sake.
[From the Minutes, of the East New Jersey Baptist Association, 1871, pages 25-38. The original document is in the Princeton University Library, Special Collections, Princeton, NJ. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall, 2004.]
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