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Fifty Years Among the Baptists
By David Benedict
THE OLD TRIENNIAL CONVENTION. — THE MEETING IN NEW YORK IN 1826. — THE BOARD REMOVED TO BOSTON. — THE COLUMBIAN COLLEGE. — THE HOME MISSIONARY SOCIETY FORMED. — DR. GOING. — DR. PECK. — STATE CONVENTIONS.
THIRTY YEARS AGO the foreign mission cause stood very high in the estimation of the American Baptists as a body; for this object the choicest fields for agents were assigned. The whole denomination, North and South, acted in concert, so far as it was aroused to any benevolent action in supporting this then favorite undertaking. But with all these facilities for revenue, the annual income of the Convention was but about twenty-five thousand dollars, and a considerable portion of this sum came from female mite societies, on which much reliance in that day was placed for the support of all our benevolent operations.
The Meeting of the Convention in New York, in 1826
The number of delegates appointed to this meeting was seventy-eight; six of them were absent. Their names were thus recorded:
MAINE. — Thomas B. Ripley.
MASSACHUSETTS. — Lucius Belles, Daniel Sharp, J. D. Knowles, William Staughton, * Jonathan Going, Heman Lincoln, G. F. Davis, Bela Jacobs, Abiel Fisher, Francis Wayland, Jr., Irah Chase, James Loring, B. C. Grafton, Henry Jackson, Jonathan Bachelder, Levi Farwell.
VERMONT. — Joseph W. Sawyer, Jonathan Merriam, John Conant.
RHODE ISLAND. — Stephen Gano, D. Benedict, William Gammell.
CONNECTICUT. — Asa Wilcox.
NEW YORK. — Spencer H. Cone, J. C. Murphy, R. Thompson, William Colgate, Archibald Maclay, Aaron Perkins, Thomas Stokes, S. W. Lynd, Daniel Hascell, Elon Galusha, Daniel Putnam, H. Malcom, John Stanford, Thomas Garniss, Thomas Purser, Joshua Gilbert, C. G. Summers, William C. Hawley, Rufus Babcock, Nathaniel Kendrick, Lewis Leonard, Stephen Olmstead.
* Dr. Staughton and a number of other members of this Convention are reported from States in which they did not belong, This occurred in this way: no one could be a delegate unless it could be shown that there had been paid into the treasury of the body by himself or friends one hundred dollars per annum. And as the contributions of some States fell short of the amount necessary to send the number of delegates they desired should go, those in which there was a superabundance afforded them a helping hand. This practice was in conformity to the constitution of the Convention.
NEW JERSEY. — Thomas Brown, James E. Welch.
MARYLAND. Samuel Eastman. J. M. Peck.
PENNSYLVANIA. — John L. Dagg, David Jones, William E. Ashton, Joseph Maylin.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. — O. B. Brown, G. S. Webb, Isaac Clark, Samuel Cornelius, Luther Rice, Joseph Thaw, William Ruggles, Enoch Reynolds, Robert Ryland.
VIRGINIA. — Robert B. Semple, John Kerr, William Crane, Eli Ball, H. C. Thompson, Noah Davis.
SOUTH CAROLINA. — Joseph B. Cook, William B. Johnson, Charles D. Mallory, James Graham.
GEORGIA. — Jesse Mercer, William T. Brantley, Abdiel Sherwood, Abner Davis.
Officers of the Convention
Robert B. Semple, President.
Howard Malcom, Secretary.
Heman Lincoln, Treasurer.
Under the old dispensation a Board of Managers of thirty-eight was chosen once in three years. Former members might be reappointed.
This Board of Managers was much like the present Executive Committee.
Officers of the Board Managers
William Staughton, President.
"Jesse Mercer, Daniel Sharp, O. B. Brown, Nathaniel Kendriek, Vice Presidents."
Lucius Bolles, Corresponding Secretary.
Francis Wayland, Jr., Recording Secretary.
Heman Lincoln, Treasurer.
The other members of the Board were, William T. Brantley, J. L. Dagg, S. H. Cone, Joseph B. Cook, William Crane, Enoch Reynolds, Bela Jacobs, Elon Galusha, Samuel Cornelius, Thomas B. Ripley, John Kerr, Jonathan Going, Stephen Gano, Henry Jackson, D. Benedict, J. D. Knowles, Thomas Stokes, Levi Farwell, Abner Davis, Irah Chase, Stephen Chapin, Lewis Leonard, Abner Forbs, Gustavus F. Davis, John Moriarty, Asa Wilcox, William Gammell, Charles Train, Nathaniel W. Williams, David Jones.
It will be seen that there were a number of men in the Board who were not members of the Convention. This was according to an article of the constitution which provided that the Managers might be chosen out of the societies, associations, churches, etc., which helped to sustain the general cause.
About three fourths of the men above named have
ceased from their labors. The names of those who survive are put in italics.
Of the thirty-eight members of the Board of Managers all but ten have died.
At this time our institution for foreign missions had been in operation twelve years, and thus far all the services pertaining to its management had been gratuitously performed without an executive committee or missionary rooms.
Philadelphia at first, and for a number of years after, was the seat of the operations of this body, when it was removed to Washington, D. C., and finally to Boston, where it has remained to this time, a period of about thirty years. (This was written in 1856.)
Additional Items respecting the Doings of the Convention in New York
At this meeting the recent deaths of Drs. Baldwin of Boston, Furman of Charleston, and John Williams of New York, were duly reported, and suitable resolutions respecting them were passed and entered on the minutes.
Among the doings of this Convention, fourteen standing committees were appointed, besides a large number for special purposes, as the business went on. Three of these committees only had respect to foreign missions. The affairs of the American Indians, the
Luminary, the Star, the Columbian College, the debts of these concerns, and Mr. Rice's financial transactions generally, engrossed most of the attention of the body at this session. Respecting this laborious man, who had labored for many years in the Baptist cause, and who was now present, the following resolution was voted and recorded:
"From various developments, it appears that Mr. Rice is a very loose accountant, and that he has very imperfect talents for the disbursement of money."
Succeeding this vote, a committee of fourteen was appointed, of whom only Drs. Wayland, Chase and the writer survive, who, among other things, recommended that Mr. Rice should continue his agency for the college, for thecollection of funds; that Rev. Elon Galusha assume the office of treasurer of the institution, and immediately remove to Washington for this purpose; and that an effort be made to raise fifty thousand dollars for the liquidation of its debts, and for sustaining its future operations.
The plan of locating the Board of Managers in Boston was unanimously adopted by the Convention, in 1826, which carries us back thirty-three years.
At this meeting, also, strong resolutions were adopted in favor of having the nomination of the trustees of the college made by some other body besides the Convention, on which this duty had thus far devolved.
This plan, however, was not fully matured until a number of years later.
On the whole, the doings at this time were of no small importance, as they did much toward disengaging the Convention from those entangling and embarrassing alliances with outside operations, in which the well-meant, but ill-advised plans of Mr. Rice and his coadjutors had involved the body, and which had for a long time been the occasion of protracted, and not always harmonious discussions, and especially at the session now under review.
The income of the Convention at the end of this decade had arisen to a little over sixty thousand dollars; but its expenses had so far gone ahead of its revenue, that the treasurer, in 1838, reported a debt of twenty-five thousand dollars. Such unwelcome reports have often gone out from the treasury of this institution for the last twenty years. But the Baptist public have stood by this favorite undertaking with a promptness and decision of a highly commendable character.
The compound motion of this old Convention, in its early movements, in which was embraced ministerial education, and much of the labor which is now performed by the institution soon to be named, seemed to be a matter of necessity in the early stage of benevolent operations. The system worked very well
for a few years, but at length, from the painful experience of the disagreeable friction of this compound machinery, and the want of efficiency on this account, the expediency of having new organizations for other objects, and of having all the energies of the Convention directed to foreign missions alone, became most obviously apparent.
The Baptist Home Missionary Society
The need of such an institution had long been fell by many of our brethren in different parts of the country, particularly in the western States and Territories, and in remote regions where the old domestic societies could do but little in the cause of missions. But few, however, cared to suggest the idea of gettingup a second organization for missionary purposes among our people, so fearful were they that it would not be supported by the churches, and so careful also, were they of encroaching ca the rights of the foreign department, whose revenues were obtained with great labor and cost, and, moreover, were often inadequate to the demand for sustaining the increasing labors in the foreign fields, where new enterprises were continually undertaken.
At the meeting of the General Convention, in 1826, to which I have so often referred, in the report of the Committee on Domestic Missions, of which J. M.
Peck was chairman, there was evidently a looking forward to our Home Mission and Bible Societies, and to augmented efforts in favor of ministerial education and Sunday Schools.
My observations at present will have respect only to the Home Mission organization, which was effected in the city of New York, in 1832. Bat the incipient movements, in which may be discovered the germ of the institution, were commenced in Boston two years before, by certain members of the old Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts. These movements were seconded by similar bodies in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere, and in process of time most of the old domestic communities were merged in the new Home Society, or had grown into State conventions, which cooperated with it.
To the late Dr. Going may be ascribed much of the labor in getting up this very useful Baptist institution, and in setting it in successful operation; and in his explorations for the purpose of ascertaining the need and the practicability of the undertaking, he found a willing and efficient coadjutor in Dr. Peck, the laborious pioneer of the West. This assiduous promoter of all new and promising measures among our people, traveled extensively with Dr. Going, over an extensive field, with which he was entirely familiar, and united with his eastern friend in laying a good foundation
for an institution which has thus far operated in a very beneficial manner for the interests of our denomination.
The machinery of this body is very simple, and costs but little compared with our foreign department — nor has there been any of those painful collisions between the managers at home and the missionaries under their appointment, which, in the foreign cause for a long time past, has been so distressing to a large portion of the American Baptists.
The most troublesome thing I have seen in the operations of the home concern, was the project for getting up a new building for its accommodation. This scheme, as I understand the matter, originated in the unwillingness of Dr. Cone and others to occupy the rooms which had been fitted up for the institution, and were offered it free of rent. A subscription was opened in favor of this new mission house, but hitherto the plan has not been carried into effect.
In the early operations of the Home Society, efforts were made for the Baptist State Conventions to become auxiliary to it, and to turn in their spare funds to its aid. But, as each convention found enough to do at home, this plan was never fully matured.
The reports of the doings of the Home Mission Society give but an imperfect view of this kind of labor in the whole country, since the State conventions
and single associations probably perform as much, if not more, in this line, than the general institution. The State conventions, especially in the older States, appropriate most of their funds in aid of feeble churches, which are not able to give a full support to their pastors, or else in efforts to organize new bodies in favorable locations, where the Baptist interest has hitherto been neglected. But many associations, mostly in the South and West, appoint one or more ministers for a part, or all the time, to labor with destitute churches, and in destitute regions, within their own bounds, and, in some cases, beyond them. This was the way of doing this business in the early operations of domestic missions, as they were then called, in the old States, where a different system is now pursued. How many miles traveled was, and still is, an important item in the reports of this kind of missionary service.
[David Benedict, Fifty Years Among the Baptists, 1860; rpt. 1977, pp. 183-193. -- jrd]
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