Amherst, N. S. November 1, 1828.
DEAR BROTHER DYER,
In compliance with your request, I wilt now attempt to famish you with an historical sketch of the Baptist churches in Nora Scotia.*
It appears that there were hut very few of the Baptist denomination, among the first emigrants by whom this province was settled, after it was taken from the French, and ceded to the British. There was, however, a small number among those who came from New England. One of them, Mr. Monlton, was a Baptist minister, who was probably the first that preached in Nova Scotia. He began to labour in Norton about the year 1763, and his exertions being crowned with success, a church was formed, consisting of Baptists and Congregationalists. He did not, however, continue long in the province. About the same period, the Rev. John Mason, from New Jersey, laboured for a short time in Nora Scotia , hut neither he, nor any other of this order, made a permanent settlement.
It is not uncommon for an object to be promoted by indirect means. Such has been the case in reference to the Baptist interest in this province. The Rev. Henry Alline, though he did not belong to this denomination, was instrumental in greatly augmenting their number.
Mr. Alline was a native of Rhode Island, and was born in 1748. He removed, with his father's family, to Falmouth, N. S. in the year 1760. Having been the subject of deep convictions at the early age of eight, he obtained a hope in Christ in 1775, at which time he was twenty seven years old. The spring following, after some fruitless attempts to obtain a liberal education, he commenced preaching. He lived only about eight years after this time, hut during that period he travelled extensively in this province, as also in New Brunswick, and laboured indefatigably, and his labours were attended with remarkable success. Multitudes professed to be converted through his instrumentality, and though some did not adorn their profession, yet many evinced the reality of their conversion, by bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
Mr. Alline, though an eminently pious man, entertained some views which were undoubtedly erroneous. The principal source of his errors seems to have been, an undue regard to impressions and impulses. As to baptism, instead of instructing his adherents to follow the directions of Scripture, he taught them, that if it was impressed upon their minds, they ought to observe it, adopting whatever mode they thought fit; hut he did not himself immerse any. He and his people professed to adhere to the Congregational order, hut they were usually called "New Lights."
Many persons, however, who experienced religion under Mr. Alline's ministry, became convinced, on investigation, that the immersion of a professed believer is the only scriptural baptism, and accordingly submitted to that ordinance; + and several who were at first Congregational, or New Light preachers, are now pastors of Baptist churches.
For some time the churches were, in most instances, composed of Congregationalists and Baptists; and where the latter were the majority, they practised what is termed mixed communion But as this deviation from primitive order, while it bore the semblance of charity and candour, evidently proved a source of confusion and contention, it has been found much more conducive to the peace of Zion to conform strictly to the laws of her King; and to separate, on friendly terms, from those whose views of the ordinances of the Gospel differ materially from ours,t Having made these preliminary remarks, I will proceed to give you a brief account of the churches composing the Nova Scotia Baptist Association, distinctly noticing each.
I. HORTON. - After the constitution of a church here, which has been already mentioned, considerable additions were made daring the time of Mr. Alline. Soon after this, a Mr. Piersons, a native of England, who was a Baptist minister, settled with them. Under his ministry they adopted what is called unmixed communion. This appears to have been the first Baptist church of the present order ever established in the province. Mixed communion was afterwards introduced for a time, but it has not been practised since 1809.
About 1790, Mr. Piersons removed to Hopewell, N.B.; and was, after a few years, succeeded by the Rev. Theodore Seth Harding, their present pastor. He had been a Methodist preacher, but was baptized, and subsequently ordained, by the Rev. John Burton of Halifax.
An extensive revival of religion was enjoyed by this church about the year 1800, as also at several other periods. Some distressing reverses, however, were afterwards experienced, and in 1817, a reorganization was found necessary, when the number was reduced to 45.
The harmony of the church was also somewhat interrupted about the year 1821, while Mr. Harding was residing in Fredericton, N. B. through the influence of a preacher from the United States, who called himself a Christian; but whose conduct was pot conformable to the name which he assumed. When his immorality became notorious, most of the members who had been led astray by him came back to the fold.
In 1822, Mr. Harding returned, and resumed the pastoral charge; since which the church has been in a more prosperous state. It now contains 90 members.
* The chief sources of my information, besides my personal knowledge, are statements received from several of my brethren in the ministry, the ministers of the Association, and the Rev. Mr. Benedict's History of the Baptists.
+ It is not two months since the writer baptized a Mr. T. A. who is a native of England, upwards of eighty years of age, that was converted under the labours of Mr. Alline.
t Permit the writer to mention, without any design to censure such as practise otherwise, a circumstance which tended to establish his mind upon this subject. The first time he was called to administer baptism, two persons requested immersion, and two others proposed to unite with them in church
(To be continued)