Baptist History Homepage

A Narrative of Surprising Baptisms
from History of the Baptists, Volume 2

Thomas Armitage, 1890

Dr. Alexander Carson

      The most illustrious of the Irish Baptists is Dr. Alexander Carson. Born in the north of Ireland in 1776, he became, perhaps, the first scholar in the University of Glasgow, and settled, as a Presbyterian pastor, at Tubbermore, 1798, where he received L100 per year from the government. He was a Greek scholar of the first order, and might have become Professor of Greek in the University of Glasgow on signing the 'Standards' of the Church of Scotland. But he gradually adopted Baptist views, gave up his living, and gathered a little band of Baptists about him in a Church without a meetiug-house, and, with himself, enduring deep poverty. In his day he was probably the leading scholar in the Baptist ranks in Britain, and was a voluminous writer and profound reasoner. His work on Baptism has no superior and few equals. Some have called him the 'Jonathan Edwards of Ireland,' and with reason; for it is doubtful whether Ireland has produced his equal since the death of Archbishop Usher. He died in 1844, after nearly half a century spent in the ministry; but his name is fragrant wherever his works are known. [p. 571]



      James Alexander Haldane was born at Dundee, 1768. He entered the navy, as Robert had also. But early in life he became a devout Christian, and traveled all through Scotland and the Orkney Islands, preaching to great multitudes. In 1791) he was ordained pastor of an Independent congregation in Edinburgh, where he labored for nearly fifty years, with great success. His brother, Robert, built for him a large Tabernacle in 1801, and in 1808 the brothers became Baptists. Wilson gives an interesting account of their conversion. After speaking of their 'zeal in behalf of primitive Christianity,' and of the erection by them of many 'meeting-houses of large dimensions,' he relates that several persons from Scotland, in connection with them, settled in London, 1806, and formed a Church in Cateaton Street. William Ballantine, formerly of the University of Edinburgh, a man of good classical and theological attainments, was their leader. He says that the Messrs. Haldane, and the societies in their connection, were hitherto Pedobaptist.' 'But after about two years . . . several persons, suspecting that they were in an error upon this point, began to study the controversy, were convinced of their mistake, and received baptism by immersion. This put the Messrs. Haldane themselves upon an examination of the subject, and the result was that they also became convinced, and were baptized, though at some interval from each other. The report of these changes reaching London, Mr. Ballantine was necessarily put upon a more careful examination of the subject, and the result was that he also renounced his former sentiments, and was baptized by immersion. But this occasioned a convulsion in the society. Mr. Ballantine relinquished his station and joined the Scotch Baptists in Redcross Street. . . . Most of the members of this Church gradually renounced their former notions, and, we believe, they are now (1808) entirely Baptists. . . .' [pp. 574-75.]


      During the first half of the present century Rev. Christopher Anderson was the foremost man among the Baptists of Scotland. He was a native of Edinburgh, born in 1782. He was converted in 1799, under the ministry of the Rev. James Haldane, when he was still a Congregationalist. Intercourse with English Baptist students at the University reawakened his interest in the subject of baptism. He had previously held that believers only should be baptized, but, not agreeing with the Scotch Baptists in their views of the ministry and church government, had not regarded the matter as a personal duty. He was immersed by one of the English students, and was promptly excluded from Mr. Haldane's Church. A few years after this Mr. Haldane himself, and his distinguished brother, Robert, committed the same offense and became Baptists. A visit of Andrew Fuller to Edinburgh awakened a desire in young Anderson to give himself to the work of the ministry amongst the heathen, and Mr. Fuller encouraged him. He entered the University of Edinburgh, and subsequently continued his studies with Rev. John Sutcliff, of Olney, one of the founders of the Baptist Missionary Society, and the originator of the Monthly Concert of Prayer for Missions. Much to the disappointment of Mr. Anderson, he found that his feeble health would not permit him to live in India. His great ability as a preacher had been already recognized, and he declined numerous calls from London and other cities, that he might found a regular Baptist Church in his native city. He began his work in 1800, and in a few years his Church had erected a spacious house of worship, which was thronged with worshipers for more than thirty years, the doors being generally besieged long before the hour of opening. Rev. Dr. Cheever, who visited Scotland in 1840, gave some vivid sketches of his character and discourses in letters to the 'New York Observer,' which he concluded by saying: 'Mr. Anderson is one of the most interesting expository preachers I ever heard. His sermons are most simple, affectionate, conversational, but rich with thought and Christian feeling, and dropped from the lips of the preacher like the droppings of a full honey-comb.'

      Mr. Anderson was the intimate and confidential friend of Andrew Fuller, and the chief helper in Scotland to the support of Carey, Marshman and Ward in India. After Fuller's death, and the unfortunate disagreement between the Serampore brethren and the Missionary Society, he succeeded Fuller, serving gratuitously as secretary of the Serampore Mission until the reunion, a period of twenty years. He was the leader in the Home Mission work in the north of Scotland and in Ireland, especially in the work of giving the Bible in the original native dialect. Abundant as were his pulpit and other labors, he was a diligent student and an author of great distinction. His work on 'The Domestic Constitution; or, The Family Circle the Source of National Stability,' had a wide circulation in Europe, and several editions of it have appeared in America. But the crowning work of his life was 'The Annals of the English Bible.' It cost him fourteen years of toil, involving repeated journeys to the Continent, and to the homes of Tyndale and Coverdale in England, in order that the work might be trustworthy in the utmost degree. The story of the suffering fathers, who sought to give the people the word of God in their mother-tongue, is simply and eloquently told, and the work is a monument of erudition. Mr. Anderson was one of the most popular of Scottish preachers, ranking with Wardlaw, Chalmers, Guthrie and Candlish, until his voice became impaired by sickness. His Church was called an English Baptist Church, to distinguish it from those Churches which had a plurality of elders. It was composed entirely of believers immersed upon confession of Christ, and practiced restricted communion. Mr. Anderson died in 1852. His funeral sermon was preached by his friend for more than fifty years, Dr. Wardlaw, of Glasgow. Dr. Cheever says of him: 'Mr. Anderson's conversation in private was in the same interesting familiar, rich and instructive style as his preaching in public. Altogether he was one of the most heavenly minded and delightful men with whom I became acquainted in Great Britain.' [pp. 575-77]


      William Carey was born August 17th, 1761, at Paulersbury. His father was a weaver (a descendant of James Carey, curate of that parish from 1624 to 1630), also parish clerk and village school-master, so that William had a fair common-school education. At fourteen he was bound an apprentice to a shoe-maker, but his thirst for knowledge was so quenchless that he habitually worked with a book before him. Finding many Greek words which he could not understand, in a Commentary, he sought help of Tom Jones, a weaver, who had abused a classical education. He became familiar with the works of Jeremy Taylor and such other authors as he could command; and Thomas Scott, the commentator, predicted that this 'plodder' would prove no ordinary man. William Manning, a Dissenter, his shopmate, led him to Christ, and at twenty-two he was immersed in the river New, near Dr. Doddridge's chapel, Northampton, by John Ryland, Jr. The baptism of a poor journeyman shoe-maker excited little interest, but Ryland chanced on a prophetic text that day: 'The last shall be first.' Carey's chief desire, after his conversion, was to qualify himself for usefulness, and his remarkable gift for acquiring languages soon made him master of the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German and French. He began to keep school, but could not govern; lie said, 'The boys kept me,' and so he did not succeed well. Soon he removed to Moulton, and, under the advice of Mr. Sutcliff, applied to the Church at Olney for admission to the ministry. That high and mighty body condescended to take him into its membership, and, on hearing him preach, 'Resolved' that he be 'allowed' to preach elsewhere in small places, and that 'he should engage again on suitable occasions for some time before us, in order that further trial be made of his ministerial gifts.' [pp. 579-580.]

The First Baptist Church
Swansea, Massachusetts

      On June 10th, 1771, the first Church sent to Swansea, inviting elders Job and Russel Mason to come and break bread to them after Samuel Winsor had left them to form a new Church. They replied, June 28th: 'Whereas, you have sent a request for one of us to break bread among you, we laid your request before our Church meeting; and there being but few present, and we not being able to know what the event of such a proceeding might be at this time, think it not expedient for us to come and break bread with you'. Before Manning accepted the pastorate permanently, the Church appointed him to break bread, and he acted as pastor pro tem. After the Church got through with all its quiddities and contentions, and came to labor earnestly for the salvation of men, the Holy Spirit was graciously outpoured upon it, and its prosperity became marked. In 1774 a young man named Biggilo was accidentally killed in Providence, and his death stirred the whole city. Tamer Clemons and Venus Arnold, two colored women, gave themselves to Christ, were converted and baptized; and the record says, 'The sacred flame of the Gospel began to spread. In fifteen months one hundred and four confessed the power of the Spirit of Christ, in the conversion of their souls, and entered the gates of Zion with joy.' They had no meeting-house for nearly sixty years, but met in groves or private houses, till noble elder Tillinghast built one, at his own expense, in 1700. Under the ministry of Dr. Manning, this, however ceased to meet their necessities, and in 1774 the present beautiful edifice was erected at a cost of L7,000, and dedicated to God on May 28th, 1775. Our fathers delighted greatly in its tall steeple, 196 feet in height, and in their new bell, which weighed 2,515 pounds, bearing this motto:

'For freedom of conscience, the town was first planted;
Persuasion, not force, was used by the people;
This church is the eldest, and has not recanted,
Enjoying and granting bell, temple, and steeple.'

      Mind you, reader, this was one year before the clang of that grand old sister bell at Philadelphia which rang in our independence. But, alas for the vanity of noisy metal, the Baptist bell split its sides in 1787, and that at Independence Hall followed its example, since which time the Providence people have kept their best bell in the pulpit, without a crack, from Manning to T. Edwin Crown, not the son of Chad, but his last worthy successor. Few bodies on earth have been honored with such a line of pastors for two and a half centuries, and few Churches have been so faithful to the great, first principles of the Gospel, without wavering for an hour. These she has maintained, too, without any written creed or human declaration of faith, standing firmly on the text and spirit of the Bible, as her only rule of faith and practice. . . [pp. 668-9.]

Elias Keach
Pennepeck, Pennsylvania

      Elias Keach came to this country in 1686, a year before this Church was formed. He was the son of Benjamin Keach, of noble memory, for endurance of the pillory, and for the authorship of a key to Scripture metaphors and an exposition of all the parables. When Elias arrived in Pennsylvania, he was a wild scamp of nineteen, and for sport dressed like a clergyman. His name and appearance soon obtained invitations for him to preach, as a young divine from London. A crowd of people came to hear him, and concluding to brave the thing out he began to preach, but suddenly stopped short in his sermon. There was a stronger muttering than he had counted on in the heart which had caught its life from its honored father and mother, despite the black coat and white bands under which it beat. He was alarmed at his own boldness, stopped short, and the little flock at Lower Dublin thought him seized with sudden illness. When asked for the cause of his fear he burst into tears, confessed his imposture and threw himself upon the mercy of God for the pardon of all his sins. Immediately he made for Cold Spring to ask the counsel of Thomas Dungan, who took him lovingly by the hand, led him to Christ, and when they were both satisfied of his thorough conversion he baptized him; and his Church sent the young evangelist forth to preach Jesus and the resurrection. Here we see how our loving God had brought a congregation of holy influences together from Ireland and Wales, Rhode Island and England, apparently for the purpose of forming the ministry of the first great pastor in our keystone State. Keach made his way back to Pennepek, where he began to preach with great power. The four already named were baptized as the first-fruits of his ministry, then he organized the Church and threw himself into his Gospel work with consuming zeal. He traveled at large, preaching at Trenton, Philadelphia, Middletown, Cohansey, Salem and many other places, and baptized his converts into the fellowship of the Church at Pennepek, so that all the Baptists of New Jersey and Pennsylvania were connected with that body, except the little band at Cold Spring.

      Morgan Edwards tells us that twice a year, May and October, they held 'General Meetings' for preaching and the Lord's Supper, at Salem in the spring and at Dublin or Burlington in the autumn, for the accommodation of distant members and the spread of the Gospel, until separate Churches were formed in several places. When Mr. Keach was away, the Church held meetings at Pennepek, and each brother exercised what gifts he possessed, the leading speakers generally being Samuel Jones and John Watts. Keach married Mary, the daughter of Chief-Justice Moore, of Pennsylvania, and the Church prospered until 1689, when they must needs fall into a pious jangle about 'laying on of hands in the reception of members after baptism, predestination and other matters.' Soon after, Keach brought his pastoral work to a close in 1689, and returned to London, where he organized a Church in Ayles Street, Goodman's Fields, preached to great crowds of people, and in nine months baptized 130 into its fellowship. [pp. 707-8]


Rev. Richard Fuller

      There is no name which the Maryland Baptists more delight to honor than that of Rev. Richard Fuller, D.D. He was born at Beaufort, S. C., April 22d, 1804, and was prepared to enter Harvard College by Rev. Dr. Brantly, but broken health compelled him to leave that institution when in his junior year. Able to return after an absence of five years, he was graduated in 1824 at the head of his class. He then studied law and rose to eminence in his profession. In 1831 he was converted at Beaufort, and says: 'My soul ran over with love and joy and praise; for days I could neither eat nor sleep.' He was baptized by Rev. H. O. Wyer, of Savannah, and united with the Baptist Church in his native place. He was soon chosen its pastor, was ordained in 1832 and labored in this field for fifteen years. When he left his lucrative law business to enter the ministry the Church was feeble, but under his faithful care it increased to about 200 white persons and 2,400 colored. His zeal was so great that he preached for weeks together in various parts of the South, and great numbers were brought to Christ. But in 1836 he was obliged to travel in Europe for his health. In 1847 he became pastor of the Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore, a Church which numbered but 87 members at that time. Under his faithful toils it grew to the number of 1,200, and a body of its members retired with him to establish the new congregation, in which he remained five years, and from which, after much suffering, he was called to his reward on high, on the 20th of October, 1876. [pp. 760-761.]


[From Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, Volume 2, 1890; reprint 1988. Scanned by Ron Crisp; formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Baptist History Homepage