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     Editor's note: These are excerpts concerning John Gano from David Spencer's The Early Baptists of Philadelphia. Of special interest is a letter Gano wrote to the First Baptist Church, when they extended a call for him to become their pastor. - Jim Duvall

John Gano and the Philadelphia Baptists
By David Spencer, 1877

[p. 60]
     . . . Morgan Edwards was called to become the pastor to the church at Philadelphia.

     Under date of April 12, 1760, the minutes of the church in Philadelphia state: "The 10th of this month, Mr. Talbot preached with great warmth. He was the first fruit of the Hopewell School." Rev. John Gano was requested to come.

     "During my residence in North Carolina, Mr. Jenkin Jones, of the Baptist Church in Philadelphia, died; and the church being destitute of a pastor, had sent a call to England for one. It was represented that they had been so particular in the requisite qualifications for a minister, that it has given offence to the preachers; so that they were entirely destitute. They made application to me to visit them; and also to Mr. Miller, of Scotch Plains, who

[p. 61]
had been a successful minister in New York, and had baptized sundry persons there. I visited New York and Philadelphia, alternately. I at length came to the conclusion that I would supply both places, two Sabbaths at each place. The church at Philadelphia invited me to bring my family, and tarry with them, till they received an answer from England. I answered them that I would not come on such terms; but if they would affix a certain time for my stay, I would accept of their invitation. To this proposal they acceded, and I went to Philadelphia. While there, Mrs. Gano had a daughter, born December 23d, 1760, whom we called Peggy. During my stay there, which was through the winter, the church appeared in a flourishing state, and several additions were made to it." "About the time I left Philadelphia," continues John Gano, "Providence blessed that church, by sending a young and respectable preacher, Samuel Hillman, from South Carolina, among them. He possessed popular talents as a speaker. He continued with them till the arrival of Morgan Edwards, the minister from England. Mr. Stillman went to Boston, where he now continues, pastor of the First Baptist Church in that place. I remained in the city of New York, until the British War."

[p. 95] In 1778, an invitation was extended to Rev. John Gano, a brother in law of Rev. James Manning, to settle as their pastor, but the condition and prospects

[p. 96]
of the field were so uninviting that he declined. In September, 1779, another very long and earnest letter was written to him, entreating him by every consideration to come and settle with them. Two copies of this letter were sent, one to his family in New Jersey and the other to the army, as it was uncertain just where he was at the time. As to the straits to which the church was put about this time may be learned from the following Minute dated November 6, 1779: -
"Joseph Watkins is desired to get the broken panes of the Baptist Church filled up with boards."
     Rev. John Gano replied at length to the call of the church, which he was compelled to decline. His letter, considering all its contents and the time at which it was written, is a valuable historical document and throws some light upon the trials then endured even by the men prominent in the Christian ministry. Mr. Gano was an able divine, a true patriot, a fine specimen of a Christian man, and loyal to the great principles of the Baptist denomination. The letter was penned in Philadelphia, as follows:
I have received your call, have considered its contents, for and sympathize with you and the cause you are pained for the promotion of in this place. I thank you for the respect expressed therein, and think the more of it as you have long known me. Nineteen years ago I served this church steadily for a season, my defects and the expenses of my family were then known and borne with, the time being expired, and your expected supply coming from abroad, you had no further need of my services. Then I accepted a call to New York. Christian friendship has continued. Yet suffer me now to remark without feigned humility, I was then in my own esteem unequal to the place, although then in the prime, now in the decline of life, my family then small, now large and more expensive; the church, probably from its late political difficulties, the death and removal of members, the heavy taxes of the times, may be less able to bear the charge of a family like mine, who having been long unsettled, and flying from place to place, which, with losses and expenses, without the advantage of replacing, are reduced to an appearance however neighborly like, in a back place, yet rather reproachful in this place, to a church like this. Neither is the sum mentioned in your call at the present exchange anyway adequate to a present support, all which I could leave to God, did I satisfactorily know his will and consequently my duty in the present case. I do not. I am obliged to compare my present standing in the army, the mere Providence that put and has preserved me there, the ways and means of a former and a present support for my family, with this call to learn my duty. And that you may be better judges with me, I must be explicit in stating the contrast in my own breast as I in some measure sensibly feel it at present. I have said providence put and has continued me in the army for these reasons I never sought it, neither did I expect to like the life. Many things I have and must see and hear in the army very abhorrent, but little christian conversation,

[p. 97]
no retirement for study, discouraging prospects for convening or converting sinners, or quickening and edifying God's children, and having no disposition to court the hardships and fatigues of campaigning, and had not the contest appeared to me just, and of so much importance to my country, both in a civil and religious sense, as to render me incapable of refusing any services or suffering I might be called to in it, at the same time knowing there were popular men of character in the ministry that left the city also, and some in the State beside, that by their temporary acceptance manifested a readiness to the service, that on the whole I have not known but God meant to keep me ready as an instrument in some future, when the enemy shall leave New York city, to assist that broken church where so much of the best of my time has been spent (and leave it they will, or come here again), and should I leave the army contrary to the desire of not only those of the first military characters in the State as also some eminent in the civil, I should probably in a late day fling all those advantages that I might expect from the state in favor of that church into a hand not so amical to it. My family has somehow been preserved and supported, neither is the prospect at present less promising for the future. We late last Spring got on a little place, although much out of repairs, and a poor habitation, it is fertile in pasturage and will afford near twenty tons of hay, has an orchard, and my son, although an entire stranger to farming, yet turned in to assist the family, and with a little help they procured and raised something of a summer crop of almost every kind, and has now near twenty acres of wheat in the ground, which place I rent at sixty-seven pounds continental per year - many disadvantages we are under and particularly the education of children. This view of the case I hope will show you my difficulty in determining, and I expect you will not take it unkind should I not accept your invitation.
     The call was repeated over and over again. Every effort was made to secure him, but of no avail. He felt it to be his duty to remain as Chaplain in the army, and did so until the war closed.

     Mr. Gano, in his autobiography, published in 1806, thus briefly refers to this event:

I obtained a furlough, to visit and tarry some time with my family. While here I received a letter from the Baptist church in Philadelphia, requesting me to come and supply them. I shewed the letter to General Clinton, who gave me leave to pay them a visit for two or three weeks. I informed the church that I was not discharged from the army, neither did I wish to engage myself to any people. For if, in the providence of God, the enemy should be driven from New York, I intend to collect my scattered church, and to settle myself in that place. I therefore wished them to look for a supply elsewhere.
     While in Philadelphia he was taken very ill, which detained him from the army for some time.
[p. 98]
In 1775 the church, after the resignation of Rev. William Rodgers, endeavored to get Rev. Elhanan Winchester, but without success. October 23, 1780, however, "the church made choice of Mr. Winchester to be their minister." He was born in Brookline, Mass., September 30, 1751, and united with a church there about 1770. Subsequently his views on baptism changed, and in 1771 he was baptized by Rev. Ebenezer Lyon, and became a member of the Baptist church at Canterbury, Ct. He at once entered upon the work of the ministry and preached for a time at Rehoboth, Mass., then in different parts of New England and South Carolina. He was zealous, eloquent and a man of remarkable memory. Great success attended his preaching, crowds assembled to hear him, and he was in demand by the churches. These elements of character had their influence on the church in Philadelphia, but his settlement was one of the most unfortunate moves they ever made, as the sequel will show. Rev. John Gano, in his letter to the First Baptist Church, as given in this chapter, speaks of "popular men of character in the ministry that left the city, and some in the state," to enter the chaplaincy of the country.
* * * * *

     Rev. John Gano, in his letter to the First Baptist Church, as given in this chapter, speaks of "popular men of character in the ministry that left the city, and some in the state," to enter the chaplaincy of the country. One of these men certainly merits reference here, not that he was a Philadelphia Baptist, but as the ancestor of an honored family of our denomination in this city. Rev. David Jones is the gentleman spoken of.


[p. 103]
     Mr. [Thomas] Ustick was born in the city of New York, August 30, 1735. At the the age of thirteen, in his native city, he was baptized on the profession of his faith, by Rev. John Gano. Mr. Gano, ever apt on such occasions, in giving out the hymn to be sung, so changed it that it read,

"His honor is engaged to save
The youngest of his sheep."

     In the simplicity of his childlike nature, young Ustick, as he walked down into the water with his pastor, asked, "Why did you not read the word as it is, 'the meanest of his sheep; for so, truly, I am?'"

[p. 140]
[At Philadelphia] the oldest Baptist Association in the country had "met at sunrise" when the news of the surrender of the British arms at Yorktown, in 1782, was received. Fitting place for the assembling of the men who were to organize for our Foreign Mission work. There were twenty-six clergymen and seven laymen from eleven different states and from the District of Columbia. [Among the men was]: John Gano, A. M., Rhode Island.
[p. 141]
After much deliberation and prayer they organized the Triennial Convention.

[David Spencer, The Early Baptists of Philadelphia , 1877. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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