The Baptist ministry of my childhood days holds a very distinct place in my memory. In several particulars, it was in marked contrast with our ministry of the present time. As representative of what was then substantially true of the whole State, a group of pastors and evangelists belonging to that period, shall here be named. The most of them are personally and vividly remembered by the writer, since his father's house was one of their many transient homes. What they did and said, how they reasoned out of the Scriptures, the fervency of their prayers, and the tenderness and fidelity with which they conversed with the non-professing members of the household, made a very strong impression upon his mind and heart. They were, Wentworth Lord of Parsonsfield, Henry Smith of Waterboro, Timothy Remick of Cornish, Ebenezer Kinsman of Limerick, Zebulon Delano of Lebanon, Abner Flanders of Buxton, John Seavey of Limington, Simon Locke of Lyman, Nathaniel Lord of Berwick, Joseph Eaton of Wells, and William Godding of Shapleigh. All these from York county.
From other parts of the State well-known names might be quoted almost indefinitely. Among them would be Phineas Pillsbury of Nobleboro', William Allen of Jefferson, James Gillpatrick of Bluehill, Daniel Merrill and David Nutter of Sedgwick, John Haynes and Charles Miller of Livermore, Henry Kendall of Topsham, John Tripp of Hebron, Silas Stearns of Bath, Manasseh Lawrence of Sumner, and Isaac Case of Readfield. Probably not more than one third of all these veteran soldiers of the cross ever received a stipulated salary. Their people contributed, it is true, somewhat towards their support, but only in a fragmentary way. At irregular intervals, and as the impulse took them, they would spare for the minister's family a joint of meat, a sack of wheat or corn, a load of hay or wood, a box of butter, a home-made cheese, and, on rare occasions, a little money. But, as above intimated, the bestowments were of the haphazard order.
Perhaps the venerable pastor would mount his horse for a visit to a parishioner, and, somewhat to his own advantage though not to that of the beast which bore him, would return with a welcome addition to his family stores. But be that as it might, through various but very promiscuous channels, "gifts" of greater or less value were wont to find their way to the pastor's home in the course of the year. And was this all he received from his people? As a rule, yes; and it is reasonably doubtful
whether the annual average amounted to the sum of one hundred dollars. This, however, was, in part, the fault of the ministers themselves, or at least of some of them, who were in the habit of preaching against salaries. Their contention was, that the man who would contract with a people to serve them as pastor for a given sum of money, was an "hireling," and that he must of necessity care more for the "fleece than for the flock." Of course, their theory was narrow and illogical, but it bore fruit all the same, and fruit that was sour and unwholesome. It doubtless had its origin in the forced levy upon the people in the interest of the parish ministers. A town tax for the support of a town pastor, was well calculated to re-act in that way. At any rate, it did so re-act upon many minds.
How then did the Baptist ministers of that day contrive to support their families? Mostly by the labor of their own hands upon their own acres. For almost without exception, all outside of the cities and large villages owned farms of larger or smaller proportions. It should be remembered that the generation of ministers here meant belonged chiefly to the last quarter of the last century and the first third of the present century. They were a stalwart class of men, stalwart in body, stalwart in character, and stalwart in their convictions. Their average literary acquirements were small but their faith was large. It held in its grasp the great
things of God with a strength and tenacity that amply accounts for the success which crowned their labors. If the dead languages were beyond their reach the Bible was not. In that was the hiding of their power. They pondered its words as well as its thoughts so habitually, that both were ever ready at their call.
In the line of reference and quotation, they were often skillful to the verge of wonder. Their preaching was doctrinal rather than ethical, experimental rather than practical. They had themselves lived upon, and lived through, what they communicated to the people. They were fitted to the times in which they lived. If they could not have done the work of the ministry of the present day, no more could the ministry of the present day have done their work. Their range of subjects was narrow, but central and vital. Their outfit was simple. Like David, they coveted but the sling and the stone. The terrors of the law, and the remedies of the gospel furnished the warp and the woof of their preaching. The scalpel and the balm, the probe and the oil, are the fitting symbols of their ministrations, ministrations which, as before said, were narrow as to range, but often wonderfully effective as to results. The type of their piety was of the robust order. It was among their chief joys to testify that the Lord found them before they found Him. Nature had done much for them, and grace more. In divers ways and by various instrumentalities,
they were brought into the Kingdom. Sometimes, in the privacy of their own homes, the Spirit wrought upon them through the Word, and so wrought in them the mighty change. Sometimes a "New-light" preacher would cross their path and bring them a message from God. Sometimes the parish minister, unlike most of his brethren, would prove a "son of thunder" to them and thus arouse them to a sense of impending danger. And so, by various means but by the same Spirit, they were made new creatures in Christ Jesus. The change was the event of their lives. It modified and colored everything in their sturdy and rugged natures. It was intensely individual. Their new-born views pertaining to the guilt and consequences of sin, and its sovereign remedies as provided in the gospel, could not do less than transform them in life and character. Giving themselves now, as never before, to the study of God's word, they soon found that they were not at one with the church of their fathers. They were not long in discovering that mere outward morality is no sufficient qualification for church membership but that there must be the "new man" born from above, before the sacred threshold could be rightly passed. As a logical consequence of this discovery, they were forced to the conclusion that while one could believe for himself he could, by no means, believe for another, and hence that the child could not be scripturally baptized on the faith of its
parents and thus virtually become a member of the church. They could find no authority in the Bible for the baptism of a child, save upon the condition of the child's own personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and beyond that, they could find no trace of evidence that baptism could be administered to any one save by the one act which the Word describes, and which the highest scholarship of the world now declares to have been the act performed and submitted to by primitive Christians. And then, too, it is not a little significant that so many of them, on their own testimony, arrived at these conclusions by the simple study of the Word, and hence, without either counsel or suggestion from others.
In not a few instances, they knew next to nothing about the Baptists, and so had no thought that they themselves were in substantial harmony with them upon all the main points of Scripture teaching. And hence, when the fact came to their knowledge, it was both a surprise and a mortification to them. They naturally reluctated against allying themselves with a people whom popular rumor had branded as ignorant and obstinate schismatics without social standing, and, therefore, without recognition in the higher walks of life. It was inevitable that such of them as were connected with the church of their fathers, (and the number of such was quite large,) should desire to continue such connection, since in that church they were
wielding no little influence, and commanding no little respect. But they soon found that this could not be. They had become Baptists without, at first, suspecting whither they were tending. Alone, and by independent investigation, they had been forced to conclusions which logically compelled them to sunder life-long ties, and ally themselves with a hitherto strange people; but strange only for the time being. In the final event, their union with the Baptists was like the union of kindred drops of water. The two only needed contact to become one, and so their ecclesiastical status was determined by the logic of events, and not by any choice or purpose of their own. By the simple law of affinity, and to their own surprise, they found themselves within the circle of Baptist fellowship. It was their natural home, as they soon found to their great satisfaction. But the new relations involved new obligations. The people among whom they had come were, for the most part, without pastors or even evangelists, save as here and there an itinerant made the circuit of the churches as occasion served. This state of things forced a question of personal duty upon the newcomers. As above intimated, many of them were men of affairs, men of rugged sense and judgment, and, therefore, men with power to influence and lead other men. They were, moreover, mighty in the Scriptures, and in process of time, developed a talent for public speaking of no mean order, insomuch
that the common people heard them gladly. A natural result followed. Not a few of them, impelled by their own convictions and the desire of the churches, drifted into the ministry; and it is not too much to say that in that high and sacred calling, they did yeoman's service. The larger portion of them became long-time and honored pastors, while a select few moved like flames of fire among the scattered communities of the State where no Baptist churches had yet been formed, and where there was little preaching of any kind. In this way Baptist principles were widely and rapidly diffused, and the denomination grew apace. The reader should not infer that our people of that day were mainly dependent upon this source of ministerial supply, but only that it was one of many sources of such supply. He should also guard against the impression that there were no Baptist ministers in those times of distinguished ability and high social standing. There were such in considerable numbers. Among many others, the names of Doctors Stoughton, and Manning, and Stillman, and Baldwin, and Smith, will suggest themselves at once. And then there was our own Daniel Merrill, of blessed memory, who for many years was so conspicuous a figure in the Baptist ranks of Maine. Equally important is it to bear in mind that what has been said about salaries must not be understood as being of universal application. Even then, in the larger centers, fixed though small
salaries were paid. But it still remains true that, for reasons already stated, stipulated salaries were the exception and not the rule. For the most part, and for quite a long period, the ministers relied upon the labor of their own hands, supplemented by the irregular and inconsiderable "gifts" of their people, for the support of their families. The conviction that the pastor should have a stated income from those whom he served in the sacred calling, was a thing of slow growth. His lot, on its worldly side was a hard one. But not so did he seem to regard it. He joyed to preach the gospel, and he did preach it with an unction and success that is refreshing to remember. All honor to the early Baptist ministers of Maine, and New England, and the whole country. For what was true of them in one section was substantially true of them in every section.
[From Joseph Ricker, Personal Recollections: A Contribution to Baptist History and Biography, 1894, pp. 32-40. This is chapter 5 of the book and is titled "The Early Baptist Ministers of Maine." Document from Google Books, On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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