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Early History of the First Baptist Church in Boston
By David Benedict, 1848
     Although the church in Swansea was organized a short time before this, yet as that was in a remote part of the state, on the borders of R. I., its formation produced but little excitement at the head-quarters of the ruling powers. But the community now to be described, was in the very centre of their operations. At this late period, when tile principles of religious freedom are so fully established, and all denominations are permitted without any impediment to form as many churches as they please, it is difficult to comprehend how such a feeble company of despised anabaptists, without power or patronage, with no place of meeting but their own private and humble dwellings, should for many years in succession throw the whole power of the state, sacred and secular, into such unusual commotion, and lead them to resort to so many expedients to hinder and suppress them.

     After a full survey of all the circumstances of the case, I am strongly inclined to the opinion, that Mr. Gould and his associates had no definite plan as to their future operations, in the commencement of their course. They were among "the multitude" referred to by Dr. Mather, "of holy, watchful, faithful, and heavenly people among the first settlers of N. E., who had scruples as to infant baptism." (1)

      No company of people could more fully answer the Dr.'s very candid description, than those whose history is before us. And as we have already suggested, there were probably many more of these quiet and pious dissenters in principle, who still traveled in connection with the puritan pedobaptist churches, in these infant settlements, as they had done in the mother country.

      But the time had come for the advocates of believers' baptism to take a stand by themselves, and lay the foundation for those immense results which have since followed, in the metropolis of this important state, and in this populous and intelligent community.

      Mr. Hubbard, one of the Massachusetts historians, observes, "That while some were studying how baptism might be enlarged and extended to the seed of the faithful in their several generations, there were others as studious to deprive all unadult children thereof, and restrain the privilege only to adult believers.(2) Mr. Thomas Gould, a man of very humble pretensions, with no official character of any kind, but a mere private member of a small country church, was designated by divine providence, to be the principal instrument in this difficult and dangerous enterprise, and the patient victim of all the sufferings and reproaches which it involved. And the simple fact of his modestly declining to present his new-born child at the baptismal font, was the means of opening the crusade against him on the part of the whole pedobaptist community, which in the end enlisted all the logic, the stratagems, and bigotry of the whole corps of the priesthood, and a long train of legal enactments from the secular powers.

      Ten thousand such omissions have since been silently overlooked by succeeding churches, and the offenders have continued in fellowship and repose. And had the conscientious scruples of Gould been treated with that kindness and charity which every dictate of christian forbearance suggests, there is no probability that the foundation of the first Baptist church in Boston, at that time, would have been laid. But such was the spirit of the times -- the bigotry of the men -- and especially of master Simes, the pastor of the church to which Mr. Gould belonged, that they hurried the good man forward much beyond his first design.

      The following narrative from the pen of Mr. Gould, was found by Mr. Backus among Mr. Callender's papers, and as it is in a very plain and intelligent style, I have thought it best to insert in its full extent, and in his own words, with the addition of such comments as naturally occur.

      I would again remark that the term elder, is to be understood not as with us, but in the presbyterian sense of a secondary officer in the church.

"It having been a long time a scruple to me about infant baptism, God was pleased at last, to make it clear to me by the rule of the gospel, that children were not capable nor fit subjects for such an ordinance, because Christ gave this commission to his Apostles, first to preach, to make them disciple, and then to baptize them, -- which infants were not capable of; so that I durst not bring forth my child to be partaker of it; so looking that my child had no right to it, which was in the year 1655, when the Lord was pleased to give me a child, I staid some space of time, and said nothing, to see what the church would do with me. On a third day of the week, when there was a meeting at my house, to keep a day of thanksgiving to God, for his mercy shown to my wife at that time, one coming to the meeting brought a note from the elders of the church to this effect: that they desired me to come down on the morrow to the elder's house, and to send word again what time of that day I would come, and they would stay at home for me; and if I could not come that day, to send them word. In looking on the writing, with many friends with me, I told them I had promised to go another wav on the morrow. Master Dunster (probably, President Dunster) being present, desired me to send them word that I could not come on the morrow, but that I would come any other time that they would appoint me; and so, I sent word back by the same messenger. The fifth day, meeting with elder Green, I told him how it was; he told me it was well, and that they would appoint another day, when he had spoken with the pastor, and then they would send me word. This lay about two months before I heard any more from them. On a first day in the afternoon, one told me I must stop, for the church would speak with me. They called me out, and Master Sims told the church, that this brother did withhold his child from baptism, and that they had sent unto him to come down on such a day to speak with them, and if he could not come on that day, to set a day when he would be at home; but he, refusing to come, would appoint no time; when we writ to him to take his own time, and send us word. I replied, that there was no such word in the letter, for me to appoint the day; but what time of that day I should come.

      "Mr. Sims stood up and told me, I did lie, for they sent to me to appoint the day." I replied again, that there was no such thing in the letter. He replied again, that they did not set down a time, and not a day; therefore, he told me it was a lie, and that they would leave my judgment, and deal with me for a lie; and told the church, that he and the elder agreed to write, that if I could not come that day, to appoint the time when I could come, and that he read it after the elder writ it, and the elder affirmed it was so; but I still replied, there was no such thing in the letter, and thought I could produce the letter.

They bid me let them see the letter, or they would proceed against me for a lie. Brother Thomas Wilder, sitting before me, stood up and told them, that it was so in the letter as I said, for he read it when it came to me. But they answered, it was not so, and bid him produce the letter, or they would proceed with me; he said I think I can produce the letter and forthwith took it out of his pocket, which I wondered at; and I desired him to give it to Mr. Russel to read, and so he did, and he read it very faithfully, and it was just as I had said, that I must send them word what time of that day I would come down; so that their mouths were stopped, and master Sims put it off and said he was mistaken, for he thought he had read it otherwise; but the elder said, this is nothing, let, us proceed with him for his judgment. Now let any man judge what a fair beginning this was, and if you wait awhile you may see as fair an ending. They called me forth to know why I would not bring my child to baptism? My answer was, I did not see any rule of Christ for it, for that ordinance belongs to such as can make profession of their faith, as the scripture doth plainly hold forth. They answered me, that was meant of grown persons and not of children. But that which was most alleged by them was, that children were capable o[ circumcision in the time of the law and therefore as capable in the time of the gospel or baptism; and asked me why children were not to be baptized in the time of the gospel as well as children were circumcised in the time of the law? My answer was, God gave a strict command in the law for the circumcision of children; but we have no command in the gospel, nor example for the baptizing of children. Many other things were spoken, then a meeting was appointed by the church, the next week, at Mr. Russell's."

      The greatest sticklers for baptismal regeneration, the absolute necessity of the rite for the salvation of children, and the certain and unavoidable destruction of all who died without it, in any of the ancient national hierarchies, could not have laid a greater stress on infant baptism than did this puritan church. And what could be more unlike the kindness, and candor, and fair and honest dealing of the christian and gentleman, than the conduct of Mr. Sims, the pastor of the church, in his treatment of this of this offending brother?

     At the meeting held at Mr. Gould's house, as a day of thanksgiving for his family mercies, it is probable that none attended but those who sympathized with this scrupulous man, which President Dunster, on account of his tinge of Baptist sentiments, would be willing to do. As for the church generally, they would hardly be willing to join in any acts of religious worship, on account of a child, whose baptism had, in their view, been thus criminally neglected.

"Being met at Mr. Russell's house, Mr. Sims took a writing out of his pocket, wherein he had drawn up many arguments for infant baptism, and told the church that I must answer those arguments, which I suppose he had drawn from some author, and told me I must keep to those arguments. My answer was, I thought the church had met together to answer my scruples and to satisfy my conscience by a rule of God, and not for me to answer his writing. He said he had drawn it up for the help of his memory, and desired we might go on. Then I requested three things of them.
"1st. That they should not make me a offender for a word.
"2d. That they shou1d not drive me faster than was able to go.
"3d. That if any present should see cause to clear up anything tkat was spoken by me, might have their liberty without offence; because here arc many of you that have their liberty to speak against me if you see cause. But it was denied, and Mr. Sims was pleased to reply, that he was able to deal with me himself, and that I knew it. So we spent four or five hours speaking to many things to and again, but, so hot both sides, that we quickly forgot and went from the arguments that were written. At last one of the company stood up and said, I will give you one plain place of scripture where children were baptized. I told him that would put an end to the controversy. That place is in the 2d of the Acts, 39th and 40th verses. After he had read the scripture, Mr. Sims told me that promise belonged to infants, for the Scripture saith, The promise is to you and your children, and to all that are afar off; and he said no more; to which I replied, even so many as the Lord our God shall call. Mr. Sims replied that I spoke blasphemously in adding to the scriptures. I said, pray do not condemn me, for if I am deceived, my eyes deceive me. He replied again, I added to the scripture, which was blasphemy. I looked into my bible, read the words again, and said it was so. He replied the same words the third time before the church. Mr. Russell stood up and told him it was so, as I had read it. Aye, it may be so in your bible, saith Mr. Sims. Mr. Russell answered, yea, in yours too if you will look into it. Then he said he was mistaken, for he thought on another place; so after many other words, we broke up for that time."
     Mr. Gould's three propositions, contained in this section of the narrative, shows him to have been not only a man of good sense, but capable of a clear arrangement of ideas. It is, also, plain that he wished to secure for his friends who might wish to participate in the debate, a better opportunity than Mr. Sims, the chairman of the meeting, with his strong and unfriendly bias, would be likely to give.
"At another meeting, the church required me to bring out my child to baptism. I told them I durst not do it, for I did not see any rule for it in the word of God. They brought many places of scripture in the Old and New Testament, as circumcision and the promise to Abraham, and that children were holy, and they were disciples. But I told them that all these places made nothing for infant baptism. Then stood up W. D. in the church and said, 'Put him in the Court! put him in the court!' But Mr. Sims answered, 'I pray forbear such words.' But it proved so, for presently after they put me in the court, and put me in seven or eight courts, whilst they looked upon me to be a member of their church. The elder pressed the church to lay me under admonition, which the church was backward to do. Afterwards I went out at the sprinkling of children, which was a great trouble to some honest hearts, and they told me of it. But I told them I could not stay, for I looked upon it as no ordinance of Christ. They told me that now I had made known my judgment, I might stay, for they knew I did not Join with them. So I stayed and sat down my seat when they were at prayer and administering that service to infants. Then they dealt with me for my irreverent carriage. One stood up and accused me, that I stopped my ears; but I denied it."
     "Put him in the court," was the ultima ratio, -- the last argument of this mistaken church, which had so lately fled from the same kind of cruel discipline -- from the strong arm of ecclesiastical tyranny at home. And here we see, in the act of this religious commonwealth, the evil of committing to the civil power the regulation of religious affairs. Had it not been for the power of this infant court, the church in this case could have done this handful of dissenters no personal harm. It would have been a mere verbal contest about dogmas and rites, and if they could not have reclaimed their delinquent members by their ecclesiastical discipline, their only alternative would have been, to let them go, and closed the door against them after their departure.

     But they well understood that there was a power behind the church, to which they could appeal; and it is to the credit of Mr. Sims that he at first dissuaded his brethren from this cruel resort. But soon afterwards he must have joined in the measure.

"At another meeting they asked me if I would suffer the church to fetch my child and baptize it? I answered, if they would fetch my child and do it as their own act, they might do it; but when they should bring my child, I would make known to the congregation that I had no hand in it; then some of the church were against doing of it. A brother stood up and said, 'Brother Gould, you were once for children's baptism, why are you fallen from it?' I answered. 'It is true, and I suppose you were once for crossing in baptism, why are you fallen from that?' The man was silent, but Mr. Sims stood up in a great heat, and desired the church to take notice of it, that I compared the ordinance of Christ to the cross in baptism; this was one of the great offences they dealt with me for. After this, the deputy-governor, Mr. Bellingham, meeting me in Boston, called me to him and said, 'Goodman Gould, I desire you, that you would let the church baptize your child.' I told him, that 'if the church would do it upon their own account, they should do it, but I durst not bring out my child.' So he called to Mrs. Norton, of Charlestown, and prayed her to fetch Goodman Gould's child and baptize it. So she spake to them, but not rightly informing them, she gave them to understand, I would bring out my child. They called me out again and asked me if I would bring forth my child? I told them, No, I durst not do it, for I see no rule for it." (3)
     It is truly astonishing that the fact of one obscure child being withheld from the baptismal rite, should produce such an interest and sensation among all classes, high and low, in church and state. Seven years had thus rolled on in this religious warfare, and all parties seemed at a 1oss to know whether Mr. Gould was in the church or out of it. And he himse1f appears to have no settled plan for his future action.

     But about this time, says this afflicted man, some Baptist friends from England desired to hold a meeting at his house. They well understood how to manage cases of this kind, from their own experience at home. The meeting was accordingly commenced, and on the 28th of May, 1665, the church was formed, consisting of Thomas Gould, Thomas Osbourne, Edward Drinker, John George, Richard Goodall, William Turner, Robert Lambert, Mary Goodall, and Mary Newall.

     Gould and Osbourne were members of the pedobaptist church in Charlestown. Goodall was a member of a Baptist church in London, of which Mr. Kiffin was pastor. His wife was probably a member of the same church. Turner and Lambert were members of a church in Dartmouth, England, whose pastor was Mr. Stead. Of the others we have no particular information. Turner accepted a captain's commission in King Philip's war, and lost his life in the defense of a colony in which he was most cruelly oppressed.

     This little anabaptist church, consisting of only nine members, a part of whom were females, and the rest illiterate ploughmen and mechanics, made full employ for the rulers of Massachusetts a number of years.(4)

     Hitherto the secular powers had done but little; but in a few months after the organization of this feeble church their legislation commenced, and continued with much severity for a number of years, and some of the members spent most of their time in courts and prisons; they were often fined, and finally the sentence of banishment was pronounced against them, which, however, they did not see fit to obey.

     It would take a volume, says Morgan Edwards, to contain an account of all their sufferings for ten or twe1ve years.

     The burden of all their complaints were that they had formed a church without the approbation of the ruling powers.

     "This principle," says Mr. Neale, "condemns all dissenting congregations which have been formed in England since the Act of Uniformity, in the year 1662."

     It is as difficult to reconcile the arguments of the New England fathers with common honesty in this case, as it is in all their legislations in church and state, so far as dissenters were concerned, with common sense.

     From the first settlement of the country, the fixed and determined policy in both departments, civil and ecclesiastical, which were in substance the same, had been to establish and maintain a strict uniformity in church affairs, to the exclusion of all sects and parties, creeds and forms, not excepting the mother church, on whose civil functionaries they still hung in colonial dependence.

     Not only were no provisions made, as in some despotic hierarchies, but all their laws were against any incipient movements of the kind.

     Separation and anabaptistry were frightful chimeras in Roger Williams' time.

"They felt a thousand deaths in fearing one."

     Severe laws had been made against the Baptists, the Quakers, and all others who by word or deed should show any dislike to their established worship; and some of their own party had been banished, as well as others, for protesting against what Backus calls the idol of uniformity which these people had set up.

     No fact can be more notorious than that they had resolved that no other church should exist but their own. And it was well known to our brethren that no license or permission would be granted, under any circumstances whatever. How then could men who meant to be believed, assign the reason above stated for this long train of legal severities against this handful of conscientious men?

     And equally absurd was their excuse for their treatment of men, who, in the language of the day, were excommunicate persons, when it was so well known that they were excluded for no fault but an honest difference of opinion with the dominant party.

     And to crown the absurdity of these misguided leaders of a peculiar age, after Mr., Gould and his companions had been fined, imprisoned, and sentenced to banishment for opinions, which the highest tribunals, with the greatest confidence; and most solemn assurance, had condemned as incompatible with the laws of God and man; they were then challenged to a public dispute, to settle the question whether they were erroneous or not! and the six following clergymen, viz. : Messrs. John Allen, Thomas Cobbet, John Higginson, Samuel Danforth, Jonathan Mitchell, and Thomas Shepard, were nominated to manage the dispute on the pedobaptist side, which was appointed to be April 14th, 1668, in the meeting house in Boston, at 9 o'clock in the morning. But lest the six learned clergymen should not be a match for a few illiterate baptists, the Governor and magistrates were requested to meet with them. The news of the dispute soon spread abroad, and Mr. Clark's church in Newport sent William Hiscox, Joseph Torry, and Samuel Hubbard, to assist their brethren in Boston in it, who arrived there three days before it was to come on.

     This dispute, different from the one proposed to John Clark, in some sort, was actually held and continued two days to little purpose. But all turned out a solemn mockery so far as the rights of the baptists were concerned; and it appears in the end that they were called together only to be tantalized and abused.

     When the disputants were met, there was a long speech made by one of their opponents showing what vile persons the baptists were, and how they acted against the churches and government here, and stood condemned by the court. The others desired liberty to speak, but they would not suffer them, but told them they stood there as delinquents, and ought not to have liberty to speak. Then they desired that they might choose a moderator as well as they; but this they denied them. In the close, Master Jonathan Mitchell pronounced that dreadful sentence against them in Deuteronomy, 17th chapter, from the 8th to the end of the 12th verse.

     The concluding sentence of this old Testament anathema is as follows: --
"And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there, before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die; and thou shalt put away the evil from, Israel."

     This strange application of this terrible denunciation, was made by the same Mitchell who was afraid to converse with president Dunster, lest his mind should be shaken upon infant baptism; who ascribed all his scruples on the subject to an infernal power; and who, in the end, resolved that he would have an argument able to remove mountains, before he would give it up.

     And, according to Backus, he was most active in stimulating the rulers in their persecuting measures against the baptists.

     So far as we can gain information of the management of this singular dispute, in cowardly and contemptible tyranny, on the part of the pedobaptists, it exceeded anything of the kind which we read of in any age.(5)

     The next month after this singular measure, the sentence of their banishment was pronounced against these obstinate and turbulent anabaptists (such is the language of the law), who, in open court, asserted that nothing that they had heard convinced them of the error of their ways.

     The injuries sustained by Gould and his associates excited the compassion of many gentlemen whose religious views were different from theirs, both in Europe and America; and while they were suffering in prison because they would not go into exile, a petition was presented to the court in their favor, containing upwards of sixty names, among whom are said to have been Capt. Hutchinson, Capt. Oliver, and others of note in the country. But such was the strange infatuation of these puritan defenders of the church, in which it is well understood that their ministers were deeply concerned, that instead of producing any abatement of their severities, on the contrary', the chief promoters of the petition were fined and others were compelled, as a matter of safety, to make concessions to the all-powerful tribunal whose clemency they had sought for these innocent sufferers.

     And here it may be proper to observe that no small number of gentlemen, of much distinction, were all along opposed to these persecuting measures, among whom was Gov. Leverett, Lieut. Gov. Willoughby, Mr. Symonds, and many others. "These men," says Backus, "were great opposers of these persecutions against the baptists."(6) And many who did not take an open stand against them felt a decided disapprobation of these undue severities, on the score of sound policy and religious toleration.

     The king's commissioners, and all who acted under immediate appointments from the crown, of course, would do all in their power to neutralize and restrain these intemperate ebullitions of puritan zeal, which they well understood was ready to be turned upon members of the establishment, who should become obnoxious to the standing order.

     And the decided opposition and deep mortification of the English dissenters, with great plainness and christian fidelity, is expressed in a letter sent about this time from Rev. Mr. Mascall, probably an Independent minister, who had been in New England, to Capt. Oliver, whose name is mentioned above. We shall be able to give a few extracts only, which bear directly on the cruel and absurd conduct of these misguided friends.

* * * *
"Now, the greater my love is to New England, the more am I grieved at their failings. It is frequently said here, that they are swerved aside towards presbytery; if so, the Lord restore them all. But another sad thing that much affects us, is to hear that you, even in New England, persecute your brethren, -- men sound in the faith, of holy life, agreeing in worship and discipline with you - only differing in the point of baptism. Dear brother, we here do love and honor them, hold familiarity with them, and take, sweet counsel together; they lie in the bosom of Christ, and therefore they ought to be laid in our bosoms. In a word, we freely admit them into churches; -- few of our churches, but many of our members, are Anabaptists: I mean, baptized again. This is love in England; this is moderation; this is a right New Testament spirit.
* * * *

"Anabaptist are neither spirited nor principled to hurt your government nor your liberties; but rather, these be a means to preserve your churches from apostasy, and provoke them to their primitive purity, as they were in the first planting; in admission of members, to receive none into your churches but visible saints, and in restoring the entire jurisdiction of every congregation complete and undisturbed.

* * * *

"But, oh! how it grieves and affects us, that New England should persecute! Will you not give what you take? Is liberty of conscience your due? and is it not due unto others that are sound In the faith?."

Read the preface to the declaration of the faith and order owned and practised in the congregational churches in England.

* * *

Therefore, though we approve of the baptism of the immediate children of church members, and of their admission into the church when they evidence a real work of grace; yet, to those that in conscience believe the said baptism to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Both that, and mere ruling elders, though we approve of them, yet our grounds are mere interpretations of, and not any express scripture. I cannot say so clearly of anything else in our religion, neither as to faith or practice. Now, must we force our interpretations upon others, pope-like?
* * * *

"And what principles is persecution grounded upon? Domination and infallibility. This, we teach, is the truth. But are we infallible? and have we the government? God made none, -- no, not the Apostles, who could not err, to be lords over faith; therefore, what monstrous pride is this! At this rate, any persuasion getting uppermost may command, and persecute them that obey them not; all non-conformists must be ill used. Oh wicked and monstrous principle! Whatever you can plead for yourselves against those that persecute you, those whom you persecute may plead for themselves against you. Whatever they can say against the poor man, your enemies say against you. And, what! is that horrid principle crept into precious New England, who have felt what persecution is, and have always pleaded for liberty of conscience! Have not those run equal hazards with you for the enjoyment or their liberties? and how do you cast a reproach upon us, that are congregational in England, and furnish our adversaries with weapons against us! We blush and are filled with shame and confusion of face when we hear of these things. Dear brother, we pray that God would open your eyes and persuade the hearts of your magistrates that they may no more smite their fellow-servants, nor thus greatly injure us, their brethren; and that they may not thus dishonor the name of God and cause his people to be reproached, nor the holy way of God (the congregational way), to be evil spoken of. My dear brother, pardon my plainness and freedom, for the zeal of God's house constrains me.
* * * *

"Persecution is bad in wicked men, but it is most abominable in good men, who have suffered and pleaded for liberty of conscience themselves. Discountenance men that certainly err, but persecute them not. I mean gross error. Well, we are traveling to our place of rest.
* * * *

"My respects and service to my dear cousin Leveret, and Mr. Francis Willoughby. The Lord make them instrumental for his glory in helping to reform things among you. I shall be glad to hear from you. I remember our good old sweet communion together. My dear brother, once again pardon me, for I am affected! I speak for God to whose grace I commit you all in New England, humbly craving your prayers for us here, and remain, (7)
Your affectionate brother,


"Finsbury, nere Morefield, the]
25th of March, 1669." ]

     Another letter of a similar import was about this time addressed to the Governor, signed by twelve dissenting ministers in London, among whom were the learned Drs. Owen and Goodwin, Mr. Nye, and Mr. Caryl. Their arguments were similar to those already reported, and most obviously they all had great fears of a reaction of this persecuting spirit on themselves from the dominant party at home.

     But all these remonstrances were without effect, and Mr. Backus concludes, from the best information he could give, that these much-injured men were imprisoned more than a year after the sentence of their banishment was pronounced against them.

     After his release, Mr. Gould, who was their principal speaker, went to live at Noddle's Island (now East Boston), and at his house the church assembled once a week for a number of years.

     When the weather was unpleasant, the brethren residing at and about Woburn, assembled and attended the ministry of elder Russell, "a gracious, wise, and holy man." From these men arose the church at Wobourn.

The spirit of persecution still continued.

"Elder Russell and his son, and brother Foster, were thrown into prison, and confined there for nearly six months.

" On the 20th of May, 1672, the General Court ordered their law books to be revised, and inserted another act, sentencing to banishment every person who should openly oppose or condemn the baptizing of infants.

"Thus the baptists continued to be exposed to persecution, and two of them, Trumbel and Osborne, were, in 1673, fined twenty shillings each, for withdrawing from the public (that is, the established) meetings.

"But this year, Mr. John Leveret, who had all along been opposed to the measures used against the baptists, was chosen Governor, and they were permitted to enjoy their liberty for nearly six years."

     In October, Mr. Gould died, -- just ten years after the church was constituted, and Isaac Hull and elder Russell became pastors of the church, assisted in their labors, during two or three years, by Mr. John Miles. who was one of the two thousand ministers ejected from their livings in England, in 1662.

     "Mr. Gould proved an eminent instrument, in the hand of the Lord, for the carrying on of this good work of God in its weak beginnings."

     The members added to the church after its organization, up to 1669, were Isaac Hull, John Farnum, Jacob Barney, John Russell, jun., John Johnson, George Farlow, Benjamin Sweeter, and Ellis Callender. After them were added Joshua Turner, Thomas Foster, John Russell, sen., William Hamlit, James Loudon, Thomas Skinner, John Williams, Philip Squire, Mary Gould, Susanna Jackson, Mary Greenleaf, &c.

     Of Mr. Gould's history, I can learn nothing more than what has been related in the preceding sketches. It is much to be regretted that a more particular account of him has not been preserved. He was, no doubt, a very plain, but a very honest and sensible man, whose name should be honored by all New England baptists. And when we consider, that the church, which he was the principa1 instrument in founding, first in Charlestown, within call of Boston, in 1665, included the whole of the baptist interest in the colony of Mass. for about seventy years, this full detail of enterprises and sufferings will not be regarded as improper.

     The Swansea church was in the colony of Plymouth.

     Of Mr. Hull, we have scarce any account; but of Mr. Russell, the following sketches have been preserved. He was ordained in 1679, but died the next year. Previous to his death, he wrote a narrative of the sufferings of this little flock, which was sent over to London, and was printed in 1680, with a preface to it, by Messrs. William Kiffin, Daniel Dyke, William Collins, Hansard Knollys, John Harris, and Nehemiah Cox. These eminent baptist ministers made some very severe but judicious reflections on the unaccountable conduct of the New England fathers. It seems strange, said they, that christians in New England should pursue the very same persecuting measures which they fled from Old England to avoid! This argument they knew not how to withstand, and their reasonings against it were altogether frivolous and contemptible.

Protestants, said they, ought not to persecute protestants; yet, that protestants may punish protestants, cannot be denied!

     Because Mr. Russell was by occupation a shoemaker, many low and abusive reflections were made upon him on that account, even after he was dead, -- and stranger yet, by some of the dignified doctors of the church.

     Those three eminent ministers of Swansea, Job, Russell, and John Mason, were great-grandchildren of this worthy, but much-despised man. From him, also, descended the Russells of Providence, Rhode Island.

     "The church, under the occasional labors of Messrs. Russell, Hull, and Miles, who occasionally, labored with them, and whose history will be given in that of the Swansea church, had become so large, that they agreed to divide into two churches; but, in January, 1678, they resolved to unite, and erect a place of worship in Boston, having for fourteen years been destitute of a house for public worship, during which time, they met for worship in their dwelling-houses in Charleslown, Boston, and Noddle's Island.

     Before the meeting-house was finished, Governor Severet died, and former measures of severity were renewed against the baptists.

     "On the 15th of February, 1679, the church met in their house for the first time. It was located at the corner of what is now called Stillman, and Salem streets. But their enjoyment of this commodious sanctuary was of short duration: for, in the following May, the General Court, not finding any old law which would bear upon the case, enacted a new one to this effect : --

"That no person should erect or make use of a house for public worship, without license from the authorities, under the penalty, that the house and land on which it stood should be forfeited to the use of the county, to be disposed of by the county treasurer, by sale, or demolished, as the court that gave judgment in the case should order."
     This affair went the whole round of courts and legislatures. In the mean time the patient little flock being in danger of the loss of the building which had cost them so much labor and care to erect, quietly submitted to these unrighteous demands, and "waited to see what God would do for them."
News of the proceedings having reached the powers at home, the King in due time wrote to the rulers here, "requiring that liberty of conscience should be allowed to all protestants, so as that they might not be discountenanced from sharing in the government, much less, that no good subject of his, for not agreeing in the Congregational way, should by law be subjected to fines and forfeitures, or other incapacities for the same, which, said his majesty, is a severity the more to wondered at, whereas liberty of conscience was made a principal motive for your transportation into those pars."
     But these obstinate and resolute defenders of pedobaptism yielded a very slow and reluctant compliance with this positive injunction from the throne.

     Deplorable, indeed, says Mr. Backus, was the case of these brethren. They had been often reproached for meeting in private houses. "But since," said they, we have, for our convenience, obtained a public house, on purpose for that use, we have become more offensive than before."

     How long they were excluded from their own premises does not appear. Communications from one country to the other, at that time, were slowly made, and no doubt a number of months intervened before the royal summons arrived. But, at length, having information indirectly, it should seem, of the king's letter in their favor, they presumed to re-enter their long deserted chapel. But three or four times, however, were they permitted to assemble before they were again called before the vexatious court to answer for the high offence; and soon they found the doors had been nailed up by the marshal, and a paper put on them to this effect: --

"All persons are to take notice, that by order of the court, the doors of this house are shut up, and that they are inhibited to hold any meetings, or to open the doors thereof without license from authority, till the General Court take further order, as they will answer the contrary at their peril. Dated at Boston, 8th March, 1680.

" EDWARD RAWSON, Secretary."

     The church had no alternative but to submit to the right of the strongest, and as there was no law against it, the next Lord's day they assembled in their yard, where they soon after erected a temporary covering. Such was the undue severity of these puritan fathers, towards this small assembly of Baptist professors; and that in tile face of the express command of their royal minister then on the English throne.

     But on the second Lord's day, when they came together, they found their doors had been opened; -- and their assemblies continued without interruption, until the following May, when their leading men were again cited before the ever watchful Assembly. But our brethren took a bolder stand, and plead:
1.That the house was their own.
2. That it was built when there was no law to forbid it. Therefore they were not trangressors.
3. That it was the express will and pleasure of the King, that they should enjoy their liberty.

     The remainder of this part of the narrative presents a strange compound of authority and neglect. After enduring some reviling speeches, as nullifiers of the infant rite, and disturbers of religions order, and having been admonished in open court by the Governor, Simon Bradstreet, and charged not to meet in their house again, they were then dismissed, and the court agreed to suspend any further proceedings against them.

     These scenes transpired during the lives of Elders Hull and Russell, but in less than a year after, quiet possession of the house was obtained. Mr. Russell died, and Ellis Callender, and Edward Drinker, were next called to officiate in the church, in their humble mode of worship; the first in the former, and the other in the latter part of the day.

     "Previous to the year 1684, the church, in consequence of the age and infirmity of Elder Hull, had written to England for an assistant pastor, and obtained a man by the name of John Emblen, who continued in that office till about the year 1699, when he died.

     "The church then applied to England again, for help, but as they could obtain none, they called Mr. Ellis Callender to become their pastor, (who, when the church was destitute of a pastor, had been 'principal speaker among them for about thirty years.')

     "He was ordained in 1708. He continued in the pastoral office, highly honored and esteemed, for more than ten years.

     "His son, Elisha Callender, became his successor in the pastoral office. He had received a liberal education in Harvard college, and graduated in the year 1710. He was baptized and received into the church, August 10th, 1713, and ordained to the solemn work of the ministry May 21st, 1718.

     "The ordination of Mr. Callender ,was an interesting event, on account of its having been attended by those very ministers who a few years before had used their influence to drive the baptists out of the colony.

     "So wonderful was the change which had already been effected in the public sentiment, that Dr. Increase Mather, and Cotton Mather, and Mr. John Webb -- three principal clergymen of this town, of the congregational order, at the request of the church, not only agreed to the settlement of Mr. Callender, but performed the principal services on the occasion, and that too in the very house which had been once nailed up by the authority of the town!

     "Every thing seemed to be in a prosperous train during the whole of Mr. Callender's ministry; almost every month additions were made to the church, and a broad foundation laid for its future enlargements. But in the midst of life and usefulness, Mr. Callender was arrested by disease and removed from his beloved flock.

     "On the 20th of January, 1738, he preached his last sermon, from the text, 'Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.'

     "His last advice to the church was, 'Away with lukewarmness -- away with remissness in attending the house of prayer. Live in peace, that the God of love and peace may be with you. Improve your time, for your standing in the church is short, and that is the way to prepare for the inheritance of the saints in light.'

     "He died on the 31st day of March, 1738, in the twentieth year of his ministry.

     "His life was unspotted, and his conversation always affable, religious, and truly manly. During his long illness he was remarkably patient, and in his last hours, like the blessed above. 'I shall,' said he, 'sleep in Jesus,' and that moment expired.

     "He was the first of the pastors of this church, and the first baptist minister who received a college education in this section of the country.

     "After the death of Mr. Callender, the church wrote to England for Mr. Jeremiah Condy, to become their pastor; in the mean time the pulpit was supplied by different ministers.

     "Mr. Condy's answer signified his acceptance of the call; he was accordingly ordained on the 14th of February, 1739.

     "In 1743, a number of the members of this church withdrew, and formed the second church in Boston.

     "Mr. Condy resigned his pastoral office, August, 1764, after which he retired to a private station, and died in 1768, aged fifty-nine years, twenty-five of which he was pastor of this church.

     "Rev. Samuel Stillman, D.D., was the next person in office here. He was publicly installed, January 9th, 1765, just one hundred years from the formation of the church in Charlestown.

     "During the occupancy of this town by the British troops, in the year 1775, the church was in a dispersed condition. Mr. Stillman, with his family, removed to Philadelphia, where they resided for more than a year. He returned the 2d of June, 1776, and the few brethren remaining here again assembled in the house, which was regularly opened for public worship, on Lord's days, during the whole of the war, when most of the other meeting-houses in the town were shut.

     "Dr. Stillman's ministry was long and prosperous. He had always prayed that his life and usefulness might end together. Accordingly, the measure of his days being full, his course finished, and his work done, it pleased the Lord, after detaining him only two Sabbaths from the pulpit, to take him to himself, on Wednesday, the 12th day of March, 1807. On the Monday following, his remains were conveyed to the meeting-house, and, after an appropriate discourse by the Rev. Dr. Baldwin, were followed to the grave by his bereaved family and flock, and a great number of citizens.

     "During some of the last years of his ministry, he was permitted to witness a revival of religion of greater extent and power than had blessed this town since the memorable period of 1740. As this was the first season of special mercy that this town enjoyed in the early part of the present century, and as it was the first in the series of revivals that have since followed, its history is now become a matter of deep interest. In the Baptist Magazine of 1804-5, this work is thus described:

"'A special seriousness made its appearance in both baptist churches early in 1803. Its first indications were a solemn stillness, and a deep, fixed attention on the Sabbath. The work gradually continued to extend from week to week, through two or three years.' What are now known as inquiry meetings were not then instituted; but there was what amounted to the same thing.

"'It has been usual., during the fall, winter and spring months,' says the Magazine, 'while the evenings were sufficientIy long, for the people to tarry after the blessing, and frequently some minister present has again addressed them. Sometimes two or three have spoken and prayed. This custom seemed to arise out of the feelings of the people. Thev appeared loth to leave the place. There is no doubt but they would have tarried until midnight, had the exhortations been continued.' The number gathered into the first church was 127; into the second, 185. 'Although these two societies have been the principal sharers in the work' says the Magazine, 'it has not been confined to them. Persons from almost every society in town, and numbers from the adjacent towns, have frequently attended on our lectures; and we have reason to believe that many have reaped saving advantages.'

"' The work was still, and without confusion. The gospel preached was principally blessed, almost everything seemed to preach. The converts generally had a deep sense of the depravity of their own hearts; of the infinite evil of sin, as committed against a holy God. It reclaimed the profane swearer, the gambler, and the Sabbath-breaker. It made the young men 'sober minded.'

     "After the decease of Dr. Stillman, the church invited Mr. Joseph Clay to become their pastor, which he accepted, and was installed on the third Wednesday in August, 1807. He continued with the church till the beginning of November, 1808, when, agreeably with his previous engagement, he left them, and sailed for Savannah, the place of: his nativity, expecting to return to them in the sping. But soon after, finding his health declining, he obtained a dismission from his pastoral charge, in October, 1809.

     "On the 11th of January, 1811, after a long and tedious illness, during which he manifested much christian fortitude, he fell asleep in Jesus, in the forty-seventh year of his age.

     After the death of Mr. Clay, nearly five years elapsed before the church was supplied with another settled minister.

     "On the 30th of March, 1814, Mr. James Manning Winchell was installed into the pastoral office of this church and congregation.

     "As a devoted christian, a beloved pastor, and fruitful minister of the New Testament, it might be well said of him, 'He was a burning and a shining light.' But in the midst of his usefulness and vigor, he was called to enter into his rest, February 22, 1820, aged twenty-eight years.

     "In the year 1821, Rev. Francis Wayland, Jr., was ordained pastor of this church. He was an able minister of Christ, and has since become the efficient President of Brown University. He resigned his office in 1826, and was succeeded by Rev. Cyrus Pitt Grovesnor, in January, 1827, who was pastor nearly four years.

     "In 1828, the new house was erected at the corner of Hanover and Union streets.

     "In 1830, Rev. C. P. Grovesnor resigned his charge.

     "The church being again destitute of a pastor, presented to the Rev. William Hague a unanimous call to accept of the office, with which he complied, and was installed February 5th, 1831, in whom the church were happily united for about six years. He then received a call from the first Baptist Church in Providence, to become their pastor, and considering it his duty to accept, he asked his dismission, which was accordingly granted in June, 1837.

     "The church then invited the Rev. Rollin Hervey Neal to assume the ministerial charge of the church and society, of which. He accepted, and was installed on Wednesday, the 27th of September, 1837"(8)

     Mr. Neal still continues the pastor of this ancient community.



1. Backus, A History of New England Baptists, Vol. I., p. 355.
2. This had reference to what was called the half-way covenant, which was a contrivance of those times to bring in all the children of succeeding generations, whether their parents were church-members or not.
3. Backus, Vol. I., pp.359-365.
4. Mr. Backus has preserved the contents of a paper supposed to have been written by Mr. Gould's wife, in which are the following comments on the charge that their churches were in danger of destruction from the infant efforts of the Baptists. "If, says she, eight or nine poor anabaptists, as they call them, should be the destruction of their churches, their foundation must be sandy indeed." -- Vol. I, p. 385.
5. Disputes in England between the ministers of the establishment and all classes of dissenters were managed with some degree of fairness; but the case was entirely different here.
6. Massachusetts History as quoted by Backus, Vol. II, p. 382.
7. Backus, Vol. I, pp. 390-395.
8. The account of the pastors of this church is taken from the Church Manual of 1813.


[From David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, 1848; reprint, 1977, pp. 379-391. The numbering of the "Notes" has been changed slightly; the grammar and spelling are unchanged. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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