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History of First Baptist Church, Boston, MA
by Nathan Wood, 1899

Organization of the Church - Baptism - Constituent Members - Confession of faith - Before the Court - Present Meeting-house, Commonwealth Avenue, 1882.

FOR nearly ten years, meetings1 of those who held Baptist doctrines had been maintained in private houses in Charlestown and Boston. These meetings were strictly forbidden, but nevertheless were regularly held. The law was not strenuously enforced, probably because these assemblies had not yet passed on into an organized church. A meeting held in Thomas Goold's house on Sunday, November 8, 1663, at which were present Goold and his wife, Osborne and his wife, and others, seems to have been especially obnoxious to the authorities, both in Church and State, and called forth immediate and vigorous action. But even yet extreme severity was not used. Amazing
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inquisition into their assemblies and accompanying threats were the deterrent means employed.

It is not known why so long a delay occurred in the final organization of the church, but in June, 1665, such an organization was finally perfected, probably in the house of Thomas Goold, and proceeded to exercise all the functions of an orderly church, and especially to observe the ordinances. It was a time of mingled hope and fear. It required no small faith and courage to expect success in their perilous venture. They were a little band, and the whole colony was hostile. They could scarcely hope to remain unobserved, even though they were few, because already they had repeatedly fallen under the public disfavor of the Court. To perfect an independent church organization was, therefore, the extreme of daring and the last step of open rupture with the Standing Order.

The first record on our Church Book reads
The 28 of the 3d mo. 1665 in Charlestowne, Massachusetts, the Churche of Christ, commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptists were gathered togather And entered into fellowship & communion each with other, Ingaigeing to walke togather in all the appointments of there Lord & Master the Lord Jesus Christ as farre as hee should bee pleased to make known his mind & will unto them by his word & Spirit, And then were Baptized
Thomas Gold
Thomas Osbourne
Edward Drinker
John George
And joyned with
Richard Goodall
William Turner
Robert Lambert
Mary Goodall Mary Newell

who had walked in that
order in old England
to whom god hath added

Isacke Hull
John Farnham
Jacob Barny
John Russell Junor
John Johnson
George Farlow
Benjamin Sweetser
Sister Sweetser
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Eles Callender in 9th mo 1669
Joshua Turner
Bro: Foster
John Russell Senor
Bro: Hamlet Thomas Skinner, etc.

First Entry in the Record of the First Baptist Church of Boston, 1665
Thomas Osborne and his wife were received into the Charlestown Church l0th day, 7th month, 1644, and again on the 23d day, 12th month, 1661, the last time upon letters of dismission from the Malden Church. They speedily became familiar with the discipline of Thomas Goold, and their attention was arrested by the clear grounds of Scripture upon which he stood. They themselves soon became "leavened with principles of Anabaptisme," and absented themselves when the ordinance of infant baptism was administered. It
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was only a few months after their last admission to membership in the church that they were admonished for holding the same views as Goold. Henceforth Goold and Osborne were close associates in doctrinal fellowship, in devotion to their convictions and in sufferings. Osborne was a citizen of property and of good standing in the community, and, like Goold, was a man of an exceedingly resolute spirit, which persecutions could not daunt. Oppositions could not turn him from his chosen path. Edward Drinker was a potter by trade, and carried on an extensive business in the colony in pottery wares. In 1652 he was appointed a constable of Charlestown. His house was a frequent rendezvous of Baptists and those who sympathized with them. He rendered very signal service to the colony at a time when it was greatly imperiled. He was often in prison because of his Baptist views. John George was a chimney cleaner; little is known of him. He died September 12, 1666, a little more than a year after the church was organized, and hence escaped the worst of the persecutions. He was, indeed, both fined and banished, but his early death gave him release from the power of an earthly court. Both Drinker and George had been many years in the colony, but had never before connected themselves with any church.

Drinker in later years won applause as an officer of a troop (largely recruited among the outlawed Baptists) which went to defend the colony at an exceedingly critical time against an attack of the Indians. His commanding officer and captain of the company was William Turner (also a Baptist); whose name appears sixth on our list. Captain Turner laid down his life for the colony at the fierce and decisive battle which took place at Deerfield, in the Connecticut Valley, in 1676. Richard Goodall was a shipmaster, and commanded a ketch or freighting boat, which ran between Boston and New Haven. He had been a member of Mr. William Kiffen's Baptist church in London. He appears to have settled in Newbury as early as 1638, and to have finally made his home in Salisbury in 1639-40. William Turner and Robert Lambert had been members of Mr. Stead's Baptist Church in Dartmouth, England. Two women only united in this early church fellowship, Mary Goodall, wife of Richard, and Mistress Mary Newell, both of whom had been Baptists in Old England, and seem to have well considered the fierce trial into which they were entering when they put their names on the roll of the new church.

This little group of baptized believers, nine in number, seven men and two women (the two Marys), met in the house of Thomas Goold for their organization. They were not the only Baptists of whom we have knowledge in Boston and vicinity at this time, but they are the immortal group who had the courage to declare, by this formal organization, their deathless convictions and their readiness to endure whatever such declaration might bring upon them. Is
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it too much to believe that the spirit of the sainted ex-President Henry Dunster met with them, and rejoiced in the planting of views for which he had suffered so much? It is worthy of notice that twenty-two (fourteen men and eight women) others united with the church prior to 1671, and while the storm of persecution was most pitiless. They were courageous souls, "who obeyed God rather than men."

It is not known who baptized Goold, Osborne, Drinker, and George. It is possible that Rev. John Myles, a Baptist minister from Wales, who had located in Swansea, Massachusetts, and gathered about him a Baptist church, might have been present. We know that he often visited Boston and preached for the church, and that some years later he might have become their pastor, if he had been willing to listen to their overtures. Dr. John Clarke, pastor at Newport, who at one time had been a resident of Boston, may have been present. He was widely known as a Baptist minister, for he had been in prison in Boston in 1651 for preaching and baptizing in Lynn. The after connection of this church with the Newport Church was close and continuous.

Thomas Olney, pastor in Providence, had formerly lived in Salem, and could not have been ignorant of what was passing in Boston. All is conjecture, for no definite information has come down to us. It would have been entirely in keeping with their wellknown views of the "right of individual liberty to prophesie," if one of their own number, who was already baptized, had been chosen to administer the ordinance to those who had not been immersed. In this regard, they would have followed the well-known example of Roger Williams at Providence, with the difference that some of their number had been members of Baptist churches in Old England, although none of them were ordained ministers.

The question has been raised whether "dipping in water" was the form of baptism used at the organization of this church. The same question has been raised in regard to the form of the baptism of Mr. Roger Williams at Providence, and also in regard to the usage among Baptists in Old England prior to 1642. It is certain that Goold and Osborne were rebaptized, for they had both been members of the Charlestown Church. It is certain that all who had been previously members of Pedobaptist churches were rebaptized into this church. Thomas Foster, whose name appears twentieth on our list, was one of the founders and leading members of the church in Billerica. He became a Baptist, and was most severely reproached because he was "rebaptized"2 when he united with this church. This was regarded as especially a reproach cast upon the Billerica Church, from which he was excommunicated. The rebaptism always insisted on as a prerequisite to membership in this church was peculiarly irritating to the Puritan churches. This fact would not, however, be wholly decisive in regard to the mode of baptism. The first record of this
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church uses the word "baptized," which is, of course, open to three meanings according to long English usage.

In 1640, Rev. Charles Chauncy, later the second president of Harvard College, settled for a time at Plymouth and afterward at Scituate. Before his installation at Plymouth "he discovered his judgment about baptism, that the children ought to be dipped and not sprinkled. There arose much trouble about it." 3 In Scituate he persevered in his opinion, although "the church had refuted his doctrine, and dipped two of his own children."4 His views made a great stir, and were considered a great encouragement to the "schismatical Anabaptists," who, however, never baptized children by any mode. Afterward he accepted the presidency of Harvard College at the price of silence concerning his views. The promulgation of such heretical views in Scituate, and the following which they undoubtedly gained for themselves, would be sufficient explanation of the retirement of ex-President Dunster to that place, when he was deposed from Harvard College in 1654. In 1651, when John Clarke was apprehended and cast into Boston jail, he put forth as one of the views of the Baptists, and as the thesis which he desired to discuss with the ministers of Boston, the following: I testify that baptism or dipping in water is one of the commandments of this Lord Jesus Christ -- that is, one that manifesteth faith in Jesus Christ is the only person that is to be baptized or dipped with that visible baptism or dipping of Jesus Christ in water. This would seem to be sufficiently explicit, but Clarke goes on further to say: Although there be frequent mention made of that appointment of Christ in his last will and Testament, yet it is never expressed by the word that may be rendered rantism, or sprinkling, but by the word that is rendered baptism, or dipping.5
This was the mode of baptism practised at Newport and Lynn. Clarke was the most representative Baptist of that time, and assuredly expressed the received Baptist view of the mode of baptism which Baptists practised. Clarke and the Newport Church were in fellowship with the Providence Church, and in close fellowship with the church in Boston without dissent when it was organized in 1665.

"But these wicked Sectarians deny this Sacrament and compel their adherents to renounce their Baptism, and to be dipt again in their prophane waters."6 This is an enemy's statement of the usual mode of baptism among Baptists.

It is evident, therefore, that baptism among Baptists meant "the immersion of a believer," and never any other mode. There is no record of any change of
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usage in this church from its foundation unto the present time. If there had been such change, either friends or enemies would have been quick to point it out. It is an interesting circumstance that the first two presidents of Harvard College, who were among the most learned and distinguished men in the Puritan colony, should have been "infected with the heresie of Anabaptisme."

In this simple way did these men and women organize this First Baptist Church, which became the steadfast forerunner, and the final obtainer of religious liberty in this commonwealth of Massachusetts. During the first five years of its history the church never numbered more than eighteen members, every one of whom was a peaceful and industrious citizen. The wife of only one of the original members came into the fellowship of the church. Thomas Goold's second wife, Mary, who did not unite with the church until about 1670, was certainly in sympathy with her husband, as her vigorous protest and appeal to the authorities in 1668, when he was in prison, abundantly show. The wife of Thomas Osborne was also in sympathy with her husband, as the records of discipline of the Charlestown Church testify. We do not know why they did not become members of the church, unless because their husbands dissuaded them through dread of the storm of persecution which was certain to follow. For eighteen years such storm did rage around this devoted little band as might well make husbands wish to protect their families and spare them from its fury. The power of the General Court and of the Puritan ministers (with some noble exceptions) was put forth to crush them or banish them from the colony. They were obliged to meet, sometimes in Charlestown, sometimes in Boston, sometimes on Noddle's Island (now East Boston) in the harbor, but always in private houses and under the most watchful surveillance.

There is an interesting entry in the records of the Roxbury Church, in the handwriting of John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians and pastor of the church.
July-August, 1665. The Anabaptists gathered yms into a church, prophesied one by one, & some one amongst ym administered ye Lords Supper after he was regularly excommunicated by ye ch. at Charlestown.7 They also set up a lecture at Drinkers house once a fortnight. They were admonished by ye court of Assista [ ].8
The church was organized June 7, 1665 (new style), and on August 20 Richard Russell, Esq., issued a warrant to the constable of Charlestown requiring him in his majesty's name to labor to discover where these people assembled, and to require them to attend the established worship. If they refused they were to have their names and places of residence returned to the nearest magistrate. They were discovered, refused to give up their own meetings, and were consequently brought before the Court of Assistants in the "seventh month" (September), where they exhibited their Confession of Faith, which has
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remained unaltered as the received Confession of Faith of this church unto this day:
The church being gathered mett with great opposition from the government of the place, upon which they drew up and delivered to the Court this confession as followeth to let the world know there faith & order proved from the word of God.

Wee believe with the heart & confess with the mouth that there is but (a) one god (b) Creator & governor of all things (c) distinguished into father, Son, & holy spirit (d) & that this is life eternall to know the only true god & Jesus Christ whom hee hath sent (a) Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Timothy 2:5; Ephesians 4:6; (b) Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3; (c) Matthew 8:16; 1 John 5:7; (d) John 17:3; Hebrews 5:9 (d) & that the rule of this knowledge faith & obedience concerning the worship & service of god & all other christian duties is the written word of god contained in the bookes of the old & new testaments (e) John 5:39; 2 Timothy 3:15, 16, 17; Deuteronomy 4:2, 5, 6; Genesis 6:22 Exodus 20:4, 5, 6, 39:42, 43; 1 Chronicles 28:19; Psalm 119; Ezra 8:19:20, 27:13; Galatians 1:8; Revelation 22:18, 19: (f) wee believe Christ is the foundation laid by the father (g) of whom moses and the prophets wrote & the apostles preached (h) who is that great prophet whom wee are to heare in all things (i) who hath perfectly revealed out of the bossom of his father the whole word and will of god which his servants are to know believe and obey (f) Genesis 3:15, 22:18; (g) Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 22:6, 7, 12, 17 (h) Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22, 23; (i) John 1:18, 12:29, 15:15, 17:18; Matthew 17:5; 2 Timothy 3:15, 16,17; (k) Christ his commission to his desciples is to teach & baptise (l) And those that gladly received the word & are baptised are saints by calling & fitt matter for a vissible church (m) And a competent number of such joyned together in covenant & fellowship of the gosple are a Church of Christ (k) Matthew 28:19; Acts 9:10, 18, 10:28: (1) Acts 2:41; (m) 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2, 4, 5 Jeremiah 50:4, 5 Psalm 50:5; Micah 4:5; Matthew 18:15, 20 (o) wee believe that a church thus constituted are to walk in all the appointments of Christ (p) And have power from him to chuse from among themselves there owne officers whom the gosple allowes to administer in the ordinances of Christ among them whom they may depute or ordaine to this end (o) Matthew 28:20; (p) Acts 14:23, 6:3, 5:6; Romans 12:4, 8; Acts 9:10, 18 & 10:47:48: (q) And this church hath power to receive into there fellowship vissible believers (r) & if any prove scandelouse obstenate & wicked to put forth such from amongst them (s) when the church is mett together they may all propesie one by one that all may all learne & all may be comforted (t) & they ought to meete together the first day of the weeke to attend upon the Lord in all his holy ordinances continuing in the Apostles doctrine & fellowship & breaking bread & praise (q) Romans 14:1, 16:2; (r) Matthew 18:7; 1 Corinthians 4:5; (s) 1 Corinthians 14:23, 24, 25, 31; (t) Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 2:42; (v) wee

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acknowledge majestracy to bee an ordinance of god & to submitt ourselves to them in the lord not becawse of wrath only but also for consience sake Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13, 14; (w) thus wee desire to give unto god that which is gods & unto ceasere that which is ceaseres & to every man that which belongeth to them (x) endeavoring alwaise to have a cleare consience voide of offence towards god & towards men having hope in god that the resurection of the dead bee of the just unto life & of the unjust unto condemnation everlasting (y) if any take this to bee heresie then doe wee with the apostles confess that after the way which they call heresie wee worship the father of our Lord Jesus Christ believing all things that are written in the law & in the prophets & in the psalms (w) Matthew 22:21; (x) Acts 24:14, 15, 16; John 5:28 (y) 2 Timothy 1:13, 14, 15, 16, 17; Matthew 10:32. This was delivered to A Court of Assistants on the. . . . of the seventh month 1665.

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[There is a hand-written document inserted here.]

The Confession of Faith of the First Baptist Church of Boston, 1665

This Confession of Faith is notable for its simplicity, comprehensiveness, and biblicalness, but it did not please the Court, which charged the Baptists "to
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desist from their schismatical practises." The Baptists were as stubborn as the Court, and continued to meet as a church of Christ. When the General Court met the next month (October 11), they ordered to appear before them Goold, Osborne, Drinker, Turner, and George, who laid before them the same Confession of Faith which they had presented before the Court of Assistants. Its closing confession and plea,
if any take this to bee heresie then doe wee with the apostles confess that after the way which they call heresie wee worship the father of our Lord Jesus Christ believing all things that are written in the law & in the prophets, & in the psalms,
were of no avail with the Court, as the following statement and action show
Att the sessions of the General Court at Boston the 11th of October, 1665, whereas at the last Court of Assistants, Thomas Gold & his company, sundry of them, were openly convicted of schismattically rending from the communion of the Churches here & setting up a publicke meeting in opposition to the ordinances of Christ here Publickly Exercised & were sollemnly charged not to persist in such their pernitious practises, yet this not with standing (as this Court is informed) they doe still persist in Contemning the Authority established. It is therefore ordered that the aforesay Gold & Company bee summoned before this Court to give an Account of such theire irregular practises, together with theire Celebrating the Lord's Supper by an excommunicate person. Warrant issued out accordingly. The partys appeared. After a due hearing what they had to say, the Court proceeded, whereas Thomas Gold, William Turner, Edward Drincker, Thomas Osborne & John George, being summoned before the last Court of Assistants held at Boston in September last, were legally Convicted of Schismatticall opposition to the Churches of Christ heere settled & of profaning the holy appointments of Christ & in speciall the Sacraments of Baptisme & the Lord's Supper by Administering the same to persons under censure of an Approved Church among us, & presuming as a covert of these theire irreligious and pernitious practises doe declare themselves to bee a Church of Christ. On Consideration whereof the Court sollemnly admonished the Sayd Persons of theire great evill, in attempting with soe high a hand to pollute & profane God's holy ordinances, they being not only private, but also some of them excommunicate persons, that have intermeddled in the Administration of these Ordinances that are proper only to office trust. And also the sayd Court sollemnly charged them that for the future, they desist from such theire meeting, & irreligious practises, as they would Answer the contrary at theire perill. And whereas Thos Gold, William Turner, Those Osborne, Edwd Drincker & Jno George, were summoned before this Court & by theire owne Acknowledgement doe stand convicted of non observation & submission unto the above sayd sentence & charge of the Court of Assistants, professing theire resolution yet further to procede in such theire irregular practises, thereby as well contemning the Authority & Lawes heere established for the

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maintenance of Godliness & honesty, as continuing in the profanation of God's holy ordinances. This Court taking the premises into theire serious consideration, do judge meete to declare that the sayd Gold & Company are noe orderly Church Assembly & that they stand justly convicted of high presumption against the Lord & his holy appointments: as also the peace of this Government against which this Court doth Account themselves Bound to God, to his truth & his Churches heere planted, to beare theire Testimony. And doe therefore sentence the sayd Gold, Osborne, Drincker, Turner & George, such of them as are freemen to bee disfranchised, & all of them upon conviction, before any one magistrate or Court, of theire further proceeding herein to bee committed to Prison, untill the Generall Court shall take further order with them.

Attest, Edw: Rawson, secrety.9

But they still continued to meet together in their own church fellowship, and steadily absented themselves from the established worship. Hence on April 17, 1666, they were presented by the Grand jury to the County Court at Cambridge "for absenting themselves from worship." They declared, in answer, "that they were a publique meeting according to the order of Christ Jesus gathered together." Thomas Osborne answered that "the reason of his non-attendance was that the Lord hath discovered unto him from his word and spirit of truth that the society where with he is now in communion is more agreeable to the word of God, asserted that they were a church and attended the worship of God together, and do judge themselves bound so to do, the ground whereof he said he gave in to the General Court. Thomas Goold answered that as for coming to public worship, they did meet in public worship according to the rule of Christ, the grounds whereof they had given to the Court of Assistants, asserted that they were a public meeting according to the order of Christ Jesus, gathered together. John George answered that he did attend the public meetings on the Lord's days where he was a member, asserted that they were a church according to the order of Christ in the gospel, and with them he walked and held communion in the public worship of God on the Lord's days."

The Court declared that their attendance on worship "was not in a lawful way," and Goold, Osborne, and George were each fined four pounds therefor, and ordered to bind themselves in a bond of twenty pounds apiece for their appearance at the next Court of Assistants. They refused to pay the fine and were committed to prison. The Court of Assistants met and sentenced them to pay their fines and costs of Court, and said that if they would do this, they should lie set at liberty, but added that "the Order of Court of October, 1665, referring to said schismattical assembly shall be and hereby is declared to be in full force."10 It is not known how soon they were released from prison, but on October 24, 1666, warrants were put into the hands of the Charlestown constables, "to obtain the names of such [Anabaptists] as you shall find met
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together."11 During this summer they met sometimes in Charlestown and sometimes on Noddle's Island (East Boston). Henry Shrimpton, a member of the First Church in Boston, a man of property and honorable standing, evidently did not sympathize with the persecutions of the Baptists, for in his will, dated July 17, 1666, occurs the following clause: "To the society of Christians that doth now meet at Noddle's Island, of wch is Gold & Osborne & the rest, ten pounds, as a token of my love." It is doubtful if they ever received the ten pounds, for the Court would scarcely give them so much legal recognition as to admit that they were a "regular society." Hitherto the Court had directed its penalties against the male members only of the church, but on April 9, 1666, the constable of Charlestown "warnes Thomas Goold, Thomas Osborne & his wife & Mrs. Newell to appear at next session of Court."12 March 10, 1667, the constable "warnes John Thrumbes, Thomas Goold, Jas Goold, James Barrett, Steven Raynor, Robert Leethy, Thomas Mansall, John. Foskett for not paying their dues towards the upholding the ministry of God's word in ye place."13 June 4, 1667, William Johnson, Constable of Charlestown, "is required to warne Thomas Goold & his wife, Benanuel Bowers and his wife, Thomas Osborne and his wife, Stephen Baker, Mr. John Thrumble, Mrs. Newell for their persistency in non attendance on the Publick worship of God on ye Lord's Dayes,"14 and on June 15th the same constable "levies on Thomas Goold a fine of three pounds, Mrs. Newell three pounds, Thomas Osborne three pounds for absence from the ordinances of publick worship at the towne upon the Lord's Day."15 The Court had no penalties for men and women who did not attend upon public worship at all, and who wholly ignored the public teachings of religion. To this extent religion in its exercises was voluntary in the colony. But if any man or company of men chose to observe religious exercises, they were permitted to do it only in the way established by the Puritan churches. There was ro [no] penalty for being non-religious, but there were penalties for being religious in any other way than the Congregational way. The high prelatical notions of the Puritan Church made it peculiarly grievous that a man who had not been ordained by them should baptize and administer the Lord's Supper. These functions belonged only "to office trust," and it was gross sacrilege to exercise them out of the regular and authorized way. The high church ideas of the Puritans concerning the ordinances were little less prelatical than those of the Roman Church. Their ideas concerning a religious theocracy were even more strict than those of the Roman Church.


1 "Witness Thomas Gold's private meetings in his own house for many years." Vide Willard, "Ne Sutor Ultra Crepidam," p. 22.
2 Willard, "Ne Sutor Ultra Crepidam," p. 17.
3 Winthrop, "Journal," Vol. I., pp. 330, 331.
4 Winthrop, "Journal," Vol. II., p. 72.
5 Clarke, "Narrative," pp. 50-52.
6 Mr. Baxter, "Baptiz'd in Bloud," p. 3. Vide also p. 1.
7 Thomas Gold.
8 "Original Records First Church, Roxbury."
9 "Middlesex Court, Original Papers."
10 "Mass. Hist.," vol. III., pp. 400, 401. Backus, Vol. I., p. 299.
11 "State Archives," Vol. X., p. 224.
12 "Middlesex Court, Original Papers."
13 "Middlesex Court, Original Papers."
14 "Middlesex Court, Original Papers."
15 Backus, "History," Vol. I., p. 301.


[Nathan Wood, History of First Baptist Church, Boston, MA, 1899, Chapter 4, pp. 32-44. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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