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Sketches of New-York Baptists – No. V
By Rev. John Dowling, D.D.
“The Second Quarter of the Nineteenth Century”
      How brief a period of time, “when it is past,” does a quarter of a century appear; and yet, how vast, how momentous the changes in cities, in communities, in churches, in families which mark the lapse of twenty-five years! Seldom does this fact become more apparent to the observer than when scanning the yellow and timeworn files of some newspaper, magazine, or other chronicle of the passing age.

      We have before us, at the moment of writing this article, files of the minutes of the New-York and Hudson River Baptist Associations; and varied, and we trust, not unprofitable have been the emotions awakened, as we have glanced over the earlier numbers of these records of the past. Here our eye glances upon the honored names of the fathers, who have gone to their rest before our time; names, embalmed in the memory of the aged, and imperishably identified with the history of our American Zion: a Foster, a Holmes, a Williams, a Stanford, and others who associated with them, a half a century since, in building up the waste places of Zion. We look again, and with moistening eyes, greet the names of a still larger number of the sainted dead, with whom we have taken sweet counsel, and enjoyed the interchange of heart with heart. Wm. G. Miller -- Peter Ludlow -- Nathaniel Paul -- John Middleton -- Ashley Vaughn -- Wm. Parkinson -- Jonathan Going -- Luther Crawford -- George Benedict -- Francis Wayland, sen.-- John Rogers -- Jacob H. Brouner -- with many of their associates, now entered upon their glorious rest; but a few years ago -- as these minutes testify -- among the most active and useful in the churches and the associations -- moderators, clerks, committees employing all their energies in building that Zion which they loved. “They rest from their labors and their works do follow them.”

      Another glance reveals the names of yet a different class -- beloved and honored surviving fathers in Israel -- once pastors in these associations, but for years past occupying other or distant posts of honor or usefulness; some of them spending a green old age in toils and labors for Christ, and one* at least -- perhaps others -- lingering on the shores of time, with feet just dipped in the waters of Jordan, waiting and longing for the hour of full discharge. Daniel Dodge -- Daniel Sharp -- Cornelius P. Wyckoff -- John Ellis -- Joseph S. Frey -- to which we must soon add such familiar and beloved names as Lewis Leonard, Jacob Blain, and Aaron Perkins.

      It is curious as well as interesting, in looking over these old Association minutes, to notice the changes which have taken place in the pastoral relation. But one church in each body retains the pastor whose name appears in the minutes of 1825. These are the Rev. C. G. Sommers of the South Baptist Church, belonging to the Hudson River Baptist Association, and the Rev. Joseph W. Griffiths of the Middletown Church, belonging to the New-York Association. In the former, at that date, the prominent pastors were Archibald Maclay of Mulberry-street, Howard Malcom of Hudson, C. G. Sommers of the South Church, Lewis Leonard of Albany, Leland Howard of Troy, Rufus Babcock of Poughkeepsie, and Spencer H. Cone of Oliver-street, who had just succeeded the venerable and beloved John Williams,» after having cooperated with him in the labors of the pulpit for two years preceding. In the same minutes is found an affecting obituary notice of this eminent servant of God who had shortly before been called to his heavenly rest, on the 22d of May, 1825. The circular letter is a solid and substantial document of same -- thirteen pages long, written by Father Maclay – then, however, in the vigor of his days -- upon “the nature of the kingdom of Christ.”

      In the minutes of the New-York Association for 1825,the leading pastors mentioned are William Parkinson of Gold-street, Johnson Chase of the Bethel, (since extinct,) Aaron Perkins of the North Beriah, Lebbeus Lathrop of Samptown, Daniel Dodge of Piscataway, Joseph W. Griffiths of Middletown, and A. R. Martin of Staten Island. The circular letter -- sound, clear, discriminating -- such as our good old Baptist fathers loved, and such as we bear but seldom now, by Daniel Dodge, upon the nature of “Union to Christ.” The subject treated under six heads.

1. Union arising from the Eternal love of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
2. From the Father’s election.
3. Legal union.
4. Federal union.
5. Covenant union.
6. Union of natures.
      During the last quarter of a century, the population of New-York city has somewhat more than doubled. It is encouraging to learn from an examination of these minutes, that the Baptist population of our city, has increased in a much more than equal ratio. In 1825, the number of Baptist churches and communicants in New-York city was as follows:

New-York Association, 4 churches
Hudson River Association, 5 churches
      Total. . . .9

New-York Association, 1325 members
Hudson River Association, 1128 members

      In the corresponding minutes for 1849, the number of churches and members in New-York city is as follows :

New-York Association, 13 Churches
Hudson River Association, 18 Churches
      Total. . . . 3l Churches

New-York Association, 3579 members
Hudson River Association, 5642 members
      Totals. . . .9221 members

      In closing our allotment of these “Sketches of New-York Baptists,” we had designed giving a brief history of the circumstance connected with the origin of the Baptist churches which have risen in our city during the period embraced in our present sketch. The length to which the present article would be thereby extended will, however, forbid more than an enumeration of those churches with the date of the establishment of each. Of the nine churches exhisting in 1825, three have become extinct, leaving but six of them in existence at the present time; consequeently twenty-five out of our existing thirty-one churches have been organized during the present quarter of a century.

      The names of these churches and the date of their establishment are as follows: The Ebenezer Baptist Church, (present pastor, Rev. Leonard G. Marsh) formed in 1825; the North Baptist Church, (Rev. A. O. Wheat) in 1827; the Laurens-street Baptist Church, (Rev. Luke Barker) in 1828; the Amity-street Baptist Church (Rev. W. R. Williams) and the Zion Baptist Church, (Rev. J. R. Bigelow) in 1832; the Sixteenth Baptist, (Rev. W. Taggart) and the Welsh Baptist Church, (Rev. J. Davies), in 1833; the Cannon-street Baptist Church (Rev. H. J. Eddy) and the Berean Baptist Church, (Rev. John Dowling), in 1838; the Tabernacle Baptist Church (Rev. Edward Lathrop) in 1839; the Norfolk Baptist Church, (Rev. Thomas Armitage) and the Bethesda Baptist Church, (Rev. N. B. Baldwin) in 1841; the Laight-street Baptist Church (Rev. William W. Everts) in 1842; the Sixth-street Baptist Church (Rev. J. T. Seely) – Twelfth-street Baptist Church, (Rev. Sidney A. Corey) – Mariners’ Baptist Church, (Rev. J. R. Stewart) – and Bloomingdale Baptist Church, (Rev. Steven Wilkins) in 1843; the Haarlem Baptist Church, (Rev. S. S. Relyea) in 1844; the Providence Baptist Church, (recently under the care of Rev. Kazlitt Arvine) in 1845; the Hope Baptist Chapel, (recently under the care of Rev. David Bellamy) – Union Baptist Church, (Rev. Orrin B. Judd) – Shiloh Baptist Church, ( Rev. Levi Parmely) and First German Baptist Church, (Rev. Eschmann) in 1847; and the Olive Branch Baptist Church, (Rev. William Clapp) and Rose Hill Baptist Church, (Rev. S. S. Wheeler) in 1849.

      The six Baptist churches now existing, which date earlier than the year 1825, are the First Baptist Church, (Rev. S. H. Cone), formed in 1762; the Oliver-street Baptist Church, (Rev. E. L. Magoon), in 1795; the Abyssinian Baptist Church, (Rev. J. T. Raymond), in 1808; the North Beriah Baptist Church, (Rev. D. Dunbar), in 1809; the South Baptist Church, (Rev. C. G. Sommers), in 1822; and the Stanton-street Baptist Church, formerly called the Union Baptist Church, (Rev. Stephen Remington) in 1823.

      Thus we learn that from 1825 to 1849, in twenty-four years, the number of Baptist churches in New-York city has increased from 9 to 31, more than tripled; and the number of members from 2453 to 9221, almost quadrupled; while the population of the city, in the same period, has a little more than doubled. Truly the contrast between the fewness and feebleness of our churches a quarter of a century ago, and their present comparative numbers and strength, calls for gratitude to God, and prompts encouragement for the future ; still the contrast between our less than ten thousand members, and our teeming population of four hundred thousand souls, leads us to the exclamation, ‘what are these among so many?" We rejoice, however, to believe that other evangelical denominations have progressed in almost, perhaps in some instances, in quite an equal ratio; and in the confident belief, therefore, that the advance of evangelical religion in our midst, during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, has been far more rapid and encouraging than in any equal period of our history as a city. While we remember the many opposing influences that have been at work during the same period to arrest the progress of evangelical Christianity, whether from the advocates of Infidelity, Popery, or nominal (falsely called, liberal) Christianity, we have still greater reason to rejoice at so encouraging a result.

      In view of the past, would we say with the deepest humility -- “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto THY NAME be all the glory.” The safety and growth of the church of Christ, amidst the hatred and opposition of her enemies, is to be ascribed solely to the presence and protection of HIM who said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” The bush which Moses saw, though on fire, was not consumed, simply because the Lord was in the midst of it. So has it ever been with the Church of Christ.

* The venerable and beloved Daniel Dodge of Philadelphia. In a recent letter from a junior pastor of that city, the writer remarks: “Father Dodge remains very feeble in body, but Serene in mind, prayerfully waiting for the hour of release. On no account would he change the plan of his Heavenly Father concerning him. During my last call upon him, as I arose to go, he took my hand, and drawing me nearer to him, spoke in a feeble tone of voice, but with a solemnity and cheerfulness I shall not soon forget -- ‘My dear brother,’ said he, ‘that gospel, which I have for more than fifty years been recommending to others, as the best remedy for all of life’s afflictions, and the only method of salvation, is now as precious to my soul as it ever was. I think I can add, it is all to me that I ever said it would be to others to whom I have preached it. I have always tried to hold up Jesus in my sermons as the sinner’s only Saviour, and had I a thousand lives to live, a thousand talents to devote, and a thousand tongues to speak with, all, all of them should be employed in preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified as the way of life and salvation.’”

[From The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Record, 1849, Volume VIII, pp. 390-394. Scanned and formatted by Jim Dvuall.]

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