The Philadelpnia Baptist Association, was formed on the "twenty-seventh day of the seventh month, on the seventh day of the week," in the year 1707. The meeting lasted till the third day of the week following. Before the formation of the Association the churches had a general meeting for preaching and administering the ordinances, which was held in different places. The first was held at Salem, N. J., in 1688; this was about three months after the Lower Dublin church was constituted. The next was held at the latter church, the next at Philadelphia, and the fourth at Burlington. Others were held in various places. The people with whom the brethren met called the gathering a yearly meeting because it met with them but once a year, but those who attended all the sessions of this body spoke of it as a quarterly meeting. The Association was designed to differ from the yearly meeting chiefly in this, that it was to be body of delegates representing churches, and the yearly meeting had no representative character.
The brethren who constituted the Association came from Lower Dublin (Pennepek), Middletown, Piscataqua, Cohansey, and Welsh Tract. The Philadelphia congregation, though giving its name to the Association, is not represented as a constituent member, because it was regarded as a branch of the Lower Dublin church. Morgan Edwards mentions with evident satisfaction, that though the Association was formed of but five churches, "It had so increased since as to contain thirty-four churches (in 1770), exclusive of those which have
been detached to form another Association." In 1879 the Association had 81 churches, with a membership of nearly 24,000.
The influence of the Philadelphia Association has been greater in shaping Baptist modes of thinking and working, than any other body in existence. It is older by nearly fifty years than any other Association. Its "Confession or Faith" and "Treatise of Discipline" have wielded an immense power in favor of orthodoxy and piety among our rising churches. It has ever been the warm friend of missions at home and abroad, its ministers making missionary tours all over our country. It has always been the friend of Sunday-schools since the system was first presented to its churches. It encouraged the school of Isaac Eaton, of Hopewell, N. J., for the preparation of young men for the ministry, the first Baptist institution of that character in America; and it founded Brown University, formerly Rhode Island College, and through it, indirectly, all our seminaries of learning. As early as 1788 it took its stand in favor of temperance. It was a tower of strength to our persecuted brethren in other colonies in times when they suffered great legal oppression. It gave them financial aid and good counsel, and lent the weight of its great influence in seeking a redress of grievances from men in power, and it has ever demanded liberty for all men to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. What our denomination would have been in this country without the Philadelphia Association is an interesting question. We cannot suppose that the Associational institution would have had no existence among us. It flourished in England long before 1707. But this mother Association had men of learning even in her early history, with sound Baptist principles, great practical sagacity, and with a love for struggling Baptists in the farthest East and in the most distant South; and, as a consequence, the Associational plan became popular, and the spirit of the old Philadelphia body was grafted upon every kindred institution all over the land. Nor did this ancient body look coldly upon the crushed liberties and the struggling warriors of their country In Revolutionary times. On the 19th of October, 1781, our army made its victorious entry into Yorktown; on the 23d the Association was In session; on the night of that day the old watchmen of Philadelphia cried, "Twelve o'clock and all is well, and Cornwallis has surrendered." The next morning the Association met at sunrise to bless God for the glorious news and to record their gratitude in appropriate resolutions. The mother Association of our land has a precious record. =============
[From William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; reprint. 1988. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
Also see Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, 1707-1807
By A. D. Gillette, editor, 1851
Pennsylvania Baptist Histories
Baptist History Homepage