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The First Baptist Church
Charleston, SC
By Rev. Basil Manly, 1856
Chapter 2


     AFTER the death of Mr. Screven, the church was served by a Mr. Sanford. But whence, or at what time he came, or what was his character, we are unable now to ascertain. He died about 1718.

     In the year 1717, Rev. Mr. WIlliam Peartt came to Charleston, and, on the death of Mr. Sanford, became pastor of the church. We know but little of him, save that he seems to have been a man of respectable standing in society. After the death of Paul Grimball, who had been Secretary to the Province, and a member of Gov. Archdale's council, Mr. Peartt married his widow, who survived him also - "married a Mr. Smith, and under that name, gave a legacy of L1540 to the Baptist Church of Philadelphia." Mr. Peartt died about 1728.


      The Baptists and their descendants who had settled on Edisto, still members of the Charleston church, had become, considerably increased through the labors of Mr. Frie, Mr. Screven and his successors; and before 1722, had joined with other inhabitants of the island in building a meeting house for their common use. About the same time, or a little before, Mr. William Tilly, one of the brethren, a native of Salisbury, England, appearing to be endowed with appropriate gifts and graces, was called to the ministry by the Charleston church; and, after a suitable probation, was ordained in Charleston. His residence being in Edisto, his labors were chiefly bestowed there, and much to the edification of Christians. But in 1722, the Baptists were ejected from the common meeting house, to which Rev. Mr. Stobo and those who acted with him laid exclusive claim. They were therefore compelled to worship in private houses until 1726, when they built a meeting house for themselves, (it was standing in 1772,) on a lot of two acres, the gift of Mr. Ephraim Mikell; who was one of the members, and a pious, excellent man. The members there, who were then a considerable number, soon set about providing permanently for the support of Baptist preaching on the island. They purchased of Matthew Crees a tract of land for a glebe, adjoining the two acres given by Mr. Mikell, for the sum of L340; (the trustees then being Charles Odingsell, Joseph Sealy, sen., Ephraim Mikell, Paul Grimball, Joseph Sealy, jun., John Wells, William Elliott, sen., John Sheppard, Samuel Screven;) to hold the property for the support of an Anti-paedo-Baptist minister on that island forever.

     Mr. Joseph Sealy also gave a fund of L1000 for the same object. But many of the members soon moved away; some to Port-Royal Island and some to Euhaw. Those on Port-Royal soon joined their brethren at Euhaw, where they maintained worship as well as they could; and, after the death of Mr. Tilly, the survivors on Edisto removed also to Euhaw, and left the Baptist name almost extinct on Edisto Island, for more than half a century.

     Previous to the death of Mr. Peartt, viz: in 1727, a number of the members residing on Ashley River, a few miles above the city, erected a meeting house, with the aid of their brethren; in which worship was occasionally held, and which, in time, became the seat of a separate church. Another body of members residing on Stono, built also a house of worship on that river, sixteen miles from town, about the same time, (1728;) and in common with that at Ashley River, this place received the occasional labors of the pastor, and such other ministers as were transiently in Charleston. The meeting house on Stono became afterwards memorable in the history of the church, as the first seat of worship of a body of members, who formed a schism and separated from them. Both these houses were erected in quite a respectable style, and had lots of convenient size around them; that at Ashley River had a lot of seven acres, and that at Stono, of four.


     Although the church, while it was thus extending itself, suffered a great bereavement in the death of its pastor, it was presently supplied by the Rev. Thomas Simmons. This gentleman, a native of England, had had his mind directed toward the ministry in early life. His father, not being aware of the son's desire, or not approving it, after giving him an academical education, bound him to the carpenter's business. "But the son liked it not, and therefore came to America, to follow his inclination." He first landed in Pennsylvania, was there received by the brethren, and ordained to the work of the ministry. He arrived in Charleston in 1728, the year in which Mr. Peartt died, and soon took the pastoral care of the church.

     Among the members, at this period, were several persons of education and influence. But these qualities, though so eminently serviceable to the cause of truth and piety, when under the sanctifying influence of the grace of God, often prove, through the infirmity or perverseness of the human mind, the fruitful source of heresy and schism.

     So it proved in this instance. William Elliott, jun., son of the donor of the lot before mentioned, had now become a member of the church, and possessed considerable influence. Adopting the distinguishing sentiments of the sect of Arians, he became the leader of a party, and drew off his father, and several of the more wealthy members with him. These, assuming the name of General Baptists, while the church were thereafter distinguished by the name of Particular Baptists, separated themselves from the mother church in 1733, sent to England for a minister of kindred sentiments, and obtained the Rev. Mr. Robert Ingram; and were constituted into a church, with the number of thirteen male and eight female members at the meeting house at Stono before mentioned, November 25, 1736.

     This body were not entirely agreed on doctrinal points; some divisions of sentiment (so says Alexander Fraser in a certificate made before William Scott, jun., J. P., March 1, 1787) distracted their counsels and measures, during the ministry of their first pastor. But Mr. Ingram died soon after; and the next minister they obtained, Mr. Henry Heywood, being a man of education and talents, very probably soon composed their lesser differences; as we hear no more of them after this period. Mr. Heywood was succeeded by a Mr. Wheeler. This party, after the lapse of about fifty years from their secession, became entirely extinct.


     While this party was organizing itself, the members residing on Ashley River, received an invaluable accession to their number in the Rev. Isaac Chanler. This gentleman, born in Bristol, Eng1and, May 10, 1700, came to Carolina in 1733; and bestowed his labors principally among the Christians on Ashly River. He was so blessed to the conversion of souls, that it was soon judged expedient to have a separate church constituted at the place where he preached. Accordingly, May 24, 1736, twenty-eight persons, male and female, united together in solemn covenant as a church, under the pastoral care of the Rev. Isaac Chanler, at the meeting house which had been built by common exertion, nine years before. This church existed, under the ministry of Mr. Chanler, his successors Mr. John Stephens, and others, until the Revolution; when, becoming extinct, all its temporalities, and even its plate, were seized upon by an individual and made private property

     The church in Charleston, diminished in numbers, and reduced in strength by these almost simultaneous movements, was now destined to undergo a series of the severest trials. The Rev. Mr. Tilly, the wise and faithful minister at Edisto Island, to whom, in his growing usefulness, the church might look on any emergency, was now to be removed; and on April 14th, 1744, in the forty-sixth year of his age, he died. The death of such a man would have been a calamity to the church at any time; but more especially was it so now, when their proper pastor, Mr. Simmons, though generally esteemed a good man, had surrendered his judgment and feelings too much to the influence of others. This defect in his character, had well nigh occasioned the destruction of the church. In 1744, Dr. Thomas Dale, son-in-law of Mr. Simmons, but a particular friend of Mr. Heywood, the minister of the Arian party, caused a misunderstanding and dispute between his father-in-law and the church. Mr. Simmons was suspended from his pastoral office, by a majority of the church. But Mr. Francis Gracia, Deacon, and a few others, forcibly took possession of the place of worship, and introduced him again to the pulpit. The right of property and possession now being disputed, it was found that the original trustees to whom the property had been conveyed for the use of the congregation, were dead, and had not conveyed the trust to others: wherefore, the church sent a petition to the Provincial Legislature signed by seventeen persons, praying them to revive the trust in their right and behalf. Aware that some efforts might be made to thwart their design, they requested Mr. Baker and Mr. Bullein, two of their members, to wait on the Legislature with their petition; furnishing them with abundant documentary evidence, to prove that they held the original Calvinistic sentiments of the church; that the donor of the lot himself, Mr. Elliott, was a Calvinist at the time of the gift, and for many years after; and that in what they had done with respect to Mr. Simmons and his party, they had acted only in accordance with the known usage of the church, and of Baptist churches in general.

     Meanwhile a counter petition was circulated among the minority, and signed by them, praying the Legislature not to suffer the church, whom they style a party, to deprive Mr. Simmons of his pastoral office and living; and the deposed minister himself, with William Elliott, jun., the leader of the Arian party, waited in person on the Legislature to urge their point. The Legislature heard the petitions, and revived the trust. But the General Baptists had the address and influence, not only to have some of their own party nominated as trustees, but to have a clause inserted in the act, by which they were invested with equal rights in the property.

     As the act is a singular one, it may be worth while to record the particular clause referred to. The act is dated "Council Chamber, May 25, 1745," and is signed by James Glen, Governor, and William Bull, jun., Speaker. The clause runs as follows: "And forasmuch as it appears by the above recited indenture, that the said town lot, numbered sixty-two, and appertenances [sic], was given to the use of the Anti-paedo-baptists in general, and for the preventing of any disputes that may hereafter arise, it is hereby further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, that all the Anti-paedo-baptists, as well those distinguished by the name of General Baptists, as those distinguished by the name of Particular Baptists, are entitled to, and shall have an equal right in the said lot numbered sixty-two, and the appertenances. And each of the said sects shall and lawfully may make use of the same for divine service; any law, usage, or custom to the contrary, in any wise, notwithstanding."

     Thus, (beside the meeting house on Stono, which the church had suffered the General Baptists to retain,) were they now put in possession of half the property in town, to which it does not appear that they had laid any previous claim. Mr. Heywood was immediately introduced into the pulpit in town, and his popular talents drew around him for a time, a large congregation. "But his doctrines soon disgusted the people, and but few came."


     Meanwhile the sorrowful church, appointing June 24th, 1745, as a day of fasting and prayer, came together to consider what should be done: and, on the day above named, entered into solemn covenant with each other, and formed a new constitution for themselves. These instruments were probably the same which they originally adopted, with such modifications as their experience suggested. Far from being discouraged at what had occurred, they made immediate arrangements to provide themselves with a place of worship.

     The following persons were appointed trustees to act for them, viz: William Screven, William Brisbane, James Screven, Robert Screven, Thomas Dixon, William Screven, jun., Nathaniel Bullein, James Brisbane, David Stoll, and Samuel Stillman, who are characterized by their several professions, and as being "all members of the congregation of Anti-paedo-baptists, meeting in Charleston, holding the doctrines of particular election and final perseverance, and denying Arian, Arminian and Socinian doctrines." It is not known how many of these gentlemen were communicants in the church. They all, it seems, were at least its zealous friends and adherents. They purchased of Mrs. Martha Fowler, for the sum of L500 currency, a "lot of land, bounded to the westward on Church street, and known in the plat of the town by the number 102," for the purpose of a place of worship; and in 1746 built upon it a brick house, fifty-nine feet by forty-two, which is the building, with some enlargement; at present occupied as a Mariner's church.

     The church now saw themselves once more settled in a convenient house, and surrounded by a number of generous and valued friends. In spiritual strength they were not quite so much favored. Nominally, indeed. they had a considerable number of members in communion - all those who had gone from Edisto to Euhaw being still reckoned as belonging to the Charleston church. Morgan Edwards says of them, that "in 1738 a proposal from Charleston church (of a dismission in order to become a distinct society) was rejected by the people of Euhaw;" that "during a period of sixty-three years" i.e. from their first settlement on Edisto under Lord Cardross, "they were considered as a branch of Charlestown; and they themselves took much pains (for reasons that do not now, 11772, appear,) to be considered as such, rather than a distinct church." But their connexion with the mother church was now to be dissolved; and under the direction and with the assistance of the Rev. Isaac Chanler, who had occasionally ministered to them, a solemn instrument of union was signed by the members at Euhaw, May 5, 1746, and they became a distinct body. As to the communicants in Charlestown, it seemed now as if the Lord would "quench the coal that was left;" as it is most probably this period of which Morgan Edwards has said, "the number of communicants was reduced to three; only one man (Mr. Sheppard) and two women remaining that might be called a church."

     Just in this gloomy crisis, however, it pleased God, by the ministry of Mr. Whitfield, to revive his work; in the fruits of which the Baptists largely shared, and many joined them. There was now but one Baptist minister in all this part of the province, to whom the church could look for aid, Rev. Mr. Chanler, pastor of the Ashley River church: and so numerous were his engagements that he could serve them only once a fortnight. Mr. Simmons, their former pastor, was still living, but not in fellowship; and any hopes which they might have had from his restoration, if any there were, were soon taken away; for on January 31, 1747, at the age of seventy years, he died. Notwithstanding that his connexion with the church issued so unhappily, he was generally esteemed a good man. One memorial only of his sentiment was left behind, viz: a piece published during his life, entitled "Some queries concerning the operations of the Holy Spirit answered." But what was the character of the work is not known, as no copy of it seems to be extant.

     After Mr. Simmon's death, Mr. Gracia and others of his adherents, who had shared his exclusion, confessed their fault, and were restored to fellowship; and but for the want of ministerial aid, the church, now united, might have indulged the hope of prosperity and comfort. To supply this defect, the church wrote both to Europe and the Northern States for a minister of suitable character; none, however, came to their relief. They had only the service of their neighbor, Mr. Chanler, once a fortnight. And while in this situation their faith and patience were soon put to the test in the most unexpected and distressing manner. Mr. Chanler, their only minister, sickened, and, on November 30, 1749, in the forty-eighth year of his age, he died. While many hearts were rent with anguish by the fall of this great and good man in Israel, we may well suppose that a mournful pause, in the hopes of the church occurred. Although known to them not longer than about sixteen years, Mr. Chanler had been intimate with the most painfully interesting portions of their history. From his near residence he had been with them in weal and in wo, the firm, enlightened and undeviating friend of truth, and of the cause of Christ. Being distinguished for talents and piety, a good scholar and a sound divine, "a worthy man, and abundant in labors," he stood as a beacon light to the church through that stormy period -- that night of abounding heresy and error: and industriously sought, by the labors of the press, to extend that light beyond his immediate sphere, and into future generations.


[From American Baptist Memorial, Basil Manly, editor, 1856, pp. 228-232. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Chapter 3 of FBC, Charleston History
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