The history of the church, from 1787 to 1825, is so involved in the life of my reverend predecessor, the Rev. Dr. Furman, that, with the materials in hand, to attempt a complete outline of it, would be in effect to become his biographer, — a task too weighty for me to accomplish, and an honor to which I dare not aspire. A short record only, and that of no longer standing than the year 1819, is in possession of the church; the materials which have fallen into my hands, of any other kind, are but very meagre and disjointed: and I was not willing to seek for information which might have been accessible, 1est I should forestall the expected publication, by an able hand, of a memoir of his life, together with a collection of his writings. All that remains to me, therefore, is to present a few broken facts in the history of the church, and to refer you to the richer source, which, it is hoped, divine Providence may soon unfold.
PEW SYSTEM ADOPTED The first object of importance that presents, itself, relates to a method of steadily providing an adequate income.
Formerly, the fund which the church possessed, while it had a pastor, had nearly answered all demands, and when an additional sum was required, a subscription was resorted to. But immediately on the settlement of Dr. Furman, the system of pew rents was established, as being more equal, regular, and efficient; and a part of the original subscription, which had been raised for his support before his arrival, was cancelled, with a view to the new arrangement.
RECOVERY OF OLD HOUSE AND LOT Almost simultaneously with his settlement, the church obtained entire possession of the parsonage and lot, No. 62, which they had held in common with the General Baptists for forty-two years. That party being now extinct, a petition was signed, February 14, 1785, by thirty-three gentlemen, members of the congregation, praying the Legislature to rescind their former act of partition, and confirm to the incorporated Baptist church, the sole use both of the meeting house and lot. This request the Legislature granted. A few years afterwards, the City Council, supposing that one moiety of this property was liable to escheat to the State, passed a resolution, (March 3, 1801,) directing the Recorder of the city, to take the necessary measures to secure it, according to the law, for the benefit of the Orphan House. But on hearing a committee of the church, of which Dr. Furman was chairman, the Council gave up the claim, withdrew all proceedings, and caused an entry to be made on their records, acknowledging the title to be in the Particular Baptists.
CORPORATION FOR TEMPORAL CONCERNS Hitherto the temporal affairs of the church, and even the call of a pastor, were managed by trustees; who, on particular occasions, consulted the congregation. But the propriety of a more systematic arrangement of congregational concerns was now suggested, and a committee of seven, consisting of the Rev. Richard Furman, Thomas Screven, William Inglesby, Thomas Rivers; E. North, Isham Williams, and John McIver, were appointed to frame constitution rules and by-laws, under the charter they obtained in 1778. The report of that committee issued in the enactment of the original rules of the corporation, August 21, 1791; which, with some important amendments, agreed on by the corporation, April 2, 1824, are the rules by which the incorporated Baptist church, of Charleston, is now governed. And here, be it once for all recorded, with humble gratitude to God, that the uniform influence of those gentlemen who have been associated with the church in the management of corporate concerns, has been good; and to the generous efforts of some of them, more than of any other, the church owes a principal part of its temporal. prosperity; -- of which many living examples might be now mentioned, if delicacy would allow. From the first adoption of these rules, the progress of the church has been regular and steady, and its history but little diversified.
REV. JOSEPH B. COOK In 1792, Dr. Furman took a special interest in bringing forward the son of the Rev. Joseph Cook, to the notice of the General Committee; and he was received under their patronage in that year, at their meeting in Coosaw-hatchie. The following year, January 6, 1793, he was baptized at the Welsh Neck church, by Rev. Mr. Botsford; in 1794, he was sent, in company with the late Dr. Roberts, to Providence, where, after a collegiate course of three years, he was graduated, September 6, 1797. Soon after his return from college, he became a member of this church, and was by it put forward into the ministry. Early in the year 1797, and while engaged as tutor in the family of the 1ate Col. Thomas Shubrick, he was called by this church to the exercise of his gifts; and preached his first sermon in Charleston, from Isaiah 57, 21.
He was regularly licensed by the church, on March 3d, 1799; and not long after, receiving a call to the pastoral charge of the Euhaw Baptist church, he was ordained in Beaufort, (where he preached half his time,) January 9, 1800, by the Rev. Drs. Furman and Holcombe.
MISSIONARY LABOR OF DR. FURMAN No man more fully appreciated the particular obligations of' the pastoral relation than did Dr. Furman; yet he was not insensible to the claims of missionary labor, and had an ear open to the Macedonian cry of the destitute. It was his happiness to serve a church that seconded the enlarged desires and liberal views of his own mind. An inviting field of ministerial labor was now open in Georgetown; whither he made periodical visits, spending some weeks and administering the ordinances. His labor was not in vain in the Lord. Several were baptized at successive periods; and in the month of June, 1794, a church was constituted, there with thirty-six members, who had previously been reckoned members of this church. His periodical absences, while he lived, though they caused a privation to the church, were cheerfully acceded to, not only as tending to his own refreshment, so necessary in this climate; but, as contributing to refresh the spirits of God's destitute people in the regions through which he passed. To his benevolent activity is to be traced the baptism of some white persons and a large number of colored people, since 1807, on Edisto Island; and also, in a measure, the gathering of the churches of Goose Creek, and Mount Olivet, constituted in 1812. At Edisto, a neat wooden building was put up and completely furnished with everything desirable for the orderly and decent arrangement of the house of God, by the extraordinary energy of a female, Mrs. Hephzibah Townsend; who, until March, 1829, continued a member of this church. The place was first opened for worship, and dedicated to the service of God, with a sermon by Dr. Furman, May 23, 1818.
It has, perhaps, never fallen to the lot of any congregation to be long and entirely free from discontented and restless spirits; who merge almost every consideration of courtesy, prudence, gratitude, and good order, in a mistaken zeal for the fancies of a moment. Dr. Furman, like his predecessor, did not escape what usua1ly falls to the lot of those ministers who have long and faithfully served the same people. About the year 1794, an attempt was made by a few persons connected with the congregation, to induce a very popular clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Staughton, then a young man, recently arrived from England, to settle in Charleston; and hints were not obscurely given of a desire to have him made co-pastor of the church. But the more staid and reflecting portion of the congregation frowned indignantly on the effort; and the consummate prudence, and varied excellencies of Dr. Furman, displayed on this trying occasion , gave him even a stronger hold than before on the estimation of all parties; and no similar trouble ever after occurred.
DEATH OF MR. HART In the year 1795, December 31, the Rev. Mr. Hart, for thirty years pastor of this church, ended his useful life, at Hopewel1, N. J. The church here, in grateful memory of his services, requested their pastor to preach a funeral sermon for him. This was done by Dr. Furman, February 7, 1796, and the sermon was published.
BENEVOLENT INSTITUTIONS With such a seer at their head, who "had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do," it might be expected that the church would stand, prepared for the progressive dawn of the millennial day, even as "they that watch for the morning." With the commencement of the present century, Christian charity has come forth on her errand of mercy, more fruitful in enterprise, more ready in self-denial, more abundant in labors, than in the generations that have gone by; she now stands at that point of advancement, toward the end of her course, whence all the kingdoms of the earth can be distinctly surveyed; and God, our Saviour, bids her claim the teeming wastes as her own. We have fallen on the times which prophets and holy men desired to see; and to be a consistent Christian of the nineteenth century, a true child of charity at this dawn of a better day, requires a reach of vision, a liberality of feeling and of action, guided and chastened indeed by truth, yet expanded to a degree correspondent to the crisis.
CONCERT OF PRAYER To the sovereign grace of God this church owes the happiness and honor of having stood ready to meet the opening indications of Providence, in regard to the advancement of Messiah's kingdom. The Quarterly Concert of prayer, which had been adopted in some places, both in England and America, on the suggestion of President Edwards, engaged the attention of this church; and in 1795 it was recommended to all the churches of the Association. It was observed on the first Tuesdays in January, April, July, and October; but as this fell into disuse about 1810, the church soon after set up the Monthly Concert of prayer, on the first Monday evening in every month, which had been first established by our brethren in England of the Nottingham Association, June 3, 1784. The union of the church with the Independent and Presbyterian denominations in this city, in the support of that meeting, is of more recent date.
MISSIONS But they have not contented themselves with good desires and supplications only; — "their prayers and their alms together have gone up for a momorial before God." In the year 1800, the church sent to the Association the following query, viz: Is there not at this time, a call in providence for our churches to make the most serious exertions, in union with other Christians of various denominations, to send the gospel among the heathen; or to such people who, though living in countries where the gospel revelation is known, do not enjoy a standing ministry, and the regular administration of divine ordinances among them?" This query drew forth an animating response from the Association; and the missionary excitement produced by it, among the churches, led them to adopt, as the field of their labor, the remnant of the tribe of Catawba Indians, located on both sides of the Catawba River, in York and Lancaster districts, S. C. In 1802, the Rev. John Rooker was appointed missionary, with a designation to those people, and continued in the immediate superintendence of the mission and its schools, until 1817; when, from the diminution of the tribe, their being so entirely surrounded by the habitations and churches of the whites, and their own wandering habits, it was judged inexpedient longer to continue the mission. To this enterprise, while it was sustained, this church contributed their full proportion; and also to all those missionary objects which, since the year 1813, have begun to gain extensively upon the attention of the American Baptists. For proof of this, we need only refer you to the minutes of its various societies, and the records of the General Committee.
SUNDAY SCHOOL The Sunday School Institution received the early attention and countenance of the church. Formerly it had been the custom of the pastor to catechise the children of the congregation, semi-annually, in a public manner. This exercise was conducted in a manner so edifying, and yet so fatherly and attractive, that it was at once, a source of profit and of pleasure to the young: and many of you, who now hear me, can recollect with what enthusiasm you prepared your catechetical exercise, and with what exultation you hailed the approach of the honored day when you could stand up before your father and friend, and repeat your well-conned answers, and receive his smile of approbation; when clinging to his gown, the exercise being ended,) you would retire with him to partake of his cheerful collation.
But when the more efficient system of Sunday school instruction was introduced, this ancient custom was gradually laid aside.
ORGANIZATION OF S. C. STATE CONVENTION In the year 1819, anxious to see the objects of education and missions more generally patronized among their brethren in the State, the church sent up to the Association a notice and recommendation of a plan, which had been digested by their pastor, to secure the more general co-operation of the churches; which was accompanied by the draft of a serious address to the other Associations. Simultaneously, a query ,relating to the same subject, was presented by the church at the High Hills of Santee. This was the commencement of those measures which led to a meeting of Delegates at Columbia, in December, 1821, at which the State Convention of the Baptist denomination in South Carolina was formed. Of this body, its objects and efforts, time alone must speak.
NEW HOUSE OF WORSHIP About this period the church had the gratification of witnessing the erection of a new edifice for public worship. This had been meditated as early as 1805, when the Rev. Dr. Furman presented the church with a tract of land in St. Paul's Parish, then deemed to be worth $1000, to be appropriated to this object at a convenient time.
In the course of the next ten years, other and important aids were received; particularly a lot in Hampstead, the bequest of Mr. William M. Turner, in 1807, afterwards sold to Thomas Raine. The "Religious Society," formed in 1775, becoming extinct in 1810, had provided that its funds, in that event, should belong to the Baptist church. From these, the church realized £965 11 1. With these and other available means, estimated in all at about $7000, the congregation began in 1815, to augment the amount by subscriptions, which were industriously circulated, both by themselves and some benevolent friends in other denominations; and met with liberal patronage from a generous community. Means to the amount of $20,000 having been furnished, they proceeded to appoint a building committee, October 22, 1817, consisting of William Rouse, George Gibbs, Richard B. Furman, Tristram Tupper, and James Nolan, with all necessary powers; and, meanwhile, efforts were still used to increase the funds. For various reasons, the commencement of the work was retarded until 1819. On September 19, 1819, the foundation being laid, the corner stone, enclosing proper documents, &c., was laid under the south east corner of the building, by the hands of the venerable pastor, with appropriate exercises and solemn prayer. Under the judicious and tasteful plan adopted by the committee, and by their exemplary vigilance and faithfulness, the building rose rapidly, and was completed in the following year.
The last Sabbath which the church spent in the old building they had occupied so long, will never be forgotten by those who witnessed the solemn services. In the evening Dr. Furman, deeply penetrated with the varied reflections which the occasion inspired, and scarcely able to command himself, took leave of the consecrated spot, with sobbing and many tears; the feelings of the flock, were scarcely less intense than his own; and the place of their pasture was now literally a Bochim, a place of weepers. On the Thursday morning following, viz: January 17,1822, the new building was first opened for worship, and dedicated to the service of Almighty God, with a sermon from the Rev. Dr. Furman. The text used on this occasion was 2 Chronicles 6, 8. Shortly after this enlargement of the accommodations of worship, the hearts of the members were also enlarged. While the church had enjoyed a steady onward progress all through the ministry of Dr. Furman, various seasons of refreshing had occurred at intervals; never marked by extraordinary excitement, but always bearing a genial, heavenly influence: and now it pleased God to raise a goodly number of willing converts, to take their proper places amid the maturer fruits of his past labors; — the church at this period appearing like the variegated scenery, the promontories and the recesses of an indented shore, standing out to receive the last mellow rays of the setting sun, and remain a living landscape of spiritual verdure, lighted and adorned by his instrumentality.
DEATH OF DR. FURMAN The firm and vigorous health which this honored pastor had ever enjoyed, had kept out of view, in a great measure, the consideration of his mortality. But the time drew near when the servant of the Lord should die. His uncommon labors in the cause of suffering humanity, in the calamitous season of 1824, laid the foundation of a disease from which he never recovered. He visited the Association and Convention, in the close of that year; and having imparted to his brethren, with more than usual copiousness and solemnity, his latest counsels, he took affectionate leave of them, expressing his apprehension that he should see them no,more. Returning to the bosom of his family, his agonized frame, and his altered appearance, and all the dread ravages of disease, soon issued, the summons to gather about him, and see him die. The church, who felt as one large family beneath his paternal care, assembled daily, and offered up prayers and cries without ceasing, for his restoration. He had preached his last sermon. Like him whose walk he then described, he had "walked with God," and it might also be said of him even while living, "he was not, for God took him." His spirit lived on high; not in the raptures, but in the solid hopes of faith. When any of his congregation came about him, they saw, that, though in other respects scarce a vestige of the world could be discerned, while his spirit was staying on God at the banks of the Jordan, a concern for their spiritual welfare had been so deeply traced on his mind, that even the hand of death could not erase it. To such he would, faltering, say, "I am a dying man; but my trust is in the Redeemer. I preach Christ to you, dying, as I have attempted to do whilst living: I commend Christ and his salvation to you." "Just before he expired, he requested the 23d Psalm to be read; and whilst this delightful portion of scripture was imparting balm to his listening spirit, he flew away, as on the wings of a dove, to be at rest." He died on the night of the 25th August A. D., 1825.
Farewell — Farewell — Thou Man of God! ===================
[From American Baptist Memorial, 1856, pp. 329-334. — jrd]
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