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Baptist Succession, Or
Baptist Principles in Church History
Their Recognition By Faithful Men in All Corrupt Churches;
Their Realization in Faithful Churches in All Christian History.
A Centennial Discourse
Delivered June 27th, 1876, Before
The Baptist Church in Harvard, Mass.
By G. W. Samson,
A Member by Baptism in 1831.
3d John, 4
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
This is the text of the first Centenary discourse that records the exultant progress of the Church of Christ; and it is worthy to be the text of every Centenary ever since enjoyed in the history of each succeeding Church made up [of] Christ's true followers.
The writer is the beloved disciple; who has outlived by an entire generation all the other apostles. Himself a centenarian, John is now at Ephesus, where Paul forty years before had won youth to Christ whom he could call his "sons in the faith"; and, beholding a new generation of believers, he can exultingly write, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Bending from the seat above, where for nearly eighteen centuries since that
first writing he has leaned upon the bosom of his Lord, that beloved disciple has watched the Church of each succeeding century; and as in each new generation he has seen his Master smile on a martyr-band, and say, "Thou holdest fast my name and hast not denied my faith," his exultant voice has again exclaimed, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
That disciple just a century ago to-day was looking for the special triumph of "the truth as it in Jesus." He saw, as our fathers saw, the promise of religious freedom for God's people, when seven days later the Declaration of American Independence from the old world and its worldly Church was signed. In this event, indirectly preparing the way for the triumphs of a pure Christian faith among all the nations of earth, he may or may not have exulted. But when in this centre of the valley of the Nashua, he saw a little band of long struggling and hoping disciples of Jesus uniting to maintain his Master's truth in its purity, one more wave of delightful emotion swept across his gentle breast. What say you, brethren, as this day brings round
the centenary of a Church planted amid such worldly excitement changed into active zeal for Christ's Cause - what say you? Is the text of the day well-chosen? Does its writer bend again over to-day's assembly, and repeat "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth!"
Let us try to judge impartially as to this. Let us search for the principles involved; let us trace the history of their triumph from age to age till they to-day are dominant in this new world; and let us see if the last century of Christ's Church in this land and on this spot - let us see if this day gives any ground for believing that [what] our Master had us in mind when he inspired this apostle to utter these words.
It was a Baptist Church which was here organized a century ago. Churches deserving this name have varied in many of their opinions and practices in different ages and amid different worldly surroundings. Yet there are principles distinguishing true Gospel Churches as marked as those which in all ages and nations have separated monarchical from republican institutions.
Which, however, is more important to us as a nation, to know and maintain the principles of popular government
preferred by Moses and Samuel to monarchy in the Hebrew commonwealth; analyzed to their ultimate idea by Grecian philosophers and having their grandest application in the long-lived Roman Republic whose decline prepared the world for Christ's coming; revived by Milton in England and Montesquieu in France; exemplified in the Swiss mountain valleys and giving origin to all great reforms in European monarchical governments; most of all successfully applied in our own land because no hoary rival system was to be supplanted and because a people prepared by a pure Christianity made the attempt - which is more important for us; to maintain the true principle and its gradual working, or to try to find in imperfect attempts at republican government, as in the Hebrew, Grecian, Roman and Swiss republics, that which we can hold up to the world as a perfect model, a full example of the true principle! What mind is not prepared to admit that no existing Church, not the Philippian, Thessalonian, Corinthian or Roman, successively moulded by Paul's great mind and greater heart, not the Church of Jerusalem or of Ephesus, in which two Churches John the beloved spent a life two
generations in length - not one of these was a perfect model of the principles on which they were founded! Of course, then, they are not on the track who insist, that, unless a succession of true Churches can be traced, the Baptist principle is not historically maintained, and who draw the illegitimate inference that it is not therefore sustained! Let us remember that the joy of the apostle is not in those who profess perfection; for he himself confessed his imperfection. It is rather over those who do not either thoughtlessly or designedly swerve in any particular, as to fact or principle, from the straight line of truth; it is over such, be they individuals or Churches, that still he exclaims, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Every thorough student of history will agree that the distinctive and influential principle of the reformation is correctly announced by Chillingworth in the exclamation, "The Bible - the Bible alone the religion of the Protestants." Every impartial student of history must equally admit with Dorner and Ritschl, the ablest modern analyzers of the history of gospel doctrines, that no branch of the Protestant Church has proved true in all respects to the principle
thus avowed. Two added special principles must manifestly be recognized as essential elements in this main and general principle. First, the Bible records were given in the languages of the ancient Hebrews and Greeks; no mind can translate those records into modern tongues without a thorough intellectual training of years; and no reader can have the Bible as his guide unless such interpreters are provided. Second, the Bible treats, as its essential topic, of spiritual birth, life and growth; and, as no amount of general learning could enable a scholar to translate a Hebrew or Greek book on music unless he had a musical ear and proficiency in the practice of the art, so no genius, however transcendent, can gain any true conception of the "truth as it is Jesus," unless, as Christ and Paul urged on Hebrews senators and Greek philosophers, he be "born of the Spirit" and have "the mind of Christ." It has been only where these two subordinate, yet essential principles have been recognized and realized, that a New Testament Church could be expected to exist.
And yet, who can have true Christian faith and not believe that such Churches have from the days of the apostles been preserved, guided and guarded by the
great Master of assemblies! Even in the Old Testament Church there was ever "a seed" preserved to be the germ of successive spiritual harvests and sowing. Often indeed, as Paul indicates, the "faithful martyrs wandered in deserts and mountains," and were "hid in dens and caves of the earth." So, likewise, John foresaw that the "woman," who was at once a type of the earthly origin and of the spiritual offspring of her son Jesus, would be compelled to "flee into the wilderness where she hath a place prepared of God."
This double rule of historic survey, now, compels care in tracing the history of Christ's true Church even in the days of John's and Paul's apostleship. How much more must it demand balanced judgment in studying succeeding centuries! We must look for traces of the reception and maintenance of essential principles revealed in the New Testament; and this must be the chief object in research. We must equally look for existing and succeeding Churches which in the main are conformed to these essential principles. In this way alone can harmony be reached in judging of the statements, on the one hand of many Baptist students who deny that a succession of Churches
modeled after the primitive order can be traced, and on the other hand of such historians as the Dutch Upey and Dermoot, who, though not Baptists, affirm that this succession can be traced.
The essential principles held by Baptists, held also now in most particulars by Churches of other denominations, are these. The Scriptures are the only rule of Christian faith and practice. They teach, as to religious belief, that there is one God, who in the work of Christian redemption is manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each having personal divine attributes and offices; that man, originally sinless, is, by the fall, sinful in nature and practice, and irrecoverably lost to piety or love to God and to virtue or perfect love to man; that the only way of his redemption is provided by the love of God in the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ, and in the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; that all who accept this redemption are chosen and kept by God's eternal purpose, while all lost are those who personally reject or neglect this redemption; that all believers should according to Christ's command profess their faith in him by burial in water and by the stated observance after baptism of the Lord's supper,
both being signs of His sacrifice and of their consecration to Him; that the first day of the week should be devoted to the worship and spiritual service of Christ; that there is hereafter to be a resurrection of the body, a final judgment of all men, and an eternal award of happiness to the redeemed and of misery to the lost.
These in all ages constitute the summary of religious belief, and of duty to God. To this has been added at different eras when their principles were likely to be misunderstood, this summary of moral obligation, or duty to our fellow men. Civil law, as embodied in the statutes recognized by any people, is not only in its letter but in its spirit to be, and that on Christian principle, the rule of Christ's followers in their varied relations to their fellow men; while forms of political government are to be maintained in their integrity by devotion of property, influence and even of life, so long as such governments exist, either by the popular will or as the power manifestly ordained for the time by God.
The men, the people that with balanced mind have in their spirit maintained these principles, have been the true followers of Christ. Communities,
however obscure, where popular sentiment permitted it, have been the home of the Churches of Jesus Christ; and the Churches that have held these principles consistently, or even partially in practice while maintaining their spirit; have been in the line of the succession now filled by Baptist Churches. We may affirm with truth, that over such men though isolated and hampered in State-Churhces organizations, and over such Churches though existing in Alpine fastnesses, the form of the beloved disciple has in all the Christian centuries bent, as he has again and again re-echoed the last words his pen on earth recorded, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Impressed with this just conviction, Neander sought to write the history of Christianity, rather than of the Chritian Church. Turninig aside from the mere politics of Church government he sought to trace the in-working principles of truth and grace, to which Christ alluded when he said "the kingdom of God is within you"; and he longed to show how these principles, not acts of councils and management of ecclesiastics, had won the nations to Christ's salvation . With like conformity to the
Master's suggested rule, with the inspired history of his own and His apostles "Acts" as our guide, let us attempt our survey.
Beginning, then, our survey in the first century, no reader of the episles of Paul can fail to observe how much more faithful to Christ's word one Church of the apostle's day is than another; how fair, for instance, the record of the Philippian Church, where Roman integrity ruler, when compared with the records of the Asiatic Galatian and the Greek Corinthian Churches. So in the record of a generation later, in John's writing at Patmos, what a model of excellence, despite its imperfection, is the Church at Ephesus as compared with that at Sardis.
Turning to the second century, what a different atmosphere pervades Southern France, where Irenaeus wrote, from that which reigned in Alexanderia where Origen ruled Christian sentiment. In the next century, the third, in that age which immediately preceded the corruption which began at Constantinople's succession, when a State-Church assumed a purely worldly dominion, what a contrast between the ruling spirit of Rome and that of Northern Italy and of the Alpine valleys; which permitted
Ambrose of Milan to maintain such a purity of Church ordinances and of Christian worship that to this day they seem almost the copy of our own, and the model for all modern Protestant religious service. Equally to the point is the fact that when Arius and Athanasius in the fourth century were extreme in their controversies as to the person of Christ, and when in the fifth century Pelagius and Augustine were extreme as to the work of Christ, the best minds settled on the harmony of two truths contended for by each.
The views of Jerome, in this the fifth century, the author of the Latin translation of the New Testament which the Roman Church adopted as the foundation of their Vulgate, area a wonderous illustration of the principles of Baptist succession. Opposing quietly the perversion of Christian ordinances and of Church order then growing in the Roman Church through Gothic influence, Jerome turned to the commission of Christ, prescribing the nature and subjects of baptism; first, "Making disciples", second, "baptizing them in water," and third, "teaching them &c; and again he called attention to Peter's declaration "I also am an elder," or presbyter, as showing that he never
claimed to be "papa" or pope. Three centuries later, when Alcuinus, Charlemange's trusted founder of the schools out of which modern French and German universities have grown, would dissuade that monarch from forcible methods of converting the Saxons, he quoted the same commission and Jerome's comment. Still again, when ten centuries yet later Archbishop Whately would check the Romanizing tendencies appearing among the clergy of the English Church, he quoted both these comments of Jerome, and in hie [sic - the] "Kingdom of Christ" showed that ths [sic- this] primitive Church of Christ was founded on the principles ever maintained by Baptists.
So when in many succeeding centuries departures from spiritual Christianity became more and more marked, the essential and hinging point of departure was always recognized by spiritual followers of Christ as that which modern Baptists have opposed. The idea that baptism is essential to salvation, led to changes as to both the subjects and the mode of baptism which any reader may find in such works as the "Antiquities" of Cooleman, a New England Congregationalist, and in the Church, "Architecture" of Viollet leDuc, a French Catholic.
First, new subjects were admitted to baptism; infants, idiots, insane persons, dead bodies, and sometimes, through a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29, living relatives for persons suddenly deceased without baptism. Second, a change of the mode of baptism from immersion, because persons lying on sick-beds could not be thus baptized; aspersion, or sprinkling from head to foot, and afterwards, mere sprinkling of the forehead, being substituted. In the Eastern Church, including all Northern and Central Africa, all Western Asia and Greece and Russia in Europe, the form of immersion has never been changed; in the Roman Church it remained unchanged till the 13th century; in the English Episcopal Church it prevailed till the reign of Elizabeth in the 16th century and is the preferred mode laid down in prayer books of the English and American Episcopal Churches. A thorough student of Church history, who notes carefully the acts of councils in the Roman Church, finds that the dissenting bodies, called "heretics" because as the Greek term implies they separated from the State-Church, are always described as opposing infant baptism; and usually because of the order prescribed in Christ's words, "he
that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." This was the charge against Jovinian, a Roman monk, condemned about A. D. 388, for insisting that those "baptized in water" should have "full faith," and be "baptized in spirit"; and also against Celestius, excommunicated at Carthage, Africa, A. D. 412; during which early period the inconsistency of infant baptism was brought in the Pelagian controversy as to original sin. It appeared again in the controversy at the close of the 10th century as to transubstantiation, or the pretended change of the consecrated bread of the Lord's supper into His body; when Berengarius, who insisted on simple adherence to Christ's word, was charged with "overthrowing the baptism of infants" It is equally conspicuous in the Churches of Southern France and of Northern Italy in the 11th century, branded with the old opprobrious name of "Manicheans"; who held that "in baptism there is no absolution of crimes effected in the consecration of the priests." So widespread were these views, that, in the 12th century, they are found pervading Germany and Northern France; the charge against them at Cologne being, not only that they had "no faith in infant baptism," and that from Christ's
words they regarded baptism in water as but a sign of baptism by the spirit, but also, "in our baptism they have no faith." As all the abler German Church historians now allow, the first reformers, precedng Luther by two or three centuries, were found among the "Ana-baptists" or Re-baptists; so called because they re-baptized those christened in infancy who in mature years professed saving faith in Christ; a name gradually changed to "Baptists" when in the departure from the form of immersion by the Roman Church adherents to the primitive mode became conspicuous.
It should be specially noted, as the Dutch Church historians observe, that these primitive Churches became thus conspicuous only when the Roman Church departing more and more from the primitive faith, and having obtained through Pepin and Charlemagne of France, in the 8th century, a claim to State-power, began more and more to exercise it by compelling others who had retained from time immemorial the primitive faith to follow their lead in departing from it. This brought the Roman Church into conflict first in 12th century, with the Piedmontese or Mountain-foot Churches south of the
Alps in Northern Italy; then, in the 13th century with the Albigenses and Waldenses scattered through and north of the Alps; and at last in the 14th century with the Bohemian, German and English adherents of the primitive faith.
At this era, about 1330, Wickliffe gave his translation of the Bible into English to the Christian world; the fame of which spread through all Europe North of the Alps, and was followed by like translations into the German tongue. Among all the great leaders of this age it should be observed, the essential doctrines now held by Baptists as to the doctrines of grace, and as to the ordinances and order of Christ's Church were defended; and they were maintained not as attempts to reform the Church before existing, but to resist Roman departures from the former faith.
The confirmation of this important fact and the guide to the true history of Christ's Church, now appears in the Roman Church proper. The departures from the true faith so manifestly originated at the city of Rome, that the great body of the Church called "Catholic," a title then, as now, opposed to that of "Papal," were aroused to return themselves to the primitive standard. Three
successive councils were called; at Pisa in Northern Italy, at Constance in Central Switzerland and at Basle on the Eastern border of France. By this time the thoughtful through all the Roman Church were awakened to the fact that the Latin Vulgate, the Roman version of the Scriptures, was itself but a translation; designed by its chief author Jerome, as its name "Vulgate" implied, for the "common people." It was not until repeated efforts to retrace its departure from Gospel order had failed, that reform outside of the Roman, now the "Italian" Church began.
First, John Huss of Bohemia, taking up the mantle of the English Wicliffe, thundered forth in the very heart of Central Europe, and of the great German nation, the doctrine of individual responsibility to God and of freedom to read and follow his word; and thus he prepared the way, with others of like views but of more quiet spirit, for what is now called the era of Reformation.
After four centuries of preparation, Calvin in Switzerland, Luther in Germany, Knox in Scotland, roused their whole nations to action. Their reformation failed to accomplish fully its aims, because, as in England, civil
power, establishing State-Churches, took the place of individual conscience; which acts effectually only when it is left to its own felt responsibility to God and to the truth in his word. In all the countries where the civil power, secular in its spirit, became an organic part of the Christian Church, the return to the word of God alone as the Christian's guide was partial; a fact clearly revealed in the discussions and decisions of State Churches on the creeds now adopted in Eastern Protestant Churches. To show this truth in detail is here out of place. The fact is now admitted by the best historians of the German Church; the growing tendency to Free Churches confirms the principle; and the rapid increase of Baptist Churches throughout Germany, Sweden and Russia is but a repeating of the work which began, had greatly progressed, and met no interruption in its succession before the era of the Protestant Reformation.
In old Bohemia, the return to God's word in other points of doctrine is too generally allowed to be overshadowed by the natural extreme positions as to civil government taken by two leaders, Munzer and Menno. The former confounding the idea of religious liberty - which
relates to the soul's duty to God, and must always be maintained - with that of civil liberty, which relates to secular interests and is to be gradually gained through constitutional means - Munzer became a revolutionary leader, justly denounced by German Protestants to this day. The latter, Menno, going naturally to the opposite extreme, urged, like the Quakers or Friends in England, that the Christian has nought to do with civil affairs; a position so consistent with imperial notions in a land where subjects are tillers of the soil and artisans exempt from bearing arms, that his followers soon began to find an asylum in Russia, and have to this day been favored subjects of the Russian Czar.
The fidelity to Gospel truth witnessed by the early German Anabaptists and Baptists aside from the subordinate issue relating to the Christian law of civil subordination, is abundantly attested by the comprehensive histories of Drs. Dorner and Ritschl. The name Anabaptists or Re-baptizers was applied before Luther's day to those who regarded only regenerated persons as fit subjects for Christian baptism, and who consequently re-baptized new converts, counting their infant consecration void.
The name Baptists came at an early day to be applied to those who returned to the New Testament teaching as to the mode as well as the subjects of Baptism. The "Reformers," as their name implies, but re-formed the systems of theological doctrine and moral practice which had prevailed in the corrupt Roman Church. The Baptists, though as Ritschl says, "generally guiltless of theology" and also "often mystic," left old traditional views and practices, and drew out from the Scriptures alone, their system of Christian belief and of Church order. Instead of seeking to "unite communities by the bond of sacraments," they sought "the formation of a sect consisting of actively holy persons." The explanation of the term "mystic," thus applied by the discriminating German historian, is of practical moment. Many of the sincere men who returned to the Bible alone as the Christian's rule of faith and practice, overlooked the fact that only the mind trained to a thorough acquaintance with the Hebrew and Greek of the inspired originals could be assured that the book he read was indeed the word of God. Going to the extreme of maintaining that the regenerated mind is not only its own interpreter of the word given but also its
own judge what is the word of God, some men ranked among the early German Baptists contended that the expression "Logos tou Theou" word of God, as used by Paul, 1 Corinthians 14:36; 1 Timothy 4:5; Titus 2:5, is synonymous with the expression "Word" as used by John in his Gospel and first epistle; a partial judgment readily corrected by an examination of all the passages where Logos is used by both John and Paul. Hence these "mystics" argued, as in all ages of the Christian Church they have, that it is the "Word" or Christ-in-them, not the volume of revelation, which is the Christian's guide. This misinterpretation however was limited and temporary; and aside from this second error of the Baptists, Osiander before Luther's day, and Schweckenfeld during his movement, so analyzed and combined "the truth as it is in Jesus," that Luther was greatly aided and guilded by their writings.
In Holland, more associated in its religious and political history with our country, Baptist views and practices assumed from natural causes a more complete and consistent form. It was in the sturdy little Dutch Republic that the original settlers of New York and the Pilgrims who landed in New
England, received their bent. It was here that three out of five of the elaborated theories of the atonement which have divided modern Christian believers, those of Socinus, Grotius and Arminius, were met and reconciled at Leyden by the English Pilgrim Robinson. That Robinson was a Baptist in principle; lacking but a single application of their principle in his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:14; now universally admitted by Pedobaptist commentators to refer to the moral and spiritual relation of unbelieving husbands and wives, parents and children in the family; a relation no more calling for baptism of the child than for that of the unbelieving husband or wife. It was the specially consistent views of the Dutch Baptists that led Upey and Dermoot, as historians of the Dutch Church, to trace their succession back through the Waldensians, and say, "The Baptists may be regarded as being from of old the only religious denomination that have continued from the times of the apostles as a Christian Society, and who have kept the evangelical faith pure through all the ages hitherto."
In England, however, a peculiar history awaited those who consistently held that the express teachings and
example of Christ and of his apostles is the only rule of Christian faith and life. During the conflicts of Catholics and Protestants under Hnery VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, they quietly obeyed "the powers that were" as those ordained of God; and suffered the honor of being overlooked. When James V of Scotland came to the throne as James I of the united kingdom, his efforts to harmonize Episcopal and Presbyterian doctrines and rituals, and especially to give to the English-speaking people an improved version of the scriptures, met the acquiescence of English Baptists. When the spirit of civil liberty had under the Puritan Cromwell taken possession of the British Parliament, which more than once has assumed the power of setting aside an unfaithful sovereign, then a new application of the Baptist principle was revealed; and its simple character as a balanced view of conflicting Scripture interpretations began to advance from early dawn into a sunrise which must grow into perfect day.
While MIlton, a Baptist in essential principle, though an Arian, who, as Cormwell's "armor-bearer," was but
"polishing weapons," and was elaborating documents which defended the change of government as a legitimate "Revolution," the calm and sturdy Baptist yeomen, with their religious leaders, had a higher mission. When, after meeting with the Puritans [during] the brunt of battle, it became apparent that the Puritan "Protector," so-called, was determined to establish a union between the Puritan Church and the English Church, such as had already been inaugurated in the Amercian Colony of Puritans, then the Baptist balance began to show its counterpoise and to seek to maintain its equilibrium. The true lovers of religious liberty, as superior to though consistent with civil liberty, turned their eyes to their only hope. An Anabaptist, as these men were then called, drew up one of the most masterly papers preserved in the annals of civil revolutions; so masterly that Lord Clarendon, who afterwards wrote of the movement of Cromwell as the "Rebellion," has given many pages in the fifth volume of his work to the document and its history. That paper was signed by Anabaptists, Quakers, Presbyterians and even some Episcopalians. It set forth that the subscribers had under the authority of Parliament, supreme
above the sovereign, followed Cromwell because they believed that they were to obtain thereby religious as well as civil liberty. It declared that in this they had been grevously disappointed; since under the commonwealth they had secured less religious liberty than under Charles I. They appeal to parties back to the throne, to pledge in advance of their just request. That document, thus signed, was taken by that same Anabaptist to Charles II, then in France. Its presentation was accompanied by an earnest and eloquent personal appeal; with the assurance that the heart of a large class of the English people would be with the returning sovereign if the law of God's word as to religious liberty, for which they contended, should be maintained. The Baptist banner in England was thus fully unfurled; so that on its open folds the world could begin to read its import. This was just before the restoration of Charles II, 1660; and the date hints that we must now shift the scene to the West of the Atlantic and bring up events there indicating the advance of the same new banner twoards its triumph.
The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth forty years before the Anabaptist out-show
just noted. Under the early reign of James a company of quiet Baptists, and of Pilgrims who agreed with them, - as do now the New England Congregationalists in most points except the ordinance of baptism, - despairing of full religious freedom in England, had sought an aslyum in Holland; then the sturdy little Dutch Republic so worthily pictured by Motley. These associated Baptists and Puritans, as early as 1607, left England for Amsterdam in Holland; having as their religious leader Rev. John Robinson, a preacher, whose views were, as we have noted already, those of modern Baptists, except that he still hesitated as to infant baptism on account of a now corrupted interpretation of Paul's words. Ten years after a test of the true principle of those leaders appreared. Mr. Robinson had been called to reply to an English ckergyman assailing the views of Christian liberty and of Church independence specially held by Baptists. The calmness and candor, as well as the manifest Scripture truth maintained by Mr. Robinson as to Civil Government and its relation to the Church and its ordinances and offices, had drawn general attention to him in Holland. At that time the controversy between Calvin and Arminus was rife;
and such men as Grotius, the founder of the Science of International Law, were engaged in the debate. When at its height, waged as it was between two able Professors of the Univesity of Leyden, the remarkable clearness of views expressed by Mr. Robinson was noted; while his balanced consistency and his equable and harmonizing spirit led both parties to call in the Pilgrim preacher for a final review of the debate. His balanced judgment, founded on a "thorough acquaintance with the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures and also with the Church fathers," as the Chronicler quoted by Backus states, "procured for Mr. Robinson much respect and honor from those learned men and others;" and what was more important, it caused "many to give praise to God that truth had so famous a victory."
Three yerars after this event, in 1620, the Pilgrim band, led by Rev. Mr. Brewster, having sailed from Holland, landed on the bleak coast nigh Cape Cod; when Robinson urged the Pilgrim band to make God's word their guide, remembering new truths would appear in their need. Eight years later, in 1628, the new colony of Massachusetts Bay, which proved from the first to be controlled by the Puritan element that sought the
subordination of Church to State, made a settlement at Salem near Boston. Three years later, "one Roger Williams" as the Chronicle states, in 1631, "a zealous preacher" of the English Episcopal Church, who had left the mother country because "he could not then conform to the National Church," landed at Salem, and was almost immediately called to the pastorate of the Salem Church. Very soon he showed that he was not a Puritan; in a few months he retired to Plymouth, where, though in dearer fellowship, he proved not to be a Pilgrim; amd five years after his landing, in 1636, he became the Baptist founder of the first State where religious and civil liberty ever met in consistent union, and hence in permanent harmony.
And now another page of the new era opens. Twelve years after this settlement, in 1640, the Puritans wanted a President for their new College founded at Cambridge. For two years it had been, as the Chronicle states, a "schola illustra;" but it needed now a man fitted for the task of making it "a College." Soon a man was found, "fitted from the Lord for his work," "an able proficient both in Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages, an orthodox
preacher of the truths of Christ, and very powerful through his blessings to move the affections." This man was Henry Dunster, the first President of Harvard College. The man, as his balanced learning in such times might have led his friends to expect, because soon an vowed Antipedobaptist. Assured that the New Testament teaches that a Christian Church is a body of baptized believers, and observing that pedobaptism was filling the Puritan, as it before had filled the English and Roman Churches with an unregenerate membership, who thus came to control the Church as well as the State, he argued from Scripture and from Church and National history, that there should be a return to the Word of God as the only rule of faith and practice. For thirteen years his ability made all agree to maintain him in his position; until at length his own wish led to his resignation in 1653. The community and its leaders now looked about for another competent to the position; and Mr. Charles Chauncey became the second President of Harvard College. He too was an Antipedobaptist; known to be such, though unofficious in urging his views. And thus two really Baptists had the honor - an
honor of which they showed themselves worthy of making Harvard College.
The developments of the century which followed brought out anew the characteristics of Baptist sentiment. In England about seventeen years after the restoration of Charles II, under whom John Bunyan was for thirteen years imprisoned for preaching as a dissenter, in 1677 the Baptists of Great Britain felt called to issue their first formally digested creed or articles of faith; in order specially to affirm their views of entire allegiance to civil government except in its illegitimate enforcement of forms of religious worship. This creed, slightly modified in 1689, was that afterwards adopted by the Philadelphia Association. It is instructive to note how on each point of Christian doctrine it carefully abstains from forms of statement framed by theologians, and limits itself to the simple language of the New Testament.
During this same reign of Charles II the Baptists of Massachusetts had become sufficiently numerous to propose the constitution of a Church at Boston. They write, in 1681, to London to consult with their English brethren; stating that the great license of the Colonial Government has led to a declension from
the doctrines and duties of religion in the newly rising generation, and that the earnest effort of Baptists to call back the people to the simple teachings of Jesus has won for them as esteem and comparative freedom which permitted their efforts to form the proposed Church. The reply, full of hope, came speedily from London; and the Church was organized. For a time they had the fellowship of such men as Mathers; whose plea for Christian Union is now quoted as the American dawn of the Evangelical Alliance. And here a fact, vital in its bearings on the position of Baptists as to the Lord's Supper, is to be noted. Affiliated during the long struggles with the Quakers who sought a return to spiritual Christianity and who rejected the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper because they seemed to be carnal, associated also with Puritans, who contended for spiritual religion, and much more with Pilgrims who contended also for religious liberty, yet more being gradually brought, themselves, as was Roger Williams and hundred like him, gradually to recognize truth after truth as taught in the New Testament, the early Baptists naturally and even necessarily were in communion for a time with spiritual
Christians not Baptists; an association which could not consistently continue, when, after new experience, the light which guided them was not received by their former associates. But, the jealousy of a Church now too secular, led to reactionary laws. A system of religious oppression was inaugurated, which for a century and a half remained dominant.
Meanwhile the celebrated Salem witchcraft excitement broke forth. It was the natural offspring of that mysticism which always accompanies prevailing skepticism in a secular Church. The Mathers were carried away with the delusion; and strangely enough the wide-spread lack of faith in infant baptism was quoted as one cause of the demonical possessions so-called. Amid this excitement it is recorded to the honor of their calm balance, in the very year, 1692, when the clear-headed lawyer, Brattle, published his tract insisting that these illusions were to be explained on the "Cartesian philosophy of the animal spirits," or over-exerted nervous force, the Baptists were acquitted from partaking any taint of the delusion
Again, the subject of education for the ministry, discussed before by Robinson
and now by Williams and the Baptists at large, showed that breadth of view ever since maintained among them. The Baptists insisted indeed upon Paul's first requirement for the Christian ministry; that a candidate for this office should be a "faithful" man or a true believer; and that no amount of scholastic training availed if experimental knowledge of Divine truth were lacking. At the same time the fact that the educated Paul was the chosen among apostles, led the Baptists to weigh facts around them. In England, as early as 1585, Dr. Some, an opposer of Baptist views, had written: "Some persons of these sentiments have been bred at our Universities." It was their learning that led these persons to become Baptists; as it was the learning of Presidents Dunster and Chauncey in Hebrew and Greek that not only made them Baptists, but convinced other educated men that their interpretation of the inspired originals of the New Testament was right. Hence education came to be prized as God's gift for the discovery and defence of the truth of his word.
Yet again, in this era the peculiar patriotism of the Baptists of Massachusetts came out. During the fearful
struggle with the hostile Indian tribes, just two centuries ago, when in February, 1676, the township of Lancaster had been swept as with a besom in the fearful massacre. Wm. Larner organized a company of volunteers; and, though denied a commission as Captian because he and his men were Baptists, he and they meekly and manfully took the field. His heroic defence of the exposed colonists, and his fall in the conflict, awakened a public administration which had much influence, as the chronicles of the time show, in securing the good will of the people of Boston of the organization of the first Baptist Church four years later, in 1689.
This mention of Lancaster bids us advance to the opening of a new century and to the dawning history of the town of Harvard where we are met. We take our stand, some sixty years after that struggle with savages, on the rough range of hills which skirt the valley of Nashua on its left bank a range still known as "Bear Hill," and look down westward over the broad rich slope of the river-bottom lands which stretch to the Wachusett. This eastern bank in 1732 was organized into the new town of Harvard. The year of its founding in the noble state of the now united
Pilgrims and Puritans, was, in the then hidden plans of a Divine Providence, the year of the birth in the equally noble state of Virginia of him who was to prove "the faith of the country"; favored by Heaven in giving a pure Church to the world. Its name, Harvard, by the guidance of that same Providence, became that of the first American patron of education; the founder of the university moulded into its permanent cast by two Baptist Presidents; a patron who himself maintained, though without their public profession, the views of those first Presidents. In this valley certainly the spiritual views which in less than half a century later led to the constitution of a Baptist Church were from the first entertained; as is fully attested by the names Haskell and Willard appearing among the young men of the new town and among the veterans of the new Church organized forty-four years later.
During that era the Warren Association in the Baptist colony of Rhode Island was receiving accesssions. At the same time the Philadelphia Association, formed in 1707, and receiving for more than a half century accessions of Churches from New York on one side
and from Virginia on the other side, had developed into a great educational as well as missionary body. As early as 1740 the latter body began to receive and discuss questions as to Baptism and the Communion; it soon adopted the system of having consecutive yearly circular letters on the leading doctrines of the New Testament; and amid all the learned volumes of the early fathers and the elaborate discussions of the leading reformers nothing more profound in thought, more direct in Scripture proof, more balanced and comprehensive in its range of discussion, more truly appreciative and catholic in its spirit, and more thorough and practical for the instruction of inquiring minds can anywhere be found in the history of Christian literature. Those papers, succeeding each for about thirty years till the war for independence interrupted the series are worthy of re-publication in a small volume adapted to our times.
Meanwhile, moreover, partly through an influence from New Jersey Baptists, then included in the Philadelphia Association, the movement fro a college that should be independent of both State and Church, was presented in that body in 1764; and in the same year a
charter for a college was obtained in the colony of Rhode Island.
The era of the Revolution was now nigh. From our position on the rugged range whence we just now looked down on the new town, we thread our way past the "Bear Hill pond" to a hamlet called, from the gentle stream which winds through the upland meadow south of it, by the perhaps prophetic name "Still River." Certainly the fond memories of one born nigh its banks have associated it with David's boyhood Psalm, as the place where the good Shepherd had made his own true flock lie down in green pastures, and has led his lambs, as well as his sheep, not only "beside" but into "the still waters."
It is June 27th, 1776. One year and three months before, in April 1775, Lexington and Concord, less than twenty miles distant, had been startled and aroused to resistance by an armed invasion. Two months later, June 17th, 1775, Warren had fallen on Breed's before Bunker's Hill. Two days before that battle on June 15th, 1775, the youthful hero who had retrieved Braddock's repulse nigh Pittsburg, Pa., was chosen Commander in Chief of the Continential armies; and
on the 2nd July, 1775, he had taken command of the forces at Cambridge. Ten months later, on the 17th March, 1776, through the skill of Washington in securing possession of Dorchester Heights, which commanded the harbor as well as the city of Boston, the invaders evacuated the city and State, leaving the people free from armed invasion during the entire war which followed, and giving freedom and force to the impulse which now led to widespread defection from the State-Church and to the formation of independent Churches in which Baptists were the controlling leaders. Two months still later, on the 10th May, 1776, Congress had passed an Act advising each of the Colonies to prepare an independent State Constitution, preparing the way for cooperative Union; and the Colony of Massachusetts was among the first to move in this new work. Surely it meant something, it must have been the outburst of a long pent-up fountain, that here in this quiet valley, as over all this commonwealth, and in many others of the States just formed, little bands of lovers of Jesus should come together amid events so awing to unite in Churches modelled after the New Testament type. The simultaneous
origin and the future rapid spead and triumph of the principles thus avowed is worthy a passing survey.
In this survey this special centre may serve as an outlook upon the leading principles then in operation which have led to great results. The way will thus be prepared for the more munute survey in which the members of this Church and of the Churches of which it has been the fruitful mother may be expected to cherish a personal interest. The more prominent and controlling among the influences then at work, may be grouped under five particulars.
First, The Study of the Bible, in personal, family, school and Church reading and exposition had directly promoted the acceptance of Baptist views. This general fact is illustrated in the character of the school exercises, and of the style of sermonizing which prevailed in New England from the origin of the Colony. Its special influence is illustrated in this recorded memoir of Lemuel Willard , one of the deacons of the first established Church of Harvard. When, at family devotions, passages touching on Baptism were read, he would stop and say: "If I were living where there was
a Baptist Church I would unite with it."
Second, Practical appreciation of higher education as securing the best guide to the mind in arriving at truth was now active. This was illustrated, as to general education, in the fact that in Virginia William and Mary College, and in Massachusetts Harvard College, were established in the very first years of colonial settlement. In legal learning the clear argument of Brattle as defendant in the Witchcraft trial, criticising the decisions of Sir Matthew Hale under the Puritan commonwealth of Cromwell, is testimony. More directly to the point was the statement of Edmund Burke in the British Parliament when, defending the movement of the Colonists as founded on intelligent views of constitutional right, he said: that the publisher of Blackstone's Commentaries, then newly issued, had informed him that he sold more copies in the American colonies than in all the United Kingdm. The influence of respect for learned authority in fostering Baptist views at an early day in Harvard may be traced in the connection between the Willard family and Dunster, the first President of Harvard College.
Third, The general spirit of religious
inquiry which pervaded the colonies, and the manifest unfitness of a secular and often opposing clergy to meet the demands of popular inquiry, tended greatly to promote the origin of Baptist Chruches.
Just about the era of the founding of the town of Harvard, a remarkable spirit of religious revival was awakened in both Old and New England. The cause of this movement was the same; the declension of true piety in the secular ministry of the English Episcopal and of the New England Congregational Churches. The aroused spirit of New England appeared in the wonderful work of religious reform spreading through Central Massachusetts, and culminating in the Church at Northampton, in 1735, under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards; whose report aroused such men as Watts and Guyse in England, and whose continued spread brought on the great New England Reformation of 1742, on which Edwards wrote so able a treatise. During these years the first minister of Harvard, from 1732 to 1750, was Rev. John Secomb; a man of brilliant miind, but liivng in baronial grandeur, and taking little interest in the spiritual work prevailing around him. He was succeeded again
by Rev. Joseph A. Walker, a man of little positive power, till 1768; and he again by Rev. Daniel Johnson, a young and brillant speaker, who died at an early age as chaplain of the Revolutionary army in 1777; his parish being really without a pastor for two or three years. It was a marked fact that one of his deacons, Josiah Haskell, over ninety years of age at the formation of the new Chruch, became one of its constituent members.
Fourth, Another cause giving impulse to the movement for the formation of Baptist Chruches, was the spirit of political independence and of popular government then in progress. In Virginia not less than seventeen Baptist Churches were formed between 1770 and 1775; and from this era their numbers rapidly increased. In Massachusetts the same law of increase was in operation. Among the Churches then formed, that of Newton presents a striking example. During the period just preceding the Amercian Revolution the religious awakening which had sprung up spontaneously in Central Massachusetts was promoted in the East by the visits of Geo. Whitefield; who, beginning with Wesley about 1729, visiting America first in 1735, returning to England
land and separating from Wesley because of his Arminain views, came again to Amercia and peached and died in the vicinity of Boston in 1769, '70. Many of the people attending the Parish Church at Newton were led to a new life; among them a daughter of the minister; and soon after a little company professing Baptist views began to meet. In 1774 a committee of ten petitioned the town on behalf of "a society called Anti-Pedobaptist" for exemption from payment of Church rates; and were refused. Two years after, in 1776, when the same request was renewed, it was granted; showing the progress of public sentiment engendered by the times. The two names at the head of the Committee were John Dana and John Kenrick; the former a devoted Christian, the latter the ancestor of a family who became but secular advocates of religious freedom. The same political spirit of the times which favored the planting of Baptist Churches, extended southward to Virginia.
Fifth, Yet another influence which fostered the growth of Baptist views was the independent and indomitable missionary spirit of some of its leaders. Men like Elijah and John the Baptist, like Huss and Wickliffe, like Luther
and Knox, like Whitefield and Wesley, are brought out by the spirit of religious reform in all ages. In the Baptist ranks John Leland baptized by Noah Alden of Bellingham in a mission visit to Northbridge in 1774, became noted. One year after his baptism, in October, 1775, he is found in Virginia on a mission tour. He himself has recorded, that his first religious awakening was under the preaching of Elhanan Winchester; when on a tour "he peached and prayed to the astonishment of the people." During the entire war, schedules of appointments from Massachusetts to Virginia were made and met by Leland. Near the close of the war he records that between November, 1779, and July, 1780, a period of eight months, he had baptized 130 presons. He says: "The chiefest of my successes was in York, where Lord Cornwallis and the British army were made prisoners in October, 1781." He adds, an amusing account of a Col. Harwood, coming into one of his meetings nigh York to disperse the "unlawful conventicle." As he entered Leland stamped on the floor, and commanded him in the name of God to forbear; upon which a Mr. Cole, son of a counsellor, exclaimed: "Col. Harwood, you are a representative
in the General Assembly. The Assembly has just made a law to secure the religious rights of all; and you come here to prevent it." Thereupon the lady of the house, Mrs. Russell, broke in: "Hah! Coolonel, I think it a pity that people cannot do as they please in their own house." The Colonel's courage quailed a little before the bold stand of the stalwart preacher; his judgment gave way before the lawyer's defence; but, like a true Virginian that he was, his gallantry now gave him a good cover under which to retreat; for, raising his hat to the lady of the house, he responded: "Madame, I did not come to dispute with ladies!" and he returned to his home. It was, however, the preacher that made the special impression; for on reaching home the Colonel's mother familiarly asked, "Well, Neddy, what did the man say to your?" "What?" reinterated the crest-fallen Colonel: "He stamped at me, and made no more of me than if I had been a dog. I shall trouble them no more." Leland naively adds to his narrative: "Some of his servants I baptized afterwards." It was men of this stamp that spread the flame where fuel was ready for the Divine fire called down by preachers like Elijah and
John the Baptist. To this day the Baptists have had among them many preachers of this stamp; who, with Paul's wisdom, have made the legitimate distinction between the work, if not the office of "evangelists," and that of "pastors and teachers."
Here finally is brought to view the independent, and therefore sometmes erratic and schismatic spirit already illustrated in the Anabaptists of Germany, which the principle of private Scripture interpretation begets. That same Elhanan Winchester, who was a chief "evangelist" in the Baptist ranks, became, when a "pastor and preacher," a Universalist. The same John Leland, in guarding against government legislation on religion, was led to argue against laws to give a Sabbath to public servants in the Post Office Department, lest the protection of a class of men on the Sabbath should be legislation on religion. The first pastor of the Still River Baptist Church, Dr. Isaiah Parker, after twenty-four years service, nearly a quarter of its centennial history, removed to Vermont in old age, married a young wife, and was drawn into Universalist views. Some of us, a large circle of whose esteemed kindred entertained this view of the Divine goodness, a view
charitable indeed in spirit though inconsistent with all ideas of government human or Divine, as well as opposed to plain Gospel statement, are boound to such friends by social ties that never can be ruptured; though, of course, such ties in Christ's Church must for the sake of his truth be severed. It is an impressive illustration of this fact, common at this day and for reason peculiar to the times, that just one week after the formal constitution of the Still River Church, on the memorable 4th of July, 1776, the records notice a meeting of the Church, for "dealings after the usual method in case of heresy with Tarbell Willard, his wife and the widow Amy Atherton.
The times of war now followed; and the history of Churches was necessarily fragmentary until the organization of the Federal Government in 1789. As early as October, 1774, a resolution of the Philadelphia Baptist Association is recorded recommending the Churches to "continue four days of fasting and prayer"; this wording implying that it had been their custom to observe quarterly days of prayer. The special object of these days of prayer is thus stated: "to humble ourselves before Almighty God, to implore his blessing
on the means of grace and the interposition of Divine Providence in this day of public calamity." In this, as in Christ's form of universal prayer, the spiritual is first, the secular is second in thought; and the fact that our fathers stopped just there in resolutions relating to political events is most instructive to us their children. In November, 1775, Dr. Manning, who was then filling the offices both of President of Brown University and the pastor of the Baptist Church at Providence, R. I., wrote to a brother pastor in London of the glorious work of grace that had been prevailing in both Church and the College; until, as he words the statement, it was suddenly checked by "the unfortunate affair at Lexington." He adds that he knows not how to explain the action of this cause in arresting the Holy Spirit's work, "unless it be that war is a hardening judgment." In Virginia, as we have seen, the work of conversion was most marked, especially nigh the close of the war; since, though, as Dr. Manning suggests, "war is a hardening judgment," the reaction to spiritual thought soon comes among rulers, soldiers and people. In 1784 eighty-four Baptist Churches in Massachusetts are enumerated.
After seven years of suspense during the war, and then six added years of doubt until the adoption of the U. S. Constitution in 1789, the Baptist principle of Christian doctrine and of Church order had a free field in which to be tested. Since that era the nation's history has passed through no less than four crises; marking so many periods of increasing tests. For three reasons our glance at the history of American Baptist Churches, illustrated in the progress of the Still River Church, may preserve the order. First, The tests of the principle of religious freedom are so inseparably linked with those of civil freedom that the triumph of the one might be expected to attend that of the other. Second, The Protestant world, represented in the Evangelical Alliance, assign to Baptists the mission of consistent and therefore everywhere successful advocacy of universal religious liberty. Third, The prevalence of Baptist principles in the United States is wonderously parallel to the advance of true popular institutions.
The first period of our Republic's history is that of the consolidation of American Institutions; extending from the adoption of the Constitution to the second war with Great Britain, and
embracing the administrations of Washington, of the fist Adams and of Jefferson; a period of about twenty years. The second is that of the testing of the stability of those institutions; extending from the second British war to Federal nullificiation, including the administrations of Madison, of Monroe, of the second Adams and of Jackson, a period of about twenty-four years. The third period is that of the adjustment of American Institutions to sectional convictions and interests; extending from the defeat of nullification to the war of seccession; including the administrations of Van Buren, of Harrison and Tyler, of Polk, of Taylor and Fillmore, of Pierce, of Buchanan and of Lincoln; a period of about thirty-two years. The fourth is that of the restored and perpetuated Union; forming the period on which we have now advanced for nearly twelve years under the administrations of Johnson and Grant. These marked political eras willl prove sufficiently definite waymarks for dividing into sections the history of the Baptist denomination; and with it of the Harvard Church, in which history only a few prominent points can receive attention.
During this first period the relation of government to civil and religious liberty
was discussed and adjusted as never before in the world's history. As an indication of the uncertainty of the public mind as to even the form which the government would take, on the gable of a building now standing at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets, Philadelphia, may be read the following; "By general subscription, for the Free Quakers; Erected in the year, Of our Lord 1783, Of the Empire 8." These Quakers, called "free" because they had separated from their co-religionists in taking up arms durng the war, had the settled conviction at the close of the war that the Government was to be Imperial; having an arbitrary military head. Meanwhile other men conceived that it was to be a constitutional monarchy, with hereditary sovereigns. During the eight trying years that intervened from the close of the war to the adoption of the Constitution, no class of men were ever more consistent and persistent in preserving their principle of harmonized civil and religious liberty than the Baptists; until the model given in Rhode Island, as Bancroft (U. S. Hist., Vol. I, c. 9) avows, and as Jefferson is said to have declared, became the pattern after which the Federal and State Governments were framed. Washington's own
testimony to their balanced view and stable action is thus recorded in a reply made by him as President in August, 1789, to an address from the Baptists of Virgnia: "The religious society of which you are members, have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends of civil liberty and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution." It would be easy to show how in minor details, as well as in the great underlying prinicple of American Institutions, Baptists have been consistent and intelligent workers. Under Washington the Fedralist, when the prinicples of French Red Republicanism were rife, when Genet the agitator was arrested and Shay's Rebellion was suppressed, the Baptist Republicans were supporters of the powers that were; and so under Jefferson the Republican, when the same French restiveness inspired the ambition for a south-western Empire having New Orleans as it capital, Baptist Federalists and Republicans were with the President in arrestng the traitorous attempt. Again, when the writings of Paine and of Volney were misleading many of the American people as to the fact that Government, though popular, must maintain order,
when Washington had to write "moral influence is not government," when the Constitution and Washington as one of its framers made the same disitnction between free religion and no religion which they made between free government, when under Federal and State Constitutions and Laws, the first day of the week was made a day on which legislation and judicial proceeding should be invalid, when Christian ministers were sustianed in the army and navy, in prisons and halls of legislation, out of the public treasury, though a few erratic minds, like John Leland, did not make the discrimination, the Baptists as a body maintained a truly balanced judgment. Again, when the public school system was to be elaborted, and when with that common forecast, which is always characteristic of truth and right, the leaders of both political parties recognized, as with one accord, that the New England system was the true model; when the virginia Republican Jefferson, after corrsepondence with the Massachusetts Federalist Adams, was in the Virginia House of Delegates, urging the establishment of district free schools, and was meeting the cry of "sectarian religious teaching" in these schools by the declaration,
"The words that flowed from the lips of Jesus are so simple that a child can understand them," the Baptist ministers cooperated with those of other denominations in making those schools what they became; the nurseries of that universal intellingence and religious enlightenment, without which no polular government can long be sustained. Yet again, while the effort in State Churches had always been to maintain superior education in the ministry, the Baptists held consistently the idea, now again urged, that an edducated laity is quite as essential to the welfare of society and to the up-building of Christ's kingdom as an educated ministry. The suggestion of Daniel Webster quoting Hosea's words, "It shall be like people like priest," that it is the people that make the priest rather than the priest the people, led the early Baptists to reverse the order of State Churches; and to seek first an educated people and then an educated ministry. No institution of learning more fully illustrated this than Brown University; whose character was not changed, but simply revealed, by Dr. Wayland, when in 1850 he contended for a curriculum of study adapted to make men rather than ministers. It was in keeping with this idea that Dr.
Hezekiah Parker, pastor of the new Harvard Church, from 1776 to 1800 was a thoroughly educated physician; and that his successor, Mr. George Robinson, who filled up the remaining years of the first era till 1810, was man of special general culture.
The second period, that of testing American Institutions, confirmed the civil and religious independence to which Baptist principles had led. Extending from A. D. 1810 to 1833, it covered fine [five] administrations; twelve years under two Virginia Federalists, Madison and Monroe, four under the second Adams of Massachusetts, and eight under the Virginia Democrat Jackson; an alternation precisely like that of the second era. Its events were, first, the test of relations to other nations in the War of 1812; second, there forming of old parties, the Federalist and Republican being succeeded by the Whig and Democratic; and third, State nullification foreshadowed in the Hartford Convention in 1814 and attempted by the South Carolina Act of 1832. The War of 1812 conflicted with New England interests; the tariff after the war with Southern interests. The existence of two parties made every question to be thoroughly sifted; it led to subdivision and new issues; and it
gave equipoise by shifting the ballast as the ship of State careened to the one or to the other side. A like testing came to the Baptist idea of Church independence.
When immediately after the established independency of the American Colonies. England, whose East India Company was formed 1n 1600, before any American Colony was successfully plantred, turned her attention to conquest in the East, and Lord Cornwallis who lost prestige in America, regained it n India, a new illustration of the value of religious indepependence appeared. While the established Churches of England and Scotland, since so efficient in their India M issions, were slow to act, the quick spirit of Carey and the ready working of Baptist institutions made them the leaders in meeting the first conquest in India involved. In America the equally independent Congregationalists first moved; but the conversion to Baptist views of Judson in one vessel and of Rice in another on their way to India made the American Baptists among the first to organize for Foreign Mission work. When Rice returned and found that Brown University was the only Baptist College, his tours
for Mission appeals from Massachusetts to Georgia took a double character. He found in the South, as in the North, that Baptist ministers were men educated for other pursuits; as lawyers, physicians, merchants, mechinics and farmers, often filling two professions. This peculiarity of the Baptist ministry in England, as well as in America, is in Sydney Smith's sophistical sneer in the Edinburg Review alluding to such men as Bunyan and Carey as "tinkers and coblers [sic]"; just as the Master was called a "carpenter." A few however of the ministry had received the thorough training which Judson, though not a Baptist, had sought at Brown University. All true Baptists recognized that if Christian missionaries were to meet as Paul did at Ephesus and Athens, the ablest scholars wedded to hoary systems of popular religious faith, they must be, like Paul, "trained" in the schools to "dispute" in the schools; and they saw especially that if they were to translate the Scriptures into other tongues the works of the inspired originals must be mastered. Yet more, while an occasional teacher like Williams at Wretham and Staughton at Philadelphia could not keep pace with the letters from every section of a great
country asking for instruction as to the meanng of the Greek text on questions of Baptist faith, it was apparent that the truth was worthy in every State and town of competent defenders. Never did the true spirit of John the forerunner of Christ, in his meek utterance, "He must increase but I must decrease," more transcendently shine, than when the very men who knew that their attainments would be dimmed by the new light, yet sacrificied to secure it. The whole country moved at once; so that simultaneously Waterville College, now in Maine, New Hampton Institute in N. Hamp., Georgetown College in Kent., and Columbian College, D. C., sprang to life; soon to be followed by Mercer University in Geo., Furman in S. Car., Wake Forest in N. Car. and Richmond in Virginia. In a little time Home Mission, Tract and Publication Societies became general; the Baptist cooperating heartily in all these till their own denominational interests at a later day called for separation and special work. The age, too, called for re-discussion in New England of the question of Church and State; whose settlement began in the Convention called in 1819 when Maine was to become a separate State, but was not
complete till a second Convention met in 1833. In the former, religous tests of those holding office or giving testimony were done away; but all not contributors to some other Christian Church were taxed to suppport the "standing order." The Baptist triumph which came everywhere else in 1789, came in New England in 1833. Again, moral questions, as temperance, slavery, union with secret societies, were discussed. The Baptist maintianed free discussion; some were extreme; but the body decided rightly as to the balance between individual freedom and social, civil and religious responsibility. Virginia, which in 1787 had ceded all the territories north of the Ohio now covered by the States of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to settlers opposed to slavery, met the Middle and Northern States on the question of slavery. The Constitution forbade slave importation after 1810; and when slave ships still persisted in the traffic, the naval vessels seized them and the re-captives were furnished an asylum on the African coast. As a body the Baptists recognized the demand of necessity as that of humanity; the more because the leading men of the South were of the same religious faith as the mass of the colored people.
In favor of temperance the whole weight of Baptist influence was thrown. On minor questions, as that of union to secret societies, the right of private conscience was respected.
In the sweeping revivals of 1817, Baptist evangelists, like John Leland and others of the former age, were active. It was especially noted, that, as in the three conversions discribed by Luke, those of the earnest and demonstrative Ethopian, the bigoted and cold Asiatic and the courtly and reasoning Roman, so the black race were among the first to be won to Christ's simple truth, while the stubborn red men and the enterprising white also were compelled to bow their wills and yield their convictions to the simple statement of the New Testament. Yet more, the discovery was made, though not always acted upon, that as Samuel when weaned at five years made his own personal vow of consecration, and as John and Timothy were as children sanctified, so children who at ten and twelve years of age possessed "unfeigned faith" should be permitted to profess that faith in baptism; the illustration of which in his own case your speaker gratefully recalls. Yet, again, and partly for this marked peculiarily which it gave to them, the
Baptists, as might be expected, were prompt to inaugurate Sabbath Schools, and to make those schools specially efficient in instructing and winning children;
as Timothy was first instructed, and then converted. Then as now the Baptist Sabbath Schools were noted for Bible instruction as distinct from catechetical.
At this era, too, the elastic system of Baptist Associaiton ripened into the larger gathering of Sate Conventions, called in Virginia the "General Association"; and these again culminated in the Union of all the States in the Baptist Triennial Convention. Before these bodies, as in District Associations, the general objects of missions, education, Sabbath Schools, &c., were brought for discussion, recommendation and co-operation. Here, again, appeared the wonderfully comprehensive and therefore harmonious views fostered by "Biblical" as distinct from "Dogmatic Theology." While some young students fresh from the opposing schools of Princeton and Andover, were ambitious to display their special bent, and quoted Edwards and Emmons and Hopkins, or Stuart or Wesley, the fathers saw that each had a partial truth; and that the Biblical counterpoises traced
by Andrew Fuller, the English Baptist, would at last prevail with Bible students. The doctrine of Free-will in Vermont and New Hampshire and of Anti-Missions in Western New York and Virginia, held only limited and temporary sway.
The pastor of this Church, from 1812 to 1832, Abisha Samson, was in 1800, then seventeen years of age, hopefully converted while teaching in the day school and on Sunday gathering the children employed in Slater's factory then just established at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Led to seek an education to prepare for the ministry, the reading of the Greek New Testament led him to become a Baptist; when he was baptized by Dr. Gano, of the First Baptist Church, Providence. After five years, during which the course at Brown was partially completed, failing eyesight led him to seek ordination; when he labored in the Island of Martha's Vineyard till the war drove away its people. While pastor for twenty years at Harvard, his library was well stored with Old English Theological and Biblical treasures; and to it was constantly added the more valuable issues of German, English and American authors as they came from the Andover and other presses. Thus his mind by the aid of
readers in his family, was well informed. The Quarterly Ministers' meetings, for days of conference and criticism, trained the power of presenting truth thus gathered. The third Sabbath service was spent at preaching stations in towns around, while the deacons conducted the evening prayer meeting; and the Still River Church thus became a centre of Baptist influence, and in time the mother of Churches. The agents of each newly inaugurated enterprise, missions, education, temperance, found a home with and an advocate in the Harvard pastor. When in 1819 the Convention to set off Maine, was called at Boston, this Church was most honored in its championship for religious liberty. The pastor of this Church, a member of that Convention, was the Baptist representative in a Committee of five, whose Chairman was Daniel Webster, to whom the articles of the Old Constitution which still maintained the union of Church and State, were referred. The part Webster took in that settlement is public. The part the Baptists, through their representative, had in that last struggle for relgious liberty in the American States, few will know till the Master on the final day may see fit to bring it out.
The Third period of the nation's history
must be briefly sketched; that from 1833 to 1861; preeminently the period for the adjustment of American sectional convictions and interests. While the first period was covered by three admoinistrations, two of which were double, the second by four, two of which were also double, this period of twenty-eight years had only one double administration and two half terms; making really seven administrations. As might be anticipated there was surface agitation, if not a profound upheaval in public sentiment, which caused this result. The old party lines shifted, and parties took new names; while at the bottom of it all was the purpose to limit the area of slave labor. It is needless to dwell on histories familiar to the minds of our generation; though of the more distant past it is necessary to speak. The agitation, which it was hoped would expend its fury in words, resulted in civil war; and the period closes with the war of sectional, rather than civil strife.
During this period the Baptist denomination divided in its Missionary work, because of Northern opposition to slavery. While, however, there were on both sides misjudgments, these related to social and civle relations. Southrn
Baptists were most faithful in their religious duty to the colored people; a larger proportion of the Southern negroes than of any community on earth were professed Christians; large numbers of them read their Bibles and hymn books; the separation of their families by sale was regarded un-Christian; and faithful preachers labored among them.
The Baptist General Convention met for the last time in 1844, and the Southern Baptist Convention and American Baptist Missionary Union were formed in 1845. In that organization prominence was given to an apostolic precedent always before recognized when occasion called for it. Paul in his epistle to the Galatians revealed the fact that at the council at Jerusalem, he first laid the question at issue "privately before them that were "of repution"; "lest," adds he with special significance, "I should run or had run, in vain." If even apostles needed private conference before laying a difficult question before an apostolic Church, and if without the harmony amiong leaders thus beforehand secured, the great apostle to the Gentiles would have failed in all his former and future work, surely it was a step in advance when Boards of direction were framed in Conventions, and
advisory business Committees in independent Churches.
Consequent on this national separation came the organization of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; while the Colleges and Seminaries of the denomination called for by local necessity still increased. During this period the incomparable educator Wayland, who had already trained a corps of educators to succeed him; gave a new lustre to the Baptist name. In his efforts from 1850 to graft a thoroughly scientific and practical course of elective studies on the regular classical College course, though at first alone, he drew Harvard, Yale and finally all the American Colleges to adopt the new system. The battle for religious liberty had now been fought and the victory won; for in 1833, the very year this period opens, the Mass. Constitution was again revised and then fully conformed to the law of religous "equality"; a word really though not apparently synonmous yet co-extensive with that of religious liberty. The more marked demonstration that Baptists were to be still the guardians of religious liberty, in foreign lands as well as at home, soon appeared. In 1833 Rev. J. G. Oncken of Hamburg, Germany, was led to embrace Baptist
views. Baptized by Rev. B. Sears, D. D., then studying in Germany, he began missionary labors which soon resulted in the spread of Baptist Churches throughout Germany. About twenty years later Denmark and Sweden felt the influence: Rev. A. Wilberg, becoming a Baptist. Coming for aid to this country, while at Philadelphia waiting for appointment by the American Baptist Publication Society, he visited Washington, D. C. A suggestion of a Baptist pastor there led to a vist to Hon. W. L. Marcy, then Secretary of State and a member of the Baptist Congregation. When the idea of official interpositon as an act of courtesy to American citizens in Germany, who were ostracized if faithful to their convictions, was suggested, the Secretary at first hesitated; but soon with ardor adopted it. Un-official letters to the American ministers in Germany, Denmark and Sweden met the approval of the reigning sovereigns; and immediately all government interference with Baptists was withdrawn. So silent, though so mighty, was the agency, few recognized it as the power of simple truth.
The most marked feature of this period, however, was the introduction into the ministry, especially in our
Cities and Northern States, of the new ministry educated in the Colleges and Seminaries which the previous generation had fostered. It is of vital importance, since the facts call for it, to note the experience of this Church. The brilliant first efforts of the new ministry, finished especially in manner, but often unable to sustain permanently the expectation formed of them, brought in a new era to all our Churches. All speakers trusting to rhetorical power, whether in the pulpit or on any platform, must like the Wesleyan ministry become itinerant. This new ministry subjected the Churches to many new inconveniences in the brief settlements of pastors. Yet, while the ranks of the ministry were largely supplied with men of brilliance rather than of stable and profound scholarship, a succession of thorough students was at the same time called both into the ministry and into Seminaries of learning. These rare and ripe scholars continually strengthened the foundation work, while the superstructure of our Churches was rapidly going up; thus meeting Isaiah's message from the great Master of our assemblies. "Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen they stakes." During this period the succession of pastors,
seven in twenty years's brief space, as compared with the three covering the former fifty-four years, would be an enigma but for the recognition of the principle just stated; to which must be especially added the diseased taste which change of feeding so soon begets. It is instructive to observe that this spirit of the people, rather than the change in preachers, led to the rapidly shifting, almost itinerant life of the new ministry; for the same shifting popularity attended political leaders.
Meanwhile, too, the ripple of dissent in doctrine, arising from partial study of Gospel truth as to the ordinances, fostered by the rhetoric of Robert Hall, as opposed to the logic of Andrew Fuller, had its culmination in this era. The discussion and its result, proved that the Appolos who so erred as to John's baptism in ancient times was to have his representatives in later ages; while the balanced views in the epistles of Paul always has filled and always will fill our Churches with Priscillas, as well as Aquilas, who can show to the eloquent young preacher the way of God more perfectly. Meanwhile, however, amid these ripples, which were but foam on the surface, every means by which "the truth as is in Jesus" is to be spread
and gain permanency, were rapidly developing. Not only did Baptist institutions of learning multiply, but their teachers were found from their very principles to be inspiring educators rather than authoritative teachers; drawing out and developing young men as thinkers and speakers, rather than casting them into a common mould of thought and style. Not only did missions, foreign and home, State and town, find in them earnest workers, but an economy of men and money was found to attend the effort to raise up Churches fired with the spirit of religious independence and of self-support. Not only did they cooperate in general Evangelical Societies to spread truth in the written pages, as in the American Bible, Tract and Sunday School Socities, but they became efficient in independent Bible translation, such as that of Judson, and in a comprehensive Gospel literature such as that furnished by the American Baptist Publication Society. During this period, the Harvard Church, greatly increased by a recent work of grace, was true to her former character and mission as a working Church.
The Fourth Period in our nation's history, was now ushered in with the boom of cannon attacking Fort Sumpter;
eventful in the history of both the American State and Church. The latter period had beheld the efforts of statesmen "whose like," perhaps "we ne'er shall see again"; and because the peculiar demand for such men may not be expected to arise. But, one after another, the men whose wisdom had overruled conflicting views were sleeping together. The virtual and controlling principles of Southern leaders were these; that an inter-state compact is less instead of more binding than a business contract; that though a league like the Greek Amphictyonic, or a Federal pact like that of the Swiss States, could not be ruptured without danger to all the parties interested, and therefore could not be suffered to be broken without a penalty, the American pledge of inter-state comity and of union against foreign invaders would be surrendered without a struggle; and that slavery, an inherited relation of unassumed responsibility, was to be construed as never before in the history of civilization, not as a training school for minors but as a perpetuated domestic institution. On the other hand the finally overruling spirit of the North was forgetful of past committal to the same theory, and repudiated existing bonds
to recognize the relation still imposed on sections less favored with facilities for successful emancipation
The war was fought through; the slaves, the innocent occasion of the war, were freed by a constitutional power of the Chief Executive as unlimited as that of the Czar of Russia; and when the smoke of battle cleared away, and all was calm, though sad, over the fields of slaughter and havoc, these two wondrous facts appeared. First, not a slave, in what it was supposed would prove a servile war, had lifted up his hand against his master; and second, not a leader in the war against the government was brought to trial.
A double reason without any question existed for both these facts; for all human actions are controlled by the balance that ourweighs in the scale wherein principle and interest conflict. As to the first result without question the then existing generation of colored people, so humane and Christian had been their relation, had little to gain of earthly good except the boon of freedom. As to the second, so little fixed was the question of State right under the Federal Constitution that the attempt at trial of the issue would have brought out precedents which presiding
Judges might have found it difficult to meet and adjudicate. But above all, beneath all, and controlling all, both in the exemption from servile revolt and the stay of political trial, there reigned a subduing power of vital Christian principle, the like of which the world had never before witnessed. Statistics show that of the nearly 2,000,000 Baptists in the United States there are 1,272,691 communicants in the Southern States; of which number 826,635 are whites and the remaining 456,036, more than one-tenth of all the colored people of every age and of both sexes, and hence about one-third of all the adults, are members of Christ's Church, trained to the Scriptural views and practice of loyalty to Christ and to every human relation already described. It is yet more worthy of note that in such a State as Georgia where the proportion of colored and white are nearly equal, one-sixth of the entire population, and in such a City as Richmond one-fifth of the entire inhabitants are members of Baptist Churches. Assuredly if the power of Baptist principles to bless and save has not been tested in the opening of this era no test of any moral influence can be expected. While in the South the stable "foundations" laid
by God's simple truth in the Gospel of Christ, have thus been "discovered," and their adaptation to any and every emergency has anew been tested, time would fail to dwell on all the ramifications of influence which Baptists views of truth have caused to culminate in our civil and religious history as a nation. Aside from the general advancement shared with other denominations American Baptists have, during the last period of our national history, added these facts to the record of their direct and indirect influence.
In the recent English and American effort for a revision of the commonly received version of the Scriptures, the attested merit of American Baptist scholarship is admitted to have fostered, if it did originate, and it is now found to have furnished special contributions toward, that revision. In Bible Sunday Schools, in making Scriptural, as opposed to catechetical instruction, the chierf feature of teaching given to children, has become univerisally prevalent and even international. Its mission for the promotion of religious liberty, has also been again demonstrated. When in 1871 a delegation of the English, the American and two European branches
of the Evangelical Alliance, had been unsuccessful in a direct appeal at St. Petersburg securing religious liberty for the Lutherans in the Baltic provinces of Russia, in 1873 in an argument laid before the Russian Minister at Washington, had such influence with the Russian Government that the Imperial Courts have reversed decisions of local courts against Baptists. Most of all within three years after the religious liberty thus asked was granted, the loyalty of Baptist Russian subjects, who, unlike the already favored Mennonites, were ready to meet their civil duty by bearing arms, became so conspicious at the opening of the Turkish war that their special services were gazetted by the Emperor.
Throughout the United States the influence of Baptists on other denominations has been silent but mighty, as to infant baptism, and through this on the recognition and incorporation of an unregenerate membership. About twenty years ago Dr. A. A. Hodge, now of Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote as follows on the terms of admission to the communion: "The Baptist Churches, denying altogether the right of Infant Church-membership, receive all applicants for the communion as
from the world, and therefore demand positive evidence of the new birth of all. All the Pedobaptist Churches, maintaining that all children baptized in infancy are already members of the Church, distinguish between the admission of the children of the Church to the communion and the admission de novo to the Church of the unbaptized alien from the world. With regard to the former, the presumption is that they should come to the Lord's Table when (as the Assembly's Confession states) they arrive at "years of discretion, if they be free from scandal, appear to be sober and steady, and to have sufficient knowledge to discern the Lord's body." In the case of the unbaptized worldling, the presumption is that they are aliens until they "bring a credible profession of a change." Among the Orthodox Congregationalists this difficulty was perceived full fifty years ago; the fact that infant-baptism necessarily implied the error was recognized; and hence infant-baptism has in that Church been more and more neglected. In most of the Presbyterian and Methodist, and even in some Episcopal Churches, the record of Dr. Hodge would at this day be deemed not accordant with fact; for, through the influence
of Baptist conviction, nearly all Pedobaptist Churches now require "positive evidence of regeneration" in the "child of the Church" as much as in "the alien from the world."
Associated with this fact is another, yet more significant; that in Baptist, more than in Pedobaptist Churches, parental responsibility for the spiritual regeneration, as well as for the moral conduct of children, is so deeply realized, that whole families, and that through successive generations, have been brought in childhood to personal faith in Christ and to a profession of that faith in Gospel baptism; many happy examples of which are furnished by the records of the Harvard Church. As to the form of baptism, not only Episcopalians, who find the form prescribed in their own Prayer Book, and Wesleyans who recognize the same order, but also Congregationalists, often ask the use of fonts in Baptist houses of worship, while, moreover, American scholars and diplomats, familiar with the customs of the great Oriental Church, filling all Eastern Europe, Northern and Western Asia, and Northern and Eastern Africa to Abyssinia, a Church retaining the original Greek Scriptures as their authority -
the ablest of American statesmen, familiar with that vast Church by the side of which Catholic Europe is a spot on the map of the world - men even wedded to other forms will say: "Of course the Baptists are right as to the original mode of baptism; as every one knows who sees the thousands at the Jordan in Palestine on Easter Monday, or the thousands on the ice of the Neva at St. Petersburg on Christmas day, going down in crowds into the water to be immersed."
Yet once more, when dissenting ministers of different denominations in London openly condemn as demoralizing [the] course of the so-called open-communion Baptists in inviting members of neighboring Churches to have their own communion and to attend on that of a Church which will not receive them as members unless they are first immersed; when an invitation to a union communion at the great gathering of the Evangelical Alliance in 1873 at New York was found to disrupt not the Baptists but the Episcopal Church; and when three years later at a Pan-Presbyterian assembly in Scotland the United Presbyterians contended so sternly that the Lord's Supper is as purely a Church ordinance as is baptism
itself, and when their view prevailed - perhaps it is not too much to say that the consistency of American Baptists in maintaining that by "Scripture precendent baptism is a prerequisite to admission to the Lord's table" - this consistent maintainance of Gospel order has had its just[ification ?] because [of] its divinely designed influence.
Brethren of the Harvard Church, He who "gave himself" for his Church that it might be "spotless," has certainly not been an uninterested spectator of all
this history at which we have glanced; for He himself has raised up the succession of men mighty in intelligect and mighty also in the Scriptures, who in every age have felt that He has given them "a banner to display because of His truth." In every age down to our day, in every land, this quiet valley of the Nashua included, believe it! He has been pleased with those faithful to His commission; first, "make disciples," second, "baptizing them," and third, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Can you doubt then that His beloved disciple, still leaning on His bosom, once more to-day smiles on our assembly; and that he is repeating "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Incidents in the History of the Harvard Baptist Church
Harvard, Massachusetts, 1876
[p. 83]Many items of local history will be of interest to a circle of Churches in Worshester Country. They relate to the town, the Church, its pastor, its associations, and its usefulness in giving origin to other Churches and in sending forth men to other fields. For the facts recorded as to the town the writer is indebted to his former school-mate J. B. Willard; for those relating to the Church and its pastors to its present pastor and senior members; and for those indicating its associational relations to the historic discourse of Rev. Dr. Weston and the contributions of his college-mate Rev. Dr. Bowers.
At the time of the first settlements of Salem and Boston the valley of the Nashua, written also Nashawogg and Nashaway , was occupied by bands of Indians ruled by a chief named Shaumaw or Sholau; whose headquarters were at Waushacum now Sterling. On a trading visit to Watertown Sholau asked settlers for his valley. Lancaster was incorporated May 18, 1653. Five years afterwards the town authorities asked the General Court at Boston to send a commission to aid in the government on the east bank of the Nashua. Simon Willard, whose estate is now in part held by his descendants, was sent; and the settlement of the
hamlet now known as Still River was one of the earliest in the State; precedng by many years that of Harvard proper. Simon Willard 's first and second wives were of the family of President Dunster of Harvard College; and, from the first, Baptist views prevailed in the settlement. It was a grandson of Simon Willard, Dea. Lemuel Willard, son of Henry Willard and Mary Dunster, who though he died in 1775 and was a deacon in the established Church, used to say, "If I lived where there was a Baptist Church I would unite with it." Among the earliest settlers, whose descendants for generations have been mainly Baptists, were the Houghtons, Athertons and Hasketts.
Simon Willard's second son, Samuel, became minister of the old South Church, Boston, then President of Harvard College. Probably it was from the relation of these two Presidents, Dunster and Willard, to the College and to the settlement, that the name Harvard was given to the new town on the east bank of the Nashua, incorporated in 1732; which included the hamlet of Still River. The opposition to superstition fostered by Baptist views, was illustrated in the clear reasoning and earnest energy of President Willard in opposing the witchcraft delusion.
The first record of the Church in existence is a memorandum made in 1870, and headed: "Account of the gathering of the Baptist Church, Harvard, with its additions." It begins: "1776, June 27th, fourteen persons imbodied themselves into a Church," &c. Their union-pledge reads: "We, Stephen Gates, Tarbell Willard, Isaiah Parker, Wm.
Willard, Jr., Josiah Willard, Joseph Stone, Ruth Kilburn, Sarah Kilburn, Jemima Blanchard, Rachel Willard, Annie Willard, &c." In one week's time, on the 4th of July, 1776, Tarbell and Annie Willard were tried for holding Universalist views and excluded. Isaiah Parker, M. D., who had studied medicine under Dr. Thomas Green of Leicester and became a Baptist one year before, in 1775, was ordained as pastor under an old elm; Dr. Stillman of Boston preaching the sermon. Among the first baptized was Joseph Haskell, then ninety years of age, who became a deacon, and died aged ninety-three. Dr. Parker baptized during his ministry of twenty-four years, 90 persons. He resigned late in 1798 because of difficulty as to the doctrine of universal salvation. In this early period appear the names of Jacob and Levi Haskell, baptized in 1782, and of Misses Lucy and Sarah Whiting, in 1785. Josiah Haskell, a son of Dea. Joseph, became a member of the Society, and his son Jacob of the Church; several of whose descendants have been active members during its entire history.
In the Spring of 1799 Elder Geo. Robinson became pastor. During the next year, 1800, a season of revival followed, when 28 were baptized. Soon after a division as to Universalist views resulted in the first adoption of Articles of Faith, May 5th, 1803. This was succeeded by another event, marked at the time; the election [on] August 23, 1803, of Benj. Willard to lead the choir. During this period the wife of Abel Willard became a member of the Church.
The Harvard Church was the eighth Baptist
Church organized in what is now Worcester County; the Churches preceding being Sutton in 1735, Bellingham in 1737, Leister in 1738, Dudley in 1744, Spencer in 1767, Grafton in 1767 and Douglas in 1774; but in numbers and influence the Harvard Church soon took the lead. The Warren Association, formed in Rhode Island in 1767, which had gathered into its body the leading Churches of Massachusetts, met witht the Harvard Church in 1790; when the Church was found for years to have had more communicants than the 1st Cambridge, 2d Boston, 2d Newport, and even the 1st Providence Churches; while also the Association was so hospitably entertained that they voted to meet again in the same Church in 1792. When in the town of Worsester only three Baptist communicants could be found, the Harvard Church numbered over 150 members.
On the 14th September, 1811, Rev. Geo. Robinson having resigned, Rev. Abisha Samson became pastor. During his ministry of twenty years, the Church began its mission in the neighboring towns. Not only were members drawn in from distant locations, as the Haynes family in bolton, the Chase family in South Lancaster, and the Burbank family in North Lancaster, but incursions were made into all surrounding towns. In June, 1816, as the Church record states, "Elder Samson preached in Boxboro and baptized four converts." In 1816 Levi Howard, Jr., was chosen deacon. "to aid Dea. Haven; and Chas. Chase, Jr., to serve the branch in South Lancaster." It is significant of growing conviction that the three were ordained together, August 4th, 1819. During the first twelve years of Elder Samson's pastorate
114 person were baptized. In 1821 the members in Littleton asked permission to sustain gospel preaching among themselves; and February 5th, 1823, thirty-four were dismissed to form a new Church. The record of May 1st, 1823, makes mention of a Committee of the Church appointed to superintend the S. School; a custom of Church supervision perhaps worthy of perpetuation. July, 1823, Benj. Willard, twenty years before appointed chorister, is licensed to preach. In 1824 the Church list is revised; and the number of members retained is 111. In 1827, as a farther step towards Church supervision, a S. S. Association is formed "with Elder Samson as Prest., Jacob Haskell as Treas., A. Burbank and Dea. Chase as Assistants." In 1829 Dea. Chase is "appointed Superintendent"; and A. Burbank is licensed to preach and recommended for ordination as pastor of the Townsend Church.
In the year 1831, the year of "Four Days' Meetings," a series of sermons by neighboring pastors from Tuesday through Friday, led to an extended revival; during which Calvin Haskell, Wm. B. Willard, with their wives, and many others of mature age, were baptized; as also some children, and among them the youngest son of the pastor. Of the fruits of that work of grace, and of the twenty years preceding pastoral labor, Rev. Andrew Dunn, pastor from 1860 to 1863, wrote; "Eternity alone will disclose the amount of good accomplished during this pastorate. Many who were converted through his instrumentality and ripened into mature Christians under his faithful watch care, still live and are active members of the Church. Doubtless long
after he shall have entered upon his final reward his name will be held in affectionate remembrance by the children's children of them who revere him as their spiritual father."
During this period, the weekly prayer meeting was held in a private house; the Sunday evening service was in a large dining room of the old Haskell mansion; and while the deacons usually took charge of this service, the pastor preached a third sermon at South Lancaster and other towns within a few miles range. Through this missionary work the germs of the following Churches were planted and nurtured: West Boylston, West Townsend, Fitchburg, Leominster, Littleton, Acton, Bolton, Clinton and Ayer Junction; most of which became distinct Churches later in the history of the Harvard Church.
During this period, in October, 1819, the Worcester Baptist Association was formed; among whose founders the pastor of the Harvard Church was prominent. Thirteen Churches formed this Association; the first in point of members being Holden with 165 and second Harvard with 144 members. Not long after the Massachusetts Baptist Convention, uniting all the Associations into one Representative body, was formed; and it is mentioned by Dr. Bowers as indicative of the comparative influence of the Harvard Church, that though such men as "Stillman, Baldwin, Sharp, Bolles and Going," were among its representative members, "Abisha Samson was elected President of the Convention more years in succession than any other minister who has ever served in that office."
During this period several men of mature years and one or two converted in early life were led into the Christian ministry. Among the former were Benj. Willard and Aaron Burbank, already mentioned; and among the latter was your speaker of to-day. Benj. Wallard was the father of Rev. F. A., of Andrew and of George Willard; the former of whom became so eminent in the ministry. Of the remaining period of the life of that pastor whose ministry closed in May, 1832, Rev. Dr. Weston makes this record in his history of the Worcester Association: "In the midst was Abisha Samson, pastor of the Church at Harvard. He remained a quarter of a century in the Association he had help to form; being pastor at Southboro till 1844. Then old and blind, he went to complete his life in the family of his son Dr. Geo. W. Samson, President of Columbia College, Washington, D. C." He died in June 1861; surrounded by regiments encamped on the College grounds, just when the booming cannon told of the first battle of the war over the Potomac. He had often expressed the wish that he might not outlive his usefulness. If prayer is of any value that wish was granted in the abundant blessing poured on the Church of which he was then a member; which from a little band of 21 members is now six flourishing Churches. If prayer is of any avail his were heard, when, quietly lying on his lounge he would exclaim as he heard the cannon, "George, can nothing be done to stop this cruel war!" and then would audibly plead with God that it might be "overruled for good."
The third and fourth eras of the history of the Harvard Church lose nothing in the brightness in comparison with the two previous eras.
In June 1832, Benj. Willard, a licentate, was invited to supply the pulpit. The building of the new-house of worship absorbed attention for some months, during which Mr. Manning remained. In November 1832, Rev. J. E. Lazell became pastor; but failure of health preventing him from preaching; the pulpit was supplied mainly by students from Newton Theological Institute; and in August, 1833, Mr. Lazell resigned. He died afterwards of hemorrhage from the lungs; beloved by all for his genial spirit.
In October, 1833, Rev. Benj. Hawthorne succeeded. He, too, was feeble in physical constitution; though earnest in manner. The untimely death of the lady to whom he was to have been married greatly affected him; and after a pastorate of less than two years he resigned in March, 1835.
In May, 1835, Rev. Moses Curtis, who enjoyed a ministry of about fifty years and was blessed with frequent revivals in several pastorates, succeeded. In 1841, during a special revival about thirty were baptized; some of whom were young men who became pillars in the Church. In March, 1842, Mr. Curtis resigned, and entered a new pastorate in Blecher town; where he died in 1874, at the age of 79 years.
In April, 1842, Rev. Clark Sibley became pastor. He was a man who "lived the Gospel." During his pastorate the "Second Advent" excitement compelled the withdrawal of the hand of fellowship from
some; but the pastor's calm and forbearing spirit specially fitted him to guide in such a storm. Many valuable additions were made to the Church under his ministry. He suffered long from cancer, but bore his pain with Christian fortitude. He resigned in 1850; and died some years later.
In August, 1850, Rev. Chas. M. Willard became pastor. He served till October, 1856; when amid the season of financial embarrasment the Church was for some time without a pastor.
In June, 1857, Rev. John A. Lerned succeeded. The social meetings assumed an unusual interest. But, as no special work of grace was manifested, he resigned in March, 1860.
In April, 1860, Rev. Andrew Dunn became pastor. His ministry was characterized by faithful labor; but after three years he resigned.
In July, 1863, Rev. Leonard Tracy became pastor of the church, and continued in office until July, 1868. During his ministry the church was prosperous; the additions to its membership were not large, but the genial, kind spirit of the pastor was manifest in developing union in every good word and work. While he was pastor of the church the meeting-house was remodeled, and a chapel added to it, for the use of the Sabbath School and for social meetings. As the result of his sowing, others have since been gathering in the fruits of his labors. His memory is precious.
In 1868, Rev. John A. Lerned again became pastor for one year.
In 1870, Rev. Wm. Leach became pastor. He died the next year, March 31, 1871, of an affection [infection] of the brain; the only minister that ever died on the field. His remains and those of his wife sleep in the Harvard burial ground; and he lives in affectionate memory for his own and for his work's sake.
In 1871, Rev. John W. Dick succeeded. After a brief pastorate he resigned in 1873.
In 1874, Rev. Daniel Round, the present pastor, began his labors. Ordained in 1839 at the Barnstable Association, he gathered the first Church at Nantucket, succeeded in rearing their house of worship, and served them five years. He was next pastor for six years of the High St. Church, Pawtucket, R. I.;
and afterwards eighteen months at Cohoes, N. Y., during which time a house of worship was there built. Engaging then for a time in secular buisness because of a throat difficulty, he began preaching in a schoolhouse in East Providence; which led to the forming of a Church, the building of a house and a pastorate of five years. Becoming then pastor at N. Wrentham, now Nofolk, another house was built during a pastorate of six years; when he removed at the request of Father Fitts to Baldwinsville, and in eleven months secured the erection of a house of worship. Taking charge then of the Church in Franklin, Mass., undertaking in trying times the effort to secure them a house, after two years he was obliged to take a second respite for three years. His pastorate in Harvard, begun in 1874, has brought fresh encouragement to the mother of so many Churches whose more favorable location has given them a more rapid recent growth.
Writing a summary view of the pastors of the Harvard Church, numbering in all fourteen, paying a fitting tribute to each, Dr. Bowen, gives the following designations of those deceased who where specially known to him: "Six have gone to their reward; first, the gentle and beloved Lazell; then, the earnest and vigorous Hathorne; next, the excellent Curtis; again the meek and tender Sibley; then again the genial gentlemanly Tracy; and sixth the kind and un obtrusive Leach." Of the entire list he says: "Of the fourteen ministers who during one hundred years have led the Church, no stain rests on the memory or moral character of a single one. All of them have been marked by a high sense of
virtue and honor; while some have been very eminent in piety and cconsecration. May this honored Church have men of as much woth of character during the next hundred years!"
[G. W. Samson, Baptist Succession, Or Baptist Principles in Church History, 1876. Typed from the original document; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
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