Bartholomew T. Welch, D.D.
Early 19th Century Baptist Minister
Bartholomew T. Welch, D.D. an eminent Baptist minister, was born in Boston, Sept. 24, 1794. There was something in the history of his ancestry that inspired and kept alive those feelings of patriotism, which were so marked a feature in his subsequent life. His father was a midshipman in the navy, and his grandfather a lieutenant. His grandfather on his mother's side was Bartholomew Trow, one of the famous party who threw over the tea in Boston Harbor. He was present at the battle of Lexington, and served his country in the Revolutionary war. His father died when he was but a child. The pastor of his early days was the excellent Dr. Thomas Baldwin, and he received a good religious education in his early home.
With a restlessness which is often characteristic of youth, he aspired after more freedom than he found in his home and at the age of seventeen he started for Philadelphia, making the journey on foot, with the hope of finding business. But the war had put a check to strictly mercantile pursuits, in which he had been reared, and he became an apprentice to learn the engraver's art. For some time he seems to have lived a thoughtless, careless life, so far as religion was concerned, and it is said that through a whole year he never entered a house of worship. At length, the Spirit of God took strong hold on his conscience. He saw the wickedness and folly of the course he had been pursuing, and his heart was bowed in submission to, Christ.
He was baptized, the first Sunday in September, 1815, by Rev. Dr. Staughton, and became a member of the Sansom Street Baptist Church in Philadelphia. In 1816 he removed to Baltimore, with the hope of meeting with better success in the practice of his art as an engraver. At once he identified himself with the cause of Christ and became an earnest worker in the vineyard of his Lord. It was not long before he felt an impulse, which he struggled hard to resist, to preach the Gospel. After many conflicts growing out of the consideration that he was utterly unprepared by the want of intellectual training for the sacred office, he yielded at length his own will and acquiesced in what seemed to him to be the call of God that he should be an ambassador for Christ. In August, 1824, he abandoned his profession as an engraver, and entered upon what was to be the work of his life. His early labors as a preacher were as a missionary among the destitute churches within the limits of the Baltimore Baptist Association. He crossed the mountains of Maryland and visited the villages and hamlets scattered along the banks of the Juniata, proclaiming as he went the news of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. One year was spent in such work as this. In the summer of 1825, he was on a visit to some friends in New York, and was requested to do the kind of work which he had performed so successfully in Maryland among the feeble churches of the Baptist denomination along the line of the Hudson River. In October of this year he was ordained as pastor of the Church in Catskill, and remained here a little less than two years, when he was called, to take charge of what is now the Emanuel Church in Albany, New York. He entered upon his duties here in September, 1827.
It was a dark day in the history of the Church when Dr. Welch commenced his ministry with them. "The Church," says Dr. Bridgman, "was feeble and staggering with their debt. The old theatre in Green Street had been turned into their sanctuary but the house was thought to be too large, and a partition had been built to save fuel, and to make neighbors of the worshippers." At once a change took place, and as a preacher Dr. Welch soon stood in the foremost rank among the most gifted and eloquent ministers in the city of Albany. A few years of such work as he put into his ministry told wonderfully upon the prosperity of the enterprise. The feeble band grew to be a Church of three hundred and twenty-seven members, "united in their counsels, free from all embarrassment, and in a condition of great material and spiritual prosperity." The question of colonizing began to be discussed, and after the usual delays, which arose from the reluctance of Church members to break away from their religious homes, it was decided that the time had come to engage in a new enterprise. An appeal was made to the friends of religion, and those who had become warmly attached to Dr. Welch, although not belonging to the Baptist denomination, for the necessary funds to carry out the projected plan. Among the contributors to these funds we notice the names of William L. Marcy, Martin Van Buren, Erastlus Corning, and P. S. Van Rensselaer. The corner-stone of the new church was laid in July, 1833, and the building was ready for occupancy in the month of October following.
A colony of about one hundred and twenty, with Dr. Welch as the pastor of the new church, took possession of what was then regarded as one of the most elegant houses of worship in Albany. The record of the results of a ministry of fourteen years in the Pearl Street Church is summed up in very general terms by saying that during these fourteen years five hundred and seven persons were received by baptism, and two hundred and sixty-two by letters from other churches. During all this time Dr. Welch took a prominent position in all the great religious enterprises in which the Baptist churches were interested, especially in the American and Foreign Bible Society, of which, for many years, he was the president. On resigning his pastorate of the Pearl Street Church, Dr. Welch took charge of the Pierrepont Street Church in Brooklyn, where he remained eight years, and then removed to Newtonville, near Albany, and was pastor for ten years. Worn down by the labors of his long ministry, Dr. Welch went into retirement. His great powers gradually grew weaker and weaker; until the lamp of life went out, to be rekindled amid the glories of a better world. He died Dec. 9, 1870. See Minutes of the Hudson River Baptist Association for 1871.
[From McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia, via Internet. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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