THIS chapter will not be so lengthy as was expected, since many of the observations and articles, which it was to contain, have been anticipated in the preceding narratives.
Morgan Edwards, about forty years ago, observed that the Baptists were more agreed as to the credendi than the agendi of their order; that is, they were more united in their doctrinal sentiments, than in modes of practice.
At present there is some diversity on both of these points. But when we consider that they are spread over an extent of country more than two thousand miles in length, and from five hundred to more than a thousand in width; that they have rapidly increased from a small community to a numerous host; that among them are persons from almost every nation in Europe, and from nearly every religious persuasion in Christendom; that they are not bound to subscribe to any Articles or Confessions; that every church is a distinct, independent body, governed by its own laws and amenable to no foreign tribunal; that they admit of no dictating synods, nor controlling assemblies; I say, when all these things are considered, instead of being surprised at any diversity in smaller matters, it is rather a subject of wonder that there is such an agreement in their doctrinal views, and such a correspondence in their maxims and modes of procedure.
It must be understood, that the observations we are here making, regard the Associated Baptists, and those, who are in communion with them. The minor sects of baptized believers, have been described under their respective heads.
Throughout America and in England and its dependencies, the Baptists form but one body. A brother from the farthest churches on the American continent, or from the remotest part of the British dominions, need only produce a certificate of his regular standing, to be admitted to the communion and fellowship of any church where his lot may be cast. And by messengers from one Association to another, by the interchange of minutes, by epistolary communications, etc. there is a correspondence constantly maintained throughout this wide connection.
There is, generally speaking, a great similarity of manners among all the churches on the American continent; and the same, I conclude, may be said of them elsewhere; yet there are some differences arising from local habits, and from that cameleon disposition of taking the color of the nearest object. In many parts of the New-England States, there is a dull, unanimating manner, among both ministers and private Christians, which they seem to have borrowed from their Pedobaptists neighbors. In most parts of the Southern and Western States, you find among them much of the fervor, the ado, and amen, of the Methodists. Among free country churches in all the States a cordial and unaffected hospitality prevails; every house is a welcome home for ministers and brethren, who may call.
The churches in towns and cities for the most part exercise hospitality to a good degree, and some at the southward pay a marked attention to visiting brethren, especially ministers. A few cities and principal towns, in different sections of this wide-spread empire, are visited by so many brethren and even ministers on business of a secular nature, who, as it is right they should, provide lodgings for themselves, that it sometimes happens that those, who are on religious or preaching visits only are left to provide for themselves.
Take this denominations at large, I believe the following will be found a pretty correct statement of their views of doctrine. They hold that man in his natural condition is entirely depraved and sinful; that unless he is born again — changed by grace — or made alive unto God — he cannot be fitted for the communion of saints on earth, nor the enjoyment of God in Heaven; that where God hath begun a good work, he will carry it on to the end; that there is an election of grace — an effectual calling, etc. and that the happiness of the righteous and the misery of the wicked will both be eternal.
The doctrines 1 of Arius and Socinus, with their concomitant train of errors, have found scarce ally advocates among them; if any embrace these, they are by a general consent disowned and excluded from fellowship.
The doctrine of the Atonement has been differently understood. “The old churches pretty uniformerly held that it was particular; that is, that Christ died for the elect only, and that in his stupendous sufferings, no respect was had to, nor any provision made for, any others of Adam’s ruined race.
This was called the strict Calvinistic or Gillite plan. Yet there have been some all along, who found this meat too strong for their appetite and digestion. These brethren, notwithstanding they disclaimed all merit in the creature, and held that salvation was by grace alone, were generally denominated Arminians, as it was thought there could be no medium between the systems of John of Geneva, and James of Amsterdam. The latitudinarian principles of such brethren, had, however, gained ground considerably previous to the importation of Dr. Fuller’s piece, entitled, The Gospelworthy of all acceptation, which represents the Atonement as general in its nature but particular in its application. This new explanation was by many considered as affording peculiar relief to the embarrassments of the Gillite plan; multitudes every where became the disciples of our famous English divine; so that now it is probable the greater part of the American churches have fallen in with his views. There are some, however, who find considerable difficulties attending both Gill’s and Fuller’s definitions of this mysterious subject, and who, without either sceptical indefference, or a strenuous attachment to systems of human arrangement, content themselves with believing merely, that God So loved the world, that he gave his only begotton Son, that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The ministers of this connection are, for the most part, a set of plain laborious preachers, who strive more to address themselves to the consciences of their hearers, than to amuse them with the flowers of rhetoric and the embellishments of style. But a small portion of them have any considerable share of human learning, but they are capable of speaking to the understanding and comfort of their brethren: no set of preachers, except the Methodists, are more incessant in their labors; none preach with greater effect; and, with not many exceptions, they have and do now support a character becoming their sacred profession: and if some have turned out bad, let the denomination that is without sin, cast the first stone. When it is considered how little they have received for their services, and how straitened their circumstances have been, it is a matter of surprise that they have continued so incessant in their labors. Some may ascribe their zeal to party and proselyting motives; but those who know them best, will trace it to a higher and more respectable origin.
As a body, the temporal circumstances of our brethren, notwithstanding their scanty allowances, have been bettered more than a hundred per cent. within twenty or thirty years past. I am inclined to think, considerably over five hundred churches have arisen on ground which was in a wilderness state at the close of the last war. Most of the preachers who emigrated early to these settlements, have, by taking up new lands at a cheap rate, and by clearing them by their own exertions, and by the assistance of their brethren, obtained estates which afford them a comfortable subsistence; and some, by this means have acquired a considerable degree of opulence. Many of those in older settlements, have, from necessity, found out expedients, by which they have obtained a competent supply of the meat that perisheth; some have acquired good estates by inheritance, but not one in a thousand has laid up riches to any considerable amount from his salary for preaching.
Of the great numbers of Baptist ministers in America, twenty or thirty are probably worth twenty thousand dollars, or upwards; a very few are reputed to be worth from three to five times that sum. From fifty to seventy-five, may be worth ten thousand; four or five hundred, five thousand; probably about two hundred 2 are absolutely poor, and the rest have estates of every variety of value under the sum last mentioned. The acquisition of the knowledge necessary to make this statement was not a constituent part of the original plan of this work; but having the curiosity to learn the circumstances of my brethren, I made inquiries, not of them, but of their neighhors, and am confident I have not overrated their temporal abilities.
A great portion of these ministers are in the middle and advanced stages of life; those who are young in the ministry, and such as may hereafter engage in it, have a three-fold prospect before them: 1st, they must engage in a systematic course of secular concerns for a livelihood, which cannot but obstruct their ministerial usefulness; or, 2dly , they must be contented to sit down under the pressure of penury and want; or, 3dly , the churches must come forward upon a more liberal plan, and show by their conduct that they believe what their Bibles teach them on this important subject, viz. that the laborer is worthy of his hire, and that they, who preach the gospel, shall live of the same.
These sentiments, our churches uniformly profess to believe, and yet too generally conduct as though they had but little influence on their minds.
Their parsimonious habits with regard to the support of the gospel, were acquired at an early period of their existence, and mostly by means of their ministers, who declaimed much against hirelings, salary-men, etc., and many had to feel through life the ill effects of their instructions.
In New-England, the business of parish taxes for the support of the established clergy, was pushed forward with rigor, and ministers and brethren united to cry down the offensive and unrighteous economy, but took no pains to establish a better one in its room. The tobacco salaries of the Episcopal clergy in Virginia became obnoxious to all dissenters, and to none more than the Baptists; but in arguing against them, they, like the New-Englanders, forgot, or at least made no provision for a gospel method ot supporting their own ministers. Neglectful habits in both cases ensued, which have had an extensive and unfriendly influence. Kentucky is nothing more than a part of Virginia moved over the mountains; and to the other western, and all the more southern States, Virginian brethren emigrated, and carried their calculations with them.
There is a line of old churches through New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, which never had any ecclesiastical establishments nor religious publicans to contend with, and which have, from their beginning, been better endowed, and made better provision for their ministers than any Baptist churches in America.
In the peculiar cireumltances we have mentioned, and under the unfriendly biases they produced, most of the early churches in this country began their career; and from the unseasonable indiscriminating discourses of their ministers, they became deeply instructed in a lesson, which covetous nature is apt enough to learn, the embarrassing effects of which are felt to this day. A deacon once said to his minister, The Lord keep thee humble, and we’ll keep thee poor. A minister once said to his people, whom he was obliged to leave, You love the gospel, but you love your money better. But whatever inconveniences ministers feel from the parsimony of their brethren, they generally decline saying much on the subject. And indeed it is an unwelcome task for a minister to teach a lesson, which he is much interested to enforce, but his people to oppose and neglect. If a church cannot see and will not supply the needs of their pastor, let him give them a hint of it by a letter of resiguation, and not be always begging for more salary.
The brethren in Virginia perhaps exceed those in any other State in withholding their carnal things from those who labor among them. One of their ministers, who is very thoroughly acquainted with their affairs, writes thus: “The support of preachers in Virginia is extremely precarious.
By most it is viewed as a matter of alms, and of course afforded only to the needy. I doubt whether there is one, who averages 300 dollars per annum, and perhaps not ten, who get 150 regularly. Some of the most popular and laborious preachers in the State, often pass more than twelve months, without receiving a cent for their public services. No man dare preach about it. He is at once defamed as a money-hunter, etc.” Similar observations may be made respecting the churches in many other parts of the United States. The same writer informs us, that “the preachers in Virginia, notwithstanding their scanty allowance, are generally upon a mediocrity in point of property; if any thing, rather below.” Ten, he supposes, may be worth ten thousand dollars each, independent of their slaves; seventy or eighty, five thousand; and not more than twenty in the State may be called paupers. One minister in Chesterfield county is reputed worth a hundred thousand dollars.
As a further illustration of the views of many of our brethren, respecting their duty towards their ministers, we will quote the two following ingenious pieces, which were written about the same time, by men who lived about a thousand miles apart, and who appear to have been wholly unacquainted with each other. The first was published by Mr. John Leland, in his Budget of Scraps, in 1810. The other is part of a Circular Letter, which was published in the Minutes of the Georgia Association, for 1808. The letter, as appears by the Minutes, was written by Rev. Thomas Rhodes. “MANY MEN OF MANY MINDS” “How various are the opinions of men respecting the mode of supporting gospel ministers! “ A thinks that preachers of the gospel should be qualified, inducted, and supported in a mode to be prescribed by the statute laws. “ B is of opinion that a preacher is not entitled to any compensation for his services, unless he is poor and shiftless, and cannot live without the alms of the people. “ C says, that it takes him as long to go to meeting and hear the preacher, as it does for the preacher to go and preach, and their obligations are therefore reciprocal. “ D believes that a rich preacher is as much entitled to a reward for his labor as if he was poor. “ E believes a preacher should give the whole of his time to reading, meditating, preaching, praying, and visiting; and therefore he ought to be liberally supported; not in the light of alms, but in that of a gospel debt. “ F joins with E, with this proviso, that the liberal support be averaged on all the members of the church, according to property and privilege. “G also agrees with E, provided the liberal support be raised by a free, public contribution, without any knowledge or examination what each individual does. “ H chooses to tax himself, and constable his own money to his preacher, without consulting any other. “ I loves the preachers, and pays them with blessings; but the sound of money drives all good feelings from his heart. “When J hears a man preach, that he does not believe is sent of God, he feels under no obligation to give him any thing; and when he hears a preacher that gives him evidence that he is in the service of the Lord and devoted to the work, he forms the conclusion that the Lord pays the preacher well for his work as he goes along. “ K likes preachers very well, but preaching rather better: he feels, therefore, best pleased when the preacher fails coming, and a gap opens for himself; for he had rather wink his passage, and take his tarn at the helm, than pay a pilot. “ L argues, like a man, that the preacher ought to receive something handsome for his services; and laments that himself is in debt, and cannot communicate any thing without defrauding his creditors: at the same time, he takes special care to keep always in debt for cheap farms, wild land, or some other article of an increasing nature. “ M is a man of a thousand. He argues that the mode of supporting ministers is left blank in the New-Testament; because no one mode would he economical in all places: but that the deeditself is enjoined on all, who are taught by an ordinance of Heaven. If, therefore, a contribution is recommended, M will be foremost to the box. When a subscription is judged most advisable, his name will be first on the list. If averaging is considered most equitable, he will add a little to his bill, lest others should fail. And if no mode at all is agreed upon, still M, as an individual, will contribute by himself; for he reasons, that if others are remiss, it is neither precedent nor excuse for him. He does not give to be seen of men, but because his heart is in it: and these gospel debts (as he calls them) he pays with as much devotion, as he spreads his hands in prayer to God. The creed of his faith, which seems to be written on his heart, is, “That although all the money in the world cannot purchase pardon of sin, or the smiles of a reconciled God; yet religion always has cost money or worth, from Abel’s lamb to the present day. And that the man who will not part with a little money, for the sake of him who parted with his blood for sinners, is a wicked disciple.” “ N approves of the faith and profession of M in every particular, but reduces nothing of it to practice. “O, like his make, believes nothing, does nothing, and is as near nothing as any thing can be.” From the Georgia Minutes. “THE CHURCH IN CONFERENCE ASSEMBLED" “The deacon arose and said, “It is time, brethren, to make up something for the support of our minister.” Offering a subscription) Whereupon, “ A said he thought it to be a matter of mere charity, and (as charity begins at home) he was bound to provide for his own; at any rate, he thought the minister to be as well off as he, and many of his brethren were; and therefore considered himself under no obligation. “ B replied, that it could not be a matter of charity at all, since the laws of nature and of God enjoined it and their own call of the brother made it a matter of moral obligation. “ C alleged that he had subscribed liberally to a useful institution, and must be excused in that case. “ D said, he had assisted freely in building the meeting-house, and must have time to recover it. “ E rejoined, he had been building houses or mills, and had no money left for any purpose. “ F said he had a son lately married, and it had called for all he could raise. “ G stated, that he had made several contracts, and feared he should not be able to meet them, etc. “ H arose and said, he was very much astonished at the pleas urged; as if liberalities to other institutions, aiding to build meeting- houses, erecting costly houses, making sumptuous marriages, or contracts to amass wealth, could exonerate from a positive duty. “ I remarked, he had made a short crop, and had nothing to spare.
To which agreed J, K,.L, and M. “ N said, he was poor, and though willing, was unable to do any thing. With whom O,P, and Q agreed. “ R stated, that short crops and poverty might excuse from doing much, but could be no just plea for doing nothing; since it is required according to what he has, and not according to what he has not. “ S said, he never subscribed to any paper. To whom said T, “Yes, brother, I am for none of this obligation; if I get any thing to spare, I will give it, and be done with it.” “ V, W, X and, Y, alleged, that they thought it rather dangerous to give liberally, lest they should make their minister proud, and so hinder his usefulness, etc. “Z, rising soberly, said, he bad attended to what had been said on the subject, and was grieved in spirit to hear so many objections to the discharge of a reasonable and just duty: he feared that a spirit of pride and covetousness had disposed them to serve themselves of the good things of God, without returning him one thankful offering: he wondered how Christians could expect the continuance of the blessings of life, who are more abusive of, and unthankful for them, than heathens who never use any of a new crop, till they have offered the first fruits to the great Giver of all good. To the brethren, who are so afraid of spoiling the minister by liberalities, he said, “are not your sons and daughters as lovely, and their souls as precious in your sight as your minister? If so, why do you not govern them by the same rule; and when the sons request superfines to wear, high prized, gaily horses andfifty or sixly dollar saddles to ride, and the daughters fluttering dresses with trails from three tofive feet in length, fine bonnets and feathers, and other costly equipage of dress; why do you not say, “no, my lovely children, these will make you proud and ruin you.” No, your families can be and appear in all the fashionable elegance of dress, and your boards loaded with all the luxuries of life, without adverting to the evil consequences of such conduct. “I would, (said he) that brethren would be consistent.” “Dear brethren, the spirit and result of the above are often seen in the face of your subscription-papers. There we see annexed to some names ten dollars; to others, five; others, one; and others, nothing; some giving and others withholding more than is meet; by which it much oftener happens that the preacher is like the colt tied, where two ways met, than likely to be exalted by the abundance of your liberality. And, indeed, if any of you think the standing and usefulness of your minister depend on his poverty, we would advise you to be liberal to him, that he may be proven and stand in his true light; and especially we recommend this measure, as thereby you will havedone your duty, and relieved a poor minister of God on the one hand, or have detected a hypocrite, freed the church of a pest, and the world of an impostor, on the other. The faithful servant of Christ, instead of being haughty, would be humbled by the abounding of your liberality. How relieved and comforted would the poor minister be, if his brethren were to say to him, as a late, meek old minister said to a young one on his commencing his ministry — “Go on, brother, in the cause of your Master, and be not anxious about the family, for they shall never suffer as long as I live.” But we speak not with respect to want, or that we desire a gift; but that you may have fruit, which may abound to your account, to praise and honor at the coming of Christ, the chief Shepherd. Philippians 4:11-17.” The churches in the cities and principal towns have generally devised means to afford their pastors a competent support: many of those in the country have reformed much of their former negligence, and a more liberal spirit is, in many places, prevailing.
A review of the progress of the gospel will convince us that churches are seldom on the gospel line with regard to the support of their ministers; and it is highly probable that upon a large scale the cause of Christ has been more injured by ministers’ receiving too much than too little. A preacher, who has a princely salary, is tempted to adopt a style proportionate, and in consequence becomes inaccesable and unprofitable to the poor of his flock, who are generally the most numerous and better part of it.
There is a place somewhere between the palace and the alms-house, where the ministers of the gospel ought to reside; but it is a notorious fact, that the real servants of Christ, in all ages and countries, as John Leland somewhere observes, have been like the camels of Arabia, who, while they carry spices and jewels, feed on shrubs and thistles.
As to our connection in America, we will not cast all the blame of this affair on the churches, since the ministers ought to bear no inconsiderable share of it. Many, we have shown, by their imprudent discourses, excited prejudices, which were hard to counteract; and some at this present time, who have a competency of worldly things, either by heirship or by the favorable turns of fortune, refuse to receive a reward for their ministerial services; and, to gain popularity, speak often on the subject, and rather discountenance the practice, not considering that but few of their brethren are in their circumstances. Many, who engage in the ministry, go directly into secular employments, before they try the experiment, whether they will be supported without them. They soon get so embarrassed in worldly pursuits, that they cannot devote much time to study nor visiting their flocks; so that if their people give them but little for preaching, they give as much as it is worth. And it may happen that those, who have competent salaries granted them, instead of being assiduous in the duties of their ministry, spend most of their time in indolence, or else in plans and pursuits to lay up money. We do not pretend that many of our ministers come under this last class, as but few of them are in the circumstances it describes.
The Baptists have constantly been accused of despising literature, and of teaching maxims unfriendly to its prevalence. This is an accusation in many respects groundless, in others it needs some quailfication. The acquisition of the common rudiments of learning, they have certainly always encouraged; but they have so often seen Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, placed over the head of the Savior, that it is not strange if they have carried their prejudices against learned ministers to an undue extreme.
But a relish for literature is prevailing, and its usefulness to ministers is more generally acknowledged than formerly, though none of our churches nor any of our ministers, whether learned or unlearned, have adopted the most absurd of all absurd propositions, that a man of gifts and grace, who has a dispensation of the gospel committed to him, cannot be qualified for the work, until he has gone the round of academical studies — obtained a smattering of Greek and Latin — of Euclid and Algebra — Navigation and Surveying — been constituted Master of Arts — and studied divinity six months or a year. Should the period ever arrive in which Baptist churches shall confine the ministry to college-men only, then transmigration will be rapid, and other churches will be formed from them, as they have been built up from all others, who have adopted this practice.
That learning is useful for a preacher, none, who know its benefit or have felt its need, will deny; but the true church of Christ never has, and in my opinion never will, hold that gospel ministers may not guide their fellowmen in the path of salvation without it.
The Baptists in all countries and ages have allowed and encouraged all their brethren, who have gifts, whether set apart for the ministry or not, to exercise them in their assemblies; and, when they are alive in religion, have many conferences and social meetings for the purpose. Meetings for social worship will generally be found a good thermometer, by which the temperature of churches may be correctly ascertained: those which have no meetings except on Lord’s days, and where none but the minister takes any part in devotional exercises, may be considered in a cold latitude.
Some of our churches approbate brethren to preach, whose gifts lie mostly in exhortation, and many have wished for some regulation of this matter.
In churches where graces abound, and whose members stand at their proper posts, there will be a great variety of gifts, which ought to be encouraged as helps, both to the pastor and flock. These gifts ought to be examined by the church, and each brother advised to exercise himself in the duty, which he appears best qualified to perform. But none should be sent out in the ministerial character, nor be invested with the pastoral office, but such as are able both to unfold and defend the doctrine of the cross. A brother may be useful at home, who is poorly qualified to travel and preach abroad.
Our churches generally license (as it is called) those who have gifts promising for the ministry; and after standing as lincentiates a year or two, they are ordained as administrators. This custom they have probably slid into without much consideration. Some are of opinion that a man, who is fellowshipped as a preacher of the gospel, should at the same time be qualified to administer its ordinances. If it be said, a trial is necessary to determine whether he have gifts or not, they reply, Let this trial be sufficiently made before he receives his license or approbation, and let him be kept at home and under the eye of the church during the time. This measure would confine ordinations to the church.
Most, who become preachers among the Baptists, do it with reluctance and with many tears of their insufficiency; and indeed I think no man should undertake to preach, if he can, with a good conscience, let it alone; or, to speak without paradox, those whom God designs for his service will find a necessity laid upon them; all their views, plans and calculations will center in the service of the sanctuary, and all the anticipated scenes of future life will be placed in the gospel vineyard. When churches are in gospel order, those who are excited by the Divine Spirit to the sacred work of dispensing the word of life, will have no occasion to press their brethren for approbation: they will discover their gifts, will foster them, and lead them forward to their proper employment. There are, now and then, cases of brethren taking it into their heads they must preach, when no body else thinks they can; and some churches, instead of dealing plainly with them, and deciding according to their judgments, set them to work to keep them quiet. But these instances, we are glad to say, are not common.
Associations among the Baptists have arisen, in some cases, from necessity, in others from convenience, but in most from imitation. Their utility cannot be disputed; their powers are generally defined to be just none at all, and yet many fear that they may in time usurp too high a place. Many benefits have followed their operation, yet some difficulties have also attended their progress, as the preceding narratives will show.
When they are held and managed as assemblies for edification and councils of advice, no harm can possibly result to the churches from them; their independency, in the strictest sense of the word, may be maintained in an associate connection. There is, however, in the human mind, an anxious desire for a court of appeal; and some Associations, by listening to the complaints of individuals, by interfering and deciding in the controversies of churches, have embarrassed their progress, and taken stands which they could not maintain, consistent with their advisory principles. Churches in the same Association often fall into disputes, by which their fellowship is interrupted; and it is certainly preposterous and inconsistent for them to remain in an associated fellowship, when they are at variance at home. In such cases, all agree something should be done; but this something has never been clearly and satisfactorily defined. Some, because of these things, object to Associations altogether, as difficult in their management, dangerous in their consequences, and likely to do more hurt than good. It is oftener much easier to find fault with others than amend ourselves: those very persons, who object to Associations, form notwithstanding, ecclesiastical combinations much of the same nature. As naturally as animals of the same species flock together, so will Christians of the same sentiments gather into churches, and churches of the same faith and order firm into combinations or Associations of some kind or other. Most heads have horns, which may be misused; all have places where they may be planted, and the business of those who fear their effects, is to bind them fast, or keep them from growing. A duly organized church of Christ is the highest ecclesiastical tribunal on earth, from whose decisions there is no appeal. If Associations cannot be maintained without infringing upon this principle, they had better be given up: but those, who have been the longest concerned in them, and who are best qualified to give a judgment in the case, believe they can.
The word Society is used in different senses by different portions of the American Baptists. It is frequently applied in all places to the denomination at large. In Kentucky and some other parts, when they speak of members in society, they mean church members only. In some places, particularly in New-York, by society meetings are generally understood meetings for social worship; but throughout New-England, and in many places in a number of other States, the term Society is applied to a body of men, who profess an attachment to Baptist principles, and who are associated in a distinct capacity to co-operate with the churches. The laws of New-England make it necessary for every dissenter to take shelter somewhere; the Baptists, at an early period, set apart outward sanctuaries, like the court of the Gentiles, hard by the porches of their temples, in which those, who were inclined to their sentiments, might find protection.
And now a multitude of churches in New-England, and many elsewhere, have attached to their interests large fraternities of adherents called society-men. They have no voice in the churches, nor any concern in their discipline or spiritual affairs; in outward concerns they take a part, and often do the most. These societies are regulated by rules of their own, and no very rigorous requirements are made of candidates for admission. The brethren of churches generally are members of them, some others are hopefully men of piety, who have not professed religion, and of the rest many are worthy characters, who are sincerely attached to the Baptist cause, and do much for its support; but some are like rough or rolling stones in a building; they have no conviction of Baptist sentiments, care nothing for them or their cause, laugh at their zeal, and after having christened themselves with their name, ridicule all their distinguishing sentiments and practices; in some instances, they have been chased into this Baptist out-house by the pariah assessors, in others they have come from political motives, many from whim and caprice, but nobody can tell why many of the rest have taken a stand on the Baptist side. These observations must be understood as applying to this social system at large. These societies are not always set in motion by church members, but are often formed before any churches arise, and cases are not unfrequent for them to exist many years without any church near them. Many of these societies are now found in Connecticut; they must take some name, and as the Baptists are the most popular dissenting sect, they choose theirs, but they are often about as clear of Baptist principles as the Saybrook Platform. They are mere bodies politic, and are founded from motives not purely religious, in most cases, Church and Society are like the two branches of a legislature, only one legislates on spirituals and the other on temporals; the concurrence of both branches, however, is generally sought for in the settlement of ministers, and all important undertakings, which regard the community at large. Between these two branches a good degree of harmony generally subsists, but in some instances the church is thwarted, embarrassed, and overruled in its measures by the more numerous and wealthy society-men, especially in the settlement of ministers. All the Pedobaptist establishments in New- England exist under the firm of Church and Society, and many of the Baptists and Methodists, and almost all other dissenters have adopted the economy. These societies have enabled many of our churches to build cosily meeting-houses, and do many other great things, which might not have been done without them; but after all that may be said in their favor, it is sincerely believed, that it would have been more for their reputation and comfort, if they had never existed. If I am rightly informed, our brethren in England know nothing of this economy; and I am certain, that more than half the churches in the United States have none of these curious appendages. Real friends and adherents do just as much in building meeting.houses, supporting ministers, etc. where they are not formed into societies, as where they are; and one peculiar advantage of being without them is, that houses of worship and other property for religious uses are and must be vested in the churches, and be under their direction and control. But the existence of these bodies has led to an embarrassing tenure of possessions of this kind, which many of our churches are heartily sick of, but which they cannot well reform. Those who are beginning their measures, will do well to avoid it. Let houses of worship, and all possessions be held by the churches, and let them be contented with what they can do upon this principle. These reflections are not intended to have any bearing upon party disputes on this subject; they are the result of many observations I have made in my travels among the American churches.
In England, all must pay their tithes to the church, let them belong to what denomination they may; the New-England law-makers have provided an escape for dissenters, as we have already shown. The most we can say in favor of these societies is, that they have afforded a shelter for many characters, who would, without them, have been distrained upon for religious taxes to support a worship, which they did not attend, and in which they had no belief; but it ought also to be observed, that many have fled to these refuges, who have no principles only to save their money, and have been a dead weight upon the Baptist cause. In Massachusetts they can, by refusing certificates to such characters, turn them over again to the tormenters, which, however, is not done so frequently as it ought to be; in Connecticut, where they write their own certificates, this mode of redress does not exist.
The Baptists are by no means uniform in the appellations they give their ministers; but the greater part, both in their conversation and writings, denominate them elders; many, particularly in their writings, give them the title of Reverend while others use the common appellation of Mr. The Greek Presbuteros, the Latin Presbyter, and the English word Elder, are all synonymous, and signify one advanced in years. But as the ministers of God do or ought to possess the wisdom and gravity of seniors, the term Elder is frequently applied to them throughout the New-Testament, and is altogether proper to express their character. It is true, the word Elder is in some places in the New-Testament applied to persons on account of age, but more generally it regards their office.
The Greek Episkopos, the Latin Episcopus, and the English word Bishop, are also all of the same import; they literally mean an overseer, and no word is more proper to be applied to the pastor of a church; but it has so long been confined to a dignified set of ecclesiastics, that dissenters have generally agreed to give it up to them.
The title of D D. our ministers receive from home; it is considered in modern times merely an academical compliment, and as such may not be very objectionable. Strictly speaking, every teacher is a doctor, as the word comes from the Latin doceo, to teach.
I know not where the term Reverend, as applied to ministers, came from, unless it was manufactured by Fastosus at Rome. 3 I do not say that it is an heretical or presumptuous title, as some have done; but yet there is something in the sound of it I do not like, notwithstanding it is frequently used in the foregoing narratives. Morgan Edwards, uniformly in all his writings, gives the title of Reverend to his ministers, whether Particular or General Baptists, Tunkers, Keithians, Mennonites, or Rogerenes. Many others pretty generally make all their ministers Reverends. In quoting from these writers, wherever this title has been found, I have let it stand, and have also, in conformity to custom, used it in some other cases.
The greater part of the American Baptists hold, that singing in public worship ought to be led by church members, and practise accordingly. In some places, the sacred service is committed to a select choir of adepts in music, whether professors of religion or not; and in some few instances, men of no religious pretensions are appointed to lead them. Preaching is rather an exhibition of gospel truth than an act of devotion; prayer and praise are the two chief parts of public worship, and certainly none but Christians are fit to lead in either. I would not silence any, who are disposed to sing; but to set a man to lead in the solemn praises of God, who nobody supposes can join in the worship, is, in my opinion, preposterous and wrong. If church members cannot sing so well, let them do it as well as they can; and if no Christian is capable of conducting this service, let it be omitted, rather than employ an ungracious man for the purpose. In the cases we have supposed, singing is considered as an exhibition of musical skill rather than a devotional exercise. Let the sacred employment be performed with that holy solemnity, which becomes the devout worshippers of the august Jehovah; let it be viewed in the same light as prayer and other religious duties, and thoughtless, irreligious people will not be forward to engage in it.
I would not assume the dictatorial chair, nor act the censor’s part, yet I will take the liberty of mentioning a few things more, which appear to me worthy of consideration.
Some churches, it is thought, carry their censures too far against those ministers, who have been guilty of faults which would be easily overlooked in a private brother; others restore to the holy office such ministers as ought never to be restored. A minister, who has been guilty of what may be considered a capital fall, who has committed crimes for which he has been, or would be, if prosecuted by human courts, condemned to severe penalties, may have repentance, and may be restored to church fellowship, but, in the opinion of many good judges, ought never to be reinstated in the ministry. They may preach as well as before; but the sad things against them will be in the minds of their hearers like the dead flies of the apothecary. Very few such characters have been restored, and it is hoped none will be in future.
Ministers, who have long borne the burden and heat of the day, who have exhausted the energies of their nature in the service of their brethren, who have sacrificed every worldly consideration to be incessantly engaged in the service of the sanctuary, are too often abandoned in the decline of life, by those very churches which they have been the instruments of building up, and shifted off to seek their living among their children and relatives, among sympathetic people of the world, or wherever they can find it. If the laws of nature and of God bind children to provide for their parents when they are old, what obligations are imposed on the children of the church, to comfort and support their spiritual fathers, while tottering down the declivity of age! But for this duty, and almost every other, where money is in question, many plead inability. But I have for the most part no belief in this plea; many, it is true, are poor, but there is among our brethren an abundance of worldly substance, which they are treasuring up for their heirs. When they came into the church, they professed to give up themselves, and all they had, to the Lord; but when called on to deal out of their substance for the support of the cause, their contributions are not like those of the rich, who cast into the treasury, but literally like the widow’s two mites. Let the rich retrench their superfluities; let the poor double their economy; and let all conduct as if they believed they were stewards of the manifold bounties of God, and under an awful responsibility for their stewardship.
The neglect of aged ministers is a lamentable evil, but that of the widows and children of those who are gone, is, if possible, greater. An old servant of God, with his venerable hairs, will be remembered, and will be comforted by some of the compassionate sons of nature, if the churches neglect him; but the widow and fatherless are in danger of being entirely forgotten. There is the lonely consort of the man, who was once zealously engaged in the service of his God; but who was taken away in the meridian of his days. She was once respected and happy; her house was the resort of ministers and Christian friends, in whose prayers she was always remembered. But now, those for whom she toiled like Martha, pass her by. The churches have nothing of all their stores to spare for her comfort, and with her tender and fatherless babes, she is left in a wide world, forsaken and disconsolate. I cannot refrain from weeping while I write; and it is hoped that these suggestions will not be in vain.
It is proper here to observe, that the Warren Association, many years ago, adopted the benevolent custom of making an annual collection, at the close of the Association sermon, for the express purpose of assisting the widows and fatherless children of such ministers as have deceased in their connection. Some of their collections have amounted to about an hundred dollars, though they are generally considerably under that sum. A committee of judicious brethren is immediately appointed to divide these collections according to their discretion, and distribute the dividends to their proper objects. The Boston Association has adopted the same custom, and these two bodies, after distributing sums to a considerable amount to the disconsolate objects of their compassionate regard, have on hand a fund of about three hundred dollars, which belongs to them jointly.
If all Associations would adopt this custom much good, we are confident, might be done.
Churches, and other religious institutions, often lose much of their funds for the want of those prudent measures, which every man thinks it necessary to use for the security of his own property.
Many of our churches, especially of late years, have built their large and costly houses of worship so much on credit, that they are obliged either to travel extensively to solicit aid, which has become an irksome task, or else remain long in debt and embarrassment. In most of these houses the pews are sold to the highest bidders, and the best of them are frequently taken up by the rich, who are seldom seen in them, while the greater part of those, for whose peculiar benefit the house was dedicated to the service of God, and who give a constant attendance on the service of the sanctuary, are obliged to retire to galleries and corners. If pews must be sold, (which it were better to avoid) let the church take up a certain portion of them in eligible situations, and hold them in reserve for those worthy poor of the flock, who are not able to purchase for themselves.
The circumstance of one minister’s performing the pastoral office in two, three, or four churches, has already come under review. We proposed to make further observations on the subject; but if the churches so supplied are contented with the economy, we will say nothing more about it.
By reviewing the foregoing sketches, we see that the Baptists have spread over a wide extent of territory in this western world, and have increased to a numerous body. They now fill posts of honor and profit in every department of State. They officiate as Members of the Council of the Nation, Judges, Generals, Counsellors, and Magistrates; and in every branch of government, whether legislative, executive, or judiciary, they are found.
Under these considerations, two passages of scripture suggest themselves to our minds; The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.
Be not high minded, but fear.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS IT is customary in all Associations, for all churches, which please, to send in questions on all subjects, concerning which they may desire the opinions of their brethren. Some of these questions regard local affairs, some are self-evident propositions, which admit of no dispute, while many are deserving of serious attention. Many of the Associations in the northern States hurry through their business so rapidly since they have become large, that they have but little time to say or think much upon any thing, and for that reason many questions, which merit a free and fair discussion, are disposed of in haste, and receive only vague, ambiguous, and unsatisfactory answers. In looking over the multitude of Minutes which have fallen into my hands, the following questions, with their answers, have appeared to me worthy of being recorded, and may serve as a supplement to the preceding observations. From their nature, they admit of no particular plan of arrangement. Question. — Is it consistent with the principles and conduct of a Christian, for a person to join himself to a lodge of free-masons?
And if this be answered in the affirmative, Is it orderly for him to associate with a lodge of the fraternity, who are evidently persons of immoral lives, and whose assembling together proves a mean of increasing immoral conduct? Answer — First. As an essential part of the masonic constitution is secrecy, the Association find themselves greatly disqualified for giving a decided answer to the first part of the query, The universal benevolence professed by the members of that body; the acts of kindness and liberality actually performed in many instances by them; and the existence of persons professing Christianity in that connection, make in favor of it; but on the other hand, the necessity a person is laid under, to bind himself by the most solemn engagements to secrecy, before he can receive the necessary information to enable him to form a regular and conscientious judgment on the subject, and which, should he finally disapprove it, must prove of the most embarrassing nature, appears to be so inconsistent both with reason and religion, that it should seem, at least, advisable for serious Christians to avoid the connection; especially as we are amply furnished with directions, and aided by the most powerful and sublime motives to the purest benevolence, in the scheme of our holy religion, and as the principles of all the useful branches of science are open to the freest access. Yet we think the subject so intimately connected with the rights of private judgment, that a person should be left to his own conscientious determination respecting it. — Second. To associate with immoral persons, so as to give countenance to their immoralities, is certainly evil. Subjects of usefulness and duty, do at times, however, cause us to act in connection with such persons, which, though it exposes to danger and disgust, may be consistently done; while we carefully distinguish between the lawful transaction, by pursuing only that, and the incidental evil, which we avoid. But to associate with immoral persons, where duty in one form or other does not call, is to take part in their immoralities. The decision on the latter part of the query, therefore, must depend on the judgment which ought to be formed of the business of a masonic lodge, “Whether it is a matter of duty or not?” — Minutes of Charleston Association for 1798.
This question has been a great many times discussed in different Associations, but in no case has it received a more candid and satisfactory answer.
To the Roanoke Association in 1803, the following question was presented, viz. Will the word of God tolerate a minister of the gospel in sueing for a post of honor and profit in legislation, and retain the privileges of his ministerial office at the same time? “For reasons unknown,” says Mr. Semple, “the Association never answered this question. We will,” continues he, “offer a few reflections. For a real minister of God’s word to become a candidate for a political office, seems to us more absurd, than for a man made prime minister, to sue for the office of constable.
Doubtless, in the view of a sound mind, the disparity between the office of prime minister and that of constable, is not so great as between a legitimate stand in the pulpit and a seat in Congress. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s honors above man’s.” Question. Can this Association receive churches into fellowship, who do not hold it a term of communion, that heads of families, in ordinary cases, attend daily family prayer?
Answer. In the negative. — Minutetsof the Otsego Association for 1802. Question. Is it not wrong for a man, who is a member of a church, and the head of a family, wholly to neglect family worship on account of the smallness of his gifts in prayer?
Answer. It is wrong Minutes of the Kehukee Association for 1800. Question. How should dancing, schools and balls be formed and conducted, that they may accord with the Scriptures of the New- Testament, and that it may be found consistent with Christian good order to send our children to them, and encourage them? Answer. As we have nothing to do in dancing-schools and balls, and have not made the regulation of them the subject of our studies, we are unprepared to answer this query.Minutetsof the Charleston Association for 1812.
This question was probably intended to have a bearing on such church members as send their children, or at least permit them to go, to those scenes of amusement described. The Association seems to intimate by its answer, that the evil did not exist among them; and happy for all if they could say the same. Question. How, and in what manner ought heads of families to deal with their households in regard to frolicking?
Answer. It is the opinion of this Association, that such a practice is contrary to the oracles of God, and ought to be restrained by family government; but the different circumstances attending such practices,render it difficult to be more particular. Minutes of the VermontAssociation for 1790.
Question. What is the smallest number of members necessary for forming a church? Answer. On this head different sentiments are entertained. Some have supposed two or three are sufficient; others have imagined five ; some ten, and others twelve; because it would seem, that the church at Ephesus was formed of twelve men, Acts. 19:7. The Association is of opinion, however, that much depends on the probability of the persons living permanently together, who may be about to be constituted. It appears desirable that there be in a new settlement where removals are frequent, at least seven, and that of these two or three be males — . Minutes of the Philadelphia Association for 1806. Question. Should a brother be continued in fellowship, who, though able, will not assist in supporting the gospel? Answer. We are of opinion where the ability is obvious on the one hand, and the unwillingness positive on the other, and the brother cannot be brought to his duty by proper means, he ought to be excluded. — Minutes of the Georgia Association for 1808.
Questions on this subject have often been proposed to different Associations; they all give good answers, and yet covetous members meet with no great difficulty in pursuing their parsimonious habits. Question. Should a minister, who has been regularly ordained as an itinerant preacher, be called upon to take the pastoral care of a particular church, is there any thing necessary to be done on the occasion, more than the consent, of each party? Answer . Nothing more is necessary.Minutes of Kehukee Association in 1799. Question. Is it the duty of a dissenter to acknowledge the right of civil government, dictating in matters of religion, so far as to give a certificate to the clerk of a Presbyterian society what religion he is of? Answer. We are of opinion, that it is oppression for one society to require certificates of another; but whether God requires us to say as Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego did in another case; “Be it known to thee, O king, we will not,” we leave for the present, for individuals to judge and determine for themselves, as they can answer it to God. — Minutes of the Danbury Association for 1801.
Question. Can a member of a Baptist church with impunity avail himself of the latitude the law allows, by defending suits, filing bills, appeals, etc. merely to procrastinate the payment of his just debts? Answer. A member of a Baptist church cannot with impunity act in such a manner. Minutes of the Ketockton Association for 1800.
Question. Is that passage of St. Paul, in Ist Corinthians 14:54, Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak, to be understood literally, or what are we to understand by it? Answer. We conclude, that the Holy Spirit does not, in this, or any ether passage of Scripture, prohibit women in the church to speak on all suitable occasions, respecting God’s kind and gracious dealing, with their souls; but forbids them to usurp authority as public teachers, or to take upon them in any respect the government of the church. — Minutes of the Woodstock Association for 1799.
Question. Have we any duty to do as it respects members of sister churches, who remove into our vicinity, and feel themselves at liberty to live even in the negelect of gospel ordinances? Answer. After due labor with them, report them to the church from which they came. Minutes of the Sturbridge Association for 1806 . Question. Is it gospel order for any person to use the office of a Deacon, before regularly ordained? Answer . In the negative. — Minutes of the Neuse Association, for 1800.
This question has undergone frequent diserosions, and is generally answered as here. Most agree that Deacons ought to be ordained, yet the practice is in a great measure neglected. Question. Is a church bound in duty to hupport their own poor, or depend on the provisions made in the towns or districts to which they belong? Answer. We view it to be the indispensable duty of every church, to sympathize with, and see that their own are provided for. But if the church is agreed, and should avail themselves of assistance from the town treasury, we by no means think it a censurable evil. — Minutes of the 8haftsbury Association for 1790.
This important question deserves an explicit, unconditional answer. That the poor of a church ought to be supported by it, is a proposition which admits of no dispute. The assistance from town treasuries is an accidental affair: if any thing can be obtained, very well, but let not a church wait for help from that quarter till their poor members suffer. Question. Is the baptism of those persons considered valid, who have received it at the hands of unbaptized administrators? Answer. No. Because three things are requisite to make gospel baptism, viz. a gospel mode, a gospel subject and administrator. — Minutes of the Richmond Association for 180 9.
As persons are frequently applying for admission into Baptist churches, who have been immersed by Methodist and Congregational ministers, this question has, within a few years past, been often proposed, and most Associations have decided differently from this. All agree that it is an unadviseable measure, for a persou to apply to un-baptized ministers to lead them into the waters but after they have been properly immersed on a profession of their faith, it is generally thought that it would be improper to immerse them a second time. It is difficult to conceive why they would not, in this case, come under the denomination of Ana -Baptists. Question. Has a member of our Society 4 a right to start to market, or travel when on the road, on the Sabbath day?
Answer. No. — Minutes of the Edgefield Asssodation for 1809.
APPENDIX A MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE, [Drawn by James Madison, now President of the U S.] Against the General Assessment, presented to the General Assembly of Virginia, at the Session for the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-five.
TO THE HONORABLE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, WE the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration a bill, printed by order of the last session of General Assembly, entitled, “A bill establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion; ” and conceiving, that the same, if finally armed with the sanction of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power; are bound, as faithful members of a free State, to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reason, by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said bill, Because we hold it for a fundamental and unalienable truth, “that religion, or the duty which we owe to the Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” (Declaration of Rights, article 16) The religion, then, of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is, in its nature, an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men. It is unalienable, also, because what is here a right towards man, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order and time, and in degree of obligation, to the claims of civil society. Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. And if a member of civil society, who enters into any subordinate association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority; much more must every man, who become a member of any particular civil society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain, therefore, that in matters of religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of civil society; and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question, which may divide society, can be ultimately determired, but by the will of a majority; but it is also true, that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.
Because if religion be exempt from the authority of the society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the legislative body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited. It is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments; more necessarily, it is limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation ot a free government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power, be invariably maintained; but more especially, that neither of them is suffered to overleap the great barrier which defends the rights of the people. The rulers, who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are tyrants. The people who submit to it, are governed by laws made neither by themselves, nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest charactetistics of the late revolution. The freemen of America did not wait until usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority, which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions, may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects; that the same authority, which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property, for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment, in all cases whatsoever?
Because the bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law; and which is more indispensable, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. “If all men are, by nature, equally free and independent,” 1 all men are to be considered as entering into society on equal conditions, as relinquishing no more, and, therefore, retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights; above all, are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience.” 2 Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and observe the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those, whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man. To God, therefore, and not to man, must an account of it be rendered.
As the bill violates equality, by subjecting some to peculiar burdens; so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? Can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their religions to be endowed, above all others, with extraordinary privileges, by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations, to believe, that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow-citizens, or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.
Because the bill implies, either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truths, or that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the extraordinary opinion ot rulers, in all ages, and throughout the world; the second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.
Because the establishment proposed by the bill, is not requisite for the support of the Christian religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian religion itself; for every page of it disavows a dependence on the power of this world: it is a contradiction to fact, for it is known that this religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them; and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence: nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy: it is, moreover, to weaken in those, who profess this religion, a pious confidence in its innate excellence, and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those, who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies, to trust it to its own merits.
Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Inquire of the teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive state, in which its teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks; many of them predict its downfall. On which side ought their testimony to have the greatest weight, when for, or when against their interest?
Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of civil government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of civil government, only as it is a means of supporting religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If religion be not within the cognizance of civil government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to civil government? What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances, they have been seen to erect spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in more instances, have they been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found on established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and property; by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another.
Because the proposed establishment is a departure from that generous policy, which, offering an asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every nation and religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is the bill, of sudden degeneracy? Instead of holding forth an asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of citizens, all those whole opinions in religion do not bend to those of the legislative authority. Distant as it may be, in its present form, from the inquisition, it differs from it only in degree: the one is the first step, the other the last, in the career of intolerance. The magnanimous sufferer under the cruel scourge in foreign regions, must view the bill as a beacon on our coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthropy in their due extent may offer a more certain repose for his troubles.
Because it will have a like tendency to banish our citizens. The allurements presented by other situations, are every day thinning their number. To superadd a fresh motive to emigration, by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly, which has dishonored and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.
Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony, which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord, by proscribing all differences in religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy,wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the dlsease. The American theater has exhibited proofs, that equal and complete liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If, with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least, let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the bill has transformed that “Christian forbearance, love, and charity,” 3 which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of law?
Because the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those, who ought to enjoy this precious gift, ought to be, that it may be imparted in the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those, who have as yet received it, with the number still remaining under the domination of false religions, and how small is the former? Does the policy of the bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of truth, from coming into the regions of it and countenances, by example, the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling, as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the bill, with an ignoble and unchristian timidity, would circumscribe it, with a wall of defense against the encroachments of error.
Because an attempt to enforce by legal sanctions, acts, obnoxious to so great a portion of citizens, tends to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of society. If it be difficult to execute any law, which is not generally deemed necessary nor salutary, what must be the case when it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the government on its general authority?
Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy, ought not to be imposed without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens; and no satisfactory method is yet proposeds by which the voice of the majority in this case may be determined, or its influence secured. “‘The people of the respective counties are, indeed, requested to signify their opinion, respecting the adoption of the bill, to the next session of Assembly.” But the representation must be made equal, before the voice, either of the representatives or of the counties, will be that of the people. Our hope is, that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.
Because, finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of his conscience,” is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the “Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of government,” it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather with studied emphasis. Either then we must say, that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: either we must say, that they may control the freedom of the press; may abolish the trial by jury; may swallow up the executive and judiciary powers of the State; nay, that they may annihilate our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary assembly; or we must say that they have no authority to enact into a law, the bill under consideration. We the subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority; and that no effort may be omitted on our part, against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it this Remonstrance, earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may, on the one hand, turn their councils from every act, which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them; and, on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, may redound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the property, and the happiness of this Commonwealth. APPENDIX THE prayers and wishes of the Virginia people, about the time the foregoing Remonstrance was drawn, were presented to the Legislature in many different forms. And among the rest, the following lines, written by Reverend David Thomas, accompanied the petition sent by the Baptists, and was addressed as follows: To the Honorable General assembly, now sitting at Williamsburgh, the humble Petition of a Country Poet, Now liberty is all the plan, The chief pursuit of every man Whose heart is right, and fills the mouth Of patriots all, from north to south.
May a poor bard, from bushes sprung, Who yet has but to rusticks sung, Address your honorable House, And not your angry passions rouse?
Hark! for a while, your business stop; One word into your ears I’ll drop:
No longer spend your needless pains, To mend and polish o’er our chains; But break them off before you rise, Nor disappoint our watchful eyes.
What says great Washington and Lee? “Our country is, and must be free.”
What says great Henry, Pendleton, And Liberty’s minutest son? ‘Tis all one voice — they all agree “God made us, and we must be, free.”
Freedom we crave, with ev’ry breath, An equal freedom, or a death.
The heav’nly blessing freely give, Or make an act we shall not live.
Tax all things; water, air, and light, If need there be; yea, tax the night: But let our brave heroick minds Move freely as celestial winds.
Make vice and folly feel your rod, But leave our consciences to God:
Leave each man free to choose his form Of piety, nor at him storm.
And he who minds the civil law, And keeps it whole, without a flaw, Let him, just as he pleases, pray, And seek for heav’n in his own way; And if he miss, we all must own, No man is wrong’d but he alone.
APPENDIX The alddress of the Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, assembled in the city of Richmond, August 8, 1790 to the President of the United States of America.
Sir, Among the many shouts of congratulation that you receive from cities, societies, States, and the whole world, we wish to take an active part in the universal chorus, in expressing our great satisfaction in your appointment to the first office in the nation.
When America, on a former occasion, was reduced to the necessity of appealing to arms, to defend her natural and civil rights, a Washington was found full adequate to the exigencies of the dangerous attempt; who, by the philanthropy of his heart, and prudence of his head, led forth her untutored troops into the field of battle; and, by the skilfulness of his hands, bailed the projects of the insulting foe, and pointed out the road to independence, even at a time when the energy of the cabinet was not sufficient to bring into action the natural aid of the confederation, from its respective sources.
The grand object being obtained, the independence of the States acknowledged, free from ambition, devoid of sanguine thirst of blood, our hero returned with those he commanded, and laid down the sword at the feet of those who gave it him. “Such an example to the world is new.” Like other nations, we experience that it requires as great valor and wisdom to make an advantage of the conquest, as to gain one.
The want of efficacy in the confederation, the redundancy of laws, and their partial administration in the States, called aloud for a new arrangement of our systems. The wisdom of the States, for that purpose, was collected in a grand convention, over which you, Sir, had the honor to preside, A national government in all its parts was recommended, as the only preservative of the union, which plan of government is now in actual operation.
When the constitution first made its appearance in Virginia, we, as a society, had unusual strugglings of mind, fearing that the liberty of condolence (dearer to us than property and life) was not sufficiently secured. Perhaps our jealousies were heightened, on account of the usage we received in Virginia, under the regal government, when mobs, bonds, fines and prisons were our frequent repast.
Convinced, on the one hand, that without an effective National Government, the States would fall into disunion and all the consequent evils; and, on the other hand, fearing we should be accessary to some religious oppression, should any one society in the Union preponderate over all the rest. But amidst all the inquietudes of mind, our consolation arose from this consideration — the plan must be good, for it bears the signature of a tried, trusty friend; and if religious liberty is rather insecure in the Constitution, “the Administration will certainly prevent all oppression, for a Washington will preside.” According to our wishes, the unanimous voice of the Union has called you Sir, from your beloved retreat, to launch forth again into the faithless seas of human affairs, to guide the helm of the States. May that Divine Munificence, which covered your head in battle, make uou a yet greater blessing to your admiring country, in time of peace. Should the horrid evils that have been so pestiferous in Asia and Europe, faction, ambition, war, perfidy, fraud, and persecution for conscience sake, ever approach the borders of our happy nation; may the name and administration of our bcloved President, like the radiant source of day, scatter all those dark clouds from the American hemisphere.
And while we speak freely the language of our own hearts, we are satisfied that we express the sentiments of our brethren, whom we represent. The very name of Washington is music in our ears; and although the great evil in the States, is the want of mutual confidence between rulers and people, yet, we all have the utmost confidence in the President of the States; and it is our fervent prayer to Almighty God, that the federal government, and the governments of the respective States, without rivalship, may so cooperate together, as to make the numerous people, over whom you preside, the happiest nation on earth; and you, Sir, the happiest man, in seeing the people, who, by the smiles of Providence, you saved from vassalage by your martial valor, and made wise by your maxims, sitting securely under their vines and fig-trees, enjoying the perfection of human felicity. May God long preserve your life and health for a blessing to the world in general, and the United States in particular; and when, like the sun, you have finished your course of great and unparalled services, and you go the way of all the earth, may the Divine Being, who will reward every man according to his works, grant unto you a glorious admission into his everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ. This, Sir, is the prayer of your happy admirers.
By order of the Committee, Samuel Harris , Chairman, Reuben Ford , Clerk.
APPENDIX To the General Committee, representing the United Baptist Churches in Vireginia Gentlemen, I Request that you will accept my best acknowledgments for your congratulation on my appointment to the first office in the nation.
The kind manner in which you mention my past conduct, equally claims the expression of my gratitude.
After we had, by the smiles of Divine Providence on our exertions, obtained the object for which we contended, I retired, at the conclusion of the war, with an idea that my country could have no farther occasion for my services, and with the intention of never entering again into public life. But when the exigencies of my country seemed to require me once more to engage in public affairs, an honest conviction of duty superseded my former resolution, and became my apology for deviating from the happy plan which I had adopted.
If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the constitution framed in the Convention where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself, to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.
For you doubtless remember, I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.
While I recollect with satisfaction that the religious society of which you are members, have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution; I cannot hesitate to believe, that they will be the faithful supporters of a free, yet efficient general government. Under this pleasing expectation, I rejoice to assure them, that they may rely upon my best wishes and endeavors to advance their prosperity.
In the mean time, be assured, gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness.
I am, gentlemen, your most obedient servant, GEORGE WASHINGTON.
APPENDIX MR. LELAND’S SPEECH, Delivered in the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, on the subject of Religious Freedom, 1811.
Mr. Speaker, The right of private judgment, like sight and hearing, is inalienable in nature. Should an individual attempt to surrender it to society, it nevertheless would remain with him still, in all its vigor. Whatever individuals, from the source of private judgment, might be led to say on the subject now before the House, provided the House was in the capacity of a convention, assembled for the purpose of framing a constitution, I cannot determine; but at the present time, the House is on legislative ground, urder the solemnity of an oath, to legislate according to the meaning of the Constitution, in their best judgements. The part of the Constitution, Sir, which the subject before the House has particular bearings upon, is contained in the 2d and 3d articles of the Declaration of Rights. It is well known, Mr Speaker, that the inhabitants of this Commonwealth were, when the constitution was framed, as well as at the present time, divided in sentiment about religion and the mode of its support. From the face of the Constitution, as well as from a knowledge of those times, there exists no doubt, that a decided majority believed that religious duties ought to be interwoven in the civil compact that Protestant Christianity was the best religion in the world — and that all inhabitants ought to be forced, by law, to support it with their money, as a necessary institute, for the good of the body politic, unless they did it voluntarily. While a respectable minority, equally firm in the belief of the divinity of Christianity, and still more protestant in their views; conceiving of it to be a measure as presumptuous in a legislature as in a Pope, to lord it over consciences, or interfere either in the mode or support of Christianity. This minority, Mr. Speaker did then, and do, still believe that religion is a matter between individuals and their God — a right inalienable — an article not within the cognizance of civil government, nor any ways under its control. In this discordance of religious sentiments, the 2d and 3d articles of the Declaration of Rights, are evidently a compromise ot parties, in which mutual concessions are made for a general union, the language of the Convention, in the Constitution appears to be as follows: “Let those towns, parishes, precincts, and other religious societies, possessed of corporate powers, support their religion by force of law; but if there be any one residing within the limits of those corporate bodies, who attends other worship, and yet has no scruples of conscience in being legally taxed, his money when paid, if he requests it, shall be paid over, by the collector, to the minister of his choice. And whereas there are many religions societies, who have scruples of conscience about availing themselves of corporate powers; if such societies voluntarily, in their own mode, make suitable provision for the maintenance of their ministers, all such societies of Protestant Christians, properly demeaning themselves as peaceable citizens, shall not be forced by law to support the teachers or worship of any other society. But as we cannot well know how these principles will operate on experiment, we lay down one fundamental maxim as a pole-star, for the legislature:~No subordination of one religious sect to another shall ever be established by law.’ Taking this, Sir, to be a good translation of those two articles, which seem to be somewhat obscure, the question is, whether the laws, made since the adoption of the Constitution, or more particularly whether the interpretation of that part of the Constitution and laws, have not affected a subordination of one religious sect to another? The Congregationalists, Sir, have no scruples about supporting their worship, in its various parts, by law; but some other societies have: some indeed have availed themselves of corporate powers, for no other purpose but to defend themselves from being taxed to support a worship in which they had no faith. In such instances they have been subordinate in time and expense, to extricate themselves from the clutches of the Congregationalists. Others are so well convinced of the all-sufficiency of Protestant Christianity, and the completeness of its code to govern in all things, that they will not — they cannot in good conscience, submit to a power, which they believe, in their best judgments, was never given to government to be exercised. These are peaceable subjects of State — ready to arm in defense of their country — freely contribute to support Protestant Christianity; but cannot pay a legal tax for rellgious services. This Sir, is one of the essentials which constitutes them a distinct sect: and what have these endured since the adoption of the Constitution? — Have they not been reduced to subordination? How many lawsuits — how much cost — and how much property has been taken from them to support other societies? — Mr. Speaker, is not this subordination?
According to a late decision of the Bench, in the county of Cumberland, which, it is presumed, is to be a precedent for future decisions, these non-incorporated societies are nobody — can do nothing, and are never to be known, except in shearing time, when their money is wanted to support the teachers that they never hear. And all this must be done for the good of the state. One hundred and seventeen years ago, wearing long hair was considered the crying sin of the land: a convention was called, March 18, 1694, in Boston, to prevent it: after a long expostulation, the convention close thus, “If any man will now presume to wear long hair, let him know that God and man witness against him.” Our pious ancestors were for bobbing the hair — for the good of the Colony; but now Sir, not the hair, but the purses must be bobbed for the good of the State. If these bobbing decisions continue to be the order of the day, it is past calculation to say, whose heads will be first bobbed off, for the good of the State. The petitioners pray for the right of going to heaven in that way which they believe is the most direct; and shall this be denied them? Must they be obliged to pay legal toll for walking the king’s highway, which he has made free for all? Is not this a greater subordination than to sail under British licences? or to pay 3 pence on every pound of tea? In Rhode-Island, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, of the old Colonies, and in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, the new States, there has never been any legal establishment of religion, nor any assessment to support Protestant Christianity, for the good of the State; and yet, Sir, these States have stood and flourished as well as Massachusetts. Since the revolution, all the old States, except two or three in New-England, have established religious liberty upon its true bottom; and yet they are not sunk with earthquakes, or destroyed with fire and brimstone. Should this Commonwealth, Mr. Speaker, proceed so far as to distribute all settlements and meeting-houses which they procured by public taxes, among all the inhabitmats, without regard to denomination; it is probable that the outcry of sacrilege, profanity and infidelity would be echoed around; and yet, Sir, all this has been done, in a State which has given birth and education to a Henry, a Washington, a Jefferson, and a Madison; each of which contributed their aid, to effect the grand event, for which event the Presbyterians and others prayed and gained. It is there believed, Sir that God hates robbery for burnt-offerings; and ought not Massachusetts to pay a decent respect to the voice of fifteen of her sister States? We should imagine that laudable pride would prevent any one religious society from forcing another to pay her laborers; and that the same principle would not admit a public teacher to take money collected by distraint, from those who did not hear him; but in this particular, we find that religion is made a covert to do that which common honesty blushes at.
Sir, it is not our wish to disrobe towns, parishes, precincts or any religious society of their corporate powers: no — let them go to heaven in such turnpike-roads, and pay legal toll at every ministerial gate, which they choose — and what can they wish for more? According to our best judgments, we cannot pay legal taxes for religious services; descending even to the grade of a chaplain for the legislature. It is disrobing Christianity of her virgin beauty — turning the churches of Christ into creatures of State — and metamorphosing gospel ambassadors to state pensioners. If my information be correct, the town of Boston has enjoyed the liberty which we plead for, more than one hundred years; yet the inhabitants increase and are virtuous.~Fifteen States now in the union, have all that we ask for; and is religion demolished in those States? Mr. Speaker, let gentlemen turn their eyes to the religious Magazines, published in this State, by those who plead for lawregulated religion; and they will find, that while the editors, in one page, plead for the old firm of Moses and Aaron — ruler and priest; where the language is, “You comb my head, and I’ll scratch your elbows — you make laws to support me, and I’ll persuade the people to obey you” — In the next page, they will narrate the wonderful works of God in those States wherein there are no religious laws; and indeed wherein the inhabitants know that religious establishments and assessments serve only to make one part of the community fools, and the other hypocrites. — to support fraud, superstition and violence in the earth.
Let Christianity stand upon its own basis, it is the greatest blessing that ever was among men; but incorporate it into the civil code, and it becomes the mother of cruelties.
It is questioned, Mr. Speaker, by good judges, whether it is possible for the legislature to execute the power vested in them, in the 3d article of the Declaration of Rights, without defeating the provision in the same article, “that no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another, shall ever be established by law.”
I know not, Sir, what can be done; but one thing is certain, it never has been done since the adoption of the Constitution. Supposing, Sir, it cannot be done, to which part of it, ought the legislature to adhere? to that which supports partiality and Justice, or to that which secures right and equality? Can any gentleman be at a loss?
Tyranny, Mr. Speaker, always speaks the same language. The tyrant of Amon would be friendly to Israel, if he might put out their right eyes. — The tyrant on the Nile would let his subjects go free, provided they would leave their flocks and herds behind.
Mr. Chairman, if Christianity is false, it cannot be the duty of government to support imposture; but if it be true, the following extracts are true, “The natural man receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them — the world by wisdom knew not God — none of the princes of this world know the genius of Christ’s kingdom.” If, Sir, Christianity is true, these sayings are true; and if these sayings are true, natural men, as such, with all the proficiency of science, cannot understand the religion of Christ; and if they cannot understand the subject, they must be very unfit to legislate about it. If, to escape this dilemma, we adopt the papal maxim, that government is founded in grace, and therefore none but gracious men have right to rule; and that these gracious rulers have both right and knowledge to legislate about religion, we shall find, what other nations have found; that these divine rulers will be the most cruel tyrants. Under this notion, Mr. Chairman, the crusades were formed in the 11th century, which lasted about two hundred years, and destroyed nearly two millions of lives. In view of all this, and ten thousand times as much, is it to be wondered at, that the present petitioners should be fearful of attaching corporate powers to religious societies? These petitioners, Sir, pay the civil list, and arm to defend their country as readily as othels, and only ask for the liberty of forming their societies and paying their preachers in the only way that the Christians did for the first three centuries after Christ. Any gentleman upon this floor is invited to produce an instance, that Christian societies were ever formed — Christian sabbaths ever enjoined — Christian salaries ever levied, or Christian worship ever enforced by law, before the reign of Constantine: yet Christianity did stand and flourish, not only without the aid of law and the schools, but in opposition to both.
We therefore hope, Mr. Speaker, that the prayer of Thirty Thousand, on this occasion, will be heard, and that they will obtain the exemption for which they pray.
The 2d section of the Bill before the house, I object to. It recognizes principles which are inadmissible — invests all noncorporate societies with corporate powers, puts the mischievous dagger into their hands, which has done so much mischief in the world, and presents no balm for the wounds of those who cry for help. The petitioners do not ask to be known in law as corporate bodies, but to be so covered that religious corporate bodies shall not know and fleece them: but this section puts the knife into their hands against their will; a knife, Sir, which is more pestiferous than Pandora’s box. The interference of legislatures and magistrates in the faith, worship, or support of religious worship, is the first step in the case which leads in regular progression to Inquisition: the principle is the same, the only difference is in the degree of usurpation.
The Bill has its beauties, and its deformities. One prominent defect of the bill is a crooked back; it makes a low stoop to his high mightiness Town-Clerk, to pray for the indulgence of worshipping God; which is, and ought to be guaranteed a natural and inalienable right, not a favor to be asked by the citizen or bestowed by the ruler. It has also a disagreeable squinting; it squints to a purse of money with as much intenseness as ever a drunkard did at the bottle, or as ever Eve did at the apple. Yes, Mr. Speaker, if there was no money to be got, we should never hear of these incorporations. How strange it is, Sir, that men, who make such noise about Christianity, should be afraid to trust the promise of God, unless they can have legal bondsmen, bound by incorporation.
Government should be so fixed, that Pagans, Turks, Jews and Christians should be equally protected in their rights. The government of Massachusetts is, however, differently formed; under the existing Constitution, it is not possible for the General Court to place religion upon its proper footing; it can be done, however, much better than it is done, either by the late decision of the Bench, or by the adoption of the present Bill, in its present shape; and the best which the constitution will admit of, is all that we ask for at present. I shall therefore take the liberty, at a proper time, to offer an amendment to the Bill.
I shall no longer trespass on the patience of the house.
APPENDIX Addditional Remarks on the Character of Roger Williams. TOWARDS the close of the history of Rhode-island, we proposed to give, in the Appendix, a letter written by this distinguished man. It is preceded by some very judicious remarks by Governor Hopkins, which are worthy of being recorded. “All Christians,” says the Governor, “from the beginning of the Reformation to these times, when they were disturbed and oppressed by the governing powers they lived under, on account of their religious principles or practices, had claimed this natural right, a liberty of conscience in the worship of God. And many of them had, with much learning and great strength of reason, shown, that it was a right they were naturally and justly entitled to; and of which the civil magistrate could not deprive them, without departing from his proper duty and office. But all of them, when they came to be possessed of power, had denied that indulgence to those, who differed from them in religious sentiments, that they had pleaded so powerfully for, when they suffered themselves; and this had constantly and universally been the case throughout christendom for many hundred years. And Roger Williams justly claims the honor of having been the first legislator in the world, in its latter ages, that fully and effectually provided for and established a free, full, and absolute liberty of conscience. This beneficent principle he made the foundation, and, as it were, the chief corner-stone of his infant colony; this was made the test of admission to all new-comers: this was the chief cause that united the inhabitants of Rhode-Island and those of Providence, and made them one people and one colony. It was often objected to Mr. Williams, that such great liberty in religious matters tended to licentiousness and every kind of disorder, to such objections I will give the answer he himself made, in his own words; for thereby his real sentiments may he best discovered.” “TO THE TOWN OF PROVIDENCE" “Loving Friends and Neighbors, “It pleaseth God yet to continue this great liberty of our townmeetings, for which we ought to be humbly thankful, and to improve these liberties to the praise of the Giver, and to the peace and welfare of the town and colony, without our own private ends.
I thought it my duty to present you this my impartial testimony, and answer to a paper sent you the other day from my brother, “That it is blood-guiltiness and against the rule of the Gospel, to execute judgement upon transgressors, against the public or private weal.” That ever I should speak or write a tittle, that tends to such an infinite liberty of conscience, is a mistake, and which I have ever disclaimed and abhorred. To prevent such mistakes, I at present shall only propose this case: — There goes many a ship to sea, with many a hundred souls in one ship, whose weal and wo is common, and is a true picture of a commonwealth, or an human combination, or society. It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews and Turks, may be embarked into one ship. Upon which supposal, I do affirm, that all the liberty of conscience that ever I pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges, that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks, be forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship; nor, secondly, compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any.
I further add, that I never denied, that notwithstanding this liberty, the commander of this ship ought to command the ship’s course; yea, and also to command that justice, peace and sobriety be kept and practiced, both among the seamen and all the passengers. If any seaman refuse to perform their service, or passengers to pay their freight; if any refuse to help in person or purse, towards the common charges, or defense; if any refuse to obey the common laws and orders of the ship, concerning their common peace and preservation; if any shall mutiny and rise up against their commanders and officers; if any shall preach or write, that there ought to be no commanders nor officers, because all are equal in Christ, therefore no masters nor officers, no laws nor orders, no corrections nor punishmental say, I never denied but in such cases, whatever is pretended, the commander or commanders may judge, resist, compel and punish such transgressors, according to their deserts and merits. This, if seriously and honestly minded, may, if it so please the Father of Lights, let in some light to such as willingly shut not their eyes. I remain, studious of our common peace and liberty, ROGER WILLIAMS.” “This religious liberty was not only asserted in words, but uniformly adhered to and practiced,” etc.
It would be no strange event for a new State now to establish religious freedom, because many have set the example; but Roger Williams and the Rhode-Island Fathers claim the honor of maintaining this principle, while all other States and kingdoms in the world ridiculed and opposed it.
In the account of Mr. Williams’s settlement in Rhode-Island, we made some observations on the uncommon influence he acquired over the irritated and ever jealous Indian tribes. We shall here give a connected view of the services which this influence enabled him to perform. His breaking up of their grand confederacy in 1637, has already been mentioned. Yet notwithstanding this interposition on the behalf of all his English neighbors, when he was about to embark for England in 1643 to obtain a charter for his colony, he was not permitted to pass through the coasts from which he had been banished, but was obliged to repair to the Dutch at New-York to take shipping. “Yea, it must needs be so,” says Mr. Backus, “because the blessings of a peace-maker were to come upon him, among the Dutch as well as the English.” At this time the Dutch at Aurana, (now Albany) and its vicinity, at Manhattan, (now New-York) and in many other places, both on the main land and Long-Island, were engaged in a bloody conflict with different Indian tribes. At Stamford, (now in Connecticut) the enraged savages killed many, and among the rest Mrs. Ann Hutchinson, who had been banished from Massachusetts, for what was called Antinomianism. “On Long-Island they assaulted the house of the lady MGody, who not long before moved from Lynn in the same government, on account of ana-baptisrn: but she was defended by forty men, that gathered to her house, which they assaulted divers times.
But the Long-Island Indians, by the mediation of Mr. Williams, (who was then there to take ship for England) were pacified, and peace reestablished between the Dutch and them.” In 1671, when king Philip was making preparations for his war, Governor Prince of Plymouth, and two of his assistants met three gentlemen from the Massachusetts colony at Taunton, to examine into the matter. Philip, indian like, was suspicious of the manoeuvres of white men; he kept in his camp at a distance, and sent for the commisioners to come to him. All solicitations were ineffectual, until Mr. Williams, then over 70, and Mr. Brown, supposed to be of Swansea, offered to remain as hostages in his camp; by which means he was prevailed with to meet the commissioners, to deliver up about 70 guns, and to promise future fidelity; which suspended the war four years.” In 1676, while this bloody war was going on, tradition says, that when the Indians appeared on the hill north of Providence, near the place where Colonel Smith’s house now stands, Mr. Williams took his staff, and went over to meet them, hoping to pacify their rage, as he had often done before; but when some of the old men saw him, they came out to meet him — told him that those who had long known him would not hurt him, but that the young warriors could not be restrained; upon which he returned to the garrison. “As the best and most useful men,” says Governor Hopkins, “have ever, in all free States, been the subjects of popular clamor and censure, so we find that Mr. Williams did not escape the rude attacks of the licentious tongue of freedom,” etc. By some he was accused of a bigoted attachment to his peculiar opinions; by others he was compared to a weathercock for instability. From the accusations of enemies, a true character cannot be obtained of him — nor of any other man. His friends uniformly maintain, that he lived and died a pattern of piety and benevolence. It is certain, however, from his own writings, that he was one of the few Baptists, whose minds have been bewildered about the doctrine of succession; and it was probably on that account he ceased traveling in the Baptist communion not long after he founded the church at Providence. But there is no evidence that he renounced the peculiar tenets of the Baptists; and it is certain he did not embrace those of any other sect. He had a long and sharp dispute with the Quakers, for which some of them feel not very well disposed towards him at this day. But it ought to be observed, at the same time, that Governor Hopkins, of that persuasion, has done ample justice to his character.
Although Mr. Williams was almost constantly engaged in the affairs of the colony, at home and abroad, yet we are assured that he preached frequently at Providence, and used to go once a month to Mr. Smith’s in the Narraganset country, where many of those Narraganset Indians attended his ministry, who could not be prevailed on to hear the missionaries from other colonies. “Roger Williams,” says Morgan Edwards, “for his singular exellencies and worthy deeds, deserves a statue, and will certainly have one, except there be some cross-grained fatality attending the noblest characters among Baptists, to prevent their having the praise they deserve. I could fancy,” says this ingenious writer, “that I see his statue erected in the college yard at Providence. His clothing a garment of camel’s hair, tied about his loins with a leathern girdle. His feet are shod with sandals; and about his neck a little puritanical band. In his right hand is the gospel, as an emblem of the religious liberty he established, and the peace that followed. In his left, is a roll containing the charter of the colony, with as much of it unfolded as shows this paragraph: “To exhibit a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil State may stand and best be maintained, and that among our English subjects, with a full liberty in religious concernments; and that true piety, rightly grounded on gospel principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty, and will lay, in the hearts of men, the strongest obligations to true loyalty.” On the pedestal are these words:
FATHER OF THIS COLONY, WHICH WAS FOUNDED IN 1636, AND WHOSE SPECIAL DISTINCTION IS THAT OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY; AND, UNDER GOD, THE SAVIOUR OF IT, AND OF THE NEIGHBORING COLONIES, FROM BEING EXTIRPATED BY THE CONFEDERATE INDIANS, IN 1637, WAS THAT REVEREND BAPTIST ROGER WILLIAMS” It may be proper here to give a brief account of another of the fathers of the Rhode-Island colony, of whom nothing yet has been said. This was William Blaxton, or Blackstone. He was a minister in the Church of England, but came early to America. It appears by Johnson’s history, that he was here in 1628; but not agreeing with Mr. Endicot and others in church affairs, he betook himself to agriculture. He planted himself on the neck of land where Boston now stands, which, from him was called Blaxton’s point, when the Massachusetts company first arrived with their charter; and at a court in Boston, 1653, they made him a grant of fifty acres of land near his house. But with the maxims of this company, he soon fell out. “I came from England,” said he, “because I did not like the Lord Bishop s; but I cannot join with you, because I would not be under the Lord Brethren.” On this account, he removed and settled about three miles north of Pawtucket, on an estate which is now owned by Colonel Simon Whipple. His residence was on what is now called Study Hill, where his library and buildings were burnt in king Philip’s war. This was on the bank of Pawtucket river, which above takes the name of Blackstone from this early settler. He appears to have been intimate with Mr. Williams, preached frequently at Providence and places adjacent, and left behind him the character of a godly, pious man. His family is now extinct.
He planted an orchard just east of Study Hill, which, we are told, was the first that bore fruit in the Rhode-Island colony. Some of the trees of this orchard were alive and thrifty 140 years after they were planted, but now all of them have gone to decay. 4 APPENDIX A Letter from the Baptists in Philadelphia to the Episcopalians. [The contents of this letter will suggest to the reader the circumstances, under which it was written. But it may be proper to observe, that the Episcopalians had possessed themselves of a meeting-house and lot belonging to the Baptists in the township of Oxford, Pennsylvania. They afterwards attempted to do the same in Philadelphia: this letter was written, however, prior to that event, and at a time when a Mr. Clayton, an Episcopal minister in Philadelphia, to whom it was addressed, was laboring to posses himself of the Baptist congregation in that city.] “SIR, “WHEREAS we received a letter, invitatory from you to return to your Church of England, dated September 26, 1698, wherein you desire us to send you, in humility and without prejudice, the objections, why we may not be united in one communion; and withal, that you doubt not, but by the blessing and assistance of God, you will be able to show them to be stumbling-blocks, made by our wills, and not by our reason; and some of us, in behalf of the rest, having, on the reception thereof, given you a visit, and had discourse with you concerning some of the ceremonies of your church, about which you gave no satisfaction, we knew not that you expected any other answer from us. But in your late letter to John Watts, you signify, that you have received no answer to your former letter; we, therefore, taking this into consideration, do signify, an answer to your foresaid invitation and proposal, that to rend from a rightly constituted church of Christ, is that which our souls abhor; and that, love, peace, and unity with all Christians, and concord and agreement in the true faith and worship of God, are that which we greatly desire; and we should be glad if yourself or others would inform us wherein we err from the truth and ways of Christ; nor are we at all averse to a reconciliation with the Church of England, provided it can be proved by the holy Scriptures, that her constitutton, orders, officers, worship and source are of divine appointment, and not of human invention. And since you yourself are the person that hath given us the invitation, and hath promised to show us that our objections are stumblingblocks, made by our wills and not by our reason; and we understanding that our Lord Jesus Christ is the only head, king, lord and law-giver of his church, whom all are bound to hear and obey, under the severe penalty of an utter extirpation from among the people of God; and that his laws and will are only to be found in and known by the sacred Scriptures, which are the only supreme, sufficient, and standing rule of all faith and worship; and not understanding the constitution of your church, with all the orders, officers, worship and service, at this day in use and maintained therein, to be agreeable thereto and warranted thereby, hath been the cause of our separation from her, and is the objection we have to make, or the stumbling-block which lies in our way to such an union and communion as you desire; we, therefore, hope and expect according to your promise, that you will endeavor its removal, by showing us from holy Scripture, these two things as absolutely necessary in order thereunto: 1st. That the formation of your church, with all the orders, officers, rites, and ceremonies, now in use and practiced therein, are of divine institution; particularly, that the church of Christ under the New-Testament, may consist or be made up of a mixed multitude, and their seed, even all that are members of a nation, who are willing to go under the denomination of Christians, whether they are godly or ungodly, holy or profane; that lords archbishops, and diocesan lords bishops, such as are now in England, are of divine institution and appointment; that the government of the church of Christ, under the Gospel, is to be prelatical, according as it is practiced this day in your church; and that your ecclesiastical courts are of divine appointment; that particular churches or congregations, with their ministers or elders, who have power and authority to receive persons into membership, have not likewise authority, by Matthew 18:, 15-18, and Corinthians 5: to execute church censures and excommunication upon miscreants, swearers, liars, drunkards, adulterers, thieves, atheists, etc.; but that it is of divine appointment, that they must be presented to their ordinaries, and only proceeded against in your ecclesiastical courts; that the several offices of deans, subdeans, chapters, archdeacons, prebendaries, chancellors, commissaries, officials, registers, canons, pettycanons, vicars, chorals, apparitors, organists, vergers, singingmen and boys, septins, epistlers, gospellers, and such like offices and officers of your church and ecclesiastical courts, are of divine institution, or have any Scripture warrant to justify them, and to bear them harmless in the last day; that unpreaching ministers may celebrate the sacraments by Scripture warrant; that their different apparel in time of divine service, such as hoods, tippets, surplices, etc. are of divine institution, or have any Scripture warrant under the New Testament; that the manner of the public service and liturgy of the Church of England, with the visitation of the sick, burial of the dead, churching of women, matrimony, etc. as now in use, are of divine appointment; that the people ought, by the rule of God’s word, audibly with the ministers, to say the confession, Lord’s prayer, and creed; and make such answers to the public prayers, as are appointed in the book of common prayer; that it is God’s holy will and pleasure, that saint days and holy days should be kept and observed by Christians, according to the use of the Church of England; that instruments of music are to be used in God’s worship, under the New-Testament; that infant baptism is a duty; that pouring or sprinkling water is the right manner of baptizing; that your manner of administering the sacraments, and signing with the sign of the cross in baptism are of divine appointment; that god-fathers and god-mothers are of divine appointment. These are some of the things we desire you to prove and make plain to us by the holy Scripture. But if the case be such that some or all of them cannot be thereby proved; then the 2d thing necessary to our reconciliation with your church is, That you will give us clear and infallible proof from God’s holy word, such as will bear us harmless in the last day, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath given power and authority to any man, men, convocation, or synod, to make, constitute, and set up any other laws, orders, officers, rites and ceremonies, in his church, besides those which he hath appointed in his holy word; or to alter or change those, which he hath therein appointed, according as may, from time to time, to them seem convenient; and that we are bound in conscience towards God, by the authority of his word, to yield obedience thereunto; or whether it will not rather be a sore reflection upon the sufficiency of the holy Scriptures, and a high defamation of the kingly and prophetical offices of Jesus Christ, to suppose such a thing. — Thus have we in humility, and, without prejudice, sent you our objections; and if you can, according to your letter, show them to be stumbling-blocks made by our wills, and not by our reason, we shall be very thankful, and you shall not find us obstinate, but ready to accept your invitation. But until you do so, and prove the constitution, orders, officers, rites and ceremonies of your church to be of God, it is but reason that you should suspend all charge of schism against us, and desist from blaming us for our peaceable separation; which is all, at present, from your loving friends, who desire information, and unity among saints, and the church’s peace; that God, in all things may be glorified through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. “Subscribed by us, members of the general meeting, in behalf of the rest, March 11, 1699. “John Watts, Joseph Wood, George Eaglesfield, Samuel Jones, George Eaton, Thomas Bibb.” The times, to which the above letter refers, were remarkable for the spirit of proselyting, excited chiefly by means of the Reverend George Keith, who, it is said, was admitted to orders, upon condition that he would return to Pennsylvania, and endeavor to bring his party over to the Church of England. He and his brethren met with success at first; but a copy of the above letter being made public, they were somewhat embarrassed, and their progress retarded. APPENDIX Civil State of Dissenters in England,1793. “Every dissenter in England is excluded from all civil and ecclesiastical employment of honor and profit in the kingdom. No dissenter can be admitted to command in the army or navy, were even his country invaded, nor to collect any part of the public revenue, nor to act as a magistrate, nor to graduate in either of the universities, nor even to take a degree of Doctor of Music or Physic, which employments do not seem to have any reference to the State. Nor will the affirmation of a Quaker be taken in any of our courts, in any criminal prosecution whatever; so that, if a man of this denomination were to see another murder his father or his wife, he could not prosecute the criminal without denying his religion. No Quaker can practlse in any of the courts of law, not even as an attorney. This civil incapacity makes Dissenters be looked upon by the vulgar most unjustly, as rebels and enemies to government, and to a family which they placed on the throne; and in all seasons of alarm and tumult they have experienced, and do experience great evils in this way. Every Dissenter who acknowledges the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity, is tolerated in the exercise of religious worship; but he who denies the Trinity, is, on conviction, liable to confiscation of goods and imprisonment.
Dissenters pay all taxes and tythes, and are obliged to serve offices in the church, which are attended only with labor and expense, as church-warden, etc. subject to heavy penalties if they do not serve, or find, at their own expense, a proper substitute — Rippon’s Register. Vol. 1 p.524.
This statement will give the reader a view of the condition of Dissenters in England, and will sufficiently explain to him the reason why such multitudes are continually emigrating to America.
This kingdom abounds with good men of different persuasions; it has long been the nursery of genius and piety; every Christian land has reason to expect it. on account of its noble efforts in the cause of truth; but the maxims of its Cabinet, and its Ecclesiastical Constitution, no lover of liberty and equality can approve.
To the above statement we will subjoin the following account of the Church of England taken from Simpson’s Plea for the Sacred Writings. “There are about 18,000 clergymen in England and Wales of the established religion, and nearly 10,000 parishes. The rectories are 5,098; the vicarages 3,687; the livings of other descriptions 2,970; in all, 11,755. “Twenty or thirty of those livings may be $4444: 44 and upwards a year: four or five hundred of them $2222:22 — two thousand of them $888: 90 five thousand of them $444: 45. The average value of livings is about $662:22. “The whole income of the church and two Universities, is six million. six hundred and sixty-six thousand, six hundred and sixtysix dollars, and sixty-seven cents. “There are twenty-six bishops, whose annual income is $408,888:90; each bishop has therefore on an average $15,726:5O, supposing he had no other preferment. “There are 28 cathedrals, 26 deans, 60 arch-deacons, and prebends, canons, etc. Besides these, there are in all about 300 in orders belonging to the different cathedrals, and about 900 lay officers, such as singing-men, organists, etc. who are all paid from the cathedral emoluments; so that there are about 1800 persons attached to the several cathedrals, and divide among them $622,222:22.”
One man may possess several preferments at the same time, and may receive the enormous sum of$88,888:90, per annum!” — LAW, bishop of Carlisle, possessed, at the time of his decease, ten or more preferments. He was a bishop, head of a college, prebend, rector, librarian, etc. etc. etc.”
This picture is sufficient to convince Americans of the impropriety of a union of Church and State. Were it necessary, such a melancholy picture might be drawn from the statements of that worthy man and Christian,DAVID SIMPSON, (who disdained to be considered an hireing of the corrupt Church of England, and of course withdrew) as would strike the mind with horror! Any one who wishes to be fur. ther acqa~inted with the history of them: may find it in a volume written by David Simpson, A.M. entitled, “A plea for Religion and the Sacred Writings, addressed to the disciples of Thomas Paine, and to wavering Christians of every denomination.”
APPENDIX Summary Review of the Different Denominationtsof Christians in the United States. THE number of the Baptists will be exhibited in the following Table.
It is probable the Methodists count as many members in their society, if not more, than any one denomination in America. According to their Minutes, the sum total of their members this year amounts to 214,307; 42,809 of whom are people of color. The preachers in full connection are 678, those on trial are 178; making the sum total of preachers 856. The increase of their society this year is 18,950. 1 The members in Canada are not reckoned in this statement. Their number in both Provinces last year was a little short of 3000; but it is said great additions were made to them this year. In this statement are included all, who belong to the Methodist Classes; what proportion of these come up to their communion, one of their ministers informs me,cannot be ascertained with any degree of correctness. A gentleman, who was a number of years a preacher in their connection, supposes, that, take the denomination at large, not more, if so many as half of those in Society, are communicants.
The total number of the Methodist Society in 1809, in Britain and Ireland, the West-Indies, British Dominions in America, and the United States, was 334,628. The Congregationlists are the most numerous denomination in New- England. Their congregations, in 1801, were over a thousand. 3 In 1796, according to Dr. Morse, their churches in Connecticut only, were 200, their pastors 170, and their communicants 20,000. 4 In Massachusetts, their number of preachers now is over 400, the number of churches nearly 500. 5 The number of this denomination in other States I am not able to state, but it must be small compared with New-England.
The number of Presbyterian congregations in America was, in I788, computed to be 618: there were 226 ministers. 6 They have probably increased considerably since. 7 The Independents are small compared with either of the formentioned sects.
The Friends have, in the United States, 505 meetings for worship, their monthly meetings are 179; their yearly meetings 43. The number of Episcopal congregations I have not learnt.
The whole population of the Roman Catholics in the United States, in 1801, was supposed to be 50,000.
The number of the smaller sects cannot be ascertained.