THE BAPTISTS ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
by B.H. Carroll
Note – When Carroll is speaking of “one hundred years ago”, it is from his perspective (this was published in 1913) and not the modern reader’s.
In treating a historic subject the writer is confronted by two impossible things: First, it is impossible to draw a truly realistic picture of times prior to one’s own experience, observations and recollections. Strong indeed must be the historic imagination that can put one in his grandfather’s place and cause him to see with his grandfather’s eyes.
Again, it is impossible to find distinct lines of cleavage at any century milestone. Concerning any great thought or movement of time, who can put his finger on date and place and confidently say, This is when and where it started? Past, present and coming events are mingled and related like the waves of the sea. Centuries are not divided from each other by mountain ranges, oceans, rivers or chasms. History, like nature, has no leaps. If we go back one hundred years, we must go beyond, or find ourselves reading the middle volume of a serial.
Besides these two things, impossible to all men, there is another to me exceedingly difficult — to look back at all. There is in me little of the Chinaman, who delights to turn his back to the present and worship ancestors. Habitual dwelling among reminiscences indicates death at the top. Doubtless, occasionally,
“‘Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours
And ask them what report they bore to Heaven.”
Yet would I rather invoke Hope than stir up Memory, and face the future rather than the past. But as I am to tell somewhat of the Baptists one hundred years ago, reluctantly and only temporarily, I face to the rear, and turn back the shadow on the dial-plate of time one hundred years; turn it back until we are boys again ; back until we become our own fathers; yet back until we become our grandfathers. The process reverses Rip Van Winkle’s dream and loses us with strange identity in a strange world, experiencing the sensations of Mark Twain’s “Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court.”
The time is January 1, 1800. The place is Philadelphia, both capital and metropolis of the United States, and nearly as large as Dallas, Texas. The alien and sedition laws are in force. John Adams is President, with fast fading power, prestige and popularity, and this very year he will be overwhelmingly beaten by Thomas Jefferson, who will be inaugurated next March at the new capital on the Potomac. George Washington has been dead about two weeks. Philadelphia itself is in mourning on account of a malignant fever, prevalent there for some years. The old Philadelphia Association, which for nearly a century has rarely convened out of this city, has been kept out now for three years in succession by this awful plague. Since 1797, they have been praying, fasting and resolving concerning this dreadful visitation, and for at least seven years to come, each annual minute will record that Philadelphia has been selected as the place of the next meeting, provided there be no recurrence of the malignant and contagious fever.
The year 1800! The crucial period of national trial is safely passed. By the ratification of the Federal Constitution, the United States has become a nation. Washington was inaugurated at New York eleven years ago as President of eleven United States. During the year North Carolina ratified the Constitution and entered the Union. Ten years ago, Rhode Island, the last of the original thirteen states, came in. Nine years ago Vermont was received as the first new state; eight years ago Kentucky followed; four years ago Tennessee made the third. Sixteen states in 1800.
The first census — 1790 — shows a population of something over 4,000,000. This decade will advance it a million. One hundred years ago. How must one shrink to fit the environment! Westward the national boundaries extend to the Mississippi River; southward to the mouth of the Yazoo River, near Vicksburg, but nowhere touching the Gulf of Mexico. Spanish Florida, joining hands with Spanish Louisiana, blocks the way southward and westward. This very year Louisiana – a veritable empire of territory — will be retroceded to France, and three years hence Jefferson will buy it from Bonaparte, whose fear of Admiral Nelson surrenders colonial empire, for the paltry sum of $15,000,000. This purchase, beyond reasonable doubt, includes Texas, which, on account of New England’s jealousy, will not be claimed, and whose admission forty-five years later, when re-purchased by the blood of revolution, will be resisted by the same section and for the same cause.
The great northwest territory, ceded by Virginia and conquered by George Rogers Clark, has been opened to settlement for three years. Only four years ago, in tardy compliance with the treaty of 1783, the English garrisons were withdrawn from the forts which dominated it . Five years hence a son of the same Clark, with Meriwether Lewis, sent out by the same Jefferson, will add to the national domain by exploration the vast territory now covered by Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The French Revolution, which painted red the skies of the world, has given place to the Directory, which is Napoleon Bonaparte. An indiscreet envoy from that republic, impatient at Washington’s wise forbearance to embarrass our new nation with entangling alliances, has recently appealed from the President to the people, and by private canvass and agitation stirs up a commotion, whose rebuke led up to the threshold of war with France and unsealed the triumphant thunders of Truxton’s guns. Strange recurrence of history – other envoys from another involved republic have just arrived upon our shores to repeat the hazardous experiment of “Citizen Genet.”
One hundred years ago! It is just eight years since Eli Whitney, at Savannah, invented the cotton gin which will revolutionize the industrial world. And though there are some people both North and South, projecting with the application of steam to navigation and commerce, it is yet seven years to Fulton’s steamboat, and thirty years to the first railroad and forty-four years to the first telegraphic message. The reaper, the power loom, and a thousand other mighty inventions are in the unknown future. Each community is isolated from every other by land travel. Philadelphia hears on New Year’s Day how New York celebrated Christmas, and one adventurous man has traveled overland from Atlantic tidewater to Oregon in only eight months. Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving are boys of seventeen, and William Cullen Bryant is a lad of seven.
But what about the Baptists of that day? It is impossible, in the limits of time assigned me, to more than glance at salient points, barely touching the mountain tops of loftiest events and speaking mainly of our own Southern section of the United States.
In England there are four hundred Baptist churches and Bristol College. John Gill, the Hebraist, the commentator, the theologian, died twenty-nine years ago. John Milton, author of earth’s greatest epic, has been dead twenty-six years. John Bunyan, author of earth’s greatest allegory, died fourteen years ago. Only seven years ago William Carey, later himself a missionary in foreign lands, preached his great sermon on “Expect Great Things, Attempt Great Things.” From the top of that sermon, if you were to sight backwards on a dead level, no other sermon will be high enough to cross the line of vision until you strike Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Tongues of supernatural fire that elder day enabled the apostles to speak to representatives of every nation under heaven in the tongue wherein they were born. But William Carey, by translation, gave the Word of God in twenty-three languages and many dialects to one-third of the world’s population.
Very deliberately do I say it, the World’s Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions, recently held in New York City, was but the outgrowth and the echo of William Carey’s sermon one hundred and seven years ago. The Edinburgh Review denounced his mission as madness, and sneered at the missionary as “a cobbler,” but the Quarterly more wisely will rejoin: “Only fourteen years have elapsed since Thomas and Carey set foot in India, and in that time these missionaries have acquired the gift of tongues. In fourteen years these ‘low-born and low-bred mechanics’ have done more toward spreading the knowledge of the Scriptures among he heathen than has been accomplished or even attempted by all the world besides.”
Thirty-four years hence the death of this “cobbler” will mark the exit of the greatest missionary factor since Paul, the tent-maker, died. Without Carey, Judson had not been. And, just here in passing, allow me to correct the prevalent misrepresentation that American Baptists first came to love Foreign Missions when Providence thrust upon them the support of Judson and Rice. I have with me the historical records to show how American Baptists received appeals from Carey’s field, passed resolutions of sympathy and co-operation, and raised and forwarded funds long before Judson became a Baptist. While Carey is down in dark heathen mines, we see his greatest coadjutor, Andrew Fuller, holding the ropes in England — that Andrew Fuller, the greatest foe to Antinomianism in the century, and whose sermons and other publications are Baptist classics to-day.
And there, too, in England one hundred years ago, Robert Hall is preaching in English of eclectic elegance and power, which possesses the excellencies of Shakespeare, Johnson, Addison, Burke and Sheridan without their faults. The Philadelphia Confession of Faith, adopted in 1742, and printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, is, with some modifications, but a reproduction of the old London Confession, adopted in 1689. It is the prevalent standard in 1800.
In Wales there are ten thousand Baptists in 1800, with Christmas Evans leading. Only four years ago he preached his famous sermon on the Healing of the Demoniac. It may interest and profit our young preachers here to-day to take a glimpse at the man and the sermon – particularly that class of modern preachers who read polite essays of fifteen minutes’ length, written on tinted paper and ornamented with a pink ribbon . Over in my country if some idle wind with nothing else to do and no other chaff to blow along, should flutter the harmless thing all the way from Texarkana to Laredo, and all the Baptists in the state were out hunting a sermon, not one of them would take a shot at that. But to speak of a real sermon from a live man: Consider that it is a hot day over in Wales, and that two long-winded and very dry preachers have just preceded him (for our Baptist people of that day had almost infinite capacity for hearing sermons), then rises up a man who is to hold them spellbound three hours longer.
Just look at him. His contemporaries sketch an outline of him. The tallest, stoutest, greatest man one ever saw. He appears like one composed, on the day after a great battle, out of the scattered members of the slain. Or like a book, taken in numbers, with some wanting. An Anak whose head is covered with thick, coarse black hair. His gait unwieldy, his limbs unequal. He has but one eye – if it might be called an eye – more properly a brilliant star, shining like Venus, bright enough to light an army through a forest. But, O my soul, how he can preach! The throng that hear him go wild. They fall to the ground as if rocked by an earthquake. They see that naked demoniac bounding out of the tombs; witness the bursting of his chains and the paroxysms of his fury, and cry out in terror at his approach. They see Jesus coming in the quiet of his majesty and casting out the demon by a word. They see the demon – driven swine hurl themselves into the deep. They witness the home-coming of that once awful father and husband. They hear the glad wife’s sobs of welcome and see the astounded and yet trembling children creep from under the bed into a father’s arms, while high as heaven over every other name is the name of Jesus.
That audience saw Christmas Evans as the perfect ideal of Welsh character. To them he embodied, in his rugged, honest and fervent zeal, his clear penetration and poetic fire, all the spirit and pathos of the Welsh mind. Gentlemen! Gentlemen ! I would rather be able to preach to lost souls like Christmas Evans than to be the author of every speculative vagary since Epicurus died, and all the flimsy higher criticism that ever evidenced a palsied grasp of faith. But how will such a man die? Hear him as the chariot of fire, and the convoy of angels come for him thirty-eight years hence: “I am leaving you; I have labored in the sanctuary fifty-three years, and this is my comfort, that I HAVE NEVER LABORED WITHOUT BLOOD IN THE BASIN.” With his last breath he quotes an old Welsh hymn, waves a farewell and cries out to the angelic charioteer: “Wheel about, coachman, drive on!” Ah me! the groundlings of the present day, who leave out the blood – a million of them would not make a shoestring for Christmas Evans! This man preached before Baptist associations one hundred and sixty-three times. Blessed associations!
We have time only for one other Continental reference. Look yonder in the north of Ireland in the Protestant province of Ulster, famous for its siege of Londonderry — that Scotch-Irish settlement from which, impelled by tyranny, there poured out a tide of emigration thirty thousand strong, to occupy all the Blue Ridge country — an immigration that will furnish the victors of King’s Mountain and give to Kentucky her Breckenridges, to Tennessee her Andrew Jackson, to Texas her Sam Houston and to Virginia her Stonewall Jackson. And to all our states many illustrious names. There in Ulster in 1800, I ask you to look, just now, at one man only. It is Alexander Carson. He is but twenty-six years old, and soon will impress the polemical world with his unanswerable logic concerning the act of baptism, and console a million perplexed hearts with his history of Providence.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Turn to the New World. In the United States we have as data, contemporaneous with the first census in 1790, Asplund’s Register, which shows in statistics, state by state, that there were in this country 564 Baptist preachers, 748 churches and 60,970 members. But that was ten years ago. A circular letter to be read next year — 1801 — before the Philadelphia Baptist Association, will say: “We have entered upon a new century ; and while it is yet the morning of it, let us take a view of some of the works of God in the last. Ninety-four years have rolled on since the first meeting of this Association, the first in America, and then composed of only five churches ; but viewing the present state of our connection in this country, we perceive it to be as the thousands of Israel, embracing numerous associations, composed of at least 1,200 churches, including more than 100,000 members.”
You see, by the way, that these early Baptists knew when a century commences. The writer does not give the original sources of information from which he obtained his figures. But he seems to speak advisedly and with confidence. Fortunately, we have the full text of the centennial sermon, commemorative of the one-hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Association, which was preached in 1807. The preacher is Samuel Jones, a noted man in his day. He preaches from William Carey’s great text to show that the great things expected and attempted fourteen years ago have been marvelously fulfilled. Without accurate statistics before him from other associations, the preacher concludes that there are 122,500 Baptists in the United States in 1807. He reckons 194 churches in Massachusetts and 150 in New York. He observes with pleasure that religious persecution of his brethren had ceased in Virginia and had abated in Massachusetts. He calls special attention to the missionary spirit, prevalent for years in many places, tending to carry the gospel to the heathen world, and expects the millennium to come by the opening of the twentieth century. We can testify that it has not yet arrived.
To put the condition before you in a realizing way, we may safely say: One hundred years ago there were in the United States about half as many Baptists as there are white Baptists in Texas to-day, and that there are in Texas to-day more Baptist preachers, churches, members and schools than there were in the whole world a century ago. Unquestionably the great and historic association in the United States one hundred years ago was the Philadelphia Association. It is the Mother Eve of American Associations. From the beginning it has been sound in the faith and missionary in spirit. We hear much in that olden time of Virginia and the Carolinas sending help in many ways to New England, but Philadelphia sent help southward and her gospel came with healing in its wings. There was in 1800 no state or national organization of our people, but there were general committees, and widespread co-operation for missions, education and particularly for mutual protection against civil and religious persecution. There were no Sunday schools of the modern kind, but there was much private and catechetical instruction. All the principles underlying the wider forms of present cooperation were then in full force. The time-limits of my address restrict discussion to the territory now covered by the Southern Baptist Convention. Let us commence with
My heart always thrills at the name. The history of two states of this Union furnishes higher themes for epic poems than the less heroic affairs which inspired the songs of Homer and Virgil. One of the two is Virginia – modesty forbids that I name the other. From the beginning of its entrancing history until this good hour, life in the Old Dominion was set to heroic measure. Higher criticism has utterly failed to destroy the historic verity of the romantic story of John Smith and Pocahontas. You know Virginia once extended on the Atlantic Coast from Cape Cod to Florida and straight westward to the Pacific Ocean, supposed to lie somewhere back of the Blue Ridge.
There is yet preserved the quaint record of an old-time writer, who states his case in a charming way. He calls attention to the intrusion of some Swedes upon Virginia soil, who were making their way up a river called Delaware, and of certain nosing Dutch who were also trespassing on a river called the Hudson. He wonders at two things: First, how far it may be from the falls of the James River, afterwards the site of Richmond, to the Pacific Ocean, Virginia’s other boundary, where Drake had been sailing. And second, that the twenty thousand Puritans of New England did not leave their cold and barren shores and come down to God’s country, where wild turkeys weigh sixty pounds, where raccoons are as good meat as lambs, ‘possums as good as hams and artichokes as sweet as yams and where are such worlds of good tobacco and where the rivers teem with bass and shad.
You see there was some imagination there even then. The religious denominations were famous in old Virginia. The Episcopal was the state church, which for support made awful inroads on Baptist tobacco. Their own Bishop Meade tells us some marvelous stories of the gambling, swearing, horseracing, cock-fighting and drunken clergy, who assumed to monopolize gospel functions. One of them was a noted pugilist, who, getting into some trouble with his vestrymen, floored them all in a knock-down and drag-out fight. The following Sunday he commemorated his victory in a sermon from this text of Nehemiah: “And I contended with them and cursed them, and smote certain of
them, and plucked off their hair.”
The Baptists, who were as plentiful as blackberries, themselves sometimes experimented. In the year before the American Revolution, they gravely restored apostolic succession by electing three apostles, with marvelous powers and responsibilities. One year of it was enough. It made them so sick they have been swinging back too far perhaps into the opposite extreme ever since. At least I am informed that many good brethren in those parts do not now believe in any kind of a succession or perpetuity, though holding fast yet, as I am proud to say, to the final perseverance of the saints. Time fails me to tell the wondrous story of Baptist progress in Virginia — of their great revivals, their preachers and their sufferings. A notable and far reaching event in their history was the happy union of the Separate and Regular Baptists under the title of the United Baptist Churches of Christ in Virginia. Writing in 1809, Robert Semple, the historian of Virginia Baptists, gives a graphic account of this union which occurred twenty-two years before. Throughout the Southern States the same union was accomplished, culminating in Kentucky one year ago. I have myself seen old church letters of the three varieties — Separate, Regular and United, and counted all of them valid.
After the Revolutionary War, there were wonderful revivals among the Virginia Baptists. In 1790-2, there were 200 churches and 20,000 members, to become as the new century opens nearly 400 churches with 35,000 members, and that, too, after peopling Kentucky by migration. Oftentimes a whole church, a pastor and people, would move together to a new field without a break in organization or regular service. As in the beginning “the groves were God’s first temples,” so the campfires of these moving Virginians lighted up the primeval forests as they worshiped God. In the first church to which I ever preached was a colony of Virginia Baptists, all members of one of the churches ministered to by that venerable Andrew Broaddus, Jr., of Carolina, who recently passed away. Often have I read the manuscript copy of his farewell sermon to these pilgrims, one of whom, his kinsman, another Andrew Broaddus, became a distinguished Texas lawyer, and for years the president of our State Baptist Convention.
A century ago there were twice as many Baptists in Virginia as in New York, and more than in all New England. Only last year their general committee gave way to their general conference, which in turn will become their general association. Their annual meetings were famous for spiritual power, and never failed to leave a lasting and favorable impress behind. A Methodist preacher once told me that the Baptists captured Virginia by the power of their annual meetings, particularly of the old Dover Association and their General Association. Perhaps the three greatest leaders in Virginia one hundred years ago were John Leland, Andrew Broaddus, Sr., and Robert Semple. John Leland was a mighty man of affairs, and played no small part in the revolutionary movements of his day. And while I am proud of the association of his name with that of James Madison, I delight most to think of him in one of his happy pulpit efforts.
It was a time of strong doctrine, and many Baptists were hyper-Calvinists in their view. But Leland himself tells us how, one day while preaching, “his soul got into the gospel trade-winds,” which so filled his spiritual sails that he forgot about election and reprobation and so preached Christ to sinners that many accepted him as their Saviour and Lord. And oh, I would to God that the preachers of this generation, like old John Leland of long ago, would now get into the gospel trade-winds and bear away with flaming canvas the everlasting gospel to earth’s remotest bounds!
Andrew Broaddus was every way a remarkable man. Think of it, ye aspiring young preachers, who long for fat city pastorates, how this man kept refusing calls to New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other mighty centers, that he might abide with his dear old country churches. Semple became the historian of that historic time, and you would do good to yourself by adding to your library his valuable record, so recently and commendably reproduced by the Religious Herald men.
In North Carolina, 1792, there were 94 churches with 7,500 members, to become, in 1812, 204 churches, with 12,500 members. Here were two associations, one of them unhappily to become anti-missionary in spirit, the other to send out later by way of compensation, William T. Brantly and Basil Manly, the name of each to be perpetuated in a mighty son.
In South Carolina, 1792, there were 70 churches with 4,000 members, to become, in 1812, 150 churches with 11,000 members. The very name of this state and date spontaneously call up the image of the most colossal Baptist of his day on the American continent, Richard Furman, whose name is perpetuated in a great university. My soul thrills as I watch the movements of this prince in Israel during that stormy period. I see Cornwallis posting rewards for his apprehension, so formidable is this patriot to British aggression. To the front always was he in every enterprise in peace or war, everywhere the advocate of civil and religious liberty. Blessed with large wealth, a superb gentleman, an irreproachable character challenging the respect even of his enemies, a leader and organizer of men, Richard Furman’s name must ever remain on fame’s historic roll of the immortals.
In Georgia, 1792, there were 50 churches, 72 preachers and 3,000 members, to become, in 1813, 5 associations, 164 churches and 15,000 members. The mighty men of this state are Henry Holcombe and Jesse Mercer. Holcombe will this very year, 1800, organize the first Baptist church in Savannah, and two years hence commence his publication of the Analytical Repository. Jesse Mercer, a younger man, even now outstripping his great father, Silas Mercer, will leave an impress on his own and succeeding generations time can never efface. How venerable in appearance ! How equable in mind! The man who never had a personal quarrel. How pure in heart, how clean in life, how clear and sound and cogent in doctrine! His generosity and liberality illumine his life, and his character preaches louder than his tongue.
It must have been a thrilling time when this young man in 1791 accompanied his father all the way from Georgia to a meeting of the General Committee of Virginia at Nuckol’s meeting-house, Goochland County, and there heard in succession his father preach Calvinism and their fellow Georgian, Jeremiah Walker, preach Arminianism. One of the most effective sermons ever preached on foreign missions was by Jesse Mercer from Acts 13:47. Every drop of blood in his veins was missionary blood. His gift of $2,500 at one time sent the first missionaries to Texas. Let all Texas forever hold him in loving remembrance. Soon another gift will found Mercer University.
Kentucky in 1792 had 42 churches and 3,000 members, to become, in 1812, 285 churches with 22,000 members. Among the early Kentucky Baptists were the brother and children of Daniel Boone. Unfortunately in much of Kentucky, and indeed the Southwest, there prevailed an inveterate prejudice against educated and salaried ministers.
Tennessee in 1792 had 21 churches with 900 members, to become, in 1812, 156 churches with 11,323 members. The Baptist growth in Maryland has been always slow. Armitage reports for 1793 only 17 churches, 13 preachers and 920 members. It will yet be eight years before a Baptist church will be organized in the Indian wilds of Alabama Territory not to become, until 1821, 70 churches with 2,500 members.
In the territory now comprising Mississippi, a part of which was ceded to the United States in 1797, and another part in 1819, a church was constituted as early as 1780, and eight years afterward another church. By 1806, the Mississippi Baptist Association is organized with six churches. In 1812 there will be 17 churches with 764 members. The early Baptists of this territory suffered much from persecution in the days of Spanish power. They were arrested, imprisoned and threatened with deportation to the mines of Mexico, until they demanded immunity from persecution by force of arms. The Baptists were the first to convey the gospel beyond the Mississippi River. About eight Baptists, including one preacher, and the members of the Boone family from Kentucky, were in the territory now comprised by Missouri as early as 1800. There was one baptism . By 1812 there will be seven churches with 192 members. This is but a scant and unsatisfactory glance at the status of Baptist churches in the world one hundred years ago.
Any careful retrospect over the field of modern Baptist history reveals at a glance certain mighty facts or movements, uplifting themselves into clear visibility far above the dead level of ordinary events as mountain peaks tower above the plains. These are the milestones and sign-boards along the highway of human progress. Look back yonder while I point them out, peak by peak, and discern the mountain springs from which flow the streams whose mingled currents make up the river of present denominational power:
1. First of all, the giving of the Bible to the common people of the English-speaking world. The Bible, in the mother tongue, without note of expert or comment of scholar, without a priestly shadow to darken one luminous page — the naked Bible, the Father’s message to men, naturally makes Baptists. One of the most thrilling and instructive classics in our language is Harwood Pattison’s “History of the English Bible.” A few days ago, while dining in Judson Memorial Hall, with a son of Adoniram Judson, I found myself commending this book to a bright young man, who proved to be Pattison’s own son. He promised to read the book.
2. Next comes, as the natural sequence of a free Bible, that mighty struggle between the Parliament and Charles I., which culminated in the Commonwealth. To ignore that period seals up history. Ignorance of it makes it impossible to understand the Baptists of to-day. It was a colossal strife for civil and religious liberty. Victories were won in that day whose laurels will never fade and whose influence will never die. And whenever that fight has raged in the last nineteen centuries, you may count that Baptists were in it, as confidently as you look for an Irishman at a wake. Wherever Cromwell’s armies march, the Baptists, who constituted a large, heroic and influential part of them, deposited the imperishable seeds of their principles. In his Irish garrisons, 1755, were twelve Baptist governors of cities, ten colonels, three lieutenant colonels, ten majors and forty-three company officers. Hence Richard Baxter’s growl: “In Ireland the Ana-Baptists were grown so high that many of the soldiers were rebaptized as a way to preferment.” In Scotland they stood unabashed under the frowns of John Knox, resisting even Cromwell’s later ambitions, reminding him of their timely help at Dunbar, and still later petition the famous General Monk, the king- restorer, for high civil and religious rights. The times ripened their literary genius until it kindled flames whose light illumined the skies of the world, whose aspiring sparks hailed the stars. “The blind old bard of Scio’s rocky isle” was outsoared in epic fame by a blind Baptist bard, iron Cromwell’s Latin secretary. A pilgrim crept through the bars of Bedford jail and went forth into more byways and highways of earth, knocking at more doors and speaking to more peoples in their mother tongues than ever before or since a literary pilgrim has done. The tinker is dead. His statue stands where four roads meet, “a very grave person, the world behind him.” It yet
“…has eyes uplifted to heaven;
The best of books is his hand;
The law of truth still written
Upon his lips…
It stands as if pleading
The tinker is dead. The statue stands. The pilgrim moves on, outlasting the Wandering Jew. Indeed, the tall, wide-spreading Baptist tree of today is deep rooted in Cromwell’s time.
3. Next in order of time and natural sequence comes the Act of Toleration, 1689, during the reign of William and Mary. This was life to England as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was death to France. They will stand over against each other until the judgment, in everlasting contrast, as light and darkness. That evil stroke of the pen of Louis XIV. hurt France more than the defeats at Blenheim, Oudenarde and Malplaquet. That signature of William III. uplifted England more than all Marlborough’s victories. And both mightily built up the Baptist power in England and her colonies.
4. Later in date but more far-reaching in power is William Carey’s Foreign Mission Sermon. When he spoke, the sleeping world heard two far-off cries: one from heathen lands, “Come over and help US,” and one from the Mount of Ascension: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” And wherever and whenever since, oppression lifts its heavy hand from Baptist necks, and God sends revivals, they hear those two voices made audible by Carey’s sermon . The cobbler’s body lies moldering in the ground, but the cobbler’s soul goes marching on.
And here allow me to isolate and emphasize one significant fact. In the year 1800, yonder in Boston, was organized a Woman’s Missionary Society, which contributed $150 to missions the first year. Happy presage of a glorious future! Right glad was I that my Brother Eaton corrected the statistics submitted in the recent Ecumenical Conference concerning woman’s proportion of foreign mission work. Well do we know in this Convention the power of their co-operation.
5. Passing over to the New World, we next note the struggle for civil and religious liberty in America, culminating when the members of the old Philadelphia Association, then holding their 74th session, were roused at midnight by the watchman’s cry: “Past 12 o’clock and all is well, and Cornwallis has surrendered!” Hence their resolution: “And now, dear brethren, we feel ourselves constrained to acknowledge the great goodness of God toward us, and to call on you to join with us in thankfulness and praise, as well for the unanimity and brotherly love which prevailed throughout our meeting as for the recent signal success granted to the American arms, in the surrender of the whole British army, under the command of Lord Cornwallis, with the effusion of so little blood.”
Cornwallis surrendered October 19, 1781, at Yorktown, Virginia. This resolution was adopted in Philadelphia four days later. Happy people who are able to reckon unanimity and brotherly love as great a cause for praise as the surrender of an enemy’s army. Lord help us ever to keep the lesson in mind! I can never think back into this period of fiery trials without seeing pictures. They fill a gallery in my mind. I walk among them and look up at them with bared head, in awed silence, while my heart is burning. There they are. I can see them now. I see Roger Williams, an outcast, wandering in winter snows. I see the bared back of Obadiah Holmes, scarred with bloody stripes.
I see that disgraceful spoliation of my brethren at Ashfield – their orchards, yards, fields and the very graves of their dead sacrificed under forced sale to supply funds for a needless meeting-house of another denomination, and to pay this Pedobaptist preacher’s salary—himself there bidding in their property for a song. And this only six years before the battle of Lexington, and not so very far from that historic field.
I see the venerable Isaac Backus at the meeting of the First Continental Congress, laboring vainly with the Massachusetts delegates in behalf of religious liberty for his persecuted people, and hear the reply of John Adams, that “you might as well attempt to turn the heavenly luminaries from their course as to ask Massachusetts to give up the union of church and state.” In this year, 1800, Backus has yet seven years to live, and it will be twenty seven-years more before this unnatural union is dissolved in Massachusetts. It will be 1820 before Connecticut has religious liberty.
But we are yet in the picture gallery. This time the scenes are from old Virginia: I see Lewis Craig, John Burrus, John Young, Edward Herndon, James Goolrick, Bartholomew Choning, Edwain Saunders and John Walker in jail for the crime of preaching the gospel without Episcopal license. I see letters written to them while incarcerated and their replies from behind prison bars. I hear them preaching through prison windows to friends gathered outside. I read the Baptist addresses and memorials and petitions addressed to the House of Burgesses, to the President of the United States. They bear familiar signatures: Samuel Harris, Reuben Ford, John Waller. I see the historic forms of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Patrick Henry giving better counsel and help than John Adams gave to Father Backus. Brethren, in the war of the Commonwealth in England, and in our Revolutionary War, the Baptists were all patriots. In a long list of published Tories there is not a Baptist name. Dearer than life to a Baptist is soul-liberty. They are like the grim Douglas who said that “the smell of one fagot on the Tay” would bring him back from the English marches.
And let me tell you that soul-liberty in these United States means soul-liberty one day for the whole world. And you may write this down and ponder it: It was the struggle for civil and religious liberty that brought about that voluntary Baptist co-operation, which to-day enables our independent churches to elicit, combine and direct their resources in behalf of missions, education and fraternity. When they learned to co-operate voluntarily, without an autocratic pope, without a hierarchy, without a cast-iron organization, they settled the question of the ages. They took the divine precept, “Love the Brotherhood,” and made it the centripetal force that would equalize the centrifugal force of church independence and the tangential force of individual liberty so as to bring about that circular motion which makes the or bits and preserves the harmony of the heavenly bodies.
Stand, therefore, by co-operation, as the one successful answer to the cavils of our enemies that Baptist polity, having no earthly head or graded hierarchy, can never accomplish the work of organization. But to hold together many widely scattered and free communities there must be some mighty work to do beyond the ability of the few and commensurate with the power of the many. As in the past we have these mighty works before us now: (a) protection against tyranny; (b) missions, home and foreign; (c) Christian education. Common necessities and mutual interests brought about that glorious union of the Separate and Regular Baptists and may they ever remain one and indivisible! May differences on minor points never break up our unity!
And now let us for a moment inquire somewhat into the doctrines, discipline and comity of our churches one hundred years ago. In all essential particulars they were the same as now. There were differences on minor points, but great agreement on vital points. Their more important doctrines were: The plenary inspiration, sufficiency and supremacy of the Holy Scriptures. The divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and his vicarious expiation.
The necessity of regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Spirit arising from man’s fall and total depravity. Salvation by grace, with all its kindred doctrines. Repentance and faith the terms of discipleship. Salvation essential to baptism, and not baptism essential to salvation. Baptism and church-membership essential to communion . A spiritual church. A distinct local church. An independent church. Interdependence of local churches for counsel and co-operation. The mission of the churches to preach the gospel to every creature. Co-operation of the churches for protection against tyranny, for missions and for education. Severance between church and state and soul-liberty. From the queries sent up to the associations and the answers returned, it is evident that their views of discipline accord in all essential points with ours to-day and that in comity they were somewhat ahead of us now. But who were the leading men of 1800?
Truly “there were giants in those days.” Look at them! In Europe were Carey, Fuller, Robert Hall, Christmas Evans and Carson. In the North stands the venerable Backus at the head of the list. With him are Manning, Stillman, Stanghtan, Gano and a host of others. In the South are John Leland, Andrew Broaddus, Semple, Richard Furman, Jesse Mercer, Henry Holcombe and many others. And what men they were in character and power! Who overtops them now?
And shall we not be called on to put forth all our strength to maintain the standards they established, and transmit unimpaired the priceless legacies they bequeathed? We have not space to write of their laymen and of that vast host of modest country preachers whose names are omitted from the historic page, but who snatched civil and re ligious freedom from tyranny’s grasp, broke the bond uniting church and state, filled all the woods of the New World with campfires of revival and made every river, lake and pool bear testimony by baptism to the resurrection of the dead. Heaven is peopled by their converts, and myriad expectant cells of hell left forever vacant because of the brands they plucked from the burning. Let us glance at some of the coming men.
I speak of the boys of 1800. Ivieny is twenty-seven, Benedict twenty-one, Peck is eleven and Cramp four years old. They will some day become historians of Baptist affairs. In North Carolina are two boys destined to greatness – William T. Brantly, Sr., thirteen years old, and Basil Manly, Sr., two years old. In South Carolina is a boy of eight, W. B. Johnson, who alone will wear the distinctive honor of presiding over both the Triennial and the Southern Baptist Conventions. Adiel Sherwood is nine years old. In 1827 he will preach a sermon that will cause four thousand penitents at one time to fall down before the throne of grace supplicating for mercy.
Adoniram Judson is twelve years old. Oh, the vaulting ambition, the soaring aspiration, the incorrigible pride of that boy! And how mightily he will wrestle with conquering grace before he surrenders his inordinate cravings for earthly honors to become wholly the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ — to become willing to be anything, to go anywhere and everywhere, to be consecrated body, soul and spirit to his Master’s service. The Lord calls that kind sometimes to do great things. He called Saul of Tarsus. He called Adoniram Judson.
And there is a boy in England five years old Sir Henry Havelock. He will be a mighty general in heathen lands. One of Carey’s fellow missionaries will baptize him. His regiment will be called “Havelock’s Saints.” They will equal the Ironsides of Cromwell. This man will place his lamps in the laps of heathen gods, making them torch bearers in their own temples while he and his men worship Jesus Christ. He will go as a deliverer to Lucknow, and, dying there, be in luck forever. And here is another boy thirteen years old, one Alexander Campbell, who will likely give you Baptists some trouble at a later day. Surely if the old Red Stone Association does not inquire into his case more carefully than I think it will, it will become necessary that some competent Virginian shall examine and re-examine him after a while. And here is another lad who will stir up things mightily later on. He will come from the frontiers of Georgia, without education, small in person, slovenly in dress, unprepossessing in appearance, with shriveled features and small piercing eyes. So J. M. Peck describes him . He is an Antinomian of Antinomians, assuming to speak from immediate inspiration. He will uproot the tender missionary gardens like a wild boar. He will oppose missions, education, Bible and temperance societies, prayer-meetings, Sunday-schools and all other evangelizing agencies with indescribable fury. He will take advantage of the prejudices of ignorance and the prevalent hyper-Calvinism and push his war into all the Southwest until in many associations of Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee the late-blossoming gardens of missionary work shall be as if a cold, chilling frost of death had been breathed upon them. Who is this man? His name is Daniel Parker.
In 1826-7 he will publish his notorious “two seed” pamphlets, that will become his winding sheet and cause his memory to rot. Among many other boys who will become famous or infamous, I select only two other names. In Rockridge County, Virginia, is a boy of seven who will follow the flag of Andrew Jackson to Indian wars, who will be governor of Tennessee, then, suddenly leaving civilization, will naturalize as an Indian, then go to Texas, and in spite of the downfall of the Alamo and the massacre at Goliad, will snatch an empire at the battle of San Jacinto from the hands of Santa Anna, the Napoleon of the West, will become president of that new republic and hand back by annexation to the United States that vast territory now covered by Texas, the most of New Mexico, parts of the Indian Territory, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. The whole of it once ceded, but unclaimed in the Jefferson purchase, and now redeemed by bloody revolution.
That boy’s name is Sam Houston, and on only a part of that territory now are 171 missionaries of this Convention and in it more Baptists than were in the world when Houston was a boy of seven. In Kentucky is another boy nine years old who will go to Texas, become a jurist and preacher, and, in the very year of this State Convention’s organization, lay the foundation of that institution which bears his name to-day. His name is R. E. B. Baylor, and Baylor University and the Texas Convention were born in 1845.
As space fails me, I must leave my subject where Tacitus left his German hero — on the middle of a bridge — with mighty controversies yet pending and with this unanswerable question: Who of the boys now living will make the twentieth-century Baptist world memorable?