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only of obtaining liberty of conscience, but of actually overturning the Church establishment, from whence all their oppressions had arisen. Petitions for this purpose were


churches in all the colonies in 1770. . . . in 1784 our total membership in the thirteen colonies was only about 35,000"; a and that: We find that while the first Church was planted in that Colony (Virginia) in 1714, in 1793 there were in the State 227 churches, 272 ministers, 22,793 communicants, and 14 associations." b


Semple closes his estimate of the number-thirty-one thousand and fifty-two-of Baptists in Virginia at the time of his writing (1809), by saying: "The increase in nineteen years (since 1790) is more than fifty per cent. During this period it has been supposed that over one-fourth of the Baptists of Virginia have moved to Kentucky and other parts of the western country." And Semple remarks elsewhere: "It is questionable with some whether half of the Baptist preachers who have been raised in Virginia have not emigrated to the western country." a This emigration westward is the subject of constant remark by the Baptist writers of the times. Lewis Craig went to Kentucky in 1781. "In removing from Virginia," says Taylor, "he had taken with him most of the members of the Upper Spottsylvania, since called Craig's church. This was the oldest and most flourishing body of baptized believers between James and Rappahannock rivers. . . . The pastor and flock, numbering about two hundred members, and called by John Taylor 'the travelling church,' commenced their long toilsome journey. The whole, embracing children and servants, numbered nearly four hundred." e Rev. Lewis Lunsford, in a letter under date of March 11, 1793, written after his return from Kentucky, says: 'The emigration to that country is incredible." ↑


In view of the number of churches in 1776, in view also of the estimates cited and of the continuous emigration to Kentucky, it seems probable that there were at the end of 1775 something like 10,000 Baptist members in Virginia, and that the number rapidly rose to about 20,000 and remained near those figures till the end of the century. This is a mere guess, however. The estimate as to churches is likewise a guess. It is based on Semple's tables, which in turn are based on Asplund's Register, in part, on Fristoe's History, and on the Association records. But Semple gives names not found in Fristoe, for the corresponding period, and he omits

a Thos. Armitage, History of the Baptists, N. Y., 1887, p. 776. b Thos. Armitage, History of Baptists, 735.

c Semple, 446.

a Semple, 172.

e J. B. Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers, First Series, 3d ed., N. Y., 1860, 89.

↑ Taylor, ibid., 142.

accordingly drawn and circulated with great industry. Vast numbers, readily, and indeed, eagerly, subscribed to them."" Thenceforward, the Baptists pursued the Church Establishment with a vindictive hatred that is repellent, however natural it may have been, and however glad we may be that the Establishment was finally destroyed.

The cause of this hatred has already been stated in part. We have seen that a strong social element was one of the formative influences of the Baptist organization at this particular time. That it is easy for the upper class of society to misunderstand and despise those below, and for the lower class to hate those above, has been abundantly shown in history before and since the French Revolution." At this early time very few of the Baptists belonged to the aristocratic, office-holding class which filled the county courts, which furnished the members of the parish vestries, and which, therefore, levied taxes upon these, their poor neighbors, for the support of an official church grossly neglectful of its sacred duties. This class feeling was increased by the Established clergy, themselves members of the upper class in virtue of their position and in so many cases unworthy of either class or position.

What Semple says on this subject is but the common testimony of the times: "The great success and rapid increase of the Baptists in Virginia, must be ascribed primarily to the power of God working with them. Yet it cannot be

names found in Fristoe. The absence of the date of foundation of so many churches in his tables renders the matter still more confused and confusing; and finally he himself complains despairingly, "Churches used so often to change their names that it is now really difficult to identify an old church." To this may be added, that churches seemed to be abandoned and to be revived in a manner beyond the calculus of probabilities. An approximation seems to be as near as we can come to the fact; but the fact was very substantial. Semple, 25.


70 Let whoever would better understand this social class attitude of the middle of the XVIII Century read-and read between the lines-Fielding's "Tom Jones," as well as "The Spectator," and Goldsmith.

denied but that there were subordinate and cooperating causes; one of which, and the main one, was the loose and immoral deportment of the established clergy, by which the people were left almost destitute of even the shadow of true religion. 'Tis true, they had some outward forms of worship, but the essential principles of Christianity were not only not understood among them, but by many, never heard of. Some of the cardinal precepts of morality were disregarded, and actions plainly forbidden by the New Testament were often proclaimed by the clergy harmless and innocent, or at least foibles of but little account. Having no discipline, every man followed the bent of his own inclination. It was not uncommon for the rectors of parishes to be men of the loosest morals. The Baptist preachers were in almost every respect the reverse of the Established clergy. The Baptist preachers were without learning, without patronage, generally very poor, very plain in their dress, unrefined in their manners, and awkward in their address; all of which, by their enterprising zeal and unwearied perseverance, they either turned to advantage or prevented their ill effects. On the other hand, most of the ministers of the Establishment were men of classical and scientific education, patronized by men in power, connected with great families, supported by competent salaries, and put into office by the strong arm of civil power. Thus pampered and secure, the men of this order were rolling on the bed of luxury when the others began their extraordinary career. Their learning, riches, power, etc., seemed only to hasten their overthrow by producing an unguarded heedlessness, which is so often the prelude to calamity and downfall." "



Semple, 25-26. Leland had already twenty years before Semple made substantially the same statement as to Baptist preachers. He speaks of "the rarity of mechanics and planters preaching such strange things," and adds in a note, "To this day (1790) there are not more than three or four Baptist ministers in Virginia, who have received the diploma of M. A., which is additional proof

The plain, everyday people, then, were not only irritated by social distinctions and wounded in the sensitive pocket nerve by burdensome church taxes, but they were shocked and disgusted by clerical immorality. Nor was this all. They saw their fellows and neighbors arrested and thrust like common malefactors into the county jails for the alleged crime of preaching the Gospel of peace, free to all men without tithe and without trammel of priestly contrivance. Looking at it in this way, they did well to be angry.

These illustrations of the Baptist propaganda and persecution and of their consequences have been thus fully set forth in order to show the passionate feeling of the Baptists themselves and the sympathy for them in the community at large in the latter part of 1774. This state of the public feeling led up to the resolution reached by the Baptists to make a direct attack on the Establishment as soon as possible. In 1773 an attempt to overthrow the Established Church would have been foolish and futile; in 1774 petitions to that end were subscribed to, Semple tells us, by “vast numbers readily and indeed eagerly."

It is well at this point, by way of review, to state briefly the relations of the Baptists and the legislature up to the middle of the year 1774. There do not appear to have been any petitions during 1771. Early in 1772, on Feb


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that the work has been of God, and not of man (Writings, 105, and note, ibid.). Rev. R. B. C. Howell, in Early Baptists in Virginia," an address delivered in 1856, nearly fifty years after Semple wrote, and nearly seventy years after Leland's "Virginia Chronicle," flatly contradicts the testimony of both these notable men as to this matter. What his authority is for so doing I know not; he gives none. See Publications of American Baptist Historical Society, 1857, p. 105 ff. Benedict says of these preachers: "A portion of the men under consideration possessed in a high degree the powers of imagination and invention to which many modern preachers of literary training can make but small pretensions. . . . Figures and metaphors were their favorite themes, and, by some means or others, they would make all things about them plain. As for parables, they would never leave one till they had made it go on all-fours."

Benedict, Fifty Years, 96.

ruary 12, the Journal of the Burgesses shows that "A petition of several persons of the county of Lunenburg, whose names are thereunto subscribed, was presented to the House and read; setting forth, that the petitioners, being of the society of Christians called Baptists, find themselves restricted in the exercise of their religion, their teachers imprisoned under various pretences, and the benefits of the Toleration Act denied them, although they are willing to conform to the true spirit of that act, and are loyal and quiet subjects; and therefore, praying that they may be treated with the same kind indulgence, in religious matters, as Quakers, Presbyterians, and other Protestant dissenters enjoy."

99 72

Identical petitions are presented from Mecklenburg county on February 22, and from Sussex on February 24; and on this same day (Feb. 24) a like petition from Amelia county adds that "If the Act of Toleration does not extend to this colony, they are exposed to severe persecution; and if it does extend hither, and the power of granting licenses to teachers be lodged, as is supposed, in the General Court alone, the petitioners must suffer considerable inconveniences, not only because that Court sits not oftener than twice in the year, and then at a place far remote, but because the said Court will admit a single meeting-house, and no more, in one county, and that the petitioners are loyal and quiet subjects, whose tenets in no wise affect the state; and therefore praying a redress of their grievances, and that Liberty of Conscience may be secured to them." "


On February 25, the Committee for Religion reported that those petitions were reasonable and was ordered to bring in a bill in accordance therewith. On the 27th of


Journal, House of Burgesses, Feb. 12, 1772.

73 Journal of Ho. of Burgesses, Fristoe, 73, says: "I knew the General Court to refuse a license for a Baptist meeting-house in the county of Richmond, because there was a Presbyterian meeting-house already in the county, although the act of Toleration considered them distinct societies."

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