AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES ORIGINATED INDEPENDENTLY OF ROGER WILLIAMS. ROGER WILLIAMS A BAPTIST ONLY IN PART, AND NEVER A MEMBER OF ANY BAPTIST CHURCH. TWO BAPTIST CHURCHES ORGANIZED IN AMERICA BEFORE WILLIAMS' SO-CALLED BAPTIST CHURCH WAS IN EXISTENCE.
The claim that Roger Williams originated the first Baptist church in America has no historical foundation. Isaac Backus, whom Neander highly regarded as a historian, of the records of the first church of Providence, which are the foundation of this claim, says: “The diversity of sentiments mentioned in this volume …brought such darkness over their affairs that no regular records before 1770 are now found therein.”1 This leaves the first church of Providence, during the first one hundred and twenty years of its claimed existence, with no “regular records.” “No records of their society or church remain. Mr. Benedict gave twelve names, and his error has been widely copied without questioning.”2 “The church at Providence never has had any creed or any covenant; till the year 1700 it had no meeting house, but in fine weather worshipped in a grove and, when inclement, in private houses; nor till the year 1775 had it any regular records. “3 No wonder at Benedict saying: “The more I study on this subject, the more I am unsettled and confused.”4 Of the…
1 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 2, p. 285.
2 Bap. Quart., vol. 10, p. 199.
3 Adlams' “First Bap. Ch. in Am.,” p. 24.
4 Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 443.
uncertainty as to the early state of things in Providence, Backus says: “It was difficult for one to give an exact account of their religious affairs in that colony that did not live among them. It is certain that “Mr. Hubbard” and the Governor were both mistaken in calling those of Providence 'all Anabaptists.'”1 In view of so grave a mistake as to who were Baptists at the time when it is claimed Roger Williams founded the first Baptist church in America, pray tell us how we can be certain Williams ever organized any Baptist church, and, if so, how we can know when? Consequently, those who say Roger Williams organized the first Baptist church in America concede they know nothing as to the truth or falsity of their statement. Says Cramp: “A church was immediately formed, of which Mr. Williams became pastor. But he soon vacated the office; some think after the lapse if only a few months, while others are of the opinion that he resigned when he embarked for England to procure a barter for the colony, and that it was on that occasion that Mr. Chad Brown was chosen his successor.”2 Says Vedder: “Whether the first church of Providence is the he lineal successor of this church founded by Roger Williams is a difficult historical question, about which a positive opinion should be expressed without diffidence. Tradition maintains that the line of succession has been unbroken, but the records to prove this are lacking.”3 Armitage says: “It is difficult to know how far the so-called4 'records' of the Providence church may be relied upon.” Armitage concedes that from the time when Williams lost faith in the legality of his so-called…
1 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 87.
2 Cramp's Hist. Bap., p. 461.
3 Vedder's Short Hist. Bap., p. 55.
4 Armitage's Bap. Hist., p. 663.
…church, “The early history of the church becomes a perplexing confusion; if any minutes were kept they cannot be found. In fact, during the so-called King Philip's war, in 1676, most if not all the houses in Providence were destroyed by the Indians, and the records, if there were any, of course, perished in the flames. About a century ago Rev. John Stanford preached for a year to the first Baptist church in Providence, and made an honest attempt to collect the most reliable information that he could command and formulated a Book of Records. It was impossible for him to construct a reliable history without authentic material. All that he had was tradition, and a few fragments, and he thus complains of his scanty supply: 'No attention to this necessary article has been paid;' and he farther says that he attempted this collection 'under almost every discouraging circumstance.' After doing the best he could, his supposed facts are so fragmentary as to leave gaps unfilled, with their value so impaired that few careful writers feel at liberty to follow them entirely. They contain so many contradictions which the Doctor was unable to explain, and which perplex all calm investigators; for example, they state that Williams was pastor of the church four years instead of four months; that it is not known when Thomas Olney was baptized or ordained, and that he came to Providence in 1654; whereas, in another place they state that he was in the canoe with Williams when the Indians saluted him with 'what cheer.' …Prof. Knowles complains of these errors; also Dr. Caldwell, a most candid and careful writer, says in his history of this church, that this record 'contains many errors, which have been repeated by later writers, and sometimes as if they had the authority of the original records.' Of the above contradictions he remarks: 'Mr. Stanford, in the records, confounding Mr. Olney with his son, makes the following statement, which is an almost unaccountable mixture of errors.' Where such serious defects abound in records it is clear that little firm reliance can be placed upon their testimony, and this without reflection on the compiler, who stated only what he found and attempted no manufacture of facts to complete his story. We are obliged to consult sidelights and outside testimony, therefore, and take it for what it is worth, according to the means of information enjoyed by contemporaneous and immediately succeeding witnesses. These are not numerous in this case, nor are they very satisfactory, because their testimony does not always agree, nor had they equal means of knowing whereof they spoke. Hence, several different theories have been put forth on the subject.”1
In view of the foregoing, I will conclude the point, as to the records, in the language of the Journal and Messenger, of Cincinnati: “It will be seen from such accounts that it is very difficult to establish anything of tins history, beyond a peradventure and that it is taking a good deal for granted to admit the claims of a church which kept no records for over one hundred years. In order that the First Baptist church of Providence may be regarded as the first in America, we have to proceed upon the Catholic system of fixing dates, etc., and argue that there must have been a first church, and since we cannot certainly fix upon any other as that one, then this was the best, and the indisputable claim. But we are not quite ready to adopt this method of settling historical claims.” The claim of the Williams church to have been the first Baptist church in America, is a late claim. Says Prof. J. C. C. Clarke, of Shurtleff College, in a…
1 Armitage's Bap. Hist., p. 664.
…most masterly review of the subject, after a thorough examination of the original records of these times: “A Mr. Lechford, having visited Providence about 1640, wrote: 'At Providence lives Master Williams and his company of divers opinions; most are Anabaptists. They hold there is no true, visible church in the Bay, nor in the world, nor any true ministry.' A hundred years later, the oldest residents of Providence were ignorant of any tradition that Roger Williams was the founder or a, member of the Baptist church there.”1 Thus we see that even the tradition upon which the claim of the Providence church rests is perfectly worthless, in that it originated over a century after the time in which it is claimed Williams originated that church,, and that the claim of that church originated a century later than the disputed dates of origin for the Providence and Newport churches. Mr. Adlam, one of the highest authorities on this subject, says: “The general opinion of Roger Williams being the founder and pastor of the first Baptist church, is a modern theory; the farther you go back, the less generally it is believed; till coming to the most ancient times, to the men who knew Williams, they are such entire strangers to it, that they never heard that he formed the Baptist church there. The first, and the second and the third, and almost the fourth generation must pass away before men can believe that any others than Wickenden, Brown, etc., were the founders of that church.”2
Facts as to Roger Williams and his so-called church. First. Williams, while a Baptist in some points, was not a Baptist in so many others, that he never was a Baptist in an ecclesiastical sense. Instead of any orderly Baptist…
1 Bap. Quart. Rev., vol. 10, p. 200.
2 Adlams' “First Bap. Ch. in Am.,” p. 14.
…church recognizing any one as a Baptist, who had let an unbaptized man who was a member of no church, baptize him, and then, he in turn, had baptized his baptizer, and, thus originated a church, it would unhesitatingly refuse him any church fellowship, and disown his acts. Yet this is the history of Roger Williams' baptism and soiled church. If possible, Williams' course is still more excusable in view of the fact that Baptist administrators could more easily have been procured from England than
the charter he assisted John Clarke to get from there. Why did he not, if he was a Baptist, do like Spilsbury's church of London, or Oncken, of Germany — send off and get the true baptism? Yea, worse and worse, why did he not get John Clarke or Hansard Knollys to baptize him, as they were on the ground? Cramp says: “Hansard Knollys was then preaching at Dover …and was one of the 'godly Anabaptists' mentioned by Cotton Mather.”1 Knollys was a graduate of the University of Cambridge. As a Baptist minister of London, after returning there, often preaching to an audience of one thousand hearers. Of Knollys' coming to America, Backus says: “Persecuted in England he fled to America. Forbidden at once to remain in Massachusetts he went to Piscataqua, soon afterwards called Dover. Here he met with immediate opposition, but according to Winthrop (vol. 1, p. 326) 'he gathered some of the best minded into a church body and became their pastor.'“2
Rev. C. E. Barrows says: “We are informed that there were Baptists among the first settlers of Massachusetts Bay.”3 This statement is made on the authority of Cotton Mather.
1 Cramp's Bap. Hist., p. 461.
2 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 82.
3 Semi-Centennial Discourse of R. I., in 1875.
As we have seen, in the case of Williams, Clarke and Knollys, Baptists, to escape persecution for their opposition to infant baptism, fled to Rhode Island, where they had liberty. Settling in Newport, Clarke would find Baptist material which his faithfulness as a preacher must have immediately organized into a Baptist church.”1 “Mr. Hansard Knollys was minister there from the spring of 1638 to the fall of 1641.” 2 “The church was traduced from without and was rent with dissension within, and its pastor returned to England.”3
Cramp, after confirming the above, adds: “It is observable that Mr. Knollys' arrival was in the spring
of 1638. Roger Williams' baptism did not take place till the winter of that year.”4 He “was a Particular or Calvinistic Baptist.” Prof. A. C. Lewis, D. D., of the McCormick Theological Seminary, of Chicago, says: “There were Baptists in New England before Roger Williams. Of this Cotton Mather informs us distinctly. …Numbers of them came with the early colonists. …Hansard Knollys was one of their number.” * Coming from one who asserts that Williams organized the first American Baptist church, this statement is the more valuable in refuting Baptist opponents.
Prof. Paine, Professor of Church History in Bangor Theological Seminary, says: “There were Baptists in America before Roger Williams.” * While the future of Knollys church after its first three years history, is uncertain, yet its three years' existence, before he
* Recent Letter to the Author.
1 Semi-Centenni a Discourse of E. I, In 1875, p. 36.
2 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 83: Crosby's Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 120; Cramp's, p. 436.
4 Cramp's Bap. Hist., p. 436.
…returned to England, was amply sufficient for it to have given valid baptism or the “succession” to others.
At the same time John dark, another Baptist minister, was on the ground. Prof. J. C. C. Clarke says: “That Clarke brought with him the doctrine of the English 'Particular Baptist church,' is probable from many indications. He was a preacher in Rhode Island in 1638, but was never a preacher except according to the early Baptist practice of eldership. No change of his views is known to have occurred. His doctrinal writings preserved were very clear, and are in accord with the Baptist confessions of faith. The church which he established on Rhode Island was early in correspondence with Mr. Spilsbury's church in London. Governor Winthrop records that Mr. Clarke was a preacher on the Island in 1638. …In another reference he calls him their minister.”1
Confirmatory of John Clarke having come to this country a Baptist minister, Rev. C. E. Barrows says: “Clarke was certainly never a member of John Cotton's church in Boston.”2 Had he not come over here a Baptist he would have probably joined Cotton's church on his arrival in America.
Second. William's history, after he organized his so-called Baptist church, is irreconcilable with his Baptist claim. Speaking of Williams organizing his society, Vedder says: “Soon after arriving at the conclusion that his baptism by one who had not himself been baptized in an orderly manner, was not valid baptism, he withdrew himself from the church, and for the rest of his life was…
1 Baptist Quart. Rev., vol. 10, pp. 187-188-194, compared.
2 Semi-Centennial Discourse of R. I., 1875, p. 37, note.
…unconnected with any religious body, calling himself a 'seeker.'”1
Armitage says: “In view of the fact that Williams remained with the Baptists but three or four months, some have seriously doubted whether he formed a church there after that order at all.”2
Prof. J. C. C. Clarke says: “If Mr. Williams formed a Baptist church, no clear evidence of such act remains.”3
Dr. Dexter, a historical critic, who was a Congregationalist, says: “But the denomination of Christians, known as Baptists, having canonized him, although never such a Baptist as they are, and for but a very short period of time a Baptist at all, have manifested great reluctance to give due consideration to a large portion of the evidence bearing upon the case, etc.”4
Notice that only such a Baptist as is essentially the Baptist denomination is a Baptist, and, that Dr. Dexter says that Williams was not that kind. No wonder that Benedict says: “Many of the accounts of him would make him more of a Quaker than anything else “ — even though he wrote against the Quakers and was never recognized as one of them.5
S. Adlam, than whom no man has given this subject more investigation, says: “I can see no evidence that Roger Williams, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, established a Baptist church in Providence.”6
Prof. J. C. C. Clarke says: “Early in 1639 occurred Roger Williams brief and irregular assumption of the Baptist name.”7
1 Vedder's Short Hist. Bap., p. 155.
2 Armitage's Hist. Bap., p. 662.
3 Baptist Quart. Rev., vol. 10, p. 200.
4 Quoted from Roger Williams, by Dexter, p. 1.
5 Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 444.
6 Adlams' “First Bap. Ch. in Am.”, p. 32.
7 Baptist Quart. Rev., vol. 10, p. 199.
Mr. Williams' organization, soon after its origin, came to nothing. Cotton Mather, who was Williams'
contemporary, says: “He turned Seeker and Familist, and the church came to nothing.”1
Armitage concedes: “What became of Williams' 'society' after he left is not very clear.”
Cotton Mather says: “Whereupon his church dissolved themselves;” and Neal that “His church hereupon crumbled to pieces.”2
Armitage concedes that the authority for the belief that Williams' church did not dissolve when he left it is the fabulous Church Records and a doubtful expression of Mr. Scott, who was one of them.
Adlam: “That the church which Williams began to collect fell to pieces soon after he left them is what we should expect, and is, as far as I can learn, the uniform declaration of the writers of that day.'' 3
Backus, who hesitates which position to take says: “Many New England historians …represent that
the church soon broke up, because Mr. Williams did not long walk with it.”4
Mr. Adlam says: “There is one writer whose testimony is of the highest value on this subject; I allude to Thomas Lechford, who was in New England from 1637, until about August 1641, and among other places, he visited Providence, somewhere I judge about the close of 1640, or the beginning of 1641. He inquired with great diligence into the ecclesiastical affairs of the country, and gave a faithful account. Against the Baptists he had no special prejudices, more than against the Congregationalists…
1 Mathers' Eccl. Hist. New Eng. in Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 90.
2 Armitage's Hist. Bap., p. 663.
3 Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in Am., p. 32.
4 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 88.
…for he was an Episcopalian. But whatever were his own convictions, I have gained, in many respects, a more exact view of New England during these four years from him, than from any other person. When speaking of Providence he says: 'At Providence, which is twenty miles from the said island, (Rhode Island, which he had visited), lives Master Williams and his company of divers opinions; most are Anabaptists; they hold there is no true visible church in the Bay, nor in the world, nor any true ministry.' …Lechford, then, a purely unexceptional witness, confirms what others have said — that Roger Williams' church, after he left them, crumbled to pieces. We have seen from Callendar, that in his day, the oldest men, those who knew him, and were unacquainted with many of the most ancient inhabitants, never heard that Roger Williams was the founder of the Baptist church there! So soon and so completely was that church dissolved.”1
So Drs. W. E. Paxton, J. R. Graves, S. H. Ford, Prof. J. C. C. Clarke and a host of other authorities. Historians are generally agreed that Williams soon left his so-called Baptist church. How anyone could expect it to not dissolve when Williams left it, remembering the boundless influence he had over it, is more than I can conjecture. † Give Roger Williams whatever is due him…
1 Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in Am., pp. 35-36; Crosby's Hist. Eng. Bap., vol. 1, p. 117.
† In view of (l,) that Williams' society, because of essential defects, could not now be recognized by any true Baptist church as Baptists; (2,) Mr. Letchford's testimony, after a personal Investigation in Rhode Island, that Williams' society had dissolved; (3,) of the most ancient Inhabitants of Providence never having heard there was any Baptist church in Providence originated by Williams — see p. 384 of this book; (4,) of Brown University being built on the present site “because it was the home of Chad Brown, the first minister of the Baptist church;” (5,) of the tablet of its bell not even mentioning Williams as the founder of the Baptist church; (6,) of the most ancient inhabitants of Providence understanding that Brown, Wickenden, Olney, Tillinghurst, originated the first Baptist church of Providence; (7,) of the Congregationalists passing Providence to go the greater distance to Newport, in 1650, to join a Baptist church which they would not have done had there been a Baptist church in Providence; (8,) of, as Backus said of the early New England historians, — “many New England historians represent that the (Williams) church soon broke up;” (9,) of Cotton Mather's statement — he was Williams' contemporary — that “his church soon dissolved;” (10,) of the improbability of its surviving the great influence of its unscriptural formation and the example of Williams leaving it, (11,) of Prof. Whitsitt's concession, that late investigators hold that Williams' society dissolved soon after he left it; (12,) of Dr. Dexters, statement — he is one of Prof. Whitsitt's highest authorities — that Williams never was such a Baptist as Baptists of America are — in view of these twelve points against Williams' society not having dissolved soon after he left it, Prof. Whitsitt's attempt to revive the fabulous concern of Williams and to palm it off as a Baptist church, and one continuing for eighty years. Is to say the very least, exceedingly weak and as bold in making history as it is weak. Prot. Whitsitt starts out to prove the Williams claim by the utterly groundless assertion, that; “Evidences of the existence of the church founded by Roger Williams for about eighty years are numerous!” Indeed! How strange that Backus, Adlam, Callender ,Cotton Mather, Prof. J. C. C. Clarke, Prof. David Westun, Dexter, Armitage, Ford, Graves, etc..etc., and the oldest inhabitants of Rhode Island, never found out the “numerous” evidences! Yea, how strange that Prof. Whitsitt himself, after this assertion, falls back, mainly, on the bitter, hasty and inconsiderate letter of Mr. Scott, which says nothing more on the disputed point than that Williams left the society. It says nothing as to how long it continued after he left it. With all Armitage's antipathy to Church Perpetuity and sympathy for the Williams claim, this Scott letter has so little bearing on the subject that he concedes it utterly uncertain as to “what became of his society after he left it”—Armitage's Bap. Hist., p. 663. Prof. Whitsitt's statement, that “there were two distinct Baptist churches in Providence for many years after 1652,” has no bearing on the subject.” No one denies this. It is about as good proof (?) for Prof. Whitsitt s position as the existence of more than two now in Providence is for It. Prot. Whitsitt's attempt to evade the force of Cotton Mather's positive testimony, by saying that Mather's grandfather knew nothing of the existence of Clarke's church, is against him, since Cotton Mather's not recording any non-existence of Clarke's church while he did the non-existence of Williams' proves he investigated the facts instead of blindly following his grandfather. Prof. Whitsitt virtually surrenders the question when he says, “Roger Williams was never a Baptist. …I do not think he was very much of a Baptist a day in his life.” “I do not suppose that Williams was very much of a Baptist. He founded a Baptist church simply because there was no other sort to be found, there was nothing else for them to do. He had never had anything to do with Baptists any time in his life. He formed a church now simply because he was in that particular situation. He had no particular leading that way; he never was a Baptist at heart. I do not reckon there was any body in that colony who was a Baptist. I have a notion they formed a Baptist church simply because they had nothing else to do.” — Lect. to his class. Now, Prof. Whitsitt, or any one else, is welcome to all Baptist claims he can get out of any such a thing of any such origin as he concedes to the Williams affair. See pp. 381, 882, 384, 385, 386 of this book.
…for advocating the great Baptist position of Liberty of Conscience; but in the name of all principle, all order, ecclesiastical precedent, of the Bible and of history, cease calling him a Baptist, or his little disorderly and four months-old society a Baptist church!
No church or minister ever originated with the Roger Williams' so-called Baptist church. This is evident from the immediate disbanding of the Williams society. Thomas Olney, whose name is on the list of the society, organized by Williams, on its reorganization, became its pastor. Owing to absence of records no one knows when or how that church was reorganized; but it was not probably reorganized before 1650. We can only infer its reorganization from its having been dissolved and from its being in existence in 1652. Commenting on facts, accepted by all, Adlam says: “These statements prove that in 1652, '53 or '54, two distinct Baptist churches existed in Providence …the six principle was under the care of Wickenden, Brown and Dexter, while the five principle church was under the charge of Thomas Olney. They also prove that Olney's was the original, and Wickenden's, Brown's and Dexter's six principle, the seceding church. First. Every writer, including the records, mentions Brown, Wickenden and Dexter as former pastor of that church. Second. The present church from 1652 to 1770, was known only as a six principle, while Olney's was the five principle church. From this it follows that the existing church in Providence was not founded in 1639, but in 1652; it was not the first in the State, for it came out of an older church.”1
Callender, in 1738, says: “The most ancient inhabitants now alive, some of them above eighty years old, who personally knew Mr. Williams, and were well acquainted with many of the original settlers never heard that Mr. Williams formed the Baptist church there, but always understood that Brown, Wickenden, Dexter, Olney, Tillinghurst, etc., were the first founders of that church.”2
Adlam says: “Two other things deserve passing notice. (1.) The college in 1770 was built on the present site, 'because it was the home of Chad Brown, the first minister of the Baptist church.' (2.) On the bell…
1 Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in Am., pp. 10-11.
2 Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in Am. p. 13.
…and on the tablet, Roger Williams is not mentioned as the founder of the Baptist church.” 1 Instead of the Olney church swarming, Backus says: “The diversity of sentiments mentioned in this volume, p. 1-4, brought such darkness over their affairs, that no regular records before 1770 are now found therein.”2
Adlam says: “A melancholy interest invests the last notice we have of this ancient church. It continued till early in the last century when it became extinct, leaving no records, and but few events in its history behind. The fullest information I have found is in a note by Callender, on the 115 page of his discourse. Speaking of this church he adds below: 'This last continued till about twenty years ago, when becoming destitute of an elder, the members were united with other churches. …This was written in 1738. The church had then been extinct about twenty years; that is it lost its visibility about 1718. …And thus passed away the original church, and the waves of time have almost obliterated its remembrance from the minds of men.'”3
Adlam says: “When Olney's church was formed I cannot tell; but as Comer, dating the Newport church no farther back than 1644, says it was the first of the Baptist denomination in America, Olney's church could not have been formed until after that period. I think it could not have been formed until about the year 1650. My reasons are, I find no trace of a Baptist church in Providence,
after the failure of Roger Williams, till after that year. The first intimation of a church there, I find in the fall of 1651, when Holmes, after being scourged in Boston, returning home says: 'The brethren of our town (Rehobeth)…
1 Adlam's first Bap. Ch. in Am. p. 14.
2 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 2, pp. 285,290-291.
3 Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in Am., pp. 16-17.
…and Providence, having taken pains to meet me four miles in the woods, we rejoiced together. This occurred in September, 1651. That it was as late as I have fixed appears also from another circumstance. I have not been able to find a single individual, out of Providence, who united with that church until 1652; but every Baptist up to that time, known to belong to a church, live where he may, belonged to the church at. Newport. We know that in the year 1651, the Newport church had members in Lynn, and in Rehobeth, in Mass., and that persons came from Connecticut to unite with it. The case of the brethren in Rehobeth is peculiarly in point. In 1650 they left the Congregationalists and became Baptists. If at that time a church had existed in Providence, a neighboring town, how naturally they should unite with it, so near and easy of access, and not go all the way down to Newport to unite with the church there. The only way to account for this is that there was no church in Providence, and no administrator there to whom they could apply. …If before 1644 a church did exist in Providence, how is it, that neither friend nor foe” (meaning of ancient times) “has noticed her, that every Baptist passed by her, even her nearest neighbors, and hurried down to Newport.”1
The following, from an able writer, gives the matter in a nutshell: (1.) “The church which Williams formed came to nothing or was dissolved soon after he left. (2.) It was reorganized, or another was formed under Thomas Olney as its pastor, who was one of the eleven baptized by Roger Williams. Olney continued to be pastor of this church until his death in 1682, somewhat over thirty years. (3.) In 1653, or 1654, which…
l Adlam's first Bap. Ch. in Am., pp. 36-39.
…was a few years after the formation of Olney's church, there was a division in that church on the question of laying on of hands …and a separate church was formed …under the pastorale of Chad Brown, Wickenden and Dexter. …This church is now the First Baptist church of Providence. (4.) The parent church, under Olney, gradually dwindled away, and became extinct about the year 1718, some seventy years from its origin. (5.) No church was formed from Olney's after the division already mentioned, and no ministers are known to have gone out from it. Olney's baptism, whether valid or invalid, was not propagated. (6.) Nearly a century passed before the church formed from Olney's began to colonize, in 1730. (7.) None of its ministers, or the ministers of the churches formed from it, received their baptism from Williams, or from any one whose baptism descended from his. (8.) The Baptist churches of America could not have descended from Roger Williams, or from the temporary society which he formed.”
By relying on what I have shown all concede to be Unreliable — the records of the first church of Providence — Benedict attributes to the old Williams and Olney organizations what is true of only the church established by Wickenden, Brown and Dexter, viz., the honor of being the “prolific mother of many Baptist communities.”
As J. R. Graves wrote: “It cannot be shown that any Baptist church sprang from the Williams affair. Nor can it be proved that the baptism of any Baptist minister came from Willliams' hand.”1
Reuben A. Guild, LL. D., Librarian of Brown University, and one of the most reliable historians of Baptist…
l Trilemma, p. 13.
…affairs in Rhode Island, says: “In regard to whether churches have gone out from the First Church of Providence by letters of dismission, I cannot say. In the early days everything way primitive. For near seventy years the church had no meeting house …kept no records, etc., etc.” Dr. Guild being an ardent advocate of the First Church claims this is a virtual concession that no one can show that any church or preacher ever originated with Roger Williams and his society.1
In April, 1889, Dr. Caldwell, pastor of the First Church of Providence said: “We celebrate, after all, an unknown day; there is no record of the exact date of our beginning.” Adlam says; “Comer, the first and for the earliest history of our denomination, the most reliable of writers, ascribes distinctly and repeatedly this priority to the Newport church. He had formed the design, more than a hundred and twenty years ago, of writing the history of American Baptists; and in that work, which he only lived to commence, but which embraces an account of his church, he says in one place: 'That it is the first of the Baptist denomination,' and, closing his history of it, says: 'Thus I have briefly given some account of the settlement and progress of the first Baptist church on Rhode Island, in New England, and the first in America.'”2 Adlam adds: “This was written in 1730; and to those acquainted with Comer, nothing need be said of the value of his testimony. For others, I will add from Benedict a brief notice of his character: 'He began his education in Cambridge, and finished it in New Haven. He bid fair to be one of the most eminent ministers of his day; his character was unspotted, and his talents respectable and popular; he had conceived the design of writing…
1 Letter to Author of this book, dated Apr. 25, 1893.
2 Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in America, p. 19.
…the history of the American Baptists, and for the purpose of forwarding it, traveled as far as Philadelphia, (a great undertaking at that day), opened a correspondence with persons in the different colonies, and also in England, Ireland, etc.' This excellent man, who took unwearied pains to procure for his history the most correct information, was especially distinguished for the extreme accuracy of his dates, was, when he wrote the above, himself a six principle Baptist; was intimately acquainted with the church at Providence and had advantages for knowing its early history that no other historian has since possessed. From the way in which he asserts it, the priority of the Newport church must have been a universally conceded fact. …Besides his carefulness, he was, when he wrote the above, on the most favorable terms with the church in Providence, while a difficulty had occurred between him and the Newport church which caused him the most painful feelings. …Now, it was while suffering from the above cause, when, if ever, he was under temptation to suppress the truth, that he most unhesitatingly affirms the Newport church to be the first of the Baptists in America.”1
Armitage says: “Comer's testimony carried great weight with these authors, and justly, for he was a most painstaking man, possessing a clear and strong mind under high culture, ranking with the first men of his day. …Morgan Edwards says of him: 'He was curious in making minutes of every remarkable event, which swelled at last into two volumes. …He gathered many facts from Samuel Hubbard and Edward Smith, both contemporary with the events which they related to him.’”2
l Adlam's First Bap. Ch. in Am., pp. 19-21; Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 497.
2 Armitage's Hist. Bap., p. 665.
On Comer's testimony, taken in connection with the foregoing facts of this chapter, the priority of the Newport church ought to be considered as settled.
But I am not done. Backus says of the Newport church: “The first certain date in their church records is taken from a manuscript of Mr. Samuel Hubbard in 1648, which says the church was formed about the year 1644, and by what I have quoted from Winthrop and Hubbard, it appears as likely to be earlier as later than that time. The entry of the first Baptist church in Newport, here referred to, was made by John Comer as late as 1725, and is as follows: 'Having found a private record of Mr. Samuel Hubbard, who was a member of the church, by which I find that the church was in being as far back as October 16, 1648, (but how long before justly I can't find by any manuscript, but by private information it was constituted in 1644.)’”1
Prof. Weston, the editor of this edition of Backus' History, in a note, says of Callender having given 1644 as the date for the origin of the Newport church: “There is probably no evidence that Callender, or any subsequent writer who has given the above date, had any authority for it beyond the tradition preserved by Comer. Backus represents that an earlier date is possible. Many regard the weight of evidence in its favor. Some have placed it as far back as 1638, supposing that the church was founded by Clarke and his company on their arrival in Rhode Island. …They reason from the improbability that the inhabitants of Rhode Island would remain four years without an organized church, and from the testimony of Winthrop in 1641, that 'divers of them turned professed Anabaptists,' and that there arose a contention and schism…
l Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. l, p. 125.
…among them. These indications are not without force.”1
A note to the minutes of the Philadelphia Association, p. 455, reads: “When the first church of Newport, Rhode Island, was one hundred years old, in 1738.” This dates the beginning of the Newport church 1638.
Both the Newport and the Providence churches were members of the Warren Association. Prof. Weston informs us, on the authority of its minutes of 1840, that that Association regarded 1638 as the origin of the Newport church.”2
The inscription on John Clarke's tombstone reads that: “He, with his associates, came to this Island from Massachusetts, in March, 1638, and on the 24th of the same month obtained a deed thereof from the Indians. He shortly after gathered the church aforesaid and became its pastor.”3
The statement of this stone accords with that of Governor Winthrop of that time, who says that “Mr. Clarke was a preacher on the Island in 1638, but does not call him pastor, although in another reference he calls him their minister. Governor Winthrop also says that a church was formed at Newport in 1639 in a disorderly way.”4 †
J. R. Graves, after an extended investigation of this subject, concludes: “After all the investigations I have made, I have come to the conclusion that the date of the Newport church is 1638, and any other date is altogether arbitrary.”5
The Canadian Baptist, of August, 1885, says: “The church in Newport is probably the oldest Baptist church…
† This “disorderly” way, evidently, is what he calls the Baptist way.
1 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 125.
2 Idem, vol. 1, p. 125.
3 Adlam's “First Bap. Ch. in America,” p. 36.
4 Bap. Quart. Rev., vol. 10, p. 191— Prof. J. C. C. Clarke.
5 Adlam's “First Bap. Ch. In America,” p. 45.
…in the United States. It is now known that a church was in existence there in 1638, of which John Clarke was pastor.”
The Newport Daily News says: “The first positive date we have in the history of the first Baptist church of Newport is 1648, with a reference to the fact that certain persons were members of the church in 1644. There is no reason to suppose that if this was the date of the organization of the church it would not have been mentioned in this connection. There is no record of the demise of Dr. Clarke's church or of the formation of any other in these years. There is every reason to believe that the present church is the one founded by Dr. Clarke in 1639, or, perhaps, 1638. The first meeting house was built very soon after the organization of the church at the place now known as the 'Green End.’”
The Central Baptist, of St. Louis: “It now appears from the histories of the first Baptist church, Newport, Rhode Island, and the First Baptist church, Providence, the one prepared by Rev. C. E. Barrows, pastor of the Newport church, and the other by Dr. Caswell, that the former church was founded in 1638. …These histories are the most authentic yet prepared, and seem to demonstrate that Roger Williams was not the founder of the first Baptist church in America.”
I will now notice only a few of the many fountains of American Baptist streams, which were independent of Roger Williams. Morgan Edwards thus gives the origin of Delaware Baptists: “To come to the history of this modern church we must cross the Atlantic and land in Wales, where it had its beginning in the following manner: In the spring of the year 1701, several Baptists, in the communities of Pembroke and Caermarthen, resolved to go to America; and as one of the company, Thomas Griffith, was a minister, they were advised to be constituted into a church; they took the advice; the instrument of their confederation was in being in 1770, the names of their confederates follow: Thomas Griffith, Griffith Nicholas, Evan Richmond, John Edwards, Elisha Thomas, Enoch Morgan, Richard David, James David, Elizabeth Griffith, Lewis Edmond, Mary John, Mary Thomas, Tennet David, Margaret Mathias and Tennet Morris. These fifteen people may be styled a church emigrant.”1 Thus, Delaware Baptists originated from an
emigrant Baptist church from Wales.
Massachusetts Baptist churches thus began in Boston: “Some Baptist friends from England” had a “meeting” called, “the church was formed, consisting of” — and here follow the names.2 Only two of these names are mentioned by Benedict as not being Baptists up to the formation of this church. Speaking of a number of those who went into this church Backus says: “Goodall came recommended from Mr. Kiffin's church in London; Turner and Lambert from Mr. Stead's church in Dartmouth, having been regular walkers in the Baptist order before they came to this country.”3
The first Baptist church in Virginia, and, “in some sense, the mother of all the rest,” was constituted under the pastoral care of Rev. Dutton Lane, and by Rev. “Daniel Marshall,” who got his baptism in regular order from a regular Baptist church in the Philadelphia association.4
The first Baptist church in Pennsylvania thus originated: “In 1684 Thomas Dungan removed from Rhode Island. …This Baptist preacher and…
1 Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 626.
2 Idem, p. 383.
3 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 288.
4 Semple's Hist. Va. Bap., pp. 5, 370, comp.
…pioneer was probably accompanied with associates of his own faith. Here he founded a church of his own order, which in the end was shortly absorbed by the next company I shall name.”1 The next company, absorbing the church first named, was “Welsh emigrants, who settled in Pennepeck, or Lower Dublin, 1686.” This church was made up of regular Baptist members.2 The first Baptist church in Philadelphia was organized in 1698, of English Baptists, some of whom were of Hansard Knollys' church “in London.” 3
Maryland Baptist churches were begun in 1742, by “Henry Sator, a layman. …Soon after his settlement in this colony he invited Baptist ministers to preach in his house, by which means a few, from time to time, were proselyted to his sentiments, and after many years a church was gathered in his neighborhood.” † 4
In North Carolina the first Baptist “church which ever existed was gathered by one Paul Palmer, about the year 1727. …Mr. Palmer is said to be a native of Maryland, was baptized at Welsh Tract, in Delaware, by Owen Thomas, the pastor of the church in that place.”4
South Carolina Baptist churches began thus: “Of the early settlers of South Carolina, a considerable portion were Baptists. They came in separate colonies about the year 1683, partly from the west of England …and partly from Piscataqua, in the district of Maine. Of the former some settled at Ashley and Cooper Rivers,…
† Thus it has often been the case that one Baptist has been the instrument in God's hand in originating a Baptist church. One of the best churches of which the author was ever pastor originated in a similar effort, from a Bro. Stewart. Baptist reader, if there is no Baptist church in your community, “go thou and do likewise;” and the Lord will be with you. No well-informed and true Baptist will put his or her membership into a non-Baptist church.
1 Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 595.
2 Idem, p. 596.
3 Idem, p. 601.
4 Idem, p. 681.
…others about the mouth of the Edisto River. The latter settled at a place called Summerton, situated on Cooper River, and a short distance from Charleston. Here they were formed into a church under the care of Rev. William Screven. Among the settlers from England, the wife of Mr. Blake …and her mother, Lady Axtell, were members of the Baptist church. Those who came from Piscataqua in Maine were led hither by Rev. William Screven, who, with a considerable number of his brethren, fled from the intolerant laws of the Pedobaptists of New England. Charleston church, founded in 1683. This ancient community was formed by the united labors of these two classes of settlers, under the supervision of the distinguished man who presided over it, to the end of his long and useful life. …Rev. William Screven, the founder of this church, became its first pastor.”1
We have seen that Massachusetts Baptists began according to the Baptist way of beginning. In the following appears the origin of Maine Baptists, in which we see where Mr. Screven, who originated the first church of South Carolina Baptists, began his work in America. “Kittery, the oldest town in the province, incorporated 1647, was selected as the first place to raise a Baptist standard. …It was soon known that in Kittery were several persons professing to be Baptists. From whence they came, is now unknown. In the course of events, an opportunity offered to them the privilege of church communion, agreeable to their own theological views. The nearest Baptist church was at Boston, Mass., over which Rev. Isaac Hull then presided. At the advice of Mr. Hull, these Baptists of Kittery united with his church. William Screven, an early emigrant from England, was…
1 Benedict's Hist. Bap., pp. 701-702.
…one of their number. Being a man of more than common talents, and devoutly pious, he officiated .is leader in their worship. The brethren at Kittery and in Boston were satisfied that the great Head of the Church had designed and called him to preach the gospel of Christ. He was accordingly licensed by the church in Boston to 'exercise his gifts in Kittery, or elsewhere, as the providence of God may cast him.' The Baptists in Kittery, being now blessed with a minister and situated at so great a distance from Boston, deemed it expedient for their own spiritual advantage, and for the cause of Christ in new settlements, to unite in a separate church.”1 Backus says: “A Baptist church was also formed this year from that of Boston, at Newbury.”2
The first Baptist church in New York, of which we have any certain knowledge, was organized by Rev. Valentine Wightman “about 1712.”3 Mr. Wightman was from the North Kingston church in Maine, thus: “From North Kingston” he “went and settled at Groton,” and from Groton he went to New York.4 The North Kingston church originated in a revival in 1710, held by Elder Baker, from Newport.5 Thus, New York Baptist churches originated from Newport Baptists, in the regular succession line.
Georgia Baptists thus began, in the regular succession from South Carolina Baptists: “In the year 1751, Mr. Nicholas Bedgegood …embraced the distinguishing sentiments of the Baptists; this gentleman went over to Charleston, S. C., about the year 1757, and…
1 Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 506, and Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 400.
2 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 405.
3 Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 541.
4 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, p. 466; vol. 2, p. 516; Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 541, comp.
5 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 2, p. 505.
…was baptized and united to the Baptist church in that city, then under the pastoral care of the Rev. Mr. Hart. He soon discovered talents for usefulness, and was licensed to preach; his ordination to the gospel ministry took place in the year 1759. And it appears his labors were not in vain in the Lord; for in 1763, he had the happiness to baptize several persons …to whom, with a few other Baptists, (probably a branch of the Charleston Baptist church,) he administered the Lord's Supper. This was the first semblance of a Baptist church — this the first Baptist communion ever held in the State.”1
I have now shown that in the States which were the great fountains of the many Baptist streams, running out into the new States, Baptists, instead of beginning with Roger Williams, began in the regular continuity line.
Take even Rhode Island. Were we to admit that the present Providence church is the Roger Williams church, yet we would have Rhode Island Baptists, to a very great extent, originating from other churches. Of John Clarke's church in Newport, Backus says; “Mr. Richard Dingley,” its second pastor “in 1694, left them and went to South Carolina.”2 Thus, through Dingley, South Carolina inherited baptisms from the John Clarke church. John Comer, another of Clarke's successors to the Newport pastorate, removed and gathered the first Baptist Church in Rehobeth.”2 John Clarke's church, about 1729, “increased to a hundred and forty-two members, being the largest church then in the colony..”3
Of the John Clarke church, and others, Backus says: “On June 21st, 1729, they had the largest association of…
1 History Georgia Bap. Ass., p. 1, by Jesse Mercer; Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 722.
2 Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 2, p. 498.
3 Idem, p. 499.
…Baptist ministers and churches that had ever been seen in America.”l
“The first Baptist church in Connecticut was formed in Groton about 1705. Elder Valentine Wightman came from North Kingston, and settled in Groton, and was the first pastor of this church.”2 Having shown the Kingston church a daughter of John Clarke's church, thus, we see Connecticut Baptists originated from it.
Why do not Baptist opponents call attention to the swarms of Baptists from the Newport church? Why do they not call attention to other churches, also, being the fountain head of American Baptist churches? Simply because they could not close the people's eyes against Baptist church claims; or, in many cases, because of ignorance and thoughtlessness.
Of the first Baptist church in Swansea, Massachusetts, Davis says: “In 1663, John Miles came over from Wales, and began the church which has continued to this day.”3
Samuel Jones, a Baptist minister of Wales, came to America about 1686, settling in Pennsylvania. John Phillips, a Welsh Baptist minister came to America about 1692. Thomas Griffiths, a Baptist minister of Wales, emigrated to America “in the year 1701, and fifteen of the members of the church in the same vessel.”4 Morgan Edwards, a Baptist minister of more than usual learning “from Wales” “arrived here May 23rd, 1761, and shortly after became pastor of a Baptist church.”5
1 Backus' Hist. Bap., p. 499.
2 Idem, p. 516.
3 Davis' Hist. Welsh Bap., pp. 39-40.
4 Idem, pp. 67-71-72.
5 Idem, pp. 77-78.
John Thomas, a Baptist minister, came from Wales to America in 1703.1 David Evans, a Welsh Baptist minister, arrived in America in 1739.2 Several of the members of the Rehobeth church in Wales “went to America, and formed themselves into a church at a place called Montgomery, Pennsylvania, early in the eighteenth century.”3 Benjamin Griffiths, a Baptist minister of Wales, became their pastor. Nathaniel Jenkens, also, was a member and pastor of this church.3 Thomas Davis, a Welsh Baptist minister, left Wales for Long Island, about 1713. Cape May church had its foundation “laid in 1675, when a company of emigrants, from England, arrived in Delaware.”4 Abel Morgan, a Baptist minister, came from Wales early in the eighteenth century.5 In 1737, thirty members of a Baptist church in Wales with “their minister, came to Pennsylvania and organized the Welsh Tract church.”6
“Richard Jones, a native of Wales, arrived in America, and became pastor of the church at Burley, Virginia, in 1727.”7 Caleb Evans, a Baptist minister of finished education, of Wales, “went to America and settled in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1768.”8
Here, then, are fourteen Welsh ministers and some churches, in the regular succession line from Europe. From these, of course, have come hundreds of American Baptist churches, and thousands of Baptists, and many Baptist ministers. Yet these are but a few examples of American Baptist churches and ministers in the Baptist Perpetuity line from Europe. Davis says: “Wales has been a nursery of Baptists. …Many of the American churches were founded, either wholly or in part, by…
1 Davis' Hist. Welsh Bap., p. 88.
2 Idem, p. 98.
3 Idem, p. 114.
4 Idem, p. 115.
5 Idem, p. 68.
6 Idem, p. 125
7 Idem, p. 134.
8 Idem, p. 138.
…Welsh Baptists. There are several Welsh churches in America. Wales has supplied the American churches with many useful ministers. …Indeed, most of the Baptists in the State of Pennsylvania, for a great number of years from the beginning …were either emigrants from Wales or their descendants.”1
The late and lamented E. T. Winkler, D. D., of Alabama, said: “The Baptist church (if that be the name for it) did not commence with Roger Williams, but with a more illustrious personage, in the beginning of the Christian era. …He had little ecclesiastical prominence. He was pastor of the newly formed church in Providence only a few months. And there were other Baptists scattered among the various colonies, who had no historical connection with him. Indeed, it is affirmed with confidence that no Baptist church in our country traces its descent from Roger Williams. Thus, for example, the Baptist church at Swansea, in Massachusetts, came from Swansea in Wales, and brought their records with them across the Atlantic.2 In Great Britain we have had churches from the immemorial antiquity.''
The Journal and Messenger, Cincinnati, says: “He ought to know that no one professes or believes, except it be some one ignorant of all the important facts, that Roger Williams was the founder of the Baptist church, The most that has ever been claimed for Roger Williams is that he founded a Baptist church, but it cannot be proven that the church he founded was at all what a Baptist church is today, or that the church that he founded continued to exist more than four months to a year, without an essential change of character, or that from it ever sprang any other church, which has, in turn, propagated…
1 Davis' Hist. Welsh Bap., pp. 157-158.
2 Backus' Hist. of New Eng., p. 117.
…its kind, or that Roger Williams ever baptized any one, who in turn became a baptizer, unless we except Ezekiel Holliman, whose only subject was Williams himself, so that nothing can be more absurd than that Roger Williams founded the Baptist church.” In another issue the same paper says: “The position of American Baptists is not effected by the answer to the question as to Roger Williams. The more intelligent Baptists of this country do not look upon Williams as the founder of their denomination. …It is quite certain that Williams never was a Baptist in the present acceptation of the term, Moreover it is quite as certain that he never baptized any one who transmitted his baptism. His baptism, whatever it was, began and ended with himself and his few companions. …Very few Baptists in this country trace their ecclesiastical organization to Rhode Island and none to Roger Williams.'' Another editorial in the same paper, of May 2, 1877, says: “In our judgment the facts are these: Roger Williams was the founder of a church resembling in some respects, a Baptist church. …But in four months he became dissatisfied with his own baptism, and renounced it as invalid, because it was not administered by one who had been baptized himself. For a time, consequently, there does not appear to have been any organized church in Providence, and inasmuch as no records were kept by that which is now the first Baptist church in Providence, for more than one hundred years it is quite difficult to fix upon the time of its organization. …It is quite certain that the Baptists of this country did not originate with Roger Williams; for many of them were Baptists when they came from England. …And these formed churches, a second in Newport, in 1656; in Swansea, Mass., in 1653; in Boston, in 1665; in Middleton, N. J., in 1686; in Lower Dublin, Pa., in 1689; in Philadelphia, in 1698; and in several others previous to the year 1700. And no one of these traces its origin to Roger Williams, to the church that he founded, or to any of those baptized by him. It is an error, therefore, to speak of Roger Williams as the father of American Baptists.”
The Standard, of Chicago, says of the history of the Williams church: “It is the most complicated and difficult tissue of facts and conclusions and inferences and probabilities that was ever woven probably in American ecclesiastical annals.”
In 1877, when pressed, Prof. John Clarke Ridpath, a Methodist historian, wrote to the American Baptist Flag: “There is a vast difference between the statement that Roger Williams was the founder of the first Baptist church in America, and the statement that he was the founder of the Baptist denomination. The latter statement I have never made.” The Roman Catholic bishop of New Orleans, speaking of the statement that the Baptist churches of America originated with Roger Williams, says: “This is saying too much; he was prominent among them.”1 H. W. D., President of the Campbellite College at Bethany, Va., says: “Cannot say that the American Baptist church originated with Roger Williams.”1 As admitting all any one claims for the Roger Williams' affair, as being the first Baptist church in America, would effect but few Baptists of America, Benedict, in derision exclaims: “I have lately seen an intimation, in a tract put forth by an opposer of Baptists that all the denomination of America sprang from this old Roger Williams' church, which commenced its operations with lay baptism…
1 Recent Letter to the Author.
…and of course, no soul of the denomination has been regularly baptized, or has any claim to apostolic succession.”1 †
Concluding this chapter: I have shown that there were Baptists among the first immigrants into New England ; that both the Dover and Newport Baptist churches were existing when Roger Williams organized his society; that Williams proved himself not a Baptist by preferring baptism from an unbaptized man to getting either of these or Baptists in England to baptize him; that he showed himself not a Baptist by living and dying out of a Baptist church; that the society he organized soon dissolved; that it never perpetuated or propagated itself in any way; that the first church of Providence is not the Williams church, but was organized, probably, about 1652; that…
l Benedict's Hist. Bap., p. 459—note.
† As an illustration of the cloud of conjectures which imagination and opposition to Baptists have gathered over the Williams affair and over C1arke's church, swallowing Dr. Dexter's — Dexter was a scholar but a most Utterly prejudiced Baptist opponent — statement, that Baptists, In 1638 and 1639, did not practice exclusive immersion — a baseless fabrication which I lave exposed in a previous chapter. Dr. Whitsitt says that Williams never was immersed and that “there is no reason to suppose that the baptism administered by Mr. Clarke at Newport was any different from the one administered at Providence; and, possibly, Williams went there and sprinkled them over again. I do not know. If the Baptists at Newport adopted the same mode of baptism that was practiced at Providence, it must have been sprinkling. I am inclined to think that they sprinkled in each case.” The reader will see that this is purely guess work, dished out to young ministers as historical instruction! And all on the baseless guess work of the bitter Baptist opponent — Dr. Dexter! It would look like such guessers should easily guess out a “Baptist succession,” even were there no history proving it. But, strange to say, the guessing seems to be all done against Baptist history! Now, as to the facts: (1.) As to Williams' case. Prof. Reuben A. Guild, LL. D., librarian of Brown University, with the original documents before him wrote me, April 25,1893: “Winthrop, under date of March 16, 1639, says that Williams was rebaptized by one Holliman. Then Mr. Williams rebaptlzed him and ten more.” Governor Winthrop was a dear friend and correspondent if Williams and knew what he was writing about. …Perhaps Prot. Whitsitt makes the point that rebaptism was not immersion. It has always been so regarded in these parts from the beginning. Williams himself has placed Himself on record as a believer in dipping. In the Winthrop papers (Mass. Hist. Collections, fourth series, vol. 6), under date of 1649, more than ten years after his 'rebaptism,' bespeaks of John Clarke as dipping believers at Seekonk, and adds: “I believe this practice comes nearer the practice of our treat Founder, Jesus Christ, than other practices of religion do.'“ Prof. Albert H. Newman, D. D., L. L. D. a specialist in Baptist history, wrote me, December 13,1892: “It seems highly probable that Roger Williams was immersed though I once was of the contrary opinion. Coddington, who seems to lave witnessed the ceremony, described it sometime afterward as immersion.”
(2.) As to John Clarke, I have shown by Prof. J.C.C. Clarke, who has given the original records of Rhode Island the most thorough investigation, that he came to America a Baptist preacher. Prof. Reuben A. Guild, LL. D., after proving that Williams was immersed — in the letter from which this note quotes — adds: “As to John Clarke, I have already answered your question. He was pastor of the First Baptist church of Newport, and he 'dipped' believers at Seekonk. Would he administer this rite to others and be a Baptist pastor and preacher when he had not been dipped or immersed himself? I think not. He was a scholarly and common sense man. The tradition and belief is that he was baptized in England.” Prof. Albert Newman, in the letter quoted in the foregoing, says: “It is certain from Mr. Williams' own account of Clarke's church that Clarke practiced immersion, and we may infer from this that he was himself immersed.”
Prof. Whitsitt attempts to prove John Clarke was a Congregationalist, by assuming that he was made a freeman in Massachusetts and that no man could there, at that time, be a freeman without, at the same time, being a Congregationalist. But the Professor is wrong again. The John Clarke of whom he speaks as having been made a freeman, is not the John Clarke who organized the Newport church. Prof. David Weston editor of Backus' Church History and the lamented critical Professor of Church History in Hamilton Theological Seminary, says: “The John Clarke who was admitted a freeman in Boston, May, 1635, must have been a different person from the founder of the Rhode Island plantation. The latter writes in the 'Narrative' — 'In the year '37 I left my native land, and in the ninth month of the same I (through mercy) arrived in Boston. I was no sooner on shore than there, appeared some differences among them concerning the covenants.' …Mass. Historical Collections, fourth series, vol. 2. p. 72. The date thus given in the 'Narrative' is verified by the fact that the difficulty on the question of covenants, which Clarke found in the colony as soon as he was on shore, does not seem to have arisen till 1836.” — Note to Backus' Hist. Bap., vol. 1, pp. 70-71. To this must be added, since the John Clarke who organized the Newport church did not arrive in America till 1637, he could not possibly have been the John Clarke who “was admitted a freeman” in 1635! Prof. Whitsitt is a good brother and valuable historian, but, in attempting to follow Dexter and to maintain the exploded Williams claim. he has but involved himself in inextricable confusion, absurdities and contradictions.
…the John Clarke and Dover churches were the first Baptist churches ever organized in America; that no one, or scarcely any one, claimed that the first church of Providence was the first Baptist church in America until near a century after Williams' time; that early history shows the Newport and Dover churches organized before Williams' church; that the advocates of the first church of Providence being the oldest in America concede their case exceedingly doubtful; that the John Clarke church swarmed with numerous churches and ministers; that, inasmuch as Baptist churches of America originated generally from European immigration we could admit the first church of Providence to be the Williams and the oldest American Baptist church, without implying it is the mother of American Baptist churches to any notice able extent. The “Christian Messenger” a most bitter Campbellite paper, concedes: “We have never considered that Roger Williams' baptism had any material effect upon Baptist succession. The Baptist churches of America did not originate with the Roger Williams church, nor receive their baptism from it, at least the great mass of them did not.”