VOL. 2. 51
402 Biography of Peter Werden.
the crowd ; and being assisted by the sheriff, he gained
access to him, and addressed him as follows : " Sir, is
your soul prepared for that awful eternity, into which
you will launch in a few minutes ?" The criminal repli-
ed, " I don't know that it is, but I wish you would pray
for me." In this prayer, Mr. Werden was so wonder-
fully assisted in spreading the poor man's cause before
the throne of God, that the whole assembly were awfully
solemnized, and most of them wet their cheeks with their
tears. This opened a great door for his ministrations,
both on the maine and on the island. He preached at
Warwick, Coventry, and many other places, with good
success, about 19 years, and then moved, in 1770, into
the town of Cheshire, in Berkshire county, Massachu-
setts, where he lived and administered almost 38 years.
In his first religious exercises, he was led to dig deep
into his own heart, where he found such opposition and
rebellion, that when he obtained pardon, he attributed
it to sovereign grace alone ; which sentiment, so inter-
woven in his soul, he ever proclaimed aloud to a dying
world. Nothing appeared to be more disgustful to his
mind, than to hear works and grace mixed together, as
the foundation of a sinner's hope. To hold forth the
Lamb of God as a piece of a Saviour ; or to consider the
self-exertions of a natural man, to be the way into Christ,
the true and only ivay, were extremely displeasing to that
soul of his, which delighted so much in proclaiming eter-
nal love, redeeming blood, and matchless grace.
Sound judgment, correct principles, humble demeanor,
with solemn sociability, marked all his publick improve-
ments, and mingled with all his conversation in smaller
circles, or with individuals. In him young preachers
found a father and a friend ; distressed churches, a healer
of breaches ; and tempted souls, a sympathizing guide.
From his first settling in Cheshire, until he was 70 years
old, he wa.s a father to the Baptist churches in Berkshire
county and its environs, and in some sense an apostle to
His many, painful labours for the salvation of sinners,
the peace of the churches, and the purity of the ministers,
will never be fully appreciated, until the time when he
shall stand before his Judge, and hear the words of his
mouth, " Well done, good and faithful servant."
Biography of Peter Werden. 403
From the sternness of his eyes and blush of his face,
a stranger would have been led to conclude, that he was
sovereign and self-willed in his natural habit of mind ;
but on acquaintance, the physiognomist would have been
agreeably disappointed. He had so much self-govern-
ment, that he has been heard to say, that (except when
he had the small-pox,) he never found it hard to keep
from speaking at any time, if his reason told him it \vas
best to forbear ; and no man possessed liner feelings, or
treated the characters of others with more delicacy than
he did. He had an exalted idea of the inalienable rights
of conscience ; justly appreciated the civil rights of man,
and was assiduous to keep his brethren from the chains
of ecclesiastical power.
His preaching was both sentimental and devotional ;
and his life so far corresponded with the precepts which
he taught, that none of his hearers could justly reply,
" Physician, heal thyself."
He had the happiness of having a number of revivals
in the town and congregation where he resided and
preached, and a number of ministers were raised up in
the church of which he was pastor.
For about ten years before his death his bodily and
mental powers had been on the decline, and he was often
heard to rejoice, that others increased though he decreas-
ed ; but his superannuation was not so great, as to pre-
vent the whole of his usefulness ; and his hoary head
was a crown of glory unto him.
A number of times he was heard to pray that he might
not outlive his usefulness, which was remarkably answer-
ed in his case, for the Lord's-day before he died he preach-
ed to the people of his charge.
The disease which closed his mortal life, denied his
friends the pleasure of catching the balm of life from his
lips, in his last moments. He had finished his work be-
fore, and nothing remained for him to do, but to die.
Let the inhabitants of Cheshire,' (said Mr. John Leland,
his biographer, and who exhibited the above at the close
of the sermon which he preached at his funeral) reflect
a moment on the dealings of God towards them. With-
in about three years, three ministers, belonging to the
town, have departed this life. The pious Mason took
the lead ; the pleasing Covell followed after j and novr
404 Biography of John Williams.
(1808) the arduous Werdcn, who has been in the minis-
try a longer term than any Baptist preacher left behind,
in New-England, has finished his course, in the 8Oth
year of his age ; while Leland remains alone, to raise this
monument over their tomb.
JOHN WILLIAMS was born in the county of Hanover,
Virginia, 1747. He was of a very respectable family,
and received a tolerable education. In the month of
June, 1769, when acting as a sheriff of Lunenburgh, he
was awakened to know and to feel his sin and his dan-
ger. He became a convert, and shortly after lifted up
his voice to exhort his fellow-men to flee from the wrath
to come. He was not baptized until the first Sabbath in
February, 1770. He continued to exhort, until some
time in the following summer, when he ventured to
take a text, and from that time commenced preacher.
December, 1772, he was ordained to the ministry, and
took the care of Meherrin church. His gifts, at first,
were far from being auspicious. Many pronounced that
he would never be a preacher ; so delusory are the first
efforts of the mind.
He not only succeeded in becoming a preacher, but in
becoming a first-rate preacher, at least in the estimation
of most of his acquaintances.
He was exceeding fond of reading and writing, and
indeed was generally studious ; by which means he great-
ly improved his mind.
"When he first commenced preacher he was zealous,
active, and laborious in the ministry ; travelling and
propagating the gospel in different parts. He may well
be numbered among the fathers of Israel. His talent,
however, was not employed so much in breaking down
the bars of prejudice in new and unenlightened places, as
in directing and regulating young converts when gath-
ered by others. Pleasing, affable, and refined in his man-
ners, his hand was employed to smooth off some of those
protuberances left by rougher workmen. In Associations
he was expert with his pen, as well as wise to offer coun-
sel. He acted as clerk to the General Association ; and
when they divided the Association into districts, a unani-
mous vote of thanks was offered Mr. W. for his faith-
Biography of John Williams. 40 .5
ful and skilful services in that capacity. Ho also dis-
charged the duties of clerk to the Roanoke Association
until a little time previous to his death. He introduced
several excellent regulations both into the General and
Roanoke Associations, for the government of churches, &c.
Few men understood church discipline better, or were
more successful in building up large respectable churches,
wherever he attended. For many years he acted as
pastor to four churches, whom he attended monthly.
He was in high estimation both as a man and a minister.
Even the enemies of the Baptists would often except
Mr. W. from their reproaches. In his temper towards
those of other religious persuasions, he was remarkably
liberal. Indeed, by some of his acquaintances it is said
he was friendly to open communion ; but that he was
restrained from putting it in practice, by his tenderness
for his brethren, most of whom differed with him on this
head. This liberality of spirit did not prevent him from
maintaining his own principles with great firmness, when-
ever an occasion offered. It was such an occasion
as this, which drew forth his reply to Mr. Patilloe's*
sermon on infant baptism. He committed his arguments
to writing, with an intention of printing them in the
form of a pamphlet ; but as nothing came out on the
other side, and as so much had been already published
on that subject, it was not put to the press.
In his preface, he makes the following remark :
" I hope I have sufficiently demonstrated to my coun-
trymen, for a series of years, that I am not overbearing
on others, or bigotted to my own principles which are not
essential to salvation ; but have uniformly endeavoured to
promote a catholick spirit, with peace and concord, in the
Israel of God. But, nevertheless, I am set for the defence
of the gospel ; and as such, circumstances often occur,
that involuntarily lead me forth to contend for the faith
and order of Christ's church."
He was generally upon the best terms with the Presby-
terians, who were pretty numerous in his neighbourhood.
His talents, if not equal to any, were certainly very
little inferior to those of the first grade.
His appearance' in the pulpit was noble and majestick,
yet humble and affectionate. In the beginning of his
\ eettebrated Prfcsbylcilan preacher.
406 Biography of John Williams.
discourses, he was doctrinal and somewhat methodical ;
often very deep, even to the astonishment of his hearers.
Towards the close, and indeed sometimes throughout
his sermon, he was exceedingly animating. His exhorta-
tions were often incomparable.
At an early period he became very corpulent. At an
Association, in the year 1793, he accidentally fell, by the
turning of a step, as he was passing out of a door, and
became for a year or two a cripple ; being under the
necessity of going on crutches. Notwithstanding this, he
would frequently go in a carriage to meeting, and preach,
sitting in a chair in the pulpit. During several of the
last years of his life, he was afflicted with a very painful
disease. Under his severe suffering, he was not only
patient, but when he could have any mitigation of his
pain, he was also cheerful. About ten days before his
dead), he was attacked by a pleurisy ; from which no
medicine could give him relief. His work was finished,
and his Master had called for him. On the 30th day of,
April, 1795, he fell asleep.
Nothing very remarkable transpired at his death. He
was pensive and silent. He told his wife, that to live or die
was to him indifferent : he had committed this to God, who,
he knew, would do right. He said he felt some anxie-
ty for his numerous family ; but that these, also, he was
willing to trust in the hands of a gracious Providence.
January, 1 768. he was married to Miss Frances Hughes,
of Powhatan county, by whom he had 14 children ; of
whom 1 1 were living at the time of his death ; and of these,
four professed religion, and were baptized. Ssmple*
[it/* There have been many other eminent characters in the Bafitist con-
nexion, who ought to have a place among the worthies oj their host ; but, for
wanf of some one to record their history, their names are either sunk, or are
fast sink ng into forgetfulness. Our brethren, in many instances, have been
strangely neglectful of their departed friends. 1 'hey have conducted as though
they supposed every body knew their worth, end that it was therefore un-
necessary to write any thing respecting them.
The Author of this work has for a number of years had it in view, at some
future period, should his life be continued, to prepare one altogether biograph-
ical ; which will contain not only the lives, but the likenesses of many Baptist
characters of distinction, both European and American. Those who mail feel
interested in prtserving the hi&tonj and rtficniNances of tlieir departtd.
friends, are desired to ketp, this suggestion in mind.}
Churches holding to Weekly Communion. 407
CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF A NUMBER OF BAPTIST COMMU-
NITIES, WHO DIFFER FROM THE MAIN BODY OF THE DENOM-
INATION, AND WHO ARE ALSO DISTINGUISHED BY SOM*
PECULIARITIES OF THEIR OWN.
Churches which hold to Weekly Communion.
THE practice of administering the Lord's Supper every first day of
the week, has never prevailed much among the American Baptists.
The old church, at Sandy-Creek, North Carolina, was for some years
on that plan, but it has now given it up.
A few years since, a number of ministers came over from Scotland
to America, in the character of missionaries of the Independent persua-
sion, and some of them were patronized by the liberal Robert Haldane,
Esq. of Edinburgh. These missionaries, after travelling a short time,
in different parts of the United States, were led to embrace the Baptist
sentiments, and from Pedobaptist became Baptist ministers. Mr.
Walter Balfour was baptized by Mr. Collier of Charlestown, near
Boston ; Mr. Archibald Maclay by Mr. Williams of New-York ; Mr.
James Graham, now of Beaufort, South-Carolina, by the same admin-
istrator in New- York ; Mr. James M'Pherson, now of Baltimcre, was
baptized by Mr. Joseph B. Cook, then of Beaufort, South-Carolina.
These baptisms all took place about 1 809. Some other Pedobaptist
ministers came over to the Baptists about the same time, and they were,
peihaps, too much elated at these accessions to their cause. But it was
soon found, that most of the Scotch ministers were, notwithstanding their
becoming of the Baptist persuasion, far from uniting in their connexion,
The Independents in Scotland generally, if not uniformly, practise
weekly communion; and of this point, and some others, these new
converts to believers' baptism were peculiarly tenacious. Mr. Balfour
gathered a small church in Boston and Charlestown, to which he still
ministers ; but his success in building up a separate interest, has not
been so great as his talents and address seemed at first to promise.
An account of Mr. MacLiy's successful and commendable proceedings
in New- York has already been related. The church which he found-
ed, still practises weekly communion ; but it is, notwithstanding, in fel-
lowship with those which commune but monthly. Mr. M'Pherson
gathered a church in Baltimore, mostly out of the second in that city,
which went heartily into his notions of communion and other particu-
lars respecting the order of the house, c. He is a man of respecta?
ble talents, and seemed to promise usefulness as a minister of the
word, notwithstanding his dividing measures ; but to the grief of his
friends, he has lately been disowned by his infant church, for intemper-
ance. Mr. Graham preached a while in Savannah, Georgia ; then in
Beaufort, South-Carolina ; and for a short time had the care of the
church in that place ; but not being able to bring it to his views, he
formed a small one upon his own plan. How large it is, or what are
its circumstances, I have not learnt.
The labours of these ministers, together with some writings, which
they brought from Scotland, seemed at first to threaten innovation?
498 Churches holding to Weekly Communion.
among the American churches of considerable extent ; but these ap-
pearances have, in a great measure, subsided, and very few have gone
so far into the new order of ths house, as to separate from their respective
connexions. Some few churches, however, have been founded by the
converts to weekly communion, plurality of Elders, &.c.
One of this kind was formed in 1809, by the name of the Second
Baptist Church in Charlestown. Its principal teacher is Mr. Oliver
H olden, a native of New-England, formerly a member of the first
church in that town. This church at first consisted of nine members,
but has since increased to twenty-five.* Three have been added by
baptism, and thirteen from other churches. The constituents were dis-
missed, by their request, from the first church. The ostensible reason
for asking a dismission, (as stated by themselves,) was, that discipline
was not maintained so strictly as they desired, or as the church acknowl-
edged it ought to be. And t; despairing of seeing the church brought
to resemble the Scripture pattern, and desirous of reforming them-
selves," they, at their request, were dimissed for that purpose. Their
leading views in this measure, and their distinguishing sentiments, are
thus stated by one r.f their number:
" In respect to the difference between their sentiments and those of
the churches from whose connexion they are separated, they profess
to have aimed only to revive the Baptist principles recorded in the
Scriptures and in the history of purer ages, and not to innovate in
" They disapprove all connexion with the world, in the support of
the gospel, and with other churches in choosing and ordaining Eiders.
They deny that present ministers are successors of the Apostles, in
the sense frequently conveyed on baptismal and other occasions ; and
that their office, as teachers and rulers in the church, should be known
by any distinction in dress or titles. They consider it their duty to
commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ every first day of
the week ; and that the evening of that day (after having attended
to the Lord's Supper) is a suitable season for mutual exhortation and
prayer. And they profess to believe, that by duly regarding primi-
tive practices, and apostolical injunctions, they shall be enabled to
walk in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and to enjoy the essential
blessing of a spiritual and efficient ministry.
" In doctrine they profess to be the same as when first taught by the
Holy Ghost to call Jesus Lord, wishing for no change, excepting great-
er discoveries of its simplicity, efficiency and glory.
" They use no platform of church- government bat the Scriptures,
believing that a greater acquaintance with them will strengthen their
faith, love, and veneration for the adored object of their uniform tes-
" They have been supposed by some to have imbibed Sandemanian
notions of faith, divine influence, religious experience, &c. ; but it is not
true. They separated from the first church, for the reasons above
mentiont J ; but they have neither imbibed new sentiments, nor formed
new connexions. They profess their desire to " stand in the ways, and
One has been excluded, for denying the self-ext&ter.ce and eternity cf
Churches holding to Weekly Communion. 409
ml: for tie old paths," and their hope that God will enable them to
" walk therein."
The reader will doubtless wish to hear the other side, and will proba-
bly suspect that the real cause of the separation has not been disclosed.*
This church, although of the same order with Mr. Balfour's, has yet
no visible fellowship with it.
In Hartford, Connecticut, a small church has been formed upon the
plan of weekly communion, by Mr. Henry Grew, formerly pastor of
the Baptist church in that city. Mr. Grew is a native of England; was,
for a number of years, a citizen of Providence, Rhode-Island, and was
called to the office of a deacon by the old church in that town, at the
age of 24. Not Jong after he was, by the same church, called to the
ministry, and was, a year or two after, settled in the pastoral care of
the church in Hartford. His ministry here was, for a while, prosper-
ous and happy, and his separation from the church was an event pecu-
liarly painful and trying; for in addition to the maxims of the Scotch
brethren, lie imbibed some others, which were not only new, but in
the estimation of his brethren unscriptural, and unbecoming a man cf
his talents and discretion.
Mr. Grf-w is, by all who know him, respected for his gifts, and be-
loved for his piety ; but by withdrawing from his former connexion,
and devoting himself exclusively to his little flock, he has circumscri-
bed his sphere of usefulness to very narrow bounds.
In the close of the autumn of 1 8 1 o, a church, en the plan of week-
ly communion, was formed in New-York, under the ministry of
Messrs. Errett and Ovington. " It is composed," as they say, " of
persons from various nations under heaven." " They reject all hu-
man creeds, rules, covenants, &c. thinking the Scriptures perfect
enough for direction in every thing." " They dislike all pompous ed-
ifices as places of worship ; all pulpits or placts designed for t>e exhi-
bition of the clergy* and think themselves fully accommodated with a
place of worship similar to those of the first churches. Accordingly
they meet at present in a rented apartment, No. 70, Hudson-street,
New York, where those, who desire to see what cannot be seen else-
where, viz. a church of Christ assembled together, may resort for the
satisfaction of their minds, their queries, or curiosities. Their times of
meeting are the first day of the week, thrice, and Thursday in the
evening. And they have appointed i'uesday evening, for preaching
the gospel to the world. "f
The doctrinal sentiments of these Weekly Communion Baptists are,
probably, somewhat different. Some of them evidently agree with
the churches from which they have separated. Others have been char-
ged with favouring the Sandemanian system. This charge, however,
they generally deny. In their maxims of discipline, and the order of
their house, they seem to pay no regard to uniformity, and I know not
as any two churches of them see alike, or maintain a visible fellowship
with each other. Some of the brethren maintain their peculiar opin-
ions in a becoming manner, while others urge their punctilios with
such a canting scrupulosity, as to defeat, in most cases, their own prose-
* See the jicconnt of the Charlestown Church, Vol. 1.
| Essay on tlue Constitutiou of Apnstolick Churches, p. 152.
VOL. 2. 2
41 Arminiail or Tree-Will Baptists.
The Baptist churches generally throughout the United States cele-
brate the Lord's Sapper once a month ; in some few cases but once
in two or three months. They do not deny the lawfulness of weekly
communion, but they contend that it is not necessary for the gospel
travel of a church. They plead that the frequency of attending to
this solemn rile is left as a matter of discretion, since our Saviour has
only said, As oft cs y; d'j if, Jo It in rem:mlrance of me. And although
it is cerr an that the disciples met on the first day of the week to
break bread, yet th it it is not certain that they met every first day
for thir purpose. They would freely commune with baptized believ-
ers, v.'ho nold to weekly communion, in case they agreed with them, in
doctrine, &c. But none of the brethren under consideration, except
Mr. M'Clay and his church, seem disposed to commune with them.
Armlnian or Free-Will Baptists,
FROM nearly thr beginning of the Baptists in America, there have
been some, who have opposed a number of the principal articles in
the C.iivinistick creed. For a long time, most of these brethren resided
in Rhode-Island and its vicinity, wh^re their history has been related.
For some years there were many of those, improperly called Separate
Baptists, in Virginia, and the more southern States, who were called
Araiinian?, because they maintained, that by the sufferings of Christ,
salvation was made possible for every individual of Adam's ruined
posterity. The issue of the contest on this point may be found under
the head of Virginia. And besides, there have always been some
churches and many individuals, who have objected to some of the
strong points of Calvinism, or adopted them with some peculiar mod-
ifications ; but no very considerable party of this character arose, un-
til a lit J? more than thirty years ago, when one was founded by El-
der Benjamin Randal, of New-Durham, New- Hampshire. This Elder
Randal, as his biographer observes, was led, about 1780, "to object
against the whole doctrine of John Cahin,vr'\th respect to eternal, par-
ticular, personal, unconditional election and reprobation ; and propa-
gated the following maxims, viz. ist. That all men have sinned and
come short of the glory of God. zd. That Jetus Christ has died for
all men, and, by the grace of God, hath tasted death for every man.
jd. That the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, hath appeared
to all men. 4th. That Christ's ministers are commanded to go into
all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature ; and that he
that helieveth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth
not shall be damned."*
This zealous minister was assiduous in propagating his opinions,
and endeavouring to persuade others to renounce, what he used to call,
the hydra monster Calvinism. A number soon fell in with his views,
bioke off from the Calvinistick churches in New- Hampshire and the