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and composure of his German shipmates ; and soon after
the landing he was touched with the primitive simplicity


and beauty of the ordination service with which a pastor
was set over the Moravian settlement by Bishop Nitsch-
mann. During the twenty-two months of his service in
Georgia, through the ascetic toils and privations which he
inflicted on himself and tried to inflict on others, he seems
as one whom the law has taken severely in hand to lead
him to Christ. It was after his return from America,
among the Moravians, first at London and afterward on a
visit to Herrnhut, that he was " taught the way of the
Lord more perfectly." '

The three shipmates, the Wesleys and Bishop Nitsch-
mann, did not remain long together. Nitschmann soon
returned to Germany to lead a new colony of his brethren
to Pennsylvania ; Charles Wesley remained for four months
at Frederica, and then recrossed the ocean, weary of the
hardness of the people's hearts ; and, except for the pain-
ful and humiliating discipline which was preparing him to
" take the whole world to be his parish," it had been well
for John Wesley if he had returned with his brother.
Never did a really great and good man act more like a
fool than he did in his Georgia mission. The priestly arro-
gance with which he attempted to enforce his crotchets of
churchmanship on a mixed community in the edge of the
wilderness culminated at last in his hurling the thunder-
bolts of excommunication at a girl who had jilted him,
followed by his slipping away from the colony between
two days, with an indictment for defamation on record

1 The beautiful story of the processional progress of the Salzburg exiles
across the continent of Europe is well told by Dr. Jacobs, " History of the
Lutherans," pp. 153-159, with a copious extract from Bancroft, vol. iii.,
which shows that that learned author did not distinguish the Salzburgers
from the Moravians. The account of the ship's company in the storm, in
Dr. Jacobs's tenth chapter, is full of interest. There is a pathetic probability
in his suggestion that in the hymn "Jesus, lover of my soul," we have
Charles Wesley's reminiscence of those scenes of peril and terror. For this
episode in the church history of Georgia as seen from different points of view,
see American Church History Series, vols, iv., v., vii., viii.


against him, and his returning to London to resign to the
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel his commission
as missionary. Just as he was landing, the ship was setting
sail which bore to his deserted field his old Oxford friend
and associate in "the Methodist Club," George White-
field, then just beginning the career of meteoric splendor
which for thirty-two years dazzled the observers of both
hemispheres. He landed in Savannah in May, 1738.
This was the first of Whitefield's work in America. But
it was not the beginning of the Great Awakening. For
many years there had been waiting and longing as of
them that watch for the morning. At Raritan and New
Brunswick, in New Jersey, and elsewhere, there had been
prelusive gleams of dawn. And at Northampton, in
December, 1734, Jonathan Edwards had seen the sudden
daybreak and rejoiced with exceeding great joy.



By the end of one hundred years from the settlement
of Massachusetts important changes had come upon the
chain of colonies along the Atlantic seaboard in America.
In the older colonies the people had been born on the soil
at two or three generations' remove from the original col-
onists, or belonged to a later stratum of migration super-
imposed upon the first. The exhausting toil and privations
of the pioneer had been succeeded by a good measure of
thrift and comfort. There were yet bloody campaigns to
be fought out against the ferocity and craft of savage
enemies wielded by the strategy of Christian neighbors ;
but the severest stress of the Indian wars was passed. In
different degrees and according to curiously diverse types,
the institutions of a Christian civilization were becoming

In the course of this hundred years the political organ-
ization of these various colonies had been drawn into an
approach to uniformity. In every one of them, excepting
Connecticut and Rhode Island, the royal or proprietary
government was represented by a governor and his staff,
appointed from England, and furnishing a point of con-
tact which was in every case and all the time a point of


friction and irritation between the colony and the mother
country. The reckless laxity of the early Stuart charters,
which permitted the creation of practically independent
democratic republics with churches free from the English
hierarchy, was succeeded, under the House of Orange, by
something that looked like a statesmanlike care for the
prerogatives of the crown and the privileges of the Eng-
lish church. Throughout the colonies, at every viceregal
residence, it was understood that this church, even where
it was not established by law, was the favored official and
court church. But inasmuch as the royal governors were
officially odious to the people, and at the same time in
many cases men of despicable personal character, their
influence did little more than create a little " sect of the
Herodians " within the range of their patronage. But
though it gave no real advantage to the preferred church,
it was effective (as in Massachusetts) in breaking down
the exclusive pretensions of other organizations.

The Massachusetts theocracy, so called, fell with the
revocation of the charter by James II. It had stood for
nearly fifty years — long enough to accomplish the main
end of that Nationalist principle which the Puritans, not-
withstanding their fraternizing with the Pilgrim Separa-
tists, had never let go. The organization of the church
throughout New England, excepting Rhode Island, had
gone forward in even step with the advance of population.
Two rules had with these colonists the force of axioms :
first, that it was the duty of every town, as a Christian
community, to sustain the town church ; secondly, that it
was the duty of every citizen of the town to contribute to
this end according to his ability. The breaking up of the
town church by schisms and the shirking of individual
duty on the ground of dissent were alike discountenanced,
sometimes by severely intolerant measures. The ultimate


collision of these principles with the sturdy individualism
that had been accepted from the Separatists of Plymouth
was inevitable. It came when the "standing order" en-
countered the Baptist and the Quaker conscience. It came
again when the missionaries of the EngHsh estabhshed
church, with singular unconsciousness of the humor of the
situation, pleaded the sacred right of dissenting and the es-
sential injustice of compelling dissenters to support the
parish church. 1 The protest may have been illogical, but
it was made effective by "arguments of weight," backed
by all the force of the British government. The exclusive-
ness of the New England theocracies, already relaxed in
its application to other sects, was thenceforth at an end.
The severity of church establishment in New England was
so far mitigated as at last to put an actual premium on
dissent. Holding still that every citizen is bound to aid
in maintaining the institutions of public worship, it relieved
any one of his assessment for the support of the parish
church upon his filing a certificate that he was contribut-
ing to the support of another congregation, thus providing
that any disaffection to the church of the town must be
organized and active. It was the very euthanasia of es-
tablishment. But the state-church and church-state did
not cease to be until they had accomplished that for New
England which has never been accomplished elsewhere in
America — the dividing of the settled regions into definite

1 One is touched by the plaintive grief of the Rev. Mr. Muirson, who has
come from the established church of England to make proselytes from the
established churches of Connecticut. He writes to the " S. P. G.," without
a thought of casting any reflections upon his patrons: " It would require
more time than you would willingly bestow on these Lines, to express how
rigidly and severely they treat our People, by taking their Estate by distress
when they do not willingly pay to support their Ministers" ("Digest of
S. P. G. Records," p. 43). The pathos of the situation is intensified when
we bear in mind the relation of this tender-hearted gentleman's own emolu-
ments to the taxes extorted from the Congregationalists in his New York


parishes, each with its church and its learned minister.
The democratic autonomy of each church was jealously-
guarded, and yet they were all knit together by terms of
loose confederation into a vital system. The impracti-
cable notion of a threefold ministry in each church, consist-
ing of pastor, teacher, and ruling elder, failed long before
the first generation had passed ; but, with this exception,
it may justly be said that the noble ideal of the Puritan
fathers of New England of a Christian state in the New
World, " wherein dwelleth righteousness," was, at the end
of a hundred years from their planting, realized with a
completeness not common to such prophetic dreams.

So solid and vital, at the point of time which we have
assumed (1730), seemed the cohesion of the "standing
order" in New England, that only two inconsiderable de-
fections are visible to the historian.

The tendency toward Baptist principles early disclosed
itself among the colonists. The example of Roger Wil-
liams was followed by less notable instances ; the shameful
intolerance with which some of these were treated shows
how formidable this tendency seemed to those in author-
ity. But a more startling defection appeared about the
year 1650, when President Dunster of Harvard College,
a man most honorable and lovable, signified his adoption
of the Baptist tenets. The treatment of him was ungen-
erous, and for a time the petty persecutions that followed
served rather to discredit the clergy than really to hinder
the spread of Baptist principles. In the year 1718 the
Baptist church of Boston received fraternal recognition
from the foremost representatives of the Congregational
clergy of Boston, with a public confession of the wrong
that they had done.^ It is surprising to find, after all this
agitation and sowing of " the seed of the church," that in

1 See above, p. 107.


all New England outside of Rhode Island there are in
1730 only six Baptist churches, including (an honorable
item) two Indian churches on the islands of Martha's
Vineyard and Nantucket.^

The other departure from the " standing order " was at
this date hardly more extensive. The early planting of
Episcopalian churches in Maine and New Hampshire, with
generous patronage and endowment, had languished and
died. In 1679 there was no Episcopal minister in all New
England. In 1702 were begun the energetic and richly
supported missions of the " S. P. G." At the end of
twenty-eight years there were in Rhode Island four Epis-
copalian churches ; in Massachusetts, three, two of them
in the city of Boston ; in Connecticut, three. '^ But in the
last-named colony an incident had occurred, having appar-
ently no intimate connection with the " Venerable Soci-
ety's " missions, but charged with weighty, and on the
whole beneficent, consequences for the future of the king-
dom of Christ in America.

The incident was strikingly parallel to that of seventy
years before, when the president of Harvard College an-
nounced his acceptance of Baptist principles. The day
after the Yale commencement in September, 1722, a mod-
est and respectful paper was presented to the trustees of
the college, signed by Rector Timothy Cutler and Tutor
Brown (who constituted the entire faculty of the college)
and by five pastors of good standing in the Connecticut
churches. Two other pastors of note were named as
assenting to the paper, although not subscribing it. It
seemed a formidable proportion of the Connecticut clergy.
The purport of the paper was to signify that the signers

1 Newman, " Baptist Churches in the United States," pp. 197, 198, 231.

2 Tiffany, " Protestant Episcopal Church," chaps, iv., v. ; C. F. Adams,
" Three Episodes in Massacliusetts History," pp. 342, 62 L


were doubtful of the validity, or persuaded of the Invalid-
ity, of presbyterial as distinguished from episcopal ordina-
tion. The matter was considered with the gravity which
it merited, and a month later, at the time of the meeting
of the colonial legislature, was made the subject of a public
discussion, presided over with great dignity and amenity
by Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, formerly pastor of the
church in New London. The result was that, of the seven
pastors assenting to the paper of the two college men,
only two adhered to them ; but one of these two was that
able and excellent Samuel Johnson, whose later career as
president of King's College in New York, as well as the
career of his no less distinguished son, is an ornament to
American history both of church and state.

This secession, small in number, but weighty in charac-
ter, was of course a painful shock to the hitherto unbroken
unity of the church and clergy of Connecticut. But it
was not quite like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. It had
been immediately preceded by not a Httle conference and
correspondence with Connecticut pastors on the one hand,
and on the other hand with representatives of the powerful
and wealthy Propagation Society, on the question of sup-
port to be received from England for those who should se-
cede. Its prior antecedents reached farther back into his-
tory. The Baptist convictions of the president of Harvard
in 1650 were not more clearly in line with the individual-
ism of the Plymouth Separatists than the scruples of the
rector of Yale in 1722 were in line with the Nationalism
of Higginson and Winthrop. This sentiment, especially
strong in Connecticut, had given rise to much study as to
the best form of a colonial church constitution ; and the
results of this had recently been embodied (in 1 708) in the
mildly classical system of the Saybrook Platform. The
filial love of the Puritan colonists toward the mothei^


church of England was by no means extinct in the third
generation. Alongside of the inevitable repugnance felt
and manifested toward the arrogance, insolence, and v'io-
lence with which the claims of the Episcopal Church were
commended by royal governors and their attaches and by
some of the imported missionaries, there is ample evidence
of kindly and fraternal feeling, far beyond what might have
been expected, on the part of the New England clergy to-
ward the representatives of the Church of England. The
first missionaries of the " Venerable Society," Keith and
Talbot, arriving in New England in 1702, met with wel-
come from some of the ministers, who " both hospitably
entertained us in their houses and requested us to preach
in their congregations, which accordingly we did, and re-
ceived great thanks both from the ministers and people."^
One of these hospitable pastors was the Rev. Gurdon
Saltonstall, of New London, who twenty years later, as
governor of the colony, presided at the debate which fol-
lowed upon the demission of Rector Cutler.

The immediate results of what had been expected to
lead off a large defection from the colonial clergy were
numerically insignificant; but very far from insignificant
was the fact that in Connecticut a sincere and spontaneous
movement toward the Episcopal Church had arisen among
men honored and beloved, whose ecclesiastical views were
not tainted with self-seeking or servility or with an un-
patriotic shame for their colonial home and sympathy with
its political enemies. Elsewhere in New England, and
largely in Connecticut also, the Episcopal Church in its
beginnings was handicapped with a dead-weight of super-
cilious and odious Toryism. The example of a man like
Johnson showed that one might become an Episcopalian
without ceasing to be a patriotic American and without

1 " Digest of S. p. G.," p. 42.


holding himself aloof from the fellowship of good men.
The conference in Yale College library, September 13,
1722, rather than the planting of a system of exotic mis-
sions, marks the true epoch from which to date the prog-
ress of a genuinely American Episcopal Church.^

Crossing the recently settled boundary line into New
York, not yet risen to rank with the foremost colonies, we
find in 1730 a deepening of the early character, which had
marked that colony, of wide diversity among the Chris-
tian people in point of race, language, doctrinal opinion,
and ecclesiastical connection.

The ancient Dutch church, rallying from its almost
asphyxia, had begun not only to receive new life, but,
under the fervid spiritual influence of Domine Freling-
huysen, to " have it more abundantly " and to become a
means of quickening to other communions. It was bear-
ing fruit, but its fruit had not seed within itself after its
kind. It continued to sufTer, in common with some other
imported church systems, from depending on a trans-
atlantic hierarchy for the succession of its ministry. The
supply of imported ministers continued to be miserably
inadequate to the need. In the first four decades of the
century the number of its congregations more than dou-
bled, rising to a total of sixty-five in New York and New
Jersey ; and for these sixty-five congregations there were
nineteen ministers, almost all of them from Europe. This
body of churches, so inadequately manned, was still further
limited in its activities by the continually contracting bar-
rier of the Dutch language.

The English church, enjoying " the prestige of royal
favor and princely munificence," suffered also the draw-

1 Tiffany, chap. v. For a full account of these beginnings in Connecticut
in their historical relations, see L. Bacon on " The Episcopal Church in Con-
necticut" (" New Englander," vol. xxv., pp. 283-329).


backs Incidental to these advantages — the odium attend-
ing the unjust and despotic measures resorted to for its
advancement, the vile character of royal officials, who con-
doned their private vices by a more ostentatious zeal for
their official church, and the well-founded popular suspi-
cion of its pervading disloyalty to the interests and the
liberties of the colonies in their antagonism to the en-
croachments of the British government. It was repre-
sented by one congregation in the city of New York, and
perhaps a dozen others throughout the colony.^ It is to
the honor of the ministers of this church that it succeeded
in so good a measure in triumphing over its " advantages."
The early pastors of Trinity Church adorned their doctrine
and their confession, and one such example as that of the
Rev. Thoroughgood Moor did much to redeem the char-
acter of the church from the disgrace cast upon it by the
lives of its patrons. This faithful missionary had the sig-
nal honor of being imprisoned by the dirty but zealous
Lord Cornbury (own cousin to her Majesty the Queen,
and afterward Earl of Clarendon), of whom he had said,
what everybody knew, that he " deserved to be excom-
municated " ; and he had further oflfended by refusing the
communion to the lieutenant-governor, " upon the account
of some debauch and abominable swearing." ^ There was
surely some vigorous spiritual vitality in a religious body
which could survive the patronizing of a succession of such
creatures as Cornbury and his crew of extortioners and

A third element in the early Christianity of New York

1 There were on duty in New York in 1730, besides the minister of Trinity
Church, ten missionaries of the " S. P. G.," including several employed spe-
cially among the Indians and the negroes. Fifteen years later there were
reported to the " Venerable Society " in New York and New Jersey twenty-
two churches (" Digest of S. P. G.," pp. 855, 856; Tiffany, p. 178).

2 " Digest of S. P. G.," p. 68 and note.


was the Presbyterians, These were represented, at the
opening of the eighteenth century, by that forerunner
of the Scotch-Irish immigration, Francis Makemie. The
arrest and imprisonment of Makemie in 1706, under the
authority of Lord Cornbury, for the offense of preaching
the gospel without a license from the government, his
sturdy defense and his acquittal, make an epoch in the
history of religious liberty in America, and a perceptible
step in the direction of American political liberty and

The immense volume and strength of the Scotch-Irish
immigration had hardly begun to be perceptible in New
York as early as 1730. The total strength of the Presby-
terian Church in 1705 was organized in Philadelphia into
a solitary presbytery containing six ministers. In 171 7,
the number having grown to seventeen, the one presbytery
was divided into four, which constituted a synod ; and one
of the four was the presbytery of New York and New
Jersey. But it was observed, at least it might have been
observed, that the growing Presbyterianism of this north-
ernmost region was recruited mainly from old England
and from New England — a fact on which were to depend
important consequences in later ecclesiastical history.

The chief increment of the presbytery of New York and
New Jersey was in three parts, each of them planted from
New England. The churches founded from New Haven
Colony in the neighborhood of Newark and Elizabeth-
town, and the churches founded by Connecticut settlers
on Long Island when this was included in the jurisdiction
of Connecticut, easily and without serious objection con-
formed their organization to the Presbyterian order. The
first wave of the perennial westward migration of the New
Englanders, as it flowed over the hills from the valley of
the Housatonic into the valley of the Hudson, was ob-


served by Domine Selyns, away back in 1696, to be at-
tended by many preachers educated at Harvard College. 1
But the churches which they founded grew into the type,
not of Cambridge nor of Saybrook, but of Westminster.

The facility with which the New England Christians,
moving westward or southwestward from their cold north-
eastern corner of the country, have commonly consented
to forego their cherished usages and traditions of church
order and accept those in use in their new homes, and
especially their readiness in conforming to the Presbyterian
polity, has been a subject of undue lamentation and regret
to many who have lacked the faculty of recognizing in it
one of the highest honors of the New England church.
But whether approved or condemned, a fact so unusual in
church history, and especially in the history of the Ameri-
can church, is entitled to some study, i. It is to be ex-
plained in part, but not altogether, by the high motive of
a willingness to sacrifice personal preferences, habits, and
convictions of judgment, on matters not of primary im-
portance, to the greater general good of the community.
2. The Presbyterian polity is the logical expression of that
Nationalist principle which was cherished by many of the
Puritan fathers, which contended at the birth of New
England with the mere Independency of the Pilgrims, and
which found an imperfect embodiment in the platforms
of Cambridge and Saybrook. The New England fathers
in general, before their views suffered a sea-change in the
course of their migrations, were Episcopalians and Presby-
terians rather than Congregationalists ; and if, in the course
of this history, we shall find many in their later genera-
tions conforming to a mitigated form of the Westminster
polity, or to a liberalized and Americanized Episcopal
Church, instead of finding this to be a degeneration, we
1 Corwin, " Reformed (Dutch) Church," p. ii§.


shall do well to ask whether It is not rather a reversion to
type. 3. Those who grow up in a solidly united Christian
community are in a fair way to be trained in the simplicity

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 11 of 34)