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of the gospel, and not in any specialties of controversy
with contending or competing sects. Members of the
parish churches of New England going west had an advan-
tage above most others, in that they could go simply as
representatives of the church of Christ, and not of a sect
of the church, or of one side of some controversy in which
they had never had occasion to interest themselves. 4.
The principle of congregational independency, not so
much inculcated as acted on in New England, carries with
it the corollary that a congregation may be Presbyterian
or Episcopalian or Methodist, if it judges best, without
thereby giving the individual Christian any justification
for secession or schism. 5. The change, in the westward
movement of Christian civilization, from the congrega-
tional order to the classical, coincides with the change in
the frame of civil polity from town government to county
government In the beginning the civil state in New
England was framed after the model of the church.^ It
is in accordance with the common course of church history
that when the people were transported from the midst of
pure democracies to the midst of representative republics
their church institutions should take on the character of the

The other factors of the religious life of New York re-
quire only brief mention.

There were considerable Quaker communities, especially

1 " Mr. Hooker did often quote a saying out of Mr. Cartwright, that no
man fashioneth his house to his hangings, but his hangings to his house. It
is better that the commonwealth be fashioned to the setting forth of God's
house, which is his church, than to accommodate the church frame to the
civil state" (.John Cotton, quoted by L. Bacon, " Historical Discourses,"
p. 18).


on western Long Island, in Flushing and its neighborhood.
But before the year 1730 the fervid and violent and won-
derfully brief early enthusiasm of this Society had long
been waning, and the Society, winning no accessions and
suffering frequent losses in its membership, was lapsing into
that " middle age of Quakerism " ^ in which it made itself
felt in the life of the people through its almost passive, but
yet effective, protests against popular wrongs.

Inconsiderable in number, but of the noblest quality,
was the immigration of French Huguenots, which just be-
fore and just after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
brought to New York and its neighborhood a half-dozen
congregations, accompanied by pastors whose learning,
piety, and devotion to the work of Christ were worthy of
that school of martyrdom in which they had been trained.
They were not numerous enough, nor compactly enough
settled, to maintain their own language in use, and soon
became merged, some in the Dutch church and some in
the English. Some of their leading pastors accepted
salaries from the Propagation Society, tendered to them
on condition of their accepting the ordination and conform-
ing to the ritual of the English church. The French Re-
formed Church does not appear organically in the later
history of the colony, but the history of the State and of
the nation is never largely written without commemorating,
by the record of family names made illustrious in every
department of honorable activity, the rich contribution
made to the American church and nation by the cruel
bigotry and the poHtical fatuity of Louis XIV.^

The German element in the religious life of New York,
at the period under consideration, was of even less his-
torical importance. The political philanthropy of Queen

1 Thomas, " The Society of Friends," p. 239.

2 Corwin, " Reformed (Dutch) Church," pp. 77, 78, 173.


Anne's government, with a distinct understanding between
the right hand and the left, took active measures to pro-
mote the migration of Protestant refugees from all parts
of Germany to the English colonies in America. In the
year 1 709 a great company of these unhappy exiles, com-
monly called " poor Palatines " from the desolated region
whence many of them had been driven out, were dropped,
helpless and friendless, in the wilderness of Schoharie
County, and found themselves there practically in a state
of slavery through their ignorance of the country and its
language. There were few to care for their souls. The
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was promptly
in the field, with its diligent missionaries and its ignoble
poHcy of doing the work of Christ and humanity with a
shrewd eye to the main chance of making proselytes to its
party.-^ With a tardiness which it is difficult not to speak
of as characteristic, after the lapse of twenty-one years the
classis of Amsterdam recognized its responsibility for this
multitude of wandering sheep; and at last, in 1793, the
German Reformed Church had so far emancipated itself
from its bondage to the old-country hierarchy as to as-
sume, almost a century too late, the cure of these poor
souls. But this migration added Httle to the rehgious life
of the New York Colony, except a new element of diversity
to a people already sufficiently heterogeneous. The greater
part of these few thousands gladly found their way to the
more hospitable colony of Pennsylvania, leaving traces of
themselves in family names scattered here and there, and
in certain local names, like that of Palatine Bridge.

The general impression left on the mind by this survey
of the Christian people of New York in 1730 is of a mass

1 Illustrations of the sordid sectarianism of the "Venerable Society's"
operations are painfully frequent in the pages of the " Digest of the S. P. G."
See especially on this particular case the action respecting Messrs. Kocher-
thal, Ehlig, and Beyse (p. 61).


of almost hopelessly incongruous materials, out of which
the brooding Spirit of God shall by and by bring forth the
unity of a new creation.

The population of the two Jerseys continued to bear the
character impressed on it by the original colonization.
West Jersey was predominantly Quaker; East Jersey
showed in its institutions of church and school the marks
made upon it by the mingling of Scotch and Yankee, But
there was one point at which influences had centered
which were to make New Jersey the seed-plot of a new
growth of church life for the continent.

The intolerable tyranny of Lord Cornbury in New York,
at the beginning of the century, had driven many of the
Dutch Christians of that colony across the Hudson. The
languishing vine throve by transplanting. In the congenial
neighborhood of the Calvinists of Scotland and New Eng-
land the cluster of churches in the region of New Bruns-
wick came to be known as " the garden of the Dutch
church." To this region, bearing a name destined to
great honor in American church history, came from Hol-
land, in 1720, Domine Theodore J. Frehnghuysen. The
fervor and earnestness of his preaching, unwonted in
that age, wakened a religious feeling in his own con-
gregation, which overflowed the limits of a single parish
and became as one of the streams that make glad the city
of God.

In the year 1 7 1 8 there arrived at the port of Philadel-
phia an Irishman, William Tennent, with his four sons, the
eldest a boy of fifteen. He was not a Scotch-Irishman,
but an English-Irishman — a clergyman of the established
Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland. He lost no time
in connecting himself with the Presbyterian synod of
Philadelphia, and after a few years of pastoral service in


the colony of New York became pastor of the Presbyterian
church at Neshaminy, in Pennsylvania, twenty miles north
of Philadelphia. Here his zeal for Christian education
moved him to begin a school, which, called from the
humble building in which it was held, became famous in
American Presbyterian history as the Log College. Here
were educated many men who became eminent in the
ministry of the gospel, and among them the four boys who
had come with their father from Ireland. Gilbert, the
eldest and most distinguished of them, came in 1727, from
his temporary position as tutor in the Log College, to be
pastor to the Presbyterian church in New Brunswick,
where Frelinghuysen, in the face of opposition from his
own brethren in the ministry, had for seven years pursued
his deeply spiritual and fruitful work as pastor to the Dutch
church. Whatever debate there may be over the question
of an official and tactual succession in the church, the ex-
istence of a vital and spiritual succession, binding " the
generations each to each," need not be disputed by any.
Sometimes, as here, the succession is distinctly traceable.
Gilbert Tennent was own son in the ministry to Theodore
Frelinghuysen as truly as Timothy to Paul, but he became
spiritual father to a great multitude.

In the year 1730 the total population of Pennsylvania
was estimated by Governor Gordon at forty-nine thousahd.
la the less than fifty years since the colony was settled it
had outstripped all the older colonies, and Philadelphia, its
chief town, continued to be by far the most important port
for the landing of immigrants. The original Quaker in-
fluence was still dominant in the colony, but the very large
majority of the population was German ; and presently the
Quakers were to find their political supremacy departing,
and were to acquiesce in the change by abdicating political


preferment.' The religious influence of the Society of
P'riends continued to be potent and in many respects most
salutary. But the exceptional growth and prosperity of
the colony was attended with a vast " unearned increment "
of wealth to the first settlers, and the maxim, " Religio
peperit divitias, et mater devorata est a prole,"- received
one of the most striking illustrations in all history. So
speedily the Society had entered on its Middle Age;' the
most violent of protests against formalism had begun to
congeal into a precise and sometimes frivolous system of
formalities. But the lasting impress made on the legisla-
tion of the colony by Penn and his contemporaries is a
monument of their wise and Christian statesmanship. Up
to their time the most humane penal codes in Christen-
dom were those of New England, founded on the Mosaic
law. But even in these, and still more in the application
of them, there were traces of that widely prevalent feeling
that punishment is society's bitter and malignant revenge
on the criminal. The penal code and the prison discipline of
Pennsylvania became an object of admiring study for social
reformers the world over, and marked a long stage in the ad-
vancement of the kingdom of God. The city of Philadelphia
early took the lead of American towns, not only in size, but
in its public charities and its cultivation of humane arts.

Notwithstanding these eminent honors, there is much
in the later history of the great commonwealth in which
Quakerism held dominion for the greater part of a century
to reflect doubt on the fitness of that form of Christianity
for conducting the affairs, either civil or religious, of a
great community.

1 S. G. Fisher, " The Making of Pennsylvania," p. 125 ; Thomas, " The
Society of Friends," p. 235.

2 " Religion gave birth to wealth, and was devoured by her own offspring."
The aphorism is ascribed to Lord Falkland.

3 Thomas, " The Society of Friends," p. 236.


There is nothing in the personal duty of non-resistance
of evil, as inculcated in the New Testament, that conflicts
with the functions of the civil governor — even the function
of bearing the sword as God's minister. Rather, each of
these is the complement and counterpart of the other.
Among the early colonial governors no man wielded the
sword of the ruler more effectively than the Quaker Arch-
dale in the Carolinas. It is when this law of personal duty
is assumed as the principle of public government that the
order of society is inverted, and the function of the magis-
trate is inevitably taken up by the individual, and the old
wilderness law of blood-revenge is reinstituted. The legis-
lation of William Penn involved no abdication of the power
of the sword by the civil governor. The enactment,
however sparing, of capital laws conceded by implication
every point that is claimed by Christian moralists in justi-
fication of war. But it is hardly to be doubted that the
tendency of Quaker politics so to conduct civil government
as that it shall " resist not evil " is responsible for some of
the strange paradoxes in the later history of Pennsylvania.
The commonwealth was founded in good faith on principles
of mutual good will with the Indians and tender regard
for Indian rights, of religious liberty and interconfessional
amity, and of a permanent peace policy. Its history has
been characterized, beyond that of other States, by foul
play toward the Indians and protracted Indian wars, by
acrimonious and sometimes bloody sectarian conflicts, by
obstinate insurrections against pubHc order,^ and by cruel
and exterminating war upon honest settlers, founded on a
mere open question of title to territory.^

i Fisher, " The Making of Pennsylvania," pp. i66-i6g, 174.

2 It is not easy to define the peculiarity of Penn's Indian policy. It is
vulgarly referred to as if it consisted in just dealing, especially in not taking
their land except by fair purchase ; and the " Shackamaxon Treaty," of which
nothing is known except by vague report and tradition, is spoken of as some


The failure of Quakerism is even more conspicuous con-
sidered as a church discipHne. There is a charm as of
apostoHc simphcity and beauty in its unassuming hierarchy
of weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings, cor-
responding by epistles and by the visits of traveling
evangelists, which realizes the type of the primitive church
presented in "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles."
But it was never able to outgrow, in the large and free
field to which it was transplanted, the defects incident to
its origin in a protest and a schism. It never learned to
commend itself to men as a church for all Christians, and
never ceased to be, even in its own consciousness, a coterie
of specialists. Penn, to be sure, in his youthful overzeal,
had claimed exclusive and universal rights for Quakerism
as " the alone good way of life and salvation," all religions,
faiths, and worships besides being " in the darkness of
apostasy."^ But after the abatement of that wonderful

thing quite unprecedented in this respect. The fact is that this measure of

virtue was common to the English colonists generally, and eminently to the

New England colonists. A good example of the ordinary cant of historical

writers on this subject is found in " The Making of Pennsylvania," p. 238.

The writer says of the Connecticut Puritans: "They occupied the land by

squatter sovereignty. ... It seemed like a pleasant place ; they wanted it.

They were the saints, and the saints, as we all know, shall inherit the earth.

. . . Having originally acquired their land simply by taking it, . . . they

( ; naturally grew up with rather liberal views as to their right to any additional

i territory that pleased their fancy." No purchase by Penn was made with

j more scrupulous regard to the rights of the Indians than the purchases by

' which the settlers of Connecticut acquired title to their lands ; but I know of

! no New England precedent for the somewhat Punic piece of sharp practice

' I by which the metes and bounds of one of the Pennsylvania purchases were

I I laid down.

The long exemption of Pennsylvania from trouble with the Indians seems
to be due to the fact that an exceptionally mild, considerate, and conscientious
body of settlers was confronted with a tribe of savages thoroughly subdued
and cowed in recent conflicts with enemies both red and white. It seems
! clear, also, that the exceptional ferocity of the forty years of uninterrupted

war with the Indians that ensued was due in part to the long dereliction by
I the Quaker government of its duty of protecting its citizens and punishing

\ j murder, robbery, and arson when committed by its copper-colored subjects.

1 Penn's "Truth Exalted" (quoted in "Encyclopaedia Britannica," vol.
xviii., p. 493).


first fervor which within a lifetime carried " its line into
all the earth, and its words to the ends of the world," it
was impossible to hold it to this pitch. Claiming no divine
right to all men's allegiance, it felt no duty of opening the
door to all men's access. It was free to exclude from the
meeting on arbitrary and even on frivolous grounds. As
zeal decayed, the energies of the Society were mainly
shown in protesting and excluding and expelling. God's
husbandry does not prosper when his servants are over-
earnest in rooting up tares. The course of the Society of
Friends in the eighteenth century was suicidal. It held
a noble opportunity of acting as pastor to a great common-
wealth. It missed this great opportunity, for which it was
perhaps constitutionally disqualified, and devoted itself to
edifying its own members and guarding its own purity.
So it was that, saving its soul, it lost it. The vineyard
must be taken away from it.

And there were no other husbandmen to take the vine-
yard. The petty German sects, representing so large a
part of the population, were isolated by their language and
habits. The Lutherans and the Reformed, trained in
established churches to the methods and responsibilities of
parish work, were not yet represented by any organization.
The Scotch-Irish Presbyterian immigration was pouring in
at Philadelphia like a flood, sometimes whole parishes at
once, each bringing its own pastor ; and it left large traces
of itself in the eastern counties of Pennsylvania, while it
rushed to the western frontier and poured itself like a
freshet southwesterly through the valleys of the Blue Ridge
and the AUeghanies. But the Presbyterian churches of
eastern Pennsylvania, even as reinforced from England
and New England, were neither many nor strong ; the Bap-
tists were feebler yet, although both these bodies were
giving signs of the strength they were both about to de-


velop.^ The Episcopalians had one strong and rapidly-
growing church in Philadelphia, and a few languishing
missions in country towns sustained by gifts from England.
There were as yet no Methodists.

Crossing the boundary line from Pennsylvania into
Maryland — the line destined to become famous in political
history as Mason and Dixon's — we come to the four
Southern colonies, Maryland, Virginia, and the two Caro-
hnas. Georgia in 1730 has not yet begun to be. All
these have strongly marked characteristics in common,
which determine in advance the character of their religious
history. They are not peculiar in being slave colonies ;
there is no colony North or South in which slaves are not
held under sanction of law. Georgia, in its early years, is
to have the solitary honor of being an antislavery and
prohibitionist colony. But the four earlier Southern colo-
nies are unlike' their Northern neighbors in this, that the
institution of slavery dominates their whole social life.
The unit of the social organism is not the town, for there
are no towns ; it is the plantation. In a population thus
dispersed over vast tracts of territory, schools and churches
are maintained with difficulty, or not maintained at all.
Systems of primary and secondary schools are impractica-
ble, and, for want of these, institutions of higher education
either languish or are never begun. A consequent tend-
ency, which, happily, there were many influences to resist,
was for this townless population to settle down into the
condition of those who, in distinction from the early Chris-
tians, came to be called /«^««/, or " men of the hamlets,"
and Heiden, or *' men of the heath."

1 In 1741, after a decade of great activity and growth, the entire clerical
strength of the American Presbyterian Church, in its four presbyteries, was
forty-seven ministers (Thompson, " Presbyterian Churches," p. 33).


Another common characteristic of the four Southern
colonies is that upon them all was imposed by foreign
power a church establishment not acceptable to the people.
In the Carolinas the attempted establishment of the Eng-
lish church was an absolute failure. It was a church (with
slight exceptions) without parishes, without services, with-
out clergy, without people, but with certain pretensions in
law which were hindrances in the way of other Christian
work, and which tended to make itself generally odious.
In the two older colonies the Established Church was
worse than a failure. It had endowments, parsonages,
glebes, salaries raised by public tax, and therefore it had
a clergy — and such a clergy! Transferring to America
the most shameful faults of the English EstabHshment, it
gave the sacred offices of the Christian ministry by "patron-
age " into the hands of debauched and corrupt adventurers,
whose character in general was below the not very lofty
standard of the people whom they pretended to serve in
the name of Jesus Christ. Both in Virginia and in Mary-
land the infliction of this rabble of simonists as a burden
upon the public treasury was a nuisance under which the
people grew more and more restive from year to year.
There was no spiritual discipline to which this pre traille
was amenable.^ It was the constant effort of good citizens,

1 It is a subject of unceasing lament on the part of historians of the
American Episcopal Church that the mother church, all through the colonial
days, should have obstinately refused to the daughter the gift of the episco-
pate. There is no denying the grave disadvantages thus inflicted. But it
admits of doubt whether such bishops, with such conditions, as would have
been conceded by the English church of the eighteenth century, would, after
all, have been so very precious a boon. We shrink from the imputation upon
the colonial church of Maryland and Virginia which is implied in suggesting
that it would have been considerably improved by gaining the disciplinary
purity of the English church of the Georgian era. The long fight in Virginia,
culminating in Patrick Henry's speech in the Parsons' Case, so far American-
ized the Episcopal Church as to make sure that no unwelcome minister was
ever to be forced from outside on one of its parishes. After the Revolution
it became possible to set up the episcopate also on American principles.


in the legislature and in the vestries, if not to starve out
the vermin, at least to hold them in some sort of subjection
to the power of the purse. The struggle was one of the
antecedents of the War of Independence, and the vestries
of the Virginia parishes, with their combined ecclesiastical
and civil functions, became a training-school for some of
the statesmen of the Revolution.

In the general dereliction of churchly care for the people
of the Southern colonies, on the part of those who pro-
fessed the main responsibility for it, the duty was under-
taken, in the face of legal hindrances, by earnest Chris-
tians of various names, whom the established clergy vainly
affected to despise. The Baptists and the Presbyterians,
soon to be so powerfully prevalent throughout the South,
were represented by a few scattered congregations. But
the church of the people of the South at this period seems
to have been the Quaker meeting, and the ministry the
occasional missionary who, bearing credentials from some
yearly meeting, followed in the pioneer footsteps of George
Fox, and went from one circle of Friends to another,
through those vast expanses of thinly settled territory, to
revive and confirm and edify. The early fervors of the
Society were soon spent. Its work was strangely unstable.
The proved defects of it as a working system were grave.
The criticism of George Keith seems justified by the event
— its candle needed a candlestick. But no man can truly
write the history of the church of Christ in the United
States without giving honor to the body which for so long
a time and over so vast an area bore the name and testi-

Those who are burdened with regret over the long delay of the American
Protestant episcopate may find no small consolation in pondering the ques-

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 12 of 34)