N.J.) First Baptist Church (Middletown.

Celebration of the two hundredth anniversary, October 30th, 1888 online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryN.J.) First Baptist Church (MiddletownCelebration of the two hundredth anniversary, October 30th, 1888 → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









* * « <S iS « -sS. « Si^ ^ ;Si ^ -Si !!S <§i <Ss.' ^. <§j SS js
«««»»** « » * * <iSS s<^ !Si is. SS. >■«. >& •«. ^^ <Si. «Si ^i % ,«^^'^ ■'^




At tiiTie of its I3i-Centennitil.

]')K TuiiiD JIi:ktin(i IImuse.

1688 ^, 1888



1 Wo jiundreclth '^AnniN^ersary


First Baptist Church,


October joth, i888.


MacCrellish & Quigley,

Practical Book and Job Printers,

Trenton, N. J.


Names of the Constituent Members of the First
Baptist Church, Middletown, New Jersey.


Richard Stout,
Jonathan Bowne,
John Buchman,
Walter Hall,
Jonathan Holmes,
William Cheeseman,
William Compton,
John Bowne,
James Grover,

John Stout.
OB.A.DIAH Holmes,
John Wilson,
John Cox,
George Mount,
William Layton,
John Ashton,
James Grover, Jr.,
Thomas Whitlock.

NumberTif Members October 30th, 1888, 223

/- ^. PASTOR,

Rev. E. Everett Jones, A.M.


James Frost, Charles Allen, James G. Taylor,

James R Hopping, Church Clerk.

At a Sabbath Morning Service held in the month of May, 1888,
it was

Voted — B3' this Church, that a Bi-Centennial Celebration beheld.

]'oted — ]Most cordiall}' and unanimously, that the New Jersey Baptist
State Convention and New Jersey Baptist Education Society be invited to
hold their Annual Meetings with us, on October 30th and 31st, 18SS, to
join with us in celebrating our Bi-Centennial.

Voted — That our Pastor, Rev. E. Everett Jones, and Brethren Charles
Allen, James G. Taylor, Warren Conklin, James G. Hopping, Harvey
Jenkins, Daniel Irwin and William Mount, be appointed a Committee of
Arrangements for the Bi-Centennial Celebration, in connection with the
Bi-Centennial Committee appointed by the New Jersey Baptist State Con-
vention, consi-sting of Brethren I. C. W3'nn, O. P. Eaches, H. C. Apple-
garth, T. E. Vassar, A. H. Sembower, and Addison Parker.

At a subsequent meeting of the Bi-Centenuial Committee, the fol-
lowing programme was adopted, presented and carried out, as out-
lined in this Memorial \'olume.

Order of Exercises.

On Tuesday morning, October 3otli, 1888, the " New Jersey Bap-
tist Education Society" held its Fifty-first Annual Meeting. Ad-
dresses were made by Rev. E. F. Y. Pierce, Rev. Addison Parker,
Dr. John Greene, and Dr. H. K. Trask.

Tuesda)^ afternoon, at two o'clock, under the general auspices of
the " New Jersey Baptist State Convention," in its Fifty-ninth Anni-
versary, the Bi-Centennial and Memorial Exercises of the First
Baptist Church, at Middletown, N. J., commenced with a Service of

e)onc|, . . . . ' . . 'M He G/luirch's Wei

By Mrs. Caroline M. Wtirdemann, of Washington, D. C,
One of our Church Members.

We praise our God for this glad day,
That we may greet you face to face ;

While heart and voice unite and say
Welcome, thrice welcome, to this place.

This Church, our home ! alike we love
Its present good, its memories sweet ;

So praise our God, while Saints above
The welcome and the praise repeat.


•Address of Welcome, . . . . IDy Qi-. Qi-Veretl ^ones,

Pasto7- of the Aliddletoivn Chtirch.

Brethren in Christ, and members of the two hundred Baptist Churches
of New Jersey, as Pastor of this grand old patriarchal Church, and for
my people, I extend to you Christian greeting, and bid you most cordial
welcome to the old, historic spot, to our hospitalit}- , to our hearts and to
our homes. We stand on sacred ground, thickly clustered with noble
names and grand achievements. They tell us we are the old Mother
Church, from whom eight daughter Churches have gone out, and are
now as strong, as able, as ourselves ; but others tell us she is the mother
of 17,000 or more Baptist Churches. Be that as it may, we are vividly
reminded to-day of the gathering home of children and grandchildren on
some festive Christmas-tide around the old homestead. Children and
grandchildren are delighted, and the dear old faces of grandparents just
simply beam with pleasure and delight over their happ}^ descendants.

We are reminded of the gathering of the tribes to Jerusalem of old, at
the great and joyous feasts of the Lord, when even the desert paths
through the valley of Baca were as wells of refreshment for the J03' set
before them.

The old Church is joyous to-day in beholding what God hath wrought.
The few have become the many, and the glory of God is in it. It is said
that at the close of the war between France and Prussia, in 1866, the tri-
umphant arm}' of Prussia came to Berlin for its reception and welcome.
As each regiment approached the city gate from the Thiergarten, it was
halted by a choir demanding by what right it would enter the oxty. The
regiment replied in song, reciting the battles it had fought, the victories
it had won ; then came a welcome from the choir, " Enter into the city."
So came on regiment after regiment, reciting its deeds and victories, each
challenged and welcomed in loud chorus. And then thej' marched on in
triumph up the Linden, between rows of captured cannon, with the ban-

ners they liad borne and the banners the}^ had taken, and all of them
saluted the statue of grand old Frederick, the Creator of Prussia. So it
seems to me to-day, the hosts of God's elect have gathered here to salute
the grand old Mother Church, and with songs and tokens of victory are
marching together, singing hallelujahs and laying their trophies at His
feet who hath brought us off more than conquerors. Trusting these
anniversary services may make strong and lasting impressions on the
Church here, and on all the Churches represented, and may be far-reach-
ing in their influences, far out beyond all our calculations, we bid you all
again, most cordial welcome.

©pening 'Address, B}' P- W- Aye

President of the Neiu Jersey Baptist State Convention.

Historical Sketch 1^




Lord Macaulay has somewhere written, " A people which takes no pride in
the noble achievements of remote ancestors, will never achieve anything
worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants."

This sentiment of Macaulay I fully adopt, and it will apply with equal force
to individual Christians, and to Christian Churches. I adopt, also, another sen-
timent, of the late David B. Stout, the once honored Pastor of the Middletown
Church. He says : " He who studies history, lives twice — he lives in imagina-
tion in the ages that preceded him, as well as in that in which his own frail
life is fast ebbing away." We are making history, and this thought should
inspire us so to live and act, that to others, who may read our history in future
generations, it may appear that we served our own generation, both according
to the will of God as well as to the best of our ability.

In preparing, at your request, a brief historical sketch of the First Baptist
Church at Middletown, I remark at the beginning, that I perceive that you
have assigned me a difficult task, inasmuch as I am not a Bi-Centenarian, con-
sequently can make no statements as to her ancient history, as an eye-witness ;
neither was I ever anything in her history but, for a brief period, an humble
and loyal member in her fold. But the task becomes more difficult inasmuch
as there are in existence histories of this body, written by excellent and hon-
ored brethren, which differ widely in many of their statements from each

In considering these differences of statements, however, let us not judge too
harshly, for when this Church was formed in theX'olony of New Jersey, the



element of religious toleration was not practiced as it is to-day. In England,
whence most of the inhabitants emigrated, the people had been in a turmoil
between Romanism and Protestantism for several scores of years. Charles I.
had lost his head in 1649, by reason of his attempts at persecution, and the
very year, 1688, when this Church takes its date, was that in which England
passed the bill of the Protestant succession to the throne ; while on the Conti-
nent, Louis XIV committed, in 1685, one of the greatest mistakes ever recorded
in the history of France. By the edict of Nantes, published by Henry IV in
1598, the terrible persecution of the Huguenots ceased, and for eighty-seven
years their increase and prosperity were amazing in every respect. But by the
revocation of that edict in 1685, oppression and persecution overreached them-
selves, and 400,000 of the most industrious, the most intelligent, and the most
religious citizens of the nation of France, with all their skill and influence of
every kind, fled from their native homes like frightened sheep, to find safety
in this and other Colonies, rather than submit to the tyranny of Romanism.

During such a period, and amid such various influences, arose this Mother
Church. That difi'erences of opinion should exist under such circumstances, is
not to be wondered at. The wonder really is that so much that we can rely
upon has been preserved. And it is a matter of devout gratitude that, notwith-
standing all the conflicting statements that from time to time have been made,
there exist certain general facts, so well authenticated that all persons can and
ought fully to agree in sustaining them. Among them are the following :

1. The Baptist historian, David Benedict, in his history, pp. 581-2, states on
the authority of Morgan Edwards that about the year 1660 some few Baptists
were found among the first settlers, and by difi'erent arrivals they continued
to increase very slowly for about thirty years, and that about that time, that is
in 1688, the First Baptist Church in Middletown was formed.

While all, so far as my examination has gone, readily acknowledge the exist-
ence of the Church at this time, there are some like the historian, Morgan
Edwards, who, in his "Materials towards a History of the Baptists in New
Jersey," published in 1792, while recognizing the complete formation of 1688,
claim that there was an incomplete formation in 1068. He uses the following
language : " For the origin of this Church — of 1688 — we must look back to
the year 1667, for that was the year when Middletown was purchased from the
Indians by twelve men and twenty-four associates. Their names were in the
town book. Of these the following were Baptists, viz.:

" 1. Richard Stout.

" 2. Jonathan Bowne.

" 3. John Buchman.

" 4. Walter Hall.


"5. Jonathan Holmes.
"6. William Cheeseman.
"7. William Compton.
" 8. John Bowne.
" 9. James Grover.

" 10. John Stout.

" 11. Obadiah Holmes.

" 12. John Wilson.

" 13. John Cox.

" 14. George Mount.

" 15. William Layton.

" 16. John Ashton.

" 17. James Grover, Jr.

" 18. Thomas Whitlock.

" It is probable," lie continues, " that some of the above had wives of their
way of thinking. However, the aforesaid eighteen men were the constituents
of the Church of Middletown, and the winter of 1668 the time."

" Much of the early history of this ancient Church is wrapt in obscurity on
account of the absence of faithful records of their organization. Benedict,
for instance, dates their origin to 1667, and from the identity of names found
upon the town book, and from the list of Church members, he concludes that
the Baptists were among the first settlers of the town. Hence, it is highly
probable that from the above date, 1667, until 1688 they were occasionally per-
mitted to enjoy the Gospel from itinerant ministers, as well as frequent meet-
ings for prayer and exhortation by brethren from their midst."

From the most careful examination of Benedict and Backus and Armitage
and all the other authorities living or dead which I liave been able to consult,
I have seen nothing to conflict with these statements, both as to the dates and
the origin and the constituents of this venerable Church.

There are, indeed, minor differences as to the spelling of names and the per-
sonality of individuals, but no difi^erences of suflicient importance to prevent
us from receiving these statements as we ordinarily receive the history of
ancient events or of poetry or science.

In the excellent history of the Holmdel Church, prepared by Rev. Thomas
S. Griffiths, I find the following language, wliich is but a confirmation of the
statement made : " Tlie Middletown Church had, in its beginning, two centres
in the township of Middletown, at each of which the Baptist settlers predomi-
nated, where they erected meeting-houses, worshiping and transacting the
Church business in them alternately. One of these was the village of Middle-
town, the other was Baptisttown, or the Academy. Baptisttown fitly desig-


nated its religious type. It was a Baptist settlement. Each place and assembly
is designated in the Church records. That at Baptisttown as the ' Upper
Meeting House,' and the congregation as the ' Upper Congregation,' and that
at Middletown village as the ' Lower Meeting House,' and the congregation as
the ' Lower Congregation.' These congregations were absolutely one, sharing
equally in the responsibility and privileges of the Church."

All these facts, which are either admitted or implied by the writers I have
named, are conclusive evidence that there was a bod}' of Baptists in Middle-
town who were united in sentiment ; whose organization was more or less
complete after 1668 ; whose membership covered a territory that now comprises
Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer and a part of Middlesex counties ; that it embraced
men of wealth and talent and influence ; that John Bowne, James Ashton,
Richard Stout, Jonathan Holmes and others conducted worship among them.
In what places in this vast territory they preached, and whether these brethren
were ordained or unordained, are questions of small importance. They settled
themselves, as all agree, in 1688, into a complete Church state, holding their
worship unitedly in two separate sanctuaries. Near the close of the century
they fell into a quarrel and divided into two factions, so that in 1712 we find
them in great difficulty. Schism and discord, bitterness and wrangling, seemed
likely to rend the body. Under these painful circumstances they agreed to
call in and abide by the advice of a council. The names of the members of it
were Timothy Brooks, Abel Morgan, Joseph Wood, Elisha Thomas, Nicholas
Johnson, James James, Griffith Miles, Edward Church, William Betridge and
John Manners. Their report is recorded at length on the Church book, and is
a document of singular importance and interest. It commences thus : " With
respect to the present state and condition of the Church of baptized believers,
yearly meeting at Middletown and Crosswicks and adjacent places in East
Jersey, we, the associated Ministers and messengers sent from the Churches
of the same faith and order in divers other places, being met at the above-
named Middletown, May 24th, 25th and 26th, 1712. ' They advised them to
bury all former disputes and contentions, to erase all the records in reference to
them, and to subscribe to Elias Keach's Pastor's Confession of Faith and
Church Covenant thereto annexed.' "

In accordance with this advice four leaves were cut out of the Church
records. Happy results followed the advice of this council, and peace and
harmony were restored. James Bolen, the former Clerk of Monmouth county,
was unanimously elected Clerk of the Church. The membership at that time
was 66. And it is a remarkable fact, creditable alike both to Pastors and peo-
ple, that during all their history of two hundred years this is the only advisory
council of which there is any record.


And now having settled, so far as I believe we can confidently settle, from
any documents now in our possession, the origin and constitution, as well as
the history, of this venerable Church up to the year 1712, let us pursue its
remarkable subsequent history; and it is but justice here to notice that the
ancient Church record-book, the only one they ever had, is in itself an interest-
ing relic. It is a well-preserved ledger, bound in vellum, The first record is
headed thus: "At ye yearly meeting May ye 24th Anno Dom 1712." But,
carefully as this book has been preserved, with the four leaves cut out at that
time by the advice of the council, we have no other authentic history preserved
by the Church of an earlier date. Consequently, the historian must depend
either on subsequent records or tradition or on the memory of individuals for
any subsequent statements he may make ; and, without intending any reflection,
either upon the living or the dead, and perhaps at the risk of severe criticism,
after a careful examination I am compelled to pronounce the minutes exceed-
ingly meagre, as furnishing a full and reliable history.

And here I desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to Rev. David B. Stout,
Eev. T. S. Griffiths, Rev. E. J. Foote and Hon. Edwin Salter, whose sketches
have all been quoted by me. To others, also, who have furnished information,
I return thanks once for all. I shall not farther quote them by name, but give
my deliberate conclusions from whatever sources they may be drawn.

1. The first Pastor after the council was Rev. John Burrowes, who was elected
in 1713. He subscribed with his own hand to Elias Reach's confession of faith
and covenant. He is reported to have come from Somersetshire, in England,
to have been a successful Minister, and to have remained with them the rest
of his life.

2. The next Pastor was Rev. George Eaglesfield, who was elected in 1731,
and continued to preach among them till his death, in 1733. We have no other
record of him than this.

3. The next Pastor was Rev. Abel Morgan, A. M., who was chosen Pastor in
1738, and who continued his ministry among them till his death, in 1785, the
longest Pastorate and, probably, the most gifted Minister the Church ever had.
So much has already been justly written, and so much more will be said on
this occasion, about this faithful servant of God, that I shall make but a few
quotations from others about him in this paper. In the the old Church book
already referred to, we find the following record at the time of his death :
"The Rev. Mr. Abel Morgan was born in the State of Delaware, April the 18th,
1713. He departed this life Nov. the 2-ith, 1785, near 6 o'clock in the afternoon,
in the township of Middletown, county of Monmouth, State of New Jersey."
He was one of the strong men of his da}^ pre-eminently prepared for the arduous
pioneer work, which in that early history of the country he was called to per-


form. He laid broad and deep the foundations of truth, and to the labors of
such men are to be attributed, under God, the prosperity and success which, as
a denomination, we are permitted to enjoy. His Ministry was faithful and
pungent. In labors he was abundant, as a friend he was affectionate and con-
fiding, and his memory will ever be fragrant among all the lovers of our Holy
Religion. I have not been able, for the want of records, to ascertain the num-
ber he baptized, but I have no doubt that it was quite large. He gave by will
to the Church, for the use of the Pastor, his library, which consisted of many
rare and valuable works — valuable because of their antiquity, some of the
volumes being three hundred years old. As our Brother, Rev. E. J. Foote, in his
sketch of Abel Morgan, written in 1883, furnished a correct list of this valuable
library I shall spend no time in describing it. He preached more than 5,000
sermons during his Pastorate at Middletown, and left manuscript preparations
for the pulpit, all dated and numbered, amounting to 10,000. He was a won-
derful man in every respect. The excellent Samuel Jones, D.D., of lower
Dublin, in his century sermon before the Philadelphia Association, preached
October 6th, 1807, speaking of the Middletown Pastors, describes him as " the
incomparable Abel Morgan," while Edwards says of him, " He was not a custom
divine nor a leading string divine, but a Bible divine."

4. The next Pastor was Rev. Samuel Morgan, a nephew of Abel Morgan, who
held the office a little more than six years, and baptized during that time sixty-
five members into the Church. The only farther record I find of him says that
Samuel Morgan was born at Welsh Tract, August 23d, 1750 ; that he was
ordained at Middletown, November 29th, 1785, at which time he took on him
the care of the Church. The ordination sermon was preached by Rev. Peter
Wilson, of Hightstown, November 29th, 1785, two days after he preached the
funeral sermon of Rev. Abel Morgan. He died in 1794, and was buried at or
near Holmdel.

5. The next Pastor was Rev. Benjamin Bennet. He took the oversight of
the Church in 1792. " He was a man of energy and enterprise. His preaching
was said to be above mediocrity." He continued his labors with the Church
until 1815, when he was elected a member of the House of Representatives of
the United States, in which office he served until 1819. Consequently, his
connection with the Church as Pastor was dissolved. During his ministry of
twenty-three years he baptized fifty persons. He died on October 8th, 1840,
and was buried near Holmdel.

6. The next Pastor was Rev. Augustine Eliot, who for about two years
ministered to the Church, and during that time was permitted to baptize nine-
teen persons.


Then it appears succeeded a period when they were pastorless, and they so
reported themselves to their Association (the New York Baptist Association),
in 1820. But meantime, I judge, they were served by acceptable supplies, and
among them a beloved Brother Hand, who had not yet been ordained, but
whose labors among them were blessed.

7. Afterwards there succeeded to the pastorate, in 1822, Rev. William King,
whose term of service continued for three years, during which time he bap-
tized thirty persons. But this man proved himself a bad Shepherd, and left
the Church very suddenly. The same man was reported to the New York
Association, in 1829, from the Cayuga (N. Y.) Association, as an impostor, and
I presume was at that time deposed from the ministry.

8. The next Pastor was the excellent Thomas Roberts, who was elected to
this office in 1825. The account which this Brother gives in his autobiography
(p. 36) of his settlement with the Church is most interesting. I will here quote
a few sentences from an interview held at this time at the " Upper House,"
now Holmdel, between Judge Jehu Patterson, for many years a pillar in the
Middletown Church, and himself on this subject. The Judge had asked him
whether he would be willing to settle with them as Pastor. Mr. Roberts' reply
was characteristic. He writes: " I told him that such was my love of peace
and harmony among brethren that I could neither labor nor live where they
were absent. Judge Patterson replied that all their disagreement was concern-
ing Mr. King, and went on to say, ' This imposture is evident and is becoming
more so every day, so that soon all will be convinced of the deplorable fact.'
As he said, so it came to pass, and all were happy to know that their King had
fled, and glad to see the good old Baptist republic restored to the ancient

Can any one wonder that with a Pastor of such a spirit, even though he
served a Church worshiping in two large, separate sanctuaries, and covering a
territory of at least twenty miles in diameter, they should dwell together as
Pastor and people for twelve whole years in the most perfect harmony and
unity ? This is, in part at least, explained by his immediate successor, Rev.
David B. Stout, who says of him: " Mr. Roberts' labors were not in vain in
the Lord ; he baptized during his ministry one hundred and forty-five persons.
He lived in the affections of his people, his praise is in all the Churches of the
saints, and his memory will long be cherished by all Christians." When he
parted with the Church, their next letter to the ^Association, in 1837, after they
had settled his successor, contains the following reference to it: *' We parted
with one of the best of men and one whom we dearly loved." This state of
things is farther explained by himself in his autobiography (pp. 39, 40), where
he speaks of the wonderfnl brotherly love and unanimity which has marked


their history, and then asks the suggestive question, " May not the influence of
this Mother Church, in her early days, when that eminent man of God, Abel

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryN.J.) First Baptist Church (MiddletownCelebration of the two hundredth anniversary, October 30th, 1888 → online text (page 1 of 9)