Oliver Payson Fuller.

Historical sketches of the churches of Warwick, Rhode Island online

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1754 TO 1792.











1754 TO 1792.




SIDNEY S . U I 1) K 1{



Tn Ifixeh.

These sketches ori^inall.v formed the appendix to the History
ofWarwick, Rhode Ishiiid, by the same aiitlior. The records of
these societies date far back into the early history of the Colony,
and are brought down to a ver^^ recent period. To this edition
has been added tlie Kecord of persons joined in marriage by Elder
John Goiiton, in the town of Warwick from 175-t to 17'Ji'.
They are two hundred and eighty-one in number, and are of
great value in tracing the genealogy of families living in
Warwick and to some extent throughout the State.




The early ecclesiastical history of the town of Warwick
is involved in much obscvirity, and no reliable evidence
exists of the formation of any independent church for
about three-fourths of a century after the first settlement
in 1642. That a respectable portion of the first settlers
were Christian people there is no doubt. In 1639, John
Greene, Richard Waterman, Francis Weston, Ezekiel
Holliman, Wm. Arnold and Stukely Westcott, then
residing in Providence, united with six others in church
relation, and " agreed to support in faith and practice
the principles of Christ's doctrine." These six men,
whose names are above-mentioned, were among the
earliest settlers of this town, three of them being among
the original purchasers of the land. Before uniting in
church relations at Providence, they had become " con-
vinced of the truth of believers' baptism" by immersion,
but had not had the privilege of practicing according to
their faith. There was no minister of like sentiments,
who had been immersed, to administer the ordinance of
baptism, and to meet the difficulty they selected Ezekiel



Holliraan, a " pious and gifted man," to baptize Roger
Williams, which was accordingly done, when Mr. Wil-
liams in turn, baptized Mr. Holliman and the others.
This was the origin of the First Baptist Church of Provi-
dence. Three years later, one-half the constituent mem-
bers of that church settled witliin the limits of this town.
There were others besides them who were professed

Though it does not appear that there was an organ-
ized church in the town for a considerable period,
there are evidences that Holliman, Waterman and their
associates who united in the formation of the church at
Providence, still retained their membership in that body,
visiting it as often as they found it convenient, but
holding meetings of worship in their own town as a
branch of the mother church. We have found no posi-
tive evidence of this, however. Rev. John Callender,
then pastor o( the First Baptist Church at Newport, in
his iamous centennial discourse, published in 1738, al-
luding to the First Church of Providence, says : " This
church shot out into divers branches, as the members
increased, and the distance of their habitation made it
inconvenient for them to attend the public worship in
town Several meetings were fixed at different places,
and about the time the large township of Providence
became divided into four towns,! these chapels of ease
began to be considered as distinct churches, though all

* On March 13, 1G39, at the General Court in Boston, "John Smith,
for (iistiubinj; the iDublic iieace, by combinitg witli others to hinder tlie
orderly gathering of a church at Weynioiith, and to set up another
there, contrary to the orders here establishecl, and the constant iirac-
tice of all our churches, and for undue procuring tlie hands of many
to a blank for that purpose, is fined £.0, and committed during the
pleasure of the Court or the Council."— j^oss Col. Hec. 1, 252.

The name, John Smith, is a little confusing. Whether it was the
same person of that name who became an early resident of this town,
and was President of the Rhode Island Colony in Kifi), I am not able
to decide. After the above experience from the Massacliusetts Court,
he would have been likely to seek more hospitable regions. It is
known that some of the Weymouth faction came to lUiode Island.

•t This was in January, l1?,Q-\.— Arnold, Vol. 11, 102.


are yet in a union of counsels and interests."* On a
subsequent page, he says: "There are in the nine towns
on the main land, eight churches of the people, called
Baptists, one in every town except East Greenwich,
where there is, however, a Meeting House, in which
there is a metting once a month.f In a note he adds
the names of Manasseh Martyn and Fiancis Bates as the
elders of the Warwick Church. Elder JMartyn was or-
dained to the ministry in 1725, though the earliest records
of this church extant bear the date oi 1741. J

Allowing that the church here existed as a branch of
the First Church at Providence up to the time of the
division of the town of Providence, or about the
that time, the interval, during which we have no records
of a distinct church would be accounted for. If they
were only a branch church, their records would probably
be merged in those of the Providence Church. § It is
well known that the doctrine of laying-on-of-hands, was

* Branch churches, with certain delegated powers from the mother
church, among which were the privileges of celebrating tlie com-
mnnion and admitting members, have been common in Six Principle
churches from time immemorial. Tlie membership of such
"Branches" was recorded with that of the parent church. See ac-
counts of the Crompton Church and the Bethel of that order on subse-
quent pages.

t In 1730, says Backus, "there were thirteen Baptist churches,
most of them small, who held annual associations to promote disci-
pline and communion among them upon the six principles in Hebrews
VI." — Backus Hist, of the Baptists.

t Knight's History, p. 273.

§ On Friday, May 28, 1873, occurred the centennial anniversary of the
opening of tlae First Baptist Church of Providence, when an interest-
ing and valuable address was delivered by Hon. Samuel G. Arnold,
From this address we make the following extract: ''The clmrch rec-
ords begin in April, 1775, preceded by a list of iiiembers admitted from
December, 1774, during the great revival, to June 30, 1782. Prefixed
to the regular records, there is a 'Histoi-y of the Baptist Church of
Christ in Providence, Bhode Island, being the oldest Baptist Church
in America,' with an introduction prepared in 1789, by John Stanford,
minister, tlien temporarily acting as pastor of the church. This is a
brief summary of such events as could then be collected respecting
the history of the church for a hundred and fifty years, froar its foun-
dation in 1G39. Mr. Stanford's original manuscript of twenty folio
pages, is preserved in the archives of the Society, and has very
properly been copied into the first volume of the Church records. In


held by the First Church of Providence,* in a lax
manner at its beginning, but it " became afterwards a
term of communion, and continued so until after Dr.
Manning came among them ; he prevailed with the
church to admit to occasional communion those brethren
who were not convinced of the duty of coming under
hands ; but very few such were received as members till
after his death. On August 4, 1791, the church had a
full meeting, when this point was deliberately considered,
and a clear vote was gained to admit members who did
not hold that doctrine. But notwithstanding this vote,
the laying-on-of-hands, not as an ordinance, but as a
form of receiving new members, was generally practiced
until after the death of President Manning.f The first
church of Warwick was of the Six Principle order.

The alternative of supposing a branch church during
a period of three-fourths of a century as existing here,
would be that of supposing the strong personal influence
and peculiar religious opinions of Samuel Gorton, who
was a preacher, and sustained a rehgious meeting during
this time, prevented the formation of any church, or the
holding of any meetings that were not in accordance with
his views. At first we were inclined to this view. But
upon further research and consideration, the alternative
was rejected. That Mr. Gorton held a meeting during this
time is probable, but that the nucleus of the church,
which assumed an independent existence about the year
1725, had existed many years previous as a branch of
the First Church, Providence, seems worthy of credit.

Some account of Samuel Gorton and of his peculiar

1828, a small pamplilet was printed under the direction of the late
Nicholas Brown, then President of the Society, containing the charter
and by laws, together with the 'minutes of the early proceedings of
the Society from its first recorded meetings till 1793, when Dr. Gano
was called to the pastorate.' In this tract of sixteen pages, are pre-
served a complete transcript from the records for the first sixteen
months and the more important entries till the calling of Dr. Gano."

* Benedict's Hist. Vol. I, 487.

tDr. Hague's Historioal discourse, p. 107.


religious views, seem appropriate in this connection as
belonging to the ecclesiastical history of the town.
Though no church was formed in connection with his
ministrations, he exerted a powerful influence upon the
religious views of the colony. Benedict, in his history,
says: "Callender, Backus and others who have spoken of
Gorton's religious opinions, acknowledge that it is hard
to tell what he believed, but they assure us that it ought
to be believed that he held all the heresies that were
ascribed to him. The most we can learn is, that in alle-
gory and double-meanings of scripture he was similar to
Origen ; in mystical theology and the rejection of ordi-
nances, he resembled the Quakers ; and the notion of
visible churches he utterly rejected/' That he held all
the heresies that were ascribed to him, as intimated by
Dr. Benedict, is hardly to be credited, as some of them
that were published during the life of Gorton in " Mor-
ton's New England Memorial," were distinctly disa-
vowed by Gorton himself. The remark of Dr. Benedict
is too sweeping, and does not accord with the statement
of Callender, who says: "There are sufficient reasons why
we ought not and cannot believe he held all that are con-
fidently fathered upon him. For it is certain, that, what-
ever impious opinions his adversaries imputed to him, and
whatever horrid consequences the}^ drew from the
opinions he owned, he ascribed as bad to them and fixed
as dreadful consequences upon their tenets ; and at the'
same time in the most solemn manner, denies and disa-
vows many things they charge him with ; above all, when
he is charged with denying a future state and judg-
ment to come, both in theory and practice, he peremp-
torily and vehemently denies the charge, and solemnly
appeals to God and all that knew him, of the in-
tegrity of his heart and the purity of his hands ; and
avers that he always joins eternity with religion, as most
essential. And that the doctrine of the general Salva-
tionists was the thing which his soul most hated.
[Answer to Morton's Memorial, — Calender, p. 92].
Calender further says : "He strenuously opposed the



doctrines of the people called Quakers. I am informed
that he and his followers maintained a religious meeting
on the first day of the week for above sixty years, and
that their worship consisted of prayers to God, of preach-
ing, or expounding the scriptures and singing of psalms."
Dr. Benedict says : " He was a leader of a religious
meeting in Warwick above sixty years." This state-
ment is incorrect, as he died in 1667, or twenty-five
years from the founding of the town. The statement of
Callender will come nearer to the truth " that he and his
followers " maintained a meeting for that length of time.
No church was organized by him or his followers, but
stated seasons of worship were held upon the Sabbath in
which the gospel was dispensed freely to all who would
listen to it. Among his chief heresies were the rejection
of an organized visible church and the ordinances con-
nected with it ; and from these peculiar views and those
of minor importance which grew out of them, sprang
most of the trouble between him and the other religious
sects. Morton in " New England's Memorial," gave a
summary of Gorton's religious opinions, which was pub-
lished during Gorton's life. Gorton wrote to Mr.
Morton denying some of the charges made against him
in this book, especially that he had ever asserted that
there was " no state or condition after death," and says :
" I appeal to God, the judge of all secrets, that there
never was such a thought entertained in my heart." He
further says in answer to another charge : " we never
called sermons of salvation, tales ; nor any ordinances of
the Lord, an abomination or vanity ; nor holy ministers,
necromancers ; we honor, reverence and practice these
things." In this letter he refers to a book pubHshed by
Mr. Winslow, which referred also to his sentiments, of
which Gorton says he had read but little, but was in-
formed by Mr. Brown, who had been a commissioner for
the United Colonies, that "he would maintain that
there were forty lies published in that book." The let-
ter may be found in the Appendix to Judge Staples'
edition of Simplicities' Defence.


Without attempting to state the religious views of
Gorton with any degree of precision, it may perhaps be
safely said that the essential gospel truths, as held by the
great body of evangelical christians of the present day,
were those that were held and preached by this somewhat
singular man. That the difference that existed between
his opinions, with the exception of those specially noted,
and those of Williams and others, was rather im-
aginary than real, and grew out of the peculiar way in
which he expresssd them, is evident. His published
works are marvels of curious composition, with sen-
tences so long and complicated, that it would make a
school-master's blood run backwards, to analyze and
parse them. Among these works the reader is referred
to his " Incorruptible Key," printed in London, in 1647 ;
"Saltmarsh returned from the Dead," printed in 1655;
"Antidote against pharasaical Teachers," and "Anti-
dote against the common Plague of the World ; " ■' Sim-
plicities Defence against a Seven Headed Church Policy,"
published in England, in 1646. These, with a manu-
script commentary on the Lord's Prayer, of more than a
hundred pages, now in possesion of the R. L Historical
Society, will furnish the curious reader with ample ma-
terial for studying the religious tenets of the man. His
*' Simplicities Defence," is an historical narrative of the
difficulties between the early settlers of this town and
the colony of Massachusetts, growing out of the attempts
of the latter to extend its jurisdiction over the lands and
persons of the former. The account is written in his
peculiar style, but is regarded as a fair account of the
origin, progress, and issue of the unhappy controversy.
Several valuable letters that passed between the parties
during the time, are included in it, with much of a
rambling theological character, in which the author de-
lighted to indulge. The work is dedicated to the Earl
of Warwick, whose friendly aid was received and duly
acknowledged, and whom, as we have already stated.


the settlers honored by giving his name to their town.*
Gorton was a man of acknowledged native talent, and
•with all his literary abstruseness and theological com-
bativeness, exerted a large and for the most part a
salutary influence in the community. When his opin-

* A.S a matter of curiosity, and as indicating Gorton's method of
thought and style of composition, we give the following title pages to
two of his works, his "Incorruptible Key," and his "Saltmarsh re-
turned from the Dead."

"An Incokrctptible Key, composed of the CX Psalme wherewith
you may open the Rest of the Holy Scriptures: Turning itself only
according to ihe Composure and Art of that Lock, of the Closure and
Science of that Great Mysterie of God manifest in the Flesh, hut jus-
tified only hy the Spirit which it evidently openeth and revealeth,
out of Fall and Resurrection, Sin and Righteousuess, Ascension and
Descension, Height and Depth, First and Last, Beginning and Ending,
Flesh and Spirit, Wisdom and Foolishness, Strength and Weakness.
Mortality and Immortality, Jew and Gentile, Light and Darkness,
Unity and Multiplication, Fruitfulness and Barrenness, Care and
Blessing, Man and Woman, All Suffering and Deficiency, God and
Man. And out of every unity made up of twaine, it openeth that
great two-leafed Gate which is the sole Entrie into the city of God of
New Jerusalem, inlo ivliieh none hut the Jdnq of Glory can enter : and as
the Porter openeth the doore of the Sheepfold, by which whosoever
entereth in, is the Shepherd of the Sheep: See Isa. 45, 1; Psal. 24, 7, 8,
9, 10: John 10, 1, 2, 3; Or, (according to the signification of the word
translated Psalme) it is a pruning knife, to lop off from the church of
Christ all superfluous Twigs of earthly and carnal commandments.
Leviiical services or Ministry and fading and vanishing Priests or
Ministers, who are confii-med by Death as holding no correspondency
with the princely Dignity, OfSce and Ministry of an Melchisedek who
is the only Ministry of the Sanctuary and of that true Tabernacle
which the Lord pitcht and not Man. For it supplants the Old Man
and implants the new: abrogates the Old Testament or Covenant and
confirms the New into a thousand generations, or in generations for-
ever By Samuel Gorton, Gent, and at the time of penning hereof, in
the place of Judicature (upon Aquethneck alias Road Island) of
Providence Plantations in the Nanhygansett Bay, New England.
Printed in the yeere 1R17."

"Saltmaksh Retukned from the Dead, in Amicus Phllalethes : or
the Resurrection of James the Apostle out of the Grave of Carnal
Glosses for the correction of the universal Apostacy which cruelly
hurried him who yet liveth. Appearing in the Comely Ornaments of
his Fifth Chapter in an exercise, June 5, 1654. Having laid by his
grave clothes in a despised village remote from England, but wishing
well and heartily desiring the True Prosperity thereof."— JiacA;«e'5
Life of Gorton in Spark's Am. Biog.

That such language may have been perfectly intelligible to Gorton
himself, we have no disposition to doubt; that it may have conveyed
more to his contemporaries who Avere acquainted with the circum-
stances that called it forth, and had become familiar with such forms
of exjiression, than to us, may be true. That it lacks a little of that
perspicuity, which in modern times is regarded as an excellence in
writing or speaking, is quite evident.


ions on civil or religious topics were opposed, he showed
much of that quaUty that might be termed, " otherwise-
minded ness," and, at times, exhibited a " superfluity of
naughtiness," but otherwise was of a generous and
sympathetic nature, and inclined to award to others the
same liberty of thought and expression which he claimed
for himself

We close this account of him with an extract taken
from the manuscript Itinerar}'^ of Dr. Styles, a former
clergyman of Newport, i.nd afterwards President of
Yale College, as given by Judge Staples :

"At Providence, Nov. 18, 1771, I visited aged Mr. John
Angell, ae. 80, born, Oct. 18, 1691, a plain, blunt-spoken man;
right old English frankness. He is not a Quaker, nor Baptist,
nor a Presbyterian, but a Gortonist, and the only one I have
seen. Gorton now lives in him, his only disciple left.
He says he knows of no other and that he is alone. He
gave me an account of Gorton's disciples, first and last, and
showed me some of Gorton's jmnted books and some of his
manuscripts. He said Gorton wrote in heaven and no one can
understand his writings, but those who live in heaven while
on earth. He said that Gorton had beat down all outward
ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper with unanswer-
able demonstrations. That Gorton preached in London in
Oliver's time, and had a church and living of £500 a year
offered him, but he believed no sum would have tempted
him to take a farthing for preaching. He told me that his
grandfather, Thomas Angell, came from Salem to Providence
with Roger Williams, that Gorton did not agree with lioger
Williams, who was for outward ordinances set up by new
apostles. I asked if Gorton was a Quaker; as he seemed to
agree with them in rejecting outward ordinances. He said
no; and that when George Pox (I think) or one of the first
Priends came over; he went to Warwick to see Gorton, but was
a mere babe to Gorton. The Priends had come out of the
world some ways, but still were in darkness or twilight, but
that Gorton was far beyond them, he said, high way up to the
dispensation of light. The Quakers were in no way to be com-
pared with him; nor any man else can, since the primitive
times of the church, especially since they came out of Popish
darkness. He said Gorton was a holy man; wept day and
night for the sins and blindness of the world ; his e3^es were a
fountain of tears, and always full of tears — a man full of thought
and stud}^ — had a long walk out through the trees or woods by
his house, where he constantly walked morning and evening,


and even in the depth of the night, alone by himself, for con-
templation and the enjoyment of the dispensation of light.
He was universally beloved by all his neighbors and the Indians,
who esteemed him not only as a friend, but one high in com-
munion with God in heaven> and indeed he lived in heaven."

In preparing tlie following accounts of the churches,
the author communicated with the pastors or some lead-
ing members of the several churches now existing in
the town, inviting them to furnish a brief sketch of their
respective churches, for publication. In several instances
the invitation was accepted, and in others the records of
the churches were kindly placed in his hands to enable
him to furnish the accounts. He regrets that in a few
instances, either from a loss of the records or lack of
interest in the subject, on the part of those to whom
he applied, he has failed to receive the desired informa-
tion concerning several. Where the accounts have been
prepared by others, due acknowledgement has been
given. In the other cases, where church records have
been kindly placed in his hands from which to make up
the accounts, such accounts have received, in each case,
the approval of some one or more of the leading mem-
bers of the church, to whom they were submitted before
publishing :


This church, which has had for the past thirty years
merely a nominal existence, is the oldest one in the
town, having j^robably existed as a branch of the First
Baptist Church of Providence, nearly or quite a half
century before it assumed an independent existence.
The earliest records of the church bear the date of 1741,
though the origin of the body as a distinct and indepen-
dent church, must have been as early as 1725. Backus'
history mentions it in 1730 as then existing. Previous

* The six principles, or doctrines, held by this church may be found
in Hebrews vi., 1, 2.


to that date, and reaching back to about the time of the
first settlement of the town, it probably existed as a
branch of the First Baptist Church of Providence, of
which several of the oriirinal settlers of the town were
constituent members. Hence the history of the body
previous to the organization as a separate church would
be incorporated with that of the First church of Provi-
dence. As there are no original records of this latter
church extant, previous to April, 1775, it is impossible

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Online LibraryOliver Payson FullerHistorical sketches of the churches of Warwick, Rhode Island → online text (page 1 of 9)