header image
Home arrow 50 Yrs Among The Baptists arrow History of the Ketocton Association-Chapter 5
History of the Ketocton Association-Chapter 5 PDF Print E-mail
Written by William Fristoe   


 
An account of our regular annual meetings.

EVER since this association was constituted, we have had two annual meetings, one called the association, and the other the yearly meeting. The association, for a long time, has been holden on the Thursday before the third Lord's day in August -Thursday and Friday are generally employed in reading letters of intelligence from the several churches, and arranging and conducting such business as may appear of public utility to the churches -Saturday and Sunday have been generally taken up in preaching to the inhabitants, where many thousands frequently attend -this meeting has not been confined to anyone place, but has been appointed at many different places as it might appear most convenient. Our yearly meeting has been on the Saturday before the second Lord's day in June; this meeting is designed for the purpose of preaching. We have other preaching meetings occasionally, but not annually.

This association, at an early period, cultivated a correspondence, by letter and messenger, with the Philadelphia association, and that of Monongahela; and thereby received information of the progress and prosperity of religion in different places to a considerable extent -until the different associations of Baptists in Virginia thought proper to unite in general committee, for the purpose of securing our rights, for remonstrating against oppressive laws or unjust measures in government, and the petitioning for the repealing of laws which were injurious. When this committee was established, it became the medium of correspondence. Since the general committee discontinued, we have correspondence only with two or three of our neighboring associations; but we are favored in common with the minutes of most of the Baptist associations from north to south, and of the westward country, by some hand or other, either designedly or accidentally -so that knowledge is circulating and very informing, and heart-affecting intelligence afforded- in return it is our aim to circulate our minutes, and so join in diffusing information abroad.
A detail of the ministers that have, and some of which do, at present, belong to this association.

ALTHOUGH it may appear formal and very little for edification, the bare citing the number of preachers, and their names, yet our history would appear one were it entirely omitted, and our friends at a distance may be desirous to know who they are; we shall therefore give you information of them, and that in rotation: -Elder John Garrard 1, Elder John Marks 2, Elder John Alderson 3, Elder David Thomas 4, Elder Richard Major 5, Elder William Fristoe 6, Elder Nathaniel Sanders 7, Elder Jeremiah Moore 8, Elder Daniel Fristoe 9, Elder Lewis Lunceford 10, Elder William Mason 11, Elder John Hickerson 12, Elder Robert Sanders 13, Elder John Creel 14, Elder William Hill 15, Elder Philip Spiller 16, Elder Elderson Weeks 17, Elder John Hutcheson 18, Elder Andrew Leech 19, Elder William Thrift 20, Elder William Grinstead 21, Elder Christopher Collins 22; Elders James Ireland and John Monroe were members with those called separates, but for convenience joined with us. As we have enumerated them by strength of memory, should omissions be, they will be forgiven. Several others have been public preachers among us whose behaviour was such that entitles them to neglect, and we will leave them in obscurity. Elders Garrard, Marks, Alderson, Major, D. Fristoe, Ireland, Creel, Hill and R. Sanders are all dead. The preachers that were called in at an early time, were much employed in traveling and laboring among the people -among whom Elder Thomas was much engaged -Elder Major traveled much, but continued not long by reason of death –Elder Daniel Fristoe, while he lived, was considerable in touring and preaching; for a length of time Elders W. Fristoe, Mason, Moore and Hickerson, have been the principal travelers -the necessity has been such that there could be no retiring -so many desolate neighborhoods and churches, that called for diligence among Zion's watchmen (although it is desirable that every constituted church should have a pastor) but necessity with us compels one preacher to tend several, or the people must remain destitute of preaching.

 

The different species of persecution the Baptists had to labor under, in an early Period.

WE come now to give a narrative of the treatment the Baptists met with from their neighbors and countrymen at their first rise among us, and for a considerable time after, and some instances to the present time, they were stigmatized with every name that malice could invent -the general term of reproach with which the preachers and Baptist people were clothed, was that of new-Light -so soon as any person frequented meeting, appeared serious, and began to cultivate an acquaintance with the scriptures, it was reported such an one was going to turn new-Light; we suppose what gave rise to this name, was the doctrines taught by the Baptists, viz: the necessity of regeneration -the having natural darkness, ignorance and stupidity removed from the mind, by the illumination of rich grace from the God of light, and a revelation of Christ as the only way to God, the slaying the enmity of the heart, the bringing down every exalted imagination –and leading the soul to depend on the righteousness of Christ alone for justification and acceptance before God, and a capacity given to the understanding to conceive of spiritual things -these were strange things; but although new light was intended as a term of reproach, it occasioned many to go and hear, and as faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. -Upon hearing many got under deep concern and smote their breasts, saying, What shall we do to be saved? the language was, these preachers bring strange things to our ears. It is wonderful the devil, though of angelic form, of superior capacity, and that improved by an intimate acquaintance with man for so many thousand years -the experience he has gained -in knowing what temptation is most likely to succeed with the carnal mind -please sensual appetites, and establish the kingdom of darkness among men -that he should so far overshoot himself, and influence the children of his kingdom in fixing reproachful names on others which in the event terminates much in the overthrow of his kingdom, and the entire loss of many of his much admired and faithful subjects.

The new-Lights were charged with being disturbers of the peace, that they had occasioned uneasiness and disquietude in the minds of the people, when there was no necessity for it, and that such a people ought to be treated with contempt, ridiculed and disgraced, and all that keep company with them. This charge was mere wind, and could not be substantiated, for all the while the Baptists were behaving peaceably -professing and preaching the king of peace -advocating the cause of the gospel of peace, and the promotion of the spiritual kingdom of peace in the world. But what produced this calumny was, the religion of Christ revealed in the gospel was not suited to the carnal mind; the mortification and self-denial that characterized the followers of Christ, could not agree with their manner of life -and therefore rather than part with sin and their sensual gratifications, they chose to find fault with the religion of Jesus, and ridicule the gospel, and count concern about futurity unnecessary -that the great creator is a God of mercy, and never made anybody to be lost, we shall have peace though we add drunkenness to thirst, and walk in all the imaginations of our hearts.

The cant word was, they are an ignorant illiterate set -and of the poor and contemptible class of the people. Now if the learned, the wealthy, and those of great parentage had made pretensions to religion we might suppose there was some reality in it. These reflections were of great use to young converts, and greatly confirmed them that they were right -for in like manner the wicked ridiculed the Lord Jesus and His followers in primitive times -they said of the Saviour, As for this fellow we know not whence He is -asserted He was a friend of publicans and sinners -that He was of low parentage, being the son of Joseph the carpenter, and His brethren poor -and they were offended in Him. They likewise spurned at His followers, and declared they knew not the law, and were an accursed people. It was not the rulers that believed when Jesus Christ preached His own gospel -it was the poor the gospel proved effectual to, and the common people heard Him gladly, while the wise and prudent were left to judicial blindness; it is God's work to reveal salvation to the soul -and this He can easily do, at His own pleasure, to the weakest of the human race, unassisted by human learning, and abundantly enrich their minds with spiritual ideas, which is impossible for any person to acquire, though acquainted with all the different languages in use in the world, and though they understood all the arts and sciences taught by man.

They were charged with design -the vain supposition was that if the Baptists could succeed, and have a large increase of converts to their party –when once they supposed themselves sufficiently strong, that they would fall on their fellow subjects, massacre the inhabitants and take possession of the country. Groundless and stupid as this conjecture was, it was spoken of from one to the other, until many of the old bigots would feel their tempers inflamed, and their blood run quick in their veins, and declare they would take up arms and destroy the new-Lights. How much this resembled primitive times, when the gospel was preached in the land of Judea -the Jews being under the Romish yoke, and tributary to Caesar, but were favored with some privileges -but as their hearts stood opposed to God, and they determined to reject Christ. They brought this forward as an excuse that if they countenanced Christ, Caesar would be offended, and conclude they had an intention to revolt and cast off his yoke, and take protection under Christ as a rival of Caesar's. -This would raise his resentment and exasperate the Romans in general -and Caesar will send his army and take our inheritance, and destroy our nation.

Another charge exhibited was, that they were schismatics, and this passage of scripture often cited, mark them which cause divisions among you contrary to the doctrine ye have learned, and avoid them -this was supposed to apply to the Baptists, because some dissented from the high church and joined the Baptist meeting.

But, unhappy for our accusers, they had never learned doctrine; they were unacquainted with the articles of the Church, of which they professed themselves members; and many when asked about their articles could give no account of them, or in what book they were contained. The pursuit after the knowledge of religious subjects was neglected and lay foreign from the people prior to the Baptists coming among us, and after, when the doctrine contained in those articles was cited, it was supposed to be new-Light doctrine, and of course ought to be rejected. It was a time when gross darkness covered the minds of the people, and gave an opportunity for prejudice to act in its full strength without the least control. When we consider the look back to the times of ignorance, before gospel light shone on our inhabitants, and then take a view of the good effects produced by the gospel (as the means) it is truly wonderful -this ancient prophecy is accomplished, and desert is become a fruitful field -and where they were not the Lord's people, in the same place appears the children of the living God.

Another complaint brought forward with marks of distress, that if the Baptists were suffered to go on, and succeed as they were likely to do, it would terminate in the utter ruin of the high church; that nothing short of the entire desolation and extinguishment would be the event, and that it was high time to take the alarm. What, have our church brought to desolation! a church in its constitution so eminent, and one would have supposed so permanent and well established, having the king of Great Britain the head of the church, and defender of the faith! the bishops of England so exalted as to bear the title of Lords spiritual, possessed with so much sagacity and learning, as to fit them for governing in everything ecclesiastic, and supply every part of the dominion with pious clergy; we have likewise in every parish a vestry of twelve discreet men, chosen to direct and manage the affairs of the church -and we have persons inducted and settled in the different parishes, with a salary of sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco a year made sure to them, to be collected from the different tithes included in the parish with the addition of all fees for marriages and funeral sermons; a church established by law, with whom the governing powers rest -all nonconformists or dissenters from us we can bring to our feet, and it is at our option to allow them toleration or not.

Now after all this provision being made for our preservation and security, to be broken up, and our church brought to nothing, is intolerable; and we cannot think of it without strange emotions -a gloomy melancholy, and depression of spirits. -This distressing conclusion, it is clear, arose from want of understanding, for there is no danger of the church of Christ being destroyed, or the gates of hell prevailing against her -false prophets with all their art and cunning can never seduce the elect, for they are secured, preserved, and taken care of by the great Shepherd -and as they are built upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone, and of course can not fail growing up into an holy temple in the Lord. But it is no wonder a church formed by the invention of man, supported by oppressive laws, governed by lucrative priests, compacted together of wood and hay stubble materials, should fail; for so soon as national policy loses its form, such church will cease to exist.

The preachers were deemed false prophets, a set of wolves in sheep's clothing, and often in early times men would prevent their wives and children from going to hear, lest they should be deceived; and, in some instances, where children have appeared affected with the gospel, parents have been much distressed, and threatened to cast them off and dispossess them, telling them they would render themselves ridiculous in the world and never more be in common credit; it is to be feared that there are many parents who in the coming day will be found guilty of the ruin and destruction of their tender offspring; and should it be beyond the power of the parent to do his child harm, owing to the interference of rich grace, and beneficence of the God of love, no thanks to the wicked parent; his guilt is the same: but could reason be admitted into the field, and the matter judged of without prejudice, there was but little chance of the Baptists being deceivers; their education was small, their language plain and easy, their religious tenets were open to the world, and when they preached it was usual in all cases to appeal to the sacred scriptures for proof of what they asserted; besides had it have been their intention to devour men's livings, and increase their own wealth, they would not have propagated such doctrine as they did, but the direct opposite as being more pleasing.

But the enemy not contented with ridicule and defamation, manifested their abhorrence to the Baptists in another way; by a law then in force in Virginia, all were under obligation to go to church several times in the year; the failure subjected them to fine.

Little notice was taken of the omission, if members of the established church; but so soon as the new-Lights were absent they were presented by the grand jury, and fined according to law; whether such fine was ever collected or not we cannot certainly say -however, the attempt to make them pay appeared very unreasonable. What, compelled to attend the church whose worship they could not join, and the ministry deficient -they could receive no advantage from it, and languish for want of gospel food, food calculated to refresh and strengthen the soul –it was burthenome and disagreeable to be compelled to pay our proportion of the parson's sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco, but to be confined in addition to that, to pay for not going to church, was distressing.

Soon they began to take other steps to deter the Baptist preachers, and obstruct the progress of the gospel, by objecting to their preaching until they obtained license from the general court, whose place of sitting at that time was old Williamsburg. Until such times that license was obtained, they were exposed to be apprehended and imprisoned, and numbers were compelled to give security for good behaviour -the good behaviour was, not to preach, and, in some instances, it was enjoined on them not to pray; the Episcopalian church was established by law in this country, and she was protected and directed by law -but there was no such provision for dissenters, neither could we understand there was any prohibition to their preaching inserted in the law, nor any penalty annexed -the law being silent on the subject as it respected dissenters and it gave a greater opportunity for malice to vent itself .

We will give a relation of a circumstance to the point, and as it was a case respecting the author, it is well known to him: Being in the country in which he lived, application was made by an individual to the leading character in the county for a warrant to apprehend the preacher for preaching; the magistrate to whom application was made, had been trained to the law and possessed an understanding above most people; the enquiry by him was, what had been preached? that he knew of no law in force among us that would punish a man for simply preaching, and as for dissenters, the law was silent about them as a religious sect; that if he should issue a warrant and the preacher be apprehended, unless it could be proved that he preached something blasphemous, in which case he would be liable to punishment; but if that could not be proven, he would be exonerated, and therefore to no purpose to apprehend such an one; at which the applicant returned without succeeding; fortunate for the preacher that there was for once a man of sense bearing the civil sword, whose prejudice was no preventative to the exercise of a sound judgment. As the law was silent about dissenters and no mode prescribed for their preaching, nor prohibition of it, nor for punishing them on the account of it, justices of the peace and courts of justice, took a different position, and pursued a different plan, pretended they were not persecuting religion when the Baptist preachers were taken and imprisoned, but that it was the peace and good order of the community they were aiming at; and so shifted the ground -they were not brought to the bar for religion, nor for their religious opinions, nor any of their rites, modes, or religious ceremonies, but as disturbers of the peace, the perverters of good order, and the calling unlawful assemblies together, taking the people from their necessary employment on their different farms and plantations, bringing the people into habits of idleness and neglect of their necessary business and interesting pursuits, and thereby reducing the inhabitants to want and distress.

We have been well informed that at times when a congregation has been assembled for divine worship, that persons of a persecuting disposition have taken the number of males at such meeting, have stated the sum that the day's labor of each man was worth, and then, by adding all together, have brought out the sum total. Here they would expatiate; all this loss is sustained by the wretched new-Lights, had it not been for them all this might have been saved, and our country much enriched; we fear times will grow worse and worse, without a stop can be made to the career, and some preventative devised that may bring them to silence.

Here notice, days could be spent in card playing, horse racing, cock fighting, fish frying, barbecuing, shooting matches, and other fashionable vices, without magisterial interference, and the perpetrators go off with impunity -and often those who bore the civil sword, were shamefully guilty of those enormities, and in some instances, the ringleaders.

Times grew such there appeared no probability of escaping prison without a license could be obtained, and to obtain them was difficult -for by this time the members of the general court had taken prejudice, being all of the established church, they resolved to discountenance the Baptists, and decreed to license but one place in a county.

It was in vain to apply to the general court for a license, without going prepared in the following manner: -a petition was drawn expressive of the desire of the people in the community where the meeting-house stood, or was to be built; this petition must be signed by twenty free persons, with the addition of two acting justices of the peace, certifying that the above signers were inhabitants of the place; and this was difficult at all times to obtain. A certain preacher drew a petition and obtained signers, and then made application to several magistrates in the county, and met with a stern refusal; one circumstance was favorable to him -there was at that time several that proposed themselves as candidates for the state legislature, and desired the suffrage of the freeholders, two of which gave him a certificate. Another hardship, when a license was obtained it was confined and limited, it was for the place and not the person, for the house and not the man, or in other words, the man was allowed to preach at the licensed meeting-house, and there only, and had no more right to preach elsewhere than he had before he obtained a grant from the supreme court. I knew the general court to refuse a license for a Baptist meeting-house, in the county of Richmond, because there was a Presbyterian meeting-house already in the county-although the act of toleration considered them distinct societies.

Under these circumstances it was both discouraging and mortifying; the attempt to offer a petition, when it was known, if granted at all, it would be with great reluctance, all the chance we had as British subjects to plead the act of toleration, and that was intolerable, for one set of men to make application to another set of men (cap in hand) and in the most humble posture, ask their consent and allowance, to worship the God that made them, to publicly own the Lord Jesus that died for them; to talk and tell of His love; to enquire into, and inculcate the precious word of life, the gospel of salvation, to sing H is solemn praise, and call on His name by prayer and supplication.

Intolerable as this was, necessity compelled us to comply, having no other alternative -and it was well understood that if license was denied, that preachers would be apprehended, imprisoned, or roughly handled in some way or other.

We come now to present our petition to the honorable general court, at which tokens of disgust appeared in the countenance of the members of the court; every enquiry was made, and every measure adopted to evade granting the petition.

If a license was granted for a certain place, the preacher who applied for the license had to pass an examination by a church clergyman before a license issued; the qualification in this case was, application was to be made to a minister of the church of England, by the person licensed, and there give his assent to the thirty-nine articles of the above church, except three, and a part of a fourth, after such examination, and subscribing to the above articles, the church parson gave, from under his hand, certifying he had examined such an one, and that he had qualified according to law -this certificate was bore back to court, upon which a license issued from the clerk's table.

Here arose another difficulty in the case of examination -after the court had granted license to a certain preacher, application was made to several Episcopalian preachers, then officiating in the college of William and Mary -the president or leading character was first addressed -and the request made that he should make the examination -the reply was, in an overbearing and disdainful manner, I will not, for I am head of the church here, and it is countenancing dissenters too much to afford them a hearing, or perform any offices for them. Application was made to the second -he appeared more mild, but said he had examined some dissenters before, and the other preachers had not, and as the leading character did not think proper to do it, he would not. The third was then sought to -he said he would not, for the other two had as much right to oblige the Baptists as he had, and as they would not perform the work of examination he would not. After which information was given of a preacher living on James River, a small distance from Williamsburg, and it was supposed he would oblige the preacher -upon which advice he was addressed, who in a friendly and courteous manner did the business. The articles were read and subscribed to according to law -a certificate was then given by the parson, by virtue of which a license was obtained.

It is easy for the reader to understand, that through the whole process of this business, from the beginning to the end, obstructions and difficulties lay in the way -first to get signers to a petition, second to get a certificate from two acting magistrates in the county from which the petition was sent, thirdly to find the court in such a temper and capable of exercising such generosity as to grant a license, and after all this, it was left uncertain and precarious, and depended on the will and temper of the clergy whether we should succeed or not. Oh! how disagreeable our situation at that time, when in combination the malice of the clergy, and courts of justice were inflamed and raged to a degree of madness, while we were by the common herd spoken against everywhere; we are left to conclude that our existence in the world, our preservation as a religious society, and the scanty privilege we enjoyed, of the exercise of conscience in the discharge of the duties of religion, was entirely owing to the superintending providence of God, whose almighty power preserved this burning bush, and therefore it was not consumed.

These are the effects of an establishment of religion by law; here we may see monarchical tyranny, and priestly policy, harmoniously uniting -the king supporting the favorite clergy of the established church, and the clergy knowing their preservation and support is dependent on the crown, afford their aid in support of the government, and of course all nonconformists must go to the wreck.

We have to inform the reader of still more violent attacks made by the persecutors of the Baptists, not satisfied with slander and reproach, with sneers and ridicule, but set about devising other methods, and so stop the preaching of the gospel; put aside or break up worshipping assemblies, and exterpate all appearance of religion from the earth -to effect this, violence and main strength was acceded to, and exercised by the baser sort.

That this may be understood, in how many different ways, and at different times, the Baptists suffered by the hand of violence, we will undertake to give a minute detail, so far as our knowledge extends, or have received well authenticated report.

Sometimes attempts have been made by an individual man to take the preacher from the stand, in time of his publicly preaching the gospel, for no other pretended cause than the persecutor's wife made some pretensions to religion, and that it was necessary we should be new creatures in order to happiness in a future world. This individual was repulsed in the attempt, and the mischief prevented.

At the same meeting-house, at other times, it has not been confined to an individual opposer; but large mobs have repaired to the meeting-house, and that of the more brave and lusty, provided with clubs and implements of mischief, and clearly manifested their design was to beat the preacher, and clear the place of the professors of religion; but as a preventative to their design that day, the minister was informed of their collecting at the meeting-house, before he reached the place, and it was thought most prudent both by himself and others to retire; by which means the preacher came off unhurt; the mob disappointed returned home much exasperated, but it was matter of lamentation that the gospel should be stopped in its administration, and divine worship prevented.

Another time, at the same place, a gun has been brought by a person, in a great rage, and presented within the meeting-house doors, supposed to shoot the preacher, but was prevented by his own brother, who suddenly caught the gun from him and prevented the execution of the wretched design. At another time, at the same place, a few being met at the meeting-house, to pray, sing praises and offer up their solemn devotion, and employ themselves in the most profitable manner; while at devotion, a mob having collected, they immediately rushed upon them in the meeting-house, and began to inflict blows on the worshipers, and produce bruises and bloodshed, so that the floor shone with the sprinkled blood the days following; upon which the few Baptists in the place concluded they would aim at a redress of their grievances, by bringing the lawless mob to justice, and inflict punishment upon them according to just deserts. A warrant was applied for, and obtained, for the principal leaders of the mischief -they were apprehended, and time and place appointed for trial -things being thus circumstanced, hopes are entertained that for once the oppressed might have justice shewn them; but the reverse was soon manifest. On trial the disturbers of the peace could prove anything, and everything, they wanted to prove favorable to themselves –they could prove that the meeting people were as riotous as themselves, and the magistrates at that time (a few excepted) so filled with prejudice, that full credit was given to evidence against the Baptists, and a refusal to hear anything favorable of them -the result was, it was deemed a riot, and all were discharged.

By this time it was a thing well understood, that justice could be perverted, and the oppressed had to bear their burthen without any hope of relief from men -and the persecutors triumph and exult in their oppressive measures –it afforded an opportunity of offering every kind of insult that ignorance and malice might prompt them to; with us it was quite common for persons to attack the preacher in time of preaching, and use abusive language, call him by every name that was supposed reproachful; mouth and throw themselves into every posture, if possible, to interrupt the preacher, and discommodate all that were seriously engaged in divine worship. Attempts have been made not only to disturb worship, and prevent preaching, but a little, low-lived, persecuting conduct has accompanied elsewhere -such as interrupting when we were going to administer the ordinance of baptism, talking, jumping, and, once in a while, insulting the preacher and challenging him to game. -When persons have been baptized, they have pronounced what their names should be; sometimes casting dogs into the water and muddying of it -all was done in a way to cast all that contempt on the sacred institution they were capable of; while the laity of the church of England were employed in spurning and scoffing religion out of the world, the clergy from the pulpit afforded their aid, and were employed in the same business.

A certain church person employed his oratory on a certain occasion in defaming the Baptists; he undertook to compare them with a number of things, and those of meanest description; at length he made a full stop, as though lost for comparison, or that the Baptists were beneath all comparison -what shall I liken them to? the diving ducks, or rather to the herd of swine running violently down a steep place into the sea, and perishing in the water; but the person was mistaken in the figure, for among the many that have been baptized, none have been drowned.

When persecutors found religion could not be stopped in its progress by ridicule, defamation and abusive language, the resolution was to take a different step and see what that would do; and the preachers in different places were apprehended by magisterial authority, some of whom were imprisoned, and some escaped: before this step was taken, the parson of the parish was consulted (in some instances at least) and his judgment confided in; his counsel was that the new-Lights ought to be taken up and imprisoned, as necessary for the peace and harmony of the old church. As formerly the high priests took the lead in persecuting the followers of Christ, in like manner the high priests have conducted in latter days, and seldom there has been a persecution but what an high priest has been at the head of it, or exercised influence. The reader may take notice, that in our statement of this species of persecution, we shall not cite names but facts.

The first that we know of among us, taken by a warrant, was three old men, who had been hearing the gospel, and become feasible their former conduct had been wicked, and that there was a necessity for a reformation; the conclusion with them was, that they would not loiter away the Sabbath as they had used to do, but meet together and endeavor to worship God: accordingly they met together, and in their feeble way, one of them read a sermon, and another went to prayer; after which they returned home: soon after, they, by the power of a justice, were ordered to appear before him, or some other justice of the peace, to answer for their conduct as touching a late meeting, etc. When they were brought to trail, it was before the parson of the parish who was an acting magistrate in the county, enquiry was made as touching the meeting; nothing appeared more than that they peaceably met together, one of them had read a sermon, and another had endeavoured to make prayer, without noise, multitude or tumult, and then separated from each other; at which information the parson tore the warrant, and discharged them, with giving a short caution, not to be righteous overmuch.

At another time, at a distant place, a preacher was apprehended as soon as done preaching, and taken from the place immediately to justice -the charge was, preaching; the magistrate enquired what had been preached? the evidence, when called upon, appeared confused, and when questioned and cross questioned, their testimony was contradictory; the justice could get no just information, or intelligible account from them respecting the matter: at which the preacher requested the magistrate to allow him to relate what he had asserted in his sermon, to which he supposed the evidence would agree; he was allowed, and when he had cited the same things he had before mentioned in his sermon, the evidence was brought to recollection and assented to it. -It appeared the greatest distress on this occasion, was that the above-cited preacher had advanced doctrine in direct opposition to the established church, which charge, could it have been substantiated, would certainly, at that time have procured his confinement in the dungeon; but when the matter came to light, and proper information obtained, it was quite the reverse; it was true the preacher in his sermon made mention of several things in the articles of the high church, but it was in a way of approbation of them, as being what himself, in heart espoused, and in public advocated; the truth was, their anger was raised, .and their resentment leveled against the preaching; because they are in a plain and pointed manner told that the articles of their church, as it respected the essentials of religion, was sound and orthodox; and that they were grossly ignorant of their contents, and careless about them; that they had adulterated and departed from their own system, and that their immoral conduct and dissipated behaviour gave abundant proof that they knew nothing of vital religion, nor ever felt its quickening power; and it followed their Christianity was no more than a name without the substance. When the magistrate was rightly informed, it was judged a malicious prosecution, and nothing deserving bonds or imprisonment; and accordingly the preacher was set at liberty.

A third prosecution was of a certain man whom the Baptist church had allowed and encourage as an exhorter, and was approved of as such; the same was engaged in a word of exhortation on Sabbath day, at a licensed meeting-house: soon after he began, he was arrested by a justice of the peace who had brought the sheriff with him; his commitment was soon written, and without farther ceremony hurried by the officer, and soon committed to the care of the jailor, who shut him up in a disagreeable dungeon, where he remained until court was in course for the county; at which time he was brought to the bar, and the charge exhibited. The king's attorney strove to render the prisoner ridiculous, his doctrine atrocious, and the sect to which he belonged enthusiasts and injurious to the community; an attorney was employed on the side of the prisoner, who managed the cause to advantage; here another opportunity offered for information that there was no law provided for the apprehending and imprisoning dissenters for simply preaching, and that the doing of it was arbitrary and tyrannical; the result of the trial was, the person was discharged, for the two following reasons: first, that he was allowed by the Baptist church to exhort, and secondly, he was exercising his gift in a licensed meeting-house; the court could not devise how they might detain the prisoner longer -he was therefore discharged. Another instance we have received information of, that will scarce admit of comparison: a magistrate issued a warrant for the apprehending one of our preachers -the contents of which was, the officer was to bring him before him or some other justice of the peace, to answer for his conduct as touching preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified; this was coming to the point in the nigh way, this was saying with a great deal of simplicity what the ground work of complaint was, while wit and invention in other instances, would have cast a cloak over it, and have given it a different colour. According to instruction the preacher was taken by the officer and carried to justice, but when the crime for which he was apprehended was examined, it appeared shameful to the last degree; enmity itself was stunned at it -the preacher was immediately discharged, and that evening held meeting in a large town where he had been taken for trial, and an end was put to that process.

Another instance of cruelty we have to remind the reader of a Minister (though not belonging to our association at the same time, but soon after his confinement became a member with us) the same was apprehended, torn from the stand by violence in time of prayer, and imprisoned; and such was the rage and malice of his persecutors, that a close prison was thought too good. In addition to confinement, those of the vulgar sort took occasion to collect disagreeable and ill-favored trash, nauseous combustibles, and burn them in the prison window which filled the close dungeon with smoke that made it difficult for him to breathe or support life; and in the event so impaired his health, though he lived many years after, he had to drag through life loaded with infirmity, distressing pains, disordered bowels, and a constitution throughout so affected and broke down, that made life often a burthen.

At other times persecution has raged to that degree, two, three and four at a time have been arrested, and brought to trial for preaching, and sometimes for only praying, and in some instances when brought into open court, presented there as criminals, and when the charge was read, in order to disgrace them, they asked, criminal like, guilty or not guilty? They were then required to give bond and security for good behaviour, or go immediately to prison.

We have been well informed, that it has been required of the prisoner as a condition of his or their releasement to give bond and security, not to preach or pray at his own house nor elsewhere; and upon refusal they were continued in confinement; after sometime confinement, some have given security not to preach without license, and immediately petitioned for them -others have given bond for good behaviour, and turned into preaching at risk, feeling no ways guilty of a breach of good behaviour in preaching the gospel; others have continued in prison where great congregations have resorted and heard the gospel through the iron grates, until their persecutors have been discouraged, and set them at liberty, concluding they would be less troublesome when going at large than when confined -and it was found by experience, the more they were oppressed the more they grew and multiplied -and it was evident that a tremor sometimes took hold of those oppressors, lest they should be found fighting against God -and where such distress has taken hold in the breast of a persecutor, he has declined touching God's anointed, or doing his prophets farther harm.

Imprisonment would in all likelihood have been the common lot of all the preachers, had not several of them obtained license in an early time -and we do not recollect any were taken by authority who had obtained license; but it was certainly owing to our enemies not knowing our situation -for our license afforded us protection only at one meeting-house, and left us exposed elsewhere - but our adversaries living at a distance from the metropolis, and not knowing the rules of the General Court, it was thought when a license was obtained it was unlimited, and self-preservation inclined us to keep the secret.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 November 2006 )
< Previous   Next >

Purpose

The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.