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The American Church On The Eve O

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

In the course of this hundred years the political organization of these
various colonies had been drawn into an approach to uniformity. In every
one of them, excepting Connecticut and Rhode Island, the royal or
proprietary government was represented by a governor and his staff,
appointed from England, and furnishing a point of contact which was in
every case and all the time a point of friction and irritation between
the colony and the mother country. The reckless laxity of the early
Stuart charters, which permitted the creation of practically independent
democratic republics with churches free from the English hierarchy, was
succeeded, under the House of Orange, by something that looked like a
statesmanlike care for the prerogatives of the crown and the privileges
of the English church. Throughout the colonies, at every viceregal
residence, it was understood that this church, even where it was not
established by law, was the favored official and court church. But
inasmuch as the royal governors were officially odious to the people,
and at the same time in many cases men of despicable personal character,
their influence did little more than create a little sect of the
Herodians within the range of their patronage. But though it gave no
real advantage to the preferred church, it was effective (as in
Massachusetts) in breaking down the exclusive pretensions of other

The Massachusetts theocracy, so called, fell with the revocation of the
charter by James II. It had stood for nearly fifty years--long enough to
accomplish the main end of that Nationalist principle which the
Puritans, notwithstanding their fraternizing with the Pilgrim
Separatists, had never let go. The organization of the church throughout
New England, excepting Rhode Island, had gone forward in even step with
the advance of population. Two rules had with these colonists the force
of axioms: first, that it was the duty of every town, as a Christian
community, to sustain the town church; secondly, that it was the duty of
every citizen of the town to contribute to this end according to his
ability. The breaking up of the town church by schisms and the shirking
of individual duty on the ground of dissent were alike discountenanced,
sometimes by severely intolerant measures. The ultimate collision of
these principles with the sturdy individualism that had been accepted
from the Separatists of Plymouth was inevitable. It came when the
standing order encountered the Baptist and the Quaker conscience. It
came again when the missionaries of the English established church, with
singular unconsciousness of the humor of the situation, pleaded the
sacred right of dissenting and the essential injustice of compelling
dissenters to support the parish church.[129:1] The protest may have
been illogical, but it was made effective by arguments of weight,
backed by all the force of the British government. The exclusiveness of
the New England theocracies, already relaxed in its application to other
sects, was thenceforth at an end. The severity of church establishment
in New England was so far mitigated as at last to put an actual premium
on dissent. Holding still that every citizen is bound to aid in
maintaining the institutions of public worship, it relieved any one of
his assessment for the support of the parish church upon his filing a
certificate that he was contributing to the support of another
congregation, thus providing that any disaffection to the church of the
town must be organized and active. It was the very euthanasia of
establishment. But the state-church and church-state did not cease to be
until they had accomplished that for New England which has never been
accomplished elsewhere in America--the dividing of the settled regions
into definite parishes, each with its church and its learned minister.
The democratic autonomy of each church was jealously guarded, and yet
they were all knit together by terms of loose confederation into a vital
system. The impracticable notion of a threefold ministry in each church,
consisting of pastor, teacher, and ruling elder, failed long before the
first generation had passed; but, with this exception, it may justly be
said that the noble ideal of the Puritan fathers of New England of a
Christian state in the New World, wherein dwelleth righteousness, was,
at the end of a hundred years from their planting, realized with a
completeness not common to such prophetic dreams.

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

The tendency toward Baptist principles early disclosed itself among the
colonists. The example of Roger Williams was followed by less notable
instances; the shameful intolerance with which some of these were
treated shows how formidable this tendency seemed to those in authority.
But a more startling defection appeared about the year 1650, when
President Dunster of Harvard College, a man most honorable and lovable,
signified his adoption of the Baptist tenets. The treatment of him was
ungenerous, and for a time the petty persecutions that followed served
rather to discredit the clergy than really to hinder the spread of
Baptist principles. In the year 1718 the Baptist church of Boston
received fraternal recognition from the foremost representatives of the
Congregational clergy of Boston, with a public confession of the wrong
that they had done.[130:1] It is surprising to find, after all this
agitation and sowing of the seed of the church, that in all New
England outside of Rhode Island there are in 1730 only six Baptist
churches, including (an honorable item) two Indian churches on the
islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.[131:1]

The other departure from the standing order was at this date hardly
more extensive. The early planting of Episcopalian churches in Maine and
New Hampshire, with generous patronage and endowment, had languished and
died. In 1679 there was no Episcopal minister in all New England. In
1702 were begun the energetic and richly supported missions of the S.
P. G. At the end of twenty-eight years there were in Rhode Island four
Episcopalian churches; in Massachusetts, three, two of them in the city
of Boston; in Connecticut, three.[131:2] But in the last-named colony an
incident had occurred, having apparently no intimate connection with the
Venerable Society's missions, but charged with weighty, and on the
whole beneficent, consequences for the future of the kingdom of Christ
in America.

The incident was strikingly parallel to that of seventy years before,
when the president of Harvard College announced his acceptance of
Baptist principles. The day after the Yale commencement in September,
1722, a modest and respectful paper was presented to the trustees of the
college, signed by Rector Timothy Cutler and Tutor Brown (who
constituted the entire faculty of the college) and by five pastors of
good standing in the Connecticut churches. Two other pastors of note
were named as assenting to the paper, although not subscribing it. It
seemed a formidable proportion of the Connecticut clergy. The purport of
the paper was to signify that the signers were doubtful of the
validity, or persuaded of the invalidity, of presbyterial as
distinguished from episcopal ordination. The matter was considered with
the gravity which it merited, and a month later, at the time of the
meeting of the colonial legislature, was made the subject of a public
discussion, presided over with great dignity and amenity by Governor
Gurdon Saltonstall, formerly pastor of the church in New London. The
result was that, of the seven pastors assenting to the paper of the two
college men, only two adhered to them; but one of these two was that
able and excellent Samuel Johnson, whose later career as president of
King's College in New York, as well as the career of his no less
distinguished son, is an ornament to American history both of church and

This secession, small in number, but weighty in character, was of course
a painful shock to the hitherto unbroken unity of the church and clergy
of Connecticut. But it was not quite like a thunderbolt from a clear
sky. It had been immediately preceded by not a little conference and
correspondence with Connecticut pastors on the one hand, and on the
other hand with representatives of the powerful and wealthy Propagation
Society, on the question of support to be received from England for
those who should secede. Its prior antecedents reached farther back into
history. The Baptist convictions of the president of Harvard in 1650
were not more clearly in line with the individualism of the Plymouth
Separatists than the scruples of the rector of Yale in 1722 were in line
with the Nationalism of Higginson and Winthrop. This sentiment,
especially strong in Connecticut, had given rise to much study as to the
best form of a colonial church constitution; and the results of this had
recently been embodied (in 1708) in the mildly classical system of the
Saybrook Platform. The filial love of the Puritan colonists toward the
mother church of England was by no means extinct in the third
generation. Alongside of the inevitable repugnance felt and manifested
toward the arrogance, insolence, and violence with which the claims of
the Episcopal Church were commended by royal governors and their
attachés and by some of the imported missionaries, there is ample
evidence of kindly and fraternal feeling, far beyond what might have
been expected, on the part of the New England clergy toward the
representatives of the Church of England. The first missionaries of the
Venerable Society, Keith and Talbot, arriving in New England in 1702,
met with welcome from some of the ministers, who both hospitably
entertained us in their houses and requested us to preach in their
congregations, which accordingly we did, and received great thanks both
from the ministers and people.[133:1] One of these hospitable pastors
was the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall, of New London, who twenty years later,
as governor of the colony, presided at the debate which followed upon
the demission of Rector Cutler.

The immediate results of what had been expected to lead off a large
defection from the colonial clergy were numerically insignificant; but
very far from insignificant was the fact that in Connecticut a sincere
and spontaneous movement toward the Episcopal Church had arisen among
men honored and beloved, whose ecclesiastical views were not tainted
with self-seeking or servility or with an unpatriotic shame for their
colonial home and sympathy with its political enemies. Elsewhere in New
England, and largely in Connecticut also, the Episcopal Church in its
beginnings was handicapped with a dead-weight of supercilious and odious
Toryism. The example of a man like Johnson showed that one might become
an Episcopalian without ceasing to be a patriotic American and without
holding himself aloof from the fellowship of good men. The conference
in Yale College library, September 13, 1722, rather than the planting of
a system of exotic missions, marks the true epoch from which to date the
progress of a genuinely American Episcopal Church.[134:1]

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

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

The English church, enjoying the prestige of royal favor and princely
munificence, suffered also the drawbacks incidental to these
advantages--the odium attending the unjust and despotic measures
resorted to for its advancement, the vile character of royal officials,
who condoned their private vices by a more ostentatious zeal for their
official church, and the well-founded popular suspicion of its pervading
disloyalty to the interests and the liberties of the colonies in their
antagonism to the encroachments of the British government. It was
represented by one congregation in the city of New York, and perhaps a
dozen others throughout the colony.[135:1] It is to the honor of the
ministers of this church that it succeeded in so good a measure in
triumphing over its advantages. The early pastors of Trinity Church
adorned their doctrine and their confession, and one such example as
that of the Rev. Thoroughgood Moor did much to redeem the character of
the church from the disgrace cast upon it by the lives of its patrons.
This faithful missionary had the signal honor of being imprisoned by the
dirty but zealous Lord Cornbury (own cousin to her Majesty the Queen,
and afterward Earl of Clarendon), of whom he had said, what everybody
knew, that he deserved to be excommunicated; and he had further
offended by refusing the communion to the lieutenant-governor, upon the
account of some debauch and abominable swearing.[135:2] There was
surely some vigorous spiritual vitality in a religious body which could
survive the patronizing of a succession of such creatures as Cornbury
and his crew of extortioners and profligates.

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

The immense volume and strength of the Scotch-Irish immigration had
hardly begun to be perceptible in New York as early as 1730. The total
strength of the Presbyterian Church in 1705 was organized in
Philadelphia into a solitary presbytery containing six ministers. In
1717, the number having grown to seventeen, the one presbytery was
divided into four, which constituted a synod; and one of the four was
the presbytery of New York and New Jersey. But it was observed, at least
it might have been observed, that the growing Presbyterianism of this
northernmost region was recruited mainly from old England and from New
England--a fact on which were to depend important consequences in later
ecclesiastical history.

The chief increment of the presbytery of New York and New Jersey was in
three parts, each of them planted from New England. The churches founded
from New Haven Colony in the neighborhood of Newark and Elizabethtown,
and the churches founded by Connecticut settlers on Long Island when
this was included in the jurisdiction of Connecticut, easily and without
serious objection conformed their organization to the Presbyterian
order. The first wave of the perennial westward migration of the New
Englanders, as it flowed over the hills from the valley of the
Housatonic into the valley of the Hudson, was observed by Domine
Selyns, away back in 1696, to be attended by many preachers educated at
Harvard College.[137:1] But the churches which they founded grew into
the type, not of Cambridge nor of Saybrook, but of Westminster.

The facility with which the New England Christians, moving westward or
southwestward from their cold northeastern corner of the country, have
commonly consented to forego their cherished usages and traditions of
church order and accept those in use in their new homes, and especially
their readiness in conforming to the Presbyterian polity, has been a
subject of undue lamentation and regret to many who have lacked the
faculty of recognizing in it one of the highest honors of the New
England church. But whether approved or condemned, a fact so unusual in
church history, and especially in the history of the American church, is
entitled to some study. 1. It is to be explained in part, but not
altogether, by the high motive of a willingness to sacrifice personal
preferences, habits, and convictions of judgment, on matters not of
primary importance, to the greater general good of the community. 2. The
Presbyterian polity is the logical expression of that Nationalist
principle which was cherished by many of the Puritan fathers, which
contended at the birth of New England with the mere Independency of the
Pilgrims, and which found an imperfect embodiment in the platforms of
Cambridge and Saybrook. The New England fathers in general, before their
views suffered a sea-change in the course of their migrations, were
Episcopalians and Presbyterians rather than Congregationalists; and if,
in the course of this history, we shall find many in their later
generations conforming to a mitigated form of the Westminster polity, or
to a liberalized and Americanized Episcopal Church, instead of finding
this to be a degeneration, we shall do well to ask whether it is not
rather a reversion to type. 3. Those who grow up in a solidly united
Christian community are in a fair way to be trained in the simplicity 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 advantage 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
congregational 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.[138:1] 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 environment.

The other factors of the religious life of New York require only brief

There were considerable Quaker communities, especially on western Long
Island, in Flushing and its neighborhood. But before the year 1730 the
fervid and violent and wonderfully 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[139:1] 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 before 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 conforming to the ritual of the English
church. The French Reformed 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 political fatuity of Louis XIV.[139:2]

The German element in the religious life of New York, at the period
under consideration, was of even less historical importance. The
political philanthropy of Queen Anne's government, with a distinct
understanding between the right hand and the left, took active measure
to promote the migration of Protestant refugees from all parts of
Germany to the English colonies in America. In the year 1709 a great
company of these unhappy exiles, commonly 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
policy of doing the work of Christ and humanity with a shrewd eye to the
main chance of making proselytes to its party.[140:1] 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 assume, almost a century too
late, the cure of these poor souls. But this migration added little to
the religious 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 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

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 England the
cluster of churches in the region of New Brunswick 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 Holland,
in 1720, Domine Theodore J. Frelinghuysen. The fervor and earnestness of
his preaching, unwonted in that age, wakened a religious feeling in his
own congregation, 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 1718 there arrived at the port of Philadelphia 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
existence 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 thousand. In 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
influence 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.[143:1] The religious influence of
the Society of Friends 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,[143:2] received one of the most striking illustrations in
all history. So speedily the Society had entered on its Middle
Age;[143:3] 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 legislation 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
Christendom 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
advancement 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.

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 Archdale 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 magistrate is inevitably taken up by the individual, and the old
wilderness law of blood-revenge is reinstituted. The legislation 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
justification 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 public
order,[144:1] and by cruel and exterminating war upon honest settlers,
founded on a mere open question of title to territory.[144:2]

The failure of Quakerism is even more conspicuous considered as a
church discipline. There is a charm as of apostolic simplicity and
beauty in its unassuming hierarchy of weekly, monthly, quarterly, and
yearly meetings, corresponding 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.[145:1] But after the abatement of
that wonderful 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
commonwealth. 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 vineyard. 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 Alleghanies. But the Presbyterian churches of eastern Pennsylvania,
even as reinforced from England and New England, were neither many nor
strong; the Baptists were feebler yet, although both these bodies were
giving signs of the strength they were both about to develop.[147:1]
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
Carolinas. 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 colonies 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 impracticable, and, for want of these, institutions of
higher education either languish or are never begun. A consequent
tendency, 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 Christians, came to be called pagani, or
men of the hamlets, and Heiden, or men of the heath.

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 English church was an absolute failure. It was a church (with
slight exceptions) without parishes, without services, without 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 Establishment, it gave the sacred offices of the Christian
ministry by patronage 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 Maryland 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 prêtraille was amenable.[148:1]
It was the constant effort of good citizens, 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

In the general dereliction of churchly care for the people of the
Southern colonies, on the part of those who professed the main
responsibility for it, the duty was undertaken, in the face of legal
hindrances, by earnest Christians 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 testimony of Jesus almost alone; and no man can read the
journeys and labors of John Woolman, mystic and ascetic saint, without
recognizing that he and others like-minded were nothing less than true
apostles of the Lord Jesus.

* * * * *

One impression made by this general survey of the colonies is that of
the absence of any sign of unity among the various Christian bodies in
occupation. One corner of the great domain, New England, was thickly
planted with homogeneous churches in mutual fellowship. One order of
Christians, the Quakers, had at least a framework of organization
conterminous with the country. In general there were only scattered
members of a Christian community, awaiting the inbreathing of some
quickening spiritual influence that should bring bone to its bone and
erect the whole into a living church.

Another and very gratifying impression from the story thus far is the
general fidelity of the Christian colonists in the work of the gospel
among the heathen Indians. There was none of the colonies that did not
make profession of a zealous purpose for the Christianizing of the
savages; and it is only just to say, in the face of much unjust and evil
talk, that there was none that did not give proof of its sincerity. In
Virginia, the Puritans Whitaker and Thomas Dale; in Maryland, the
earliest companies of Jesuit missionaries; Campanius among the Swedish
Lutherans; Megapolensis among the Dutchmen, and the Jesuit martyr Jogues
in the forests of New York; in New England, not only John Eliot and
Roger Williams and the Mayhews, but many a village pastor like Fitch of
Norwich and Pierson of Branford, were distinguished in the first
generation by their devotion to this duty.[150:1] The succession of
faithful missionaries has never failed from that day to this. The large
expectations of the churches are indicated by the erection of one of the
earliest buildings at Harvard College for the use of Indian students. At
William and Mary College not less than seventy Indian students at one
time are said to have been gathered for an advanced education. It was no
fault of the colonial churches that these earnest and persistent efforts
yielded small results. We discover a strange uniformity of feature in
the successive failures.... Always, just when the project seemed most
hopeful, an indiscriminate massacre of missionaries and converts
together swept the enterprise out of existence. The experience of all
was the same.[151:1]

* * * * *

It will be a matter of growing interest, as we proceed, to trace the
relation of the American church to negro slavery.

It is a curious fact, not without some later analogies, that the
introduction into the New World of this direful spring of woes
unnumbered was promoted, in the first instance, by the good Las Casas,
as the hopeful preventive of a worse evil. Touched by the spectacle of
whole tribes and nations of the Indians perishing under the cruel
servitude imposed upon them by the Spanish, it seemed to him a less
wrong to transfer the infliction of this injustice to shoulders more
able to bear it. But man's inhumanity to man needed no pretext of
philanthropy. From the landing of the Dutch ship at Jamestown in 1619,
with her small invoice of fourteen negroes, the dismal trade went on
increasing, in spite of humane protest and attempted prohibition. The
legislature of Massachusetts, which was the representative of the
church, set forth what it conceived to be the biblical ethics on the
subject. Recognizing that lawful captives taken in just wars may be
held in bondage, it declared among its earliest public acts, in 1641,
that, with this exception, no involuntary bond-slavery, villeinage, or
captivity should ever be in the colony; and in 1646 it took measures for
returning to Africa negroes who had been kidnapped by a slaver. It is
not strange that reflection on the golden rule should soon raise doubts
whether the precedents of the Book of Joshua had equal authority with
the law of Christ. In 1675 John Eliot, from the midst of his work among
the Indians, warned the governor against the sale of Indians taken in
war, on the ground that the selling of souls is dangerous merchandise,
and with a bleeding and burning passion remonstrated against the
abject condition of the enslaved Africans. In 1700 that typical
Puritan, Judge Samuel Sewall, published his pamphlet on The Selling of
Joseph, claiming for the negroes the rights of brethren, and predicting
that there would be no progress in gospeling until slavery should be
abolished. Those were serious days of antislavery agitation, when
Cotton Mather, in his Essays to Do Good, spoke of the injustice of
slavery in terms such that his little book had to be expurgated by the
American Tract Society to accommodate it to the degenerate conscience of
a later day, and when the town of Boston in 1701 took measures to put a
period to negroes being slaves. Such endeavors after universal justice
and freedom, on the part of the Christians of New England, thwarted by
the insatiable greed of British traders and politicians, were not to
cease until, with the first enlargement of independence, they should
bring forth judgment to victory.

The voice of New England was echoed from Pennsylvania. The Mennonites of
Germantown, in 1688, framed in quaint and touching language their
petition for the abolition of slavery, and the Quaker yearly meetings
responded one to another with unanimous protest. But the mischief grew
and grew. In the Northern colonies the growth was stunted by the
climate. Elsewhere the institution, beginning with the domestic service
of a few bondmen attached to their masters' families, took on a new type
of malignity as it expanded. In proportion as the servile population
increases to such numbers as to be formidable, laws of increasing
severity are directed to restraining or repressing it. The first
symptoms of insurrection are followed by horrors of bloody vengeance,
and from that time forth the slave laws have but one quality--that of
ferocity engendered by fear.[153:1] It was not from the willful
inhumanity of the Southern colonies, but from their terrors, that those
slave codes came forth which for nearly two centuries were the shame of
America and the scandal of Christendom. It is a comfort to the heart of
humanity to reflect that the people were better than their laws; it was
only at the recurring periods of fear of insurrection that they were
worse. In ordinary times human sympathy and Christian principle softened
the rigors of the situation. The first practical fruits of the revival
of religion in the Southern colonies were seen in efforts of Christian
kindness toward the souls and bodies of the slaves.

Next: The Great Awakening

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