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The Middle Colonies The Jerseys

The bargainings and conveyancings, the confirmations and reclamations,
the setting up and overturning, which, after the conquest of the New
Netherlands, had the effect to detach the peninsula of New Jersey from
the jurisdiction of New York, and to divide it for a time into two
governments, belong to political history; but they had, of course, an
important influence on the planting of the church in that territory. One
result of them was a wide diversity of materials in the early growth of
the church.

Toward the end of the Dutch occupation, one lonely congregation had been
planted in that region which, at a later time, when the Dutch church in
America had awaked from its lethargy, was to become known as the garden
of the Dutch church.[109:1]

After the extinction of the high theocracy of the New Haven Colony by
the merger of it in Connecticut, a whole church and town, headed by the
pastor, having secured such guaranty of their political liberty as the
unstable government of New Jersey was able to give, left the homes
endeared to them by thirty years of toil and thrift, and lifting the ark
of the covenant by the staves, set themselves down beside the Passaic,
calling their plantation the New-Ark, and reinstituted their fundamental
principle of restricting the franchise to members of the church. Thus
with one heart they resolved to carry on their spiritual and town
affairs according to godly government. The Puritan migration, of which
this was the nucleus, had an influence on the legislation and the later
history of New Jersey out of all proportion to its numbers.

Twenty years later the ferocious persecution of the Scottish
Covenanters, which was incited by the fears or the bloody vindictiveness
of James II. after the futile insurrection of Monmouth, furnished a
motive for emigration to the best people in North Britain, which was
quickly seized and exploited by the operators in Jersey lands.
Assurances of religious liberty were freely given; men of influence were
encouraged to bring over large companies; and in 1686 the brother of the
martyred Duke of Argyle was made governor of East Jersey. The
considerable settlements of Scotchmen found congenial neighbors in the
New Englanders of Newark. A system of free schools, early established by
a law of the commonwealth, is naturally referred to their common

Meanwhile a series of events of the highest consequence to the future of
the American church had been in progress in the western half of the
province. Passing from hand to hand, the ownership and lordship of West
Jersey had become vested in a land company dominated by Quakers. For the
first time in the brief history of that sect, it was charged with the
responsibility of the organization and conduct of government. Hitherto
it had been publicly known by the fierce and defiant and often
outrageous protests of its representatives against existing governments
and dignities both in state and in church, such as exposed them to the
natural and reasonable suspicion of being wild and mischievous
anarchists. The opportunities and temptations that come to those in
power would be a test of the quality of the sect more severe than trial
by the cart-tail and the gibbet.

The Quakers bore the test nobly. Never did a commercial company show
itself so little mercenary; never was a sovereign more magnanimous and
unselfish. With the opening of the province to settlement, the
proprietors set forth a statement of their purposes: We lay a
foundation for after ages to understand their liberty as men and
Christians, that they may not be brought into bondage but by their own
consent; for we put the power in the people. This was followed by a
code of Concessions and Agreements in forty-four articles, which were
at once a constitution of government and a binding compact with such as
should enter themselves as colonists on these terms. They left little to
be desired in securities for personal, political, and religious

At once population began to flow amain. In 1677 two hundred and thirty
Quakers came in one ship and founded the town of Burlington. By 1681
there had come fourteen hundred. Weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings
were established; houses of worship were built; and in August, 1681, the
Quaker hierarchy (if it may so be called without offense) was completed
by the establishment of the Burlington Yearly Meeting. The same year the
corporation, encouraged by its rapid success, increased its numbers and
its capital, bought out the proprietors of East Jersey, and appointed as
governor over the whole province the eminent Quaker theologian, Robert
Barclay. The Quaker régime continued, not always smoothly, till 1688,
when it was extinguished by James II. at the end of his perfidious
campaigns against American liberties.

* * * * *

This enterprise of the Quaker purchase and settlement of New Jersey
brings upon the stage of American history the great apostle of Christian
colonization, William Penn. He came into relation to the New Jersey
business as arbiter of some differences that arose between the two
Friends who had bought West Jersey in partnership. He continued in
connection with it when the Quaker combination had extended itself by
purchase over the whole Jersey peninsula, and he was a trusted counselor
of the corporation, and the representative of its interests at court.
Thus there grew more and more distinct before his peculiarly adventurous
and enterprising mind the vision of the immense possibilities,
political, religious, and commercial, of American colonization. With
admirable business shrewdness combined with courtly tact, he canceled an
otherwise hopeless debt from the crown in consideration of the
concession to him of a domain of imperial wealth and dimensions, with
practically unlimited rights of jurisdiction. At once he put into
exercise the advantages and opportunities which were united in him so as
never before in the promoter of a like enterprise, and achieved a
success speedy and splendid beyond all precedent.

The providential preparations for this great enterprise--the Holy
Experiment, as Penn delighted to call it--had been visibly in progress
in England for not more than the third part of a century. It was not the
less divine for being wholly logical and natural, that, just when the
Puritan Reformation culminated in the victory of the Commonwealth, the
Quaker Reformation should suddenly break forth. Puritanism was the last
expression of that appeal from the church to the Scriptures, from
existing traditions of Christianity to its authentic original documents,
which is the essence of Protestantism. In Puritanism, reverence for the
Scriptures is exaggerated to the point of superstition. The doctrine
that God of old had spoken by holy men was supplemented by the
pretension that God had long ago ceased so to speak and never would so
speak again. The claim that the Scriptures contain a sufficient guide to
moral duty and religious truth was exorbitantly stretched to include the
last details of church organization and worship, and the minute
direction of political and other secular affairs. In many a case the
Scriptures thus applied did highly ennoble the polity and legislation of
the Puritans.[113:1] In other cases, not a few, the Scriptures,
perverted from their true purpose and wrested by a vicious and conceited
exegesis, were brought into collision with the law written on the heart.
The Bible was used to contradict the moral sense. It was high time for
the Quaker protest, and it was inevitable that this protest should be
extravagant and violent.

In their bold reassertion of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, that his
light lighteth every man who cometh into the world, it is not strange
that the first Quakers should sometimes have lost sight of those
principles the enunciation of which gives such a character of sober
sanity to the apostolic teachings on this subject--that a divine
influence on the mind does not discharge one from the duty of
self-control, but that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the
prophets; that the divine inworking does not suspend nor supersede
man's volition and activity, but that it behooves man to work, because
God worketh in him to will and to work. The lapse from these
characteristically Christian principles into the enthusiastic, fanatic,
or heathen conception of inspiration has been a perpetually recurring
incident in the history of the church in all ages, and especially in
times of deep and earnest spiritual feeling. But in the case of the
Quaker revival it was attended most conspicuously by its evil
consequences. Half-crazy or more than half-crazy adventurers and
hysterical women, taking up fantastical missions in the name of the
Lord, and never so happy as when they felt called of God to some
peculiarly outrageous course of behavior, associated themselves with
sincere and conscientious reformers, adding to the unpopularity of the
new opinions the odium justly due to their own misdemeanors. But the
prophet whose life and preaching had begun the Quaker Reformation was
not found wanting in the gifts which the case required. Like other great
religious founders, George Fox combined with profound religious
conviction a high degree of tact and common sense and the faculty of
organization. While the gospel of the Light that lighteth every man
was speeding with wonderful swiftness to the ends of the earth, there
was growing in the hands of the founder the framework of a discipline by
which the elements of disorder should be controlled.[114:1] The result
was a firmly articulated organization compacted by common faith and zeal
and mutual love, and by the external pressure of fierce persecution
extending throughout the British empire on both sides of the ocean.

Entering into continental Europe, the Quaker Reformation found itself
anticipated in the progress of religious history. The protests of the
Anabaptists against what they deemed the shortcomings of the Lutheran
Reformation had been attended with far wilder extravagances than those
of the early Quakers, and had been repressed with ruthless severity. But
the political and militant Anabaptists were succeeded by communities of
mild and inoffensive non-resistants, governing themselves by a narrow
and rigorous discipline, and differing from the order of Quakers mainly
at this point, that whereas the Quakers rejected all sacraments, these
insisted strenuously on their own views of Baptism and the Supper, and
added to them the ordinance of the Washing of Feet. These communities
were to be found throughout Protestant Europe, from the Alps to the
North Sea, but were best known in Holland and Lower Germany, where they
were called Mennonites, from the priest, Menno Simons, who, a hundred
years before George Fox, had enunciated the same principles of duty
founded on the strict interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount.

The combination of circumstances to promote the Holy Experiment of
William Penn is something prodigious. How he could be a petted favorite
at the shameful court of the last two Stuarts, while his brethren
throughout the realm were languishing under persecution, is a fact not
in itself honorable, but capable of being honorably explained; and both
the persecution and the court favor helped on his enterprise. The time
was opportune; the period of tragical uncertainty in colonization was
past; emigration had come to be a richly promising enterprise. For
leader of the enterprise what endowment was lacking in the elegantly
accomplished young courtier, holding as his own the richest domain that
could be carved out of a continent, who was at the same time brother, in
unaffected humility and unbounded generosity, in a great fraternity
bound together by principles of ascetic self-denial and devotion to the
kingdom of God?

Penn's address inviting colonists to his new domain announced the
outlines of his scheme. His great powers of jurisdiction were held by
him only to be transferred to the future inhabitants in a free and
righteous government. I purpose, said he, conscious of the magnanimity
of the intention, for the matters of liberty, I purpose that which is
extraordinary--to leave myself and successors no power of doing
mischief, that the will of one man may not hinder the good of a whole
country; and added, in language which might have fallen from his
intimate friend, Algernon Sidney, but was fully expressive of his own
views, It is the great end of government to support power in reverence
with the people, and to secure the people from the abuse of power; for
liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is
slavery.[116:1] With assurances of universal civil and religious
liberty in conformity with these principles, he offered land at forty
shillings for a hundred acres, subject to a small quit-rent.

Through the correspondence of the Friends' meetings, these proposals
could be brought to the attention of many thousands of people, sifted
and culled by persecution, the best stuff for a colony in all the United
Kingdom. The response was immediate. Within a year three ship-loads of
emigrants went out. The next year Penn himself went with a company of a
hundred, and stayed long enough to see the government organized by the
free act of the colonists on the principles which he had set forth, and
in that brief sojourn of two years to witness the beginnings of a
splendid prosperity. His city of Philadelphia consisted in August, 1683,
of three or four little cottages. Two years afterward it contained about
six hundred houses, and the schoolmaster and the printing-press had
begun their work.[117:1] The growth went on accelerating. In one year
seven thousand settlers are said to have arrived; before the end of the
century the colonists numbered more than twenty thousand, and
Philadelphia had become a thriving town.[117:2]

But Great Britain, although the chief source of population, was not the
only source. It had been part of the providential equipment of Penn for
his great work to endow him with the gift of tongues and bring him into
intimate relations with the many congregations of the broken and
persecuted sects kindred to his own on the continent of Europe. The
summer and autumn of 1678, four years before his coming to Pennsylvania,
had been spent by him, in company with George Fox, Robert Barclay, and
other eminent Friends, in a mission tour through Holland (where he
preached in his mother's own language) and Germany. The fruit of this
preaching and of previous missions appeared in an unexpected form. One
of the first important accessions to the colony was the company of
Mennonites led by Pastorius, the Pennsylvania Pilgrim, who founded
Germantown, now a beautiful suburb of Philadelphia. Group after group of
picturesque devotees that had been driven into seclusion and
eccentricity by long and cruel persecution--the Tunkers, the
Schwenkfelders, the Amish--kept coming and bringing with them their
traditions, their customs, their sacred books, their timid and pathetic
disposition to hide by themselves, sometimes in quasi-monastic
communities like that at Ephrata, sometimes in actual hermitage, as in
the ravines of the Wissahickon. But the most important contribution of
this kind came from the suffering villages of the Rhenish Palatinate
ravaged with fire and sword by the French armies in 1688. So numerous
were the fugitives from the Palatinate that the name of Palatine came to
be applied in general to German refugees, from whatever region. This
migration of the German sects (to be distinguished from the later
migration from the established Lutheran and Reformed churches) furnished
the material for that curious Pennsylvania Dutch population which for
more than two centuries has lain encysted, so to speak, in the body
politic and ecclesiastic of Pennsylvania, speaking a barbarous jargon of
its own, and refusing to assimilate with the surrounding people.

It was the rough estimate of Dr. Franklin that colonial Pennsylvania was
made up of one third Quakers, one third Germans, and one third
miscellaneous. The largest item under this last head was the Welsh, most
of them Quakers, who had been invited by Penn with the promise of a
separate tract of forty thousand acres in which to maintain their own
language, government, and institutions. Happily, the natural and
patriotic longing of these immigrants for a New Wales on this side the
sea was not to be realized. The Welsh Barony became soon a mere
geographical tradition, and the whole strength of this fervid and
religious people enriched the commonwealth.[118:1]

Several notable beginnings of church history belong to the later part of
the period under consideration.

An interesting line of divergence from the current teachings of the
Friends was led, toward the end of the seventeenth century, by George
Keith, for thirty years a recognized preacher of the Society. One is
impressed, in a superficial glance at the story, with the reasonableness
and wisdom of some of Keith's positions, and with the intellectual vigor
of the man. But the discussion grew into an acrimonious controversy, and
the controversy deepened into a schism, which culminated in the
disowning of Keith by the Friends in America, and afterward by the
London Yearly Meeting, to which he had appealed. Dropped thus by his old
friends, he was taken up by the English Episcopalians and ordained by
the Bishop of London, and in 1702 returned to America as the first
missionary of the newly organized Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel in Foreign Parts. An active missionary campaign was begun and
sustained by the large resources of the Venerable Society until the
outbreak of the War of Independence. The movement had great advantages
for success. It was next of kin to the expiring Swedish Lutheran Church
in the three counties that became afterward the State of Delaware, and
heir to its venerable edifices and its good will; it was the official
and court church of the royal governors, and after the degenerate sons
of William Penn abandoned the simple worship, as well as the clean
living, in which their father delighted, it was the church promoted by
the proprietary interest; withal it proved itself, both then and
afterward, to hold a deposit of truth and of usages of worship
peculiarly adapted to supplement the defects of the Quaker system. It is
not easy to explain the ill success of the enterprise. In Philadelphia
it took strong root, and the building, in 1727, of Christ Church, which
survives to this day, a monument of architectural beauty as well as
historical interest, marks an important epoch in the progress of
Christianity in America. But in the rural districts the work languished.
Parishes, seemingly well equipped, fell into a deplorable condition;
churches were closed and parishes dwindled away. About the year 1724
Governor Keith reported to the Bishop of London that outside the city
there were twelve or thirteen little edifices, at times supplied by one
or other of the poor missionaries sent from the society. Nearly all
that had been gained by the Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania, where the
Venerable Society had maintained at times forty-seven missionaries and
twenty-four central stations, was wiped out by the Revolutionary

Another great beginning that comes within the field of vision in the
first four decades of the eighteenth century is the planting of the
great national churches of Germany. We have observed the migration of
the minor sects of Germany--so complete, in some cases, that the entire
sect was transplanted, leaving no representative in the fatherland. In
the mixed multitude of refugees from the Palatinate and other ravaged
provinces were many belonging both to the Lutheran and to the Reformed
churches, as well as some Catholics. But they were scattered as sheep
having no shepherd. The German Lutheran and Reformed immigration was
destined to attain by and by to enormous proportions; but so late was
the considerable expansion of it, and so tardy and inefficient the
attention given to this diaspora by the mother churches, that the
classical organization of the Reformed Church dates only from 1747, and
that of the Lutheran Church from 1760.[121:1] The beautiful career of
the Moravians began in Pennsylvania so late as 1734. In general it may
be said that the German-American church was affected only indirectly by
the Great Awakening.

But the greatest in its consequences, both religious and political, of
the great beginnings in the early part of the eighteenth century, was
the first flow of the swelling tide of the Scotch-Irish immigration.
Already, in 1669, an English Presbyterian, Matthew Hill, persuaded to
the work by Richard Baxter, was ministering to many of the Reformed
religion in Maryland; and in 1683 an appeal from them to the Irish
presbytery of Laggan had brought over to their aid that sturdy and
fearless man of God, Francis Makemie, whose successful defense in 1707,
when unlawfully imprisoned in New York by that unsavory defender of the
Anglican faith, Lord Cornbury, gave assurance of religious liberty to
his communion throughout the colonies. In 1705 he was moderator of the
first presbytery in America, numbering six ministers. At the end of
twelve years the number of ministers, including accessions from New
England, had grown to seventeen. But it was not until 1718 that this
migration began in earnest. As early as 1725 James Logan, the
Scotch-Irish-Quaker governor of Pennsylvania, speaking in the spirit of
prophecy, declares that it looks as if Ireland were to send all her
inhabitants hither; if they continue to come they will make themselves
proprietors of the province. It was a broad-spread, rich alluvium
superimposed upon earlier strata of immigration, out of which was to
spring the sturdy growth of American Presbyterianism, as well as of
other Christian organizations. But by 1730 it was only the turbid and
feculent flood that was visible to most observers; the healthful and
fruitful growth was yet to come.[122:1]

The colony of Georgia makes its appearance among the thirteen British
colonies in America, in 1733, as one born out of due time. But no colony
of all the thirteen had a more distinctly Christian origin than this.
The foundations of other American commonwealths had been laid in faith
and hope, but the ruling motive of the founding of Georgia was charity,
and that is the greatest of these three. The spirit which dominated in
the measures taken for the beginning of the enterprise was embodied in
one of the most interesting personages of the dreary eighteenth
century--General James Oglethorpe. His eventful life covered the greater
part of the eighteenth century, but in some of the leading traits of his
character and incidents of his career he was rather a man of the
nineteenth. At the age of twenty-one he was already a veteran of the
army of Prince Eugene, having served with honorable distinction on the
staff of that great commander. Returning to England, in 1722 he entered
Parliament, and soon attained what in that age was the almost solitary
distinction of a social reformer. He procured the appointment of a
special committee to investigate the condition of the debtors' prisons;
and the shocking revelations that ensued led to a beginning of
reformation of the cruel and barbarous laws of England concerning
imprisonment for debt. But being of the higher type of reformers, he was
not content with such negative work. He cherished and elaborated a
scheme that should open a new career for those whose ill success in life
had subjected them to the pains and the ignominy due to criminals. It
was primarily for such as these that he projected the colony of Georgia.
But to a mind like his the victims of injustice in every land were
objects of practical sympathy. His colony should be an asylum for
sufferers from religious persecution from whatever quarter. The
enterprise was organized avowedly as a work of charity. The territory
was vested in trustees, who should receive no pay or emolument for their
services. Oglethorpe himself gave his unpaid labor as military and civil
head of the colony, declining to receive in return so much as a
settler's allotment of land. An appropriation of ten thousand pounds was
made by Parliament for the promotion of the work--the only government
subsidy ever granted to an American colony. With eager and unselfish
hopes of a noble service to be rendered to humanity, the generous
soldier embarked with a picked company of one hundred and twenty
emigrants, and on the 12th of February, 1733, landed at the foot of the
bluff on which now stands the city of Savannah. The attractions of the
genial climate and fertile soil, the liberal terms of invitation, and
the splendid schemes of profitable industry were diligently advertised,
and came to the knowledge of that noble young enthusiast, Zinzendorf,
count and Moravian bishop, whose estate of Herrnhut in Lusatia had
become an asylum for persecuted Christians; and missionary colonists of
that Moravian church of which every member was a missionary, and
companies of the exiled Salzburgers, the cruelty of whose sufferings
aroused the universal indignation of Protestant Europe, were mingled
with the unfortunates from English prisons in successive ship-loads of
emigrants. One such ship's company, among the earliest to be added to
the new colony, included some mighty factors in the future church
history of America and of the world. In February, 1736, a company of
three hundred colonists, with Oglethorpe at their head, landed at
Savannah. Among them was a reinforcement of twenty colonists for the
Moravian settlement, with Bishop David Nitschmann, and young Charles
Wesley, secretary to the governor, and his elder brother, John, now
thirty-three years old, eager for the work of evangelizing the heathen
Indians--an intensely narrow, ascetic, High-church ritualist and
sacramentarian. The voyage was a memorable one in history. Amid the
terrors of a perilous storm, Wesley, so liable to be lifted up with the
pride that apes humility, was humbled as he contrasted the agitations of
his own people with the cheerful faith and composure of his German
shipmates; and soon after the landing he was touched with the primitive
simplicity and beauty of the ordination service with which a pastor was
set over the Moravian settlement by Bishop Nitschmann. During the
twenty-two months of his service in Georgia, through the ascetic toils
and privations which he inflicted on himself and tried to inflict on
others, he seems as one whom the law has taken severely in hand to lead
him to Christ. It was after his return from America, among the
Moravians, first at London and afterward on a visit to Herrnhut, that he
was taught the way of the Lord more perfectly.[125:1]

The three shipmates, the Wesleys and Bishop Nitschmann, did not remain
long together. Nitschmann soon returned to Germany to lead a new colony
of his brethren to Pennsylvania; Charles Wesley remained for four months
at Frederica, and then recrossed the ocean, weary of the hardness of the
people's hearts; and, except for the painful and humiliating discipline
which was preparing him to take the whole world to be his parish, it
had been well for John Wesley if he had returned with his brother. Never
did a really great and good man act more like a fool than he did in his
Georgia mission. The priestly arrogance with which he attempted to
enforce his crotchets of churchmanship on a mixed community in the edge
of the wilderness culminated at last in his hurling the thunderbolts of
excommunication at a girl who had jilted him, followed by his slipping
away from the colony between two days, with an indictment for defamation
on record against him, and his returning to London to resign to the
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel his commission as missionary.
Just as he was landing, the ship was setting sail which bore to his
deserted field his old Oxford friend and associate in the Methodist
Club, George Whitefield, then just beginning the career of meteoric
splendor which for thirty-two years dazzled the observers of both
hemispheres. He landed in Savannah in May, 1738. This was the first of
Whitefield's work in America. But it was not the beginning of the Great
Awakening. For many years there had been waiting and longing as of them
that watch for the morning. At Raritan and New Brunswick, in New Jersey,
and elsewhere, there had been prelusive gleams of dawn. And at
Northampton, in December, 1734, Jonathan Edwards had seen the sudden
daybreak and rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

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