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

eeded 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 prĂȘtraille 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.