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

sult 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.