From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH.The Baptist Church is often defined to be an evangelical denomination of Christians, which differs from others in certain principles connected with baptism as the initiatory ordinance of Christianity. This difference is commonly understood as limited to the proper age, and mode of its administration, and those who believe in adult baptism by immersion.
But this definition is inaccurate and incomplete. Inaccurate, for in the view of Baptists age is nothing, but spiritual qualification is everything; hence they baptize all who repent and believe the gospel, whether in childhood, youth, or manhood, and very frequently whole households at once, as did the apostles.
The definition is incomplete, for many who are not baptized believe that the immersion of adults was the primitive baptism of the New Testament. The fact is generally admitted in works of scientific authority, both historical and archaeological.
Baptists, then, properly defined, are those who hold that the baptism of Christian believers is of universal obligation, and practice accordingly. And they hold this because they acknowledge no master but Christ; no rule of faith but his word; no baptism but that which is preceded and hallowed by personal piety; no church but that which is the body of Christ, pervaded, governed, and animated by his spirit. Whatever diversities of opinion and usage are found among them, these are their common and characteristic principles; by these they are known and distinguished in every country, and in every age.
On like grounds, also, the Baptists reject (though with less concern) the substitution of sprinkling for the entire immersion of the body, which, they maintain, was originally practiced in the administration of baptism, and, except in cases of the sick, universally observed throughout Christendom for thirteen hundred years.
For the universal obligation of immersion as identical with baptism itself, and essential to its specific spiritual purposes, they urge the admitted signification of the word baptize, the places where the rite was originally performed, and the phraseology employed in describing it, the undeniable example of Christ himself, and the metaphorical allusions of the sacred writers when explaining the spiritual import of the rite, all of which, they say, confirm the meaning to be immersion, and necessarily exclude every other.
On the subject of church communion, the Baptists generally agree with other denominations that it is not proper before baptism. As they find no exception to this rule in the New Testament, they do not feel authorized to invite those who are not, in their view, duly baptized, to unite with them at the Lord's table, however highly they esteem them. They profess, in this limitation of church communion, tliat they do not judge the consciences of others, but seek to preserve their own. Yet, while holding these views, they claim to feel a cordial sympathy with other evangelical denominations, and rejoice to co-operate with them, as far as possible, in the work of Christ.
The government of the Baptist Church is congregational. Each body being immediately dependent on Christ, is therefore independent of all others, and is complete in itself for the management of its internal affairs, such as the choice of its officers, declaration of faith, acceptation, dismission, or discipline of members. As such church is a little spiritual republic, so every member is entitled to a vote, and is trained to all the duties of an active citizen. The voice of the majority governs.
They recognize no higher church ofiicers than pastor and dea-- cons. Elders as evangelists and missionaries are also ordained, after due trial, and sent out to preach the gospel.
Councils are usually called by the churches, to advise, and assist in the ordination of ministers, the formation of churches, and the settlement of serious difliculties, though they have neither judicial nor appellate powers. Whatever be their differences in other things. Baptists all agree in maintaining the congregational form of church government. "The ministry of the Baptists," says Dr. Baird, "comprehends a body of men who, in point of talent, learning, and eloquence, as well as devoted piety, have no superiors in the country." The Baptists have never made classical scholarship a prerequisite to the ministry of the gospel, lest they should seem to be wiser than God; but it is a mistake to suppose they have ever despised education or knowledge, except when substituted for holier gifts. As early as 1764, when numbering sixty churches and about five thousand members, they founded their, first college in Rhode Island. Long before they had fostered Harvard, and helped Franklin to lay the foundations of the University of Pennsylvania. They now have about forty colleges and universities of their own, over one hundred academies and female seminaries of a high grade, and about fifteen theological schools. The-y have publication societies at Philadelphia, Charleston, and Nashville, besides many fiourishing private publishing houses in our larger cities.
Their missions are planted in Canada, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Hayti; in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway; in western and central Africa; in southern India, Assam, Burmah, Siam, and China.
The Baptists claim their origin from the ministry of Christ and his apostles. They claim, also, that all the Christian churches of the first two centuries after Christ were founded and built up on the principles they profess; in proof of which they appeal to the high critical authorities in church history—Mosheim, Neander, Hagenback, Jacobi, and Bunson. They furthermore claim to be able to trace their history in a succession of churches essentially Baptist, though under various names, from the third century down to the Reformation. These churches, from the fifth century onward, were the subjects of systematic persecution from the state churches, both in the east and in the west. Cyril, of Alexandria, and Innocent I, of Rome, according to the historian Socrates, began this persecution by depriving them of their houses of worship, and driving them into secret places, under the laws of Honorius • and Theodosius II, which forbid repaptism (so called) under penalty of death. Yet their principles reappear among the Culdus of the west, and the Panlians of the east; the Vallesii and the Paterines, the Albigenses and Waldenses, and emerge on all sides at the first dawn of the Reformation. In the opinion of Sir Isaac Newton, as reported by Whiston, "the Baptists are the only body of Christians that has not symbolized with the Church of Rome."
Of the German Baptists, Mr. Bancroft has suramed up the matter in a few pregnant words
"With greater consistency than Luther, they applied the doctrine of the Reformation to the social positions of life, and threatened an end to priestcraft, spiritual domination, titles, and vassalage. They were trodden down with foul reproaches and most arrogant scorn, and their history is written in the blood of thousands of German peasantry. But their principles, secure in their immortality, escaped with Roger Williams to Providence, and his colony is witness that naturally the paths of the Baptists are paths of freedom, pleasantness, and peace."
In England, from the time of Henry VIII to William III, a full century and a half, the Baptists struggled to gain their footing, and to secure not ouly toleration for themselves, but for all, on the broad basis of liberty of conscience.
From 1611 (as appears from the documents recently published by the Hanserd Kuolly's Society), they issued appeal after appeal, addressed to the king, the parliament, and the people, in behalf of their soul liberty, written with a breadth of view and force of argument hardly since exceeded.
Mr. Locke has truly said : "The Baptists were from the beginning the friends of liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty." Yet, until the Quakers arose, in 1660, the Baptists stood alone in its defense amid universal opposition. In the time of Cromwell they first gained a fair hearing, and under the lead of Milton and Vane, would have changed the whole system of the church and the state but for the treason of Monk.
In the time of Charles II, the prisons were filled wnth their confessors and martyrs. Yet their principles gradually gained ground in the public mind, and hastened the revolution of 1688. "The share which the Baptists took," says Dr. Williams, "in showing up the falling liberties of England, and infusing new vigor and liberality into the constitution of that country, is not generally known. Yet to this body English liberty owes a debt it can never acknowledge. Among the Baptists, Christian freedom found its earliest, its staunchest, its most consistent, and its most disinterested champions."
Nor less powerful has been the influence of the Baptists in the United States. Introduced into Rhode Island with Roger Williams and John Clark, in 1638, their history for more than a century, in most of the colonies, is that of proscribed and banished men. Yet, persecuted themselves, it was their glory to have never persecuted others. "In the code of laws established by them in Rhode Island," says Judge Story, "we read for the iirst time since Christianity ascended the throne of the Cæsars, the declaration that conscience should be free, and should not be punished for worshiping God in the way they were persuaded he requires.'' From that declaration Rhode Island has never departed, and in it she was followed first by Pennsylvania and New Jersey, afterward by Virginia, and since by all the United States. The article on religious liberty in the amendments to the American constitution, was introduced into it by the united efforts of the Baptists, in 1789. (See Howell's Address before the American Baptist Historical Society, 1856.)
The First Baptist Church of Washington was formed by eleven persons, namely: John Franks, WilHam Harper, Z. W. Baughn, Samuel F. Yeoman, Asenath Yeoman, Bethiah L. Yeoman, N. K. Dickerson, Mary Franks, Rebecca Baughn, Rebecca Blue, and Mary Curry. These were the constituted members of the church.
For many years Asenath Yeoman was the only Baptist in Washington; but in all these days she was thoroughly grounded in the belief that a brighter day would dawn upon her vision.
The church was organized in due form on the 21st day of February, A. D. 1840.
Revs. Azel Waters and Albert Wedge, ministers, consecrated to the cause of the Master, acted as moderator and clerk. The session was held in the Presbyterian Church.
On the 24th day of December, of the same year, Rev. A. D. Freman, who was of a well known Baptist family for centuries back, was called to the pastorate.
The first protracted meeting held after the organization of the church commenced on Wednesday, January 27, 1841, in the Presbyterian House.
Rev. A. D. Freman assisted by Revs. W. D. Woodruff, and I. K. Bronson, preached the gospel earnestly and efiiciently. Many inquired the way of life.
On the 30th day of the same month, Frank Closa, George Heagler and wife, were received members by letters from sister churches.
On Wednesday, the 3d day of February, of the same year, Dr. Jeptha Davis, Lydia Davis, and Josiah Heagler were baptized.
In the year 1842, Elder W. D, Woodruif came to visit the church, and held an interesting meeting of days.
On the 24th day of August, 1844, the church through her deligates. Pastor Thomas Goodwin, E. F. Yeoman, Dr. J. Davis and J.. W. Poff, with letters from the church, applied for admission into the Straight Creek Association, held at Winchester, Adams County, Ohio, and duly admitted a member of that body on date above named.
During this year, two or three members of the church were carried away by Mormonism. These are the first expulsions noted in the records of the church. After more calm deliberations they were convinced that it was a delusion. Some of them returned.
During this year. Rev. Thomas Goodwin was called to the pastorate of the church.
In 1847, Rev. W. D. Woodruff came to Washington to live, and was called to the pastorate in place of Elder Goodwin, resigned. Being without a house to worship in, the meetings were held in the court house.
In the year 1849, the church deeming the Caesar's Creek Association (now Clinton) more conveniently situated, took a transfer from Straight Creek Association and united with the former body.
In many of its deliberations, among other matters of business, a meeting house to worship in was presented.
In 1854, Deacon Claypool offered to sell a lot, on which to build, for the sum of three hundred dollars, donating fifty dollars of the amount; S. F. Yeoman, Hugh Campbell, James Zumalt, A. M. Ogle and Dr. Allen, each gave fifty dollars and paid for the lot.
In 1856, Rev. J. W. Heistand was called to the pastorate of the church in place of Elder Woodruff, resigned.
On the 8th day of March, 1859, J. B. Tuttil, a young man of rare ability, was chosen to labor as supply for six months.
On May 18, 1861, the church called a council of messengers from several churches of the association to ordain Brother J. B. Tuttil to the ministry. Elder James Sargeant was chosen moderator, O. A. Allen clerk. After a satisfactory examination, the council set him apart to the ministry.
On December, 1862, Rev. C. T. Emerson was called to the pastorate. His energy was directed principally towards raising means to build a church.
In 1868, Rev. J. R. Powell was called to the pastorate, and he was installed on July 19, 1868, in our new house of worship erected at a cost of eight thousand dollars. Ministers present, Pastor Rev. B. Bedell, Chambers, and J. W. Heistand, a former pastor.
The first summary of membership- recorded in the minutes, is given in the meeting of February 4, 1870.
A committee had been previously appointed to revise the records, and ascertain the numerical strength of the church, which revision showed that there were seventy-seven members in good standing. The church having in thirty years increased from the original number, eleven, to seventy-seven.
In December, 1870, Rev. Winham Kidder was called to the pastorate of the church, and having served three years was called to the church above. His loss was a severe affliction to the cause.
In 1873, Rev. Armstrong was called to the pastorate.
The church took an active part in the temperance crusade during his stay with us.
In 1874, Rev. W. W. Sawyer was called to the pastorate. He was the most scholarly minister of the place.
In February 1879, Rev. S. T. Griswold was called to the pastorate, the ablest of all.
In 1880, Rev. C. A. McManis was called for six months to supply the pulpit of the church.
The report to the association this year (1881) shows a membership of ninety-one.
Thus we note that the church has been in existence almost fortytwo years, and that it has ordained one minister; that it has admitted by baptism about one hundred and thirty persons; that it began with eleven members, and has now ninety-one; that it has had but twelve pftstors.
Church Covenant.—Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior; and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we do now in presence of God, Angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
We engage therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love, to strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinahces, discipline and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry; the expenses of the church; the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations. We also engage to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be jjiist in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling and back-biting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the Kingdom of our Savior.
We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember in prayer, to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready to reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Savior; to rescue without delay.
We morever engage when we move from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's word.
The above history of the Baptist Church was kindly furnished by Dr. Allen, of Washington Court House.
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