The Welsh revival spreads to America
The Philadelphia Association of Regular Baptists began meeting as early as 1688, in what they called general, and some-times yearly meetings. The business of these meetings was confined to the ministry of the Word and the administration of the gospel ordinances. But at their meeting July 27, 1707 they seem to have taken more the form of an association, therefore this is the date that historians use for the founding of the Philadelphia Association. The members and ministers that made up these churches came from the great Welsh migration in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Such leaders as Jenkins Jones, Abel Morgan, and Samuel Jones brought with them their tradition of great preaching, love of singing, and warm and fervent evangelism. They were a feeble, though faithful, band of believers at that time, consisting of but five churches: Lower Dublin, Piscataqua, Middletown, Cohansie, and Welsh Tract. There were only 14 Baptist churches in all of the colonies at that time. Some things that were discussed in their meeting were things wanting in the churches especially pertaining to who was not to preach in their associational meetings. “…a person that is a stranger, that has neither letter of recommendation, nor is known to be a person gifted, and of good conversation, shall not be admitted to preach, nor be entertained as a member in any of the baptized congregations in communion with each other.” They were careful to emphasize that they desired no creed and that a “Gospel church is the highest earthly ecclesiastical tribunal and is in no wise subject to any other church, or the decrees of associations or councils. They believed strongly in the sovereignty of God, but kept a fiery spirit of evangelism.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 307-09.
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Oct. 23, 1808 – In their associational meeting at Waggoner’s Creek in New Providence, Mississippi, the messengers discussed the fact that the Salem Baptist Church building had been constructed on public land, and what steps needed to be taken to secure title. In 1811, the members of the church petitioned the U.S. Congress for special legislation to enable them to purchase the land where the building was erected. Congress passed the legislation and it went to President James Madison for his signature but he vetoed the bill with the following explanation. First he commended the Baptists in their desire to preserve the separation of religion and state with these words, “Among the various religious societies in our country, none has been more vigilant and consistent in maintaining that distinction…of which you make a part. He then vetoed the bill, making it clear that Salem Baptist was not seeking a gift from government but only a legal remedy for their situation. It must be remembered that it was James Madison who, at the insistence of John Leland and the Baptists in Virgina had composed the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted in 1789. Madison considered selling public property to the church as violating the clause, “respecting the establishment of religion.” The problem was solved when a member Salem Baptist purchased the land and then sold it to the membership of the church. [John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists (Nashville: Boardman Press, 1922), 2:338. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 579-81.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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He made it clear that all associations are entirely “voluntary”.
December 06, 1821 – The First State convention was formed in South Carolina, “for the promotion of evangelical and useful knowledge, by means of religious education and the support of missionary service among the destitute…and the promotion of the true interest of the churches of Christ in general, and of their union, love and harmony in particular.” And yet again, “The Convention shall recognize the independence and liberty of the Churches of Christ, and consequently shall not in any case arbitrarily interfere with their spiritual obligations.” Denominational colleges were begun rapidly in the states that followed the pattern of establishing state conventions. The first cohesive effort among Baptists began in 1707. It was for the purpose of educating its ministers and the spread of the gospel in the world. The growth of associations was very slow among the Baptist churches for fear of the assumption of power by the associations. It was 60 years after the Philadelphia Association that the Warren Association, of Rhode Island was formed. It was only after assurances from men like Edward T. Hiscox in his Baptist Directory (1866) did the growth of the associations proliferate. He made it clear that all associations are entirely “voluntary”. No church or individual was obligated to unite with them and they “can leave them when they wish.” The research by Robert G. Gardner reveals that in 1780 there were approximately 1066 Baptist churches in America and only 14 Associations, representing 286 churches which were less than 25%. However that was to change drastically when Luther Rice returned from the field from India. The birth of the Triennial Convention for the cause of missions, the development of associations and state conventions became a reality.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 508-10.