death and sufferings of Christ. The Freewill Baptists are free communionists, extending an invitation to all members of regular standing in any of the evangelical denominations. The officers in the church are two, elders and deacons. The duty of elders, bishops or ministers, which office by either of these names includes pastors and evangelists, is to preach, administer the ordinances, and take the pastoral care of the church. Ministers are to consecrate themselves wholly to their calling, and to be sustained by the churches. No grade is acknowledged in the Christian ministry. The province of deacons is to attend to the pecuniary concerns of the churches, assist the minister in church labours, supply the communion-table, bear the elements to the communicants, and take the lead in social meetings when necessary.

Usages of the Denomination.-Government among the Freewill Baptists is not episcopal, but independent or residing in the churches. Each elects its own pastor, exercises discipline over its own members, and is not accountable to the Quarterly Meeting only as a church; that is, Quarterly Meetings cannot discipline church members, but churches only. Churches are organized, and ministers ordained, by a council from a Quarterly Meeting; and a minister, as such, is subject to the discipline of the Quarterly Meeting to which he belongs, and not to the church of which he is pastor. Believers are admitted as members of the church upon baptism or by letter, always by unanimous vote, but may be excluded by vote of two-thirds. Churches hold monthly conferences, and report once in three months to the Quarterly Meeting by letter and delegates. Though the New Testament is their book of discipline, they have usually written covenants. Some churches commune once in three months, others once in two months, others monthly. Quarterly Meetings are composed of several churches, varying in number according to circumstances. Their sessions are four times a year, continuing two and a half days. The members of a Quarterly Meeting are ministers and such brethren as the churches may select. In these associations, preachers are appointed to supply, in part, destitute churches, candidates for the ministry examined and licensed, councils appointed to attend to ordinations, &c. A Ministers' Conference is held in connexion with the Quarterly Meeting. Yearly Meetings are constituted of several Quarterly Meetings, associated in the same manner as churches are in the formation of a Quarterly Meeting. The Yearly Meetings do something at sustaining evangelists or itinerating ministers; transact the relative business of the Quarterly Meetings, and adopt other measures for the spread of the gospel. The General Conference is composed of a delegation, most of which are ministers, from all the Yearly Meetings in the connexion. It is now held once in three years, its sessions continuing some nine or ten days. Its design is to promote unity, scriptural holiness, Bible doctrine, and discipline, throughout the whole denomination. The General Conference has no powers except such as are committed to the delegates by those bodies which appoint them. It proposes and recommends, but makes not laws for the connexion. It is its proper province to deliberate on all such points of doctrine and practice as may be referred to it by the Yearly Meetings, or proposed by its own members, and give such advice as they think the Scriptures warrant, and the welfare of the connexion requires. Also to recommend such measures as may promote God's glory and the denomination's interest ; such as, Home and Foreign Missionary Societies, book concern, and printing establishment, seminaries of learning, and such other benevolent institutions as are necessary for the prosperity of the church.


Numbers.— The Freewill Baptist denomination extends now into most of the United States, Upper and Lower Canada, and the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The present number of communicants, by calculation from what statistics are on hand, is something rising 54,000. Net increase for the last year, was 3471. Number of churches, according to last year's reports, is 1057. Whole

number of ministers 898; ordained, 714 ; licensed, 184. Quarterly * Meetings, 95. Yearly Meetings, 20.

Benevolent Institutions. The “Freewill Baptist Foreign Mission Society," was organized some eight or ten years ago, and has now two stations in Orissa, three missionaries and wives, assisted by two native preachers, and a small church and a school at each station. Other missionaries are received by the society and will sail soon. “ Freewill Baptist Home Mission Society," was organized near the same time, and has a larger number of missionaries in the field, most of them in the West. “Freewill Baptist Sabbath-school Union," keeps a depository of Sabbath-school books at Dover, N. H. ; most of our churches have good Sabbath-schools. “Freewill Baptist

. Education Society," has for its leading objects the sustaining of the Biblical School, and the promoting of education in the ministry. “ New York Education Society," aids the Clinton Seminary. “Western Reserve F. B. Education Society,” aids chiefly the Freewill Baptist Western Reserve Seminary, in Ohio. There are also

other benevolent associations, particularly in the causes of temperance and anti-slavery.

Literary Institutions. The Freewill Baptists have the following academies, most of which are in a very prosperous state : “Smithville Seminary,” located at North Scituate, Rhode Island; “ Clinton Seminary," at Clinton, New York; “Parsonsfield Seminary," at Parsonsfield, Maine; “Strafford Academy," at Strafford, New Hampshire ; "Sheldon High School," at Varysburgh, New York; “Freewill Baptist Western Reserve Seminary," in the State of Ohio. They have a “ Biblical School,” in Dracut, Massachusetts, which, though yet in its infancy, promises to be of great advantage to the Freewill Baptist ministry, and consequently to the denomination. The course of studies is for three years, though students are admitted for any shorter length of time. Students in attendance 25 to 30.

The book concern and printing establishment are at Dover, New Hampshire. Its trustees are appointed by General Conference. They have a power press and several others, and most of their books are printed here,—and their periodicals, some of which are, “ Morning Star," a weekly; “ Freewill Baptist Magazine,” a quarterly; “Sabbath School Repository,” and “Freewill Baptist Missionary," monthlies. REFERENCES--Life of Randall; Buzzell's Magazine ; Life of Colby ; Freewill Baptist Treatise ; D. Marks' Narrative; Freewill Baptist Register; Star and Magazine.






Every denomination is proud of tracing its origin back to its founder. But not so with the Seventh Day Baptists. They have no authentic records by which they can ascertain their origin, other than the New Testament. Neither would they pretend that they can trace their existence back through the dark ages to the Apostles; yet they are bold to say they can do it with as much, or with more certainty, than any denomination now in existence.

The sentiments to which they hold, and the principles that distinguish them from the religious world, they think, they are able to show, were taught by the Apostles, and practised by the early Christians. That the seventh day Sabbath, was observed by the Church, until the decree of Constantine, profane history abundantly shows; and very soon all the Roman dominions felt the effects of God's law being made void by human traditions.

Although the mystery of iniquity began to work before the Apostles left the stage, it had not shown itself supported by the secular arm, until, under the pretence of doing honour to Jesus Christ, God's law was set at naught, and human laws, unjust and cruel, enacted in its stead.

In Chambers's Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, he says, “In 321, the seventh day was observed in Rome, and the enacting of Constantine's laws, relative to the observation of the first day, shows, that it was not regarded as holy time.”

Robinson in his History of Baptism says, " That there were fortyfour Jewish Christian churches in Rome, which must have been in the latter part of the second century." What is required to constitute a Jewish Christian Church, in Mr. Robinson's opinion, is evident from what he'says of the Council of Bishops, in 517. He calls them, “ African Jewish Christians.” The charge alleged against them is, that in one of their canons they had done something towards regulating the keeping of the Sabbath. It is probable that those forty-four churches in Rome, were guilty of the same offence.

Mosheim gives an account of a sect in the twelfth century, in Lombardy, who were called Passagenians, or the circumcised; they circumcised their followers, and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath. The account of their practising circumcision is doubtless a slanderous story; and, because they observed the seventh day, they were called, by way of derision, Jews.

There were Seventh Day Baptists in Transylvania. Francis Davidis, first chaplain to the court of Sigismund, the prince of that kingdom, and afterwards superintendent of all the Transylvania churches, was a Seventh Day Baptist. (Bened's Hist. vol. ii. p. 414.)

As these Eastern churches have uniformly practised immersion for baptism, these extracts show that there have been Christian churches from the earliest ages of Christianity, who agree in sentiment with the Seventh Day Baptists in America.

But it is uncertain whether the English Seventh Day Baptists originated from these Eastern churches, or whether they were led to embrace their views from the Scriptures only; their views have ever been the same as those cntertained by the earlier Christians, who have observed the seventh day of the week. At what time the Seventh Day Baptists first made their appearance in England, is uncertain. It is apparent that the Anglo-Saxons in their early settlement of Great Britain, were many of them Seventh Day Baptists. But the same tyranny that affected the Church at Rome, spread its baneful influence over the island of Great Britain.

Dr. Chambers says, “There was a sect arose in the sixteenth century but we have no particular account of their churches until about 1650.” In 1668 there were nine or ten churches, besides many scattered disciples in different parts of the kingdom. About this time there was much debate upon the subject of the Sabbath, and the controversy became sharp; there were engaged in it, on both sides, men of learning and ability, and some of their works are still extant.

While they were permitted to enjoy their privileges peaceably, they prospered, notwithstanding the influence of the pulpit and the press, In 1668 Mr. Edward Stennett, a Seventh Day Baptist minister, and pastor of a church in England, writes to his friends in America, and says, the churches here have their liberty, but we hear that strong bonds are making for us. And it was this good man's lot to bear a part of the persecutions of that day. For the Conventicle Act forbid them to meet on the Sabbath for worship at any rate. If they met

« ElőzőTovább »