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'Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn and fear the Lord your God; and that their children which have not known anything, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God.' DEUTERONOMY XXXI, 12, 13.
• The annals of an oppressed and struggling church,' says a distinguished historian, are far more likely to afford events of powerful interest, than those of a dominant hierarchy; for it is in seasons of distress and suffering, of privation, contumely, and persecution, that the loftier passions of our nature are elicited. It is equally true that in circumstances like these, the strength, dignity, and glory of the christian character is most fully developed, and the purity of a true religion most clearly exhibited. Perhaps the world has not witnessed a brighter illustration of these remarks, than the history of the trials, conflicts, and sufferings of our own denomination furnishes, and especially the detailed history of many of our individual churches.
From the slight view we have been able to take of this field, we are convinced that it is rich in all that variety of moral incident, and religious association, which one might desire as an inspiration to his own feelings, as well as to invest its history with interest and importance.
The historical incidents of many of our older churches, are few and scattered; a single record of their orginization, with a few rays of traditionary light, is all that has come down to us from this most interesting period of their existence. Hence, little comparatively can be known of the particular circumstances which gave them birth : of the local influences which called them into being; of the trials, sufferings, conflicts, through which they were called to pass. One thing, however, is certain, that if the early movements of our denomination bear but an ordinary relation to those which are more recent; if, as is usually the case, persecution and suffering increase in proportion as we go back to the rise of a sect; then, in the circumstances of our incipient organization, there must have been trials and privations of which we can form but indistinct conceptions. A distant and general view of these times, based, however, upon correct data respecting the character of affairs in the church, is all that can be obtained. Yet even this, limited as it may seem, will throw much light upon the subject; and if we can succeed in collecting these scattered rays, they may serve as a taper, at least, to guide us along the often obscure path of our early history.
The only record that can be found of the constitution of this church, is as follows: ‘1743 the First Baptist Church in Stonington was constituted; Mr. Wait Palmer was ordained their watchman the same year.' But of the names and numbers of its original members, of the churches and ministers who composed the council of recognition, we have from the records no information. Indeed there is an entire blank from 1743 to 1762, embracing a period of nineteen years, about which little can be known, save what can be gleaned from tradition, and collateral history. It must be borne in mind, however, that the date which marks the rise of this church, carries us far back into the history of our denomination in this country.
Though from the banishment of Williams, Baptist sentiments had prevailed in Rhode Island, and were gradually making progress in other sections of the country, yet, about this time,' says Backus, there appears to have been but ten churches in Massachusetts, none in New Hampshire, none in Vermont, and but one in Connecticut. The First Baptist Church in Groton was constituted as early as 1705; of the immediate circumstances of its origin we have no definite information.
It is, however, worthy of record, that the date of its organization is the same that marked a general combination on the part of the dominant ministry, for an increase of power over the churches.
Not succeeding in Massachusetts, the experiment was made in Connecticut with more
On the death of the third governor Winthrop in 1707, they succeeded in electing as governor a clergyman favorable to the scheme. This issued in the construction and establishment of a form of discipline, famous in history as the Saybrook Platform. Whether the dissatisfaction arising from this usurpation of power by the ministry, in many sections of