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II. More on Scottish Colonial Religion-Baptists

Dear Cousins,

Make sure you read the previous history message first.  This is # II and
taken from “The Scotch-Irish--A social History” by James G. Leyburn.

 Suddenly, in 1738, a religious transformation began to take place.  John
and Charles Wesley had recently been stirring up the Church of England; now
their collaborator, the fiery evangelist George Whitefield, made the first
of his seven visits to America.  Traveling from Georgia to New England, he
spoke with compelling force directly to the hearts of men, not to their
minds.  Whith him “the Great Awakening” began to sweep the colonies.
Whitefield had no qualms about offending good taste; religion to him was of
such consuming importance that nothing else mattered.  He made vivid God’s
love, the reality of sin, the agony of hell, the bliss of heaven.  Creeds
did not concern him; the condition of a man’s sould did.  Wherever he went,
whether in towns or in the back-country, he drew enormous crowds, who heard
him with almost desperate eagerness.  He figuratively set colonial America
ablaze with religious fervor, drawing into his evangelical orbit dozens of
ministers who had caught a new vision of their calling.  Whitefield probably
excited more interest than any other contemporary, and certainly he
furnished more themes for discussion and argument.

 Few denominations were more drastically affected by the Great Awakening
than the Presb.  Conservatives were contemptuous of Whitefield’s style...and
sure that the church would degrade itself by diluting its message and making
religion “easy” for the common man.  Other Presb., however, regarded
Whitefild as a true and timely prophet.......By 1745 this divergence of
opionion had reached a stage of such virulence that the Presb. Church
underwent a schism.  Those opposed to the new evangelical attitudes and
methods were called the Old Side, and those who favored these, the New Side
or the New Lights....(much good insight and info)

 ---Dear Cousins,  be very clear about what you are reading now.  This was
NOT  new doctrine.  It was not some new religious Sect with ideas that
contradicted the Bible that we see grow rampantly today, but the question
concerned the manner in which religion should be experienced and promoted.
Don’t try to view the past with what  you see today.  The historically
uninformed of today like to say “see your ancestors rejected the Established
church in the early days just like we are today when we turn to mystisism
and Eastern religions.  Your ancestors would never have done that.  It
simply is not a comparable thing and can’t be used to justify the choices
made today.  They are the choices of this century and would never have been
entertained for a second by your ancestors! Put bluntly, the argument was
whether the Presb. Church should ocntinue in its accustomed ways or
recognize the fact that America needed new and different ways to
communicate.  Some later commentators have seen these issues of 1745 as only
“differences between tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum”, to Presb. of that time
they were so vital that “men would have been crucified for thse points of

 It was in this setting that Tennent’s Log College experiment begam tp bear
re,arlab;e friot/  Mew Soders rea;ozed tjat tje cjircj cpi;d mever
accp,[;osj ots tasl sp ;pmg as ot jad tp de[emd i[pm ,omosters traomed
abroad; they also saw that such ministers would naturally lean toward
conservative Old Side attitudes.  In 1746, therefore, the New Side Presb. of
NJ founded at Princeton a college, patterened after Harvard and Yale, whose
purpose should be to train and send forth a host of American ministers. In
one sense, the founding of this college by the NJ Presb. was a declaration
of Independence from Scotland and England.  New Side ministers recognizing
the need for education, now began to conduct school classes in their manses.
Having got a start in such informal schools, bright youths could then go on
to the large “academies” that soon began to be a part of the Presb.
landscape in the colonies.  (many academies listed especially towards the
south).  Throughout the colonies it was well known that Calvinists, whether
the Puritans of NE or the Presb. took the lead in promoting higher

 In spite of all the expansion of education and the remarkable missionary
accomplishment, the church could not begin to meet the religious needs of
the 200,000 Scotch-Irish who by 1776 were filling the back-country and
steadily increasing their large families.  The church now was vividly awre
of the spiritual needs of the people.  Presb. ordered pastors to leave their
congregations to make missionary journeys among the settlements--preaching,
performing marriages, administering the sacraments, consoling the ill and
bereaved.  Young men who wished to enter the ministry were not ordained
until they had visited the frontier.  Yet thousands of Scotch-Irish were
without the care of a church or minister, and had been for years.

 What Presby. could not do, BAPTISTS accomplished.  All the ardor and
adaptability displayed by the former following the Great Awakening could not
overcome the major obstacle of insufficient numbers of ministers.  One
fuindamental Presb. commitment stood in the way:  the clergy must be well
educated.  Baptists had no such requirement.  To them the gospel was simple,
uncomplicated, within the reach of all.  Neither Christ nor his disciples
had been university men, and Christ’s final command had directed ordinary
persons to preach the Gospel to all men.  More than this, it required no
complex organization to form a Baptist church; the approval of no Presb. or
other ecclesiastical court was involved.  A group of like-minded Christians
could for a congregation and select as their minister a dedicated Baptist
who feld the “call.”  He was forthwith a miinister, endowed, as he felt, by
God’ds grace to perform all the functions of his office.  While Presb. were
spending six years or more at gret expense getting ready to preach, Baptists
were already at work--and more of them every year.
 At times the zealous young Baptist ministers and missionawries and
exhorters could not even read or could read only haltingly; but they knew
many passages of the Bible from memory and could speak directly to the
hearts of their ready listeners about the great issues of life and death,
sin and hell, faith and heaven.  The form of Baptist government no doubt
made easy the work of the ministers, for the...

 At the close of the colonial period the Presb. Church was still predominant
amont the Scotch-Irish, but its monopoly was fast being undermined.  Here is
a table showing the number of ministers at work in the 4 major denominations
in 1776.

    New  Middle
         England  & South Total  per cent
Congregational  1650  113  1763     35
Episcopalian      127  1136  1263     25
Baptist       217    391     680      12
Presb.          51    462      513       10

So much more good information in this book on this subject:  You better go
buy it!!!

 Nex message will be about Colonial Scottish Methodists and Quakers


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