Printed association minutes from the 19th and early 20th centuries include annual reports and historical essays from member congregations. The oldest living association of Baptists in the Americas is the Philadelphia Baptist Association (PBA), which this year celebrates its 300th birthday. Before Baptists formed associations in New England, Ohio, New York, the West Indies, Virginia, and the Carolinas, these regions sent messengers and letters to the PBA. In 1851, A. D. Gillette published records from the first hundred years of the PBA. His volume is still available in reprinted editions.
In the 1930s, many of the manuscript originals were given to the Historical Society and researcher Katie White discovered recently that some letters had not been published by Gillette. The following letter from Charleston, South Carolina, is one of those not published and appears here as an appropriate tribute to the “mother“ association for Baptists in the Americas. Spelling and capitalization are original, but with some changes in punctuation by the editor.
We received Your Affectionate Letter and are very glad to hear from You: We wish You a happy meeting. The Lord bless You with the light of life: We have been together three days and expect to part this evening, nor have we any reason to Suspect, but we shall part in peace, as we dwell together: Thanks be to God, we have had a pleasant season – glad Tydings have come from all our Churches – Some have been added to them all this Year: So that our Zion is like a Flock of Sheep that are even shorn which comes up from the washing, whose of every one Beareth twins and none is barren among them,
We hope to hear from You again Next Year – we should be Sorry our Correspondence should drop, as we believe it may be Helpful. Excuse our Appointing No Messenger, for it could not be conveniently done. We request Your prayers, and conclude, Beloved in the Lord, Farewell.
Signed in behalf of the Association:
Aug: 18th 1774
By J. Marks Moderator
First Baptist Church of Charleston had a close relationship with the Philadelphia Baptist Association, calling in 1749 the Rev. Oliver Hart of Pennsylvania as their pastor. In 1751 Hart led in organizing the
new Charleston Association of Baptists. Drawing on the experience of their mother association as a model, organizers used an “Essay on the Nature, Power, and Duty of an Association,” by Benjamin Griffith of the Philadelphia Baptist Association (from “South Carolina Baptists” and “Oliver Hart” entries in William Cathcart, ed. , The Baptist Encyclopedia).
After thirty years as the beloved pastor of Charleston Baptists, Hart moved to Hopewell, New Jersey, serving as minister of this leading church in the Philadelphia Baptist Association. At his funeral in 1795, two ministers preached, one from Philadelphia and the other from First Baptist of Charleston, the Rev. Dr. Richard Furman, Sr. Publishing a comprehensive microfilm edition of PBA records, including those held by other institutions, is one of the projects for which ABHS seeks funding as part of its capital campaign, History Matters. If you are aware of other unpublished letters to the Philadelphia Baptist Association, please let us know.
Copyright Notice: While you are encouraged to share ABHS news with your friends, congregation, association and region, please note that original manuscript excerpts in “From the Archives” are previously unpublished, and as such are copyrighted materials. To reprint any “From the Archives” article, please contact us for permission.
Source: ABHS Primary Source, Volume 5, Number 3, July/August 2007, Page 3