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More on July 4, 1821, and History of the Baptist Church

[From: The Daily Journal, July 24, 1882]

When giving an account of the celebration of the 4th of July, 1821, in this town, the following Hymn escaped me. It was written for the occasion and sung in the Baptist Church after the delivery of the oration by Mr. John H. Bryan. From the oration I make further quotations as particularly appropriate to this time and which may be of benefit to those coming after us as well as to ourselves:

Hymn for the Fourth of July
To thee, Most High, we humbly bow,
  Confess thee Lord and God of all;
Thy subjects in thy realms below
  Prostrate before thy footstool fall.
Responsive to the heavenly choirs
  Who chant thy praise in realms above
We strike on earth our humble lyres
  And laud thee God of Truth and Love.
The people thou delight’st to bless
  May they thy steadfast goodness prove
‘Stablish us firm in righteousness
  And fit us for thy courts above.
Give to our sires that precious boon
  Freedom, a spark of heavenly birth;
Let its heart-cheering rays illume
  The farthest regions of the earth.
The independence of our land—
  For this a nation’s song we raise;
Our sons shall fill the patriot band
  And emulate their fathers’ lays.
To our eternal Father, God
  Be all the praise and glory giv’n
By all who march in virtue’s road
  And all our friends enthroned in heav’n.

To quote again from Mr. Bryan:

Shall European slaves lay land and sea, genius and taste, under contribution to celebrate the birth-day of some cold and selfish tyrant? and shall we raise no trophy of feeling to the day of our emancipation—to the day that made us men? Alas! “there be who barren hearts avow,” there are men who vainly think that they manifest firmness and strength of mind by refusing any extraordinary homage to this National jubilee. But, fellow soldiers, we envy not these men their feelings; let us desolation of heart which is congenial to such sentiments.

And again—

Let us turn, fellow soldiers, from the bloody ordeal of the Revolution, and contemplate with gratitude the blessings which it has secured to us. We are naturally more alive to the value of any good by being deprived of it than by its enjoyment, and therefore we who have always lived under a free constitution are the less sensible of its inestimable benefits. Here, religion, life, liberty and property are secured by the impregnable barriers of the constitution; the persecuted exile of every land here find an asylum—upon the rock of our constitution he may stand, and say to the floods of oppression: “Here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” If we contrast our situation with the most favored nation of Europe, we shall find abundant cause for joy and felicitation.

What harp but her own can sing the woes of Erin? Not content with devouring with the greediness of a glutton the abundant produce of her happy clime, the stranger interferes between her conscience and her God, and prescribes what service shall be rendered unto Him who searcheth all hearts. Oh Erin! with thee are our sympathies, and unto thee shall our arms ever be wide extended.

The Baptist Church here alluded to is not the Church on Middle street that was opened for Divine service the first time on Sunday July 2d, 1848; Rev. M.R. Forey, the pastor, preached the dedicatory sermon. I refer to the Church near Cedar Grove Cemetery, now St. Cyprians, colored. This Baptist Church was established in Newbern about 1812, by Elijah Clark and John Brinson and the “Meeting House,” as it pleased them to call it, was soon erected, through their liberality and efforts—men of rugged minds, yet of unquestioned honesty and of unyielding faith. Brinson’s father had been imprisoned with Fulshire and Purify for “holding to the Baptist faith,” the King’s officer thus chose to spell it in the indictment. They were held in the jail of Craven county for three months and were yet stronger in their faith when the prison doors were unlocked than when locked upon them.—In this old Meeting House for long years the gospel was preached with unusual eloquence, clearness and power. The first regular pastor was Thomas Meredith, a great preacher and greater editor, and an unsurpassed controversialist. Next was Joseph Warn, then Samuel Wait and John Armstrong; Meredith again, then Josiah J. Finch, Richard Furman and M.R. Forey, in the order in which they are named. Mr. Meredith commenced the publication of the Baptist Interpreter in Edenton in 1832. A year or two afterwards it was changed to the Biblical Recorder. In 1835 he published it in Newbern, preaching at the same time, and until 1838 when he removed to Raleigh where he continued its publication until he died in 1850. The Biblical Recorder has been through various hands since and is now under the very able and popular management of a Christian gentleman and scholar, Rev. C.T. Baily. This paper, as well as the old Baptist Church in Newbern, has been of incalculable benefit to the Baptist cause in North Carolina. The following card from Mr. Clark requires no explanation. The Presbyterian Church was not then finished as we will presently show. The Baptists were liberal with their church and we find, at the date the card was written it being used on every occasion by other denominations and by our citizens.

A Card.
Being again informed by respectable friends of a report in circulation that the Presbyterian Clergy are deprived of the privilege of preaching in the Baptist Meeting House, and that I am the principal cause, I feel it a duty to owe the Church to which I am attached to contradict it in the most distinct terms. It is true no other than our own Minister has preached in our Meeting House for some time past, but it is because others have not asked the privilege. This is intended, however, barely to contradict a report known by the members of the Presbyterian Church not to be true; and to remove any improper impression it may have left on the minds of others, and those perhaps who may have been the most liberal towards us. Our Meeting House, when not in the immediate use of our own Minister, has been at all times open (on proper application being made) to the Clergy of every Christian sect; and in this instance, on either the morning or evening of each Sabbath, our own Minister has been willing to give place to another.
Elijah Clark.
Newbern, Jany. 13th, 1821.

Our fathers of the Baptist persuasion did not like to call the place of worship church. They were not then far enough away from the established church of England and the revolutionary war and the punishment of the elder Brinson to become reconciled to it. The corner stone of the Presbyterian Church was laid the 9th day of June, 1819, the Rev. L. Nicholson Campbell officiated in the religious services of the occasion. The following notice will give the time of its dedication:

The people are respectfully informed that the Presbyterian Church will be opened for religious worship on the next Lord’s day, 20th January, 1822. The exercises will commence at the usual hour, and the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper will be administered during service in the morning.

No appropriation of the pews having yet been made, the whole will continue open for public use. The four largest next the door are intended to be hereafter reserved expressly for the accommodation of strangers and visitors from sister congregations, and are designated for the purpose by a suitable inscription on each door.

Newbern, Jan. 19th, 1822.

The Rev. L. D. Hatch preached the dedicatory sermon. The pews in this church were disposed of as follows:

The pews in the Presbyterian Church will be publicly offered for sale or rent on Monday, the 28th instant, at 4 o’clock, p.m., on the premises.
Notes with approved security, payable in installments at six, twelve, and eighteen months, will be required in payment for the fee simple—and similar at twelve months for the rent.
By order of the Board,
S.M. Chester, Sec’y.
Saturday, January 26th, 1822.

Dr. Samuel Wait is known throughout North Carolina by his pupils as the loved and honored President of Wake Forest College, and it so happened that the old Baptist Church in Newbern furnished another distinguished officer of that “Institute,” as the subjoined paper will show. Mr. Armstrong was at the time it was written pastor of the Newbern church.

Wake Forest Institute.
The following is the general outline of the plan of the Institution, adopted at the late sitting of the Board of Managers:
1. The name of the institution is the “Wake Forest Institute.”
2. The object of the Institute is to enable young Ministers to obtain an education on moderate terms, and to train up youth in general to the knowledge and science of practical agriculture.
3. Every pupil shall labor three hours a day, under the direction of an experienced and scientific farmer, subject to the control of the principal teacher, who is to be a Minister of the Gospel.
4. The total expenses of the Academic year shall not exceed $60, of which $25 are to be paid in advance, and an allowance shall be made to each student according to the value of his labor.
5. No pupil shall be admitted under twelve years of age.
6. Every pupil shall furnish himself with an axe and a hoe, a pair of sheets and a pair of towels.
7. There shall be one vacation in the year, from the middle of December to the 1st of February.
8. This Institute shall be open to the reception of all youth of good moral character, who will comply with the above regulations.
Arrangements are now making to carry into effect the objects of the Institute by the 1st of February.
All persons who wish to enter the Institute are requested to make application by the 15th December to the Rev. J. G. Hall of Raleigh (postpaid).
All editors of the State friendly to the Institute are requested to give the above an insertion in their papers.
John Armstrong, Cor. Sec.

The Rev. Josiah J. Finch, so long the pastor of the Baptist Church here, was educated at this College, or he was there for awhile and from a plain country boy by industry and perseverance soon become distinguished in his church, as a minister.

What our boys would think now of starting off to school with a hoe and axe, they must state, yet pupils from this place went there armed with such instruments, though they as all others disliked the work and it soon had to be abandoned.

I am aware I have just touched upon the history of the churches named, though I may have given some information unknown to their oldest members now living, and I trust it will prove of interest to all of them. D.

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