New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
And the Introduction of the New Church into America
THIS year is the hundredth since the first tidings of the Second Coming of the Lord were declared in Philadelphia. The opening of the higher truths of His Word, and by their means all things being made new by the Lord, were announced by James Glen in 1784.
The circumstances were interesting and remarkable, and the Hand of Divine Providence may be recognised very plainly, now we look back at the chain of events, and see how the different links were then connected one with the other in a marvellous manner.
Mr. Glen was a Scotch gentleman who had been to purchase an estate in Demarara, British Guiana, South America, in 1783; himself then about 33 years of age, a man of a pious and admirable character, of brilliant intellectual powers, and great learning, especially in the original languages of the Sacred Scriptures.
Having purchased a plantation, Mr. Glen was returning home to make his final arrangements, and was gratified to find in the captain of the ship a highly intelligent companion. They had many interesting conversations, and at length, noticing Mr. Glen was of a free and open disposition, not narrowed by religious prejudices, the captain told him he had a very remarkable book on board, written in Latin, by a very extraordinary man. It was entitled De Coelo et Inferno—the work on Heaven and Hell—which he commended to Mr. Glen's favourable attention.
As he read the work, Mr. Glen became all astonishment, first at the nature of the information the book conveys, and secondly at the goodness of Divine providence which had unexpectedly brought him into so peculiar a situation that, when he had the time to ponder much over Divine things, such a book was offered for his perusal. While sailing on the surface of the great deep of waters beneath him, his eyes were opened to behold an abyss of truths above and around him. Mr. Glen declared he had now arrived at the happiest period of his life, which thus brought to his view the glories of the heavenly state, and the stupendous realities of the eternal world.
Mr. Glen was in London, when he saw the advertisement by Mr. Hindmarsh, announcing a meeting to be commenced in a Chamber of the Inner Temple, near Fleet Street, on Thursday, December 19th, 1783. He went, and was delighted to find the few zealous friends gathered together, who were equally charmed to hear of his gladness at the views of the Divine Truth, of which he had to speak. At the same meeting, the Rev. Joshua Gilpin, a young clergyman of great piety and uncommon ability, was introduced by Mr. Hindmarsh, as a warm receiver, who afterwards became a curate of Fletcher the saintly Vicar of Madeley, and probably introduced to the vicar and Mrs. Fletcher the writings of Swedenborg, which it is certain they in due time learned highly to esteem.
When Mr. Glen returned to America, in 1784, instead of going direct to Demarara, he was led by his zeal for the New Truths to land in Philadelphia, the city named from Brotherly Love, to deliver some lectures on the new views he so highly prized. The place was certainly very appropriately named, since Philadelphia meant the same as John. And John, by his representation among the Apostles, and by his character, was the fit emblem of Brotherly Love. "I, John," said the Apostle, "saw the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven." The Johns are the only ones who can truly and fully see the New Jerusalem descend.
It is to be hoped there were many Johns in Philadelphia, where, it is interesting to notice, the New Church Convention HAS BEEN ASSEMBLED THIS YEAR, after a century of growth; and with a great result, visible and invisible, since the time Mr. Glen first addressed a very small audience there, in Bell's Auction Room, in Third Street, on the Science of Correspondence, in June 1784.
He travelled through various parts of Pensylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, as a herald doing what he could to make the Truth known; but it was the day of very small things. All seeds are small. Mr. Glen, before leaving England, had packed a box of books, partly at his own expense, and partly contributed by the good-will of others. This box was to come after him, but did not reach Philadelphia until he had left the city. It was, however, taken in by Mr. Bell, in whose room Mr. Glen had lectured, who shortly after died. Mr. Bell's effects were sold, and these books among them. At that time there were already translated into English part of the first volume of the Arcana, done at the expense of Swedenborg himself, in 1750; the Doctrine of Life, translated by Cookworthy, in 1763; the Heaven and Hell, prepared and published by Cookworthy and Hartley, in 1778; and the True Christian Religion, translated by Mr. Clowes, and published in 1781. The Brief Exposition had also been published at this time.
How many of these works were in the box sent to Mr. Glen I am not aware, but at the sale Mr. Bailey, printer to the State of Pensylvania, and one of the deacons of the Presbyterian Church in Pine Street, Philadelphia, bought some, and with his wife was led to read and heartily to embrace the important and sublime truths they contained. Some of the descendants of the Baileys are now active and esteemed members of the church in Philadelphia.
A Miss Barclay, who resided in Mr. Bell's family, a pious and intelligent lady, embraced the doctrines, and united with the rest to form at first a small company for reading the works containing the heavenly doctrines. These were soon joined by others, and Mr. Bailey wrote to Mr. Hindmarsh for more books, which were immediately sent, and some he reprinted and circulated at his own expense.
Judge Young, of Greensburgh, reprinted the True Christian Religion, in 1788, ant the celebrated Dr. Benj. Franklin was one of the subscribers for the book.
Several remarkable visitors or emigrants settled in Philadelphia, about the same time, thus increasing the focus of New Church light and love in the United States.
The Rev. Jacob Duché, head pastor of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, had been compelled to leave the city during the War of Independence, and he decided to reside in London until peace was concluded. He was in London Chaplain and Secretary of the Orphan Asylum, and one of the most popular preachers of the day. He received the Heavenly Doctrines, and became a valued friend of Mr. Hartley and Mr. Clowes. He and his family returned to Philadelphia soon after the visit of Mr. Glen, and so added an important element to the little company. Soon after, a greatly valued and excellent clergyman, the Rev. Wm. Hill, who translated the six volumes of the Apocalypse Explained, emigrated to America, and in a short time married the eldest daughter of the Rev. Mr. Duché, who after many years of happy married life returned to this country, and was greatly beloved for her most amiable and Christian character, and as the widow of the Rev. W. Hill. She died in Edinburgh, in December, 1836.
Miss Bailey, in a letter to C. Raquet, Esq., in 1837, ,mentions that about this early time, from the year 1789 to 1794, they were visited by several interesting foreigners, among whom were Col. Julius Van Rohr, a Swede, who had seen Swedenborg and knew his family. He possessed all his writings, theological and philosophical. There was also Mr. Chalmer, or Charing, a Danish gentleman, in some diplomatic capacity, who had also seen Swedenborg, and highly valued his works.
Thus all was arranged by Divine Providence to comfort and strengthen the small flock in the New World, so that the two great branches of the English-speaking people might equally rejoice in the New Light, and extend its radiation by these good works which enable men to glorify their Father in the heavens. From these small beginnings a visible New Church Society was commenced in Philadelphia, and in a short time another in Bedford, in the same state (Pensylvania), to which the excellent Miss Barclay had removed to reside with her brother. Her intelligent and spiritual conversations led to the establishment of a Society, which ever held her memory in tenderest regard. Baltimore preceded Philadelphia in having a distinct place of worship and separate society, for in 1792 the Rev. James Wilmer, of the Church of England, cordially embraced the doctrines and led the way in a regular church.
In the year 1798 two ministers belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, having received the principles of the New Jerusalem Church, separated themselves from their former connection, and published their reasons for this step in a vigorous farewell address to the Episcopal Methodists of Baltimore. Their names were Adam Fonerden and John Hargrove.
They addressed their farewell to the Rev. John Harper, resident minister, and the members of the Episcopal Church in Baltimore. The American Methodists have bishops. We extract a portion of their address:
"As a very important change has taken place in our sentiments respecting an article of the Christian creed, which in our view is one of the most essential, and which, if erroneous, of consequence must have its influence upon all other doctrines which flow from it, or are connected with it; and as we already feel that this change will subject us in future to considerable embarrassment, or what is far worse, unfaithfulness in our public ministration and services; we have therefore, after the most solemn and serious consideration of the subject and its consequences, both with respect to the welfare of the church to which until now we have been connected, as well as that of our own souls, come to this conclusion: That it is best for us peaceably and quietly to withdraw ourselves and resign our membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church; that we may more consistently enjoy our present religious sentiments in a state of perfect freedom, and act accordingly. Upon a retrospect of our general conduct amongst you for thirty years past, we trust none of you can find just cause to suspect our sincerity when we declare to you, that no base considerations of any hind have influenced us, but that we do in our hearts believe that it is now required of us to take this unexpected and unpopular step—a step not unattended, on our parts, with much regret."
They proceed further to say: "We conceive it may be consistent with our present duty, calmly and meekly to mention that the leading article in which we differ from you is the doctrine of the Trinity, concerning which we beg leave to say that we think this doctrine as generally apprehended to be neither consistent with, nor reconcileable to Scripture or reason, to wit, that the Trinity in the Godhead consists of three distinct Divine Persons, each of whom separately, and by himself, is very and eternal God. On the contrary, we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead—who is the Everlasting Father as well as the Son, who hath declared that He and the Father are One, and that he that seeth Him seeth the Father—is the true and only God of heaven and earth, and that in Him is a Divine Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: that the Divinity within Him is the Father, the Humanity is the Son, and the Divine Proceeding thence is the Holy Ghost, constituting one adorable and gracious object of Christian worship."
Our space compels us to be brief, but the address was signed Baltimore, June 5th, 1798.—Adam Fonerden, John Hargrove.
Mr. Hargrove now openly preached the new doctrines in a chapel hired for the purpose, in conjunction with Mr. Ralph Mather, a gentleman who had also been a Methodist, and often in England had preached the doctrines in the open air when he became a New Churchman, and now had emigrated and settled in Baltimore. A temple was in a short time erected, and Mr. Hargrove for many years lived to preach the truths he loved with great success.
He appears to have been much esteemed, for on the 26th of December, 1802, he preached at the Capitol in the city of Washington, before the President and Congress, on the leading doctrines of the New Jerusalem. The sermon was printed. In 1804 he preached again before both Houses of Congress, on the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment, which was also published.
In 1816, the first temple was erected in Philadelphia, and a Sunday School commenced, under the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Carll, whom at a later period I saw in this country. The same year a Society was formed in New York, and societies and ministers of various religious bodies who received the welcome light showed themselves in various parts of the States, with wonderful activity and vigour, and soon surrounded themselves with earnest disciples. Church of England ministers, Methodist ministers, Presbyterian ministers, Unitarian ministers dotted all up and down hailed the New Light, and declared their conviction that God is Love, and Jesus Christ is God. Our space will not suffer us to expand upon this attractive theme, but the commencement of the Boston Society, which took place in 1818, and which is related by the Rev. Mr. Carll in the American New Church Repository, for October, 1818, is so intrinsically interesting, and pioneered such important results, that we are sure our readers would not wish us to pass it over:
"Steam Boat, Fulton, August 21st, 1818. My dear Friend and Brother,—At the conclusion of my last I promised you an account of the state of our Society, as well as our proceedings, in the town of Boston. We arrived there on the afternoon of Wednesday, and, as you may well suppose, were most joyfully received by our friends, who, had for some time been expecting us. We went immediately to Dr. M——'s, the only one whose dwelling was known to us, where he received us with his accustomed urbanity and politeness, and soon introduced us to our other friends. The afternoon of Saturday was appointed for the organisation of the Society, the place of meeting Dr. M——'s. The ceremony of organisation was preceded by the baptism of those adults, nine in number, who had never before received that sacred ordinance, as it was considered more orderly to receive this rite previous to signing the articles of faith. The articles of faith of the Lord's New Church, as contained in the Philadelphia Liturgy, were then distinctly read and signed by all present; the whole concluded with a prayer that the Lord would bless what had been thus auspiciously begun, and that the brother who had been appointed by the united voice of the Society as their Leader would be strengthened and supported in the fulfilment of the pleasing duties assigned him. The Society has much reason to rejoice that the Lord has raised up for them a young man of such pious inclinations and promising abilities, to conduct the solemnities of their worship; and the church at large have to hope from his future labours in the Lord's New Vineyard. On Lord's Day a public meeting, which had been previously announced, was held in Boylston Hall, a spacious room, elegantly and conveniently furnished, and calculated to contain about a thousand people. At an early hour the house was filled, and the worship conducted according to the form used in the temple at Philadelphia. The service of the morning was concluded by the celebration of the Holy Supper, of which twenty-six of our own members partook, and several others who were unknown to us. My dear friend, this was a most affecting and interesting spectacle, to behold so many to whom the opportunity had never, with the exception of one or two, been afforded of sitting round a table spread by the Lord Himself, and dedicated to Him alone. The devotions were rendered more solemn by the tones of an excellent organ, which was touched with great taste by a gentleman amateur, who volunteered his services in the morning, and by Dr. Jackson in the afternoon. The two discourses, which were the first of the New Dispensation, avowedly such, ever delivered in Boston, were listened to with much respect and attention by numerous audiences, and there was a manifest desire evinced of hearing more. Indeed, there appears to be a void in the hearts of many here, which nothing but a Redeemer such as the New Church has to declare, an Almighty Saviour, can fill and fully satisfy. In the evening we had a meeting of the members at Dr. M——'s, where, after a farewell sermon and hymn, we parted with those feelings of pain which flow from the separation of hearts united by Christian love and affection, which were mingled, however, with the pleasing assurance that it was only a temporary separation."
The young man who was chosen as Leader was Thomas Worcester, afterwards Dr. Worcester, who was so highly efficient in the Lord's hands in leading the Society onwards to numbers, efficiency, and influence of the most remarkable kind. Boston increased so as at present it has not only the greatest number of members of any New Church Society in the world, but became the mother of twenty other Societies in the State of Massachusetts, of which it is the capital.
Since, that time numbers of earnest and devoted men have laboured with admirable love and energy, Hurdus, Field, Sewall, Reed, Seward, Hibbard, Barrett, Goddard, Giles, and many others, with some little differences in their course of action, but all promoting that knowledge and love of our blessed Lord Jesus, which is to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Mr. Glen, with whose name we started, came several times to England, and took part in the early movements of the Church here. His name appears at the meetings for commencing a separate organisation, and also at that for establishing the ministry; but he finally settled in Demarara, and was loved and esteemed there until his death, on the 9th of September, 1814, at the age of 64.