Today marks the 250th anniversary of our congregation’s official constitution as The First Baptist Church in the City of New York. Begun as a Bible study in 1745 when Jeremiah Dodge moved to the city from Fishkill, the little group was under the care of the First Baptist Church in Scots Plains, NJ and its pastor Benjamin Miller for seventeen years, when it sought a letter of dismission so that it could become a self-governing congregation. The Scots Plains church gave them leave June 12 of that year, and one week later our church was born.
We still have the handwritten records of that first meeting. I read them last week with great joy as I contemplated God’s faithfulness to our church for two-and-a-half centuries, more than half of the Reformation era. May our church ever be faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And should we ever fail to be faithful to the gospel, may we cease to exist.
Over the next three days I’ll post my lightly-edited transcription of those records. Below is part 1, which outlines the purpose of the church’s founding.
Having obtained a dismission from the afore-said church, the branch in this City, being met on the 19th June 1762 with the assistance of the Reverend Benjamin Miller and Reverend John Gano, the Church was then regularly constituted and the following Covenant entered into.
A SOLEMN COVENANT made and entered into this nineteenth day of June, in the year of our Lord Christ 1762 by that part or branch of the Church of Christ at the Scots Plains in New Jersey, who reside in New York, but formerly indulged by said church to partake of the ordinances of the Gospel administered here in this City to us as a branch by the Reverend Benjamin Miller who resides in said church, under whose faithful ministry as an ambassador of Jesus Christ we have been as happy for a number of years as our remote circumstances could admit, being so far distant from the body of our Church, but having an equal privilege with other believers of a special nearness to the Church’s head Jesus Christ, under whose influence our Church has ordered us a supply for some time past by the Reverend John Gano and now granted us a dismission in order for our embodying in a Gospel church state by ourselves,
WHEREFORE desiring to walk together in the fear of God through the assistance of His Holy Spirit, [we] do profess our deep and serious humiliation before God for all our transgressions and we do solemnly in the presence of God and of each other, in the sense of our own unworthiness, give up ourselves to the Lord in a Gospel Church State according to the Apostolical practice and constitution, 2nd Corinth_6_16.17, that he may be our God and we may be his people through the everlasting covenant of his free grace, in which alone we hope to be accepted by him through the merits and righteousness of Jesus Christ, whom we take to be our high priest to justify and sanctify us, our prophet to teach us, and to subject us to him as our lawgiver and king of saints, to conform to all his holy laws and ordinances for our growth, establishment, and consolation, that we may be a holy spouse unto him, without spot or blemish, in and through his imputed righteousness to offer up ourselves as living sacrifices to God, whom we acknowledge as the only proper object of all religious fear, love, and worship.