Happy 251st Birthday!

The First Baptist Church in the City of New YorkOn this date in 1762 the first members of our congregation formally constituted themselves as the First Baptist Church. From the minutes of that meeting:

It hath pleased God, in the course of His Providence, to dispose the hearts of a number of persons to His service in the City of New York, which persons have been regularly baptized and admitted to the Church of Christ at the Scots Plains in East New Jersey as a branch of the same.

They had been meeting as a sort of Bible study group for nearly two decades, much of which under the auspices of the Baptist church of Scots Plains (now Scotch Plains). But they requested and received dismissal from that church, effective June 12, 1762. One week later they met to constitute the new church.

Thus having received dismission from the afore-mentioned church, the branch in this city being met on the 19th of June 1762, with the assistance of the Rev. Benj. Miller and Rev. John Gano, the church was then regularly constituted.

To celebrate our anniversary, I offer a sample of our first pastor’s work. The day the church was organized, its members called Gano to serve as pastor. He fulfilled that role for twenty-two years, included the dark years of the Revolutionary War, during which the congregation shrank from two hundred members to just thirty-seven.

In 1784 Gano wrote the following letter to the Philadelphia Baptist Association. In it he discusses God’s work of grace in the conversion of sinners. It falls into three parts: how God exposes our sin, how he then draws us to Christ, and how he grows us in holiness. He ends by describing what impact these truths have on God’s people.

You might find this to be tough reading. He wrote in an era of longer sentences than ours. (I’ve broken them up a bit and divided the whole into more paragraphs than the original.) But if you wrestle with it, I think you’ll find it to be as biblical as it is beautiful.

[God’s call] is effectual to bring the subjects of it to a piercing sense of their guilt and impurity.

The mind is deeply convicted, that the fountain is in his very heart or nature, from which all its criminal actions have sprung; and that the lust within disposes us to violate the laws of God in as great a variety of ways as nature is capable of exerting itself, agreeable to Paul’s expression, “Sin revived and I died.”

The soul is affected with a view of its sinfulness and the malignity of sin in its nature, as entirely opposed to the holy law of God; hence arises an abhorrence of sin, as vile and odious, and a sense of its demerit as deserving eternal death.

This call produces a consciousness of the absolute impossibility of our contributing in the least degree towards a recovery from this wrteched condition, and destroys all confidence of help in the flesh.

It is a call to Christ, and gives a view of him in his suitableness and ability as a Saviour;

the merit of his obedience and sacrifice, and the treasures of his grace are all brought into view, which creates desires of an interest in him, and resolutions of looking to and relying wholly upon him for salvation;

at the same time cordially acknowledging desert [i.e., worthiness] of rejection from him, and yet strengthened to rely entirely upon and surrender all unto the disposal of Christ; setting to our seals that God is true; believing the record he has given of his Son, which is eternal life, and that this life is in his Son.

The changes produced are from darkness to light, from bondage to liberty, from alienation and estrangedness to Christ to a state of nearness and fellowship with him and his saints.

This call administers peace of conscience towards God, and disposes its subjects to peace with mankind so far as is consistent with righteousness.

This is a holy calling, and is effectual to produce the exercise of holiness in the heart, even as the saints are created in Christ Jesus unto good works.

God [has] called us, not to uncleanness, but to holiness, yea, even to glory and virtue, and “to live holily, righteously, and godly in this present world;” and to conform us, both as men and as Christians, to the pure dictates of nature and the authority of revelation, in all virtuous actions.

To believe what is divinely revealed, and to obey what is divinely enjoined; in which the saints are required to persevere unto “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, which is reserved in heaven for them,” and unto which this effectual vocation ultimately tends.

From all which consideration, we learn what it is to be both good and great, and [what is] the way to advance in durable riches and righteousness; to live on high; [to] live above the vanities and pomp of this trifling world, and to shame those who walk unworthily, is to retain a sense of our heavenly vocation.

Thus will the hearts and hands of all God’s people, and especially his ministers, be supported and strengthened; thus will the religion of our adorable Redeemer be honored in the world; thus shall we glorify God in life and enjoy his peace in death, and leave behind a finished testimony that our calling was effectual and our profession sincere.

Source: Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory, 295–6.

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One Response to Happy 251st Birthday!

  1. aahodges@juno.com says:

    Thank you for posting this Matthew. Both interesting and a blessing. What a fabulous blessing and charge by our God to you to be used by Him to minister and to carry on this work which He started so many years ago. I hope all is well. Al Hodges

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