In the 60s there was a popular song written by Pete Seger and sung by the Byrds. It was called Turn, Turn, Turn. The lyrics went like this:
To every thing, turn, turn, turn,
There is a season, turn, turn, turn,
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
The song goes on. Do you remember it? The lyrics actually come from Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1 and following. I want to focus upon verse one as it points out a truth that I wish to highlight in the lectures that I will be giving today. Here is what it says:
To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Just as there are growing seasons in the farming community - time to break up the sod, time to plant, time to harvest - and there are seasons in the lives of individuals - childhood, adolescence, young manhood (or womanhood), productive years, retirement years - there are also seasons in the life of a church. And as I share with you the history of this church, I am not just going to rattle off the names of people and events. I want to tell you about the times and seasons through which they passed. This lecture is not going to focus only upon this church, but Im going to relate the setting of items in the larger scope of American and Baptist life.
First let me say something about the age. This church is an old church. It was formed here in Galway on August 27, 1789 - 215 years ago! Just how old is that? When this church, originally known as the Second Baptist Church of Galway, was formed in 1789 - that was the very same year that George Washington was elected as the first president of the United States of America. It was the day of powdered wigs and tri-cornered hats. This church and our country (the USA) grew side by side over the years. We are the approximately same age. That is how old this church is!
The first settlers that came to Galway were Scottish Presbyterians. They came in 1774. They settled just south of the present day village of Galway on Sacandaga Road (Route 147). Hazel Sanderss house (just one mile south of the traffic light here in Galway) is where one of the families settled, William and Helen Kelly. On November 1, 1774 the first white child born in Galway was Elizabeth Kelly, their daughter. I am sure that many of you here from Galway know this, the original name they gave to this place was not Galway (G-A-L-W-A-Y). It was New Galloway (G-A-L-L-O-W-A-Y), after the countryside of Galloway, Scotland. In 1785 the name was shortened to Galloway from New Galloway, but while being recorded in Ballston Spa it was mistakenly spelled with the present day spelling and has remained so ever since.
It was not long after the arrival of these Scottish Presbyterians that the Baptists came. First in the hamlet of East Galway, where in 1778 the First Baptist Church of Galway was established. Then after the Revolutionary War, in 1789, this church, the Second Baptist Church of Galway was formed from Baptists who had settled in the area. The original site of their first building was on Mack Road. The early hub of activity in Galway being the Parkis Mills area until the Stage Coach line passed through the area and moved the heart of the village of Galway to its present location. A third Baptist church was formed one year later in 1790 in the hamlet of Providence. Currently called Providence Baptist Church at the time of its founding it was called the Third Baptist Church of Galway. The First, Second, and Third Baptist Churches of Galway were not formed as a result of church splits. They were formed so that each hamlet in Galway would have a Baptist church.
If a demographic study was done on Galways yearly I am sure that youd find it to be heavily Baptist. This was one of the earliest Baptist settlements west of the Hudson River. During and prior to the Revolutionary War Baptist churches were being started in the corridor between the Hudson River and the Eastern border of New York ( in those counties next to Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut). The Baptists in Galway were elected to public office as town supervisors and clerks alongside their Presbyterian neighbors. It is interesting to note that both Baptist and Presbyterian churches were organized in the home of James Warren (Taylor, 17).
There were some reasons why so many Baptists came to the Galway area and this part of New York State after the Revolutionary War.
It was now safe to live here. The Hudson and Mohawk River valleys were the arenas of many bloody skirmishes and battles during the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. What made it especially frightening was the presence of the American Indians. The Hurons and other Indian bands sided with the French and the Five Nations sided with the British during the French and Indian Wars. The Mohawks were very loyal to Sir William Johnson, which was a good thing when the colonialist were British fighting the French. Although Johnson died prior to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War the Mohawks stayed loyal to the British. Galway was Mohawk Indian hunting ground. How safe do you think it would be to live out here in the country as a Patriot? When the Indians and British raided, they burned crops, houses, killed and scalped. As a matter of fact just 6 miles from here on Western Avenue is a historical marker which identifies the spot of the homestead where in 1782 Joseph Gonzalez and his son Emmanuel were killed and scalped and his son, John was taken captive and pressed into service in the British army. The rest of the family escaped.
I was talking to a historian recently, who was educated at Oxford, and specializes in British military history during the American Revolution. He told me that you did not want to be a patriot living out in the countryside in this region after 1781. It was just too dangerous. In 1789 - the war was over. It was safe to live in Galway.
Freedom to Worship without Harassment. Many of the Baptists fought in the Revolutionary War - and when they went home and in New England they were taxed to support the local congregational minister. Here in New York State there was no Congregational establishment. It was Baptists who championed the separation of church and state. It was in this context that the Bill of Rights - Amendment # 1:
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Think about it. To many, the idea of separation of church and state - is to prohibit the free exercise of religion in the public arena. It gives some an excuse to close the door on religious debate. To many it is okay to talk about drinking and driving, AIDS, fire prevention in the public classroom but not what it means to be a Christian. The First Amendment actually guarantees that a person have the choice to choose what he believes without coercion, and the freedom to share what he believes with others without intimidation or harassment. New York State gave Baptists in 1789 something that some New England states did not. The freedom to worship God without harassment.
Third reason - economics. Elbow room to farm, to make a living and feed their family. So the Baptists came to Galway. They settled in great numbers east of the Hudson River and in Saratoga County west of the Hudson.
Consider the wording of our earliest church records, on why they assembled as a church.
Whereas God in His great wisdom and tender mercy has so ordered it that we, a number of Baptist brethren, from different parts and different churches have removed into this land in order to get bread for ourselves and our children: and deprived of the opportunity of assembling and enjoying gospel privileges with the churches we moved from, but prizing the privilege of Christian fellowship so great that we have attempted to meet together time and again in conference in order to gain an acquaintance with one another. At a conference meeting held at Abraham Warings on the 13th of August AD 1789, the brethren present were asked the question, on supposition we could be agreed in sentiment and gain a fellowship with each other whether they would be desirous of entering into a covenant relationship. All answered in the affirmative and manifested a desire to prosecute the matter. And a meeting was then appointed for that purpose to be held at James Warren's barn in Galloway on the 25th August AD 1789.
What were the reasons they gave for coming to Galway and starting this church? Answer - in order to get bread for ourselves and our children, they longed for the gospel privileges and fellowship of the churches they left behind.
Notice where it says that they attempted to meet together time and again in conference in order to gain an acquaintance with one another. We know a little about how they did that through a newspaper obituary and published sermon. There was a weaver who came to Galway and set up his loom who gathered together Baptists in his shop.
In her grandmothers recipe box, Dr. Elizabeth Peck of Clifton Park found a news clipping of an obituary of her third great grandfather. His name was Abijah Peck. (He died when he was ninety years old on November 12, 1848) . Here is what was written: In 1748 he removed from Connecticut to Galway, N.Y., which was then a wilderness, with a few scattered inhabitants. The clipping continues, After a little time a few Baptists collected and held meetings in his workshop [he was a weaver], he taking the lead of the meetings. A revival followed, which resulted in the organization of the second Galway church.
In a published sermon, by Rev. J.W. Crumb that was delivered on February 15, 1853 at the Clifton Park Baptist Church to commemorate its 58th year the following was said about Abijah Peck.
At 24 years of age  he was made a trophy of Divine grace. Naturally ardent, he like Saul of Tarsus, took his characteristic with him, in church relation, and exhorted his fellows to be reconciled to God. Two years later he left the place of his nativity (Greenwich, Ct.,)  to follow his trade in the then far West, at Galway, Sar. Co., N.Y., at that time an unbroken wilderness, save here and there a settler. Here he not only found plenty of loom labor, but ample opportunity to exercise himself unto godliness. And there are yet some living, who remember attending conference and prayer-meetings in his weave-shop. Here for about five years he is found fulfilling Pauls injunction, Diligent in business, fervent in spirit serving the Lord. This brings us down to 1789, when he and fourteen others met in a barn, to devise plans for forming a Baptist church.This resulted in he, and seven others on August 27th , taking the solemn covenant to sustain the religious standard.
Abijah Peck was a very interesting early resident of Galway. The framed color portrait as you come into the church is a photo on canvas of an original oil painting that is hanging on wall of the Clifton Park Center Baptist Church. He was the pastor there for 47 years. Let me tell you a little about him.
Born in Connecticut of real Puritan stock, Abijah was a sixth generation American. His forefather came in 1638 and helped to found New Haven, Connecticut (i.e. William Peck) . Abijah was brought up in a large family of eight children. His father, John Peck died when Abijah was thirteen. At that time he was apprenticed to be a weaver. Abijah had three older brothers. The oldest served as a soldier in the French and Indian Wars. Abijah and his two older brothers served in the Revolutionary War. The Revolutionary War claimed the lives of these two older brothers, and Abijah narrowly escaped death himself during a retreat at the Battle of White Plains, having reached a fence he laid his hands upon it, and at that instant two musket balls struck the rails, one on each side of him, brushing his clothes as they passed. When twenty-four, Abijah was converted and baptized by Elder Elkanah Holmes, a notable Baptist of Colonial times. At twenty-six in 1784, Abijah married Mindwell Close and then moved to Galway. He lived here for ten years.
His obituary speaks of him as being known for his industry, integrity, punctuality, humility, and benevolence. His crowning trait was that he was a peace-maker. His deference can be seen in the early church records. Although the church was started in his workshop, he relinquishes its leadership to first, Wait Palmer, and then to Elder Simeon Smith.
That he was a leader is evident from the records and the accomplishments of his life. In the church records we see he was the first deacon chosen by the church. He was chosen to lead many of the meetings. He was often called upon to preach by our church. Although Bronson Taylor lists him as one of the pastors of the Second Baptist Church of Galway, from the records it is more likely that he was just pulpit supply in the absence of a pastor. In 1794 Abijah left Galway and started the Clifton Park Center Baptist Church. As I have already mentioned, he was pastor there for forty-seven years. He actually served the church in Clifton Park Center for seven years before consenting to become ordained. Like most early Baptists pastors, he did not like the title Reverend, but preferred to be called Elder.
Tremendous growth attended his ministry in Clifton Park Center. During the first seven years of his ministry there, while he was yet not ordained, the congregation grew from eight men to 90 members. Then in the next 25 years the membership grew to 309, and that is while his people were leaving to start new churches. Pecks church as it was called gave birth to the Baptist churches in Burnt Hills, Waterford, Halfmoon, Scotia, and Schenectady.
Actually the late 1700s was a time of tremendous growth among Baptists. In 1764 there were only four Baptist churches in the entire state of New York. By 1790 ( one year after this church was started) there were 60 Baptist churches with 4,000 members, and in 1813 there were between 200 to 300 churches in New York State with 16,000 members.
In his obituary it mentions that he never received a dollar as compensation for his labors, Yet at the time of Elder Pecks decease, he was very pleasantly situated, both in his family and in his church. In this worlds goods he was well off. He commenced poor, but by industry and economy as a farmer he gradually rose to affluence.
This tent making approach to the ministry was common among the Baptists who came out of the Separate Baptist movement. William McLoughlin in his introduction to The Diary of Isaac Backus (a well-known Baptist) says the following:
Most Separate Baptists, like Roger Wiliams, were suspicious of a hireling ministry and made no contracts of any kind to pay their ministers. And they were not well of themselves. Backus and his colleagues lived mainly from their own labors, supplemented from time to time by freewill offerings. His chief source of income was the farm in Middleborough that he bought in 1750 and lived on for the rest of his life, selling Indian corn, rye, wheat, apples, and hard and sweet cider, and raising the usual livestock and poultry. At first Backus worked the land for himself, but as he became more involved in denominational affairs and in writing, he hired help until his sons were old enough to work the farm. In his old age, his son Simon took over.
In addition to farming, Backus acted as an agent for his brother Elijahs ironworks in Norwich, selling anchors, plows, scythes, anvils, kitchen utensils, bar iron, and a variety of other products, which his brother sent to him by boat. He also acted as a bookseller for most of his life, obtaining books in Boston and selling them as he traveled.
As for the family of Abijah Peck, he had eight children. The first four were born in Galway. They were Abigal, Ruth, Nathan, and Solomon. The last four were born in Clifton Park Center. They were Sarah, Abijah, Elizabeth, and John. On the day the Second Baptist Church was formed (215 years ago), Abigal would have been 4 years old and Ruth would have been only 17 months.
Abijah died on November 12, 1848 when he was ninety years old. His grave is located behind the Clifton Park Center Baptist Church.
Remember I told you that Abijah Peck, was willing to be in the background while others took the lead in the formation of the church. Let me tell you about Wait Palmer. Notice in the original records, his prominence in the beginning.
Met agreeable to appointment on the 25th August 1789. Meeting being opened by prayer. Proposed to choose brother Wait Palmer, moderator for the day, and brother James Warren, clerk. Then it was proposed that each one of the brethren & sisters that had been baptized & belonging to other churches to give a short narrative of their experiences & lead to gospel ordinances in order that a fellowship might be gained, Then Decon James Greenfield related his experience
Also: Abijah Peck Joseph Coats Sister Greenfield
John Lamb Nathaniel Palmer Sister Keeler
James Warren Wait Palmer Sister Lamb
Edmund Huit Elias Stilwell Sister McMilliam
Thomas Stilwell Sister Waring
Each one related their experience and lead to baptism which was to the satisfaction of each other. The day being spent, they adjourned till Thursday, August 27th AD 1789 to Abraham Waring in order to see if we could be agreed in the great doctrine of the gospel and the rules of God's house.
Met according to Adjournment at Abraham Warings August 27th AD 1789. Meeting being opened by solemn prayer. First made choice of brother Wait Palmer to take the lead of meetings for the future [of] both conferences and meetings of public worship. Also brother James Warren chosen clerk to keep a record for the future: then proceeded to concur on the great doctrine of the gospel & found ourselves agreed in the following heads of doctrine:
1ly : That all mankind since the fall of Adam are in a state of total depravity.
2dly: That the salvation of mankind is alone by free grace.
3dly: The final perseverance of all Saints
4thly: All persons that are regenerate and born again belong to Christ's mystical church
5thly: The covenant made betwixt the person and the church [is] the door by which they enter into the visible church: and none but baptized persons to be admitted to membership, and nonefit subjects for baptism but believers.
6thly: In order to receive members it is necessary for all the members of the church, both male and female, to gain a satisfaction of their adoption lead[ing] to baptism and the Lord's Supper.
7thly: A member covenanting with a church: their all to be given up to God and service in the world and all their gifts and faculties to the service of the church.
8thly: The church has a right to all the gifts of her members and to call every gift forward to improvement in the church and place them in that order that shall be for the glory of God and their comfort.
9thly: In all the acts of the church, the male members only [have] a right to vote & they [have] anequal right.
10thly: The church when organized: an independent and governing body [ . . . can't read this line . . ]
11thly: No mater of difficulty to be brought into the church without the gospel rule first being attended to as to private labor.
12thly: The first day of the week to be observed as the Christian Sabbath and every member strictly to keep that day and attend to public worship and abstain from all worldly visits.
Then the brethren and sisters proceeded to make covenant by rising on their feet in a solemn manner and covenanting with each other to take the Scriptures of [the] Old and New Testament for their rule of faith and practice and to watch over one another for good to bare one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ in keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of love and peace. .
The brethren that were present and did enter into covenant were: .
James Greenfield Abijah Peck
James WarrenEdmun Huit
Wait PalmerAvis McMilliam
John LambAnne Waring
Brother Keeler was present but not being satisfied with brother Greenfield's principles as to the Sabbath desired time of consideration on the matter. Concluded.
Wait Palmer is to take the lead of meetings for the future [of] both conferences and meetings of public worship. Who is Wait Palmer? There was a well known Baptist minister by the name of Wait Palmer. Wait Palmer was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of North Stonington, Connecticut (near Groton). It was the second Baptist church in the whole state of Connecticut. He was pastor their from 1743-1764. He left because they wouldnt give him a fixed salary. He itinerated widely. In 1751 he baptized the famous Shubal Stearns who took Separate Baptist views to the South. Do you want to know why Baptist churches are on every street corner in the South - Shubal Stearns is one of the reasons. In a footnote written by William Mc Loughlin in Isaac Backus Diary speaking of Wait Palmer, He later moved to New York State, where he was active in Baptist activities until his death. Could the place he moved be Galway? I went online to check out genealogies. Wait Palmers exact date of death is unknown, most cite it as between 1995-98. There was a Wait Palmer who was his son, but he died in 1785 - four years before the founding of the Second Baptist Church of Galway.
To have family - whether biological family or church family having gone before you - would be a draw to settlement. I am not sure that the Wait Palmer of our records is the Baptist pastor now in retirement years - (he would have been around 68 yrs old - he lived till mid-later 70s) - but there is a good possibility that this is he!
Elder Simeon Smith also had a part in the early years of our church. According to W. Bronson Taylors Stories and Pictures of Galway ,published in 1966, Elder Smith began missionary work by having meetings with two or three groups of the Western Brethren (that would be those that would start this church). He received permission from his followers to improve one-third of his time with the Western Brethren. Shortly afterward he asked for half his time with the Western Brethren. This led to strained relations with some of his followers, who were paying wages for a farmhand to operate Smiths farm.
Thus Elder Smith while pastoring the First Baptist Church of Galway was helping what would become the Second and Third Baptist Church of Galway. In 1792 he left the First Baptist Church of Galway to become the Second Baptist Churchs first settled minister.
To become a member of this church a person needed to do three things:
Notice - they did not, nor do we as Baptists today practice infant baptism. A credible profession of faith must precede baptism. Therefore, there are no birth records in our church records. What kind of records do we have?
The covenant meeting records show the centrality of the church covenant in early Particular Baptist life.
We do now in the presence of the Great All-seeing and Most Glorious God, and before angels and men, give up ourselves to the Lord Jehovah: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and avow Him this day to be our God, and Father, and Savior, and Leader, and receive Him as our portion forever. We give up ourselves unto the Lord Jesus Christ to adhere to Him as the head of His people in the Covenant of Grace, and rely upon Him as our Prophet, Priest, and King, to bring us to eternal blessedness. We acknowledge it our everlasting and indispensable obligation to glorify our God by living a holy, religious, and godly life in this present world in all our several places and relations, and we do engage by the assistance of God's divine Spirit to improve all our time, strength, talents, and advantages for His glory and the good of our fellow men, promising by divine help to walk in our houses with a sincere heart, and to train up those under our care in the ways of Godliness, and we also give up ourselves to one another in covenant promising to act toward each other in the love of God, and to watch not only against those evils which are reckoned gross, but also against all foolish talking and jesting which is not convenient, and vain disputing about words and things which gender strife, and against disregarding promises, and not fulfilling engagements, talking and backbiting, spending time idly at taverns, or elsewhere, and vain unnecessary worldly conversation on the Lord's Day, and whatsoever evil that is contrary to sound doctrine according to the Scriptures, promising by God's help to hold communion together in the fellowship of God, and in the ordinances, and discipline of His house, according as we are or shall be guided by the Spirit of God in His Word, expecting that He will yet further and more gloriously open His Word and mysteries of His kingdom, flying to the blood of the everlasting covenant for the pardon of our many errors, and praying that the Lord would prepare and strengthen us for every good word and work to do His will, working in us that is well-pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Covenant Meeting took place once a month on a weekday (usually Thursday) prior to the Sunday that the Lords Supper was going to be administered. The Lords Supper (Communion) was that time were the death of Christ would be remembered by the taking of the bread and a cup to represent the body and blood shed for our salvation.
At the meeting - the covenant would be read and the membership would affirm it. Any member not living in accordance to the covenant would be noted and two men would be sent to cite the brother or sister to their duty. You could expect a visit if you were absenting yourself form the meetings, being given to drunkenness, lewd behavior, dishonesty in business, doctrinal divergence, etc. The covenant was a pact of mutual accountability. These Christians were serious about living a Christian life and they gave each other permission to hold their feet to the fire. They were a community of faith.
If one was out of order and after being confronted continued in their sinful course of action, they would be disciplined according to Matthew 18 - the final step being to be excommunicated - i.e. - to be cast out of the church membership.
In the book Saratoga County Heritage there is a chapter upon the Stone Church (First Baptist Church of Milton) a sister church that followed the same practice. The impact that such practices would have on a community was stated in this way: Two hundred years ago, the Church played a very important part in the life of a community. It took the place of secular courts. Having the hand of fellowship withdrawn was a disgrace. In a sense such a person became an outcast in the community. The church in those days was the main social life of the community.
In those days, here in New York, you were not forced to be a member of a church. You could chose to be a Baptist or a Presbyterian, or beginning in 1814 a member of the Christian Church (a Campbelite), 1816 a Quaker, in 1820 a Methodist, in 1850 a Catholic as each church came upon the scene here in Galway, and each church would regulate its own members. But the church is no longer the center of social life in Galway, it has been marginalized - I will tell you what happened in the next lecture. What do you think is the center of social life in Galway today? And what does that tell you about the fundamental beliefs of many if not most today? The next lecture will address the tremendous growth in this church through revival and missions and the blight that has sorely affected Gods tender plant, His church - not only in this community but throughout our land.
Considering that this church started at the beginnings of our nation, what was the religious climate when the founding documents were being drawn up? It was aa amazing providence that we beat the British. Surely the hand of the Almighty was upon us. This is reflected not only in our nations documents but in its art. There is a tendency to rewrite the history of the past to reflect our current ideology.
When one considers the commitment of the early Baptists we see much of the shallowness of our own day. We have adopted a consumer mentality. Many are in church if its convenient. Years ago I read an article that stated it well. It said that God to the average American never did exist. In his place a vending machine God has been imagined. He is their lacky Put up a prayer, down comes a blessing. We tend to conform God to our expectations instead of conforming our lives to His expectations. The essence of God, is that He has a right to be God in our lives to tell us what to do or not to do. We often act like practical atheists as if God does not even exist. We have shifted from a sense of community to a withdrawal into the confines of our houses. We are intensely private people and selfish. What is in it for me? The concept of loving God with all our heart, and soul and mind, and loving our neighbor as our self - is alien to most thinking especially the God part of the statement.
I recently heard a portion of television program on the existence of God (comparing Freud with CS Lewis) in which a skeptic and a lawyer derided the Christian concept of Hell by saying, Im basically a good guy - I treat others humanely, I just dont believe in God - so Im going to Hell? I ask myself where is the Christian to deal directly with this fellow and open up his eyes. His unbelief in God is a heinous sin. To receive good at the hand of God and rather than be grateful but spit in His face is a grievous offence. Everyone knows it is only a fool who act in a derogatory way to the one who supplies you with a livelihood. We disrespect those in authority over us to our own peril.
These early Baptists were serious about pleasing God. How about you?