The Church in the Modern Age (1648 1900s)

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Study Questions: Lesson 15

First please read chapter 15 in the text.


1. List some similarities between John Wesley and George Whitefield. List also their main theological differences.

2. Define "deism."

3. What factors led to the rise of rationalism?

4. Why was the Church of England not able to adequately respond to the menace of deism?

5. What major belief of Robert Sandeman was a departure from historic Christianity? Have you heard of this belief before (today it is called by some "easy-believism")?

6. What new teaching did John Nelson Darby promote in the area of eschatology (study of the end times)?

7. Who first led the Protestant missionary activities?

8. Who is known as the "Father of Modern Missions?" What did he accomplish for the cause of Christ?


9. John Wesley and George Whitefield reached "an agreement to differ" on certain theological truths. Despite their strong theological disagreements, there was great love, respect, and admiration for each other. (a) Comment on how Christians who disagree should treat one another. (b) How do you explain the tremendous blessing of God on each man, even though each held such a conflicting position?

10. Does the Lord want Christians to discern His perfect will by the casting of lots or the "laying of the fleece" (note Judges 6:36-40)? Explain.

11. Is Sandemanianism right or wrong? Explain your answer. What is the basis of 'saving faith'?

12. How are Arminianism, Sandemanianism, and Dispensationalism alike?

13. Do you think that you could be a missionary? Why or why not?

14. Some churches do not believe in a foreign missions program. Is such thinking scriptural? Explain.


15. In light of the Burmese emperor's comment about Adoniram Judson, what does your own life-style communicate about Jesus Christ to those around you?

16. What specific deeds are you now doing that are designed to win souls to the Savior?


17. Have you ever written to, or in any way helped to support someone on the mission field? If so, please briefly share about a missionary you know personally.

If you have never supported a missionary, or written an encouraging letter to one, please prayerfully consider to do so prior to completing this course. Indicate your actions on your study sheet.

Lesson 16 Christianity Comes to the New World

Chapter 16


On May 4, 1493, a remarkable event took place. Alexander VI (Pope, 1492-1503) decided to settle a political dispute between two Catholic nations: Spain and Portugal. The issue concerned territorial possessions. When Columbus returned from his first voyage across the ocean, Portugal believed its own commercial ambitions would be limited to only Africa and the Far East. To prevent open conflict between two Catholic monarchies, guided by Solomon-like wisdom, Alexander issued a papal bull (official binding proclamation of the pope) which was to put an end to the area of concerns. Spheres of domination were agreed upon as a Demarcation Line was drawn. This line ran due north and south (about 300 miles) west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands. All new lands lying east of this Demarcation Line were to be considered the possession of Portugal; all those to the west would belong to Spain. Because the Portuguese were not happy with this decision, in 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed with a new line of demarcation, sanctioned by Julius II in 1506 (pope, 1503-1513). The new line was about 1,110 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands. In this way Brazil became a Portuguese possession.

With renewed vigor these strongly Catholic nations set out to manifest their presence in new domains. They met with tremendous success. Prior to the founding of any other European colonies, the Spaniards established settlements in Mexico, the West Indies, Central and South America. Before the end of the century, two major universities were flourishing. The University of Mexico was founded in 1551 and the University of Lima in 1557. At Santo Domingo, in 1512, a bishopric was established, with another one in Cuba in 1522.

In 1565 the Spaniards founded St. Augustine, Florida USA, after first driving out some French Protestants who had come there for religious freedom. The admiral of the French fleet, De Coligny, and 141 others were massacred. On each person's body, the Spanish commander attached a placard explaining why they were hung: "Not as Frenchmen but as heretics."


While the Catholic Church solidified its presence in the New World, the Protestant Church also came to North America. In 1607 English settlers brought with them the traditions of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church. Some colonies during the colonial period recognized the Episcopal Church officially as the Established or State Church. The Anglican Church was established in South Carolina in 1706, Georgia in 1758, and North Carolina in 1765.

Joining the Protestant community in America were the Non-Conformists. King James I of England had once promised to "harry them out of the land." Fleeing political persecution, and seeking a place to worship freely, a small band of "Pilgrims" sailed from Plymouth in England on the Mayflower. They believed they were traveling towards a new Promised Land.

Drifting off course, the Mayflower landed along the desolate coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, November 11, 1620. Small search parties were sent out to explore the area. Finally, December 21, 1620, the Pilgrims stepped on shore. They put their foot on a solid rock, and they prayed. Heads were bowed as hearts were lifted in gratitude to God for the safe journey. Divine guidance was asked for the days to come. The Pilgrims realized that they had to face a harsh future. Still, they would stay. And they would survive the starving winter without losing faith. On Sunday, January 21, 1621, led by William Brewster, the Pilgrims conducted their first public worship in a crude structure at New Plymouth. But it would not be the last public service for in the years to come, many more people would arrive in the New World. Up and down the eastern coastline of North America, permanent settlements would be founded.

In 1628 English Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Salem, Massachusetts. By 1640 almost 20,000 colonists were living in the vicinity. In the area of religion, most of them wanted to maintain the traditions of the Church of England. However, the Bay colonists were willing to accept the guidance and influence of the Plymouth colonists as to Church government in the New World. As a result, the congregational form of self-government was adopted. Within ten years, 33 assemblies existed in Massachusetts alone.

In other communities, different churches and forms of ecclesiastical government would be preferred:

EPISCOPAL Jamestown, VA; Salem and Boston, MA;

Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA


CATHOLIC Baltimore and St. Mary, ML;

St. Augustine, FL

DUTCH REFORMED Albany and New Amsterdam, NY;

Camden, NJ

BAPTIST Providence, RI

QUAKER Philadelphia, PA

MORAVIAN Bethlehem, PA

MENNONITE Lancaster and Germantown, PA

Desiring Christ for their children, the colonists established schools of higher education, based soundly on the Bible. In 1636 the foundation was laid for Harvard College at Cambridge, Massachusetts, named after a wealthy Christian benefactor. In 1701, a college was started in Connecticut, named Yale, also in honor of a generous donor. The Lord used the business prosperity He had granted to some, to benefit all of society.


The English flow of settlers to the New World encouraged other nationalities to come. In 1623 the Dutch were able to establish two trading posts in strategic locations. One was placed on the Upper River in Albany, New York. The other trading post was set up near Camden, on the Delaware River in New Jersey. Peter Minuit (1580-1638) became the first governor of the New Netherlands. In 1664, when Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672) was governor, the colony was captured by the English and renamed New York.

Despite the territorial and political maneuvering between the British and the Dutch, by 1628 the First Dutch Reformed Church was able to be established under the pastoral leadership of Rev. John Michaelius. It is no small measure of God's great mercy that just four years after the Synod of Dort was held, the doctrines of sovereign grace were being proclaimed in America.

When John Van Mekelenburg arrived in the New Netherlands, his passion for souls led him to learn the language of the Mohawks. He wanted to preach to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to the Native Americans. Mekelenburg is considered to be the first Protestant missionary to the Indians.


“It is the will and command of God that,... consciences and worship be granted to all men in all nations and countries.” - Roger Williams

The Congregational Church was the Established or State Church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But a young English minister arrived in Boston in 1631 who thought this was a mistake. Roger Williams (c. 1603-1683) believed in the separation of Church and State. Though ordained by the Church of England (1629), Williams had been influenced by the thinking of the Puritans on this matter. Others also should be convinced of the wisdom of separating the Church and State. Roger Williams would tell his concerns to the congregation in America.

When Williams finally voiced his views from the pulpit as minister of the Congregational Church in Salem (1634), the opposition was immediate. Called before the General Court (1635), Williams was told to leave the colony within six weeks. After discovering that his health was poor, permission was granted to leave in the spring. But he must not preach on the separation of Church and State! Nor was he to preach against infant baptism, or for baptism of believers by immersion. He was to be silent on those issues which caused controversy. But Roger Williams was determined to preach his convictions. After resigning as minister of the Salem Church, he began to hold services in his house for those agreed with his position. Angered by his persistency, the General Court ordered Williams to leave the Bay Colony immediately, leaving behind his wife and two children, into the freezing snow-covered forest. He must go; he was too dangerous a man.

For fourteen weeks Roger Williams managed to survive during the dead of winter. In the providence of the Lord, the Narragansett Indians found him and took him in. Williams was no stranger to this Indian tribe. Several years before, while a young pastor of the Pilgrim Church at Plymouth, Williams had taken the time to learn the language of the Narragansett. He had also opposed the taking of land from any native Indian population without fair payment. Knowing him to be a good man and champion for their causes, the Indians helped Roger Williams survive.

The following summer (June, 1636), Williams was allowed to purchase from the Indians a section of ground at the mouth of the Mohassuck River. When people from Salem discovered this, they journeyed to be with their beloved but disgraced minister. The town of Providence was founded. Going to England, Roger Williams was able to secure a charter for the Providence Plantation, thereby establishing a new colony called Rhode Island (1643). The charter was reaffirmed in 1651.

Williams served as president of the colony (1654-1657). Meanwhile, the Bay Colony tried to destroy the seeds of discussion that Roger Williams had sown. Of particular concern was the teaching that believer's should be baptised as adults, following an open confession of an inward work of grace. In 1644 a law was passed which associated his ideas, in a negative way, with the Anabaptist movement of Europe. "For as much as experience has plentifully and often proved that since the first arising of the Ana-Baptists, about a hundred years since, they have been incendiaries of commonwealth and the infectors of persons in main matters, and the troublers of churches in all places where they have been, and that they who have held the baptizing of infants unlawful have usually held other errors or heresies together therewith..." Therewith, there were to be no more re-baptisms (adult immersions upon public profession of faith)!

While laws were being passed in the Bay Colony to try to reverse the teaching of Roger Williams, in Providence the church was being firmly established. Mr. Holliman, a former member of the Salem congregation, accepted the teaching of professing believer's baptism by immersion as the proper time and mode, and administered this ritual by re-baptizing Roger Williams. Williams in turn re-baptized Holliman and ten others. The first Baptist Church in America became a reality.

Other Baptist distinctives would also be freely taught and practiced in Rhode Island. These included the separation between Church and State, the elimination of Church membership as a requirement for voting, and allowing liberty of conscience in worship. Rhode Island would host the first Jewish synagogue, and allow one of the first Quaker meeting houses to be established.

As word spread of the work in Province, Rhode Island, Baptist churches appeared within the various colonies and flourished. By 1707 the first Baptist Association in America could be formed as representatives from five Baptist churches met in Philadelphia. By 1742, a Confession of Faith was adopted with special emphasis being placed on the Calvinistic doctrines of sovereign grace. The Baptist church in America had grown up spiritually. It now had capable leadership, a distinct organizational structure, definite principles to practice, and a creed to confess. When he died on March 15, 1683, Roger Williams knew that he had left a great legacy to an emerging new nation. He had bestowed two precious principles to posterity: in America there would be the separation of Church and State, and there would be freedom of worship.


In 1632, King Charles I of England gave two gifts to George Calvert, a recent convert to Catholicism. The first was a title, Lord Baltimore. The second gift to George Calvert and his descendants was the territory around Chesapeake Bay. In gratitude for his generosity, Lord Baltimore named the territory "Maryland" after Mary, the king's wife.

Soon after receiving his gifts, George Calvert died. He was succeeded by his son Cecil Calvert. Assuming the title left by his father, this second Lord Baltimore initiated the settlement of the territory his family had received. He was responsible for establishing the first settlement in the colony which he named St. Mary in honor of the mother of Christ.

In the process of settling the colony, Lord Baltimore faced a practical problem. Not many Catholics in England wanted to make the difficult journey to Maryland. Protestants were willing to face the difficulties, provided there would be freedom of religion. As a matter of political expediency if not personal conviction, Lord Baltimore agreed to allow freedom of religion. The only exception would be for those who denied the Trinity. If such a person were found in the colony, they would face death and the forfeiture of their property.

In 1649, at the request of Lord Baltimore, the Maryland Assembly passed the Act of Toleration. The document was destined to be become important in the development of religious life in the New World. In 1692 the Baltimore family lost control of their possession in America. The territory returned to the control of the Crown. The Church of England was officially declared to be the established religion of the colony. Nevertheless, freedom of religion would continue to be honored. As tolerance had been shown to the Protestants, so tolerance would be shown to the Catholic community.


Ten years after George Fox began his ministry in England, Quaker missionaries desired to come to America. The first two Quakers were women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin. News of their pending arrival in Boston in 1656 preceded them. Time was provided for the Puritan clergy of the city to rally opposition. The women were arrested as they got off the boat, taken to prison for five weeks where they shared indignities and depredations. At the end of this ordeal the two ladies were put on another boat heading out to sea.

But it was all to no avail. Their ship was not far out of sight when another vessel arrived in Boston harbor with eight other Quakers. There was no stopping their presence, no matter how the colonies tried. Laws were passed in 1661 by the Massachusetts colony preventing Quakers from entering. Any Quaker that returned after being banished faced the penalty of death. Still, the Quakers continued to come to America until finally, their quiet, courageous spirit found a resting place in 1681--when Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn. Peace and safety came to those who wanted all men to be Friends.


As William Penn welcomed Quakers to Pennsylvania, so he welcomed all other religious groups as well--Lutherans, Moravians, and Mennonites found a haven of rest in 'The Keystone State'. The first German Reformed Church was established in 1710 at Germantown, ten miles north of Philadelphia. Germantown itself had been settled in 1683 when thirteen German Mennonite families came to America. Later, a large number of Swiss Mennonites settled in Lancaster County. When the Swiss Reformed settlers arrived in the area, they were welcomed, as were the German Lutherans.

Then there were the German Baptists, who first appeared in 1719. Partly in humor, the other colonists gave them the name Dunkers, which comes from the German word tunken, meaning "to dip." The Dunkers were able to organize a church in 1723. In many ways the Dunkers were like the Quakers and the Mennonites. They dressed in a simple manner and practiced a congregational form of church government. Like the Mennonites they practiced a threefold immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. One of the most significant Dunkers of the colonial period was Christopher Sower, the first German printer in America. The Sower Bible, published in 1743, was the first Bible printed in America in a European language other than English.

When the Moravians arrived in 1740, they settled on 5000 acres along the Delaware River. They wanted to work with the Indians and the poorer German settlers scattered in Pennsylvania. In 1741 Count Zinzendorf visited the colony. On Christmas Eve he named the Moravian settlement Bethlehem (lit. "house of bread"), in token of his "fervent desire and ardent hope that here the true bread of life might be broken for all who hungered."

The man who enabled Presbyterianism to be firmly established in America was Francis Makemie. In 1683 he came to eastern Maryland to preach in the Scotch Irish communities there, before moving on into Virginia and the Carolinas. In 1710 David Evans arose to preach among the Welsh settlers in Virginia. Because the Spirit of the living God was upon his life, he was used to bring many souls to Christ.

One important event for the Presbyterians in America was the passing of the Adoption Act by the Synod of 1729. This required all Presbyterian ministers in the New World to embrace without reservations the Westminster Confession. Presbyterian beliefs and practices were to influence in many important ways the development of the country.

Because the Methodist movement did not start in earnest in England until 1739, Methodism was a little slow in showing itself in America. The Methodists arrived first in the person of Philip Embury in 1766. Then came Robert Strawbridge who ministered in Maryland. In 1771 John Wesley made the fortunate decision to send Francis Ashbury (1745-1816) over from England to advance the cause of Christ. Before his death, Ashbury was able to see the Methodist Church in America grow from 15,000 in 1771 to over 200,000. He traveled about 4,000 miles a year on horseback, and preached over 20,000 sermons in his lifetime. Revival fires followed Ashbury and other Methodist ministers.

And so it was that, in a wonderful way, America proved people of different persuasions could live, work and worship in the same country, without plunging society into religious civil wars. The established State churches gradually gave way to true religious freedom. At one time, these State churches had included the following:

ANGLICAN Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina,

South Carolina, Maryland, New York City

and the surrounding counties.

CONGREGATIONAL Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, and

New Hampshire.

NO STATE CHURCH New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,

and Rhode Island.


The absence of an official state church in America may be due to several considerations:

- The wide variety of emigration to the colonies after 1690. There were Huguenots and Quakers. There were 200,000 Germans of Lutheran and Reformed persuasion. There were Pietists, and Presbyterians of Scotch-Irish descent from Northern Ireland. By 1760 there were more than 2,500,000 people in the colonies, a third of which were born outside the American colonies. This great diversity discouraged the establishment of an official state church over all the colonies.

- The effect of the proprietary colonies also hindered the establishing of a State Church. The desire to make a colony successful demanded co-operation of people from all walks of life and religious persuasions.

- The great revivals of the colonies discouraged the preferring of one state church over another. Denominational lines are always transcended when the love of God and the grace of Christ are manifested.

- A spirit of rugged individualism which the American experience encouraged does not blend well with the spirit of institutionalism which an established religion demands. There were many people who did not belong to any church due to the westward movement of the frontier. The number of churches needed could not keep pace with the growing population moving west.

- Philosophical societies arose to challenge formal religion and hinder the establishing of a state church. John Locke in his Letters on Toleration (1689-1706) argued persuasively for the separation of church and state, as did men like Thomas Jefferson. When given the opportunity, they wove their religious biases into the fabric of the documents they wrote on behalf of the country.

- The Anglican Church offended many when the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel agitated for the appointment of a bishop. There was great resentment from the Congregational and Presbyterian churches, who had come to America to escape this very thing in England. If the English Parliament could appoint a bishop, if Parliament could establish a religion in the colonies, then it could also impose excessive taxes and pass other repressive laws against people who were looking for more freedoms, not more legislation.

One by one, all the colonies, territories, and states passed legislation separating the state from the church. The Congregational Church was the last to be separated from the state. This happened in New Hampshire in 1817, in Connecticut in 1818, and in Massachusetts in 1833.
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