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sively built; the second and the third, each in its turn, became the new meeting-house, and is so called for a time by the record.
I would mention another fact in this connexion. As early as 1707, the congregation at Snowhill could alone, and unaided, support a pastor; and in 1709, a benefaction to the Presbytery of Philadelphia of £30, was ordered by that body, to be distributed amongst the most necessitous congregations. The churches in New Castle and Philadelphia, each received a share, but, I think, the records of the presbytery will
prove that not one penny of the amount was given to the church at Snowhill.
Would you inquire why there is not record evidence of the ages of the churches in Somerset? The answer is readily given. The churches were built on private property : the early sessional records are lost, and no public registration was necessary, until extorted by the act of 1702, about the provisions of which you read in my fourth letter. That law, it is believed, was not enforced against the dissenters here for some years after its passage, although its terms were complied with by the first and only brethren who laboured with Mr. Makemie in the field.
I refuse to the first church in Philadelphia, the name of a “regularly constituted Presbyterian church,” until it became Presbyterian in government and doctrine; but date its organization in 1698, and I think the evidence is not only clear and cogent, but convincing, that it is younger than the five churches in Maryland.
I feel as though in this letter and its two immediate predecessors, I may have been chasing “small game;" but if the honour of having received into her bosom the first regularly constituted Presbyterian church in the United States, be of sufficient value to be claimed by Philadelphia, it cannot be wholly unimportant to resist that claim, if it is not well founded. I have written these letters without any unkind feeling towards a living being, and were I conscious that they contain any thing to offend any one, deeply should I regret having written them. But call it pride, or prejudice of education, or superstition, it is nevertheless true, that I venerate an ancient church.
The church at Rehobeth the eldest of the family of churches in Somerset county. Maryland.-Reflection suggested by the present dilapidated state of that eldest of American Presbyterian churches.-Mr. Makemie the first pastor of that church.-His successor Rev. John Henry.-Mr. Henry's connexions and de scendants.-His death in 1717.-His nianuscript volume written for the use of his descendants.
Of the family of Presbyterian churches in Somerset and Worcester counties, the church at Rehobeth has been generally considered the eldest sister. To her claim to seniority I submit; my hand shall never pluck a single one of her honours.
All ruins are melancholy spectacles, but to me the sight of a church in ruins is positively painful. To think of generations now sleeping in the dust, who in years that have passed, occupied places within those crumbling walls, and there held that communion with God which qualified them for the kindred, but infinitely superior enjoyments of his upper sanctuary; to ponder on the happy seasons which have been thus enjoyed by those who have feasted on the fatness of God's house, and then to reflect, that those seasons never can return, will touch any heart in which God has shed abroad his love.
I have always regretted the destruction of so
many church edifices in Scotland by the rage of the Reformation. The abomination was not in the walls, nor even in the statuary nor paintings, which ornamented them; if the friends of the truth had said to the money changers and mass mongers: “Take these things hence," and then drove them out with scourges made of small cords, those dens of thieves might have been converted into houses of prayer. A church may be in ruins notwithstanding the condition of the building in which it has been wont to assemble, may be not only comfortable but superb. Between a church in good health, and one abounding in lukewarm, hypocritical and self-deceiving members, there is as much difference as between a healthy, happy and industrious family, and one, some of whose members are gasping for life, and others already dead and undergoing putrefaction.
There are within the bounds of the Presbytery of Lewes, many church ruins, but we have reason to be thankful that the church at Rehobeth is not one of them. That house of God is in comfortable repair, and its register still contains the names of a few who will, I trust, walk with the Lamb in white, because they are worthy; but they may now take up the melting strain of the prophet, whose harp was tuned into mourning, “ The ways of Zion do mourn because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate. Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress : my bowels are troubled ; my heart is turned within me, for I have grievously rebelled.” If the things that remain and are ready to die, be not
shortly strengthened, the church at Rehobeth will be among the wreck of things that were.
“ The first congregation which worshipped at Rehobeth, consisted of English dissenters. A few families migrated from England, their consciences not suffering them to comply with the establishment then existing, and settled near the mouth of Pocomoke river and the adjacent parts; some on the east, and some on the west side of the river, and formed themselves into a religious society for the public worship of God. A house for public worship was built on the west side of the river, at a place called Rehobeth.”* That emigration and organization of the church must have taken place before the passage of the act of 1702, for after that time the laws of Maryland and England, as to Protestant dissenters, were alike, and imposed equal burdens upon their purses and their consciences.
The authority last quoted asserts that the Rev. Francis Makemie was the first pastor of the church at Rehobeth, but there could exist no doubt upon the subject, had it been silent. His successor in that pastoral charge was the Rev. John Henry. I know not at what time he arrived in Maryland, or settled in Somerset; but presume it was soon after the death of Mr. Makemie. He stood high, not only as a divine, but also as a citizen, and his descendants have been at all times as respectable as any members of our community; indeed one of them was for a time
* Copied from the autograph of the Rev. Samuel McMaster, for many years pastor of the church.