In my biographical sketch of Isaac Post earlier this year, I highlighted the schism that Post created within the the Bridgewater Baptist Church in Montrose, Pennyslvania. I believe his support for the immediate and full emancipation of American slaves to be the definitive moment of his life, and up until recently, I had only secondary sources regarding his resolution. That changed these past months, when Betty Smith and I located the Baptist Church records at the Susquehanna County Historical Society.
For me, it was a remarkable moment to open the worn and aged pages of this large ledger book and thumb through years and years of records. I knew I was looking for April 15, 1837, because I had seen that date in the research. As I turned each delicate page of the book, I came closer and closer to discovering the details from that specific day when Post made known to the church the contents of his heart; and I felt a flutter, too, as I finally landed upon the specific pages.
I include photographs of those pages here and my translation of the resolution. Where you see asterisks in my translation are places where I made best guesses as to the written words, but feel free to study the original pages, too. Maybe someone can make out words better than I have done. I’ve also used contemporary spelling and puncutation where possible to modernize the reading.
Whereas it appears evident that the word of god as set forth in the bible condemns oppression, the taking of man’s labor for want and the merchandise of human flesh as is now practiced in the United States and other parts of the world and as it is a sin and a great evil in the land, it ought to be abolished and that it is the duty and privilege of every Christian and Church as a Church to publicly and privately bear testimony against it. Therefore, Resolved, that this church regard the practice of holding men in slavery to be a violation of the natural rights of men and contrary to the principles of the Gospel, and that it is the duty and privilege of every Christian to use all possible* means and unite in their prayers to God that the oppressed may go free and slavery be abolished from the United States and the world, and that the resolution* and Delegates be instructed to bring the subject before the rest of the congregation.*
Indeed a month later, in May, the resolution passed by a majority vote. Reverend Elder Dimock, who had baptized Isaac Post and his family into the Bridgewater Church did not not vote with the majority, and in December, he presented his own resolution to the church, which resulted in a schism that lasted several years, with Elder Dimock breaking off from the majority. His faction later rejoined the church in 1842, having realized that they couldn’t survive without the larger church.
5 Replies to “Isaac Post’s Resolution to the Bridgewater Baptist Church Regarding Slavery”
Thank you for posting about this! After becoming one of the pastors at Bridgewater from 2005-present, I have researched our church’s history and was grieved that our founding pastor, Davis Dimock, who helped start at least 11 other local Baptist churches thought slavery was wrong but an issue the church should stay out of. This is especially sad considering his son’s stance on the issue politically. Here is some of what I found…
1837 Bridgewater Church passed a resolution against slavery. Bridgewater Pastor Jesse B. Worden was active in the local Abolitionist society and was its first chairman (Waiting p. 30). Bridgewater Elder Albert L. Post was a prosecuting attorney for Susq. County and began The Spectator, “a paper devoted to the freedom of the colored race.” He was at one point chairman of the Abolitionist Society (Waiting… p. 30) and Post used his home on Cherry St. as a place to hide run-away slaves on their way to Canada as part of the “underground railroad.” It has a hidden room above the kitchen fireplace (Waiting p. 39)
1839 The Church split: 46 members left Bridgewater Baptist to join the Montrose & Bridgewater Baptist church over slavery (They met in South Montrose). Both churches were opposed to slavery, but the split thought that the church should not politically involve itself in the fight against slavery (Waiting for the Lord by Debra Adleman, p. 37).
1840 Elder Davis Dimock’s son Davis Dimock Jr. who left Bridgewater in the church split is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat. Almost all Democrats at this time were pro-slavery. In 1836 he was one of 136 men that signed a letter denouncing the newly formed Abolitionist Society (Waiting… p. 34). Davis Jr. dies Jan. 13, 1842 at 40 years of age.
1843 A great revival in the community: 105 are baptized, the church split is resolved in favor of being politically involved against slavery, and membership grows to 449. “As many as 500 people were attending weekly services to hear then-pastor J.B. Worden.”
1845 The Southern Baptist Denomination is formed as a split from Northern Baptist Churches like Bridgewater to form their own pro-slavery denomination.
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Thank you so much for sharing your information with everyone.
Interesting information. Shouldn’t your post say 1837?? Not 1937 Elaine Olin Sent from my iPhone
Thanks for pointing that out. As soon as I posted it this afternoon, I noticed the mistake and updated the blog post. I’m not sure why it still says the wrong date, but you are correct. It should say 1837 and not 1937. That’s a big difference.
It’s correct on the website of the blog.