Fifty Years Of Baptist History -- By: Henry Clay Vedder

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 057:228 (Oct 1900)
Article: Fifty Years Of Baptist History
Author: Henry Clay Vedder


Fifty Years Of Baptist History

Prof. Henry Clay Vedder

In order to appreciate the Baptist history of the past fifty years, we must first of all gain as vivid and accurate a picture as we may of the state of the Baptist churches of America at the middle of this century. Naturally our first resort is to statistics, but we speedily discover that no really trustworthy figures are accessible.1 The only statistics of the denomination for the year 1850 are taken from the Baptist Almanac for the following year, and are as follows :—

Churches

Ministers

Members

Northern
Southern

Total

3557
4849

8406

2665
2477

5142

296614
390807

686807

These figures are open to much suspicion. In a table, many times republished, which first appeared in the Baptist Year-Book for 1872, the following totals are given for the year 1851: churches, 9,552; ministers, 7,393; members, 770,839. So great an increase in a single year as is shown by a comparison of these figures, particularly in the number of churches and ministers, appears quite improbable. We may, however, take 700,000 as approximately the number of Baptists in the United States in 1850. The census of that year returned the total population as 23,191,876. There was then, therefore, one Baptist to about thirty-two

persons in the population—reckoning only those in full denominational fellowship. If we had included all the varieties of Baptists in our computation, the total number would become not fewer than 800,000 (the Baptist Almanac gives 815,212), and the proportion would be about one in twenty-nine of the population. This was a very marked increase from the year 1800, when the proportion is supposed to have been one Baptist to every fifty-three persons, or thereabouts. It is further to be noted, that, in making these comparisons, only actual reported members of Baptist churches are included. If we computed “adherents,” at the rate of three for each member, it would probably be true that in 1850 one person in each eleven of the population was a Baptist in esse or in posse.

But even if one could trust these numerical results as precisely accurate, they would give us a most inade...

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