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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2


This foot note contained in document ADMS-05-02-02-0003-0002-0002
16. The doctrine that laying on of hands was a condition precedent to communion was adhered to by most of the General Baptist churches, which were strongest in Rhode Island and Connecticut and were known as “Six Principle” churches, this being in effect the sixth principle. The Calvinistic Particular Baptists of the Middle Atlantic states and most of the Separate Baptists of New England, including James Manning (originally a Philadelphian) and Isaac Backus, leaders of the Warren Association, rejected the doctrine. See Goen, Revivalism and Separatism 272 note; Burrage, History of the Baptists 27–30, 80–81; 3 Backus, Church History 59; Isaac Backus, A History of the Warren Association in New England, from its first formation to the present time ( MS ) 108, Backus Papers; Benedict, General History 453–454; Richard C. Knight, History of the General or Six Principle Baptists 100 and throughout (Providence, 1826) (the editors are indebted to Professor McLoughlin for the last three references). According to Backus, the association of Rhode Island and Connecticut churches which Green joined in 1763 (note 11 34 above), although presumably Calvinistic, was founded upon the principle of “the laying on of hands upon every member as a term of communion . . . but in two years after the most of them gave up that bar of communion, of whom Mr. Jacobs [Wightman Jacobs, note 13 36 above] was one.” 3 Backus, Church History 261. The association seems to have broken up thereafter over this issue. Both Jacobs and Noah Alden moved to Massachusetts at this point and took churches which joined the Warren Association (note 18 above). Since Green also joined the Warren Association in 1768, it seems probable that all three had been among those members of the earlier association who “gave up that bar” of laying on of hands. If this is so, Putnam's statement is inaccurate as of the time of the trial, but probably it correctly describes the circumstances which led to the foundation of Green's church. Holding this belief, Green could not “communicate” (i.e. be in fellowship) with either the Standing Church or the Separate Church, from both of which he had separated (note 9 32 above). In all probability, his position would also have prevented him from “communicating” with Thomas Green's Leicester Baptist church as well. If Thomas Green were a Calvinist of “Strict Principles” (note 14 37 above) it is unlikely that he accepted what was essentially an Arminian doctrine. Moreover, in the church at Sutton, of which Thomas had been co-pastor before the foundation of his Leicester church, “Laying on of hands was left indifferent. Some were and some were not under h[an]ds.” Journal of John Davis, 27 April 1771, Backus Papers. See also Estes, “Historical Discourse” 17–19. Thus, Putnam's point seems to be that, if it were not for this doctrinal “trifle,” Nathaniel Green need never have formed his own church at all.