Early Growth Continues in New England

Though Benjamin Randall at first stood alone as a Freewill Baptist in New England, he drew strength from Tosier Lord, Edward Lock, and John Shepard. Lord had established an anti-Calvinistic church at Berwick-Crown Point in Barrington and another at Shapleigh, Maine. In June 1779, the Baptist churches at Loudon and Canterbury also rejected the doctrines of Calvinism. These churches never formally united with the Freewill Baptists and afterwards became extinct. They were important, however, at a time when Randall and his few church members needed fellowship with others of like faith.

At first, newly developed Freewill Baptist churches were considered branches of the mother church at New Durham. Each congregation had its own monthly meeting, but members of the other congregations had their own monthly meeting, but members of the other congregations were expected to attend. Randall was responsible for baptizing individuals who joined the different congregations on profession of faith. For a number of years, in the interest of unity, Randall and his closest co-laborers personally visited other churches at least once every twelve months.

The phenomenal growth of the denomination in New England is best seen in the number of ministers added to the number of churches organized. By 1800, the denomination boasted 31 ordained ministers with a good number of them coming from Calvinistic Baptist churches after being converted to an Arminian position. In the first ten years, 20 churches were planted in the New England area. A statistical table for 1790 indicates that two churches had already become extinct, but the others remained to form a strong nucleus for continued growth. The table listed churches by the names of the cities in which they were found, but also included the original name of the church. Both Strafford, New Hampshire, and Bristol, Maine, had two churches within the confines of the city.   ­­­

Adapted from The Free Will Baptists in America 1727-1984 by Dr. William F. Davidson.

Phenomenal Growth in New England

The First Great Awakening in America (1726-1742) introduced a new type of revivalistic preaching that brought new life to the churches that embraced it, but caused conflict with those who could not accept it. As the revival became more popular and affected more churches, splits were inevitable. Denominations divided into revivalist and anti-revivalist factions and, in some cases, entirely new Christian movements were born.

One such movement was founded by Benjamin Randall.

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Celebrating Eighty: The National Association of Free Will Baptists



Celebrating Eighty Years: The National Association of Free Will Baptists

Delegates to the organizational meeting of the National Association of Free Will Baptists met at Cofer’s Chapel, in Nashville, Tennessee, November 5-7, 1935. Although these denominational pioneers met for only three days, they conducted an impressive slate of business, putting aside previous differences to lay an organizational foundation that would stand for decades to come.

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Believer’s Baptism and Infant Salvation

From the first beginnings of the denomination, Free Will Baptists have affirmed and re-affirmed two major doctrines as biblical—General Atonement and Believer’s Baptism. Both would set them apart from the Calvinistic doctrines of election, predestination and infant baptism. While the Free Will Baptists did not suggest that baptism was essential to salvation, it did mark the individual as a believer and served as a sign and seal of church membership.

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The True Blue


Would you believe a Free Will Baptist magazine called The True Blue? There was such a paper, published in Alabama (sometimes at Guin, other times at Townley) in the late 1920’s. The title page identifies The True Blue as “successor to the Free Will Baptist Visitor” and as “published in the interest of True Christianity everywhere, and especially the Freewill and Liberal Baptists.”

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Clement Phinney, Unlikely Evangelist

Clement Phinney was born in Gorham, Maine. In his teen years and early 20s, perhaps no one, least of all Clement Phinney himself, imagined he would become an evangelist. His biographer describes him as very worldly, attempting to stifle the voice of God by living in sinful pleasure and ridiculing sacred things. Phinney was converted in 1806, however, and gave himself to full-time evangelism nine years later.

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Nine to a Pallet

The Morning Star was a weekly Free Will Baptist paper published by the northern (Randall) movement. You will find many of these old papers in the historical collection.

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The Contribution of a Mule

Even mules have made their contribution to Free Will Baptist education. In October 1921, the Cumberland Association of Tennessee authorized its Board of Education to raise $25,000 in five years. One day, after a service at Bethel FWB Church, a man (not a member of the church) approached Pastor G. W. Fambrough and told him he would like to give a mule to the drive.

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The OTHER Hillsdale College

Sometimes a bit of Free Will Baptist history comes to us in unusual ways. This happened some time ago, through an issue of Sports Illustrated.

One of the articles in the December 6, 1971, issue of that magazine concerned a football player named Chester Marcol, a kicker for Hillsdale College in Michigan. Marcol holds two collegiate gridiron records, with a 62-yard field goal and 104 consecutive points after touchdown. He averaged better than 40 yards per punt—though none of this has anything to do with Free Will Baptist history.  The article went on to describe Hillsdale College, pointing out that the institution was “founded in 1844 by Free Will Baptists.”

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The Funeral of Sally Chase

The Free Will Baptist Historical Collection came into possession of a rare  booklet titled, A Sermon, Preached at the Funeral of Sally Chase. The sermon was preached by “Elder H.D. Buzzell” and is dated July 26, 1818. This booklet is among the older Randall Free-Will Baptist publications.

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