II. Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall Go To Virginia, then to Sandy Creek North Carolina, an Anglican Colony; The Work at Sandy Creek Explodes


A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.



Jerald Finney
Copyright © March 1, 2018


In 1751 or 1752, as had others before him, Mr. Marshall set out with his wife and three children and possibly with one other couple, with no prospect of material reward, to minister to the Indians in New York. They settled at the Indian town of Onnaquaggy. They had to leave after eighteen months because strife among the Indians caused by the French and English struggle and attempts to gain the support of various tribes disrupted his work and threatened his family. He went to Connogogig, Pennsylvania for a short stay, then moved to Opekon, Virginia. The pastor of Mill Creek Baptist Church baptized him. His powerful preaching ability was recognized and a revival ensued.[1]

Shubal Stearns and his wife, along with five other families, possessed with missionary zeal, left Tolland, Connecticut in August 1754. They moved to Virginia. Daniel Marshall greeted them there. They settled in Cacapon Creek, Virginia, but did not stay there long. Members of some neighboring churches (later called “Regular” Baptist churches), which upheld dignity and orderliness in worship, were upset with the “noisy and emotional preaching of the Separates,” by some of the preaching, which “may have suggested Armenianism to them,” and by “the prominent place occupied by women in some Separate meetings which hinted at disorder.” The Indians broke into open hostility in 1755. Consequently, Mr. Stearns and his party moved to Sandy Creek, North Carolina, “a strategic center from which he could itinerate to a growing and spiritually destitute population.”[2] There they constituted the Sandy Creek Church with Mr. Stearns as minister and Daniel Marshall and Joseph Breed as assistant ministers.

Shubal Stearns preaching at Sandy Creek

Mr. Stearns immediately began to preach. People from neighboring farms began to attend, for the first time hearing the doctrine of the new birth.

  • “The enthusiastic manner of preaching, too, was unprecedented. Stearns’ delivery was warm and appealing, full of persuasive zeal, not at all the commonplace, lecture-type discourses which the people had formerly heard. Strong gestures and a fervent plea told the people that the preacher was intensely involved in his message. It was obvious he wanted a verdict.
  • “The preachers deep feeling and personality passed to the members of the church and from them to the visitors. The music in the little pastor’s voice soon penetrated every heart, and his piercing, discursive eye seemed to peer into every soul. The tears, tremblings, and shouts of the members quickly affected the visitors, and from the little meetinghouse a tumult of grief at sin and joy at salvation ascended to heaven. Men who came to the meetings to mock returned home praising and glorifying God. The church began to grow!
  • “Then the Separates knew that they had found their home and that God’s will was being perfected in them. The heart of their little community held a plan worthy of the heart of an empire.” [3]

The population of North Carolina was growing rapidly. People were coming from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania; and large families were common. Although law established the Church of England in 1701 in North Carolina, it had a feeble career there, and the colony gained a reputation as an asylum for the religiously persecuted. By 1755, the population of North Carolina was nearly a hundred thousand.[4]

The Quakers preached the first sermon in North Carolina in 1672 and were the earliest dissenters. The Moravians also flourished there. The Anglicans were few in number, had only one or two ministers in the colony at any given time, and were looked upon with indifference and hostility by the people of North Carolina. Except for the Quakers and Moravians, until the middle of the eighteenth century, “[r]eligious concerns among the early dissenters were doomed to steady decline because of the shortage of churches, religious instruction, and pastors.”[5]

The work at Sandy Creek soon began to produce much fruit. Mr. Stearns and the other preachers in his church were in great demand to go preach at other settlements. He and Daniel Marshall decided, before having been at Sandy Creek a year, to go on a preaching mission all the way to the coast. Converts were being called into ministry, and the Separate Baptist movement was seeing the birth of new churches. Within three years, there were three churches with a combined membership of over nine hundred, and these churches had numerous branches. Young evangelists were “beginning to occupy the land of promise.” In 1758, the Sandy Creek Association was organized. The plan for the association “required careful planning, for the associational movement would usher in a grand new chapter in Separate Baptist expansion.”[6]

The movement exploded. Ministers and converts went all over North Carolina, then into South Carolina and Georgia. The power of God was with these Separate Baptist preachers. Churches were planted and many were converted. In North Carolina, the Baptists displaced the Anglicans and the Presbyterians. Daniel Marshall went to South Carolina with some others in his church and started a church there. From there, he went on preaching trips into Georgia. He was so successful in some of his forays there that he was arrested, convicted, and commanded to preach no more in Georgia. “The arresting constable and even the magistrate who tried Marshall were soon converted and baptized.” In 1771, Mr. Marshall moved to Kiokee Creek, Georgia and formed the first Baptist church in Georgia at Appling in 1772. [7]


Endnotes

[1] William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Foundations in the South (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), p p. 25-28 citing Stewart Pearce, Annals of Luzerne County (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1960), pp. 34-35; J. B. Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1859), I, 19; R. B. Stemple, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists of Virginia, revised and extended by G. W. Beale (Richmond: Pitt & Dickinson, 1894), p. 370.

[2] Ibid., pp. 28-30.

[3] Ibid., pp. 31-32.

[4] Ibid., pp. 33-34, citing G. W. Paschal, History of North Carolina Baptists (Raleigh: General Board of North Carolina Baptist State Convention, 1930), I, pp. 252-254.

[5] Ibid., pp. 34-36.

[6] William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Foundations in the South (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), pp. 41-45.

[7] Ibid., p. 55, citing J. H. Kilpatrick, The Baptists, (Atlanta: Georgia Baptist Convention, 1911), pp. 37-38.

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