Below is a complete transcription of Anne Dutton’s entries in the Great Gransden Church Book (unpaginated, Huntingdonshire Record Office), 1743-1759, an unprecedented act by a Baptist woman in the eighteenth century.
Augst 1743. Our dear Pastor, Mr Benjamin Dutton, tho’t it his Duty on divers Accounts, & in particular, that he might serve the Church, & ye Cause of Christ here unto latest Time, to go for a while into America. This he propos’d to yeChurch, & with their Consent, & a Letter recommendatory, he went for London in order to embark in ye same Month. – After ye Lord had carried him safe over Sea, he found yt ye Business he went about, requir’d more Time that he at first tho’t of. This prov’d a great Trial both to him & us; & especially to ye Church. For tho’ it pleas’d ye Lord to bless our dear Pastor’s Labours much in America, for ye Edification of many, & for ye saving Conversion of Eleven, or Twelve Souls, wch was a great Comfort to us, yet we greatly wanted him at Home. And during his Absence, many of our Members were providentially removed, & others taken from us by Death: So yt ye Church was bro’t very low. – And to add to our Trial, after ye Lord had carried his dear Servant thro’ ye Work he went about, & he embark’d for England & was bro’t near ye European Coast, instead of our having ye Joy of his safe Return, our wise & good God, Lov’d his dear Servant into his own Bosom, & gave us ye Sorrow to hear, that he was cast way by Sea, in his Passage Home. – After this, it pleas’d ye Lord to give us a little Reviving, but with great & various Trials Till at Length, in Septr 1749. Our Distress was very great, as we could not get Supplies, & had no Prospect how we could keep up ye Meeting during ye Winter. But when ye Night was darkest, ye Day began to dawn. The Lord, whose Mercy endureth forever, remembred us in our low Estate, & sent his dear Servant, Mr. [David] Evans, to reside amongst us & minister to us, at a Time untho’t of, to our pleasing Surprize, he being before unknown to us. This great Mercy, as it was a rich Supply of our present Necessity, we receive’d with Thanksgiving, as an Answer of Prayer. – And tho’ before his coming, ye Church was in a divided State, & we afterwards met with Opposition, yet as ye Lord was pleas’d to bless his Ministry to our Souls, & as ye Church had lay so long out of Order, we begg’d his Consent that we should ask his Dismission from ye Church of Christ at Hook Norton, (Oxfordshire) unto us. And as ye Lord inclin’d his Mind hereto, we write for, & receiv’d his Dismission.
But, as before our Pastor went Abroad, ye Church agreed (on Account of ye Uneasiness of two of ye Brethren with strict Communion) to receive such Persons into our Fellowship, that could not see it their Duty to be baptiz’d by Immersion: Hence, some of us tho’t yt we sinned therein, in yt we thereby broke ye last Clause of our Solemn Covenant wch we had entred into with ye Lord & with each other, & unto which we had subscrib’d our Names; & yt for this ye Lord had contended with us; and judg’d it our Duty to return unto him, to confess our Sin, & intreat him to forgive & bless us; and tho’t it best yt this should be done, & our Covenant renewed, before Mr. Evans was join’d. And thence,
Dec. 2, 1749. We had a Church meeting; and those of us whose Hearts the Lord inclin’d to follow him in his Ordinances, humbled ourselves before him, intreated his forgiving Love, & his returning unto us with Mercies. This done, we renewed our solemn Covenant; in hopes yt our other Brethren & Sisters, wch at present stood at a Distance, might in a little time come in & renew Covenant with us. And after this, ye same Day, Mr. Evans was received into our Communion, to our Heart’s Joy, & ye Lord’s Praise.
When Mr. Evans was join’d, ye Brethren having a Desire to get into Order as soon as might be, if the Lord pleas’d, it was jointly agreed ye same Day, to give Mr. Evans a Call to the Pastoral Office amongst us; which was instantly done, & he desired to seek ye Lord, & give in his Answer ye next Church-meeting.
Dec. 2, 1749.
The Church Covenant, as followeth, was renewed by us whose Names are under-written:
We do in the awful Presence of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the crowned King of Sion, and in the Presence of his holy Angels, and his People, and all besides here present: solemnly give up ourselves unto the Lord, and to one another by the Will of God; solemnly promising and engaging in the aforesaid Presence, to walk with the Lord and with one another, in the Observation of all Gospel-Ordinances, and in the Discharge of all Relative Duties, in this Church of God, and elsewhere, as the Lord shall enlighten and enable us: Receiving none into our Communion, but such that have been enabled to believe in Jesus, and upon Profession thereof, have been baptized in his Name by Immersion, or Dipping, according to Christ’s Institution.
[Among the signatories is “Anne Dutton” with “died Nov. 18, 1765” written to the side in another hand]
Dec. 3. Sister Gray renew’d Covenant with us.
Jan. 5. We had a Church-meeting, and Mr. Evans gave in his Answer to the Church’s Call as follows:
Brethren, I trust that a Call from God, is in your Call to me; I do therefore accept of it; in hopes that God will appear for us. But as the Time of Probation was so very short, I must beg leave to put in this Proviso: (which is always included, tho’ not expressed upon this occation) That is, if the All-wise God, in his over-ruling Providence hereafter, should make it plainly appear to be my Duty to remove; and I giving you my just, and to me satisfactory Reasons for it: That you will not then censure my Conduct, but send me way in Peace and Love, after a sufficient, at least, Half a Year’s Notice.
To the Substance of this Proviso, the Brethren consented, rejoiced at the Answer and blest our good God, that he had made his dear Servant willing to take the Care of us: And unto him likewise, for his Kindness therein, they gave Thanks
Feb. 27, 1749.
The Church being met according to Appointment, to set apart the Lord’s Servant, our dear & hond Brother, Mr. Evans, to the Pastoral Office amongst us; the Day was observ’d in Fasting & Prayer. And after some of the Brethren had sought the Lord for his Assistance, & Blessing on the Work of the Day: The Church (in the Presence of Messengers sent for from yeChurch of Christ at Cambridge under ye care of Mr. Simson) renew’d their solemn Call of Mr. Evans to take the Pastoral Care of us; and by ye Brother appointed to go before them, desir’d Mr. Evans to give his Answer by Word of Mouth. Upon which, Mr. Evans made a very full & short Confession of his Faith. And at ye Close of it acquainted ye Church, That he freely accepted of their Call, & of ye Lord’s Call in theirs; and resign’d Himself up to ye Lord’s Service amongst us, & to be our Servant for Jesus’ Sake: Engaging by Divine Assistance, to feed, & take ye Oversight of us, as a little Flock of Christ; according to what he had now solemnly profess’d to believe from ye Holy Scriptures. Then Mr. Wills, Pastor of ye Church of Christ at Evershalt, (being requested by our Church to assist in ye Work of ye Day) ordain’d Mr. Evans by Prayer & Imposition of Hands; committing ^him^ to ye God of all Grace, for all needful Assistance, Gifts & Endowments requisite for the Work. Next, Mr. Simson pray’d, & preach’d ye Duty of ye Pastor, from Eph. 4.12. Mr Wills preach’d ye Duty of ye People, from I Tim. v. 17. And Mr. Evans concluded in & made it a Day of great Gladness: Glory to his great Name! – And now, Lord, what wait we for? Our Eyes are upon THEE: Let thy great Blessing descend upon us, for the Advancement of ye Interest of our great Redeemer amongst us! Let thy Hand be with us; and many believe & turn unto ye Lord!
June 23, 1751. Mr. Evans preach’d his Farewel Sermon, from 2 Cor. 13.7. Blessed be our good God, he was pleas’d to make this his dear Servant a Blessing to us at his first coming, & for some Time: An Instrument of uniting the divided Members, and of our walking together in the Ordinances of the Lord’s House; and of instructing & comforting those who thro’ Grace had believed in Jesus. He was a very judicious Minister; but as his Preaching was chiefly in a doctrinal Way, & he very little spirited to address Souls, & to speak to Sinners, ye Lord did not own him for their Conversion: so that that part of the Church’s Edification was not answered. And we being in a very low state, and ye Cause of Christ threatned amongst us, by ye Loss of three of our Brethren since Mr. Evans came, & no appearance of any to fill up their Places, the Auditory also decreasing; it was tho’t worthy of Consideration, if we ought not to make Trial of another Minister. And when some Hints thereof were privately given, dear Mr. Evans, as we take it, was left to fall in with ye Snare of a settled Maintainance, & thence he asserted, (what appears to us to have been before his Judgment) That the Relation between Pastor & People is not for Life, whether God owns him or not: in that he affirm’d, “That as we had call’d him to be our Minister, if he was faithful, (tho’ not successful) he might abide with us for Life, whether we wou’d or not, & that yeChurch had no Power to put him away: That he might leave us, if he would, as he made a Proviso for it; but we had no Power to warn him away; nor any other Churches to put away their Pastor, if they were not useful. – “But if a Pastor has a Right to leave his People, if Things are not for his Comfort, & for ye Support of his Family; han’t a Church of Christ Power to chuse for themselves their own Minister, as they judge is most for their own Comfort & Edification? And even to put away their Pastor, if they judge yt by keeping him, ye Cause of Christ is threatned amongst them, & their very Church-state to be destroyed? If ye Relation between Pastor & People commenceth by mutual Consent, ought it not to be thus continued? And if ye End of it, the Edification of ye Church is not answered thereby; ought it not to [be] dissolved, rather ^than^ the Church, & ye Cause of Christ in it shou’d be destroyed? And as our Lord has lodg’d a Power in the Church to call to Office; han’t he likewise given it a Power to dissolve that office, if ye Church judge it to be most for yeGlory of God & its own Edification? However, Mr. Evans’s asserting, That he might stay with us for Life, even against our will, ye Matter was laid before ye Church; and ye Majority of ye Brethren tho’t it their Duty to part with him, & to make Trial of another Minister. This they acquainted Mr. Evans with, & desir’d him to provide for himself as soon as he could. But he continued for near a quarter of a year utterly averse to it. At Length ye Lord inclin’d his Mind to go, upon some Considerations offer’d him. And it is hoped, that ye great Master-builder, by Mr. Evans[,] hath laid ye Foundation of a Work, in raising this little Church from its low Estate, which his own Hand will finish by another Instrument. – Oh yt yeLord would soon send us ye Man yt he has chosen, & designs to use for ye Conversion of Sinners & Addition of Members: that his Name may be glorify’d & ye church edified! Lord Jesus, say Amen! –
Decr 15, 1751. Our hond & dear Brother, Mr. Thomas Ward, was to our Joy received into this Church, by Dismission from the Church of Christ at Walgrave; in order to our calling him forth to the Work of the Ministry. And the 25th of this Instant, was then appointed for Fasting & Prayer, in order thereto. The Lord having inclin’d him to serve us in ye Ministry, & ye Church he belong’d to, to dismiss him to us for that End. Thanks be to God, for ye Dawn of another Day, after a dark Night! And, Oh that thro’ his Ministry, the Sun of Righteousness may arise upon us, wth Healing in his Wings! – Lord Jesus, let ye Times of Refreshing, come upon us from thy Presence!
Dec. 25, 1751. Mr. Ward was called to the Work of the Ministry in this Church, and elsewhere, wherever Providence might cast him.
Nov. 5, 1752. Brother David Chapman was received into this Church by Dismission from the Church of Christ at Walgrave; in order to his being call’d to the Work of the Ministry.
Nov. 29th We kept the Forepart of the Day in Fasting & Prayer, & the Church then gave Br Chapman a Call to the work of the Ministry, & sent him forth to preach the Gospel in any Place where Providence might cast him: Having commended him to the Grace of God for the Work whereunto he had appointed him.
The same Day also our Sister Hannah Woods (How, that was) having being twice admonish’d of scandalous Evils, & giving no Satisfaction to the Church of her Repentance, was excluded from our Communion.
July 25, 1757 [entry is out of place in the book]. Br Robt Day having been twice admonish’d for his disorderly walking, without any good Effect, was excluded from our Communion.
Oct. 24, 1755. After Mr. Ward & Mr. Chapman were dismist, Mr. [Timothy] Keymer came to reside wth us, & preach’d Oct. 20th, yefirst Lord’s Day after his coming. And his Ministry being made a great Blessing to us;
May 5, 1757. Dear Mr. Keyner was received into this Church, by Dismission from Worstead: To the Joy of our Souls, & Revival of our Hope, of the Lord’s fresh Appearance for us in our low estate.
June 18, 1758. The Church gave Mr Keymer a Call to ye Pastoral Office.
Oct. 29. The Church renew’d their Call, & Mr. Keymer having sought ye Lord, & ye Charge of this Church, then accepted ye Call; & ye 6th of Dec. next was fixt for his Ordination, & Mr. Trivett & Mr. Hull, from ye Churches at Worstead ^& Carlton, were sent for to assist & preach on yt Occation [sic]. The Church had long desert’d getting into Order in Hope of others joining wth us: But as none were inclin’d to it, in our low Estate, we tho’t it our Duty to proceed without them & in yt way to wait for ye Lord’ gracious Appearance in adding to us.
At ye same time also, Br James Ladson was call’d [to] be Deacon, & ye 25th of Nov. next fixt to set him apart.
Nov. 15, 1758. We had a Church-Meeting, a Day of Fasting & Prayer, to seek the Lord for his Presence with us, & his Blessing upon us, with Respect to the Affairs of his House And it was tho’t best on some Accounts, that Br. Ladson’s Ordaination shou’d be deferred till Mr. Keymer was ordained.
Dec. 5, 1758. Mr. Keymer was ordained Pastor. The Church then gave him a Public Call to that Office amongst us; & he publicly declar’d his Acceptance thereof, with what he had from the Lord, to encourage him to engage therein. Mr. Trivett from Worstead, & Mr. Hull of Carlton preached. The former, the Duty of the Pastor, from Act. 20, 28. The latter, the Duty of the People, from 1 Cor. xv. 58. And the Lord was remarkably with them & us, & with all his People present, & made it a Day of great Gladness, a Time of Refreshing from his Presence. Oh, our God, the God of all grace, from this Time, do thou bless us!
Dec. 10th We sat down at the Lord’s Table, & were blest with his Presence.
Sister Muscot, who was formerly a Member of a Church at Floor, which had been dissolved for some years, spoke her Experience at that Time, was received into the Church, & sat down with us.
Dec. 25th We had a Church-Meeting, & Br. Ladson was then ordain’d Deacon. And the Lord was with us.
[new hand takes over, most likely that of Rev. Keymer, the new pastor]. Feb 6th Brother and Sister Brumfall . . . .
On the next page is an entry about the death of Anne Dutton:
Nov. 18. 1765. The Lord called Home by death our dear & eminent Sister Anne Dutton, whose usefulness (in Christs cause in General, & to this Church in particular) was well known & her loss sincerely lamented Aged 73.]
Mr Wm [sic] Dutton was married in the year 1719, he being then 28 years old – and Mrs Ann Dutton in the 27 year of her age she died Nov 18 1765 – So that it appears she died in the 73 year of her Blessed age – and the Rev Mr Dutton was cast away, and died 17 years before his Godly wife – which was in the year 1748 [sic] – and the 57 year of his age – She was a transient Member of the church of as she says Mr Sk—p at L---n.
Text: Great Gransden Baptist Church Book, unpaginated, KFR6/1/2, Huntingdonshire Record Office.