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A Sermon Preached in the Central Reformed Protestant Dutch Church


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[begin surface 1] A SERMON PREACHED IN THE Central Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, BROOKLYN, ON SABBATH MORNING, THE 27TH DAY OF JULY, 1851,  
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obliged, when they wished to partake of the sacraments, to take the long, and at that time, the difficult Sabbath day's journey, to the Metropolitan Church, at New Amsterdam. In the year 1654, Dominie Joannes Polhemus came from Brazil, and was installed as minister of the united charge of Flatbush, Flatlands, and Breuckelen. Soon afterwards a small cruciform church—the First Dutch Church on Long Island—was built by general subscription, at Flatbush. Dominie Polhemus preached in this church every Sunday morning, and, in the afternoon, at Breuckelen and Flatlands, alternately. This continued until 1660, when Dominie Henricus Selyns accepted a call from the people of Breuckelen, and was installed as their pastor.

On his arrival at Breuckelen, Dominie Selyns found one elder, two deacons, and twenty-four members; and the congregration, having no church, worshipped in a barn.

In the year 1666, two years after the Dutch Province of New Netherland became the English 1666 
Province of New York and ten or eleven years after the erection of the church at Flatbush, the First Reformed Protestant Dutch Church was built in Brooklyn, near to its present location. In reference to this church, it has been most impressively remarked, that, for the space of one hundred and twenty-five years, it stood "solitary and alone," in this town. Forty-one years previous to the building of this church, in the year 1625, the first European family settled itself at the Waal-bogt, [begin surface 3] 12 within the present corporate bounds of our city. In 1660, the population was one hundred and thirty- four souls: in 1698 it had increased to five hundred and eleven. During this period, and for a long time afterwards, almost all the inhabitants of Brooklyn were Dutch, or of Dutch descent. But, there is a fact connected with the history of its church, which is to me perfectly inexplicable, and which, I must add, is not reputable to the christian zeal and enterprise of our Dutch ancestors. It does not appear that for the period of more than a century, during which they had the almost entire possession and control of the town, they made any serious attempt to establish another church. And, what is still more surprising, is the fact, that from the time of the settlement of the Rev. Selah S. Woodhull as Pastor, in 1806, nothing was done to form another church, until 1837, when this congregation was organized. These are painful remembrances; for they come over the mind mingled with feelings of regret that so many opportunities and so many means of building up the Church of Christ have been neglected.

The other denominations of Christians,as it regards the establishment of churches, are, with the exception of the Episcopalians, of comparatively recent origin. Nor did that denomination build a church in Brooklyn, until the year 1785; for it is well known that during the Revolution, the Episcopalians were permitted to worship, and they did worship, in the Dutch Church, when it was not occupied by its own congregation. In 1785, a small frame house which had been erected on the Episcopal burying

[begin surface 4] Get "History of the Town of Flatbush" published some 10 or 15 years ago, by Rev. Dr. Strong, of Ref. D. Church there. APPENDIX. NOTE A.

The mother church in Brooklyn was composed of members of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. Immediately after the discovery of the North River by Henry Hudson in 1609, the Dutch tooks steps to occupy the territory which their enterprize had explored. In 1613, there were four houses on the southern point of Manhattan Island, now the Battery of New York. The next year, a block house, called "Fort Nassau," was built on Castle Island, now forming a part of the city of Albany. In the autumn of 1614, the Government at the Hague named the whole of the territory between Canada and Virginia "New Netherlands"; and in 1621 they incorporated the Dutch West India Company, and invested it with full powers to govern their American Province.

It was not until 1623 that any vigorous attempt at colonization was made. In that year, a number of emigrants, chiefly Walloons, were sent out from Holland to Manhattan, under the command of Cornelius Jacobsen May, whose name yet survives in that of the southern Cape May.— Cape of New Jersey Colonization was now actively prosecuted; and in 1625, there were over two hundred souls in New Netherland. Some of the first Walloon emigrants settled themselves on the Bay just north of Brooklyn, which, from this circumstance, became commonly known as the "Waalbogt," or Walloon's Bay. At this place, Sarah Rapelje, the first known offspring of European parentage in this State, was born in June, 1625. In the summer of the next year, Director Peter Minuit purchased from the aborigines, the whole of Manhattan or New York Island, for the West India Company for sixty guilders, or about twenty-four dollars of our present currency. Fort Amsterdam was now commenced on the south point of the Island; and a horse-mill was built, over which was a spacious loft sufficient to acccomodate a large congregation. In this loft divine service was conducted by two "Krank-bezockers," or Comforters of the Sick, officers recognized in the Church of Holland as assistants to the regularly ordained clergy. The first Comforters of the Sick were Sebastian Jansen Crol and Jan Huyck, and they and their successors continued their ministrations by reading texts of Scripture and the creeds to the people, on Sundays, until the arrival of an ordained minister from Holland.

The first clergyman in New Netherland was the Reverend Everardus Bogardus, who probably came out from Holland with Director Wonter Van Twiller, in 1633. Bogardus immediately took charge of the congregation, which still continued its worship in the barn it had occupied since 1626. This building is said to have been situated near the corner of Broad and Stone streets, in the city of New York. The authentic records of the Church at Manhattan begin in the year 1639. In 1642, under Director Kieft's administration, a Stone Church was built within the walls of Fort Amsterdam. The same year, another clergyman, the Rev. Joannes Megapolensis, was commissioned by the Classis of Amsterdam, to preach at Beverwyck, now Albany Dominie Megapolensis did not confine his labors to the Dutch inhabitants, but began also to preach to the Mohawk Indians; and it is worthy of remembrance that these missionary labors preceded, by several years, the first attempt of the famous apostle of New England, John Eliot, to teach the gospel to the savages, near Boston.

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In the meantime, the first English Puritan Colonists of Massachusetts had settled themselves at New Plymouth, towards the end of the year 1620. They came over from Holland, where they had found a cordial welcome and a secure asylum from the persecution of their native land. The liberal government of the Netherlands allowed them freely to organize a church at Leyden. A majority of this congregation remained in Holland, under their clergyman, the Reverend John Robinson : another part, (about one hundred in all) came over to Massachusetts, in the Mayflower, under the spiritual guidance of Elder William Brewster, who, for many years afterwards performed most of the duties of an ordained clergyman. In 1628 a new settlement was commenced at Salem, under Governor John Endicott. The Rev. Samuel Skelton, the Rev. Francis Higginson, and the Rev. Francis Bright, who came out in 1629, were the first regularly ordained ministers in Massachusetts.

Dominie Bogardus continued his ministrations at Manhattan until 1647 when he embarked for Holland, with the late Director Kieft, and was succeeded by Dominie Joannes Backerus, who arrived with Director Stuyvesant. Backerus continued to be the clergyman at Manhattan, or as it now began to be called, New Amsterdam, until the year 1649, when he returned to Holland. At his departure, Dominie Megapolensis accepted a call from the church at New Amsterdam, and removed there from Beverwyck At the latter place, he was succeeded, in 1650, by Dominie Wilhelmus Grasmeer. In 1652, Dominie Samuel Drisins who had been preaching for sometime in England, was commissioned by the Classis of Amsterdam as a Colleague to Dominie Megapolensis. The same year Dominie Gideon Schaats succeeded Dominie Grasmeer, at Beverwyck.

Up to this time there had been no Dutch clergyman settled on Long Island. The people of Breuckelen, which was then a hamlet about a mile inland from what was known as the "Ferry," were in the habit of attending divine service in the church, at New Amsterdam. The people of Midwout or Flatbush and Amersfoort or Flatlands, were likewise in the habit of making the same journey.

In 1654 Dominie Joannes Theodorus Polhemus arrived from Brazil,and accepted a call from the people of Flatbush, where a small church,in the form of a cross,about sixty feet long and 28 feet wide,was soon afterwards built by a general subscription of the inhabitants of that and the adjoining Dutch villag s. Dominie Polhemus preached every Sunday morning in this church; and in the afternoons, alternately at Brooklyn and Flatlands In this condition, things remained for six years. In 1660, Domine Henricus Selyns, and Dominie Hermanus Blom, arrived from Holland. The latter of these immediately settled himself at Esopus, now Kingston, in Ulster county,from the Dutch colonists, at which place he had accepted a call the autumn before. Brooklyn, however, had now increased to thirty-one families, and one hundred and thirty-four souls; and it had one Elder, two Deacons, and twenty-four 1660 members of the united congregation. A call was therefore presented to Dominie Selyns, which he accepted, and, upon his installation, Dominie Polhemus confined his subsequent services, to Flatbush and Flatlands. At first, the congregation, like that at Manhattan, worshipped in a barn The attendance was good, and was frequently augmented by persons from Flatbush, Flatlands, and Gravesend, but chiefly from New Amsterdam.

* In a few years, Brooklyn found itself able to build a church; and in 1666, a building was erected near the site of the present First Reformed Dutch Church. For more than a century, this church was the only church in Brooklyn. By the articles of capitulation under which New Netherland was surrendered to the English in 1664, the Dutch were to enjoy liberty of conscience in Divine worship, and church discipline. The Classis of Amsterdam, which had been from the first, the ecclesiastical superior of all the Dutch churches in New Netherland, continued to be the ecclesiastical superior of all the Dutch churches in New York, until 1772, when the American Reformed Dutch Church became independent of, yet continued in friendly correspondence with, the church of the Fatherland. The first Episcopalian clergyman in the Province of New York was the Reverend Mr. Vesey. He was inducted into office as Rector of Trinity Church, in New York, in December, 1697. The ceremony took place in the Reformed Dutch Church, in Garden street ; on which occasion * This church stood in the middle of the road in what is now Fulton avenue, near the junction of Duffield street.— It had a conical roof, was a round building, and the road ^to the old Ferry went both sides of it.— [begin surface 6] 3 two Dutch clergymen, (Dominie Selyns, who was then one of the pastors of that church,and Dominie J.P.Nucella,of Kingston,) assisted in the services. After his induction Mr. Vesey officiated in the Garden Street Church, alternately with the Dutch clergymen, until the building of Trinity Church was completed. Governor Burnet afterwards presented to the Garden Street Church, an Organ, which was destroyed during the Revolutionary war. In 1779, the New Dutch Church, afterwards known as the "Middle Dutch," and now used as the New York City Post Office, was converted into a Hospital for the British Troops. The Corporation of Trinity Church, as their records show, "impressed with a grateful remembrance of the former kindness of the members of that ANCIENT CHURCH," accordingly offered them the use of Saint George's Church, for celebration divine worship. The offer was gratefully accepted.


The author avails himself by this note, of the opportunity afforded him to record the names of two individuals who were associated with him for a season before he relinquished his charge, viz: the Rev. Mr. Thompson and the Rev. Mr. Talmage. The latter is laboring as a missionary in a foreign field: the former is the accomplished and beloved pastor of a new church, which he is now establishing on Staten Island. His communion with these brethren was pleasant and profitable, while laboring together; and although now seperated from them, his prayer is, that they may both sow abundantly, and reap abundantly in the harvest field of the Gospel, for many years.


Since the delivery of this discourse the Central Church and lots attached to it have been sold under foreclosure of the first mortgage; and as the property did not sell for more than the amount of the mortgage, the five thousand dollars granted by the Consistory of the Collegiate Church, in New York, for which a second mortgage is held, cannot be returned. This is a matter of regret. It was reasonably expected that the property would sell for more than it did, by a considerable amount. But when it is considered that the new church in Pierrepont street, erected by the commendable public spirit and liberality of a few members of the old church and congregation, will accommodate all the members of that congregation who may wish to worship in the new church, the appropriation of the Consistory of the Collegiate Church, instead of being lost, will be more productive of beneficial results than it would have been if the old church had been continued. The new edifice, when completed, will be one of the most commodious, elegant, and ornate structures in this or any other city. May the friends of the church who have voluntarily made themselves responsible for the accomplishment of this enterprise, be richly rewarded, by the gratification of seeing it soon one of the most flourishing and numerous churches in Brooklyn!


"UNDER A NEW NAME." The new church has adopted the name of "The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, on the Heights." This designation and the location which it occupies, naturally remind us of some interesting events in the history of this place. The ground on which the church is erected is part of what formed one of the intrenchments of our army, stationed on Long Island, during the revolution. These works extended down to the river, and back, beyond Fort Green, and from the Wallabout to Gowanus. The disastrous battle of the Heights of Brooklyn occurred on the 27th of July1776, but a fewno— August days after the Declaration of Independence. All around were then open cultivated fields with farm houses. Over these fields and dwellings were heard the thunder of cannon, the rattling of small arms,and the groans of the dying. Hundreds of our little army who were overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the invading enemy, found death on the battle field,and poured out their blood for the invaluable blessing which we enjoy in peace. God, in His infinite mercy, grant that this PEACE may never again be taken from us by any foreign foe; and may the gospel of peace, be proclaimed in the "REFORMED PROTESTANT DUTCH CHURCH, ON THE HEIGHTS," from generation to generation, until the whole world shall be filled with the knowledge and GLORY of the LORD.

[begin surface 7] Walter Libbey Magnolia House St. Augustine
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