Subject five in our next volume of A Noble Company is John Peak.

30th Jun 2015

John Peak (1761-1842) was pastor of a number of Baptist churches in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but beyond this an itinerant preacher always looking outward toward any he saw in need, whether physical or spiritual. Through it all, his own life and ministry was plagued by ill health and financial insecurity. A fire at his church in Newburyport, Massachusetts, prompted a fundraising journey that led him as far south as Richmond, Virginia, where he encountered, as he writes in his memoir, a Baptist church with "fifteen hundred members; eleven hundred of them coloured people," joining them long enough to come away with "a very high opinion of their devotion, exemplary piety and consistency of character." In the course of a revival in the northeast in the 1820s, Peak forged alliances with Orthodox Congregationalists who practiced infant baptism, influencing them to the point that they were willing to immerse candidates who requested it, even some who had been baptized as infants! "Surely a milder day has dawned upon the Baptist church," he concluded. His last ministry was in Boston, to the first African American congregation in New England. "The African Baptist Church, in this city," he writes "of which Elder Thomas Paul had been pastor, was now destitute of a preacher. By their request, I commenced in April [1830], and continued to labour with them nine months." In the course of time, he adds, "Backsliders returned, confessed their wanderings, and were restored . . . . There were a few instances of hopeful conversion, and others anxious; so that for a time they were in a prosperous state. When I left them, in January, 1831, the number in the church was forty-nine, and the congregation consisted of about two hundred. They had obtained a man of colour, by the name of Washington Christian, who they expected would become their pastor, so that I was happily released." It is probably fair to say that John Peak was as nearly colorblind about race as anyone in his generation. --RM