DIMOCK, JOSEPH, Baptist minister; b. 11 Dec. 1768 in Newport, N.S., son of Daniel Dimock and Deborah Bailey (Baley); m. 21 Aug. 1798 Betsy Dimock, and they had at least 11 children; d. 29 June 1846 in Bridgetown, N.S.
Joseph Dimock was a member of a New England family known since the Great Awakening for its lack of religious and political orthodoxy. His grandfather Shubael Dimock* and his father ran foul of the authorities in Mansfield, Conn., and in consequence, according to family tradition, came to Nova Scotia in 1759, six months before the arrival in the colony of other New England planters [see John Hicks*]. They settled first in Falmouth but later moved to Newport. Both lay preachers, they were increasingly influenced by the Baptists and were soon immersed – Daniel in 1763, Shubael by 1771. The Dimocks are thus one of the earliest continuing Baptist families in Canada. Joseph received his schooling at home; his father, he said, “gave me a common Education though small, beyond any of my Associates in the village where I lived – implanted in my Nature a thirst for Education so that I do not remember to have ever been so taken up with any pastime but I would willingly leave it for a Book.” His family was greatly influenced by the preaching of Henry Alline* and quickly moved to the centre of the New Light movement launched by that charismatic preacher.
Converted on 17 July 1785, Joseph Dimock was baptized by immersion on 6 May 1787 and joined the Horton Baptist Church. He began to preach in April 1790 without formal education or ordination, very much in the New Light tradition. Along with many of the other New Light leaders, such as Edward Manning* and Harris Harding*, Dimock moved quickly towards antinomianism, joining the so-called “new dispensation” movement. Like Manning, Dimock was eventually frightened by the forces unleashed and retreated to a more orthodox position. On 10 Sept. 1793 he was ordained minister of the Chester New Light church, a mixed congregation of immersed and sprinkled members, succeeding the Reverend John Seccombe*. He remained pastor of that church for the rest of his life.
Dimock played a key role in the gradual evolution of the New Lights into the Baptist movement. He was the moderator of the crucial June 1800 meeting which saw the transformation of the Congregational and Baptist Association into the Nova Scotia Baptist Association, the adoption of the Baptist principle of baptism by immersion, and the ouster of the Congregationalist John Payzant*. Although Dimock continued to minister to a mixed congregation, he used every effort to move it in a Baptist direction and at the same time he took an increasingly important part in the Baptist Association. When in 1809 the association adopted a “close communion” position, which restricted communion to those baptized by immersion, the Chester church temporarily withdrew from that body. By 1811, however, Dimock had led a “reform” of the congregation – the unimmersed members were ousted – and the church rejoined the association. Although its membership was reduced by this move, Dimock’s effective evangelism quickly restored the church to its former importance.
Dimock was involved to a substantial degree in the new endeavours undertaken by Nova Scotia Baptists in the first half of the 19th century. He was a strong supporter of the establishment of Horton Academy and Queen’s (Acadia) College, a denominational press, and foreign and domestic missions. He died in Bridgetown on 29 June 1846 and was buried in Chester, the service being performed by two of his Baptist colleagues, Theodore Seth Harding and Edmund Albern Crawley*.
Although viewed as one of the great “fathers” of the denomination, Dimock was pre-eminently a successful preacher, with the power, especially in his younger days, to stir his audience profoundly. He conducted extensive missionary tours, both in the Maritime colonies and in the New England states, establishing new congregations and revitalizing old ones. Amiable, compassionate, and humble – his contemporaries, according to the Reverend John Mockett Cramp*, compared him to “the Apostle John, for his loving temper and gentleness of deportment” – Dimock symbolized another side of the often harsh Calvinism of the Baptist denomination.
Like most of his ministerial contemporaries, Joseph Dimock kept a diary for most of his adult life. Covering the period from 13 Oct. 1796 to 15 Dec. 1844, it is preserved in the Atlantic Baptist Hist. Coll., Acadia Univ. (Wolfville, N.S.) and has been published in The diary and related writings of the Reverend Joseph Dimock (1768–1846), ed. G. E. Levy (Hantsport, N.S., 1979). A portrait of Dimock, painted by William Valentine, hangs in University Hall at Acadia.
Atlantic Baptist Hist. Coll., Cornwallis, N.S., Congregational (Newlight) Church, minute-book; Edward Manning, corr; Nova Scotia Baptist Education Soc., minutes; Wolfville, United Baptist Church, minutes of Horton Church. Baptist Missionary Magazine of Nova-Scotia and New-Brunswick (Saint John; Halifax), 1 (1827–29): 120–21, 212–13, 280–81; 2 (1830–32): 116–17; new ser., 1 (1834): 164; 3 (1836): 171–76. The Newlight Baptist journals of James Manning and James Innis, ed. D. G. Bell (Saint John, 1984). The New Light letters and spiritual songs, 1778–1793, ed. G. A. Rawlyk (Hantsport, 1983). John Payzant, The journal of the Reverend John Payzant (1749–1834), ed. B. C. Cuthbertson (Hantsport, 1981). Christian Messenger, 22 Dec. 1848, 16 April 1856. J. V. Duncanson, Falmouth – a New England township in Nova Scotia, 1760–1965 (Windsor, Ont., 1965; repr., with supp., Belleville, Ont., 1983). A genealogy of the Dimock family from the year 1637, comp. J. D. Marsters (Windsor, N.S., 1899). Bill, Fifty years with Baptist ministers. Levy, Baptists of Maritime prov. Saunders, Hist. of Baptists.