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This Sunday in Baptist History

July 15

As we have seen in these notes over the years, some of America’s Baptist churches have had unusual names. Imagine a visitor coming into your service. When you ask him about his spiritual condition he replies by saying that he is a Christian and a member of the Polecat Baptist Church in Caroline County, Virginia. “Polecat,” of course, is a nickname for skunk.

When Elder John Burrus and three members of his church were arrested for worshiping Christ in a church not approved by the Colony of Virginia, they told the judge that they were members of the Baptist church meeting down on Polecat Creek. The men were sufficiently evangelical that they had become a stench in the nostrils of their neighbors, so they were arrested for preaching the gospel without a license. They were ordered to stand trial on this day (July 15) in 1771. Only Brother Burrus was ordained, but all four men were gifted with preaching and they were all notorious for “jamming a Scripture down the throat of every man they met upon the road.” After the trial, the court record “ordered they be remanded back to the gaol” in a futile attempt to cool their ardor for Christ.

The Polecat Baptist church building later became known as the Burrus Meeting House, and even later took the name “Carmel Church.” The church flourished for a time, drawing such eminent preachers as Andrew Broadus. I understand that it still stands today south and west of historic Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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