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This Sunday in Baptist History

May 1

With only a few exceptions, Baptists were the only religious “denomination” or people who were firmly interested in – and dying for – independence from England. It was their hope that independence would also mean freedom to worship according to the principles of the Word of God. What is little known is that many Baptists in England were also supportive of American independence, because they didn’t possess genuine liberty either. Britain’s 1689 Edict of Toleration did not give total religious freedom – just “tolerance.”

John Ryland, later president of Bristol Baptist College, is quoted to have said to his Father, “If I were Washington I would summon all the American officers, they should form a circle around me, and I would address them, and we would offer a libation in our own blood, and I would order one of them to bring a lancet and a punch bowl, and we would bare our arms and be bled; and when the bowl was full, when we all had been bled, I would call on every man to consecrate himself to the work by dipping his sword into the bowl and entering into a solemn covenant engagement by oath, one to another, and we would swear by Him that sits upon the throne and liveth forever and ever, that we would never sheathe our swords while there was an English soldier in arms remaining in America.”

Another statement was made on this day in 1784 after the war. John Rippon of London wrote to James Manning of Rhode Island College, “I believe all of our Baptist ministers in town, except two, and most of our brethren in the country were on the side of the Americans in the late dispute. We wept when the thirsty plains drank the blood of our departed heroes, and the shout of a king was among us when your well-fought battles were crowned with glory; and to this hour we believe that the independence America will, for a while, secure the liberty of this country, but if that continent had been reduced, Britain would not have long been free.”

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