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This Sunday in Baptist History

June 28th

Milo P. Jewett was born in 1808 into the family of a wealthy Presbyterian physician. Having graduated from Dartmouth College at the age of 20, followed by time at Andover Seminary, he became a professor at Marrietta College, Marrietta, Ohio and pastor of a Presbyterian church. Then things began to fall apart. In a letter written on this day in 1838 professor Jewett declared:

“Perhaps you know I have preached for about two years past to a Presbyterian church in the country. Some eighteen months ago, an elder of that church became a Baptist. On the occasion of his baptism, a sermon was preached by Rev. Hiram Gear, the Baptist minister in Marietta. This sermon disturbed several members of my church, and the session requested me to preach on baptism, in reply. I declined, saying, the best way to manage the excitement was, totally to disregard it. Soon the session applied to me a second time, insisting that I must preach on the subject; several members of the church were in trouble, and a discourse must be delivered. Finding that the interest in the subject was not likely to die by neglect on my part, I told the church I would prepare a discourse as soon as practicable ….

Thus compelled to write, I determined to go into an original investigation of the whole matter, proceeding just as if I had never heard or read anything on either side, and endeavoring, with a spirit of candid, and prayerful inquiry, to seek after the mind of Christ. I entered upon an investigation of the original Scriptures relative to the language used respecting the ordinance. Thus passed some months. I was compelled to admit, as a philologist and interpreter of the Bible, that immersion, and that only, is the baptism which Christ enjoins.

Afterwards I took up infant baptism; and here I found myself in clouds and darkness. I would lay down the subject for weeks, then resume, till, some three or four months ago, I was obliged, in the fear of God, to conclude that none but believers in Jesus have a right to the ordinance of Jesus.”

In January 1839 Milo Jewett was baptized and united with the Baptist church in Marietta. Then resigning from the college, he began to serve the Lord as a Baptist minister. Later in life, he became the first president of Vassar College, until he lost his sight. One of his lasting legacies is a little volume entitled “Jewett on Baptism,” a copy of which resides in my library.

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