This Sunday in Baptist History
Vermont has a unique Baptist history.
It begins with the birth of Aaron Leland in Holliston, Massachusetts. He was born a second time and became a member of the Baptist church in Bellingham in 1785. Shortly after receiving a license by that church to preach the gospel, he received a letter from some people in Chester asking him to come and minister among them. The people were not Baptists, and when Leland arrived, he almost turned around to return home, but he relented and promised to stay a few weeks. Before he realized it, ten years had passed and a small church had been started. Then in 1799 the Lord began to abundantly bless. By the end of the revival the church was so large that the members decided to divide the congregation, starting churches in four different communities.
None of my sources give the details, but while pastoring in Massachusetts, Leland became interested in Vermont, about fifty miles to the north, apparently doing evangelistic work there. Doors were opened which he couldn’t refuse to enter, and for nine years not only did missionary work, but he became a representative in the Vermont General Assembly. For five of those years he was Lieutenant Governor and for two of them the Governor was another Baptist, named Ezra Butler. Additionally, for nearly two decades Leland was one of the assistant justices of the county court. When in 1828 he was asked to run for governor, he declined saying that it would take too much time from the ministry.
Once while he was Speaker of the House a proposition came up calling for the separation of church and state. In the debate someone argued that Christianity could not survive without the support of state taxes. This so stirred Leland that he left his chair as Speaker and took part in the debate, delivering one of the strongest speeches ever heard in Vermont in favor of religious liberty.
After concluding that he was spending too much time in politics, Bro. Leland gave up all his civil responsibilities, except that of circuit judge. He finished his life in his church. On this day in 1833, Aaron Leland left his busy earthly life to serve his Saviour in unhindered and glorious Heavenly worship.