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This Sunday in Baptist History

August 21

On this day in 1773, Nathaniel Saunders, pastor of Mountain Run Baptist Church, and William McClannahan, assistant to John Picket at Carther’s Run Baptist Church were arrested after a warranted was issued. They were charged with “teaching and preaching contrary to the laws and usages of the Kingdom of Great Britain, raising sedition and stirring up strife amongst his Majesty’s leige people.” They surrendered without argument and were locked into the county jail at Culpeper. These were two of forty-three Baptist ministers who were incarcerated by Virginia, sacrificing and giving of themselves to obtain freedom for all – not just for themselves.

Robert Howell in 1857 wrote of “a venerable gentleman, recently gone to his rest, some years ago (who said to his friend: – ‘I often heard, in my youth, the Baptist ministers preach from the windows of the Jail in Chesterfield Court House. The effects were sometimes most extraordinary. On one occasion Webber was preaching; the heavy iron gratings partially concealed him; his appeals were most touching. A man that I did not know, came up and stood by my side. In a few minutes this man began to tremble violently; presently he fell upon his knees, and then upon his face; and there he lay during the service, praying audibly and agonizingly to God for mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ.’ This, he added, ‘was no unusual occurrence. Scores and fifties were often at the same time similarly exercised.’ Eleazer Clay, Sheriff of the county, the uncle and guardian of the distinguished statesman, Henry Clay, with reference to those who had professed religion at Chesterfield Jail, writes thus to his friend, Rev. John Williams of Amelia County: – ‘We wish you to come down and baptize those who are now waiting for an opportunity. The Lord is now carrying on a glorious work in our country. The preaching at the prison is not attended in vain, for we hope that several are converted, while others are under great distress, and are made to cry out, ‘What shall we do to be saved.'”

It might be of interest to know that of the forty-three brethren arrested there was a mixture of both Particular and Separate Baptists – some firmly believing in sovereign grace and others who didn’t. It was together that they fought for religious liberty in Virginia and for those throughout this nation.

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