This Sunday in Baptist History
The first record of what became the first Baptist church in the city of Boston reads: “The 28th of the third month, 1665, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the church of Christ, commonly, though falsely, called Anabaptists, were gathered together, and entered into fellowship and communion with each other; engaged to walk together in all the appointments of our Lord and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, as far as he should be pleased to make known his mind and will unto them by his word and Spirit….” This document than named about fifteen men and women. In signing their names those saints lost their rights as citizens of Massachusetts; they lost the right to vote; they were fined, sometimes imprisoned and even threatened with banishment. Under those conditions, the congregation moved to Noodle Island in Boston’s harbor before moving again into Boston proper.
On this day (February 15) in 1679 the Baptist Church of Boston opened the doors to its own building for the first time. The structure was so plain and unassuming the city authorities didn’t at first realize its purpose. A few months later the General Court passed a law forbidding the use of any building, even homes, for public worship without the consent of the Court or a town meeting. The penalty could be as high as forfeiture of the house and its land. The Baptists then quit their building and started meeting outdoors.
When King Charles II granted limited religious freedom, Massachusetts refused to obey and charged the Baptists when they again attempted to use their own building. On March 8, 1680, the City Marshal nailed the doors shut. The church again petitioned the Court for the right to meet in their own building, but permission was refused. The following Lord’s day they met in the yard outside their building. But the following week when they gathered again to worship outside, they found their building inexplicably open. Without asking whether it was an angel or the marshal who opened the building, they went in boldly and began preaching the Word. For nearly 70 years this was the only Baptist church in Boston.