April 11

We need to keep in mind that although we Baptists treasure the King James Bible, England’s King James was no lover of our doctrines or our forefathers.

On this day in 1612, a year after the publication of the King’s Authorized Version of the Bible, Edward Wightman was burned to death at Lichfield. Some say he was the last Baptist to be so murdered in Britain. Other than the prelates of the Church, the English people were growing tired of such brutality, so stir their growing antipathy Wightman was charged with a litany of offenses, most of which were not true. They said he was guilty of accepting the doctrines of “Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Arius, Macedonius, Simon Magus, Manes, Photinus, and of the Anabaptists, and other arch-heretics.” Actually, he was nothing more than an Anabaptist, but that was enough to stir up the priests of the Church of England.

Historian Thomas Crosby wrote of Wightman’s martyrdom. “Among other charges brought against him were these: ‘That the baptizing of infants is an abominable custom; the Lord’s supper and baptism are not to be celebrated as they are now practiced in the church of England and that Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the church of England, but only in part.’”

The sort of man Edward Wightman really was might be seen in some of his progeny. Valentine Wightman, the great grandson of Edward, established the first Baptist church in Connecticut. His son Timothy Wightman pastored that church in Groton after his father, and he was succeeded by his son, John Gano Wightman. These were all good men whose names and lives are recorded in Cathcart’s “Baptist Encyclopedia.”