August 25

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...

August 18

On this day in 1846, General Samuel Kearny took possession of New Mexico in the name of the United States of America. Soon after he raised the flag over Santa Fe, two Baptist missionaries, H.W. Read and Samuel Gorman, entered the new territory in the name of Christ Jesus. They may have been the first of any missionaries in New Mexico other than Roman Catholic. Eleven years later, Bro. Read had the joy of leading Blas Chavez, a twenty-one-year old Spanish-speaking national, to the Lord. Soon after that Bro. Gorman baptized the young man. Under the leadership of the two missionaries, Bro. Chavez grew rapidly in the grace of God, training to become a minister of the gospel. When the War Between the States commenced, New Mexico was occupied by Confederate troops. The two missionaries, whose loyalties lay with the North, suspended their work and returned home, but the work of Christ continued through Bro. Chavez. While primarily ministering to Spanish-speaking inhabitants, he didn’t fail to preach to anyone who would listen, and several churches were started among various nationalities of people. It is said that Bro. Chavez was inexhaustible. Eventually he became known as “The Grand Old Man of the Baptist ministry” in New Mexico. After fifty years of service he was called home on February 20,...

August 11

In 1829 the first Baptist church in the territory of Kansas was organized with David Lewis and his wife, and John Davis, a Creek Indian, and three black men – slaves of the Creeks. The group had traveled from Michigan with Pastor Isaac McCoy and his son-in-law Johnston Lykins. For ten years Bro. Lykins ministered to the group in their new location. The place became known as Kansas City, and Lykins was its first full-time mayor. Bro. McCoy turned his attention to mission work toward the west and southwest. My sources state he started the first Baptist work in the Indian territory (Oklahoma), about 15 miles above Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River in September 9, 1832. Fort Gibson is about half way between Tulsa and Talihina and/or Porteau. After working there for a while, McCoy returned to visit the brethren in Kansas City before traveling to Shawnee, Kansas. His journal states – “our scattered church which once met at Carey, now was able to assemble fifteen members at the Shawnee Mission House. On the 11th day of August, two Delawares were baptized.” One of those Delawares, or Lenape, originally from the Middle Colonies, was Charles Journeycake, who in time became an outstanding Baptist preacher, pastoring a church among the Delawares for years. One source that I consulted said that Bro. Journeycake was the first man baptized in the Kansas Territory. He made twenty-four trips to Washington DC in behalf of his displaced people. Baptists have, from the beginning, been first and foremost in bringing the gospel to our Native Americans, and I am convinced that this is still...

August 4

Eleazer Clay was born on this day (August 4) in 1744. After the French and Indian War he settled in Chesterfield County, Virginia where he married, settled down and began to prosper. But that changed somewhat when the Baptists arrived. Clay was drawn by the Holy Spirit to the jail where William Webber, Joseph Anthony and John Weatherford were incarcerated. They had been arrested for preaching without the government’s license, but that didn’t silence them. Even while in jail, they stretched their arms through the bars of their cells and preached salvation by grace. Many locals came to hear this strange new message including Eleazer Clay. Clay was converted by God’s grace, in 1771, and he immediately became a member of the Chesterfield Baptist church. Soon after that he preaching Christ himself. After some months and Brother Clay was not arrested, the sheriff explained that was because “Mr. Clay has a livelihood,” but the others had been taken because they were vagrants. In reality, by this time, Eleazer Clay had become a wealthy man, and in deference to his money, he was not arrested. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t without enemies. On one occasion, he was preaching in a private house, when a man rode up into the yard declaring, “I have come to cowhide Eleazer Clay.” When the preacher was told the man’s business, he replied, “I fear no man. If I have to go out there after him, I will give him one of the worst whippings he ever head in this life.” Apparently the horseman didn’t hang around for the end of the service. Bro....

July 28

In Norway, before there were any Baptist churches, there was a growth of Baptist principles, including salvation by grace through faith, and as a result, the rejection of infant baptism. Strangely this religious insurgency took place among the disciplined soldiers of the Norwegian army. On Sunday, July 28, 1743 a contingent of soldiers was ordered to participate in a church parade. Among them were several who had rejected the Lutheran faith, and these refused to enter the church assigned to them. They were arrested for insubordination, and after six months in the stockade they were brought before a military tribunal for court-martial. One leader, Hans Pederson, was sentenced to serve three years in chains, while another, Christopher Pederson, was sentenced to six months in chains. The rest were sent to an Oslo prison, so that they might “work constantly and receive instruction, so they might change their mind.” Rather than repent and recant, the Oslo men continued to feed each other the Word of God. And when one of their number refused to enter the prison chapel, he was dragged inside by force, and this stirred even other prisoners to study their Bibles. The Lutheran bishop over the prison then wrote a letter to King Christian VI stating, “These separatists are not only stubborn in regard to their own heresy, but they are trying to lead the other prisoners into the same heresy.” He recommended that they be separated and scattered throughout the prison system. This was a mistake, because they just carried the flame of truth with them to a wider field. There has never been a strong...

July 21

According to all that I have read, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the famous patriot, scientist, printer and Post Master General, was a moral bankrupt for most of his life. Like many intellectuals in this day, at least as a young man, he may have professed to be a Deist, but he was not a true Christian. A hundred fifty years before Franklin, the Mayhew family did evangelistic work among the Indians in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (1646-1806). A later associate of the Mayhews was Peter Foulger, an ardent Baptist and member of the Lord’s church in Nantucket. It was through his influence that some of the Mayhews learned and began to practice Baptist doctrine – scriptural doctrine. Foulger was a schoolmaster, a surveyor and a friend of the Indians, learning their language and becoming instrumental in negotiations between them and the settlers. Because of his ability to speak the native language, he was chosen to be an official of the courts on this day (July 21) in 1673. Peter Foulger was not a missionary, pastor or even a preacher, but he loved the Lord and Biblical truth. In 1676 he wrote a book entitled “A looking Glass for the Times” which was described as a defense of social and religious liberty written in “homespun verse and with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom.” Brother Foulger married Mary Morrill, and to this union a daughter, Abiah, was born. When Abiah was of a proper age, she married a man named Franklin, and to them God granted a son, whom they named Benjamin. Although Benjamin Franklin never publically professed...

July 14

In the case of John Taylor, missionary to Siam (Thailand), one of the key events to his “success” was the death of his wife. Taylor was raised a Congregationalist, becoming a Baptist while studying for the ministry. In 1828 he was baptized and joined the Federal Street Baptist Church in Boston. On this day two years later (July 14, 1830) he was married to Eliza Grew, and within a year they were on their way to Burma as missionaries. While in Burma, Brother Taylor became proficient in preaching Christ crucified in both the Burman and Taling languages. He was especially drawn to the Taling people and eventually moved to Siam to minister to them more directly. In 1843 he completed the Taling New Testament which compared favorably to Carey’s Indian Bible and the Marshman/Judson version in Burmese. But the catalyst which brought the Talings to read the Bible was the death of Mrs. Taylor. During his last visit to New York, Jones was quoted as saying – “There is one thing which distinguishes Christianity from every false religion. It is the only religion that can take away the fear of death. I never knew a dying heathen in Siam, or anywhere else, that was not afraid, terribly afraid of death. And there was nothing that struck the Siamese people with greater astonishment than a remark that my dear departed wife made, in Siamese, to her native nurse, shortly before her death: ‘I am not afraid to die.’ For weeks after her death, the Siamese people would come to me, as though incredulous that such a thing could be, and...

July 7

There are no less than seven men with the last name of Wightman listed in Cathcart’s Encyclopedia. As I made a quick survey, I wasn’t surprised to see that they were all related – sons, grandsons, great-grandsons. When a family is so closely linked together in the work of God, it is certainly due in part to the mothers and grandmothers of those men. In 1612 Edward Wightman was burnt at an English gibbet for his Baptist “heresies.” Five of his sons then moved to the new world – two were preachers, two were deacons and the other was a faithful church member. Valentine Wightman was a grandson of the martyr Edward. He was born in Rhode Island in 1681. Valentine was saved by grace, called and ordained into the gospel ministry, after which he started the first Baptist church in Connecticut. For 42 years he pastored that assembly in the city of Groton. When he died, he was followed by his son Timothy. Under the son’s ministry the church grew so surprisingly that it voluntarily divided, beginning a second church in town. Like his father, Timothy served that same Groton church for 42 years, including the period of the Revolutionary War. To Timothy Wightman and his wife was born a son whom they named John Gano, in honor of the pastor of the First Baptist Church in New York. John was saved and ordained to the ministry, eventually accepting a call from the same church as his father and grandfather. On this day in 1817 he married Bridget Allyn who stood by his side during a period of...

June 30

John Sutcliff was a pupil of Caleb Evans at Bristol Baptist College. Sutcliff was a good student, but not a great orator, and after graduation and the beginning of his first pastorate, he became disheartened and wondered whether or not he should be in the ministry. After only four months there was such opposition to his ministry, for the sake of the church, he knew he had to leave. After this me became paralyzed with discouragement. When the Baptist Church of Olney in Northhamptonshire asked him to come to preach, he turned them down, thinking he wasn’t qualified. They wrote again, and again – their letters were ignored. On this day (June 30) in 1775, Sutcliff’s mentor, Caleb Evans, sat down and wrote a letter to his former pupil. Each man knew the other very well, so Evans knew exactly how to address the discouraged young man. It was not a motherly letter, but forceful and fatherly. At one point he wrote, “If you do not at least visit the Olney church, I will be personally offended.” The letter arrived on July 3 and three days later Sutcliff began making arrangements to visit Olney. John Sutcliff was received well by the church in Olney, and together they began a blessed and important ministry together. Over time, Sutcliff would meet John Ryland, Andrew Fuller, and William Carey. Through these four pastors, a new era in mission work was begun. Perhaps it was Sutcliff’s timid nature which contributed to William Cathcart’s praise – “He was full of gentleness, and of a devotional spirit. He was among the best that ever lived.”...

June 23

Samuel Medley was born on this day in 1723. At age 16 he was an apprentice in the cloth trade when war broke out between England and France. He was permitted to leave his apprenticeship, if he agreed to serve on one of his majesty’s ships. With the thrill of the fight before him, he served as a common sailor during the Battle of Cape Lagos. When a cannon ball shot away most of the calf of one leg, he was sent to the surgeons. They recommended that his leg be removed. Filled with horror, the young man begged for a little time. He sent for the Bible his father had given him, and he spent the night in prayer over the Word of God. The next morning when the surgeon came in he found the leg doing surprisingly well, and it was decided to repair the wound and to let time and the Lord to work. Having to convalesce, Samuel was sent to live with his godly grandfather in London. The old gentleman, whose name was William Tonge, was a deacon in the church pastored by Andrew Gifford. Brother Tonge witnessed to his grandson of Christ, but despite God’s mercy in sparing his leg and life, for months there was no humility or repentance. Then one Sunday evening the grandfather began to read aloud a sermon by Isaac Watts, and the Holy Spirit broke the young man’s stubborn heart. Samuel Medley was immediately struck with a thirst for the things of God, beginning to read and study through his grandfather’s library. By this time he was twenty-two years...

June 16

William Baynham was born into a wealthy Virginian, Episcopalian family. At the age of 21 he earned his degree, intending to practice medicine. Then during the summer of 1834, through the preaching of William Broaddus, he was converted to Christ. It is reported that for some time after that when he heard the name of Jesus, he would weep. William Baynham joined the Eon Baptist Church in Essex County, Virginia. Before long he began to fill the pulpit – much to the delight of the church. In January 1842 he was called to become their pastor. Ten years later he was called to pastor the Upper Zion Baptist Church, but in the process he didn’t forsake his first charge. He pastored Enon Baptist for 43 years and the Upper Zion church for 33 years. In 1880 The Religious Herald, a Virginia Baptist paper, requested and published a number of letters from elders who had served lengthy pastorates. Bro. Baynham submitted the following: “The real ground of my continuance for so long a period as pastor of my two churches has been our strong mutual love. In my portion as pastor I have endeavored to be one with my charge. I have tried to show myself the friend… The children have had a good share of attention. In affliction I have been prompt and attentive, ready to render personal assistance as necessary. One rule has been unvaried with me; not only not to neglect the poor, but to show them all kindness and attention. My social relations I choose for myself – my kindness and affection for my church member...

June 9

On this day (June 9) in 1865 several members in good standing were released from three different churches in Charleston, SC in order to form the Morris Street Baptist Church. Their first pastor was Jacob Legare, who served the church for the next twenty years, building a solid practical and doctrinal foundation. It is said that during his tenure he baptized more than 3,000 believers – more than ten per month. The church became the mother to several other congregations, and in one case a number of members were moved overseas to re-form as an independent Baptist church in their new location. In addition, more than a dozen young men were called to the ministry out of the Morris Street Church, several of whom became well-known servants of God. The second pastor of Morris Street was John L. Dart, a graduate of Newton Theological Seminary. As a young man, he taught school in Washington DC, after which he pastored in Providence, Rhode Island. As the interim pastor of a major pulpit in Augusta, Georgia, a great revival was graciously granted by the Lord, which caught the attention of the afore mentioned the Morris Street Church, to which he was called and served for four years. During his tenure there he baptized more than 500. Bro Dart may be best known for his pamphlet entitled “The Immersion Issue” in which he challenged several Methodist preachers to a debate on the subject. The challenge was never accepted. The Morris Street Baptist Church still exists and can be found at #25 Morris Street. The church and all the people mentioned in this...

June 2

Two weeks ago our history involved Lewis Craig who led his church to move from Virginia to Kentucky, settling eventually at South Elkton. Today marks the anniversary of the ordination, in 1770, of his brother Elijah Craig. Elijah was born again in 1764 under the preaching of the Regular Baptist, David Thomas. A year later, the Separate Baptist, Samuel Harriss, encouraged Bro. Craig to begin meetings in his neighborhood so that others might hear the gospel and grow in Christ. Elijah began going house to house preaching salvation by grace. After another year, he asked North Carolinian James Read to come and baptize himself and the other young converts he had gathered. When churches were established at Blue Run and Rapidan, and after his ordination, Elijah Craig became their pastor. Bro. Craig was a preacher blessed of God with zeal and aptitude. He had very little formal education, but he applied himself to learning the Word, which he handled as the true sword of the Spirit. His congregations were often greatly moved by his messages. When some of his neighbors began to complain, the sheriff and a posse were sent to arrest him, taking him from the field where he was plowing to the magistrate at Culpepper. He was jailed without arguments either pro or con, where he was fed nothing but rye bread and water for a month. Over the next few years, Elijah was jailed in Culpepper again and twice in Orange County all for preaching the gospel of the grace of Christ. In 1786, he decided to follow his brothers to Kentucky. There he bought a...

May 19

On this day  in 1662 the “Act of Uniformity” received royal assent, after being passed by the Anglican-dominated British Parliament. It required that every minister in England had to receive episcopal ordination, and before August 24 of that year they must publically give their “unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by… the Book of Common Prayer.” Of course the Baptists in England rejected the concept of a church or religion established by the government, so they were not surprised by the new round of persecution against them. But it is estimated that a total of 1,760 other ministers were ejected from their churches, many of whom had taken a stand against paedobaptism – the baptism of infants. One of the positive consequences of the Act was to force those dismissed preachers to more fully consider their doctrines, and many went further into becoming Baptists. Another result was that there was then a clear distinction between the established church and the dissenters; a line had been drawn in the sand by the government. Despite the spotty persecution against the brethren, it made many new men more bold in their witness for the truth....

May 12

If there ever was ever a “Bible belt” in Canada it was in the Maritimes, but unfortunately it lasted for only a short time. I understand that there are former Baptist churches empty all over the eastern provinces today. One of the men of God working in the area was Baptist missionary Israel Potter. He wrote the following letter to Thomas Baldwin, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Boston. “Clements, Annapolis county, Nova Scotia, May 12, 1810. Dear and Rev. Sir, In the beginning of March last, a most powerful reformation began in the lower part of this town, which seemed to pervade the minds of old and young, and many, we hope, were brought to the knowledge of the truth. About ten days after, the good work made its appearance in the middle of the town. The people assembled from every quarter, and it seemed that it might be truly said, that God was passing through the place in a very powerful manner. The glorious work has since spread through every part of the town, and some of all ages have been made to bow to the mild sceptre of the Redeemer. The ordinance of baptism has been administered for five Sabbaths successively. Forty-five have been admitted to the sacred rite, and a church has been constituted upon the Gospel plan, consisting of sixty five members, to which we expect further additions. If I should say that two hundred have been hopefully converted to the Lord in this town since the reformation commenced, I think I should not exceed the truth. The good work is still spreading...