July 22

On this day (July 22) 1575 two men were carried from England’s Newgate prison to Smithfield where they were tied to stakes and burned to death. One was a husband with a wife and nine children and the other was married but as yet without a family. Their crime was nothing more than believing and sharing the truth of God – Baptist doctrine. This was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. When laying the cornerstone of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, C.H. Spurgeon told the crowd of witnesses, “We [Baptists] did not commence our existence at the Reformation; we were reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came out of the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves… Our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a season, have always had honest and holy adherents. [We have been] persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect.” Persecuted by Catholics and Protestants. About the middle of the 16th century John Calvin began to have some influence in the religious affairs of England. As well as promoting the Reformation, he urged the persecution of the Anabaptists. In a letter to Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s Father, he wrote “it is far better that two or three (Anabaptists] be burn than thousands perish in hell.” And in a letter to Lord Protector Somerset he wrote, “These [Anabaptsts] altogether deserve to be well punished by the sword, seeing that they do conspire against God, who had set [Henry] in his royal seat.”...

July 15

As we have seen in these notes over the years, some of America’s Baptist churches have had unusual names. Imagine a visitor coming into your service. When you ask him about his spiritual condition he replies by saying that he is a Christian and a member of the Polecat Baptist Church in Caroline County, Virginia. “Polecat,” of course, is a nickname for skunk. When Elder John Burrus and three members of his church were arrested for worshiping Christ in a church not approved by the Colony of Virginia, they told the judge that they were members of the Baptist church meeting down on Polecat Creek. The men were sufficiently evangelical that they had become a stench in the nostrils of their neighbors, so they were arrested for preaching the gospel without a license. They were ordered to stand trial on this day (July 15) in 1771. Only Brother Burrus was ordained, but all four men were gifted with preaching and they were all notorious for “jamming a Scripture down the throat of every man they met upon the road.” After the trial, the court record “ordered they be remanded back to the gaol” in a futile attempt to cool their ardor for Christ. The Polecat Baptist church building later became known as the Burrus Meeting House, and even later took the name “Carmel Church.” The church flourished for a time, drawing such eminent preachers as Andrew Broadus. I understand that it still stands today south and west of historic Fredericksburg,...

July 8

On this day in 1663, after 12 years of lobbying, John Clarke, obtained a British charter which established Rhode Island as America’s first colony providing true freedom, including religious freedom. While many Baptists are aware of this fact, many are not aware of the severe persecution which forced the Rhode Islanders to seek a strengthened charter protecting their rights. In 1656, neighbors from Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Haven, pressed the Islanders to join them in their effort to crush the Quakers living in their region and to prevent more from immigrating. The founders of Rhode Island, of course, refused. “We shall strictly adhere to the foundation principle on which this colony was first settled, to wit, that every man who submits to the civil authority may peaceably worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience without molestation.” This answer made the neighboring colonies more furious, inflaming them to seek vengeance through violence and slander. The slander was sent to England, making the application of Clarke very difficult. Locally, the Protestants encouraged the Pumham Indians to harass the Rhode Islanders, stealing the property and driving some from their homes. As ammunition grew low in the colony, they attempted to buy some from the other colonies, but they were denied. Some of the Baptist people fled north and east, but they were taken to Boston where they were routinely harshly treated. When the Indian leader, Myantonomo, became reluctant to continue his attacks on Rhode Island, he was accused of various crimes and put to death in...

July 1

During the mid 18th century the official state church of Norway and Denmark was Lutheran. King Christian VI had been sprinkled as a child and was called to defend Protestantism against the Catholics and others who might proselytize her members. Spiritually, he was unlikely that he was what his name professed. On this day (July 1) in 1742 Soren Bolle openly immersed Johannes Halvorsen, a shoemaker, in the river which flows through Drammen, Norway. Bolle had been preparing for the Lutheran ministry, but came to understand the Biblical ordinance of baptism, declaring himself to be a Baptist. Bolle and Halvorsen were quickly arrested and placed in separate cells in the local jail. Bolle’s home was searched and his writings were confiscated. For ten days the men were separately interrogated by priests. They were then sent to prison in Oslo where they were denied any right to communicate with each other or with anyone else. Back in Drammen, the Christian friends of the men were arrested in an effort to silence their testimony of the Truth. Eventually there were three or four more sent to the Oslo prison, and the home of one of them was sold in order to pay the expenses of their incarcerations. It might be argued that these men were not true Baptists because there was no missionary involved in their work at the time, but they certainly prepared the way for the arrival of the Baptists and the eventual evangelization of...

June 24

Pastor David Jones served as a Baptist chaplain under General Horatio Gates. There was such a bond between the two men that when, on this day (June 24) 1798, there was a son born to pastor Jones, he named him Horatio Gates Jones. When Horatio was 21, he was born again. Soon the church of which he was a member recognized God’s call upon him man and she licensed him to preach. When he was later ordained, his elderly father counseled him; “My son, in your preaching, don’t put the rack too high. Some ministers put the rack so high that the little lambs, can’t get a bite. Put the rack low, and the old sheep can get the fodder, and the lambs too.” The young man heeded the advice and the Lord blessed. After a ministry in New Jersey, Brother Jones moved his family to a site just north of Philadelphia, and began services in “Thompson’s Meeting-house” – property owned by Charles Thompson, the first secretary of the Continental Congress. Although remaining a Presbyterian, Thompson attended the services, and when the congregation grew large enough, he donated land upon which the Lower Merion (Baptist) Church built a meeting house of their own. Horatio Jones pastored that congregation for 45 years. Jones served the Lord well, and God blessed him with several honors. Early in his ministry, Brown University conferred on him the degree of Master of Arts, and in 1852 the University of Lewisburg made him their first chancellor and bestowed on him their first Doctor of Divinity degree. Horatio Jones passed into the presence of his Saviour...

June 17

William Jones was born on this day (June 17) in 1762 in the country of Wales. Under the itinerant ministry of the Scottish Baptist, Archibald McLean, William, who had earlier apparently been born again, came to understand Baptist doctrine and was baptized in the Dee River. When he was in his early 30s, Brother Jones moved to Liverpool where he became a publisher and bookseller. He, along with his friend, D.S. Wylie, began conducting religious services as well – which in time grew into a Baptist chapel. Ten years later he moved to London and became pastor of a Scottish Baptist church of that city, while continuing to write and publish. Among his literary works are “History of the Waldenses and Albigenses” and a few biographies, including one on Rowland Hill, who I assume is the same Rowland Hill who fathered the modern postage stamp. An interesting anecdote about William Jones arose when he was in his 82-year. He came to the attention of Queen Victoria, who invited him to move into a home she sponsored for prominent elderly citizens. There, he would have a comfortable apartment, all his meals and a small stipend for whatever else he needed. There was however one condition – he must join the Church of England, repudiating his convictions as a Baptist. Without hesitation Jones politely declined, stating that he was a Dissenter based upon principles found in the Word of God. He wrote, “Have the kindness to assure Her Majesty that my declining to accept her gracious offer arises from purely conscientious motives, from deference to the authority of our great Master...

June 10

On this day in 1535, Charles V, Emperor of the unholy Roman Empire, issued a decree that Anabaptists – those who rebaptized believers, and who refused to recant of this act, would be put to death by fire. Also those who provided hospitality to these “heretics” would be beheaded or, in the case of women, be drowned. This came after he received a memorandum from the Archbishop of Cologne which declared that “as (has) been the nature of the Anabaptists through the ages, even as the old histories on imperial law over a thousand years testify” they were attempting to reinstate the practice of community of goods – ie. they willingly shared their food and personal goods among themselves, and through their generosity towards others were drawing Catholics to their faith and practices. It is commonly declared today that the Anabaptists arose during the Reformation period, but the title is uttered with hatred by Roman historians from the first years of Catholicism’s history. Not only did the accursed Anabaptists practice rebaptism, they also taught salvation by grace through faith, the priesthood of all believers, and soul liberty. For the most part they were peace-loving, productive members of their communities. But they condemned the Catholic priesthood, and thus the Catholic priesthood condemned them – to...

June 3

In the records of the men who were first responsible for the evangelism of India we find the following: “On June 3, 1784, at the Association of Nottingham, it was agreed to hold a prayer-meeting for the general spread of the gospel on the evening of the first Monday in every month. About three years after this, Mr. Carey was ordained pastor of the church at Moulton, and joined the Association. His mind from an early period seems to have been impressed with the state of the heathen world. In reference to this object he made himself acquainted with the geography, population, and religion of the various nations of the earth. and with the labours of Christians, both of early and later ages, in propagating the gospel. He also acquired some considerable knowledge of the learned languages. The subject having occupied so much of his attention, he would often converse upon it with other ministers. At length, after having been seven years engaged in praying for the spread of the gospel, some began to feel with Mr. Carey, that they ought to do something else as well as pray. Two sermons by Mr. Sutcliff and Mr. Fuller, the one on Jealousy for the Lord of Hosts, and the other on The pernicious influence of delay, made some impression. These were printed and followed by Mr. Carey’s Inquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathen. A very impressive sermon was also preached by Mr. Carey at the Nottingham Association on Zion’s enlargement: and a pungent Circular Letter, written on Godly Zeal, by Mr....

May 27

Henry Dunster had been president of Harvard College before he came to understand the Biblical teaching about baptism, ie. only believers should be baptized and that by immersion. Dunster’s decision influenced others to consider the subject of baptism and also to recognize the tyrannical power of the government and its state-approved Congregational church. Among them was Thomas Gould. When a baby was born into the Gould family, a member of the Congregational Church of Charlestown, he invited his neighbors to rejoice with him in God’s blessing. This attracted public attention, and it was noted that he didn’t have his child sprinkled by the church. He was repeatedly brought before the Middlesex court on charges relating to the “ordinance of Christ.” When fines and imprisonment did nothing to defeat the new father, the court contemplated whippings, but that had not worked out well in the Obadiah Holmes case, so an alternative was sought. Finally it was decided to have a public debate on the doctrines of the Anabaptists. Gould was urged to ask a few of the leaders of the Baptists in Rhode Island come up and to answer the Congregationalist theologians, and three brethren made the trip into Massachusetts. For two days during the “debate” the Baptists were publically denounced and ridiculed, but they were not permitted to reply, and on the third day the authorities claimed a Protestant victory. The leaders of the state church then declared in court, “Touching the case of those that set up an assembly here in the way of Anabaptism… it belongs to the Civil Magistrates to restrain and suppress these open enormities...

May 20

After preparing this vignette, I’ve determined to read more of the books of Abraham Booth. Booth was born on this day (May 20) in 1734. The place was in Derbyshire, England. At the age of ten the Lord saved him from a life headed toward debauchery and hell. At the age of twenty-one he was baptized and joined a General Baptist Church. He was encouraged to preach and soon became pastor of a church at Kirby-Woodhouse. As a General Baptist he hated the doctrines of sovereign election and particular redemption. But as he studied God’s word in order to preach the gospel his views began to change. At the age of thirty-three he published his Reign of Grace, a defense of God’s sovereign administration of salvation. But he never lost his evangelistic fervor. Unlike others in his generation, he preached to all men, exhorting them to repent and to trust Christ, leaving the bestowal of salvation to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. His position in this matter lead to an invitation to become pastor of the Prescott Street Particular Baptist Church in London, for which he was the under-shepherd for the next thirty-seven years. Booth was not highly educated, and perhaps due to this lack of formal training he was instrumental in the founding of Stepney College for the training of other men. He became an excellent author. In his Pedobaptism Examined, one of the books which I have read, he quotes eighty Pedobaptist writers who admit that “baptizo” means “immerse.” Then in his Apology for Baptists he reprimands those “Baptists” who left immersion to the conscience of...

May 13

It was the goal of the often revered Puritans to establish a society which governed its citizens from the cradle to the grave based upon what its leaders considered to be pure religious truth. They came to this country seeking freedom from the interference of others, but they granted no freedom to anyone else. Sadly, they were misinformed as to the true nature of Bible Christianity. Beginning with infant baptism, their religion devolved into superstition and ceremonial salvation. Only with God’s intervention, through the Great Awakening and the witness of a few Baptists, was new England spared from enslavement as deep and dangerous as during the Dark Ages. As the ancient faith grew within her borders, the government began tightening its anti-Baptist legislation. For example on this day (May 13) in 1646 a petition from Roxbury, Massachusetts was presented to the governing council. It read: “As the prevaylinge of errors and heresies is noted by our Saviour in the gospel, and elsewhere in Scripture, as a forerunner of God’s judgments, and in as much as the errors of the Anabaptists, where they do prevayle, are not a little dangerous to church and commonwealth, as the lamatable tumults in Germany, when the said errors were grown into a height, did too manifestlie witnesse, and such good laws or order are enacted amongst us, against such persons having alreadie bene, as we are informed, a special meanes of discouraging multitudes of erroneous persons from comminge over into this countrie, which wee account no small mercie of God unto us, and one sweet and wholesome fruite of the sayd lawes, it is...

May 6

C.H. Spurgeon loved to read and owned a library of over 12,000 volumes. Reading was not a hobby to Spurgeon, and it wasn’t for his recreation. He believed that it was essential toward the growth of the mind – and more particularly of the spirit. Beginning early in his ministry, he had the habit of reading six books per week, which I suppose meant one per day, excluding Sundays. But of course, he also immersed himself in the Word of God directly, writing his own commentaries on many books of the Bible. Spurgeon was so passionate about reading that he used his position and influence to encourage other preachers to read. Mrs. Susannah Spurgeon, who spent much of her life as a semi-invalid, became, among other things, the informal secretary of a ministry which provided books to rural preachers in England and missionaries around the world. In another aspect of his distribution of good reading material, Spurgeon established a colporteur ministry. On this day in 1878 the annual conference of colporteurs met at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Sixty-one men had been employed that year in distributing – at cost, or free of charge – great quantities of gospel literature. During the meeting it was reported that the men had visited more than half a million British homes, giving away 160,000 tracts, 239,758 periodicals, innumerable of Bibles and sold 84,147 Christian books. Spurgeon’s book ministry was very much like that of the old Waldensian Baptists. For a time those brave people risked their lives, traveling throughout Europe from their bases in the Alps, giving away copies of the Bible in the...

April 29

William Baskett was born in 1741 in Goochland County, Virginia. His parents were poor Episcopalians. When William was twenty he married Miss Mary Pace. They immediately began morning and evening devotions together and with their children as they began to arrive. When the Baptist, John Corbley, visited the area many residents began to openly talk about Bible doctrine. Confused about such things Mr. Baskett went to the local vicar, asking him what he must do to be saved. The man told him that he felt a comfortable hope in keeping the commandments. When this didn’t satisfy William’s questions or the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the minister dismissed him, calling him deranged. Over the months to come William and Mary continued to search the scriptures eventually coming to the conclusion: “He that trusts in the Lord shall never be confounded.” When Elijah Craig and David Thompson visited, William asked to be immersed upon his profession of Christ Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. Soon a small congregation was gathered and Philip Webber was called as pastor. When Webber emigrated to Kentucky, the congregation called their own William Baskett. For twenty-one years he faithfully served that congregation. On April 21, 1815 Mary Baskett died. One week later, on this date in 1815, William preached from the words: “We have no continuing city, but seek one to come,” and then the following day, at the age of 59, he followed his wife into the presence of the their...

April 22

Richard Fuller was born on this in 1804 in Beautfort, S.C. When he became of age, he entered Harvard College to study law and eventually became a lawyer. Back in Beaufort, Fuller heard the gospel preaching of Daniel Barker. A revival swept through the community and a great many of the more prominent residents were born again.. One of these was Richard Fuller. Later he said of his conversion, “My soul ran over with love and joy and praise. For days I could nether eat nor sleep” for joy. He had been raised an Episcopalian, but with his salvation he gave himself to the work of Christ among the Baptists. He was baptized and joined the Baptist Church in Beaufort. Soon after that he was ordained and became its pastor. When he first took the pulpit the church was weak, but after 15 years it had increased to about 200 white members and 2,400 blacks. In 1847 he left Beaufort to pastor the 87 members of the Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore. Under his ministry it grew to about 1,200. At that point he departed with a few other members and started the Eutaw Place Baptist Church where he remained for five years before retiring to Heaven on October 20, 1876. The historian Thomas Armitage says of Richard Fuller, “The writer once heard him when he showed himself to be a perfect master of in the art of oratory, by denouncing the tricks of the orator in preaching. He wove one of the most fresh, vivid, and finished pieces of oratorical denunciation against dependence on pulpit oratorical effect that...

April 15

John Young was arrested in 1771 for preaching the gospel without a government license. He had license from his church, but as yet he had not been ordained. For six months, he and others were incarcerated in Virginia’s Caroline County jail. It was a great burden on the man because he was a widower and his elderly mother was left to tend his children. He and the other preachers we housed individually in their own rooms rather than in cells. There was only one tiny open window, high on the outside wall, giving the prisoner nothing but the sight of clouds, sky and stars. Each of the congregations of the incarcerated men discovered which window belonged to their pastor or preacher, and on the Lord’s day they would gather in turn before their respective windows, lifting a flag high enough to let the inmate know they were there, then they would hear him preach the Word of God. In this way many people were saved, prompting the authorities to declare, “These heretics make more converts in jail than they do when out.” On at least one occasion, with those authorities looking the other way, evil men set fire to oily rags, peppers and other materials trying to prevent the preaching of Christ. Two years after his imprisonment, Brother Young was ordained, becoming the pastor of the Reeds Church in lower Caroline County. While there, he was the first to sign a petition of 143 Christians, protesting the government’s tax for the support of “the teachers of the Christian religion.” About 1798 John Young moved to Amherst County where he...