April 18

The father of James Fife was an elder in an Edinburgh Presbyterian Church. When a baby was presented to the church for sprinkling, the pastor, knowing that the mother was not a Christian, questioned who would “sponsor” the child. This lead to an extended church discussion and then a study of baptism as found in the Bible. As a result, the pastor and half the congregation united with the local Baptist church – that included the senior Mr. Fife. Shortly after that, one by one the rest of the family trusted Christ, were baptized and began serving the Saviour. When a wealthy uncle left his estate to James Fife and his brothers, the siblings left Scotland for Virginia. After serving as engineer for the city of Richmond, James once again took up preaching the gospel, as he had done in the old country. Soon he was the spiritual leader of four churches in Goochland County. James Fife was a powerful preacher – in part because he committed the entire New Testament to memory. He could quote chapter and verse for any thing he needed, giving him authority which the Church of England vicars lacked. It is said that he preached with unction, and people often responded with great emotion and shouting, although he discouraged extended outbursts. On this day in 1820 he began a trip to Philadelphia by stagecoach and steamboat to participate in the third annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society, which became known as the Triennial Convention. After eventually settling in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bro. Fife served seven different churches all within about twenty-miles. On one occasion...

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...

April 4

Pablo Beeson was born on this day (April 4) in 1848 in a small village in Switzerland. His parents professed to believe the Word of God, but his father was a Protestant pastor. As a university student, preparing for the Presbyterian ministry, Pablo became an assistant to Frederic Godet, who wrote a commentary on the Book of John and other books still used today. Pablo helped Godet in his fight to disestablish the Presbyterian church from its state church position in Switzerland. When that failed, Beeson joined others in starting the “Free Church of Neuchatel,” but his fidelity to liberty of conscience surpassed that of his friends, and he found himself alone. During the Franco-Prussian War, he was arrested and confined to a tiny dungeon, condemned to pay 100 francs for his public preaching of Christ and distribution of gospel tracts. While in prison with little more than his Bible to keep him company he came to understand the precepts of the Lord’s church. When he was released, he traveled to Lyons, France, where he met a Baptist missionary and was immersed. This step further separated him from his former relations. His father disinherited him, and his mother wrote to him, “You will be a wanderer in the world without friends, and will be called a Baptist!” For the next six years Brother Beeson traveled extensively preaching Christ, and with a few converts established a small church. After several of those church members moved to Argentina, they wrote to their former pastor pleading with him to join them. He did. He became pastor of a faithful little flock in...

March 28

When Jan Wouters van Kuijck was in prison, suffering horrible physical persecution and preparing for his execution because of his belief that salvation was a matter of personal faith in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was able to write several letters and have them smuggled out and to their intended recipients. One was to his captors in which he said, “I confess one Lord, one faith, one God, one Father of all, who is above all, and in all believers. I believe only what the holy Scriptures say, and not what men say.” He also wrote a letter to his young daughter in which he encouraged her – “Diligently search the holy scriptures, and you will find that we must follow Christ Jesus and obey Him unto the end; and you will also truly find the little flock who follow Christ. And this is the sign: they avoid that which is evil, and delight in doing what is good; they hunger and thirst after righteousness; they are not conformed to the world; they crucify their sinful flesh more and more every day, to die unto sin which wars in their members; they report they do evil to no one; they pray for their enemies; their words are yea that is yea, and nay that is nay; their word is their zeal; they are sorry that they do not constantly live more holily, of which reason they sigh and weep. Let not this however be the only sign by which you may know who follows Christ; they are also these, namely who bear the cross of Christ,...

March 21

On this day in 1791, Elder Nathanael Green passed into the presence of his Saviour. Green had been pastor of the Baptist Church in Charlton, Massachusetts for 28 tumultuous years. The congregation went through periods of depression and blessing, including persecution from the Massachusetts governments and the difficulties of the Revolutionary War. It is said that Pastor Green was an exemplary man, and yet, in 1791, he was arrested, taken to court and imprisoned. This good servant of God was jailed because he objected to the “minister’s rate” taxes and refused to pay them, defying the government. Those monies were used to support the ministers of the Established State church – the Congregational denomination in Massachusetts. Green was in jail for a short time before he was encouraged to pay the tax and the fine and then to take the State to court in an effort to bring this injustice to public attention. (Remember that this was after the war which was fought to provide Americans with liberty and justice.) When his case came before the local court, judgment was against the government, granting the return of his fine and awarding him his costs. But the State appealed to the superior court. Once again the case was won by Elder Green, and the State was required to pay even more fees. As a general principle Christians should not take people to court, but in this case Green was not suing any individual, but defending a Biblical principle against the over-reach of a secular...

March 14

On this day in 1773, Theodore S. Harding was born in Barrington, Nova Scotia. After his father died, he was raised by his godly mother. At the age of thirteen Harding was born a second time, and shortly thereafter he felt the call of God to go into the ministry. His Presbyterian mother however discouraged him, because she had been taught that religious leaders should come only from among the highly educated, and that, as a single mother, she had not been able to give to her son. While Harding was struggling between his mother’s wishes and the call of God, he attended a prayer meeting where the intended preacher didn’t arrive. Young Brother Harding was encouraged to stand and give a devotional. Reluctantly he arose and preached the gospel so fervently that even his mother became convinced of God’s call. In the mean time, the first Baptist church in the Maritime Provinces, located in Horton Township, Nova Scotia, had been started by a man from England, named Nicholas Pierson. Pierson lead the congregation for thirteen years until age forced him to retire. When the pulpit became empty, an invitation was extended to Harding to preach until a new pastor could be found, but Harding had not yet been scripturally baptized. For some time he agonized over the question of baptism and finally traveled to Halifax to be immersed by John Burton, who by that time had become the only Baptist pastor in Nova Scotia. The following week, Harding began preaching to his friends at Horton. On July 31, 1797, Brother T.S. Harding was ordained and became the pastor...

March 7

On this day in 1869, Oliver Willis Van Osdel was immersed and joined the Baptist church in Yorkville, Illinois. He had been raised as a Methodist, but he survived, and the Lord saved him when he was a child. He served in the army during the War between the States and survived. He studied law and survived that as well. On the evening of his baptism he preached his first sermon. When his Methodist family asked him about his decision to become a Baptist, he replied that it was their fault because they had given him a Baptist Bible. Osdel was ordained on April 30, 1874 and for the next 35 years served God in a great many churches across the country – from Michigan and Illinois, to Kansas and Texas, and even in a tiny, out of the way place called “Spokane, Washington.” Then in 1909 at the age of 62, he returned to a church he had pastored earlier – the “Wealthy Street Baptist Church” in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and there he finally settled down to a twenty-five year ministry. Brother Van Osdel died in 1934 at the age of...

February 28

Joseph Reese was born in Wales. When he was 13 years old his family moved to the area of South Carolina called “The Congarees,” becoming one of the first families to settle there. He was raised in the Anglican church, but when the pioneer Baptist preacher, Philip Mulkey, visited the Congarees, Joseph was born again. Later, as the Separate Baptist, Daniel Marshal, began to evangelize the area, Reese joined with him. In 1765 they led 32 people to establish the Congaree Baptist Church, and Brother Reese became their pastor. Three years later, on this day (Feb. 28), he was ordained to the gospel ministry, assisted by Regular Baptists Oliver Hart, from Charleston, and Evan Pugh from Mount Pleasant. Pastor Reese served the Lord at Congaree throughout most of his life, with breaks to serve as a chaplain in the Revolutionary War, and for a short time pastoring at Boiling Springs, S.C. One of the highlights of his ministry was to be an instrument in the conversion of Richard Furman, who became a well-known and highly-used minister of Christ throughout the South. The historian David Benedict states that during the last years of his life, Bro. Reese became infirm and unable to leave his bed. But as he deteriorated several of the members of his church would come to his home and carry their former pastor, in his bed, three miles to the church house. After hearing his pastoral successor preach, Reese would often prop himself up and address a few words in a conversational style to his friends, who often melted into tears. Joseph Reese died on March 5,...

February 21

Most of the first immigrants to this continent brought with them the politics and religions of their homelands. As a result, with only a few exceptions, most of the first thirteen colonies authorized a single denomination and practiced something called “a clergy tax,” or something similar, in order to support that one denomination. Both religious and government leaders felt that churches could not exist without the State supporting whatever religion was most preferred in that colony. Even when those colonies became states and the State religions were disenfranchised, the idea remained that the teachers of religion could not survive without the support of the government. And perhaps in some cases it was true. Of course, the Baptists had universally opposed this policy up and down the East Coast and were often persecuted for their position. Eventually, primarily through their efforts, State churches were abolished. However, on this day (Feb. 21) in 1785 the Georgia legislature passed a bill for the support of religion with public tax money, whatever the denomination. Nearly everyone was pleased with the generosity of Caesar, except for the Baptists. The bill provided that any “thirty heads of families” in any community might choose any sort of minister “to explain and inculcate the duties of religion” and “four pence on every hundred pounds valuation of property” should be taken out of the public tax for the support of any such minister. Despite the fact that they were among the largest denomination, and despite the income that such monies might provide, the Baptists in Georgia immediately began to protest. A document condemning the decision was prepared, and...

February 14

It is believed by some that the Apostle Paul personally carried the gospel to the isle of Britain. Whether true or not, Bible Christianity was firmly established among the peoples of those islands long before the arrival of Catholicism. One area where the Baptists flourished was Wales, and as the American colonies began to grow, Wales sent some of their pastors to evangelize and establish churches on this side of the Atlantic. Cathcart’s Baptist Encyclopedia speaks of a Welsh preacher named Abel Morgan. That man was born a few years after another our Abel Morgan arrived in this country. On August 23, 1711, the church in Blaenaugwent, Wales, held a special service to honor their pastor who had served them for 15 years. With broken hearts they said farewell to Elder Abel Morgan and his family, who felt the call of God to emigrate to America. On September 28 their ship pulled anchor, but contrary winds came up, and the ship was forced to find shelter for three weeks. When they sailed again, they made it as far as Cork, Ireland, before having to seek a safe harbor for another five weeks. Finally on November 19 they were able to recommence their journey. A month later, in the middle of the Atlantic, Brother Morgan’s son died – followed by his wife three days later. They were both buried at sea. Pastor Morgan greatly suffered his loss, but because he was sure of God’s will, he had no thoughts of returning home. On this day (Feb. 14) in 1711, he and the rest of his children arrived in Philadelphia. Soon...

Feburary 7

Jonathan Goble is not a well-known name, but it should be. Goble and his wife were the first Baptist missionaries in Japan. Jonathan was born in 1827. He rejected his religious upbringing and ended up in prison for two years for threatening the life of another man. During that time he was born again, and somehow the Lord laid the people of Japan upon his heart. After serving his time, he volunteered to join Commodore Perry’s 1853 expedition to Japan. His purpose was to examine the missionary possibilities. During this time he met a Japanese sailor who had been rescued at sea by the Americans. They became good friends. When Goble returned to New York, he took his friend with him, and together they attended and graduated from Hamilton Theological Seminary. In 1860 Bro. Goble, his wife, two daughters and the Japanese man, who was then called Sam Patch, arrived at Kanagawa and began their work of evangelism, which was illegal according to Japanese law. They were so underfunded by the Baptists back home that Bro. Goble returned to the trade he had learned in prison – shoe making. He not only sold his shoes, but taught cobbling to many of the outcasts of the Japanese society. During this time, in addition to witnessing to all who would listen, he translated more than half the New Testament into Japanese. But no lasting churches were started. After a period of furlough in the States and Britain, where he preached in many of the most prominent churches, including Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, the Gobles returned to Japan, disembarking at Yokohama on this day...

January 31

Isaac Dermout was not born a Baptist, and he never became a Baptist. He was a Protestant, born on this day in 1777, and eventually becoming chaplain to the King of the Netherlands. He and Dr. Anne Ypeij, professor of Theology in Gronigen, were commissioned by the king to investigate the Dutch Baptists. Their conclusions were given to the king and published for all the world to read. A translation of their conclusions reads: “We have now seen that the Baptists who were formerly called Anabaptists, and in later times Mennonites, were the original Waldenses, and who have long in the history of the church received the honor of that origin. On this account the Baptists may be considered as the only Christian community which has stood since the days of the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrines of the Gospel through all ages. The perfectly correct external and internal economy of the Baptist denomination tends to confirm the truth, disputed by the Romish Church, that the Reformation brought about in the sixteenth century was in the highest degree necessary, and at the same time goes to refute the erroneous notion of the Catholics, that their denomination is the most...

January 24

American Baptists were introduced to their missionary responsibilities in West Africa through the thousands of slaves who had been kidnaped and brought to this country from that region. Many of the people carried here brought with them the pagan witchcraft of their forefathers, but by the grace of God, while in their servitude, some were saved. In 1821, two freed slaves, Lott Carey and Colin Teague were ordained by the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia and sent with their blessing to minister in Monrovia, Liberia. They were the first of many missionaries to West Africa. When Teague left the mission, Carey was joined by another former slave, Colston Waring. Carey not only preached the gospel, but was made governor. However on November 8, 1828 he died from injuries sustained in an accident. On this day (Jan. 24) in 1826 Calvin Holton, the first white man was appointed as a missionary to the region. After arriving in Africa he lived only a few months before the heat and disease of the region took his life. The missionaries continued to come. In 1835 William Milne and William Crocker and their wives arrived. Within a month Mrs. Milne died of a fever, and the others were so ill, their lives were in jeopardy. Even then Bro. Crocker wrote to a friend, “You ask whether I am not by this time, sorry I came to Africa. I can truly answer, ‘No.’ Every day I bless God for bringing me hither.” Two years later his health forced him to temporarily return home. But others continued to step forward as missionary volunteers. The Clarkes...

January 17

George Blaurock was an Anabaptist who became known for two things – his opposition of infant baptism and his love of music. The first historical reference to this man occurred on this day (Jan. 17) in 1525 during a public discussion of baptism. It was said by Blaurock, or one of his friends who was with him at the time, “by infant baptism men coerce people to enter the Kingdom of God; and yet there should be no coercion there. All they have eternal punishment awaiting them who seek to sustain the Kingdom of God with recourse to the civil power… the magistry has no assignment touching the Kingdom of God.” Hans Denck, another Anabaptist said: “Let everyone know that in matters of faith things ought to be on a voluntary basis, without coercion.”    These statements provoked the banishment of several notable Anabaptists and the arrest of Blaurock and others. As was common, incarceration for these “crimes” rarely ended in freedom; they usually ended in martyrdom. Blaurock had been a Catholic monk, but he renounced the religion of ritual for one of reality in Christ. After the murders of Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz, Blaurock became a leader among the Swiss Christians, until he, too, was burned at the stake in Claussen. It was pronounced that his death was justified because “he had forsaken his office as a priest… that he disregarded infant baptism, and taught people a new baptism… that he rejected the Mass… and that he said the mother of Christ is not to be invoked or worshipped.” As said earlier, George Blaurock loved music, and...

January 10

Daniel Defoe was born into a English Christian home in 1661. As a young man he fell in love with the word of God, and during a period when there were few copies of the Bible, he was one of many to copy it in short hand for future use. Being a good writer, he began to write anti-government articles and political satire. On this day (January 10) in 1702 the government put an ad in the London Gazette offering a £50 reward for the person who would help in his apprehension. Subsequently, he was discovered and after being pilloried, Defoe spent time in jail. At some point God blessed the man with saving grace and eventually Daniel Defoe became a Baptist. Yes, this is the same Daniel Defoe who wrote the classic novel “Robinson Crusoe.” Sadly the “Robinson Crusoe” which is published and given to children today is not the version Defoe originally wrote. His was filled throughout with the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, in his 1888 edition the following paragraph can be found: “I took the Bible; and beginning at the New Testament, began seriously to read it…. I found my heart more deeply and sincerely affected with the wickedness of my past life…. I was earnestly begging of God to give me repentance, when it happened providentially, the very day, that, reading the Scripture, came to these words: ‘He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and give remission.’ I threw down the book; and with my heart as well as my hands lifted up to heaven, in a kind of...