November 19

This is more of a lesson than a point of history, yet it begins in our usual way. Barnstaple, England was without a Baptist witness until 1815. A year earlier, a nineteen-year-old man, Charles Veysey came under conviction and was born-again by the grace of God. Following his baptism in the river Taw, a Bible study began in the community. Then, on this day (November 19) in 1817 the Barnstaple Baptist Church was formed with twelve members. During the first sixty-five years of its existence, the prosperity of the church fluctuated, and twenty-two pastors came and left. As often is the case, the longer the ministry of one pastor, the more the church prospered. During the leadership of Bro. S. Newman the congregation was so blessed that a new building became necessary, but then that pastor’s health broke and he was forced to resign. At that point, in 1880, the church sought a new under-shepherd, but they handled the situation poorly. More than one candidate presented himself, and the church then put them on a list and voted to accept one. Brother J.N. Rootham won the majority vote and was installed as pastor, but from that moment on, despite God’s blessings on his ministry, the dissenting voters refused to give him their respect or confidence. To them every little mistake or mis-spoken word was a reason to a call for his resignation. Pastor Rootham hoped to win over his detractors, but it was not possible, and eventually both the church and the pastor suffered serious damage. In seeking a pastor, candidates should be invited, considered and voted upon –...

November 12

Three years after his first wife died, John Bunyan married Elizabeth. This was 1659. Elizabeth was an outstanding Christian lady. She immediate took Bunyan’s four children from his first marriage and raised them as her own. And then just a year later, on this day (November 12) in 1660, her husband was imprisoned in the Bedford Jail for 12 years. Three times Elizabeth traveled the 60 miles from Bedford to London to plead her husband’s cause. On one occasion according to Bunyan’s account, the courtroom conversation went like this:. Elizabeth: My Lord, I make bold to come again to your lordship to know what may be done with my husband. Judge: Woman, I told thee before I could do thee no good…. Elizabeth: My Lord, he is kept unlawfully in prison. They clapped him up before there was any proclamation against the meetings… Another judge: Will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him. Elizabeth: My, Lord, he dares not leave preaching so long as he can speak …. He desires to live peaceably and to follow his calling that his family may be maintained. Moreover, my lord, I have four small children that cannot help themselves, one of which is blind, and we have nothing to live upon but the charity of good people. I am but a stepmother to them, having not been married to my husband yet two full years. Being young and unaccustomed to such things, I became dismayed at the news of his imprisonment and fell into labor, and so continued for eight days, and then was delivered, but...

November 5

Under Britain’s Toleration Act of 1649, which also applied to all her colonies, officials of neither the State nor the Church could prosecute Baptists for merely preaching the gospel. But our Baptist brethren in Virginia were so hated that the State trumped up other kinds of charges in order to silence them. For example, the Order Book of Orange County, Virginia, for July 28, 1768, states that John Corbley, Allen Wiley, Elijah Craig and Thomas Chambers were found guilty of a Breach of Good Behaviour and were ordered into Bond. The document said that they were charged as “Vagrant and Itinerant Persons” who “assembled themselves unlawfully at Sundry Times and Places under the Denomination of Anabaptists for Teaching and Preaching Schismatick Doctrines.” They were accused of being vagrants. Despite being arrested on several occasions they consistently went back to their preaching ministries. John Corbley was one of those pioneer Baptists in Virginia who struggled against religious persecution. His trials were many and varied, including the slaughter of his wife and family by Indians, but he continued faithful to the end. On this day (November 5) in 1775, at the age of 42, he constituted a Baptist Church at Forks-of-Cheat in West Virginia with 12...

October 29

William Harris, was the pastor of the Goose Creek Church in Buckingham County, Virginia, before moving to the wilderness of Bedford County. As one of the first settlers in the area, he worked with his hands and back throughout the week before preaching the gospel on the Lord’s Day. When more and more people moved into the region, more and more people came under the sound of Harris’ voice. Multitudes were born again. During one year he baptized 250 who had given evidence of conversion. It is thought that during his entire ministry, Harris must have immersed more than 3,000. Brother William Harris planted five churches. The one, called Suck Springs, he pastored for more than 50 years. G.B. Taylor in his history of Virginia Baptists said of Harris, he did not look for “vacant pulpits, inviting fields of service, or liberal salaries, but the barn, forest or open space would serve for a temple; a stump, or stone, or the level earth for a pulpit, and wherever he could find sinners to hear him, he had a call to preach.” In late 1864 Pastor Harris’ health broke, but despite worsening paralysis, he continued to minister in various ways. On the morning of his death, on this day (October 29) in 1865, as his family gathered around his bed, the old saint of God, unable to speak, pointed again and again toward Heaven. When his grandson said, “I suppose you are now going home,” he nodded his head, and quietly fell asleep in...

October 22

Stephen Parsons was a Congregationalist from Middletown, Connecticut. He was ordained into the ministry of that denomination in 1788, becoming one of the rising stars. During the next seven years his fame and influence grew. But then in 1795, after a careful study of the scriptures, he rejected infant baptism. Parson Parsons was dismissed from his church. But as he left, seven members of the congregation followed him. Abel Palmer, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Colchester, Connecticut, immersed Parsons that August and less than three months later, on this day (October 22) in 1795, Isaac Backus was visiting the Baptist church in Whiteboro, New York where Parsons was ministering. Backus wrote in his journal that the “much esteemed” Parsons preached an excellent message. During that period in New England, many Congregationalists left their denomination over the doctrines of the church and its ordinances, becoming “Separates” or “New Lights,” Backus included. Soon, the persecution which had been falling on the Baptists fell on them as well. But men like Stephen Parsons remained true to what they had learned from the scriptures. And as historian C.C. Coen stated, it became quite common to hear that Congregational preachers and common citizens had “Gone to the...

October 15

During the early 1700s settlers began occupying the Hopewell Valley northwest of Trenton, N.J., west of Princeton. For many years the Baptist believers in Hopewell met in the home of one of the first settlers, gladly receiving the ministry of various traveling preachers. The principle members of the congregation soon traveled to Philadelphia to join the Lower Dublin church, becoming a mission of that early Baptist Church. For several decades the mission was without a building, but that changed, when in 1747 one of the distinguished families of the valley, the Harts, gave the congregation property on which to build. John Hart was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Eventually a church was organized and the first settled pastor of the Hopewell Baptist Church was Isaac Eaton. He led the congregation to establish the first school in the nation for the training of Baptist preachers. Several outstanding men were either raised in or trained at Hopewell, including John Blackwell, James Ewing and John Gano. The members of the church loved the Lord and loved their nation. When the Revolutionary War began, a courier arrived during a regular preaching service and spoke quietly with Colonel John Houghton. The Colonel sat reverently during the service, but once it concluded he mounted a large stone which rested in the field just below the meeting house. From this secular pulpit, he told the crowd about the events at Lexington, telling the men that he was willing to travel to Boston to assist the New Englanders. It is said that every man in that congregation volunteered to join Houghton. Those hearts...

October 8

In 1668, Benjamin Keach became the pastor of the Baptist Church in Horsleydown, London. First meeting in homes, in 1672 they built their first building. Eventually, they had a meeting house which seated over a thousand. Before becoming that famous pastor, Benjamin Keach was an infamous trouble-maker. On this day in 1664, in Aylesbury, he was summoned to appear before the Chief Justice. Following his trial he was convicted of heresy and sentenced to a fortnight in the gaol. Following that he was to be taken to several sites, where he was to be pilloried with a bag over his head bearing the inscription, “For writing, printing and publishing a schismatical book.” He was fined and exhorted to renounce his heretical doctrines. To which Keach replied, “I hope I shall never renounce the truths which I have written in that book.” For which of his forty-three books was Keach arrested? “The Child’s Instructor; or A New and Easy Primmer.” The charge against Bro. Keach read: “Thou art here indicted …. for that thou being a seditious, schismatic person, evilly and maliciously disposed and disaffect to his Majesty’s government, and the government of the Church of England, didst maliciously and wickedly…. write, print and publish….. one seditious and venomous book…. wherein are contained, by way of question an answer… damnable positions… that is to say, in one place you have thus written: Q. Who are the right subjects for baptism? A. Believers, or godly men and women, who make profession of their faith and...

October 1

In his history of New Hampshire, William Lamson wrote: “Unquestionably the constant persecutions and repeated litigations which the Baptists were subjected in those years had much to do with retarding their growth. The standing order (the Protestant State Church), believed that it was the church of God, and that it was truly serving God in compelling the Baptists and other Separatists into conformity, as they were in the prayer closet or in the worship of the sanctuary. Scattered over the state there may have been many of our faith who were longing and praying for the time when they should be permitted to worship God and obey his ordinances, with none to molest or make them afraid….. They were as sheep not having a shepherd.” Although its early history has been lost, the first record of a Baptist church in New Hampshire was in the historical notes of the church in Newtown. On this day (October 1), 1767 in a business meeting, a moderator and clerk were elected, after which support for Bros. Stewart and Carter in their battle against the taxes levied against them by the “standing order” was discussed. The remainder of the meeting was in regard to the salary of their pastor, Bro. Hovey. It was further decided that any men who refused to participate in providing for the annual pastoral compensation of £50 would not have the protection of the assembly against the standing...

September 25

While in Virginia, Baptist pastor John Leland was a neighbor to James Madison. The two men often talked about the state of the nation and of the Word of God. Leland once wrote, “Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for, is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposed that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence.” Apparently this kind of thinking was driven by the Baptist into the heart of his Protestant friend. It is perhaps surprising that in the same British colony and American state where for years religious liberty could not be found, there it first began to blossom most brightly. The words of the Virginia Declaration of Rights were incorporated into the Federal Bill of Rights and began with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It was on this day in 1789, after only seven or eight days of debate, the final draft of Madison’s amendments to the Constitution were passed by Congress and presented to the states for...

September 17

I have mentioned both Pastor Addison Hall and missionary Lewis Shuck recently. Brother Hall was the father of Henrietta Hall, and this lady married Brother Shuck. On this day in 1835, while still a teenager, Henrietta and her husband stepped on board the deck of a ship bound for China from Boston. She couldn’t have known, but in ten years she would be dead. The ship stopped first in Calcutta and then sailed for Amherst, Burma. There Henrietta visited the grave of Ann Judson, whose life had been such an inspiration to her. From Amherst the Shucks sailed for Singapore. While studying the Malay language in Singapore, the couple’s first baby was born, which they named after Henrietta’s godly father. A month after the baby’s birth, the family set sail for Macao, where they arrived on this day in 1836, exactly a year after leaving Boston. In addition to being a help-meet to her husband in his ministry, Henrietta began her own ministry by taking a Chinese boy into their home, then came another boy and a girl. Henrietta’s heart was on winning Chinese woman to Christ, so eventually she refused to take any more boys, unless they were accompanied by at least one sister. During a period while she was nursing Brother Shuck and baby Lewis through dysentery, Henrietta gave birth to her second son. A year later a delicate little girl was born. During these months Henrietta was becoming weaker and weaker. When in 1841 Hong Kong was ceded to the British, the Shuck family moved noth, with hopes that the better climate would help them all....

September 10

I mentioned the Northern Neck of Virginia last week. It was there that Addison Hall was born in 1779. Six years earlier so was Lewis Lunsford. Lunsford was eventually saved by God’s grace and became a Baptist preacher. When the Lord began to bless, and Lunsford was causing quite a stir, an Episcopalian parson in Richmond County announced that on a specific Sunday he was going to expose the heresies of the Baptists. About 700 people began to assemble in the announced meeting place, and in the process the church balcony began to fall, causing a panic. Several people were injured and multitudes considered it to be the judgment of God.. After the disturbance was settled, the vicar went ahead and exposed the doctrines and practices of the Anabaptists, declaring that the day’s current Baptists were direct descendants of those earlier heretics. He got a mixed reception because there was a lot of truth in what he said. Despite the persecution against them, Bro. Lunsford continued his public ministry. On the Lord’s Day, September 10, 1775, while preaching in Richmond County a constable came with a warrant to take him away. The man politely chose to let the preacher finish his message so as not to cause a disturbance, but the enemy was not satisfied and rocks where thrown against the house and a tumult was raised. At the conclusion of the message the constable refused to serve the warrant on such a good man, but another, with a trembling hand simply touched Lunsford with the paper – it was considered served. The preacher voluntarily appeared before the magistrate...

September 3

The Northern Neck of Virginia, laying between the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers, was the home of George Washington, James Madison, John Monroe, and Robert E. Lee. It was also where Addison Hall was born on this day (September 3) in 1779. After serving in the War of 1812 Addison returned home to marry Susan Edmonds and to become a partner with his father in a small store. After very little formal education, Addison taught himself the law. He became a lawyer and a politician – elected to the House of Delegates for five sessions. After the Lord saved him in 1819, Brother Hall began to wonder if the Lord wanted him in His ministry rather than that of the State. He became a friend of J.B. Jeter and attended the churches in Wicomico and Morattico where Jeter preached. One Sunday when the pastor could not fill the pulpit, Hall was asked to deliver the message. He did well and the Lord blessed. When Jeter moved to Richmond, both churches called Hall to lead them. Addison Hall was not as eloquent and flamboyant as some Virginians pulpiteers, but he was distinguished with the blessing of the Lord. His churches prospered. In order to support his wife and 18 children, he continued to serve in various governmental positions. He was a member of the Virginia Convention in 1861 and voted to remain in the Union, but when Virginia was threatened with invasion, he changed his position. Many of his children went on to serve the Lord in various ways. For example, his eldest daughter Henrietta, married Jehu Lewis Shuck, and...

August 28

James Armstrong was orphaned when his father and mother, along with 22 others, were massacred by Indians while worshiping the Lord in a church service. When the boy was taken in by the local Presbyterian rector, we aren’t surprised to learn that he was raised to become a Protestant minister. At some point in his youth, the Lord redeemed his soul. After moving to Savannah, Georgia, James became an elder in a Presbyterian church, but that was when he began learn the truth about the church and the ordinances. He was immersed and joined the First Baptist Church. During the War of 1812, Bro. Armstrong moved to Wilkes County and joined the Fishing Creek Baptist Church. When the church became pastorless, he satisfactorily filled the pulpit. In 1821 he was ordained to the gospel ministry. It was said that James Armstrong was one of the best educated men in Georgia. He became closely associated with Jesse Mercer, and when the Baptists of that state wanted to start a college, Mercer and Armstrong stepped up. Together they helped to make the Mercer Institute one of the finest Baptist schools in the country. Sadly, during the winter of 1834-35, while traveling on behalf of the school, Bro. Armstrong was smitten with the painful disease which caused his death on this day (August 28) at the age of...

August 20

Jehu Lewis Shuck was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1812. After his conversion, he attended the Virginia Baptist Seminary, which ultimately became the University of Richmond (the Spiders). In 1835, Bro. Shuck married, Henrietta, the eldest daughter of Pastor Addison hall and a few days later the couple set sail for China. Mrs. Shuck was the first American woman missionary in that country. Upon arriving in Macao, Shuck found a young man who had been prepared by the Holy Spirit to readily receive Christ as his Lord and Saviour. When he was later baptized, that man became the first Chinese convert – several years before a mission had been established on the mainland. In 1840 the Shucks moved to Hong Kong and soon a church was established with 26 members. When Henrietta passed away, Bro. Shuck and his children, returned to America, taking with a young convert who had been called to preach. That man, Bro. Yong, was well received and used by God to stir up interest in the evangelization of China. Back in China in 1847 with his new wife, the focus of Bro. Shuck’s work was moved to Shanghai. When the need of a Christian physician became obvious, Dr. & Mrs. Sexton James sailed from Philadelphia. They had a successful, but extremely long voyage until they reached Hong Kong after which a sudden squall capsized their ship and they were lost before they reached Shangahi. Soon after that, despite laws against evangelism outside of China’s port cities, Bro. Shuck established a church in the interior. After several years, and with a desire to be nearer his...

August 13

Gustaf Palmquist was born in Sweden in 1812. While he was still young, his mother was brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit. When she sought advice from her Lutheran pastor, the best he could do was to assure her that church membership and her deep piety was sufficient before God, but this didn’t satisfy her. Eventually she came to know a elderly widow who was considered eccentric by her neighbors, and Mrs. Palmquist learned to trust God’s saving grace. Of course, she began to share the gospel with her seven children. In the mean time, Gustaf was growing up. At the at of 32, while a professor at a teacher’s college in Stockholm, his mother’s testimony, driven home by the Holy Spirit, resulted in his conversion. When he began to speak of his faith in Christ, the Lord brought him into contact with a small Baptist congregation which was planning to emigrate to America. They encouraged Palmquist to come with them, and he consented, arriving in August 1851. Discouraged by what he found in New York, Palmquist traveled west, settling in Rock Island, Illinois, where he sought out other Swedish-speaking people to whom he could share the gospel as he understood it. When he heard of a great moving of God in a little Baptist church in Galesburg, he went to investigate. The Holy Spirit began teaching this Lutheran immigrant the truth and in June 1852, he was immersed and joined the Galesburg church. Soon after that he was ordained. When he returned to Rock Island, he began to share with his friends what he had learned, and...