November 18

William Cathcart was born on this day in 1826. Despite his parents’ Scottish ancestry, his birth place was in Ireland. He was raised in Presbyterianism. He was converted to Christ at an early age, and at nineteen, when he was convinced of believer’s baptism, he was immersed and received into the Baptist church at Tubbermore. A few years later, William felt the call of God into the ministry. He attended the University of Glasgow and Rawdon Baptist College in Yorkshire. Then he was ordained in 1850, becoming the pastor of a church near Sheffield, England. Soon after that he married Eliza Caldwell. In 1853 the Cathcarts emigrated to America, arriving on this day in 1853. So this is a double anniversary for the Cathcarts. The following month William began a ministry in Groton, Connecticut, before being called to the Second Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He ministered there for twenty-seven years. Elder Cathcart was a staunch Baptist, holding to a literal interpretation and application of the Bible. He was no stranger to controversy, but it stemmed from his firm faith and not from any adversarial attitude in his character. He also loved history, compiling information on God’s preachers both from the past and those whom he personally knew. Much of that collected information was edited and eventually placed into his monumental work, “The Baptist Encyclopedia.” It was first published in 1881 and has remained in print ever since. It ought to be found in every pastor’s library. In 1875 in honor of the centennial of the Colonies freedom from England, Cathcart put some of his research into a smaller work...

November 11

On this day (November 11) in 1790, Thomas Baldwin was installed as the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Boston. Thomas was raised in Canaan, N.H. by his mother and step-father. He was given a good education which he hoped to use in the legal profession. He married and was elected to serve in the state legislature. But then his first-born child died, his heart began to turn to things more spiritual. When in 1780 two Baptist preachers came to Canaan, the Lord revealed to Baldwin the truths of the gospel. A few months later, he left his Protestant roots and was immersed as a testimony and confession of his faith in Christ. When the Baptist church in Canaan invited him to become their shepherd, he accepted. For seven years he faithfully served the Lord and His local congregation without any financial remuneration. During that time, he added evangelism and missionary work to his list of responsibilities, often traveling more than a hundred miles in severe winter weather to carry to the truth to willing and unwilling ears. He also honed his skills in debate and writing. He wrote extensively, and his book on baptism was for some time considered to be one of the better apologies for the truth. When he began his Boston ministry the Lord continued to bless. By the end of 1791, seventy new members had joined, and there were more each year for some time. Thomas Baldwin earned the praise of Baptist leaders on both side of the Atlantic, from Francis Wayland to Andrew Fuller, and perhaps even more to his character, he...

November 4

Henry Novotny was born in 1846 in Czechoslovakia during a period when that country was thoroughly Roman Catholic. When he was still a youth, he attended a secret Protestant meeting and was so impressed that he began reading the forbidden Bible and other literature. When one in the little group died, his family didn’t want a Catholic funeral, so they asked Henry if he would say a few words, and he agreed. Shortly thereafter he told his friends, “I resolve that with God’s help I shall leave the Roman Catholic Church and become a Protestant.” On this day in 1870 Henry Novotny entered seminary in Switzerland. From there he took his wife and two children to Edinburgh, Scotland for further studies, but then he got into trouble – he came to see Baptist doctrine. He returned to the Continent and was immersed by Charles Ondra, pastor of Europe’s largest Baptist church, in Lodz, Poland. Novotny then moved to Bohemia where he began his Baptist ministry. Despite persecution, he preached seven times every Lord’s Day, baptizing in the frozen rivers, writing and publishing the truth, despite the law against it, and building churches. By the time of his death, he had helped to start more than 30 churches in cities across Bohemia, and there were God-called men, trained by Novotny leading most of those...

October 28

On this day (October 28) in 1856, Francis Wayland penned the preface to his work, “Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches,” in which he clearly enunciated the principles of religious freedom and the autonomy of the local church. He wrote, “Baptists have ever believed in the entire and absolute independence of the churches. By this, we mean that every church of Christ, that is, every company of believers united together according to the laws of Christ, is wholly independent of every other; that every church is perfectly capable of self-government; and that, therefore, no one acknowledges any higher authority, under Christ, than itself; that with the church all ecclesiastical action commences, and with it terminates, and hence that the ecclesiastical relations proper, of every member, are limited to the church of which he belongs.” Wayland became a champion for religious freedom, eventually becoming known as “the apostle of Baptist...

October 21

Russia has never possessed the blessing of religious liberty. While periods of severe persecution have come and gone and come again, there has always been a hatred towards the gospel and Bible-believing people. Today, there are an unknown number of Russian Baptists meeting in unregistered churches across the country, avoiding as much as possible the eyes of the government while still carrying out the work of the Lord. One early servant of God was Vasilia Ivanoff – born in the city of Baku, Russia in 1848. He was converted to Christ and baptized on this day (October 21) in 1870. In Baku Ivanoff established a Baptist church which grew to more then 300 members. The congregation was made up of Tartars, Turks, Armenians, Kurds and Russians, enabling a multifaceted ministry. He traveled extensively despite having no passport or travel documents. He baptized over 1500 converts, mostly at night and often after cutting holes in the ice. On one occasion there were 86 candidates for the ordinance. Persecution against him began the moment he began to preach the gospel. He was arrested so many times he lost count, but he thought that he spent time in 31 jails and prisons. In 1895 he was sentence to incarceration in the Caucasus for four years. There he was made to serve as a beast of burden, grinding corn on a treadmill. When he was released he immediately returned to the calling God gave him. Twice he was sent to northern Siberia where for a time he was chained to the worst sorts of criminals. His imprisonments did nothing to cool his zeal...

October 14

On this day in 1774, while the First Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, James Manning and Isaac Backus were granted permission to speak to the delegates from Massachusetts. Manning read an article entitled “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty” and Backus explained it. Part of the article read: “It appears to us that the true difference and exact limits between ecclesiastical and civil government is this, That the church is armed with light and truth, to pull down the strongholds of iniquity, and to gain souls to Christ, and into His Church … while the state is armed with the sword to guard the peace, and the civil rights of all persons and societies, and to punish those who violate the same …. I before declared that the Scripture is abundantly clear for a free support of ministers, but not a forced one; and observed, that there is as much difference between them, as there is between the power of truth in the mind and the power of the sword in the body.” John Adams, the leader of the Massachusetts delegation, after four hours of discussion with the Baptists declared, “Gentlemen, if you mean to try to effect a change in Massachusetts’ laws respecting religion, you may as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens.” Fortunately for the nation which came out of that Congress, there were other leaders who were not so blind and bigoted as were Samuel and John...

October 7

What is the likelihood that our service for Christ in this place might become a blessing to someone on the other side of the globe?  And if it was, how would you feel, if no one even knew your name in regard to that service?     There was a young Irishman, whose name has been lost to history, who joined the British army – probably in an effort to escape his family’s poverty.  He was soon stationed in Madras, India.  In 1830 he was sent on special assignment to Moulmein, Burma.  While in Burma, the young Catholic attended the Baptist mission lead by Eurgenio Kincaid.  There he came under conviction and was born again.  Meeting Adoniram Judson and growing in Christ, he asked about Christian service.  Judson recommended that upon his discharge from the army, he move to the United States to attend seminary.   This he did.  Upon the completion of his studies he was ordained in Broadalbin, New York in 1838.  He pastored in that state for a short time before being led to become a missionary.     He and his young wife moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, arriving in late autumn. He purchased a small piece of land outside the community, complete with the shell of a house, around which he banked dirt and sod..  He dug potatoes for a neighbor and was permitted to keep a seventh for his family.  He threshed wheat and took his wages in grain.  He built and sold wooden chairs with which he bought a little pork to eat.  The family survived the winter without eggs, butter, cheese, sugar, milk, fish or...

September 30

When King Charles II died, his brother James II ascended to the British throne. James was an avowed Catholic and was ready to re-establish Catholicism in England. It was during his short three-year reign that Benjamin and William Hewling surrendered their lives to fight for religious liberty. Benjamin, aged 22, and William, 19, had lost their father as boys. They were taken in by their grandfather, one of the most notable names in English Baptist history, William Kiffin. The story of William Kiffin is filled with miraculous, divine providence. For example, starting with nothing he became one of the wealthiest men in England, while at the same time standing firmly on Baptist doctrines for which he often suffered persecution from both Catholics and Protestants as well as political enemies and jealous businessmen. Kiffin’s “sons,” Benjamin and William joined the army of the Duke of Monmouth in an unsuccessful struggle for civil and religious liberty. They were captured and imprisoned at Newgate. When their grandfather failed to garner their release, they were condemned to death. One day, their sister managed to locate and visit with the young men, later recounting in her strange grammar, “They with great cheerfulness professed that they were better and in a more happy condition than ever in their lives, from the sense they had of the pardoning love of God in Jesus Christ to their souls; wholly referring themselves to their wise and gracious God to choose for them life or death…” She added, “As for the world, there is nothing in it to make it worth while to live, except we may be serviceable...

September 23

Mrs. Sabrina Chivers Mercer died on this day in 1826. She was the faithful companion and help meet of the well-known Baptist, Jesse Mercer. They were married nearly forty years. She passed away while traveling home through South Carolina with her husband after attending the Triennial Convention of that year. Jesse Mercer – born just before the war in 1769 – was the son of Silas Mercer. Silas was from Georgia and an Episcopalian before the Lord saved and called him into the Baptist ministry. When his son Jesse was converted, it was his father who baptized him. Three years later, at the age of twenty, his father was involved in his ordination. When Silas passed away, Jesse was invited to become the principal of his father’s school, Salem Academy. He also accepted calls to become the pastor of his father’s three churches. In this position Jesse Mercer found himself at the center of Baptist life in the state of Georgia. In addition to his churches he carried out an itinerant preaching ministry, distributing tracts and books wherever possible. He was an ardent supporter of missions among both the black and white populations. He encouraged Sunday schools and was a champion of temperance. Also, Mercer was a trustee of Columbian College, Washington, and was the first president of the school which eventually bore his name. Jesse Mercer may not be as well-known a name as some, but in the State of Georgia it is highly...

September 19

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were among the first to explore the place we know as Idaho. From September 13 to 20, 1805 the group were basically lost, looking for the headwaters of the Missouri River. On this date their journal reveals that their hunting had failed them, and their food supply was exhausted. Then the Lord blessed; they found their footing and were able to continue on to the Pacific. I am going to use that as an introduction to something about Idaho. Twenty-five years after the Lewis and Clark expedition we have the first mention of Baptists in what became Idaho. George Ferris and his wife opened general stores at Old Arco and Houston, but there were no gospel churches in the area. The Ferris’s worried about the spiritual condition of their children, provoking Mrs. Ferris to plead with her husband about returning to civilization for the sake of their family. About that time Howard Bowler, a Baptist missionary serving at Bellevue, north of today’s Twin Falls, heard about the spiritual need in the Big Lost River Valley. He hitched a horse to his open buggy and began the 90 mile journey east and north through the lava desert toward the Lost River. After days without seeing any sign of life, he arrived at a lone cabin where the woman of the house, Mrs. Nelson, was a believer. Following some mutual, spiritual refreshing the missionary moved eighteen miles further on, arriving at the Ferris cabin. When Bro. Bowler told his new hosts that he wanted to start a mission, the couple went to work locating a meeting...

September 9

A great many Baptists foolishly praise early Protestant leaders. They either consider themselves to be Protestants (and indeed many of them are), or they have never learned, or else they have forgotten, what those Protestants have done in an attempt to rid the world of our spiritual forefathers. In the early 1500s there were at least three Baptist churches around St. Gall, Switzerland– Teuffen, Herisau and Brunnen. They didn’t, or couldn’t use, church buildings so they held services under the open sky, baptizing their converts in nearby books and streams. A council was called by Huldrych Zwingli to meet at St. Gall with the purpose of ridding the country of the people they called “Dippers.” After the council, on this day (September 9) in 1527, the following edict was published. “In order that the dangerous, wicked, turbulent and seditious sect of the Baptists may be eradicated, we have thus decreed: If any one is suspected of rebaptism, he is to be warned by the magistracy to leave the territory under penalty of the designated punishment. Every person is obliged to report those favorable to rebaptism. Whoever shall not comply with this ordinance is liable to punishment according to the sentence of the magistracy. Teachers of rebaptism, baptizing preachers, and leaders of hedge meetings [outdoor services] are to be drowned. Those previously released from prison who have sworn to desist from such things, shall incur the same penalty. Foreign Baptists are to be driven out; if they return they shall be drowned. No one is allowed to secede from the [Protestant] church and to absent himself from the Holy Supper....

September 2

William Francis Luck was born in Campbell County, Virginia in 1801. His Father died when he was young. Even though his Baptist mother did her best to raise William properly, as he matured he became a wild and sinful young man. On this day (September 2) in 1824, Luck married Elizabeth McGann and three years later the couple moved to Tennessee, just east of Nashville, into an area which had been settled and evangelized by strong Separate Baptists. By the grace of God, in the autumn of 1830 William was converted; he was baptized and joined the Pleasant Valley Church of Separate Baptists. Soon after this he felt a call to the ministry and was ordained to that service. At the age of 56, William and his family moved to a site just north of St. Louis, Missouri. where he began to pastor and preach Christ. And then the war started. Bro. Luck was arrested and placed in the Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis charged with nothing more than being a “Southern man.” Rather than being discouraged, he understood that it was God’s will that he serve the Lord even in the prison, so he continued his work of evangelism. After several months of confinement, he was released – to the joy of his family and church. William Luck continued his service to Christ until his health failed him. After about a year and half o physical suffering, the Lord took His servant home on December 26,...

August 26

In 1750 Benjamin Foster was born into a Congregational family at Danvers, Massachusetts. He proved to be an intelligent boy and at eighteen earned gained entrance into Yale College, where he quickly excelled. When the subject of baptism came up for discussion before the student body, Foster was chosen to defend the paedo-baptist position – that babies ought to be sprinkled. In preparation for an oral debate he carefully studied the scriptures in both English and Greek, spending time as well searching church history from the time of the Apostles. When the day of the debate arrived, Foster declared that he had come to accept only believer’s baptism by immersion. It’s not known whether the debate was carried out. Bro. Benjamin Foster graduated from Yale a few years before the Revolutionary war. He was baptized and received into the Baptist church in Boston where he continued to study theology. Soon he became pastor of the church in Leicester, and there he was ordained. He preached Christ, authored tracts on Bible doctrine, answered the call to pastor in Newport, Rhode Island, and after the departure of John Gano for Kentucky, he became the pastor of the First Baptist Church in New York. It was there where he died on this day (August 26) in 1798 from yellow fever. There were few men in the country who were Foster’s superior when it came to knowledge of the Greek, Hebrew and Chaldean languages. His tombstone expressed that fact and more – “As a scholar and divine, he excelled; as a preacher he was eminent; as a Christian he shone conspicuously; in his...

August 19

I don’t usually share historical notes which come within my lifetime, but with this I’ll make an exception. In January 1954 Quebec’s Premier Duplessis introduced “Bill 38” which amended the “Freedom of Worship Act.” It basically declared that to take one’s religion out of the church building and into the community through open air preaching, distribution of tracts and visiting door to door was illegal. The Roman Catholic hatred of the gospel has always existed in Quebec and has not gone away even in the enlightened 20th century. For example in 1950 a group of Baptists gathered just off Main Street in La Sarre and began singing “What can wash away my sin?” when an unruly crowd instantly gathered blowing horns, using loudspeakers, and screaming obscenities. Fruit and eggs were thrown. When the police arrived, they arrested the Baptists and let their attackers walk away. Then on this day (August 19) in that same year (1950) three special officers were sworn into service by the La Sarre Police Department. Their purpose was not to maintain law and order but to silence the local Baptist pastor and his membership if they should continue to publically proclaim Christ on the streets of the city. One night this group of believers took up their usual place and began singing a hymn. The chief of police with his three special helpers arrived, seized the pastor and dragged him away, telling him to get into his car and leave. When the pastor returned to the meeting, he asked if he was going to be arrested even though he had every right according to Canadian...

August 12

The persecution with which the Jews tried to stifle the early Christians, provided the impetus for the scattering of God’s evangelists throughout the Mediterranean. The same thing occurred in North Carolina 1700 years later. The Colony of North Carolina had already levied three sets of taxes – a property tax, a tax upon the sale of goods and a parish tax for support of the Episcopal church. When Governor William Tyron wanted to build a new, expensive castle home, he threatened even more taxes. At that point, smoldering fires ignited and pockets of resistence, called “Regulators,” spread across the colony. Many of these Regulators were Separate Baptists, who were being persecuted in ways other than just taxes, such as the non-recognition of their marriages. On May 16, 1771 two thousand Regulators faced an equal number of government troops at the Battle of Alamance, which many consider to be the first conflict of the Revolutionary War. During the two hour battle there were 9 men killed on both sides, but the Regulators were routed. Tyron then sought the life of the Baptist preacher, Joseph Murphy, who was considered to be one of the Regulator leaders. The governor camped along the Sandy Creek, watching the home of Benjamin Merrill, one of the leaders of the Baptist church at Jersey Settlement. Murphy escaped but Merrill was taken and publically hanged, and then his body was cut in pieces – “quartered-and-squared.” On this day, August 12, 1771, three months after the news spread, The Boston Gazette gave the following report: “Merrill died in the most heroic manner, his children being around him at...