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...

August 5

William Wickenden was an elder in Rhode Island’s second Providence Church. He was a signator of the first compact of Rhode Island in 1637 and served as a member of the legislature. In 1655 he visited the Dutch colony of New Netherlands (New York), to preach the gospel. On this day (August 5) 1657 two Dutch Reformed ministers in New Netherlands wrote an official paper on “The State of Religion” in their colony, sending it back to the old country. Part of that report declared, “Last year a fomenter of evil came here. He was a cobbler from Rhode Island, in New England, and stated that he was commissioned by Christ. He began to preach at Flushing and then went with the people into the river and dipped them. This becoming known here, the fiscaal [a Dutch police officer] proceeded thither and brought him along. He was banished from the province.” Thomas Armitage, in his history, added, “The Baptists at Flushing were the next feel the wrath of the law. William Hallett, sheriff of that place, had dared to collect conventicles [meetings] in his house, and to permit one William Wickendam (sic) to explain and comment on God’s Holy Word… though not called thereto by any civil or clerical authority (referring to the Dutch Church). He [referring to Sheriff Hallett] had, moreover, assisted at such meetings.” For this violation, Hallett was removed from office and fined 50 pounds which he was unable to pay, and thus he was banished. On the 8th of November Wickenden was fined one hundred pounds and was to be banished from the province once...

July 29

Baptists do not believe in receiving support from the State, but depending on the circumstances, and beyond praying for governmental leaders, they may support the State even in fiscal matters. In second half of the 16th century, Europe was ablaze with religious persecution and burning bodies. In some countries Protestants persecuted Catholics; in other countries the Catholics killed Protestants, and across the continent both parties persecuted the Anabaptists. By 1572 Henry II of England and Philip II of Spain had agreed to put all the Protestants of the Netherlands to death. A young Prince William of Orange resolved to stir up the Protestant defenses against the Catholic onslaught. He spent his fortune, sold his personal possessions and mortgaged his estates in an effort to raise money for the defense of his people. Early in April, Prince William was met by two strangers, Jacob Fredericks and Dirk Jans Cortenbosch. The men were Anabaptist preachers. They asked if there was some way in which they and their small, decimated churches could support the defense of the country. After the meeting William asked his secretary write to his new supporters, saying, “Let every one contribute. This is a time when even with small sums more can be effected than at other times with ampler fund. His lordship will ever be ready to reward them for such good and faithful service to the common cause and to their prince.” Despite years of persecution and its resulting poverty, on this day (July 29) in 1572, Fredericks and Cortenbosch brought a gift of a thousand florins to the prince at Remund. William asked what they...

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...