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...

August 6

Jesse Babcock Worden was born in 1787. He was the ninth of nine children. Various circumstances united in such a way that Jesse was raised totally illiterate. When he was twelve, he did not even know the alphabet. However at about that time he became burdened about his ignorance. He applied himself, and six years later he was sufficiently educated to become a teacher. When his father died, Jesse moved to a community where there was the need of his teaching services. There he was befriended by a pleasant infidel who poisoned his heart toward the things of God, and Jesse became an avid atheist. After serving the United States in the Niagara region during the War of 1812, Jesse settled in Sangerfield, New York and married a Presbyterian woman. To the couple were born five children. Jesse was a relatively good parent, but he would have nothing to do with religion and forbade his family to attend church. Then early in the 1840s revival swept through the area. The little Baptist church in the community had been so blessed by God that they needed a larger meeting house. One Saturday Jesse saw a group of men who had volunteered to work on the new building. He couldn’t understand how sane and intelligent men would give up a beautiful day to serve a God who didn’t exist. But the joy which was evident in the men as they worked began to stir Jesse’s heart. Inexplicably something broke within him, and he staggered home to talk with his wife about it. Together they began to meet with Elder John Peck,...

July 30

Thomas Patient was born in England. After his education at one the nation’s most renowned schools, he became a Congregational minister, before emigrating to America. Once over here, he came into contact with some Baptists, which caused him to reexamine the ordinances. He came to the conclusion that only believer’s should be baptized, and that by immersion. This caused his Congregational brethren to turn against him. The persecution was so strong he felt forced to return to England. In 1640 he became the co-pastor with William Kiffin. He was one of the signers of the 1644 Baptist Confession of Faith and became well known throughout the country. Correspondence indicates that he was personally acquainted with Oliver Cromwell. From London he moved to Dublin, Ireland, where he became a friend of the governor and the chaplain of the national council, receiving, for a time, a government salary, which caused much consternation among the brethren in England. But the aristocracy of the Anglo-Irish was well-exposed to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is said that Patient started the first Baptist Church in Ireland since the days of the Protestant Reformation. Of course, Patrick organized the very first Baptist church on the island hundreds of years earlier. But persecution destroyed Patrick’s churches, and it nearly destroyed the church pastored by Thomas Patient. On one occasion every member of the Dublin church was arrested and tried for heresy. The foreman of the jury vowed that they would be found guilty and executed, but during the trial he died , and the congregation was acquitted. After his long and useful service to...

July 23

Four and a half centuries ago, in the Dutch city of Nijmegen (Ni-may-hen) lived Jan Block. His family had become wealthy through the linen industry, and Jan lived a life of indolence and sin. One of his friends was Symon van Maren, who had moved to Nijmegen (Ni-may-hen) from Hertogenbosch. In Hertogenbosch was a congregation of Anabaptists, and Symon had come under conviction of sin and the Truth. Even after he settled in Nijmegen (Ni-may-hen) the testimony of the Anabaptists pursued him, and in time he repented before God and trusted in the finished work of Christ. The change in his friend greatly touched Jan, and soon Symon was sharing Christ with him. He, too, was converted, and his life was outwardly changed. As people started asking questions about his clean life-style, Jan began to openly preach salvation by grace. Because of the influence of his family, city officials began to worry about Jan’s new testimony. They placed a bounty on his head, and he fled from town. In time he returned, trying to find work as a common laborer, but the bailiff learned that he had returned and hunted him down. He was imprisoned and ultimately tried for heresy. During the course of his trial, Jan pointed out that while he was living sin and dissipation he was accepted by society, but as soon as he began to live a useful life, he was hunted as an enemy of the state. On this day (July 23) in 1569, Jan Block was led from the prison to the place of his execution. As the executioner tied him to the...

July 16

Prior to the establishment of religious liberty in this country, Baptists were not the only people persecuted for their faith. Several Quakers were put to death in Massachusetts and the colonies of Plymouth and Connecticut also enacted severe laws against them. But other than what the Quakers accomplished in Pennsylvania, it was the Baptists who argued, fought, and died to make sure that liberty was a part of the fabric of this nation. On July 8, 1663, through the efforts of John Clarke, King Charles II granted a charter to Rhode Island which stated “no person within the said colonye at any tyme hereafter shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted or called in question for any difference in opinions in matters of religion which doe not actually disturb the civil peace of our sayd colonye; but that… freely and full ye have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernments.” When further questions about liberty brought on the War of Independence, Rhode Island stood firm. On May 4, 1776, the general assembly voted to abrogate its allegiance to the king. On July 4, the colony’s two representatives signed the Declaration of Independence. Then on this day, July 16, 1776, the general assembly began discussing the ramifications of their decision and in what ways liberty should become a national principle. Unlike nearly all the rest of the States, Rhode Island, first as a colony and then as one of the states within the Union, has pledged its support and its citizens’ lives for the sake of...

July 2

Orison Allan and his wife were the first known Baptists in the territory of Michigan, settling in the wilderness where Pontiac is now located. Nine years later, on this day (July 2) in 1827, Henry Davis, a young graduate of Hamilton Theological Institute, arrived to minister to another community on the banks of the Detroit River, 40 miles from Pontiac. Most of the population of Detroit at the time was either French or Irish Catholic. In October he wrote home: “Our assemblies were rather small at first, although sufficiently large to afford us some encouragement… Baptists were never known in Detroit until we commenced our meeting. Consequently we could not expect to find a people prepared for us. Since my arrival I have had the pleasure of baptizing three persons… We have called a council to meet on the 20th of October with a view of organizing a church.” Historian Albert Finn later wrote, “The Detroit River has never witnessed a more impressive scene than that which took place on its banks in 1827 when Elder Henry Davis, the young and fiery shepherd of the Baptist believers in Detroit, baptized a group of converts in the waters of the strait to which our city owes its name. A picturesque and colorful group of fine ladies, fur traders, and Indians, as well as the sober, first citizens stood reverently by.” Brother Davis was able to secure a few lots on which to build a meeting house, but sadly a shortly thereafter he was seized by sickness and died, and the congregation was left leaderless for several...

June 25

I don’t usually use 20th century material in these historical notes, but I’m going to make an exception today.     On this day in 1928, Nikita Isaevitch Voronin made the following public statement: “During the sixty years of its existence in Russia our brotherhood (The Baptist Union of the U.S.S.R.)  has achieved wonderful results with which can be compared the achievements of no other religious movement.  We can boldly state, that already in 1905… among the so-called sects in Russia, the Baptists were the foremost in point of numbers, the firmest in defense of the purity of their teaching, the bravest during the heavy recession of the Tzarist regime and the most ardent in zeal of spirit and soul in the great work! And that is what we are now!”     That declaration was made before the Toronto meeting of the Baptist World Alliance.  Voronin was a Baptist Communist, and the BWA was one of the most liberal religious organizations in the world.  Voronin’s words echo the “we Russians are better than everyone else” which was common among the Communists for  more than 75...

June 18

On this day in 1781, the Severns Valley Baptist Church was founded in what is now Elizabethtown, Kentucky, south of Louisville. It may have been the first Baptist church in Kentucky. At the time, the area was dense and unexplored forest, inhabited by only a few pioneering families. If we could go back to visit one of their services, we’d find the men dressed in leather leggings, moccasins, carrying hats made of various animal skins. And in their hands or resting close by would be their Kentucky long rifles and a tomahawk. There would be a guard at the door watching for Indians. John Gerrard was the first pastor at Severns Valley. We don’t know a great deal about this man, but we do know that after serving the church for about a year, he went out to hunt food for his family, and we know he never returned. The forests were filled with game, but also with natives who didn’t want the White men living there. The body of Pastor Gerrard was never found, and it was believed that he was murdered. J.H. Spencer, author of an interesting history of the early Baptists of Kentucky, wrote, “Like John the Baptist, he came preaching in the wilderness, and like Moses, no man knoweth of his sepulcher until this...

June 11

  Hervey Jenks was born into a respectable, religious family, but his godly parents were not able to convince their son of his need of Christ. He entered Brown University, the Baptist’s premier school at the time, with the intention of becoming a lawyer. While teaching school in the neighboring community of Rehoboth to pay for his classes, he was suddenly awakened to the eternal need of his soul. The darkness which pervaded his heart for some time was soon replaced by a most joyful confidence in salvation through the merits of Christ. He was baptized and joined the First Baptist Church of Providence in June 1810, and a year later, on this day, he was ordained. Brother Jenks married and became pastor of his wife’s home church in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, while also pastoring another church in Hudson, New York, traveling back and forth on horseback. Both congregations flourished with souls saved and the members actively serving their Saviour. Soon other churches were showing interest in the young man, but God had different plans. Brother Jenks began to show symptoms which were later diagnosed as typhus. In a few months the disease took his life, dying at the very young age of 28. In the will of God, the beginning of a productive ministry for Christ was cut short, but what effect did his actual passing have on the lives of others? The Lord may use us in different ways. Are we...