April 26

We are greatly indebted to Edward Terrill, the clerk of the “Baptized Congregation” of Broadmead, Bristol, England who faithfully recorded the history of the church of which he was a member. The Broadmead church was founded in 1640. In 1651 Thomas Ewins was called to be its pastor. The work grew under his leadership, drawing the attention of the enemy. On July 27, 1661, Ewins was arrested while preaching. After two months in jail, he was released and began preaching once again. Two years later, he began a full year in jail. During that time he would preach through the bars of his fourth-floor cell to the church members below. The Broadmead assembly took attendance seriously, meeting out-of-doors and from house to house. One meeting place was in a small second floor room. Those ladies who couldn’t squeeze into the hall, sat on the stairs listening, and when the sheriff came, they would begin singing, signaling to the others to disband. Terrill records that the determination of the congregation to meet, despite the laws against conventicles, was so strong that those who absented themselves without good cause were disciplined as disorderly. Pastor Ewin, suffering the physical effects of his incarcerations, died on this day in 1670, at an early age. Bro Terrill put into the church records: “Anno 1670. Our Pastor, Br. Ewins, having layen a greate while weake, he Departed this life … in ye worke of ye Ministry; Preaching ye Gospel! clearly of Free Grace by faith in Christ Jesus. Wherein he laboured aboundantly, in ye Publick, and in his particular charge ye Congregation …. He was...

April 19

A. J. Gordon was born on his day (April 19) in 1836. His father was a deacon in the Baptist church in New Hampton, New Hampshire. Dad was named after the nineteenth century reformer John Calvin, but the son was given a name honoring the Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson. A.J. Gordon was born again when he was fifteen-years-of-age. He attended Brown University, a school for which he eventually became a trustee. He completed his education at Newton Theological Institute. For more than a quarter century he was one of the leading Baptist pastors in the country. Heretics and cultists feared his tongue and pen. Not only did he pastor one of the foremost churches in New England, the Clarendon Street Baptist Church, Boston, but he edited an influential weekly paper and published book after book, many of which are still widely read today. He attacked agnosticism, Unitarianism, evolution, baptismal regeneration, Arminianism; Hyper-calvinism; post-millennialism and post-tribulationalism, Christian Science, transcendentalism and the growing attacks upon God’s Word by the higher critics and mis-translators of his day. Gordon was a fundamentalist before the rise of fundamentalism. He once wrote, “The world’s motto is, ‘In union there is strength,’ the church’s motto is, ‘in separation there is strength.’” A.J. Gordon died in...

April 12

William Screven emigrated to Boston from England about the year 1668. There he became a successful merchant. He also became a Baptist, but at what point we do not know. When he tried to organize a Baptist church in Boston he was informed that it would be in violation of the laws of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, so he moved to Kittery in the Province of Maine in order to scripturally worship and serve the Lord. After Massachusetts acquired the area of Maine, the government renewed its persecution of this good man. He was arrested and charged with making blasphemous speeches against the “holy order of pedobaptism” (apparently their words). On this day (April 12) in 1682 he was brought before the court at York and his sentence was read. He was charged with “blasphemy” and “delinquency” for condemning infant baptism and for not attending the state-sanctioned church. He was ordered to pay £10 and to cease any private exercise of religion at his own house or elsewhere. Of course, when released, Screven continued to worship the Lord as he understood the Bible to teach. When he organized a church in Kittery out of a Baptist church in Massachusetts, the government’s persecution intensified. Eventually growing weary of the official hatred, Elder Screven and the assembly which he shepherded took ship and sailed for the Carolinas. They settled on the Cooper River not far from Charleston. In 1693 after meeting a few recent Baptist arrivals from the west of England, a new church was established out of the seeds of the Kittery church. This was the first Baptist church in...

April 5

Benjamin Randall was set apart for the gospel ministry on this day in 1780, ten years after his conversion and after he joined the Baptist church in Portsmith, New Hampshire. Benjamin was born in 1749; the son of a sea captain; a member of a Congregational church. After sailing with his father several times, he settled down and opened his own shop as a sail-maker. During 1770, George Whitefield, the Anglican/Methodist evangelist, announced his intention to visit Portsmith to preach. By this time most Congregational ministers had grown tired of Whitefield’s evangelistic approach and ordered their people not to attend or listen to the man. Benjamin Randall, however felt drawn to attend, despite his predetermined prejudice against him. The preaching of Christ stirred his heart, but he fought against the Lord’s conviction. He went back again and again. Friday night marked his last visit to the hall where Whitefield preached. The following Sunday, a stranger rode through the streets announcing in a subdued tone: “Mr. Whitefield is dead. He died in Newbury at 6 o’clock this morning.” The words hit Randall like a lightning bolt. “Whitefield is in heaven, and I am on the road to hell. He was a man of God, and I reviled him. O that I could hear his voice once again.” For days he was in great distress. The gospel messages he had heard echoed in his heart, until one text rose to the top of his mind: “But now, once in the end of the world, hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” – Heb. 9:26. On October...

March 29

Ko Tha Byu was a member of the Karen tribe, native to the mountains of Burma. He died in 1840. The Karens were the lowest class of people in Burma. They were usually considered to be “the wild men of the jungle.” Ko Tha Byu was typical of his people and perhaps even worse than most. He confessed that by the time he was fifty he had murdered or assisted in the murder of at least thirty people. After five decades of wickedness and the suffering it caused, Tha decided to settle down and clean up his life. He began working in a print shop that was run by a Baptist missionary. The missionary tried to teach him the meaning of what it was he was printing, but Tha had not yet been readied by the Lord. He left the kindness and blessing of that employment and moved to Moulmein. There he got into debt and eventually found himself standing on the block awaiting to be sold into slavery. Providentially, a Burmese Baptist recognized the potential slave and bought him for 12 rupees. Again the Karen man rebelled, and the Christian turned to Adoniram Judson for advice. Judson reimbursed the man and took Tha home where he was asked to work around the missionary’s house. He learned to read Burmese, and when he read of the crucifixion his eye fell on Christ’s forgiveness of the murderous man on the cross. He was amazed, asking Judson for more information. In time he accepted the truth and by faith was born again. Ko Tha Byu immediately began growing in Christ. On...

March 22

John Gill was born in 1697. His Father, Edward, was a Baptist deacon in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England, so John grew up reading the Word of God; he read just about everything else as well. By the time he was 11, he was reading Latin and Greek classics. The local bookseller was open for business only on the weekly market days, but on that day John was there in the store reading and talking to authors as they came by. When he was 12, his father’s pastor preached a message from “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” The sermon was used to bring down the proud young man and a few months later John could look at the wounds and blood of the Lord Jesus as the means to his salvation. On November 1, 1716 he was baptized in the river at Kettering, after which he joined the Baptist church. Almost immediately, he began preaching the gospel. He was called to become the pastor of the church at Horsely-downs, and on this day (March 22) in 1720, at the age of 23 he was ordained to the ministry. In 1769 he published his “Body of Divinity,” and later came his commentary on the Bible. He loved the people of God – both in his church and elsewhere. He was among the first to support the Rhode Island College and its founder James Manning. About 50 years before Gill’s birth, the Tabernacle Fellowship was born in London. Over the years that congregation has had different names, but it has always been a Baptist...

March 15

The Baptist church in Hopewell, New Jersey, was organized on April 23, 1715 with fifteen members.   Hopewell was, and still is to some degree, a small rural community in western New Jersey over a few hills from the Delaware River. For its first 32 years the church met in private homes, primarily that of Jonathan Stout.  Then in 1747, during a period of revival and growth, property was given to the church by John Hart, the only local man who was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence.  Isaac Eaton was the church’s first full-time pastor, serving from 1748 until his death in 1772.  Other than a few famous members, probably the church’s most significant claim to fame was that Bro. Eaton established the first Baptist school in America for the training of God’s servants.  Three of the school’s alumni include John Gano, the pastor of the first permanent Baptist church in New York and chaplain in the Revolutionary War, Hezekiah Smith another pastor and chaplain, and James Manning the founder of a school in Rhode Island which eventually became known as Brown University.  But it’s not to these that I refer for this date in our history.     On Sunday, April 23, 1775, news of the Battle of Lexington reached Hopewell while the church service was going on.  As people began to exit the building, Joab Houghton, one of the members, climbed up on the block of stone used to help ladies disembark from their wagons.  Once he had everyone’s attention, he challenged the men of the church with his love of liberty and desire for independence.  It is said...

March 8

Joseph Islands was born a Creek Indian. He grew up in Alabama – a wild and sinful man. One night in 1842 during a drunken brawl a good friend of his was killed. The next day Joseph went to the grave site and found a Christian black man, affectionately named “Old Billy,” digging the grave. Seeing the distress on Joseph’s face, Old Billy shared with him the comfort of the gospel. The Holy Spirit began working with conviction and later in the black man’s cabin, Joseph Islands was born again. The Creek nation had earlier imposed a strict law against the introduction of Christianity among their people. Anyone engaged in evangelism was to be whipped with 39 lashes. Under this law, Joseph and Old Billy began meeting in semi-secret. Over time, more and more of their friends heard about their faith and joined them in Bible study, until the number reached about 40 souls. Eventually the authorities were alerted, and plans were laid to find the Christians and to punish them. On one occasion a spy hid behind some trees in order to follow Bro. Islands to their meeting, but when the Christian man reached the woods he stopped and began to openly pray. He asked for God’s blessings on the tribal leaders, for the police, for his Christian friends, and for several specific individuals, including the man who was overhearing these devotions. A sense of guilt overcame him, and when he finally discovered the place of the Christians’ worship, he presented himself, asking for more of the gospel. He was soon led to Christ. Ultimately the believers were...

March 1

Most American colonies, states and districts did not begin their existence practicing religious liberty. Two exceptions were the colonies of Rhode Island and New Jersey. Later Texas would join that list. Texas was originally a part of Mexico under the 1824 Mexican Democratic Constitution. But political turmoil and Catholic domination from the south made life in Texas miserable and various factions fought for control, including the forces of Santa Anna who attempted to set up a dictatorship. On November 3, 1835 a meeting was held by American settlers seeking independence, but the motion was voted down and the colonists, calling themselves Texans, determined to remain loyal to Mexico. But government troops, Santa Anna’s men and some Texans continued to clash until it was recognized that the only road to peace was through total independence which included freedom to choose, freedom to vote, and freedom of worship. In Mexico the only religion not forbidden by law was Roman Catholicism. Also, there were as yet no schools, so there were very few places for large groups to meet. On this day (March 1) in 1836 in Washington, Texas, a group of American settlers met in the blacksmith shop of N. T. Byars. All his equipment was pushed aside, benches were brought in and government business began. That meeting became the first Texas convention. Judge Richard Ellis, who had become a farmer after emigrating from Virginia, was chosen to preside over the session. The following day Texas independence was declared, a new government was begun, and Samuel Houston was selected to lead the Texan army. At that time, Santa Anna was massing...

February 23

James Smith Coleman was born on this day (February 23) in 1827. He was saved by grace when he was eleven-years-old, after which he joined the Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Kentucky. When he reached adulthood he was elected county sheriff, but one evening after attending a revival meeting, the Holy Spirit convicted him to leave his post and to become a gospel preacher. His church agreed and when Coleman began preaching, the power of God followed him everywhere. Bro. Coleman was gifted with a clear and quick mind and an orator’s tongue. He was often asked to participate in debates with other preachers over doctrine, and often he consented. On one occasion he was asked to debate the subject of believer’s baptism with a Methodist named William Caskey. As the debate developed Caskey declared that when the Bible states that complete households were baptized it must have included infants and so babies are Biblical candidates for baptism. In his rebuttal Bro. Coleman stated: “I am surprised at Brother Caskey’s limited information concerning Lydia’s household. He has inferred that Lydia had children under the age of accountability, and that, therefore these children were baptized. I am surprised, Sir, that you do not know that Lydia was a widow, and a traveling cloth merchant, and that she never had but one child, and that was a daughter, who married a red-headed, one-eyed shoemaker, and had moved off to Damascus, and had not been at home for years, and that her household at that time consisted of herself and servants who assisted her in her business. I am surprised, Sir, that...

February 16

The first record of what became the first Baptist church in the city of Boston reads: “The 28th of the third month, 1665, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the church of Christ, commonly, though falsely, called Anabaptists, were gathered together, and entered into fellowship and communion with each other; engaged to walk together in all the appointments of our Lord and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, as far as he should be pleased to make known his mind and will unto them by his word and Spirit….” This document than named about fifteen men and women. In signing their names those saints lost their rights as citizens of Massachusetts; they lost the right to vote; they were fined, sometimes imprisoned and even threatened with banishment. Under those conditions, the congregation moved to Noodle Island in Boston’s harbor before moving again into Boston proper. On this day (February 15) in 1679 the Baptist Church of Boston opened the doors to its own building for the first time. The structure was so plain and unassuming the city authorities didn’t at first realize its purpose. A few months later the General Court passed a law forbidding the use of any building, even homes, for public worship without the consent of the Court or a town meeting. The penalty could be as high as forfeiture of the house and its land. The Baptists then quit their building and started meeting outdoors. When King Charles II granted limited religious freedom, Massachusetts refused to obey and charged the Baptists when they again attempted to use their own building. On March 8, 1680, the City Marshal nailed the...

February 9

Henry Havelock was not a pastor or missionary, but in the midst of doing other things he did represent his Saviour. Henry was born in 1795. His mother regularly gathered her six children together to read the Bible and pray, so he grew up with serious considerations for his soul. But those were the days of Napoleon and the War of 1812, and young Henry grew up wanting to become a soldier. A month after the Battle of Waterloo, Henry enlisted, after which he was sent to India as a second lieutenant in a rifle brigade. During his voyage to India, another lieutenant presented the gospel to him, and Henry came to the full assurance of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1823, during the first British war with Burma, he was stationed in Rangoon. While there he visited the Shway Dagong Pagoda which he found filled with both worshipers and tourists. Surrounded by statues of Buddha, he was moved in much the same way as Paul while in Athens, and he began to publically declare Christ. Following that, over time, he gathered approximately a hundred Christian soldiers around him, and they earned the nickname “Havelock’s saints.” Henry and his men became one of the best fighting forces in the region, risking their lives on many occasions. On one occasion during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 he led 2,500 men against 50,000 Sepoy troops, successfully saving the lives of a large group of English women and children. For this and other acts of bravery he was promoted over and over again, and eventually a statue was erected to...

February 2

Benjamin Stinton is not a well-known name, but this man links together two others who were very well known both in their day and in ours. Benjamin was born in England on this day (Feb. 2) in 1676. Although blessed by the Lord with a sharp mind, he was not afforded the opportunity for much secular education. But his spiritual education was thorough. The Lord convicted the young man of sin, righteousness and judgment and then saved his soul. He joined the Baptist church at Horsleydown whose pastor was Benjamin Keach. Keach was became sufficiently impressed with Bro. Stinton to granted him permission to marry one of the Keach daughters. Unlike most Baptists in his day, Benjamin Keach encouraged hymn singing in his congregation, writing many hymns himself. He was pilloried by the state church for publishing a Christian book for children. And among his other children was Elias, who was converted to Christ while in the Americas and where he pastored for a short time before returning to Great Britain. As Elder Keach saw death approaching, he became concerned about the leadership continuity of his church. Recognizing the gifts God had given his son-in-law, Benjamin Stinton, he told the young man not to reject the call of the church if it was offered. It was offered. Bro. Stinton with so little education, was reluctant to accept. But with the dying words of his father-in-law ringing in his ears, he acquiesced on one condition – if the church would permit him to hire a tutor to help him learn Greek and Hebrew. It was agreed. Benjamin Stinton went on...

January 26

Britain’s “Act of Toleration,” enacted in 1689, ended a period of severe persecution against the Baptists in that country, but it did not provide all that Christ’s churches taught or deserved. While it was no longer compulsory to attend the services of the Church of England, the ministers of dissenting churches still had to sign the 39 articles of the Church of England with some exceptions such as the 27th on infant baptism. And all meeting Baptist houses had to be registered with the local government and pay a fee of sixpence. Prior to the Act some of England’s best-known Baptists had suffered persecution and loss. Thomas Collier in Western England, and Hanserd Knollys the great writer, were persecuted. William Kiffin was personal friend of the King, but his grandsons, Benjamin and William Hewling, were martyred. Benjamin Keach was imprisoned, pilloried and fined. John Bunyan, spent twelve years in the Bedford jail. Baptist preachers and church members were beaten, fined and incarcerated. Their church and personal property was often confiscated or destroyed. Their meeting houses were damaged or leveled with no compensation. John Eccles was pastor of the congregation at Bromisgrove, Worcester. He preached the gospel there and in Coventry for 50 years. But he was arrested and placed in the dungeon at Worcester. Only when a member of Parliament paid a £1,000 bond was he released. It is the anniversary of Eccles death that marks this day in Baptist history. It is interesting that many of God’s greatest British servants suffered persecution. History records that when that persecution was relaxed, God’s people also relaxed – spiritually. The opposition...

January 19

Our subject this morning was a man with a very unique and interesting name; it is theological and prophetical. His family name was Noel, which you probably know means “Birth of God.” This man was born in England in 1799 and was raised in the Church of England. The Noels were a part of the aristocracy of the day, so this young man had the best education available and his mind was worthy of the challenge. He graduated with distinction from Trinity College, Cambridge, after which he became an Anglican prelate. At the age of 27, he was one of the most popular preachers in London and served as one of the chaplains to Queen Victoria. As an honest and intelligent man, his study of the Bible lead him in a direction away from the Church of England. He wrote a booklet entitled “The Union of Church and State” which was negative to the subject. And then he was truly baptized on August 9, 1849 in the John Street (Baptist) Chapel. I said that he had an interesting name. For some unknown reason his parents gave him the prophetic name of “Baptist.” Our subject is Baptist W. Noel. And incidentally, the man who immersed him had an equally appropriate name. The pastor, or under-shepherd, of the John Street Chapel was named “Shepherd.” Baptist Noel, the former non-baptist, was baptized by Pastor Shepherd or Shepherd Shepherd. After his immersion, Bro. Noel was asked to speak. In his message he assured his audience, which included many who were not Baptists, that he had thoroughly studied the subject in the Bible and...