February 11

Over time Northern Europe threw off the yoke of Catholicism, becoming enslaved within Protestantism. The country of Estonia, for example, embraced Lutheranism. But in 1877 three Swedish missionaries began to preach a new doctrine among the Swedish immigrants within the country. The new doctrine included the need of personal repentance and faith in Christ. Crowds were drawn to the enthusiastic missionaries, and so many were converted that the government deported the preachers. But with that, many untrained national converts took up the work, preaching to Swedes and Estonians alike. These people were not Baptists, but their doctrine, especially their soteriology, was sufficiently Biblical that more and more new converts were being prepared for the Truth. There was at the time a German Baptist in St. Petersburg, Russia, named Adam Schiewe. When a few Estonian believers asked him to come over to help them, he agreed. After a period of preaching and teaching, on this day (February 11) in 1884 Schiewe baptized 9 people at Hapsal. Then the following day, when the temperature was reported to be 19 degrees, in full view of several thousand spectators, he baptized 15 more. A riot then ensued. Shots were fired and lumps of ice were thrown at the new converts. Perhaps showing God’s approval no one was seriously injured. Despite on-going persecution, Schiewe continued to visit and minister in Tallin, Estonia, while another German Baptist missionary started a church in neighboring Riga, Latvia. The believers endured a great deal of persecution and privation with such longsuffering and grace that eventually their neighbors began to appreciate their faith and way of life. Then things...

February 4

The biography of John Dillahunty is almost as strange as his name. His grandfather, David de la Hunte was a French Huguenot who fled to Ireland in his escape from the Catholics. John’s father and mother then immigrated to Maryland, where John was born in 1728. When John was of age he married a Quaker woman and was disowned by his parents so he moved to New Bern, North Carolina, where he became the sheriff. New Bern was one of the places where George Whitefield ministered, and as sheriff, John undoubtedly heard his preaching – but he was not yet converted. In 1755 Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall moved to North Carolina. Under the preaching of the Separate Baptists, John and Hannah Dillahunty were converted to Christ and were immersed under the authority of a Baptist Church. Soon John began preaching. When the Revolutionary War began, the local congregation of the Church of England lost its pastor – he fled to England. The church then asked John Dillahunty to fill their pulpit, which he did on a regular basis. Over time most of the congregation grew to accept his Baptist doctrine. After the war, the vestry, similar to a deacon board, voted to give the church property to Bro. Dillahunty, desiring to become a Baptist Church. Their wish was granted, although they kept their original name “Chinqauapin Chapel. Then in 1794 Dillahunty lead six families from the church to immigrate to the hill country of Middle Tennessee, where they established the Richland Creek Baptist Church just west of Nashville. In the mean time the Chinqauapin Chapel continued to flourish...

January 28

As far as the United States is concerned, the most important member of the Church of England in this country has been George Whitefield. He was unlike any Anglican to have ever come to this country; he had become a Methodist, and he was a preacher of the gospel. On several occasions he traveled from Georgia and the Carolinas up to Massachusetts. In New England many Congregationalists were converted under his preaching and became evangelical themselves, earning the nickname “New Lights.” Many of these men subsequently learned the truth about the ordinances and became Baptists. Three of the better known of these men were Isaac Backus – important in the fight for liberty; Daniel Marshal – the apostle to Georgia and Shubal Sterns – the father of the Separate Baptists. Shubal Stearns was born on this day (January 28) in 1706. At the age of 45 he became a Baptist and on May 20, 1751 he was ordained to the gospel ministry. After moving to Virginia with his brother-in-law, Daniel Marshal, where together they had a somewhat meager ministry, some friends contacted him from North Carolina, inviting him to minster among them. Sometime after his arrival, a church was constituted, not too far from where John Gano was then pastoring. The blessings of the Lord fell on Sterns’ ministry and the Sandy Creek church grew from 16 to over 600 members. But the blessing were not confined to just this one church. Sterns and his associates traveled a great deal, and churches were started all over the Carolinas, throughout Virginia and down into Georgia. Shubal Sterns died on November...

January 21

On this day (January 21) in 1672, John Bunyan was called to the pastorate of the Bedford Church, but Bunyan is not our subject today. In that same meeting, there were seven other men consecrated to the ministry, including Nehemiah Coxe. Coxe was later described as “a very excellent, learned and judicious divine,” although at the time he was earned his living as a shoemaker – which was then known then as a “cordwainer.” Not only was Bunyan arrested at Bedford, so was Coxe. At his trial, he introduced himself and presented his case in the Greek language, and then when the charges were laid against him he responded in Hebrew. When no one in the courtroom could reply, the judge dismissed the case, saying “Well, the cordwainer has wound us all up, Gentlemen.” Coxe eventually moved to London, where he learned and successfully practiced medicine. Ultimately, he accepted a call to become the co-pastor of the Petty-France Baptist Church which he then served for 20 years through a period of great...

January 14

At the close of the War Between the States, southern civilians fled before the advancing Union armies, leaving some communities with nothing but chaos and confusion.  During the war there had been scores of Baptist church buildings which had been stripped of their furnishings to be used as hospitals, stables and barracks.     In 1864 the American Baptist Home Mission Society noted: “In almost every city, town and village taken by our army, there has been found a deserted Baptist meeting-house.”  No doubt with honorable intentions, the Society asked the War Department for authority take over abandoned Baptist buildings throughout the South.  And on this day (January 14) in 1864 the War department notified its military personnel: “You are hereby directed to place at the disposal of the American Baptist Home Mission Society all houses of worship belonging to Baptist Churches South, in which a loyal minister does not now officiate.”  The definition of a “loyal minister” was not addressed, and sometimes more abuse followed.     Records indicate that about half of all the Baptist churches in the south had their memberships and buildings devastated.  But there was no need for governmental or even well-intentioned societies to step in and confiscate those properties.  Had the military simply protected those buildings from theft and destruction, eventually the original owners – the membership of those churches – would have returned, repaired and reused their buildings in the service of the...

January 7

Ezekiel Skinner was the only child of Ezekiel and Mary Skinner, born in Connecticut in 1777.  When both his parents died, his uncle apprenticed him to a blacksmith, but Ezekiel’s sharp mind made him disinterested in the work.  Through diligence he was able to redeem himself from the last year of his apprenticeship, allowing him to attend medical school.  During this time he became an avowed deist, denying among other things the deity of Christ.     Ezekiel was licensed to practice medicine in 1801, married, and joined a Congregational church, through which he came under conviction and was born again.  When the War of 1812 began, he enlisted as a foot soldier, but as soon as it was discovered that he was a physician, he went back to his scalpel.     After the war, he returned home, but began another battle – a battle for truth.  He became convinced of Baptist doctrine.  He was immersed, moved his membership and was eventually licensed to preach.  He was ordained in 1822 and for 9 years served in the Ashford Connecticut Baptist church before becoming pastor of a second church in Westford.     On this day, January 7, 1803, a son was born to the family.  In time Benjamin Skinner was saved and followed his father into the ministry.  But Benjamin’s heart was in missions and he took his young wife and baby son to Liberia, West Africa.  Before a year passed all three had died, falling to tropical disease.  Upon hearing the news, 60-year-old Ezekiel, widowed by this time, determined to take his son’s place until someone younger could serve.  Ezekiel...

December 31

Oliver Hart, a particular favorite of mine, was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1723. Early in life he was exposed to the preaching of George Whitefield, the Anglican, the Tennents, a father and son who were Presbyterians, and Edward and Able Morgan, two Baptists. After the Lord saved his soul, he was baptized by Jenkins Jones, becoming a member of the Baptist church in Southampton, Pennsylvania. After his ordination in 1749, Oliver felt called of God to visit Charleston, South Carolina. The day he arrived, the only ordained Baptist preacher in the city died. His church felt that God providentially sent a replacement for their beloved pastor. For thirty years Brother Hart lead the First Baptist Church, one of the most important churches in the south. When the British took Charleston during America’s War for Independence, Hart was forced to flee. Shortly thereafter he was called to pastor the church in Hopewell, New Jersey, the home of John Gano and James Manning. He served that church for fifteen years. Although not privileged to receive a college education, Hopewell was the home of the first Baptist secondary school in the country, which ultimately developed into the first Baptist seminary and university. Hart was eventually given an honorary Master of Arts degree by Brown College, which was then under the leadership of James Manning. After a long and prosperous ministry, primarily in two churches, Oliver Hart passed away on the last day of 1795 at the age of...

December 24

James Barnett Taylor, was born in England in 1804, but a year later his family moved to New York. When James was about ten, the family was passing by a church, probably the First Baptist Church, pastored by John Gano. The little boy persuaded his father to go in to listen to the beautiful music. Within a year’s time James and his parents had been saved by the grace of God and united with the church. In 1817 the Taylors moved to Virginia, where they joined a good church and James grew in the things of God. He was ordained to the gospel in his twenty-second year at Sandy Creek, and he was immediately called to pastor the Second Baptist Church of Richmond. Throughout the rest of his life, Bro. Taylor was busy encouraging missions and education, writing and pastoring. This was during the difficult days of the War and the reconstruction period. He held several positions in education, including acting ast chaplain of the University of Virginia. Arguably, Taylor’s greatest contributions were in the use of his pen. He authored a biography of Luther Rice and another of Lott Carey, the freed slave who helped to found Liberia. Perhaps his most important book was the two volumes entitled “Lives of Virginia Baptist Ministers.” J.B. Taylor died on December 22, 1871 and was buried two days...

December 17

Barnet Grimsley was born in Culpeper County, Virginia on this day (Dec. 17) in 1807. This was after some degree of religious peace had been won through the sacrifice of earlier Baptist brethren. Barnet had a prodigious intellect and memory. When he was but twelve-years-of-age, and before his conversion, he preached his first sermon entitled “The Being and Perfections of God.” Until he was eighteen he worked with his father on the family farm, but in his spare time he read everything he could find. At the age of twenty he started a milling business which he operated for five years. During that time two life-changing events took place in his life – he married Ruth Updek and they both were saved by the grace of God. Soon after this he sold his business and surrendered to the ministry of Christ. On November 25, 1833 he was ordained and became pastor of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church, in the Blue Ridge Mountains – a congregation which he had gathered. The man was a missionary at heart in the midst of “hard-shell,” anti-missionary Baptists. Throughout his service, he often pastored four churches at a time, becoming well-known for his knowledge of the scripture and his practical application of the Word of God. As he rode from church to church, thinking about his upcoming sermon theme, the message was automatically committed to memory. On several occasions, people would ask Brother Grimsley to visit their church or home and to preach the message they had just heard. When opportunity permitted he would make the trip and almost perfectly preach the requested message...

December 10

Dutton Lane was born in Maryland in 1732, but when he was young his father moved the family to Virginia near the North Carolina border. Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, after establishing the Sandy Creek Baptist Church, began to minister in the vicinity where the Lane family resided, and Dutton was converted and baptized by Elder Marshall. It wasn’t long before Brother Lane began to preach Christ. Then he, Samuel Harriss and others started traveling throughout the region as evangelists, riding as far as Culpepper and Spotsylvania Counties, they stirred up the wrath of the Protestants and secularists against them. Warrants for the men’s arrest were issued, crowds sometimes turned hostile, and officers broke down doors looking for Lane and the other preachers. No one opposed Dutton’s ministry more strongly than his own father, who actually carried out a threat to horsewhip his own wife, Dutton’s mother, because she slipped out to hear their son preach. He then pursued Dutton with a gun in order to murder him. But Mrs. Lane courageously challenged her husband, pointing out that he, as a sporting man, gave a bird a chance at flight before he shot it. She proposed that he should hear is son preach before shooting him. Mr. Lane accepted the challenge, but in doing so, he fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit until he, too, became a child of God. He was later baptized by the man he had hoped to murder – his own son. In 1769 the Lord blessed Brother Lane’s ministry with the establishment of several churches despite an increase of persecution against him....

December 3

Baptists owe a great debt to the country of Wales, where our forefathers lived and thrived long before the Protestant Reformation. In addition to many individuals, during the days of American colonization, more than one entire church emigrated from Wales to the Middle Colonies. Thomas Griffith for example, settled in Delaware, and the area became known as Welsh Tract. The Welsh Tract church became one of the founding congregations of the Philadelphia Baptist Association which organized in 1707. Two of the most famous Welsh Baptist preachers were Christmas Evans and Thomas Rees Davies. Davies was eccentric – unique, but not in any negative way. His way of life attracted curiosity, and many were saved through his ministry. For example, he was known by the irreverent as “Old Black Cap” because he wore a velvet cap every time he preached. And he preached often, keeping a meticulous journal, noting texts, locations and other details. His ministry extended 47 years, during which time he averaged 5 sermons a week for a total of 13,145. On this day (December 3) in 1847 he wrote to a man who was to meet his train in London, describing himself for identification purposes. “At Euston Station, and about 9 o’clock in the evening, expect the arrival by train of a gray-haired old man; very tall, like the ancient Britons, and without an outward blemish, but a Jewish high-priest. Like Elijah, he will wear a blue mantle, not shaggy, but superfine, and like Jacob, he will have a staff in his hand, but will not be lame, it is hoped. But most especially, he will have...

November 26

Baptist associations and organized fellowships always (almost always???) take upon themselves more authority than the Bible allows. One case in point involves John Newton. This John Newton was born in Kent County, Pennsylvania, in the year 1732. After his salvation and baptism, he moved to North Carolina where he became associated with the Sandy Creek Baptist Church and the Separate Baptists. When Daniel Marshall and Philip Mulkey (who had been converted under Newton’s witness) gathered a group of believers together in South Carolina, the Congaree Baptist Church was organized and John Newton became their regular preacher. But it was three years later that he was ordained. In February 1768 Oliver Hart and Evan Pugh, both Regular Baptists, ordained Newton and another man, Joseph Reese. When the men of the Sandy Creek Association heard of the ordination, they censored both men, demanding that their church discipline them. Newton felt that he had done nothing wrong and insisted that Sandy Creek had no authority over his church. Which, of course, was true. (Incidentally, the “Separate” Sandy Creek Association held very little doctrinal difference with the “Regular” Philadelphia Association, and the two groups eventually merged. The differences basically lay in how the groups originally began and how they conducted their public services.) John Newton eventually moved to Georgia where he faithfully served his Saviour. He was a friend of Richard Furman and sometimes preached in the historic First Baptist Church of Charleston. On this day (Nov. 26) in 1790, in his fifty-eighth year, and while a member of the Providence Baptist Church in Wilkes County, Georgia Newton departed this life. He was...

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...