March 3

On this day (March 3) in 1876, Florida became the 27th State in the Union. Three months prior to that date, H.Z. Ardis became one of the first Baptist pastors in the state, taking the reigns of God’s assembly in Madison, a community in the Panhandle. Ardis was born on August 8, 1811 into a South Carolinian Presbyterian home. As a teenager, he made a profession of faith and united with others in constituting a Presbyterian church at Beach Island, S.C., between Aiken and Augusta, GA. There in 1832 he joyfully married the love of his life, but when a baby girl came along the family was nearly destroyed. Upon coming to understand the Bible, H.Z. refused to permit his daughter to be christened, furthermore he felt led of the Lord to be immersed in water. On September 26, 1834 he joined a local Baptist church. Thus he found himself at odds with his mother, all his in-laws and even his wife, but he refused to give up what he knew to be the truth. Rather than despairing, H.Z. began to conduct prayer meetings, and soon after that he was urging sinners to come to Christ. The following January the Union Baptist Church called for his ordination. Even though his wife refused immersion, Bro. Ardis served that congregation for nine years, while at the same time assisting other churches throughout South Carolina. In 1845 Ardis was overcome with poor health. He was urged to move to an even warmer climate, which led him to Madison, Florida. By the grace of God his health improved and he pastored that assembly...

February 24

On this day (February 24) in 1876, George Grenfell and his wife sailed from England to begin missionary work in the Cameroons, Africa. George was raised in the Church of England, but he became attracted to the Sunday School of the Heneage Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. There he was born again, and there he was called into the ministry, having been introduced to the work of David Livingstone. Grenfell attended Bristol Baptist College, but when he heard that missionary Alfred Saker was on furlough, he wrote to him, offering his services. The Lord made it clear that the young man should travel to Africa as an assistant to Saker. When the elder missionary could no longer endure the rigors of missionary life, both men returned to England. On February 11, 1876 Grenfell married his long-time fiancee, and on this day, the two sailed for the Cameroons. Ten years later, in August 1877, Henry Stanley emerged from the African darkness at the mouth of the Congo River. Leaving from the east coast, he had been in search of David Livingstone, and after finding him (“Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”) he had continued westward, eventually sailing down the river to the coast. Although Grenfell was 600 miles to the north, upon hearing the news he raced down to hear what Stanley had to say about the continent’s unexplored interior. The missionary was immediately attracted to the idea of using the mighty Congo River to reach the Christless people of Africa. George Grenfell became the primary explorer of the Congo and the first to carry to gospel of Christ into the heartland...

January 17

This little note may not be as serious as most, but it is interesting. On this day in 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the third president of the United States by the House of Representatives. Elder John Leland who had been a neighbor of both Congressman James Madison and Thomas Jefferson was delighted with the results, because he had helped to clarify the principles of liberty in the minds of both men. To help celebrate the great political victory, Leland, who was then pastoring in Cheshire, Massachusetts, collected the milk from 900 local, loyal Republican cows and brought it into town where the citizens gathered singing hymns, socializing and making cheese. The milk was processed into a mammoth cheese wheel 4 feet 4 inches in diameter, 15 inches think and weighting 1,235 pounds. Bro. Leland and Darius Brown loaded up the cheese and set off for Washington, DC. During the trip they used a sleigh, a wagon and a sloop to carry the cheese to Baltimore. As news of the gift spread, crowds gathered and Leland preached the gospel to multitudes. Upon arrival in Washington, Jefferson welcomed the Baptists to the executive mansion. Leland said that the great cheese “was not made… with a view to gain dignified titles or lucrative offices, but by the personal labor of freeborn farmers, without a single slave to assist, for an elective president of the free people.” Leland remained in the capital for several days preaching Christ at various public venues. Federalist congressman Manessah Cutler, no friend of either Jefferson or the Baptists, described the preacher as a “poor, ignorant, illiterate...

February 10

John Meglamare was born in 1730. His parents were Presbyterians, and through them John grew up very concerned about his soul. But concern is not enough. Prior to his conversion he moved to North Carolina where he began to hear the gospel preaching of several Baptists. As an adult at the age of 34 he was born again and was subsequently immersed in water, joining the Kehukee Baptist Church. There he grew quickly in the doctrines and service of his Saviour. Soon after his conversion, Bro. Meglamare began preaching the gospel both at home and itinerantly in North Carolina and northern Virginia. His church saw the Lord’s blessings in his ministry, and called for his ordination. That took place on this day in 1767. When his pastor died, the congregation looked to the newly ordained man of God to assume the pulpit. He served the Kehukee church for five years. After several visits to Sussex County, Virginia, a group of believers there sought to have a local Baptist church where they could attend regularly. They pleaded with Bro. Maglamare to settle among them. After much prayer, he felt that was God’s will, and a church with eighty-seven members was formed. Over time four other churches came into existence with God’s blessings and Bro. Meglamare’s regular visits. Eventually he settled into a new ministry at Blue Run Baptist Church and God’s blessings abounded even more. At the age of 56 John Meglamare moved to Kentucky, beginning a new phase of his ministry. He he served the Lord in that region for the last twenty years of his...

February 3

Henry Toler, was born into a humble but respectable family in King and Queen County, Virginia. You’d think that after the War of Independence the people of that place would have changed the name, but these were not English monarchs. And you might also think that once the population grew sufficiently, it would have been divided into two counties named King and Queen, but that didn’t happen either. After a long struggle under the Lord’s conviction, young Henry Toler was saved and joined the Upper College Baptist Church. It bore that name because it was planted on the grounds of the William and Mary College, who were the king and queen which gave the county its name. They were Protestants who ruled in Holland. Bro. Toler began his service for the Lord as an exhorter. It was his task, after hearing the sermon, to make further application and to drive home the message. When it became clear that Toler had a gift for preaching, a wealthy member of the church financed his move to Pennsylvania in order to study under Samuel Jones, pastor of the Lower Dublin Baptist Church. Returning to Virginia, Bro. Toler was invited to preach in the community of Nomini, where he planted a little church in 1786 with 17 members. The Lord blessed and in a year’s time the membership had grown by over a hundred. It did so again for several successive years. After it reached its peak the church began a period of decline, and discouraged Elder Toler considered resigning. But then in 1806 the Lord began against to move upon hearts. In...

January 27

On this day in 1682, under William Penn, a decree of religious freedom was granted to the people of Pennsylvania. Penn, as you may know, was a Quaker. The first Baptist pastor to take advantage of the liberty in that colony was Thomas Dungan. To escape the persecution against the Baptist in England, Dungan first fled to Rhode Island, and then in 1684 he settled north of Bristol, Pennsylvania at Cold Spring. There he began to preach Christ, starting a Baptist church, erecting a building and securing a burial-place. Just four years later Dungan became a resident of that grave yard. The Cold Spring Baptist Church struggled for only four years after that, and then the grounds of that cemetery were left unattended. In 1770 when Morgan Edwards searched for the church he found that “nothing remained … but a grave-yard and the names of families that had belonged to [the church]. The short life of the Cold Spring church might have meant the loss of the name Thomas Dungan as well, if it were not for one important event. In 1686, the nineteen year old son of the English Baptist pastor, Benjamin Keach, disembarked from a ship in Philadelphia harbor. It was assumed that he was a Baptist minister like his Father, and he did nothing to dispel the idea – despite the fact that he was unregenerated. He had heard his father preach so often, and he knew enough of the scriptures, that he felt he could preach just as well. One Lord’s day as he lead a small group in the worship, “He performed well enough...

January 20

Henry Sharp was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia. He was also a slave owner – as were most of his neighbors. When he recognized that the Lord had saved one of his slaves, George Leile, and that the Holy Spirit had given him gifts fit for the ministry, he “emancipated the stirring preacher so he might give himself wholly to the preaching of the Gospel (among) the people of color.” Before he moved to Jamaica as a missionary, Leile led Andrew Bryan to the Lord. Bryan became an outstanding preacher himself, and suffered persecution for his efforts. Thankfully, he persisted in his service for Christ, and his owner allowed him to construct a church building in the Yamacraw district of Savanna. This became the first black Baptist church in America, eventually growing to more than 800 members. 125 miles away, outside of Augusta, Abraham Marshall was pastoring the Keokee Baptist Church. He was also traveling throughout the region as a missionary and evangelist. He took a great interest in the black work in Savannah. It was Brother Marshal and the Keokee church who helped to organize that church and which subsequently ordained Brother Bryan. Marshall prepared and presented a certificate of ordination to the new pastor. It read: “This is to certify that the Ethiopian Church of Jesus Christ of Savannah, have called their beloved brother Andrew Bryan to the work of the ministry. We have examined into his qualifications, and believing it to be the will of the great head of the Church, we have appointed him to the preach the Gospel and...

January 13

J.N. Hall was ordained to the gospel ministry on this day in 1872. Hall had a keen mind and eloquent manner of speech, enabling him to be greatly used of the Lord. While editing different Baptist journals throughout his life, he preached an average of a sermon a day. Also when he was traveling, he was often asked to engage in debates – something which was popular at the time. He would face the Campbellites, the Methodists and whoever was bold enough to confront him. An infidel club in western Kentucky had made great strides in their region, constantly challenging the local Christians and making life miserable for Baptist pastor, who was not well-equipped for debating. Realizing that by refusing to face his Satanic opponents, he was doing a disservice to Christ and his community, he gave the club a challenge – if they brought noted agnostic Robert Ingersoll to a debate, he would invite J.N. Hall. The leader of the infidels accepted. When Ingersoll declined to come, they obtained the services of the President of the Free Thought Association of America, a man named Putman. Hall, too, was invited, accepting the proposed date. As the hour approached, the auditorium was full and city dignitaries were present, but Bro. Hall had not arrived. The Christians were in despair. Putman announced that Hall was afraid to face him. Then despite not having the advertized debate, since he had been paid he announced that would take the following two hours to destroy Christianity, and he began to preach his unbelief. As it happened, Bro. Hall was providentially delayed and arrived the...

January 6

Mihaly (Michael) Kornya was born in 1844 in a Hungarian community whose name I cannot pronounce. He was granted a limited education because he was the son of a farmer. Eventually he became a share-copper and at the age of 22 married an 18 year old girl named Maria. Eight years later a Baptist layman invited him to a meeting which changed his life. Antal Novak, presented the gospel to a small group of people and the Holy Spirit began His work. Michael obtained a Bible and after a year-long study, he was born again. His baptism took place on August 26, 1875 at 3 in the morning, because immersion was illegal. After his baptism, the first person to whom Bro. Kornya gave his testimony was his landlord. He said that he had become a new man through Jesus Christ and there was evidence in the fact that he quit cursing and no longer beat his wife (which was common and legal at the time). Some time later he was ordained to the ministry by the German Baptist church pastored by Johann Oncken. Immediately Michael Kornya began his evangelistic missionary ministry. By the time of his death in 1917 he had preached in 325 cities and villages despite being arrested many times. His ministry lasted forty years during which time he baptized 11,000 converts and started several dozen of churches. On this day in 1944 an elderly woman named Imre Medve told Julianna Orvos, “The first gatherings of the Baptist Community of Micske were held at Istvan Kirjak’s house. I happened to walk by when the congregation was singing,...

December 30

Zacharius Morrell is our subject for today. J.M Carroll declared that to Morrell “is due as much, or more, than to any other man, the right beginning and right foundations of organized Baptist work in Texas.” Zacharius Morrell was born in South Carolina in 1803 where he was saved and began his ministry. Before the age of twenty, despite being plagued with weak lungs, he began preaching the gospel, serving the Lord for fourteen years in Tennessee. When he began coughing blood far too frequently, a physician recommend that he quit preaching and perhaps move to a more mild climate. He considered the second part of the recommendation and moved his family to Mississippi, with plans of venturing farther into Texas. When he heard of the domination the Catholic church in Texas he feared for his family’s safety and hesitated to move on. But several of his Tennessee fellow travelers, including two Baptist deacons and his own physician planned to make a survey trip west, and Morrell joined them. On this day in 1835 at the Falls of the Brazos, Brother Morrell preached his first sermon in Texas – with a clear voice and stronger body than what he had known for years. Over the next forty years, Bro. Morrell distinguished himself with his defense of the Truth against the anti-missionary “Hard-shells” and the Campbellites. He fought with his Bible and sometimes with his rifle. For example, after an Indian attack killed two people in his congregation, he pursued the murderers for several hours before returning to console the grieving families. Then he rode 45 miles through the night...

December 23

Joost Joosten had a beautiful singing voice, and for that reason he was a part of the choir at the Roman Catholic church in his Netherlands hometown of Goes. When King Philip II visited the community, he heard the tenor voice of the boy and desired to take him from his home and family back to Spain. Joost would have no part of the plan. With the help of family and neighbors, he hid himself in a small boathouse until the King returned to Spain. The Hollanders then began to look on the young man as a hero, because he rejected the honor and glory of Spain in order to remain at home. But eventually their opinion changed. Joost was a good scholar with a love for reading and thinking for himself. The temporary respect of the community gave him some freedom to move about and interact with various other citizens – including a few Anabaptists. As he listened to their preaching, talking with them after their services, Joost became convinced that Christ, without the help of the Catholic Church, was the Saviour. Eventually, he was born again and became a witness for Christ. When the young man turned eighteen, the shine was wearing off his hero status. And when King Philip renewed the mandate established by his father, Charles V, ordering the death penalty for all Anabaptists, Joosten’s life became at risk. Joost was arrested. At first, inquisitors tried to argue him into recanting and returning to Catholicism. When that failed, they turned to the rack, pulling his arms and legs to the point of dislocation. Each time...

December 16

This little historical note only touches on the edge of Baptist history, but it is still pertinent. During the 18th century the British were ruling the American colonies with an iron hand. They passed and enforced laws upon the colonies which adversely affected them. They sometimes laid taxes on the colonies which were not applied at home. And the Americans had little or no input when it came to the Parliament rule over them. More and more rebellious colonials protested “taxation without representation” in the home government. Quarrels between the non-resident British and the colonists increased. Then on March 5, 1770, British troops fired on a mob in Boston, arousing patriotic ire up and down the coast. In time much of the taxation was relaxed, but just to prove its authority, Britain retained a tax over imported tea. In response there arose calls for a boycott of tea. At Charleston incoming tea was stored in warehouses unsold where it rotted. Tea ships at New York and Philadelphia were not permitted to unload their cargo and were rerouted to England. But the authorities in Boston refused to permit two ships to leave the harbor and yet the tea was not unloaded. Then on this day in 1773 a group of men, disguised as Indians, boarded the vessels and dumped 342 chests of tea into the bay – the Boston Tea Party. Meanwhile, as the Protestant protestors fought against the British over taxation without representation, they were imposing even worse taxation on a minority of their neighbors. A man might simply refuse to drink tea, thus not pay the tax. But...

December 9

Noah Alden was a great-grandson of John Alden, one of the men who signed the Mayflower Compact. Noah was born into a Congregational home on May 30, 1725. While many of his peers trusted in their infant “baptism” for favor with God, at the age of sixteen, Noah was spiritually converted, trusting Christ as his Saviour. In time he married, moved to Stafford, Connecticut and became a member of the Congregational church of that city. Shortly thereafter he was convinced to study the subject of baptism, and in 1753 he was led to embrace immersion and united with the local Baptist church. When it became apparent that God had given him gifts fitted for the ministry, the church ordained him, and he became their pastor. On this day in 1765 Pastor Alden, passed through Woodstock (probably Connecticut) and preached a sermon through which the Holy Spirit brought conviction upon the leader of a group of frivolous young people This young man, Beil Ledoyt, spoke to his friends about his experience with such earnestness and power that they, too, came under conviction. Ledoyt then arranged to use the school house, inviting many more of his acquaintances to hear his testimony – most of whom agreed to come in order to mock. At the conclusion of the meeting many of those same people stayed to pray. It is said they stood ‘like men amazed,” while Ledoyt spoke with such convincing force that some forty young people were converted. The following year, according to Isaac Backus, fifteen of those young people were baptized and formed a Baptist church in Woodstock with Ledoyt...

December 2

Billington Sanders was born on this day in 1789. By the age of 9 he had lost both his parents, but he was then raised in another godly home in Appling Georgia, where he attended the Kiokee Baptist Church. After the Lord saved him, he was baptized by Abraham Marshall and joined what was the first Baptist church in Georgia. I have had the privilege of visiting the very building where he first heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It may not have been policy, but some churches in those days experienced exceptional growth through large families. Bro. Sanders married Martha Lamar, who gave him 9 children. When Martha died, he married Cynthia Holliday and 13 more children were born. Sadly only 9 of these children outlived their father. Billington Sanders was a faithful member of his church, often preaching the gospel when he was needed. He was also a school teacher and a judge on the Georgia Superior Court. In 1831 he helped to establish a classical and theological seminary. It began with great sacrifice on Sander’s part. The students lived “as in a camp” with the most meager food, using a common school-room without heat or ventilation for their classes. The cheerfulness and zeal of their instructor encouraged them and the classes continued, until over time, Mercer University grew out of its roots. Sanders is not well-known as a pioneer preacher. I don’t believe he was called or ordained to that ministry. But he was instrumental in giving a Biblical foundation to others who filled that important role in Georgia and the surrounding...

November 25

In 1583 a book of hymns was published in Germany. Among them were several which had been written by Leonhart Schiemer. Schiemer spent six years of his life as a Fransciscan friar. When, by the grace of God, he came to see the false religion in which he was raised, he escaped, looking for the Anabaptist Belthasar Hubmaier. Hubmaier then pointed him to another Anabaptist Hans Hut, and through these men, the former friar was born again. After his baptism, Scheimer began preaching free grace through Christ throughout Austria and Bavaria. God greatly blessed his ministry until in Tyrol he was recognized by a former monk. On this day (Nov. 25) in 1527, Leonhart Schiemer was arrested. At his trial it was determined that he was guilty of heresy and condemned to death. Two months later he was delivered to the executioner, beheaded, and his body was burnt. The martyrdom took place in Rotenburg, where later, seventy of this fellow saints also sealed their faith with blood. So far as I know, we don’t have any of the sermons which Schiemer preached, but we do have several hymns. Among them was the following, translated from German. Thine holy place they have destroyed, Thine altars overthrown, And reaching forth their bloody hands, Have foully slain thine own. And we alone, thy little flock, The few who still remain, Are exiles wandering through the land, In sorrow and in pain. We are, alas, like scattered sheep, The shepherd not in sight, Each far away from home and hearth, And, like the birds of night That hide away in rocky clefts, We...