Henry Dunster had been president of Harvard College before he came to understand the Biblical teaching about baptism, ie. only believers should be baptized and that by immersion. Dunster’s decision influenced others to consider the subject of baptism and also to recognize the tyrannical power of the government and its state-approved Congregational church. Among them was Thomas Gould.
When a baby was born into the Gould family, a member of the Congregational Church of Charlestown, he invited his neighbors to rejoice with him in God’s blessing. This attracted public attention, and it was noted that he didn’t have his child sprinkled by the church. He was repeatedly brought before the Middlesex court on charges relating to the “ordinance of Christ.” When fines and imprisonment did nothing to defeat the new father, the court contemplated whippings, but that had not worked out well in the Obadiah Holmes case, so an alternative was sought.
Finally it was decided to have a public debate on the doctrines of the Anabaptists. Gould was urged to ask a few of the leaders of the Baptists in Rhode Island come up and to answer the Congregationalist theologians, and three brethren made the trip into Massachusetts. For two days during the “debate” the Baptists were publically denounced and ridiculed, but they were not permitted to reply, and on the third day the authorities claimed a Protestant victory. The leaders of the state church then declared in court, “Touching the case of those that set up an assembly here in the way of Anabaptism… it belongs to the Civil Magistrates to restrain and suppress these open enormities in religion.”
Based on the results of the “debate,” on this day (May 27) in 1668, Thomas Gould was exiled from Massachusetts. It was some years later that a small Baptist congregation began to struggle against a corrupt government in order to begin services in Boston.