On this day in 1773, Nathaniel Saunders, the pastor of the Mountain Run (Baptist) Church was arrested in Culpeper County Virginia, charged that he did “Teach & Preach contrary to the Laws and Usages of the Kingdom of Great Britain, raising Sedition and Stirring up Strife amongst his Majestie’s Leige People,” by calling them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There were a total of forty-three Baptist preachers who over time were incarcerated at Culpeper, but they often still had religious services, preaching through the cell window which was high over their heads.
Eighty years later, Robert Boyle wrote: “A venerable gentleman, recently gone to his rest, some years ago said to his friend: ‘I often heard, in my youth, the Baptist ministers preach from the windows of the Jail at Chesterfield Court House. The effects were sometimes most extraordinary. On one occasion Webber was preaching; the heavy iron gratings partially concealed him; his appeals were most touching. A man that I did not know, came up and stood by my side. In a few minutes this man began to tremble violently; presently he fell upon his knees, and then upon his face; and there he lay during the service, praying audibly and agonizingly to God for mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ.’ This, he added, ‘was no unusual occurrence. Scores and fifties were often at the same time similarly exercised.’
Eleazer Clay, Sheriff of the county, the uncle and guardian of the distinguished statesman, Henry Clay, with reference to those who had professed religion at Chesterfield Jail, wrote thus to his friend, Rev. John Williams of Amelia County: – ‘We wish you to come down and baptize those who are now waiting for an opportunity. The Lord is now carrying on a glorious work in our country. The preaching at the prison is not attended in vain, for we hope that several are converted, while others are under great distress, and are made to cry out, ‘What shall we do to be saved.’”
Oh, that God would move among us in the same way today! Is it because we are not as given to the Lord, or because we are not suffering the same persecutions?