In these days when church after church is throwing aside the name “Baptist,” people need to consider the life and choices of Isaac Backus. On this day (August 22) in 1751, Isaac Backus was dipped into water as a testimony of his faith in Christ. A man who had been raised in the Congregational denomination became a clear and decided Baptist.
In the middle of the Eighteenth Century there were fewer than fifty Baptist churches in New England, and they were divided into nearly a dozen different fellowships and doctrines. There were Six-principle churches which believed in sovereign grace and the laying on of hands, and there were Arminian Six-principle churches, some of which believed in the general salvation of everyone. There were Five-principle churches and Seventh-Day churches on both sides of the salvation question. Very few of one group ever associated with churches of another, yet they were all called “Baptists.”
Into this ecclesiastical mess Isaac Backus wilfully stepped, and with his presence and power helped to unite some of those churches. In the process he helped to protect the true faith. Why did he turn his back on his family history and former church? Because he was convicted by the Holy Spirit and the word of God about salvation by grace through faith and of the ordinances of Christ’s church. He became the outstanding pastor of the Separate Baptist Church at Middleborough, Massachusetts. In addition to preaching the gospel and building a scriptural ecclesia, Backus fought for religious liberty in Massachusetts and throughout the nation. After suffering persecution by the State Church for his Baptist stand, he not only argued for freedom in Massachusetts, but he also addressed the Continental Congress on this subject.
Backus didn’t flee the Baptist name for popularity’s sake as many do today; he embraced it. Our name has a proud and courageous history, and we should cherish it.