Before the establishment of the first permanent Baptist church in America, there was an attempt to organize a congregation just south of Boston. Six godly men, the principle leaders in the attempt, were arraigned before the General Court in Boston on this day in 1639. The men received a variety of punishments: fines, threats of jail time, orders to sit for instruction by Increase Mather, loss of legal privileges like voting, and banishment. Despite this harsh treatment, there was no actual law on the books at the time which forbade the evangelistic work or church-building of the Baptists.
The first law actually written against our forefathers was passed in Massachusetts on November 13, 1644. The article began: “Forasmuch as experience hath plentifully and often proved, that since the first rising of the Anabaptists, about one hundred years since, they have been the incendiaries of commonwealths, and the infectors of persons in main matters of religion, and the troublers of churches in all places where they have been, and that they have held the baptizing of infants unlawful, have usually held other errors or heresies, therewith… It is ordered and agreed that if any person or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart from the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance… every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment.” Banishment at the time basically meant that such people were being forced to live in the unbroken wilderness.