Many of my references to the early Baptists in Virginia point to the persecution they endured. Forty-four were incarcerated for preaching without permission from the government and the Episcopal church. But the fact is there were other preachers whom the Lord protected from persecution and harm. One of those was Benjamin Watkins. His name is not often mentioned in the same sentence as Samuel Harris or Louis Craig, but it should be.
Benjamin was born into a Protestant home. After his father died, his mother did her best to see that he was raised in the family religion. He lived under the rules of his church and was known for being a good kid. But his heart was empty, and religion did nothing to fill it. Then sometime in his nineteenth year, he was pointed to salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus. With his trust in Christ, he became so filled with peace and joy in Christ, the young Christian could not keep silent. He began preaching the gospel and was ordained to the ministry on this day in 1783. That began a period of itinerant preaching when he urged people to repent and trust the Saviour as he had done. His journal shows that during his life he preached more than 6,000 sermons, traveling thousands of miles.
Brother Watkins was seventy-six when he passed away. Eight days before his death, he preached twice; one message came from the prayer of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The following Wednesday he was too weak to travel to the church building so a group of saints gathered at his house and listened to him speak once again. It was on the next Lord’s Day he went to be with his Lord.
Not everyone is called by God to suffer, but we are all called to be faithful to the commission God has given us and to use the gifts He has given us for His honor and glory.