March 21

On this day in 1791, Elder Nathanael Green passed into the presence of his Saviour. Green had been pastor of the Baptist Church in Charlton, Massachusetts for 28 tumultuous years. The congregation went through periods of depression and blessing, including persecution from the Massachusetts governments and the difficulties of the Revolutionary War. It is said that Pastor Green was an exemplary man, and yet, in 1791, he was arrested, taken to court and imprisoned.

This good servant of God was jailed because he objected to the “minister’s rate” taxes and refused to pay them, defying the government. Those monies were used to support the ministers of the Established State church – the Congregational denomination in Massachusetts. Green was in jail for a short time before he was encouraged to pay the tax and the fine and then to take the State to court in an effort to bring this injustice to public attention. (Remember that this was after the war which was fought to provide Americans with liberty and justice.)

When his case came before the local court, judgment was against the government, granting the return of his fine and awarding him his costs. But the State appealed to the superior court. Once again the case was won by Elder Green, and the State was required to pay even more fees.

As a general principle Christians should not take people to court, but in this case Green was not suing any individual, but defending a Biblical principle against the over-reach of a secular government.