While the War for Independence was being waged in America, the Baptists in England were watching with great interest. The 1689 Edict of Toleration, as its title stipulates, provided some degree of religious toleration, but as long as there was one religious denomination supported by the government, ie. a “state church,” then the rights of the Baptists to freely worship and serve the Lord was in jeopardy.
When Robert Hall (a future Baptist pastor) was a boy, he heard John Ryland, Jr. (later president of Bristol Baptist College) say to his father, “If I were Washington, I would summon all the American officers, they should form a circle around me, and I would address them… and we would swear by Him that sits upon the throne and liveth forever and ever, that we would never sheathe our swords while there was an English soldier in arms remaining in America.”
Later, on this day in 1784, London Baptist pastor, John Rippon, wrote in a letter to James Manning, Baptist pastor and head of the “Rhode Island College,” “I believe all of our Baptist ministers in town, except two, and most of our brethren in the country were on the side of the Americans in the late dispute… we wept when the thirsty plains drank the blood of our departed heroes, and the shout of a king was among us when your well-fought battles were crowned with victory; and to this hour we believe that the independence of America will, for a while, secure the liberty of this country, but if that continent had been reduced, Britain would not have long been free.”