On this day (September 5) in 1651, Obadiah Holmes was whipped nearly to death in a public ceremony. His crime was only that he was a Baptist trying to serve the Lord according to the principles of the Bible. But Holmes is not the subject of this history.
When Holmes was released from the whipping post, two men, John Spur and John Hazel rushed forward to offer their support to the beaten man. At the time neither Spur nor Hazel were Baptists. For their heinous crime of sympathy, the two men were haled into court. Spur defended himself by pleading the Biblical exhortation to show kindness to those in need. He was found guilty and fined forty shillings or he was to be whipped as Holmes had been. When a friend stepped forward to pay the fine, Spur tried to send him away, but the court accepted the money and told Spur to leave.
John Hazel was about sixty-years old and not in good health, but he possessed a great deal of wisdom and legal acumen. When he was asked whether or not he thought Obadiah Holmes was guilty of a crime in immersing people, Hazel declared he was not on trial for anything Holmes might have done. When it was declared that he shook Holmes’ hand, he pointed out that such a public gesture was not a crime. When the court wanted to condemn him, he pled his right to a trial by jury. When it was said he showed contempt for legal authority, he said it was not true and demanded the state produce witnesses. He said, “What law have I broken in taking my friend by the hand, when he was free and had satisfied the law?” When the court said he could have done that privately, he said, “I knew not but that place was as free as any other.”
After further the wrangling back and forth the court declared John Hazel to be guilty, and he was remanded to jail until the fine was paid or the whipping was rendered. He refused to pay the fine, but the next day nothing happened. Neither was he beaten on the second day, nor the third, fourth or fifth day. It became obvious that the court was simply trying to frighten him. Finally the jailor said he was free to leave, but Hazel, knowing his rights, demanded a proper documented and public release. The jailer capitulated, and the jailed man left his cell.
As I said, John Hazel was not in good health. The whipping would certainly have killed him. In less than a week after his release, this Christian gentleman died of illness and old age.
How great would it be, if we will able to bring great and specific glory to God in the last week, the last day, or the last hours of our lives on this earth?