Johann G. Oncken
Se-Baptism does not satisfy German believers
On April 22, 1834, at Altona, across from Hamburg, Germany, Dr. Barnas Sears baptized, in the Elbe, Johann Gerhard Oncken and six others. Oncken, through the influence of Calvin Tibbs, a sea captain, had been led to adopt Baptist principles. Dr. Sears was destined to become distinguished among Baptists in America as an educator and author, but he is best known for this single event that took place thousands of miles away. Sears was born in Sandisfield, Massachusetts on Nov. 19, 1802, and as a youth was trained in the best schools and entered Brown University where he graduated with the highest honors of his class in 1825. He finished his theological training at Newton Theological Institution and was called to pastor the First Baptist Church of Hartford, Connecticut. After two years he became a professor at Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution until 1833 when he resigned so he could travel to Germany to further his training. Providentially God had been moving on the heart of J.G. Oncken concerning the necessity of believer’s immersion but there was no one to perform the ordinance. He had written to Baptists in England and one had suggested “Se-Baptism” (i.e. self-baptism), but Oncken could not accept this as being the will of God. How wonderful that God sent Dr. Sears at this time to meet the need. Upon his return Dr. Sears became President of Newton Theological Seminary. In 1848 he was elected secretary and executive agent of the Massachusetts Board of Education. He later was chosen as the Trustee of the Peabody Trust for the cause of the education in the South after the Civil War. He later moved to Staunton, Virginia and served the Baptist people there until his death on July 6, 1880.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 276-77.