To Lay or Not to Lay on Hands
John Comer was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 1, 1704, as the oldest boy of John and Mary Comer. When he was less than two years old, his father sailed to England to visit relatives and died, leaving him in the care of his widowed mother and grandfather Comer.
He entered Cambridge, where he became a Christian and a member of a Congregational church. A friend of his, Ephraim Crafts, joined the Baptist Church, and John Comer took every opportunity to correct this perceived wrong. After long debate, John Comer was convinced to read Stennett’s work on baptism, which presented ideas that John Comer had never considered from Scripture. On May 19, 1726, he was ordained. He reintroduced singing into the worship services, began regular church records, and collected material on the history of the church. Although a salary was voted for him when he came, there were efforts made to use the more Scriptural means of raising money through the giving of offerings each week, as God had prospered the membership. A vote was taken and approved on September 8, 1726 for weekly offerings to begin. The former church split returned and the Church prospered.
He came to believe that it was important to have a “laying on of hands” service for newly baptized believers. This was generally believed by a majority of Baptists. In November, 1728, he preached a sermon on the subject, but it offended two leading men in the congregation, and his ability to minister became handicapped. John Comer along with several other notable Baptist pastors successfully worked with the Baptists in Connecticut to help them get the same freedoms of worship granted to the Quakers. His signature was added to the memorial of the occasion in September, 1729.
He caught tuberculosis due to overexertion and zeal in the work of the ministry. He died “joyfully” on May 23, 1734, not yet 30 years old. He had been one of the most eminent preachers of his day, with an unspotted character and respectable talents and popularity.
One of the things that his work has proven is that the first Baptist church in America was not started by Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island, but instead by Thomas Olney, in what became Newport, Rhode Island.
His death came at a time of severe persecution of Baptists by the Puritans, and the loss of this great pastor and his talents was keenly felt by many in New England.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. Thompson/Cummins) pp. 210 -211