Samuel Francis Smith
A Baptist who loved America
1832 – This was the year that the 23 year old Baptist seminarian, Samuel Francis Smith at Andover Theological Institute, penned those words to the patriotic hymn “America.” He was translating from an old German hymnbook and began to think of his own great land. “Our fathers’ God to Thee,/ Author of liberty,/ To Thee we sing; Long may our land be bright/ With Freedom’s holy light;/ Protect us by Thy might,/ Great God, our King.” Following his graduation he became editor of The Baptist Magazine, and though he pastored with success, his main interest was to advance the missions cause and wrote the great missions song at that time, “The Morning Light is Breaking.” He was the Editor of Christian Review and later the Missionary Union. He visited many mission fields. His son, Dr. D.A. W. Smith, served the Lord in Burma in 1863. Samuel married the granddaughter of the renowned Dr. Hezekiah Smith. Irving Berlin wrote that other great patriotic hymn “God Bless America” which is now being sung between 7th innings at major league ball parks, which is a great delight. However, when Berlin was asked if it had a religious connotation, he said, “No.” What a difference between the natural man who writes for funds only, and a young man who writes from a heart that is filled with love for God and country.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 44
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President Carter had him released
1975 – PETER VINS AND HIS SON GEORGI SUFFER FOR THE UNREGISTERED CHURCH MOVEMENT IN RUSSIA – On January 27, 1975, Georgi Vins was sentenced to five years in concentration camps, followed by five years of exile in Siberia and the confiscation of all his property. His father Peter I. Vins had studied theology in America and returned to the USSR in 1922 where he ministered in Siberia. The ministry was fruitful but he was arrested in 1930 and sentenced to 3 years in concentration camps. In 1936 Peter was held for 9 months without trial before being released. In 1937 he was arrested for the third time while pastoring the 1,000 member Baptist Church of Omsk, Siberia. It was then forcibly closed by the authorities. Peter died in prison in 1943. Georgi, after completing his education in Kiev married Lidia, who had led the Council of Prisoners Relatives. She was arrested on Feb. 8, 1970 and sentenced to 3 years in prison for her activities. When the Russian government passed a law requiring all churches to register, Georgi Vins refused and this led to his arrest in Nov. 1966 and sentence of 3 years in a concentration camp. After his release he was sentenced again for a year at forced labor in Kiev. He came to America in an exchange for two convicted Russian spies in a deal worked out by Baptist President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Pastor Vins died on Jan. 11, 1998 in Elkhart, Indiana.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson/ pg. 36
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First Black Baptists in Savannah, GA
1788 – Andrew Bryan was ordained into the gospel ministry. Bryan pastored the first Negro Baptist church in Georgia. The church was founded by Abraham Marshall whose father, Daniel, founded the first Baptist church in Georgia. Abraham baptized forty-five black believers and along with others who had been previously baptized he formed them into a church and called and ordained Andrew Bryan as pastor. Bryan had been a convert of George Leile who had been a slave of Deacon Henry Sharp of the First Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia. When Deacon Sharp detected that his servant was called of God, he emancipated the stirring preacher so that he could give himself totally to the preaching of the gospel. Ordained in 1775, Leile labored in and around Savannah before leaving in 1775 for Jamaica in 1779. Thus Leile predated the service of William Carey, “the founder of modern Baptist missions.” Upon Bryan’s death a resolution was passed by the Savannah Baptist Association in 1812. It read in part: “the Association is sensibly affected by the death of the Rev. Andrew Bryan, a man of color, and pastor of the First Colored Church in Savannah. This son of Africa, after suffering inexpressible persecutions in the cause of his divine Master, was at length permitted to discharge the duties of the ministry among his colored friends in peace and quiet, hundreds of whom through his instrumentality, were brought to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus…”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from; adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 26-28.
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The mode of baptism did count
1525 – Conrad Grebel and his family felt the sting of the edict passed by the city council of Zurich ordering all parents to bring all unbaptized infants to present them for baptism within eight days or face expulsion from the city. Early in 1525 a child had been born to the Grebel’s. Conrad did not baptize his baby because he had become convinced that christening finds no support in the New Testament. Conrad Grebel was from a wealthy and prominent Swiss family, whose father served as a magistrate in Gruningen, just east of Zurich. Conrad also enjoyed many educational advantages. He was saved, and by 1522 was publicly defending the gospel and expressed a desire to become a minister. Falling in with the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli, Grebel also gave himself to the scriptures. Grebel and other young Anabaptists owed much to Zwingli, but they owed more to the Bible. These two loyalties soon came to a head, and it was Grebel who initiated believers baptism on that historic night in January 1525. As such, young Grebel became a champion of the Anabaptist movement. Grebel had only one year and eight months to proclaim the gospel, but in spite of numerous imprisonments and poor health his accomplishments were phenomenal. He preached, visited from door- to-door, baptized those who were saved, and was again arrested and imprisoned in Grunigen Castle. Being brought to trial, Grebel, Blaurock, and Manz were sentenced to an indefinite term of internment in Nov. 1525. They were given a diet of bread and water. Again Grebel was able to escape, but his freedom was short-lived, for he died in the summer of 1526, probably a victim of the plague, but a hero of the faith that lives on even today!
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 22-23
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Adorned to please her bridegroom
1553 – Felistis Jans Resinx approached the scaffold on which she was burned, adorned in a clean dress and white apron as if to show by her outward dress how purely and uprightly a Christian maiden ought internally to be adorned to please her heavenly bridegroom. Jesus Christ. The testimony and execution of Felistis are recorded from the records deposited with the secretary of the city of Amsterdam, Holland. What was her crime? She had assembled with a sect of Anabaptists and thus doing had separated from the obedience and beliefs of the so called holy (that is Roman) church. She judged erroneously the sacrament of the altar and had entertained and shown hospitality to Anabaptists. She seduced certain people from obedience to the Romish church and was unwilling to forsake her errors. All of these things were opposed to the ordinances of the state church and the proclamations of his imperial majesty. The sentence was that Felistis should be executed by fire and that all her worldly goods should be confiscated to the use of the emperor. While imprisoned, she was condemned to the torture of the rack, which she bore faithfully. She also demonstrated her kind servant spirit by assisting the jailer’s wife in the household. We should also remember Janson another faithful martyr of Christ, who on the same occasion, at the same place, and for the same reason was burned alive and was added to that great number who gave their lives to the truth of God’s Word.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 21-22.
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Baptists prevailed over Communism
1917 – Was the culmination of the Communist revolution that took place in Russia that overthrew the tsarist empire and brought that land under the clutches of atheism. ”. Baptist history in that country has ever been filled with persecution and martyrdoms. Baptists first entered that nation in modern times in 1867, and by 1879 had gained legal standing as a “sect”. However, from the very beginning their main enemy was the Russian Orthodox Church, whose goal was always to destroy the Baptist witness. Church buildings were confiscated, pastors jailed, and even the children of parents were taken from them. In the face of all of this the Baptists have continued unabated. When Lenin first came into power the Baptists received a reprieve, but under Stalin’s reign of terror all of that changed quickly. In the decade of the thirties alone 22,000 out of 25,000 pastors and preachers were either shot or died in prison camps. However, the Russian Orthodox Church could easily co-exist with the communist regime because that form of religion presented only a dead and empty ritual with no reality. Communism could not allow Bible-believers to continue to evangelize, because their faith called for a personal knowledge of and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to remember though, that the Bible-based distinctives that have marked Baptists throughout the world have remained evident in the Soviet Union. Like the Inspiration of the scriptures, a regenerated church membership, the ordinances of baptism by immersion, the Lord supper, the autonomy of the local church, and the separation of church and state. [Georgi Vins, Loving the God of Truth (Toronto, Canada: Britannia Printers, 1996), p. 241. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D.607-09.] Prepared by Dr. Greg Dixon
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Saw the first baptism in Knoxville
1814 – Matthew Hillsman was born. He would have been one of the three thousand present when his father John was baptized by John Rogers, a pioneer Baptist preacher, in August of 1825 when the first such event ever occurred in Knoxville, Tenn. John Hillsman, a native of Virginia, had also fought in the Revolutionary War, saw the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781, and heard Washington’s farewell address. Matthew was saved and baptized at nineteen and later ordained to preach. He helped plant the seeds which grew into the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tenn. He pastored churches in Middle Tenn. His church in Murfeesboro sent out three missionaries to the foreign field. He died Oct. 2, 1892. [J.J. Burnett, Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers (Nashville: Marshall and Bruce Co., 1919), pp. 231, 32. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D.] Prepared by Dr. Greg Dixon
Unknown, But Not Forgotten
The basis of America’s greatness surely has been caused by the preaching of the glorious Gospel But the magnificent impact of the Gospel has not primarily been produced by a few brilliant preachers, but rather by a multitude of faithful ministers who have labored in out-of the-way places. These have served forgotten and unknown, but it has been through their efforts that our nation, in days gone by, became the great bastion of freedom. William Hickle was just such a preacher. He was born in Virginia on March 9, 1807, and his Lord called him home on June 23, 1891. His parents moved early to Tennessee. As a lad William had trusted Christ as his Savior at the Little Flat Creek Baptist Church, and he was baptized on August 19, 1826. With no formal training, the youth was licensed to preach, and in June the next year, the twenty year old William Hickle was ordained. During the next sixty years, William Hickle pastored twenty-seven churches, and not infrequently, he served five or six of them simultaneously. William enjoyed robust health, and he possessed a jovial spirit. He was used of God in “turning many to righteousness”’ and was known for his good natured humor. It is said that Rev. Hickle possessed a powerful set of lungs, and he could preach and sing for weeks without getting hoarse in the least. Just a week before his home-going, after having been confined to bed for seven weeks, he sang with delight, “Jesus, Lover of my Soul,” and “Nearer My God, to Thee.” Throughout his lifetime Rev. Hickle was paid little, but he gave himself fully to the ministry. Someone commented, “Uncle Billy Hickle did more as a preacher and received less pay than any man in Tennessee.”
Dr. Dale R. Hart, adapted from: “This Day in Baptist History III” David L. Cummins. pp. 141 – 142