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Their Preaching was a Matter of Right

A full day had passed since the apprehension of the four preachers and the exhorter in the meetinghouse yard. According to their bond they were now appearing in court June 6, 1768, and were being accused, as many other Baptists were subsequently accused, of being vagrants, strollers, and disturbers of the peace. The only real disturbers of the peace were the ruffians who would pelt them with apples and stones, drag them from their pulpits, beat them with fists, pound their heads on the ground, and on occasions duck them in water until they nearly drowned. Their only supposed crimes were quoting Scripture, preaching the gospel of the grace of God, and condemning the vices of the state-supported clergy.


John Waller, one of the accused, made his own and his brethren’s defense so ingeniously that the court was somewhat puzzled to know how to dispose of them. Waller was capable of this feat, being a brilliant, talented scholar and having received his education from private tutors.


Though bred a churchman, he was distinguished from other John Wallers by the title “Swearing Jack” because of his profane speech. He was converted and embraced the principles of the Baptists as a result of sitting on the grand jury before whom Lewis Craig gave testimony. The court offered to release Waller and the others if they would promise to preach no more in the county for a year and a day. They dared not obey this mandate because it was in conflict with the supreme command of their God, their sovereign, but they could cheerfully submit to the penalty which unjust human law inflicted, thus demonstrating its oppressive injustice and paving the way for its repeal.


Having a petition for their release refused on July 4, 1768, Lewis Craig and Benjamin Waller, upon presenting a petition to the General Court in Williamsburg, received a letter from the attorney general to the deputy governor, advising that “their petition was a matter of right” and also suggesting to the “king’s attorney” that he was not to “molest these conscientious people, so long as they behaved themselves in a manner becoming pious Christians, and in obedience to the laws.”



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“A great revival resulted under his ministry”
 December 23, 1741 – John Waller was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and was a descendent of the honorable Wallers in England. No man suffered more or experienced greater success in his ministry in Virginia and S.C. than he. His uncle had made arrangements for him to be educated in the law, but upon his death, his father was unable to finance even a classical education. Allowing himself to indulge in every type of wickedness and profanity, he quickly acquired the appellation of “Swearing Jack” Waller. He was sometimes called the “devils adjutant” to muster his troops. He was on the grand jury who was presented the case against the Baptist preacher, Lewis Craig and heard his testimony when he said, “I thank you for the honor…While I was wicked you took no notice of me: but since I have altered my course of life, and endeavored to reform my neighbors, you concern yourselves much about me. I forgive my persecuting enemies, and shall take joyfully the spoiling of my goods.” When Waller heard him speak in such a humble manner, he was persuaded that Craig was possessed of something he had not seen in him before and desired to have the same experience. Waller began to attend the Baptist meetings, and he experienced very intense conviction for seven or eight months. He said, “I had long felt the greatest abhorrence of myself.” In hearing another man cry out for mercy he felt his own heart melt, “…and a sweet application of the Redeemer’s love to my poor soul.” He said that there were periods of struggle…but he took refuge in the Word of God, especially in Isa. 50:10. He was ordained to the ministry in June of 1770 and it was attended with great success. A great revival resulted under his ministry and he had a membership of 1500.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 536-37

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