Baptists responsible for First Amendment
October 14, 1774 – Dr. James Manning read the petition from the Warren Baptist Association to the representatives from the State of Massachusetts.
The call for the Continental Congress had actually originated in that state and the Baptists had asked that their concerns for religious liberty be heard by their state delegation. The meeting was held in Boston at Carpenters Hall and after the petition was read Rev. Isaac Backus explained it. John Adams, leader of the Mass. delegation, was obviously upset by the plea from the Baptists. Answering the grievances of the Baptists, John Adams gave a lengthy speech, and Samuel Adams spoke as well. Both of them claimed, “There is indeed an ecclesiastical establishment in our province but a very slender one, hardly to be called an establishment.” In their lengthy reply, they attempted to divide the Baptist brethren, but Backus replied, “It is absolutely a point of conscience with me; for I cannot give in the certificates they require [i.e., a complicated exemption certificate], without implicitly acknowledging that power in man which I believe belongs only to God.”
“John Adams closed the four-hour discussion with a promise that the Mass. delegates would do what they could for the relief of the Baptists, then, according to Backus, added these words: ‘Gentlemen, if you mean to try to effect a change in Massachusetts laws respecting religion, you many as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens!” Unfortunately that promise was not kept. “John Adams returned home and reported that Mr. Backus had been to Philadelphia to try to break up the union of the colonies.”
Dr. Dr. Greg J. Dixon from This Day in Baptist History I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 426-27.
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“…And he That Loveth Son or Daughter More Than Me is Not Worthy of Me.”
Helen Maria Griggs was saved, baptized and joined a Baptist church in Brookline, Massachusetts on August 11, 1822. When a small girl Helen had been very sick, and her mother had prayed that if God spared her life that she would give her without reservation unto God’s will. When Helen told her mother that God had called her to go to Burma, her mother was fully willing for the Lord’s direction. However the Board had never sent a single lady out alone. But the Lord of the harvest was working behind the scenes, and Francis Mason, a student at Newton Theological Institution met Miss Griggs.
He too planned to go to Burma, and after a courtship of nearly five months, they were married on May 23, 1830 and their honeymoon was spent on board ship as they sailed the next day for Burma. Their trip took 122 days before they arrived at Calcutta. Mrs. Mason’s health provided problems for the missionary couple, but whenever possible, she labored beside her husband. She became proficient in the Burmese and Karen languages and was able to teach and write in both. But the matter of leaving her children came to pass after a furlough in the States. Many in the homeland criticized Mrs. Mason, and she was charged with having “no more affection than a Sandwich Island mother.” Editors of Christian periodicals had to go to her defense, and in a short time a drastic change for the better took place in public opinion.
Four years later when Mrs. Grover Comstock left for Burma and parted from her children, an announcement was made in the newspaper under the caption, “The Noble Mother.” The Lord took Helen to Himself at forty years of age on Oct. 8, 1846.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 330-31.
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Failing to baptize infants was worthy of death
Dr. John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, and a Baptist laymen, John Crandall, had walked eighty miles to a blind friend’s home in Lynn, Massachusetts for worship services. Little did they know that they were being closely watched by the authorities. In the midst of their worship in the Witter home, a marshal and his deputies burst in and arrested them, took them to dinner, and then took them to a Puritan meeting that was obviously designed to show them the error of their ways. The three men entered, bowed to the assembly, sat sown, and refused to remove their hats as a demonstration against the treatment that they were receiving. They attempted to defend themselves but were silenced, and then were confined to the Boston jail, being charged with being, “certain erroneous persons, being strangers,” though their offense was understood to be holding a religious service without a license. They were also indicted for holding a private meeting, serving communion to an excommunicated person, rebaptizing converts, etc. They were tried on July 31, 1651. John Cotton, the Puritan preacher acted as the prosecutor and stated the case against the three heretics. He shouted that they denied the power of infant baptism, and thus they were soul murderers. With great fervor he said that they deserved capital punishment just as any other type of murder. The men declared that they conducted a private service not a public service, and claimed under the ancient English maxim that a man’s house, however humble, is his castle. Judge Endicott agreed with John Cotton that these three men should be put to death. Clarke wrote a defense and was fined and released after someone paid his fine, Crandall was released. Holmes was fined and refused to pay the fine and was whipped until he nearly died, but recovered to become a great pastor.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 313-14.
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Baptists chose Liberty over Tolerance
The members of the First Baptist Church of Middleborough, Massachusetts, no doubt were sore grieved when their pastor, the Rev. Isaac Backus posted the following notice on July 16, 1759 which read in part, “Whereas by a late Law of this Province it is enacted that a List of the Names of those who belong to each Baptist Society (Church) must be taken each year and given in to the Assessors before the 20th of July or else they will stand liable to be Rated to the ministers where they live:…” In other words Baptists could get an “exemption” from paying the Congregational ministers salary and the upkeep of their church buildings, if they could prove that they were faithful in their own services. Backus spent a great deal of time fighting to eradicate state support for the Standing Order churches. He said that it was not only “taxation without representation” but it robbed the Baptists of their property and livestock to pay the tax that Baptists would not pay out of conviction, and also stole money from them that they could use to build their own meeting houses and pay their preachers. Baptists rejoiced in Jan. 1786 when Virginia passed their act for Religious Freedom. It said, “…no man shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.” There is a vast difference between “Tolerance and Liberty.” Tax exemption is based on the recipient asking for the privilege from a higher authority and meeting certain demands. The other is recognizing that liberty comes from God and demanding from our public servants that they guarantee those inalienable rights as embodied in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 291-92.
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Baptists struggled for liberty
1778 – On this very day, two young evangelists Isaiah Parker and Samuel Fletcher, were persecuted by mobs as they attempted to preach on the streets of Pepperell, Massachusetts, according to an entry in the diary of Isaac Backus. Unwilling to surrender to the pressure the young men visited Pepperell several times during the spring and summer. During a visit on June 26, however, a real blowup took place as six converts presented themselves for baptism. On Sept. on that year, Backus makes an entry concerning a letter from the Baptists at Pepperell which was discussed by the Warren Association. The setting according to Backus, “They met in a field by a river side, where prayers were made, and a sermon begun, when the chief officers of the town, with many followers, came and interrupted their worship.” He went on to record that the owner of the field warned the “rowdies” to depart but they refused to go. One of the Baptist preachers reminded them of the liberty of conscience which is generally allowed, even by the powers that we were at war with; and one of the officers said, “Don’t quote scripture here!” Then a dog was carried into the river, and plunged in evident mockery.” A gentleman in town then invited them to his house for worship that was near another river. The mob followed and took some whiskey and more dogs and began to plunge them into that river in obvious contempt for water immersion. At that point friends warned them that for their safety they should remove themselves to yet another area for the baptism of the converts, which they did. But even then they had to endure more abuse at the close of that service. The result of this opposition only strengthened the resolve of our forefathers neither did they ever believe in coercing converts.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 124..
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FREEDOM EXISTED IN NAME ONLY
1638 – Conditions in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had become intolerable for any who held views that tended toward liberty of conscience or baptism for believers only. Isaac Backus stated that the Massachusetts Court ruled that if any group wanted to meet and establish a church they had to first have the approval of the magistrates and the other ministers in the area. If you did not get approval you were not admitted to the “freedom of the Commonwealth”. There was great controversy. The House of Deputies was dissolved and reappointed to suit the ministers. Pastors, men, women and children were banished from the colonies and others were put to death as heretics. Massachusetts made a law that everyone was taxed to pay for the support of religious ministers, even though they had no vote in choosing them. Under this terrible influence. John Clarke, the Baptist preacher, his brother Joseph, and many others moved away to Rhode Island. On March 7, 1638, they entered into a Covenant to incorporate themselves into a body politic, submitting everything to God and following His absolute laws as guide and judge. Backus stated, when they could not find laws to govern themselves in the New Testament, they returned to the laws of Moses and elected a Judge and three Elders to rule over them. On March 12, 1640, they changed their plan of government and elected a governor and four assistants until they came under a Charter from England at a later time. It becomes very clear that any government of men is as fallible as the men who govern, and that the trials and errors of the colonies, endeavoring to set up systems of government to guarantee order and yet give the people governed liberty of conscience, resulted in a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that brought the leaders as well as the people under the law. Our Constitution was not thrown together but was born after much travail by millions of people over hundreds of years of suffering. God bless America.
Barbara Ketay from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 94-95.
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A FAITHFUL SERVANT – PAIN AND SUFFERING ASIDE
1754 – Caleb Blood, born in Charlton, Massachusetts, while attending a dance at 20 years old was struck with his sinfulness and gloriously converted. Because he progressed so rapidly in his knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, within a year and a half he was licensed to preach by the Baptist church in Charlton in 1776 and became an itinerant preacher. In 1777 he was ordained and served a newly formed Baptist church for four years in Marlow, New Hampshire. In 1781 he accepted a call to Pastor in Newton, Mass., where he served for seven years. During this time he was active with the Warren Association combating the doctrines of Universalism. In 1788 he accepted the Pastorate of the Fourth Baptist Church of Shaftsbury, Vermont where he served with great blessings for twenty years. During 1798-99 a great revival broke out where Blood saw great numbers added to his church. He always discouraged an excess of mere feelings and knew well the difference between the genuine operation of the Holy Spirit and mere human excitement. During this time he also traveled in missionary expansion into the northwest sections of New York and Canada. From 1791 to 1807 he also served as a Trustee for the University of Vermont. In 1807 he assumed the pastorate of the Third Baptist Church of Boston, Mass. Tragedy struck when Blood suffered a blow to his face. It looked small at first, but he suffered great physical pain the rest of his life, as well as being depressed in spirit. But he never stopped preaching even accepting his last pastorate at the First Baptist Church in Portland, Maine. He died on March 6, 1814. He had perfect peace and expressed one great desire that ministers might be faithful, souls saved, and his Master glorified. He was one of the leading Baptist ministers in Massachusetts and Vermont. He authored several tracts on the differences between Baptists and pedobaptists, another one for youth and another on marriage. During his ministry Baptists were debating the propriety of their members being allied with secret societies, such as Freemasons. Blood was one of the first early Baptists to speak out against the participation of Baptists with any secret societies.
Barbara Ketay from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 92-93.
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An aged man stands true
1644 – On this day William Witter of Lynn, Massachusetts was arraigned before the Salem Court for “entertaining that the baptism of infants was sinful.” Later, on Dec. 18, 1645, he was charged with saying that, “they who stayed whiles a child is baptized do worship the devil.” On June 24, 1651, he was accused of “absenting himself from the public ordinances nine months or more and for being re-baptized.” In time he united with the Baptist church in Newport, R.I. where Dr. John Clarke was pastor. However, because of his age and the fact that he was blind, it was impossible to travel that far for services, so on June 19, 1651 Pastor Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, and John Crandall, as representatives of the Baptist church in Newport, upon the request of Bro. Witter, arrived at his home after walking the eighty miles in two days. Spies informed the authorities of the Mass. Bay Colony that services were conducted on Sunday morning at the Witter home without the authority of the Congregational Church, which caused the three men to be arrested and hauled away to a tavern. Then to cleanse their souls they were taken to an afternoon worship service at an established church service, and then they were imprisoned, and a great miscarriage of justice followed which ended in the brutal beating of Holmes. Witter was not arrested, no doubt because of his advanced age.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 82.
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Baptist were never called Protestants until the last twenty years the SBC has called themselves Protestants. Protestants were those denominations that were in the Catholic church and protested the abuses and split off and became the daughters of Catholicism. The Baptists were never a part of the Catholic Church and therefore did not protest and come out from her. The book “The Trail of Blood” by Elder J.M. Carroll is very clear on this matter.
Protestantism produced tyranny not liberty
1758 – The General Assembly, meeting at Savannah, Georgia, passed a law making the Church of England the church of the Province. In early Virginia, Massachusetts, and several other colonies, laws were enacted to support an established church by taxes, to compel church attendance, and to forbid the worshiping of dissenting sects. Some type of state church was to be found in all five southern colonies, as well as in three New England provinces: Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. In South Carolina as early as 1706, the Board of Trade approved a new law establishing the Church of England with support from the public funds. In North Carolina in 1732, a law was passed establishing the Church of England. The Puritans had established a theocracy in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. In time the Puritan churches were called Congregational churches. We need to give thanks to God for the First Amendment, knowing that it is the product of the Baptist input of James Madison, “Congress shall make no Law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Thomas Jefferson’s statement to the Danbury Baptists concerning the “Wall of Separation” pertained to keeping the government out of the affairs of the church, not to keep the church from influencing government. It was never meant to remove all religion and morals from society as many are interpreting it today. It is true that “When church and state marry, justice will miscarry”, but we should never forget that, “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord. (Ps. 33:12).
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 14-15.
First Meeting House
They refused to Bow
1666 – Thomas Gould, and others, according to the General Court papers of Massachusetts, the Assistants’ Court, decided that Gould and Osborne could be freed, if they would pay the fine and costs, but if they refused, they were to be banished. From the trials of Gould, the First Baptist Church of Boston came into existence. Those who dared unite with that church suffered fines, banishment and imprisonment. [William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia, ed. Louis H. Everts ( Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), 1:461-62.] Prepared by Rev. Dale R. Hart – firstname.lastname@example.org