Tag Archives: Massachusetts

197 – July 16 – This Day in Baptist History Past


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: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 291-92.




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147 — May 27 – This Day in Baptist History Past


147 — May 27 – This Day in Baptist History Past      


 Dunster’s Grave


The Birth of a Baby Planted a Church


There is abundant proof that, in many thoughtful minds, serious doubts had arisen among the Congregationalists of Massachusetts concerning the scriptural authority for infant baptism and the right of the secular power to interfere in the religious affairs.  Henry Dunster, who had been compelled to resign his presidency of Harvard College and was publicly admonished and put under bonds, had done much to bring about this thoughtfulness. Dunster had great influence on the mind of Thomas Gould, a member of the Congregational Church of Charlestown. When a son was born into his home, Gould called his neighbors in to rejoice with him and to unite in thanks to God for this precious gift. He withheld the child from baptism and was summoned to appear before the church to answer why the child had not been sprinkled. He still refused to comply and was suspended from Communion. He was repeatedly brought before the Middlesex Court on charges relating to the “ordinance of Christ.”


Gould was to inform his Baptist brethren to appear, and the Baptist Church at Newport sent a delegation of three to assist their brethren in the debate. After two days of denunciation of the Baptists, who were not allowed to reply, the authorities claimed a victory. Gould was sentenced to exile from Massachusetts on May 27, 1668.


The First Baptist church in Boston was planted in the midst of great debate, turmoil, and persecution that began with the birth of a child.


Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I Thompson/ Cummins) pp. 216 -217



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December 13, 1772 – John Davis died, west of the Ohio River in Indian Territory, at the home of Dr. James McMachan. He had gone west with David Jones, a missionary to the Indians, hoping to regain his former vigor and health. The final resting place of Davis’s body is near Grave Creek, marked by a large black oak tree on which Jones cut with his tomahawk, besides the name and date, “He was the first white man to die in that part of the country.” Davis was born at Welsh Tract, Delaware in 1737. His father, from South Wales had been pastor of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church for over 20 years and his mother was the daughter of Elisha Thomas, who had been the second pastor of the Welsh Tract church. John graduated from the College of  Philadelphia in 1763. After his father’s death he became the pastor of the Welsh church by that time. Baptists in Massachusetts were suffering under strict laws. The Baptists appointed Pastor Davis to the “Committee of Grievances,” and he became their agent to represent them to the authorities. Backus said, “no tongue or pen could fully describe all the evils that were perpetrated under ‘the Act of Assembly’ passed in England in 1757, which was designed to give relief to the Baptists and Quakers. The oppression was especially troubling to Davis, who had come from the full religious liberty enjoyed by all denominations in Pennsylvania and Delaware. He was abused, ridiculed, and one time referred to publicly as a “little upstart gentleman.” A young gentleman he was, but he would not surrender. Dr. Benedict said of him, “His learning and zeal were adequate to any services to which he was called.”  At thirty-five his health failed.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 520-21.

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