He knew not retreat
1876 – George Grenfell, Congo’s Pioneer and Explorer, having just married, sailed with his new bride for Africa. Within a year she succumbed to dysentery, and sometime later George remarried his second wife Rose, who was able to travel with him on many of his most thrilling journeys. George had been reared in a very religious Anglican home in England but was influenced by a Baptist Sunday school at the Heneage Street Baptist Church at Birmingham. It was during this time that he read Livingstone’s Travels and dedicated himself for service in Africa. He then entered Bristol Baptist College in 1873, but learning that his missionary hero, Alfred Saker was in England, after connecting through correspondence, accompanied him to the Cameroons, beginning his work in Africa at twenty-five years of age. In August 1877, Henry M. Stanley, having been sent to find Livingstone, appeared at the mouth of the Congo, and the world was electrified in that it had taken him three years to go from the east to the west coast. Even though the Cameroons were six hundred miles north of the Congo River, Grenfel was immediately burdened to plant the message of the cross through this great waterway. In God’s providence, a wealthy man in England provided a ship to penetrate Central Africa with the gospel that was made available for Grenfell’s use. With untold sacrifices and privations he gave himself to the work. He buried his children in Africa and grieved continually over the deaths of his fellow missionaries. But he wrote, “God’s finger points ONWARD! FORWARD! What caused him the most pain was the indifference of the home churches to sending missionaries. When his mission agency considered receding, he wrote, “It is either advance or retreat; but if it is retreat, you must not count on me, I will not be a party to it, and you will have to go on without me.” Grenfell died on July 1, 1906.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 76.
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Five of their children went as missionaries
1855 – William Bagby was born and later was saved under the preaching of Rufus C. Burleson, during the time that the pioneer preacher was President of Waco University in Texas. While there, William studied theology under Dr. B. H. Carroll, and graduated in 1875, and four years later was ordained into the gospel ministry. The following year he married Anne Ellen Luther, whose father was the president of Baylor College, and also the same year, applied for missionary service in Brazil. They sailed for the field from Baltimore in 1881 and never returned to their native land. William had served the Lord for fifty-eight years when he was called home from Porto Alegre in 1939, and Mrs. Bagby had served sixty-one years when she died in Recife in 1942. The Bagby’s had nine children. Four died, but the five remaining followed them in missionary service, four in Brazil and one in Argentina. The First Baptist Church for Brazilians was organized in 1882 in Salvador, in the state of Bahia. One of the first members was an ex-priest who had come to faith in Christ while reading his Catholic Bible, but until the Baptists came could find no one to immerse him. He taught them the language and they taught him the Word. He did much of the preaching in the Salvador church. Religious freedom was unknown at that time in Brazil and the early pioneer missionaries suffered all kinds of persecution and opposition. Some were imprisoned, others were subjected to bodily injury. This persisted until Nov. 15, 1889 when the country became a Republic and the Roman Catholic Church was disestablishment and Religious freedom was proclaimed. [Frank K. Means, Advance: A History of Southern Baptist Foreign Missions (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), pp.242-43. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 604-05.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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Jailed for preaching without a license
1747 – William Webber was born. He was considered one of the spiritual fathers and pioneers of the gospel in Virginia. A carpenter by trade until hearing the preaching of John Waller and quickly became an exhorter. He soon became the pastor of the Dover Church in Goochland County, VA. Few men in Virginia suffered more persecutions than Webber. In 1771 he spent three months of confinement in the Chesterfield County jail, where he preached through the grates. Shortly after his release he was taken from the platform in the midst of his message and was placed in the Middlesex County Jail for forty-five days. His crime? Preaching without a license from the State, which was under the Anglican State Church system. These endeavors resulted in the planting of numerous strong and fruitful churches and as many as fourtee preachers were called out to spread the gospel of Christ. [Robert B. Semple, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia (Richmond: Published by the author, 1810), pp. 422-25] Prepared by Rev. Dale R. Hart – email@example.com
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
Christ’s Ambassador to the West
Washington would be called the “Father of America,” but John Mason Peck would be known “God’s Ambassador to the Mississippi Valley.” He was born on Oct. 21, 1789 and in 1807 began teaching school. In 1809 he married Sally Paine, who proved to be an ideal wife for the pioneering life that God had in store for him. When their first child was born, the Peck’s hesitated to have the baby sprinkled which led them to a sincere study of the scriptures which led them to oppose infant baptism. Upon moving to New York they discovered a Baptist church in New Durham, and they were baptized in Sept. 1811. The church had services only once per month, and the people insisted that Peck preach to them when the pastor wasn’t present. In time he became pastor and continued in the ministry for 46 years. The Peck’s met Luther Rice and their hearts were turned toward Missions but not East Asia but to the Western United States. After studying for a year under Dr. Wm. Staughton in Philadelphia, the Triennial Convention met in that city in 1817. The Peck’s were accepted as missionaries to the West, being commissioned on May 18, 1817. He was not yet 28 years old when he wrote in his diary, “I have now put my hand to the plow, O Lord may I never turn back…” On July 25, 1817, with his wife and three little children in a small one- horse wagon, they began the journey of over 1,000 miles that would take over four months through undeveloped regions, and on Dec. 1 they entered St. Louis. In April 1818 the first baptismal service took place in the Mississippi River in the midst of a hostile environment, where the Bible had been burned and coarse songs were songs and blasphemy’s were hurled at them. Peck began a Baptist church making it his base of operations in the West. His trials were great. His oldest son died, sicknesses were many, hostile Indians were everywhere, he had to fight anti-missionary forces, his support was cut off by the Baptist Convention. But he fought on as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He died on March 14, 1858.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 304-06.
A Pioneer Church Planter
Jonathan Mulkey was one of the early pioneer Baptist preachers in Tennessee. You will find his burial site in the old Buffalo Ridge Cemetery near Gray, Tenn. You can still read on the gravestone these words, “…BORN OCT 16, 1752 – DEPARTED THIS LIFE SEP. 5, 1826, AFTER HAVING BEEN A PREACHER OF THE BAPTIST ORDER MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS.” His father Philip had been a very successful preacher among the Separate Baptists in the Carolinas. Shubal Stearns had baptized him on Christmas day 1756. However Philip had fallen into sin and had done great harm to his testimony. His son Jonathan married Nancy Howard and they made their way westward into Tennessee having escaped Indians on the way. Jonathan served the Buffalo Ridge Baptist church as pastor for forty-two years and at the same time was pastor of the Sinking Creek Baptist Church for thirty-one years. On March 25, 1786, along with Isaac Barton, they constituted the French Broad River Baptist Church which is now the First Baptist Church of Dandridge, Tennessee. He also assisted in founding the Big Pigeon Baptist Church in Cocke County. The churches where Pastor Mulkey served grew in spirituality, doctrinal stability and practical service. He also possessed a missionary spirit, and he constantly kept the cause of missions before his congregations and the Holston Association, of which he served for eight terms as moderator. When he was old he trained his horse to kneel like a camel so he could mount him to take him to the church house. They would put an armchair behind a table for him to preach. On Sept. 5, 1826, the tired old servant of the Lord closed his eyes in death.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 174 – 175.