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211 – July 29 – THIS DAY IN BAPTIST HISTORY PAST


 

Leland_jJohn Leland

“Not many noble”

The great Baptist preacher and leader in the early days of our Republic, John Leland’s description of Elijah Baker was quite revealing. He said that he was “a man of low parentage, small learning and confined abilities. But with one talent, he did more than many do with five.” It reminds us of the words of Paul at 1 Cor 1:26 –  “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” God is looking for availability not ability. Baker, one of the early Baptist ministers, was greatly used of God to establish all of the churches between Hampton and Richmond City, and several on the eastern shore in Virginia. This success brought the wrath of Satan upon him, and he became the object of much abuse. He was often pelted with apples and stones while he was preaching. Once he was taken by Ruffians and placed on a ship with orders to land him on any coast out of America. He refused to work and was treated poorly when he preached and sang. Contrary winds kept the ship in harbor so he was placed on another one. When the storm continued to rage they thought it could be that they had taken the preacher so they put him on another ship. He continued to sing and preach until they put him off permanently. Then they put him in debtor’s prison on July 1, 1778 in the Accomac County Jail. The case was continued on the 29th of July and it lasted until Aug. 25. Altogether he had spent 56 days in prison, but he invested his time in preaching and prayer. Since liberty in VA had been granted two years prior, the charge was vagrancy rather than preaching without a license.  And the plaintiffs were Anglican churchmen rather than state officials. This prison still stands today and there is a memorial to Elijah Baker who preached the First Baptist sermon here.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 310-11.

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