Burning Pepper to Prevent Preaching
John Young was one of the courageous Baptist preachers in Virginia during the 18th century who suffered for the freedom to preach according to conscience. He died in a good old age on April 16, 1817.
In 1908, one of his granddaughters gave the following interesting information of John Young. “He was converted and began preaching. He, with others, was imprisoned for preaching what he believed to be the truth. His mother, who had care of his motherless children, visited him regularly once a week taking the children with her. Each preacher was in a room to himself. Each room had one small window, placed so high up in the wall that only a patch of sky could be seen, nothing on the earth. The congregations of the different ministers learned, each, which was his pastor’s window. Once a week John Young’s congregation (and I suppose the other’s too), would assemble under his window, and run up a flag, to let him know they were there and he would preach to them. In this way a great many people were converted. The authorities said, ‘ These heretics make more converts in jail than they do out ‘, so when the congregation assembled, that pastor was smoked out by burning pepper to prevent his preaching.”
Young had been arrested on June 13, 1771, ostensibly for preaching without a license.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, p. 155.
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Tag Archives: Virginia
Burning Pepper to Prevent Preaching
The Word of God prevailed
1771 – The Potomack Baptist Church was founded on this date having been planted by the Chappwamsic Baptist Church and their pastor David Thomas. Thomas was a Regular Baptist from Pennsylvania and was probably the most learned of the early Baptist preachers of Virginia. He settled in the Northern part of the colony and was continually threatened by ruffians with clubs and guns as were many of our early preachers. The Chappwamsic church produced some of the greatest of our early church planters like Jeremiah Moore, Daniel Fristoe, and his brother William. William wrote an early history of the Ketocton Baptist Association and planted the Potomack Baptist Church. William Fristoe experienced the same treatment, and became the object of those same despisers of the gospel. The planting of these churches was resisted by large gangs of men with clubs and rocks as they attempted to break up the meetings and beat the preacher. One example involved a gang of around forty men led by Robert Ashby, who entered the meetinghouse with the purpose of disrupting the meeting. Some stout fellows at the door threw Ashby out. This involved the whole multitude in a huge fight. Soon after, Ashby cut his knee, and it became infected and literally hung by the hamstrings. On his sickbed he desired preaching, but when the preacher would begin preaching he would stop his ears. He died a horrible death of great suffering. So strongly did it impress the people that God had intervened that it put a damper on those that were trying to hamper the meetings. We can say with certainty what they said of the early church in the book of Acts, So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
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Liberty won and lost
1660 or 61’ – The Vestry Law was adopted in the colony of Virginia that provided that two church wardens would be chosen annually from a vestry of twelve to take the oath of supremacy to the British Sovereign, and subscribe (to) the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.” This was for the purpose to collect the “glebe” from every “tithable” person regardless of sect. The “glebe” was that parcel set aside for the Anglican minister and his family which included at least 200 acres, a mansion with a kitchen, a barn, stables, a dairy, a meat house, a corn house, and a fenced in garden. The Baptists strongly resisted such taxation in several colonies where it was levied. There were those who strongly desired for these laws to continue even into the Commonwealth of Virginia, after the Declaration of Independence, one of such was Patrick Henry, who had been a champion of liberty, even on behalf of the Baptists. The Baptists, believing that true religion did not need to be propped up by the state continued the pressure until the Virginia Legislature passed an act in 1799 that said that all religion would be a matter of the conscience and that incorporation of any religious society was in violation of religious liberty. Churches were not incorporated in Virginia until Jerry Falwell brought suit against the state and won in 2002. How sad that a Baptist would destroy the very liberty that his Baptist forefathers suffered to gain. The final victory came in 1802 when a law was passed to sell all of the “glebes” and return the money to the people. That was the final nail that was driven into the coffin of the state church. Now we have come full circle where we have a state/church set up once again through the tax-exempt (501 (c) (3) church and incorporation.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 118. (Editor is responsible for commentary regarding Falwell and the tax-exempt state/church.)
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He majored on the majors
1806 – Samuel L. Straughan was ordained to the gospel ministry. Born on a farm in Virginia in 1783 he became one of the great Baptist leaders of his time. He received Christ as his savior at nineteen; and even as a child he had shown much interest in religion, even to the point that his father had called him, his little preacher. He was baptized in April of 1803, and shortly after that he began to preach. On the day that he was ordained he received a unanimous call from the Wicomico Baptist Church, a flock of around two dozen. They soon increased to over three-hundred members. The next year he was called to the Morattico Baptist Church and they also experienced rapid growth as he assumed the responsibility of both congregations. In 1814 the Missionary Society appointed Straughan to travel into Maryland to preach the gospel, but before he accepted the call, the churches spent a day in fasting and prayer so as to know the mind of God in the matter. He saw great success as he continued in his pastoral and evangelistic ministry at the same time. Without the benefit of a formal education he committed great portions of the scripture to memory. Sometimes he would quote as many as one-hundred passages in a sermon and often the audience would enjoy counting the verses as he preached. He spoke extemporaneously in a rich sonorous voice, and majored on the atonement of Christ. Straughan contracted a pulmonary disease that brought about his untimely death at only thirty-eight on June 9, 1821. But in this short review, not to discount the importance of formal ministerial training, we need to see that there are things that are for more important that great leaders have exhibited, such as magnifying the Word of God and being filled with the Holy Ghost.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 113.
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First baptisms in the Shenandoah
1770 – A BAPTIST PREACHER IMPRISONED FOR PREACHING WITHOUT A LICENSE IN VIRGINIA IN 1770 – February 26, 1770, was the beginning of the three-month imprisonment of John Pickett, mentioned in the entry for January 14, in the Fauquier County, VA Order Book for 1766, pages 242 and 243. The prison was a two room log building 18’ long and 16’ wide, dovetailed, with layered wood of good mortar between each log. There was a brick wall between the rooms with a fireplace in each room, secured with grates above and below to prevent the prisoners from escaping up the chimney. The only ventilation was a window 12 inches square in each room. These colonial prisons were like ovens in the summer and freezers in the winter, certainly not “country clubs” of our day in comparison. Many of those early preachers lost their health from these conditions and never recovered their strength. The opposition of John Pickett was at times fierce. Some times when he would preach in a grove of trees in the Culpepper area the, Anglican Church parson would appear with his supporters, sit a few yards in front of Pickett, and take notes of what he considered to be false doctrine. The parson would call him a schismatic, a broacher of false doctrines, and one that held up damnable errors. This was done to hold him up to public scorn. Often it backfired, in that it caused people to be sympathetic toward Picket. At that time, many were disgusted with the state hirelings, among whom there were those of disrepute. Some who were attracted by this confrontation and debate were converted to Christ. After Pickett was released his zeal led him to continue his labors around Culpepper and over the Blue Ridge. It is reported that the first baptisms to take place in the Shenandoah, there were as many as fifty who followed there Lord in this ordinance.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 79.
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Silas Mercer (L)
Baptists win liberty in Georgia and Virginia
1785 – BAPTISTS SECURED RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN GEORGIA AND VIRGINIA AFTER THE NATION WAS ESTABLISHED – On February 21, 1785, an act by the Georgia legislature was passed for the support of religion, prorated by the number in each denomination, and providing that any “thirty heads of families” in any community might choose a minister “to explain and inculcate the duties of religion, and “and four pence on every hundred pounds valuation of property” should be taken out of the public tax for any such minister, the Baptists rose up in sending a remonstrance to the legislature by the hands of Silas Mercer and Peter Smith the following May. They insisted that the obnoxious law be repealed on the grounds that the state had nothing to do with the support of religion by public tax, and it was repealed. State governments in America that were accustomed to supporting their established religion by taxing their citizens continued to do so even after the disestablishment of those state churches after the Union was officially established and their state constitutions were in place. The Baptists considered this to be an antichrist system and had stood united against such taxation for the support of religion even if for the benefit of their own. This same issue had to be fought by the Baptists in Virginia during the 1780’s against the Anglican establishment. During this time a general assessment for Religious Teachers was proposed. The Virginia Baptists strongly opposed the bill and obtained 10,000 signatures against its passage. The Baptist General Committee meeting at Powahatan, VA, Aug. 13, 1785, resolved: “…that it is believed repugnant to the spirit of the Gospel for the Legislature thus to proceed in the matters of religion; that no human laws ought to be established for this purpose…the Holy Author of our religion needs no such compulsive measure for the promotion of His cause; that the Gospel wants not the feeble arm of man for its support,…and that, should the Legislature assume the right of taxing the people for the support of the Gospel, it will be destructive to religious liberty.”
Baptists in Georgia and Virginia stood firm on their convictions and that’s why we have religious liberty clauses in all fifty states in the Union today.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 71.
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He preached with great power
1722 – WARRANTS WERE ISSUED AGAINST A BAPTIST PREACHER IN LOUDON COUNTY, VIRGINIA IN 1766 – Richard Major was born on February 6, 1722 near Pennsbury, Pennsylvania into a Presbyterian home. Early on under conviction of sin he would resort to bad company to ward it off but finally grace prevailed and he became an ardent believer. He became a Baptist in 1764 and moved to Loudon County, VA, in 1766. Though he had not much schooling he was self-taught in the school of Christ, and became ordained, and was called to pastor the Little River Church, of which came six or eight other churches. Major encountered much opposition from the authorities. Warrants were issued for his arrest, but the officers never took him. At Bull Run a mob armed with clubs rose to assist in the execution of a warrant, but the Davis brothers, giants of men, after hearing him preach became enamored with him and threatened to whip anyone who disturbed his preaching. A particular man, whose wife Major had baptized, went to a meeting to kill him but the Lord intervened, and the man became so convicted that he couldn’t stand and was afterwards baptized by Major. On another occasion, a man attacked him with a club, Major said, “Satan I command thee to come out of the man.” The club immediately fell to the ground, and the lion became like a lamb. He had many other similar incidents happen in his ministry. Major was highly esteemed in his latter years which caused him great alarm because of the scripture, “beware when all men speak well of you.” His mind was eased when he overheard someone charging him with an abominable crime. The house where he lived, a stately red brick home still stands near Chantilly, VA, and a few hundred feet behind the house is his grave marked by a weathered landmark of our early Baptist history in America.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 50.
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Posted: 03 Feb 2014 12:00 PM PST
Being a Baptist was a crime
1774 – DAVID TINSLEY AND HIS FELLOW BAPTISTS, WERE DEFENDED BY PATRICK HENRY FOR PREACHING WITHOUT A LICENSE – David Tinsley was arrested on February 4, 1774. According to the Order Book of Chesterfield County, Virginia, Number 5, page 400, the charges were as follows: “David Tinsley being committed, charged with having assembled and preached to the people at sundry times and places in this county as a Baptist preacher, and the said David, acknowledging in court that he has done so. On consideration thereof the court being of opinion that the same is the breach of the peace & good behavior, It is ordered that he give surety…of the penalty of 50 pounds & two sureties in penalty of 25 pounds each.” This means that his crime was preaching the gospel as a Baptist. March 4 of the same year, Archibald W. Roberts was indicted for using hymns and poems instead of the psalms of David following communion and the sermon. Tinsley was confined for four months and 16 days in which he and fellow prisoners preached to the assembled crowds through the grates of the prison. The Association meeting at Hall’s Meeting House in Halifax County passed a resolution on behalf of the suffering preachers and received an offering for their defense. The money was wrapped in a handkerchief and sent to Patrick Henry to defend the preachers. Finally the jailers erected a wall over the window of the jail but when the crowd gathered a handkerchief on a pole told the preachers that the people were ready to hear and they commenced to preach. Those gathered became known as the “bandana brigade.” Fasting and prayer gained their release. There were only two more arrests, one in 1775 and the other in 1778 before permanent liberty was secured. There were many conversions however.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 47.
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James Madison implores for liberty
1774 – JAMES MADISON WRITES ON BEHALF OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN VIRGINIA – On January 24, 1774, as a citizen of Orange County Va., James Madison wrote: “Union of religious sentiments begets a surprising confidence and ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitates the execution of mischievous projects…I want to again breathe your free air…Poverty and luxury prevail among all sorts; pride, ignorance and knavery among the priesthood, and vice and wickedness among the laity…but it is not the worst…That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and, to their eternal infamy the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such purposes. This vexes me the worst of anything…There are at this time in the adjacent county not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which, in the main, are very orthodox…I have squabbled and scolded, abused and ridiculed so long about it, to little purpose, that I am without common patience. So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience to all.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson/ Pg. 32
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