May 27th.

May 27, 1771 – Benjamin Merrill was arrested by three divisions of British General Tryon’s army near the Jersey Baptist church in North Carolina, and whisked away to nearby Hillsboro for trial. What was this Baptist laymen’s crime, who had been a convert of Shubal Stearns, pastor of the famed Sandy Creek Baptist Church? He had refused, along with his Baptist and Quaker brethren, to bow before the Anglican authorities when they levied taxes against them, for the upkeep of their state church and the salary of their pastors. They also refused to allow the Baptist and Quaker pastors to perform marriages. There was also other unjust taxation without representation. Tryon had also built the most palatial “Government House” in all of English America. The sentence of death against Merrill on June 16 read as follows: “I must now close my afflicting duty by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law, which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried… to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive; that your bowels be taken out while you are yet alive and burnt before your face; that your head be cut off, and your body divided into four quarters, and this be at his Majesty’s disposal; and the Lord have mercy on your soul.” Merrill’s family was present to see this gruesome scene. Just as in the book of Acts, persecution caused the early church to scatter, preaching the gospel everywhere they went; so the Sandy Creek folks spread out into Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. Some returned to Virginia where God blessed their efforts. The “Bible Belt” was really the “Separatist Baptist Belt”

 

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