Forgotten Baptist Heroes: John Leland

Elder John Leland is not a well known name in American history, but in any study of the history of Baptists in America his name appears frequently. He was an important figure in the struggle for religious freedom during the period when that was achieved. Leland was born on May 14, 1754, in Grafton, Massachusetts, which is about forty miles west of Boston. His life spanned the period in which many crucial events took place in our country and in which many of our civil rights were written the organic law of the United States. Near the end of his life he said, “Next to the salvation of the soul the civil and religious rights of men have summoned my attention, more than the acquisition of wealth or seats of honor.”

He described his early experiences as being filled with “frolicking and foolish wickedness, but in 1772, when he was eighteen years old, he had a deep spiritual experience. He said of it, “When I was returning from my frolicks or evening diversions, the following words would sound from the skies, ‘you are not about the work which you have got to do.'” Soon after this, he said, “the charms of those youthful diversions, which had been sweeter to me than the honeycomb, lost all their sweetness.”

He went on to describe a severe struggle within himself. As he put it, “At times, I would feel as if my whole soul was absorbed in the fountain of love, and devout prayer was the breath of my heart; at other times, I would feel such amazing languor and want of will, that if I might have had all the glories of heaven for the asking, I would not have sincerely done it”. This, he said, “gave me a very poor opinion of myself.” “Indeed, from than time till this,” he wrote in his autobiography, “I have had a constant falling out with myself.” Sometime after this, in June of 1774, he was baptized by Elder Noah Alden, of Bellingham, Massachusetts.

Almost from the time of the experience related above, he began to speak in the churches he attended near his home. However, Leland did not actually join any church until early in 1775, when he joined the Bellingham Church. About six months later this church gave him a license, as he put it, “to do that which I had been doing for a year before.” In October of 1775 he went on an extended preaching tour to Virginia, returning home after eight months. Soon after this trip, in September of 1776, he tells us, “I was married to Sally Divine, of Hopkinton; and immediately started with her to Virginia.”

At the time when Leland arrived in Virginia the Baptists of that state were in the midst of their struggle against the Established Church. They were also fast becoming a force which would have to be reckoned with in the affairs of the state. But it had not always been so, and they were only now emerging from a rather infamous reputation.

As soon as they began to grow in numbers, this naturally brought attention to them from the authorities, which in turn led to persecution. Men in power sought diligently to find ways and means to put down these “disturbers of the peace.” Semple says that it was not certain that any law in force in Virginia authorized the imprisonment of men for preaching. They were, therefore, dealt with for disturbing the peace.

The first instance of actual imprisonment in Virginia took place in Fredericksburg in 1768. John Waller, Lewis Craig, James Childs, James Reed, and William Marsh were haled before the magistrate and arraigned as disturbers of the peace. At their trial one lawyer accused them thus: “May it please your worships, these men are great disturbers of the peace, they cannot meet a man upon the road, but they must ram a text of Scripture down his throat.” They were offered their freedom if they would promise to preach no more in the county for a year and a day. This they refused to do, and they were carried to the jail, singing a hymn as they went. While they were in jail, they continued to preach through the grates. Leland says there were about thirty of these people imprisoned during this period.

A fact that added to the ridicule heaped upon these early Baptists was that they were, for the most part, poor and unlearned. They were everywhere thought of as “a pack of ignorant enthusiasts.” The ministers of the Baptists came from among the common people. They believed in a divine call to the ministry, and that it came to men in all walks of life. Therefore it was possible for a man who could hardly write his name to believe himself called of God.13 “The Baptist preachers,” says David Benedict, “were, in almost every respect, the reverse of the established clergy; without learning, without patronage, generally very poor, plain in their dress, unrefined in their manners, awkward in their address; all of which by their enterprising zeal and unwearied perseverance, they either turned to advantage, or prevented their ill effects.”

On May 6, 1776, a convention met in Williamsburg, which H. J. Eckenrode calls “probably the most noteworthy assembly ever held in Virginia.” It was this convention that passed resolutions instructing the Virginia delegates in the Continental Congress to propose a declaration of independence. They also made preparations for a bill of rights and a constitution for Virginia. It is the Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason, that contains the momentous declaration of religious rights. Instead of Mason’s wording, “[T]hat all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion,” young James Madison succeeded in securing its amendment to read, “All men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion.” This was a very important distinction for the Baptists, one to which they had long held. They believed that toleration implied a favor granted, but equality recognized an inalienable right. When the legislature met the next fall, it was deluged with petitions from various dissenting groups. Among them was a memorial from the Hanover Presbytery (Presbyterian) and one from an association of Baptist ministers and delegates who met at Dover in Goochland on December 25, 1776. These petitions brought on what Thomas Jefferson called “the severest contests in which I have ever been engaged.” Though the acts passed at this time exempted dissenters from religious taxes, it left other major issues unresolved and the debate went on for nine more years.

Madison led the fight in the Virginia legislature against these encroachments upon religious rights until they were finally defeated in 1786. When the legislature met in 1785 it was deluged with petitions from various dissenting groups. Madison then pressed his advantage and introduced Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. It was enacted on January 16, 1786. Of this bill Eckenrode says, “The ‘act for establishing religious freedom’ added no new principle. In combining complete liberty of opinion with forbidding taxation for church support, the act merely expressed the results of the revolution, but it served its purpose as a landmark and an obstacle to any reversion to the past.” Jefferson considered this Bill one of the three greatest accomplishments of his life, along with the Declaration of Independence and the creation of the University of Virginia.

It is difficult to say what part John Leland played in this campaign. Very soon after the passage of this bill, he appears as a legislative agent, along with Reuben Ford, in an effort to obtain repeal of an act incorporating the Episcopal Church. Of his sentiments, however, there can be no doubt, and since immediately after this he was appointed to a position of leadership, he was surely active in this work. In the Virginia Chronicle he said, “A general assessment, (forcing all to pay some preacher,) amounts to an establishment; if government says I must pay somebody, it must next describe that somebody, his doctrine and place of abode.”

While all of this was going, the Baptists were experiencing a tremendous revival. It began in about 1785 and continued until 1791. Thousands upon thousands were converted, and when it was over the Baptist were more numerous than any other sect in Virginia. Leland reached the peak of his evangelistic activity in 1788. In the period from October of 1787 to March of 1789, Leland says that he baptized four hundred people, three hundred of which were baptized in 1788.

This revival was also attended by the presence of physical and emotional demonstrations. Leland says that it was nothing unusual for a great part of the congregation to fall prostrate on the floor. Many people would entirely lose the use of their limbs. At associations it was not uncommon for several preachers to exercise their gifts at the same time in different parts of the congregation. Some preachers greatly encouraged this sort of thing, and Semple admits that in some congregations much confusion and disorder resulted. “Many ministers who had labored earnestly to get Christians into their churches,” he declared, “were afterwards much perplexed to get hypocrites out.”

When Madison did return to Virginia, a letter was waiting for him when he arrived at Federicksburg suggesting that he stop by on his way home to visit “an influential Baptist leader,” as Irving Brant put it. That leader was John Leland. The letter, dated February 28, 1788, was from Captain Joseph Spencer. He warned Madison that the Constitution had enemies in Orange County, the Baptists being among them. He pointed out John Leland as being one of their leading men and sent Madison a copy of a list of objections Leland had to the Constitution. Spencer went on to suggest that Madison stop by and visit Leland on his way home since it was right on his way.

The objections referred to in the letter were prepared by Leland at the request of Thomas Barbour, an opposition candidate in the Orange County election. Most of the objections reflected Leland’s fear of some aspects of the government being to far removed from the popular will. He specifically objected to it, because there was only a Bill of Rights in it and that there was no specific guarantee of Religious Liberty in it.

Meanwhile a meeting of the General Committee of Baptists was held at Willaim’s Meeting House on March 11, 1788. This group took up the question; “Whether the new Federal Constitution which had now lately made its appearance in public, made sufficient provision for the secure enjoyment of religious liberty.” It was unanimously agreed that it did not.

Then followed the famed meeting between James Madison and John Leland, which is a celebrated event in local history, though neither of these men left any direct testimony about such a meeting. However, everything that is known certainly suggests that it did take place, and that it did indeed influence the outcome in Orange County, Virginia of the election to the Virginia ratifying convention.

One source of evidence purports to come directly from Leland himself. In a letter dated April 15, 1857 Governor G. N. Briggs of Massachusetts related the details of a visit he paid to Leland’s home, apparently not many years before Leland’s death. In the course of their conversation Briggs quotes Leland as saying that Madison came to see him “to talk with me about the Constitution.”

Briggs went on to say that they met again very soon before the electors on the stump. He used quotation marks in his letter, apparently indicating that he was quoting Leland directly.

Mr. Madison first took the stump, which was a hogshead of tobacco, standing on one end. For two hours, he addressed his fellow-citizens in a calm, candid and statesman-like manner, arguing his side of the case, and fairly meeting and replying to the arguments, which had been put forth by his opponents, in the general canvass of the state. Though Mr. Madison was not particularly a pleasing or eloquent speaker, the people listened with respectful attention. He left the hogshead, and my friends called for me. I took it–and went in for Mr. Madison; and he was elected without difficulty.

Later in life Leland himself made two statements in his writings which seem to corroborate the authenticity of this event. Writing in 1834, he spoke of having talked with Madison in 1788, saying, “Mr. Madison said to me in 1788, ‘the states have surrendered to the general government a certain quantity of their rights; but it is most likely, if ever the general government is dissolved, it will proceed from the jealousy of state authority.” At the same time he spoke of his reservations about the Constitution; “When the Constitution first made its appearance in the autumn of 1787, I read it with close attention, and finally gave my vote for its adoption; and after the amendments tool place, I esteemed it as good a skeleton as could well be formed.” These statements certainly comport with the details of the meeting. It is quite clear that the Baptists were convinced by Madison, and they did support him in this election.The fact remains, however, that the Baptists, and John Leland in particular, had wanted a written guarantee of religious liberty in the Constitution. It does not appear that there were hard feelings toward Madison on the part of the Baptists. On the contrary, they were warm friends. However, Patrick Henry now tried to keep Madison out of the first Congress by spreading rumors that he not only opposed any amendments whatever, but that he had also ceased to have strong feelings about the rights of conscience.

From the vantage point of two hundred years of history, it would be difficult to exaggerate the significance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in securing these inherent rights. John Leland certainly played a very important part in this struggle. One authority on church-state issues names him along with George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Samuel Davies as the five most important men in this struggle. The Baptist historian of Virginia, Robert Semple, also placed him very high on the list of influential Baptists, saying, “Mr. Leland, as a preacher, was probably the most popular of any who ever resided in this State.”

In the Spring of 1791 Leland and his family took leave of Virginia to return to his native Massachusetts. That trip was made by way of the sea, and Leland tells of a great storm they encountered. At the height of the storm the ship’s captain came to Leland’s cabin and said, “We shall not weather it many minutes. Leland says of it, “This he said, (as I judged,) not to terrify the sailors, but for my sake. The sense of it, to me, was this: ‘Leland, if you have got a God, now call upon him.’ But there was no need of this admonition, for I had begun the work before; and can now say, that that night is the only one of my life that I spent wholly in prayer. That I prayed in faith, is more than I can say; but that I prayed in distress, is certain.”

Arriving in Connecticut, he tarried there for several months to do some preaching and to become involved in the struggle for religious liberty there. In New England the Congregationalist was the established church, and concessions to dissenters were even more grudging than those of the Anglicans in Virginia. Leland wrote several tracts soon after returning to New England demanding not toleration, but full equality for all religious groups. Among them was a tract entitled, Rights of Conscience Inalienable, and Therefore, Religious Opinions Not Cognizable By The Law, in which he asserted that the consciences of men cannot be surrendered to the state. He wrote, “Every man must give account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise, let men be free.” He was to continue his efforts to achieve such freedom in his native Massachusetts. This was to be a long struggle, because Massachusetts was the last state to enact complete religious freedom, finally, in 1833.

Leland and his family settled in the village of Cheshire, Massachusetts in February of 1792, and lived there, except for a few years, for the rest of his life. He became pastor of a church known then as the Second Baptist Church, although Leland was never entirely comfortable as a settled pastor. Though he maintained his connection with this church for most of his life, it is clear that he was not its pastor for most of that time. As Butterfield put it, “He was always willing to preach, pray, and baptize, but he was happier as in independent evangelist, free to go where the spirit directed, than as a settled pastor, however devoted his flock might be to him.”

It may be safely concluded that the epitaph that Leland desired to be on his tomb, and indeed it was on it, was an appropriate one. It read, “here lies the body of John Leland, who labored 67 years to promote piety and vindicate the civil and religious rights of all men.”

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Forgotten Baptist Heroes: Obadiah Holmes

Holmes, Rev. Obadiah, was born Preston, Lancashire. England, about 1606, and came to this country, as is supposed, about 1639. His religious connections were with the Congregationalists. At first, in Salem, Mass., from which he removed to Rehoboth, where for eleven years more he continued in the church of his early choice. He there became a Baptist, and united with the Baptist church in Newport, R.I. In the month of July, 1651, in company with Dr. John Clarke and Mr. Crandall, he made a visit to William Witter, a Baptist, who resided at Lynn, Mass., about twelve miles from Boston. The day after their arrival being the Sabbath, they arranged to have a religious service at the house of their host. In the midst of the discourse which Dr. Clarke was preaching two constables presented to him the following warrant: “By virtue hereof, you are required to go to the house of William Witter, and to search from house to house for certain erroneous persons, being strangers, and them to apprehend, and in safe custody to keep, and to-morrow morning at eight o’clock to bring before me. Robert Bridges.” The three “erroneous persons, being strangers,” were at once arrested and carried, first to “the ale-house or ordinary,” and then forced to attend the meeting of the day. At the close of the meeting they were carried back to the “ordinary.” The next morning they were taken before Mr. Bridges, who made out their mittimus, and sent them to prison at Boston. Having remained a fortnight there, they were brought before the Court of Assistants for trial, which sentenced Dr. Clarke to pay a fine of twenty pounds, Mr. Holmes thirty pounds, and Mr. Crandall five pounds, and in default of payment they were to be publicly whipped. Unknown to Mr. Clarke some one paid his fine, and Mr. Crandall was released on promise that he would appear at the next court. Mr. Holmes was kept in prison until September, when, his fine not having been paid, he was brought out and publicly whipped. Mr. Holmes says, “As the strokes fell upon me I had such a spiritual manifestation of God’s presence as the like thereof I never had nor felt, nor can with fleshly tongue express; and the outward pain was so removed from me that indeed I am not able to declare it to you; it was so easy to me that I could well bear it. yea, and in a manner felt it not, although it was grievous, as the spectators said, the man striking with all his strength (yea, spitting in his hand three times, as many affirmed) with a three-corded whip, giving me therewith thirty strokes.” – (Backus, i. 194. Newton.) Such was the charity of New England Congregationalists of that day. Gov. Joseph Jenks has left on record the following: “Mr. Holmes was whipped thirty stripes, and in such an unmerciful manner that in many days, if not some weeks, he could take no rest, but as he lay upon his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed whereon he lay.”

Mr. Holmes soon after removed to Newport. In 1652 he was ordained to preach the gospel, and took Dr. Clarke’s place as pastor of the Baptist church in Newport. He died in 1682. He left eight children, one of whom, Obadiah, was a judge in New Jersey.

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Forgotten Baptist Heroes: Shubal Stearns

Stearns, Shubal, was born in Boston. Mass., Jan. 28, 1706. He was the son of Shubal Stearns and Rebecca Larriford. About 1745, Mr. Stearns joined the New Lights, as the converted Congregational communities that originated from the ministry of George Whitefield in New England were designated. Called of God to proclaim the unsearchable of Christ, he speedily became a minister among the pious New Lights, and exercised his gifts among them until 1751. At this time, like many of his brethren, he was constrained by reading the Scriptures to accept believer’s immersion as the baptism of the New Testament; and after receiving this conviction, as the Saviour alone was his Master, he came out boldly as a Baptist. He was immersed on a profession of his faith, in Tolland, Conn., by Rev. Wait Palmer, in 1751, and on May 20th of that year he was ordained to the Baptist ministry by Mr. Palmer and Rev. Joshua Morse.

Mr. Stearns received an impression, as he thought from God, that there was a great work for him to do outside of New England, and he obeyed what was undoubtedly a divine call, and started in 1754 for his expected field of labor. He had no definite section to which he directed his steps, but expecting divine guidance, he was constantly looking out for providential openings. He stopped for a time at Opeckon Creek, Va., where there was a church under the pastoral care of Rev. S. Heton. Mr. Stearns rested for a short time at Cacapon, near Winchester, but anticipating greater success in his ministry than he enjoyed in that place, he removed, with his relatives, to Sandy Creek, N. C. There, as soon as he arrived, he constituted a Baptist church of sixteen persons, “Shubal Stearns and wife, Peter Stearns and wife, Ebenezer Stearns and wife, Shubal Stearns, Jr., and wife, Daniel Marshall and wife, Joseph Breed and wife, Enos Stimpson and wife, and Jonathan Polk and wife” being its constituent members. Shubal Stearns was elected pastor of the infant church. These devoted servants of God immediately built a meeting-house for public worship. Daniel Marshall and Joseph Breed were appointed to assist the pastor in his ministerial duties.

In the region around Sandy Creek the people knew nothing of the Christian religion except what they had learned from Episcopal clergymen, who in that section, at that time, were unconverted men, and their irreligious darkness was dense. The new heart to them was an unknown mystery, and paltry and commonly unpractised duties, instead of the Saviour’s sufferings, were the only known means of salvation. The instructions of Mr. Stearns and the godly lives of the church members were an astonishing revelation to their neighbors. Soon some of them were called by the Spirit into the liberty of the gospel, and their experience filled their acquaintances with even greater wonder. A mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon the truth proclaimed by the pastor and the licensed preachers of Sandy Creek church, and as a result throngs of converts surrounded the gospel banner, and mission communities were organized far and near. The parent body in a few years had 606 members, and in seventeen years from its origin it had branches southward as far as Georgia, east ward to the sea and the Chesapeake Bay, and northward to the waters of the Potomac. It had become the mother, grandmother, and great-grand mother of forty-two churches, from which 125 ministers were sent out as licentiates or ordained clergymen. And in after-years the power that God gave Shubal Stearns and his Sandy Creek church in its early years swept over Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina with resistless force, and brought immense throngs to Christ, and established multitudes of Baptist churches. There are to-day probably thousands of churches that arose from the efforts of Shubal Stearns and the church of Sandy Creek.

Mr. Stearns traveled extensively in his own region, preaching Jesus, organizing churches, and giving counsel to the new communities which were formed. And his labors in every department of his work were remarkably blessed. Through him, in 1758, three years after the Sandy Creek church was formed, the Sandy Creek Association was organized. For twelve years all the Separate Baptist churches in Virginia and the Carolinas were members of this body. All who were able traveled from its remote extremities to attend its annual meetings, which were conducted with great harmony, and afforded such edification as induced them to undertake with cheerfulness long and laborious journeys. By means of these meetings the gospel was carried into many new places where the fame of the Baptists had previously spread. As great multitudes attended from distant places, chiefly through curiosity, many of them were charmed with the piety and zeal of this extraordinary people, and petitioned the Association to send preachers into their neighborhoods. In these Associational meetings Shubal Stearns exerted an immense influence. Other men among the Separate Baptists were conspicuous for their ability and usefulness, but in the entire body in the several States Mr. Stearns wielded a founders authority. Elder James Head, in speaking of the first meeting, says, “The great power of God was among us, the preaching every day seemed to be attended with God’s blessing. We carried on our Association with sweet decorum and fellowship to the end. Then we took leave of one another with many solemn charges from our reverend old father, Shubal Stearns, to stand fast until the end.” This Association conducted its annual meetings without a moderator for several years after it was formed, which shows the extraordinary modesty of Mr. Stearns; its harmony, when we remember that its members and ministers were nearly all new converts without experience, proclaims the great power possessed by Mr. Stearns in its deliberations.

The founder of Sandy Creek church was of small stature, had a very expressive and penetrating-eye, and a voice singularly harmonious; his enemies, it is said, were sometimes captivated by his musical voice. Many things are related of the enchanting sound of his voice, and the glance of his eyes, which had a meaning in every movement. “He managed his voice in such a way as to make soft impressions upon the heart and bring tears from the eyes, and anon to shake the very nerves and throw the physical system into tumults and perturbations. All the Separate Baptists copied after him in tones of voice and actions of body” “When the fame of the preaching of Mr. Stearns reached the Yadkin, where I lived,” says Mr. Tidance Lane, “I had a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach-tree with a book in his hand and the people gathering about him. He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I never had felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far; I walked about, sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased and became intolerable.
I went up to him thinking that a salutation and shaking hands would relieve me, but it happened otherwise. I began to think that he had an evil eye, and ought to be shunned, but shunning him I could no more effect than a bird can shun the rattlesnake when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sank to the ground.” Mr. Lane afterwards became a very useful Baptist minister.

It is related on the best authority that “Elnathan Davis had heard that one John Steward was to be baptized by Mr. Stearns on a particular day, and, as Steward was a large man and Stearns of small stature, he concluded that there would be some diversion, if not drowning. Therefore he gathered about eight or ten of his companions in wickedness and went to the spot. When Mr. Stearns began to preach Elnathan drew near to hear him, while his companions kept at a distance. He was no sooner among the crowd than he perceived that some of the people began to tremble as if in a fit of the ague. He felt and examined, to see if it was not a pretense. Meanwhile one man leaned on his shoulder, weeping bitterly. Elnathan, perceiving that he had wet his new white coat, pushed him off, and ran to his companions, who were sitting on a log away from the congregation, to one of whom, in answer to his inquiry, he said, There is a trembling and crying spirit among them, but whether it be the Spirit of God or the devil, I do not know. If it be the devil, the devil go with them, for I will never more venture myself among them! He stood awhile in that resolution, but the enchantment of Mr. Stearns’s voice drew him to the crowd once more. He had not been long there before the trembling seized him also. He attempted to withdraw, but his strength failing, and his understanding being confounded, he, with many others, sank to the ground. When he came to himself he found nothing in him but dread and anxiety, bordering on horror. He continued in this situation some days, and then found relief by faith in Christ.” Mr. Davis afterwards became a successful minister of Jesus. We mention these two well-known cases as illustrations of the extraordinary power attending the preaching of Shubal Stearns.

That he had a remarkable voice and eye is unquestionable; but he was eloquent, wise, humble, pathetic, full of faith, and wholly consecrated to God, and few men ever enjoyed more of the Spirit’s presence in the closet and in preaching the gospel. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest ministers that ever presented Jesus to perishing multitudes, and one of the most successful soul-winners that ever unfurled the banner of Calvary. Had he been a Romish priest, with as flattering a record of service to the church of the popes, long since he would have been canonized, and declared the “patron saint of North Carolina, and fervent supplications would have ascended to the most blessed of American intercessors from devout Catholics, and stately churches would have been dedicated to the holy and blessed St. Shubal Stearns, the apostle of North Carolina and the adjacent States.

Mr. Stearns died Nov. 20, 1771, and his remains were interred near the Sandy Creek church.

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I’m a big “B” Baptist.

I am not posting this one to be boastful or arrogant as the title might suggest. I am simply thankful that I have a heritage of forefathers in the faith who did not compromise the doctrines that I hold dear today. Though many of them have been forgotten, and the revisionists have written them out of the history books, the truth still remains that the very freedoms that you and I hold dear are the result of Baptists. I would guess that the vast majority of the population, even among Baptists, do not know that the Bill of Rights is largely the result of Baptists persuading James Madison to present it to the Congress at it first meeting. Our First amendment rights which read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” is a petition from the Baptist preachers of that day who had a firm belief in “liberty of conscience” and thus believed in the “priesthood of the Believer,” not to bow and submit to the Church of England, Anglican, Puritan, Congregationalist, Quaker or any other group that dared to silence, persecute or stop them from following the Word of God. What a shame that the majority of Baptists today have put their heads in the IRS noose of tax exemption and have incorporated under State law, thus removing Christ as the head of the church and instead looking to Government for help and protection. They should be ashamed! I am not a part of a denomination. I am a Baptist. I am a Christian Believer first, but I am a big “B” Baptist. I am not a Protestant. We never came out of anything but the lost and dying world. Protestants protested against the Roman Catholic Church and all of the Protestant churches still pay her respect. Baptists were butchered to the tune of 50,000,000 during the Dark Ages by the Catholic Church. How foolish to lump us in with Protestants. In a day when many Baptist churches are replacing “Baptist” with words like “Fellowship,” “Gathering,” or “Life Center,” I urge my brothers in the faith to raise the banner high, for we have nothing to be ashamed of. Our forefathers risked everything to pass this liberty on to us, and how dare we give it away for comfort or convenience. We would do well to remember the quote of John Adams, “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

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White as snow.

Isaiah 1:18  Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. This morning I woke up to six inches of snow on everything. It canceled my plans for the day and evening. I resisted the urge to be disgusted with yet another frigid day here in Texas. Instead, I tried to look at the beauty of it all.

God made this weather and it does serve a purpose. Snow works like a blanket to keep the ground warmer than the cold air above. Snow also gives everything a good long drink as it slowly melts away. Besides these agricultural reasons, snow also teaches some spiritual lessons.

When God said “though your sins be a scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” He was making a strong contrast. It you have ever seen blood on the snow, you have never seen something so red in all your life. Salvation is by believing on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Believing “on” means that your trust is put in that very thing. If you are depending upon Christ and His Sacrifice, then you are truly Saved. If you are doing any less than that, you don’t have Salvation. Believing “in” something is different than believing “on” something. Many people believe in airplanes, but would never ride on one. Likewise, many people believe in the historical Jesus, but they have never put their faith in Him, thereby believing on Him to be their Saviour. I hope that you have believed on Christ, but if not, you can do it this very moment. In the old gospel hymn, “Jesus Paid It All,” the above verse is sung about.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow

No matter how dirty and junky a yard, when the snow falls, it all looks beautiful. It makes even the worst neighborhood into a winter wonderland. No matter how sinful and vile the life of a man, woman, boy or girl, when the Blood of Jesus is applied, it is made beautiful. What was once a life of hopelessness and despair becomes a wonderland of hope. The crimson stain of sin is gone and only the blanket of God’s forgiveness covers the Believer. Thank God for the Salvation He provided through the Blood of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and thank God for the snow, which serves as a reminder.

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His Reflection

Proverbs 25:4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.

In the picture to the right we see that a jeweler that is preparing silver for a piece of jewelry. He is melting it by using a torch to heat it to a high temperature in a vessel called a kiln. As he heats it, trash within the silver, called dross, will rise to the surface. The jeweler periodically will skim the surface of the silver, carefully removing the dross and leaving the silver more pure than it was before. This is a process he will repeat over and over until he is done and the silver is ready for use.

This illustration is a very vivid picture of how God works in the life of the Believer. As Paul said in Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” God knew us before He spoke the world into existence. Although He did not select us to go to Heaven, He still knew who would believe on the only begotten Son of God and be born-again. He has had a plan for our lives since before the beginning of creation. The Father also has a process in which He conforms us to this plan. He uses circumstances in our lives to mold us and shape us. Sometimes it seems that He has the heat turned up too high when we face pain and suffering, but it is all a part of His Master plan to conform us to His standard. For you see, when the heat is applied in our lives, the dross of self-reliance and pride are removed, leaving us more like Christ. The Father is not satisfied with a child that is full of corruption. He wants us to be pure.

The jeweler keeps applying heat and skimming dross until the silver is ready for use. Do you know how he can tell when it is ready? It’s when he can see his reflection in the silver. God keeps working till we are conformed into the image of His Son. In other words, He can see His reflection.

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That Old Time Religion

Jude 3 …it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

What a heritage we have as Believers. Never take your faith for granted. Christ allowed His own Blood to be spilled out for you and I and became our Sacrificial Lamb. Never lose the vivid realization of that fact. We are carriers of the torch of salvation. We are messengers of hope. We must embrace that task, for it is given to us by our Saviour. We are the spiritual decendants of martyrs and patriots who spilled their life’s blood on all the continents of the world taking the Light of the world to the darkness of mankind. We must never forget that we bear the baton of the same race they ran before us.

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…

If we don’t run our race, who will run?

 

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