Twelve Baptists in Prison at One Time
John Waller wrote the following letter from the Urbana Prison, Middlesex County, Virginia, on August 12, 1771, at the height of the persecution of Baptists in America. There were twelve Baptists in prison at one time, and it gives insight as to their treatment as well as the success of their ministries while incarcerated. “Dear Brother in the Lord, at a meeting…at Bro. McCain’s, last Sat. while Wm. Webber was preaching from James 2:18, Capt. James Montague, a magistrate came running toward him…followed by the parson of the parish and several others. The magistrate and another took hold of Bro. Webber, dragging him from the stage, delivered him with Brethren Wafford, Robert Ware, Richard Falkner, James Greenwood, and myself, into custody, and commanded that we should be brought before him for trial.
Bro. Wafford was severely scourged, and Bro. Henry Street received one lash from one of the persecutors…we were examined for firearms. We were charged with mutiny against the authority of the land. Finding none, we were asked if we had a license to preach in this county; and learning we had not, it was required of us to give bond and security not to preach anymore in the county, which we modestly refused to do, whereupon after dismissing Brother Wafford with the charge to make his escape out of the county by 12 o’clock the next day on pain of imprisonment, and dismissing Bro. Faulkner, the rest of us were delivered to the sheriff and sent to close jail, with a charge not to allow us to walk in the air until court day. Yesterday we had a large number of people hear us preach, some great ones heard us preach on the new birth.
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