Clarke’s church became distinctly Baptist
John Clarke was born in Suffolk County, England on October 03, 1609, and received pedo-baptism five days later. Because the University of Leyden shows a “Johannes Clarke” among its students in 1635, some conclude that he attended that famous Dutch school and while there became acquainted with Dutch Baptists. Clarke was a reputable physician, occasionally a lawyer, an able statesman and diplomat, and a successful Baptist pastor. He was certainly an important instrument in the establishment of religious liberty in Rhode Island and the American colonies. He along with many other early Baptists in America, step by step embraced Baptist principles. Often they left the English state church (Anglican) and joined the ranks of the Dissenters because they were moved by the horrible persecutions of the sects, and then they were ultimately persuaded of believers baptism and freedom of conscience as biblical truth. The corruption among the state-church clergy, spiritual deadness were also other catalysts. The belief that Baptist principles were rooted in the Word of God caused John Clarke to separate from the Puritans in New England. We do know that he was one that was relieved of his weapons by Boston authorities in 1637 on suspicion of being “tinged with anabaptism.” There was a church in Portsmouth by 1638 that had two factions. One group held for the authority of the “inner light,” and the other held for the authority of the written Scripture. The controversy led to a division, and the church scattered. Clarke led a group and set up a church at Newport, Rhode Island, where, under his leadership, it became distinctly Baptist. Satan tried to destroy this church through schisms of various kinds, but it remained for the rest of the century, as one of the leading Baptist churches in America.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 410-11.