Author of Soul Liberty in CT
1772 – Stephen Smith Nelson was born to Thomas and Ann Nelson of Middleboro, Mass. His conversion to Christ was at age fourteen and he was baptized by William Nelson, a near relative, and became a member of the Baptist church in his home town, whose pastor was the celebrated Isaac Backus, the great advocate of religious liberty. Stephen graduated from Brown U. in 1794, and continued his studies under Dr. Samuel Stillman, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Boston. At 24 he was licensed to preach, and after filling the pulpit at Hartford Conn., he was ordained in 1798. The church met in several places including the old courthouse, and though it was crude in appearance, and they had rough furniture, they experience the remarkable presence of God, and more than one hundred converts were baptized into the church. Nelson took an active part in preparing “The Baptist Petition,” a remonstrance addressed to the Conn. Legislature, supporting absolute soul liberty, which was accomplished in 1818, with the disestablishing of the state church. He was also one of those appointed by the Danbury Baptist Association to write a congratulatory letter to Thomas Jefferson which was answered with the famous “Wall of Separation” quote which we still here about today. Nelson ended his life in Amherst, Mass., preaching to feeble and destitute churches. He always enjoyed a fruitful ministry wherever he preached. He died at 82 years of age in 1853. [Wm. B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit (New York: Robert Carter and Bros., 1865), 6:366. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 545-46.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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