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Baptists – The Authors of Soul-Liberty

Isaac Backus-Baptist Historian

Back in 1898, Charles F. James wrote, “there has been manifested at various times…a disposition to rewrite the history…, and to rob our Baptist forefathers of the peculiar honor which has ever been claimed for them, that of being the foremost, most zealous, and most consistent and unwavering champions of soul liberty.”  If he were living today he would know that he was right more than ever.  In the early days of America’s existence there were two Baptist historians, one well known and the other quite obscure.  The one quite know was Isaac Backus who wrote the History of New England from 1620-1804.  The other was John Cromer who was born on Aug. 1, 1704 and died on May 23, 1734.  The brevity of his life kept him from his goal of writing a history but he kept a detailed diary.  In his entry of March 3, 1729, he wrote: “A number of Baptists, Churchmen, and Quakers, 30 persons, of Rehoboth Township, were committed to Bristol (Massachusetts) jail.”  It was because they would not pay the Congregational minister’s salary.  On March 10 he wrote, “I went to visit the prisoners at Bristol with Mr. Stephen Groton.  Upon the request of the prisoners I preached this day in the old prison at Bristol, from Psalm 86:11.  Sundry of the town attended the meeting.”  May we never forget the price that others paid for the liberty that we enjoy and may we be willing to pay the same price that they paid.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 143 – 144.

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The man whom time forgot

Elder Jacob Knapp, probably the most successful evangelist of the 19th century has never been heard of by most of the people who lived after the turn of the 20th and certainly by those who live now.  He died on March 2, 1874 and even though his funeral was conducted on the following Lord’s Day and lasted from 1 p.m. until sunset, a visiting Baptist historian had a difficult time finding his gravesite in the Greenwood cemetery in Rockford, IL.  It would be like Billy Graham dying and fifty years from now, people would say, “Billy who?”  It is estimated that Knapp preached 16,000 sermons and approximately one hundred thousand persons were converted to Christ under his Spirit filled meetings, and out of those, two hundred fifty men entered the gospel ministry.  And yet as the 21st Century dawned, it seemed as if no one cared where Elder Knapp had been buried.   If we are serving the Lord for the recognition, glory or reward that we will receive in this life, we should think again why we are in the Lord’s work, because people do have short memories.  But it is wonderful to know that our Lord will not forget our labor of love.  Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. [Isaiah 49:15]

Dr. Greg J. Dixon, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 127-128.


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