“Not many noble”
The great Baptist preacher and leader in the early days of our Republic, John Leland’s description of Elijah Baker was quite revealing. He said that he was “a man of low parentage, small learning and confined abilities. But with one talent, he did more than many do with five.” It reminds us of the words of Paul at 1 Cor 1:26 – “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” God is looking for availability not ability. Baker, one of the early Baptist ministers, was greatly used of God to establish all of the churches between Hampton and Richmond City, and several on the eastern shore in Virginia. This success brought the wrath of Satan upon him, and he became the object of much abuse. He was often pelted with apples and stones while he was preaching. Once he was taken by Ruffians and placed on a ship with orders to land him on any coast out of America. He refused to work and was treated poorly when he preached and sang. Contrary winds kept the ship in harbor so he was placed on another one. When the storm continued to rage they thought it could be that they had taken the preacher so they put him on another ship. He continued to sing and preach until they put him off permanently. Then they put him in debtor’s prison on July 1, 1778 in the Accomac County Jail. The case was continued on the 29th of July and it lasted until Aug. 25. Altogether he had spent 56 days in prison, but he invested his time in preaching and prayer. Since liberty in VA had been granted two years prior, the charge was vagrancy rather than preaching without a license. And the plaintiffs were Anglican churchmen rather than state officials. This prison still stands today and there is a memorial to Elijah Baker who preached the First Baptist sermon here.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 310-11.
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They named him “Christmas”
Perhaps the greatest Baptist preacher that Great Britain ever produced was the Welsh preacher Christmas Evans. Born on Christmas Day 1766 into an impoverished home, he lost his father when only nine years old, and spent the next few years with a disreputable uncle. When he was 15 he still couldn’t read but when he was 18 he was converted and joined the Presbyterians. He was six feet tall and His very presence spoke of leadership and they urged him to preach. The development of his untrained mind is an amazing story. He learned to read his Welsh Bible in one month. He read every book in the scant local libraries. “He became skilled in Hebrew, Greek and English.” With a desire to expose the Anabaptists, he studied the New Testament carefully and came to the conclusion that there were no verses that taught infant sprinkling and at least forty for baptism on profession of faith. In 1788 Christmas was immersed in the River Duar by the Rev. Timothy Thomas. He began a pastoral ministry until he was called to the Isle of Anglesea in 1791. There were two chapels and 8 preaching stations. Spiritual deadness prevailed when he began his 35 year ministry. In a short time the Isle was revived, and by 1826 the preaching stations multiplied to scores, and 28 preachers flooded the Isle with the message of grace. He traveled to Velin Voel for an associational meeting in 1794. After two ministers had addressed the assembly in the heat of the open air, Christmas Evans was asked to speak. He spoke for 3 hours on the Demoniac of Gadara. This became his landmark sermon. He lost an eye early in life but the one eye it was said was like a brilliant star, it shined like Venus. On his death bed, he waved his hand as if with Elijah in the chariot of fire, and cried the words of an old Welsh hymn: “Wheel about, coachman, drive on!”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 295-97.
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Imprisoned three times
The story of John Corbley is one of sacrifice and heroism. Born in Ireland in 1738, he came to America at the age of fourteen, settling first in eastern Pennsylvania, but later moving to Virginia, where he was soundly converted under the preaching of James Ireland. Shortly thereafter he became a Baptist preacher, and preached with such power that the Episcopal Establishment in Virginia considered him worthy of imprisonment, rewarding him shortly thereafter with a cell in the Culpeper jail. On the very site of that old jail there stands a thriving Baptist church today. When brought into court, John Corbley conducted his own defense, and was acquitted of all charges in 1768, although he suffered much abuse and physical violence later.
John Corbley was known as the ablest preacher of his day. For thirty years he directed the planting of Baptist churches in western Pennsylvania. Imprisoned three times and married three times, having buried two wives, these experiences of sunshine and shadow served only to deepen his spiritual life and magnify his usefulness. Active to the very end, he entered into rest June 9, 1803, his funeral sermon being preached by Elder David Phillips, pastor of the Peter’s Creek Baptist church. His mortal remains lie buried in the cemetery within the shadow of the old Goshen church, Whitley, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/Cummins) pp. 237.
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He followed his father
The name “Stennett” for many years was associated with “Baptist preacher” in England, for Samuel Stennett’s “great-grandfather Edward, his grandfather Joseph, and his father…whose name was also Joseph, were well known Baptist ministers and citizens in that day.” Also his brother Joseph Stennett, and his son, Joseph, were also Baptist ministers.” Samuel however was the most famous of this preaching family. Born in Exeter, he became proficient in the Greek, Latin, and Oriental languages. He fell under conviction as a young man and was baptized by his father which began an association with the Baptist church in Little Wild Street that would last for over fifty years. On June 30, 1747 the church called him to assist his father and ten years later he assumed the pastorate and was ordained on June 1, 1758, which was led by the famed theologian, John Gill. On entering the pastorate, he said to his congregation, “I tremble at the thought.” For forty-seven years Stennett served the church and was an outstanding leader for religious liberty. Numerical growth was experienced and the church buildings rebuilt. Stennett wrote several volumes, but more importantly, several of his hymns have survived the test of time one of which is, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.” Another is Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned.” These hymns of adoration and anticipation have lasted for more than two hundred years. The death of Mrs. Stennett was a great blow to the man of God. His sermons were especially remembered during that time for their blessing. He said to his son, “Christ is to me the Chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.” On Aug. 25, 1795, at 68 years, he passed into glory and his body was buried in Bunhills Fields among the Baptist dissenters.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson/, p. 225.
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Beaten with rods
1832 – On this day the mortal remains of the colonial Baptist preacher, John Koontz, was laid to rest in the little family grave yard, not far from the Shenandoah River, in what later became, Page County, Virginia. He was the first preacher to arouse perishing souls from their slumber in that area of the country. He also aroused the enemy of the gospel too as they used every method to discourage him from proclaiming the gospel. At Smith’s Creek he was threatened with beatings if he returned, but return he did, only to be beaten by a “son of Belial” with the butt end of a large cane, until he almost disabled the preacher. But the preacher refused to promise that he would not return. Later he was in a home with a companion named Martin Kaufman, waiting for the service to start, when Koontz heard a man inquiring about him, he stepped into another room, the man mistaking Kaufman for him, began beating him until they could convince him that he wasn’t the preacher. On another occasion Koontz was imprisoned, a man trying to rescue him was beaten. Koontz warned them to take heed what they did because if he was a man of God, they would be fighting against God. Immediately one of the men was alarmed and relented, soon the others followed and it wasn’t long until that man and two or three of the others became Baptists themselves. According to Dr. E. Wayne Thompson, who has been there, West of Luray, Virginia, on U.S. Route 211 is the “White House Bridge.” It is named for a white house which can be seen a few hundred yards downriver. John Koontz and the early Baptists met in this house and ultimately planted the Mill Creek Baptist Church in 1772. In a nearby gravesite beside the highway lies the body of John Koontz’s companion, Martin Kaufman.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, p. 167.
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He preached with great power
1722 – WARRANTS WERE ISSUED AGAINST A BAPTIST PREACHER IN LOUDON COUNTY, VIRGINIA IN 1766 – Richard Major was born on February 6, 1722 near Pennsbury, Pennsylvania into a Presbyterian home. Early on under conviction of sin he would resort to bad company to ward it off but finally grace prevailed and he became an ardent believer. He became a Baptist in 1764 and moved to Loudon County, VA, in 1766. Though he had not much schooling he was self-taught in the school of Christ, and became ordained, and was called to pastor the Little River Church, of which came six or eight other churches. Major encountered much opposition from the authorities. Warrants were issued for his arrest, but the officers never took him. At Bull Run a mob armed with clubs rose to assist in the execution of a warrant, but the Davis brothers, giants of men, after hearing him preach became enamored with him and threatened to whip anyone who disturbed his preaching. A particular man, whose wife Major had baptized, went to a meeting to kill him but the Lord intervened, and the man became so convicted that he couldn’t stand and was afterwards baptized by Major. On another occasion, a man attacked him with a club, Major said, “Satan I command thee to come out of the man.” The club immediately fell to the ground, and the lion became like a lamb. He had many other similar incidents happen in his ministry. Major was highly esteemed in his latter years which caused him great alarm because of the scripture, “beware when all men speak well of you.” His mind was eased when he overheard someone charging him with an abominable crime. The house where he lived, a stately red brick home still stands near Chantilly, VA, and a few hundred feet behind the house is his grave marked by a weathered landmark of our early Baptist history in America.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 50.
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Posted: 03 Feb 2014 12:00 PM PST
Chesterfield, County, VA
Being a Baptist was a crime
1774 – DAVID TINSLEY AND HIS FELLOW BAPTISTS, WERE DEFENDED BY PATRICK HENRY FOR PREACHING WITHOUT A LICENSE – David Tinsley was arrested on February 4, 1774. According to the Order Book of Chesterfield County, Virginia, Number 5, page 400, the charges were as follows: “David Tinsley being committed, charged with having assembled and preached to the people at sundry times and places in this county as a Baptist preacher, and the said David, acknowledging in court that he has done so. On consideration thereof the court being of opinion that the same is the breach of the peace & good behavior, It is ordered that he give surety…of the penalty of 50 pounds & two sureties in penalty of 25 pounds each.” This means that his crime was preaching the gospel as a Baptist. March 4 of the same year, Archibald W. Roberts was indicted for using hymns and poems instead of the psalms of David following communion and the sermon. Tinsley was confined for four months and 16 days in which he and fellow prisoners preached to the assembled crowds through the grates of the prison. The Association meeting at Hall’s Meeting House in Halifax County passed a resolution on behalf of the suffering preachers and received an offering for their defense. The money was wrapped in a handkerchief and sent to Patrick Henry to defend the preachers. Finally the jailers erected a wall over the window of the jail but when the crowd gathered a handkerchief on a pole told the preachers that the people were ready to hear and they commenced to preach. Those gathered became known as the “bandana brigade.” Fasting and prayer gained their release. There were only two more arrests, one in 1775 and the other in 1778 before permanent liberty was secured. There were many conversions however.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 47.
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He was named for Daniel Boone
1880 – The first children were admitted to the Buckner Orphan’s Home in Texas which was established by Dr. R.C. Buckner, the fourth child of Rev. Daniel Buckner from the State of Tennessee. Daniel and his wife Mary had five children. The oldest, Dr. H.F. Buckner, spent thirty-five years as a missionary to the Creek Indians and translated the Gospel of John into their language. Their third, Miriam gave birth to another well known Baptist preacher, Dr. A. J. Holt. Daniel was born on Sept. 30, 1801 and his father Henry, originally from S.C., before moving to Cocke County, Tenn. was a personal friend of Daniel Boone, so you know where Daniel got his name. It was claimed that fifteen Baptist preachers came from the ranks of the Buckner clan. Daniel was saved at the age of fifteen and walked twelve miles to be baptized by Elder Caleb Witt, pastor of the Lick Creek Baptist Church in Greene County. He was then licensed to preach at twenty-two, and in 1827 he was ordained by the Chestua Baptist Church in Monroe, County. As a young preacher he successfully planted and pastored several churches. During the 1830’s, because of the strong opposition to missions he was appointed a “missionary” by the State Convention, and traveled extensively challenging churches to obey the Great Commission and his “pay” was fifty cents per day. He received constant verbal attacks by the anti-mission forces, even being excluded from his home church. He died at 84 having baptized over five thousand converts. On his grave stone it says, Psalm 116:7 “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” [This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 659-60. J. J. Burnett. Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers (Nashville: Press of Marshall and Bruce Company, 1919), pp. 81-82.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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Fundamentalism v Liberalism
1910 – Lyman Stewart, a godly business man, recounted in a letter to Dr. A.C. Dixon regarding the first meeting between the two in the Auditorium of the Los Angeles Baptist Temple in 1909. Dr. Dixon had made a trip to California to speak. In one of his sermons he tore into the liberalism that was contaminating many from the University of Chicago. Stewart was in the audience and requested a meeting with the famed preacher who had pastored, at one time, the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and the Spurgeon’s Tabernacle in London. Stewart proposed that Dr. Dixon should edit a series of booklets, which Stewart and his brother would finance, to counteract the liberalism of the day. Thus was born The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. The first issue of twelve paperback volumes were sent free of charge to approximately 175,000 preachers in America. Though it did not stop modernism it was mightily used of God to strengthen the faith of Fundamentalists throughout the land and prepare them for the Fundamentalist-liberal battle in the days ahead. Dr. Dixon was born into the family of Thomas Dixon an outstanding Baptist preacher in Shelby, N.C. on July 6, 1854. At the age of 12 he received Christ and was baptized along with 97 other converts. He was called of God to preach and studied theology under Dr. John A. Broadus at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Greenville, S.C. He pastored several Baptist churches including the Hanson Park Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1893 he was associated with Evangelist D.L. Moody in a Month long Revival Meeting at the World’s Fair. [Gerald L. Priest, A.C. Dixon, Chicago Liberals, and the Fundamentals. (Detroint Baptist Seminary Journal,) 1:113-14. (This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 630-32] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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He refused the “Test Oath”
1866 – Rev. B.F. Kenny, a respected Baptist minister, of Daviess County in Missouri, was arrested on three indictments found against him by a grand jury for the crime of preaching the gospel without taking the ‘Test Oath’. The State Convention had inserted this oath into the new constitution on Jan. 6, 1865, at the close of the Civil War, making it mandatory for pastors to vow loyalty to the state above Christ and His Word. 400 pastors out of the 450 in the state suffered rather than bowing until the act was repealed by the Supreme Court of the U.S. on Jan. 14, 1867. Several of them were imprisoned. Rev. J.H. Luther, Editor of the Missouri Baptist Journal was arrested, held on $1,000 bond, to answer the charge of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ without re-ordination from the commissioner of the state church. Another Baptist preacher was dragged from his home at mid-night, pistol whipped and beaten, and warned to leave the county because he refused to sign the ‘test oath’. [R.S. Duncan, A History of the Baptists in Missouri (St. Louis: Scammell & Co. Publishers, 1882), pp. 926-27. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 496-97.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon