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William Andrew Dillard

The title is paradoxical. To say that there is a church is to say that it exists, but to say there is a church that does not exist is a contradiction of thoughts. Yet, I have read about such a church, and I am sure you have, too. In newspapers and magazines, it will not be unusual to read of “the Baptist church.” This reflects a thought pattern of the church being universal. Of course, expressions of “the Catholic church,” the Methodist church,” etc. are more nearly correct since Catholic and Protestant churches consider themselves to be universal. Catholic theology points to a universal, visible church while Protestants point to a universal invisible church.
So, to which of these lines of theological thought do Baptist churches generally subscribe? Neither! It is the Bible presentation that the true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ are both visible and local. Each church is totally independent under the headship of Christ Jesus. There is no ecclesiastical (preacher) authority. There is no hierarchy. There is no little church/ big church difference in the eyes of the Lord. All are local assemblies, answerable only to God, with the full weight and responsibility of carrying out the commands of Christ as though they were the only congregation on earth. The only headquarters of the Lord’s churches is in heaven. His churches have equal authority to win disciples, baptize them, teach them, and administer the ordinances according to the Word. A church simply cannot get any more independent than to have the independence God gave to it to represent Him on earth. But, a church can get a lot less independent by subscribing to false doctrines, practices, and acquiescing to the designs and schemes of men. The purpose of such is usually for the sake of “business advantage” and/or to capture congregational power to enhance economic, political, and strained theological activity that God never commanded or intended.
There is no such thing as a biblically recognized, universal church on earth whether visible or invisible! Jesus set in motion a local congregation and empowered it to do likewise in carrying out the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20. I understand “Johnson Street Baptist Church” or a church by some other name that distinguishes it as a local assembly in a specific location or in a specified dedication of service. I do not understand nor will I accept the terminology of “The Baptist Church.” It is a church that simply does not exist.

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294 – Oct 21 – This Day in Baptist History Past


Joy lighted up in the countenance of the saints

 October 21, 1795 – David Irish established the first Baptist church in Scipio, New York. He had settled there a year earlier having been sent by the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Society which made a great spiritual impact as the population moved westward.

Irish was one of those early rugged Baptist pioneers. He was doubtless the first to preach the gospel in Cayuga County. In 1799, with some of the brethren from Scipio he organized a church at Phelpstown.  The roads being totally impassable for traveling on horseback by reason of the great depth of snow and mud, they walked the thirty miles; all but one made it.

In 1797 Irish planted the Baptist church in Manchester (then Farmington, N.Y.), a journey of 50 miles through unbroken forest. He also evangelized the “Holland Purchase” and in 1810 organized the Baptist church in Willink (Aurora, Erie County).

David Irish passed away on Sept. 10, 1815 after a fruitful, pioneering missionary life. He baptized 1,280 persons during his ministry.

The following quote is from his diary: “The opportunity appeared exceedingly solemn and important. After sermon, we repaired to the water, singing one of Zion’s songs. Here ten precious souls followed the blessed Redeemer into his watery tomb…Joy lighted up in the countenance of the saints; while sinners trembled, as if the judgement day were approaching.”  It was said that, “Elder Irish was indefatigable in labor, patient in fatigue, and easily surmounted many obstacles which would deter one possessed of a mindless resolute. The thinly inhabited counties that he ministered required qualities that he held to be successful.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 436-38.

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261 – Sept. 18 – This Day in Baptist History Past

He saw more than 10,000 conversions

 Elder Jabez Smith Swan preached the last Sunday of a five week evangelistic effort on Sept. 18, 1842 that began on August 14 in Mystic, Conn. Those present said that he was truly ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s day’, as he preached with great power. After the first baptism, there were daily baptisms in Mystic for twenty-six successive days, and sometimes twice daily. More than four hundred persons were baptized during that period. Almost every house was turned into a house of prayer. Swan was born in Stonington, Conn. on Feb. 23, 1800 and at fourteen had “given a good account of himself” as a powder boy in the defense of his town in the War of 1812. He moved to Lyme with his parents, Joshua and Esther and had a deep conversion experience when he was twenty-one years old and was baptized by Rev. William Palmer. He was called to preach, studied at the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institute, and was ordained to the gospel ministry on June 20, 1827. He pastored several churches but always returned to evangelism. He died in 1884 after seeing more than 10,000 conversions, most of them baptized. [F. Dennison, The Evangelist, or Life and Labors of Rev. Jabez S. Swan (Waterford, Conn.,: Wm. L. Peckham, 1873), pp. 193-95, 203-4. Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 511-13.

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Shine as the Stars

How unlikely that a pastor who lived his entire life from birth to death in a rural area would ever have such godly influence as to baptize almost 5,000 people.  In the country churchyard of Bethel Baptist Church in Charlotte County, Virginia, a modest grave marker designates the resting place of the body of the beloved pastor Elijah White Roach.  How fitting that the words of Daniel 12:3 have been incised on the marker: “They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever.”

In coming to maturity, Elijah made a profession of faith and became a member of the local Baptist church.  As he matured spiritually and developed leadership, he was invited occasionally to preach.  At that time, a seasoned pastor, Abram Poindexeter, took Elijah under his wing and began to train him for Christian service.  Elijah’s ability in the pulpit grew, and the following year a church building was constructed in Midway and thirteen members constituted the new church, and Elijah was ordained and became the pastor of that congregation.  The church grew immediately.  He preached two hundred times a year and kept up with pastoral visitation.  Other congregations were formed, and in time Elijah was pastoring four such churches.  Elijah W. Roach preached into his eighty-seventh year.  In fact on the Lord’s Day before his home-going, he preached at the Midway Baptist Church, then arriving home on Monday, he fell asleep in Jesus.  Great crowds gathered for his funeral, and the text used was the goal of his life.  “They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever.”

Dr. Dale R. Hart, adapted from: This Day in Baptist History III (David L. Cummins), pp. 112-114.


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Daniel Marshall  Baptized Samuel Harris.
“the arrow of the Almighty stuck fast.”
 Samuel Harris led the charge for the Separate Baptists in Virginia.  He was born, Jan. 12, 1724 but not born again until 1758.  He was a nobleman, in that he held several positions of honor.  He served as sheriff, colonel of the militia, and captain of Fort Mayo.  But under the preaching of the Murphy boys he said that, “the arrow of the Almighty stuck fast.”  Daniel Marshall baptized him, and he was ordained in 1769.  He first preached in Culpepper County but was driven out of town by a mob.  In Orange County he was pulled from the platform by a roughneck and abused until rescued by friends.  On another occasion he was knocked down while preaching.  However, even then he didn’t suffer as other Baptist preachers did.  Take the case of “Swearing Jack Waller.”  He was on the jury at the trial of Lewis Craig.  Craig told the jury, “I take joyfully the spoiling of my goods for Christ’s sake.  While I lived in sin the jury took no notice of me.”  John Waller’s heart was melted and he was saved and in time became an honored Separate Baptist preacher.  One time while he was preaching he was assaulted by an Anglican parson and a sheriff.  The parson stuffed his whip handle down his throat but he returned and continued to preach.  John Taylor, John Koontz, William Webber, David Barrow, Lewis Lunsford, John Pickett, James Ireland, and Elijah Baker all suffered at the hands of mobs as they attempted to preach the gospel.  Sometimes snakes were thrown into their midst.  Many attacks were made at their baptism’s.  At times preachers were plunged into the mud with the threat of drowning.  It could surely be said of them that they were sent forth as, “sheep among wolves.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. IIII: Cummins /, pp. 24-26.

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On Jan. 10, 1887, the Baptists of Burma sent a reply to the Anglican Bishop of Rangoon, Burma, and the British and American Bible Societies request made in 1886 to reprint Judson’s Burmese translation but with one change – replacing “immerse” with the transliteration “baptize.”  Judson’s reply to an earlier request had been, “I would rather lose my right hand than tamper with the Word of God.”  The Baptists said that they understand that they want to use the transliteration “baptize” or a neutral word that all denominations might use, rather than the word “immerse”, “not on the ground that [it] is an incorrect or inadequate translation of the Greek word, but because it is not acceptable to other denominations of Christians.  You seem to regard it as more important to please these other denominations than to make the Burman version mean the same thing to the Burman that the Greek Testament means to the Greek…We are compelled to decline.”  After giving several supporting reasons to back up this opening statement the letter closes with this poignant thought: “What you really mean is, that you will not circulate such a version if it be made by Baptists…you will circulate it if made or used by a people who say, ‘I immerse thee,’ when they simply apply their wet fingers to the forehead of the candidate…” J.N. Murdock,  Cor.[esponding] Secretary.  As David L. Cummins says, “May we be as faithful as these Baptists in upholding the truth of God’s Word”!
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. IIII: Cummins /, pp. 20-22.

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