As the son of Charles CIay I fear no man
Elder Eleazer Clay was born August 04, 1744, a rugged Virginian, and when just a boy of 14, he enlisted in the army and fought in the French and Indian War. He moved to Chesterfield County and married Miss Jane Apperson. It was here that he came under deep conviction of sin as a result of the preaching of William Webber, Joseph Anthony, and John Weatherford, who preached through the prison grates. Clay made his profession of faith in Christ in Aug. of 1771, and became a member of the Baptist church, and was soon preaching the gospel of Christ. Col. Cary, magistrate of the county said that he left Elder Clay alone and arrested others for preaching because Clay had a livelihood, and he took the others under the “vagrant law.” Clay was probably the richest preacher in Virginia. He used his wealth to help the other preachers in prison and to build a Baptist meetinghouse that he planted as the first Baptist church in Chesterfield, County. He was not without enemies. A man rode into the yard where he was preaching in a private house and said that he had come to “cowhide him.” Clay said, “I am the son of Charles Clay, and I fear no man. If I have to go out after him, I will give him one of the worst whippings of his life.” Obviously the gentleman didn’t accomplish his objective. Clay pastored the church that he planted for over sixty-years. He loved the Word of God and read his New Testament once each month in addition to his O.T. reading. He went to be with the Lord at 92 years of age. His brother John Clay was one of the imprisoned preachers of Virginia and the great Kentucky statesman Henry Clay was his nephew.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 319-20.
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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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Seven preachers in jail
1771 – William Webber and Joseph Anthony of Virginia as Paul the Apostle were familiar with the inside of crude prisons. Few men in Virginia suffered more persecution than Webber. He was seized in Chesterfield County, Dec. 7, 1770, and imprisoned in the county jail until March 7, 1771. When the two men crossed the James River into Chesterfield County, there was not a Baptist in the entire county. The magistrates, finding that many were turning to righteousness (to madness, as they would state it)…issued warrants and had them apprehended and cast into prison. The order book of Chesterfield County, No. 4, page 489, Jan. 4, 1771, records that they were brought into court on a warrant for misbehavior for itinerant preaching…being of the sect commonly called Anabaptists. They were fined 150 pounds each and told not to return to the county for the space of one year. At one time there were seven Baptist preachers confined in the Chesterfield County jail. Webber and Anthony preached twice per week. Large congregations gathered to hear them as they preached through the grates of the prison. There were times of great revival and scores of conversions of souls turning to Christ under those windows. Baptist principles were largely advertised in Chesterfield County at the expense of the state.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 05-06.
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