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110 — April 20 – This Day in Baptist History Past

The unknown Apostle of Liberty
1676 – On this day one of the greatest of our Baptist leaders and American founders, Dr. John Clarke, died.  He was born in London in 1609 and became skilled as a physician when apprenticed to a doctor.  His fame lies in the founding of Rhode Island with Roger Williams and one of the first Baptist churches in America.  He also, along with Williams, laid the principles of religious and civil liberty which led to the First Amendment to our Constitution.  His journey toward the Baptists after leaving Anglicanism saw him going first to the dissenters and then he moved to Leyden, Holland, to flee persecution.  It was there that he came in contact with some Baptists but he was yet to travel to America, join the Puritans, become disgusted with their intolerance toward the Baptists and other dissenters and finally become a Baptist pastor himself.  But no doubt his greatest achievement was securing a permanent charter for Rhode Island.  He spent twelve years in England to do it, first trying through Cromwell and then finally through King Charles II after he was restored to the throne.  This Baptist charter on religious liberty was the first charter on total religious liberty in the history of the human race.  It read in part, “Our royal will is, that no person within said Colony, at any time…, shall be…molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for differences of opinion in matters of religion, that do not actually disturb the civil peace of said Colony…not using this liberty to licentiousness and profaneness, not to civil injury or outward disturbance of others…”  What a great debt we owe John Clarke.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, p. 160.
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