Tag Archives: Isaac Backus

295 – Oct 22 – This Day in Baptist History Past



Gone to the Baptists’

Oct. 22, 1795 – Was the day that Baptist historian and pastor, Isaac Backus heard Stephen Parsons preach, according to an entry in Backus’ diary. Parsons, a native of Middletown, Conn., and a member of the Separatist Congregational church in his home town became pastor of the branch that formed in Westfield, Conn. in 1788. However, in 1795, after much study on the subject, Parsons rejected infant baptism and was dismissed from his church.

Parsons was baptized by Elder Abel Palmer, Pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Colchester, Conn. Seven of his former members went with him and they formed a Baptist church in Westfield. Later Parsons became pastor of the Baptist church in Whiteboro, N.Y. The split in the Congregational Church started with the Revivals of George Whitefield. The decadent Congregational churches were inundated with new converts from the Whitefield and other revivals of that era. In time the new, on fire converts left, and started new Congregational churches called “Separates” or “New Lights.”

The new churches however were cut off from the tax revenues for the upkeep of their church buildings and pastors salaries. At this point, absent infant baptism they were only a step away from being Baptists. Coen says it well: ‘Gone to the Baptists’ is a frequent entry in the record books of the Separate churches beside the names of former members who had adopted the principle of believer’s, as opposed to infant’s baptism.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon: from This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp.  577 – 78.

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288 – Oct. 15 – This Day in Baptist History Past

A Baptist Mother in jail for her faith

October 15, 1752 – Mrs. Elizabeth Backus, the 54 year old widowed mother of Rev. Isaac Backus, was arrested from her home by the “collectors” about 9 o’clock, one dark rainy night in Norwich, Massachusetts for not paying the tax for the support of the Congregational pastor in her area. Many Baptist women as well as aged men were imprisoned for their refusal to conform in many of the colonies but the worse persecution was in Mass.

In a letter of Nov. 4, Mrs. Backus relates to her son Isaac some of the ordeal that she and others endured at that time. She said that her son Samuel “lay in prison 20 days.” She was there for 13 days and while she was there she endured much cruel mocking, laughter, and “was bound when cast into this furnace yet was loosed and found Jesus in the midst of a furnace with me…Now the prison looked like a palace to me. Oh the love flowed out to all mankind! Then I could forgive as I would desire to be forgiven, and love my neighbor as myself.

Deacon Griswold was put in prison the 8th of Oct;; and yesterday old brother Grover; and they are in pursuit of others, all which calls for humiliation. The Church has appointed the 13th of Nov. to be spent in prayer and fasting on that account…

In 1770 when the Baptists of Ashfield, Mass. refused to pay the tax for the support of the Congregational minister, 398 acres of their lands were seized, together with their homes, cattle, crops, and graveyards-from many families, and sold to pay the tax.

In year 1728, an Act was passed by the General Court of Mass., exempting Baptists from the tax; but as it relieved the persons only, but left the property it was of little service. That elderly men and women should suffer, such is our Baptist heritage.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 427-429.

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287 – Oct. 14 – This Day in Baptist History Past


Baptists responsible for First Amendment

October 14, 1774 – Dr. James Manning read the petition from the Warren Baptist Association to the representatives from the State of Massachusetts.

The call for the Continental Congress had actually originated in that state and the Baptists had asked that their concerns for religious liberty be heard by their state delegation. The meeting was held in Boston at Carpenters Hall and after the petition was read Rev. Isaac Backus explained it. John Adams, leader of the Mass. delegation, was obviously upset by the plea from the Baptists. Answering the grievances of the Baptists, John Adams gave a lengthy speech, and Samuel Adams spoke as well. Both of them claimed, “There is indeed an ecclesiastical establishment in our province but a very slender one, hardly to be called an establishment.” In their lengthy reply, they attempted to divide the Baptist brethren, but Backus replied, “It is absolutely a point of conscience with me; for I cannot give in the certificates they require [i.e., a complicated exemption certificate], without implicitly acknowledging that power in man which I believe belongs only to God.”

John Adams closed the four-hour discussion with a promise that the Mass. delegates would do what they could for the relief of the Baptists, then, according to Backus, added these words: ‘Gentlemen, if you mean to try to effect a change in Massachusetts laws respecting religion, you many as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens!” Unfortunately that promise was not kept. “John Adams returned home and reported that Mr. Backus had been to Philadelphia to try to break up the union of the colonies.”

Dr. Dr. Greg J. Dixon from This Day in Baptist History I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 426-27.

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245 – Sept. 02 – This Day in Baptist History Past



Isaac Backus

She didn’t pay the tax because she was a Baptist

 The Ecclesiastical tax, which was approved by some colonies in early America which forced Baptists to pay assessments for the upkeep of churches of various denominations, usually Congregational or Anglican, was most obnoxious to early Baptists. For many years Baptists, both men and women, suffered because of these regulations. On September 2, 1774, Mrs. Martha Kimball sent a letter to the Rev. Isaac Backus relating her experience in this matter. She related the following: She said that the year was 1768 and the event took place on a cold winters’ night, about 9 or 10 o’clock. She was taken prisoner by the tax collector from her family, consisting of three small children. She was detained in a tavern on the way to jail to pay the sum of 4-8 LM (Legal Money) for the ministerial rate. She said that the reason she refused paying it before is because she was a Baptist and belonged to the Baptist society in Haverhill, and had carried in a certificate to the assessors. Thus they dealt with a poor widow woman in Bradford, Mass. She went on to say that after she paid what they demanded, upon threats of jail, that they released her from the tavern and she walked the two miles in the bitter weather back to her children. So in early colonial America, the Baptists were forced to support the “Standing Order” churches while financially caring for their own also. This was the climate that the First Amendment grew out of. It was the Baptists and other non-conformist churches that were responsible for the religious liberty amendment in the Bill of Rights, not the Protestants as we so often hear.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp.  362- 63.

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Backus, IsaacBaptists chose Liberty over Tolerance

The members of the First Baptist Church of Middleborough, Massachusetts, no doubt were sore grieved when their pastor, the Rev. Isaac Backus posted the following notice on July 16, 1759 which read in part, “Whereas by a late Law of this Province it is enacted that a List of the Names of those who belong to each Baptist Society (Church) must be taken each year and given in to the Assessors before the 20th of July or else they will stand liable to be Rated to the ministers where they live:…” In other words Baptists could get an “exemption” from paying the Congregational ministers salary and the upkeep of their church buildings, if they could prove that they were faithful in their own services.  Backus spent a great deal of time fighting to eradicate state support for the Standing Order churches. He said that it was not only “taxation without representation” but it robbed the Baptists of their property and livestock to pay the tax that Baptists would not pay out of conviction, and also stole money from them that they could use to build their own meeting houses and pay their preachers.  Baptists rejoiced in Jan. 1786 when Virginia passed their act for Religious Freedom.  It said, “…no man shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”  There is a vast difference between “Tolerance and Liberty.” Tax exemption is based on the recipient asking for the privilege from a higher authority and meeting certain demands. The other is recognizing that liberty comes from God and demanding from our public servants that they guarantee those inalienable rights as embodied in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 291-92.

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Baptists struggled for liberty
1778 – On this very day, two young evangelists Isaiah Parker and Samuel Fletcher, were persecuted by mobs as they attempted to preach on the streets of Pepperell, Massachusetts, according to an entry in the diary of Isaac Backus.  Unwilling to surrender to the pressure the young men visited Pepperell several times during the spring and summer.  During a visit on June 26, however, a real blowup took place as six converts presented themselves for baptism.  On Sept. on that year, Backus makes an entry concerning a letter from the Baptists at Pepperell which was discussed by the Warren Association.  The setting according to Backus, “They met in a field by a river side, where prayers were made, and a sermon begun, when the chief officers of the town, with many followers, came and interrupted their worship.”  He went on to record that the owner of the field warned the “rowdies” to depart but they refused to go.  One of the Baptist preachers reminded them of the liberty of conscience which is generally allowed, even by the powers that we were at war with; and one of the officers said, “Don’t quote scripture here!”  Then a dog was carried into the river, and plunged in evident mockery.”  A gentleman in town then invited them to his house for worship that was near another river.  The mob followed and took some whiskey and more dogs and began to plunge them into that river in obvious contempt for water immersion.  At that point friends warned them that for their safety they should remove themselves to yet another area for the baptism of the converts, which they did.  But even then they had to endure more abuse at the close of that service.  The result of this opposition only strengthened the resolve of our forefathers neither did they ever believe in coercing converts.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 124..
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1638 – Conditions in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had become intolerable for any who held views that tended toward liberty of conscience or baptism for believers only. Isaac Backus stated that the Massachusetts Court ruled that if any group wanted to meet and establish a church they had to first have the approval of the magistrates and the other ministers in the area. If you did not get approval you were not admitted to the “freedom of the Commonwealth”. There was great controversy. The House of Deputies was dissolved and reappointed to suit the ministers. Pastors, men, women and children were banished from the colonies and others were put to death as heretics. Massachusetts made a law that everyone was taxed to pay for the support of religious ministers, even though they had no vote in choosing them. Under this terrible influence. John Clarke, the Baptist preacher, his brother Joseph, and many others moved away to Rhode Island. On March 7, 1638, they entered into a Covenant to incorporate themselves into a body politic, submitting everything to God and following His absolute laws as guide and judge. Backus stated, when they could not find laws to govern themselves in the New Testament, they returned to the laws of Moses and elected a Judge and three Elders to rule over them. On March 12, 1640, they changed their plan of government and elected a governor and four assistants until they came under a Charter from England at a later time. It becomes very clear that any government of men is as fallible as the men who govern, and that the trials and errors of the colonies, endeavoring to set up systems of government to guarantee order and yet give the people governed liberty of conscience, resulted in a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that brought the leaders as well as the people under the law. Our Constitution was not thrown together but was born after much travail by millions of people over hundreds of years of suffering. God bless America.
Barbara Ketay from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 94-95.
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Stearns, Shubael


He was the leader of the Separates


1745 – THE SEPARATE BAPTISTS WERE FOUNDED BY SHUBAL STEARNS WHO WAS A CONVERT OF GEORGE WHITEFIELD Shubal Stearns was born on January 28, 1706. In 1745 he joined the ‘New Lights’ and preached as a ‘New Light Congregationalist’. He was a convert of George Whitefield the English Anglican Evangelist. Many of his converts became Baptists as they began to study the scriptures and became convinced of believer’s baptism by water immersion. Stearns was one who became the leader of the Separate Baptists; Isaac Backus was another, he became known as “The Apostle of Liberty”, and Daniel Marshall was the other who became the founder of the Baptist effort in Georgia. Shubal was baptized in 1751 and ordained on May 20. In 1755 he moved to Sandy Creek, N.C. where he organized a Baptist church and saw a great out pouring of God’s Spirit and in a short time they had over six hundred members. His assistants were his brother-in-law Daniel Marshall and Joseph Breed. Shubal traveled continually and they not only saw the lost saved but a host of young men called to preach. Some of them were John Dillahunty, Philip Mulkey, Joseph and William Murphy, James Read, Nathaniel Power, and James Turner. Churches flourished in Virginia and the Carolinas and the Sandy Creek Association was formed. Stearns was lovingly revered as the “Old Father.” He died on Nov. 20, 1771.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from:  Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson/   pg. 37.


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Who is the real slave?


1838 – The British Baptist Union wrote to the ministers of the Baptist churches in the U.S. urging them to use their influence to bring about full emancipation. The practice of slavery had been introduced into Virginia in 1619 and was, at first, resisted by the southern colonies. However in time, the tragedy of slavery became the most divisive issue ever to face our nation. Baptist leaders divided severely on the matter. J.H. Hinton, chairman, wrote: “We have not been ignorant that slavery existed in the States, entailed, we are humbled and ashamed to acknowledge, by British influence, authority and example. But we had, until of late, no conception of the extent to which multitudes of professing Christians in your land, by indifference, by connivance, by apology, or by actual participation are implicated in it.” Isaac Backus, who became famous as a Baptist pastor and historian, was raised in the Standing Order of New England (state church). Yet the family owned a slave and an Indian girl apprenticed as a servant. The famed diary of Backus reported the death of a slave of one of the members of the church in Middleborough, Massachusetts in the mid-eighteenth century. Two things were involved in shifting the slave population to the South. The cold winters made slavery unprofitable and the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 made the institution of slavery to be profitably utilized. But we must ever remember that Jesus told us who the real slave is: He said “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. He also said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 20-21.


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314 – Nov. 10 – This Day in Baptist History Past


Why America became a Republic


1745 – Isaac Backus and others were excommunicated from the Congregational church at Norwich, Connecticut. The name of Isaac Backus is one of the brightest lights in Baptist history. He was born on Jan. 9, 1724 in Norwich. He grew up during the time of the Great Awakening under George Whitefield and other lesser-known men. In Nov. of 1741 a revival broke out in his home town, and Backus received full assurance of salvation. Many in the Congregational state churches did not look with favor on evangelism and these converts were called “New Lights.” However, wanting to receive communion, after 11 months, Backus finally united with the church. Starving spiritually, these “New Lights” in the congregation began meeting together for fellowship and Bible study. This division is what led to the impasse that caused the church to excommunicate them. The converts of the Great Awakening started Separate churches. Backus, called to preach and ordained, was quite at home in this movement and carried on an itinerant ministry for fourteen months until he took a church at Titicut, Mass. It was there that he became convinced of believer’s immersion, and on Aug. 22, 1751, he and six fellow church members were immersed on profession of their faith. At that point Backus formed a Baptist church and served for almost sixty years as evangelist, pastor, author and fighter for religious liberty in early America. It is estimated that he traveled over 67,000 miles and preached nearly 10,000 sermons. Backus was one of the main reasons that America adopted a constitutional Republic over Calvin’s “Geneva Theocracy” model. [B.L. Shelly, Dictionary of Baptists in America (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 36. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 614-15.]   Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon



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