The well from which Williams drank
1641 – Samuel Howe died after being imprisoned and bitterly persecuted. No doubt Howe is from where Roger Williams lit his torch of “soul liberty”. Howe pastored the church in “Deadmans Place London for seven years and made no small stir in the religious circle of his day. His followers admitted that “they owned no other head of the church than Jesus Christ.” Williams spoke in glowing terms of Howe in The Hierling Ministry, “I cannot but with honorable testimony remember the eminently Christian witness of and prophet of Christ, even that despised and yet beloved Samuel Howe, who, being by calling a cobbler…yet…by searching the scriptures, grew so excellent a textuary, or scripture learned man, that few of those high rabbis…could apply or readily from the scriptures outgo him.” At Howe’s death the state church officials refused his burial in the “consecrated ground” and even posted a guard at Shoreditch, the parish cemetery. The Man of God was buried at Agnes-La-Clair and according to Roger Williams, “hundreds of God’s people attended the service.” Thank God for these wonderful men who had their feet on the ground, and their hearts in heaven.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon; adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 23-25.
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Author of Soul Liberty in CT
1772 – Stephen Smith Nelson was born to Thomas and Ann Nelson of Middleboro, Mass. His conversion to Christ was at age fourteen and he was baptized by William Nelson, a near relative, and became a member of the Baptist church in his home town, whose pastor was the celebrated Isaac Backus, the great advocate of religious liberty. Stephen graduated from Brown U. in 1794, and continued his studies under Dr. Samuel Stillman, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Boston. At 24 he was licensed to preach, and after filling the pulpit at Hartford Conn., he was ordained in 1798. The church met in several places including the old courthouse, and though it was crude in appearance, and they had rough furniture, they experience the remarkable presence of God, and more than one hundred converts were baptized into the church. Nelson took an active part in preparing “The Baptist Petition,” a remonstrance addressed to the Conn. Legislature, supporting absolute soul liberty, which was accomplished in 1818, with the disestablishing of the state church. He was also one of those appointed by the Danbury Baptist Association to write a congratulatory letter to Thomas Jefferson which was answered with the famous “Wall of Separation” quote which we still here about today. Nelson ended his life in Amherst, Mass., preaching to feeble and destitute churches. He always enjoyed a fruitful ministry wherever he preached. He died at 82 years of age in 1853. [Wm. B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit (New York: Robert Carter and Bros., 1865), 6:366. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 545-46.] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
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He had forsaken the priesthood
Jan. 17, 1525, was the first time that George Blaurock is heard of, and that is in connection with a discussion of the Anabaptists concerning infant baptism. The very basis of soul liberty is at the very heart of this issue. This was clearly seen by the Anabaptists before and after the Reformation. Pilgram Marpeck said, “By infant baptism men coerce people to enter the Kingdom of God; and yet there should be no coercion there…” The repudiation of infant baptism in Jan. 1525, led to the banishment of Ludwig Hetzer, William Reublin, and others, and to the imprisonment of Conrad Grebel, Blaurock and Felix Manz. Blaurock had been a monk, but had renounced the religion of ritual for one of reality. Following the deaths of Grebel and Manz he had become a leader among the Swiss Anabaptists, until he was burned at the stake. He was martyred because “…he had forsaken the priesthood, he disregarded infant baptism, he rejected the mass; he rejected the confession of the priests, and the mother of Christ is not to be invoked or worshipped.” At the place of execution he earnestly spoke to the people, and pointed them to the scriptures. In his death he exemplified one of the hymns he had written: “Blessed are those in all tribulation who cling to Christ to the end.” He was known as the second Paul and the “Hercules of the Anabaptists.” Another Blaurock hymn: “As he himself our suffering bore; When hanging on the accursed tree; So there is suffering still in store; O pious heart, for you and me.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. IIII: Cummins, pp. 35-36.