“Would the Nightingale care if the toad despised her singing?”
It all began in a meetinghouse yard June 4, 1768, when the sheriff of Spotsylvania County, Virginia seized John Waller, Lewis Craig, James Childs, James Reed and William Mash. Three magistrates were standing in that yard and bound them under penalty of one thousand pounds apiece to appear in court two days later. The prosecutor charged them with being disturbers of the peace, alleging, “They cannot meet a man upon the road, but they must ram a text of Scripture down his throat.”
As they passed through the streets of Fredericksburg toward the old stone gaol, locked arm in arm, they sang the old hymn:
Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there;
But wisdom shows a narrow path,
With here and there a traveler.
Deny thyself and take thy cross,
Is the Redeemer’s great command;
Nature must count her gold but dross
If she would gain this heavenly land.
These men could sing, like the apostles in the jail at Philippi, under the most trying circumstances, because there was joy in their souls. If there were those who ridiculed them as they went through the streets singing that resounding song, what did they care? What would the nightingale care if the toad despised her singing? She would sing on and leave the cold toad to his grouchy thoughts and shadows. And what cared these preachers for the sneers and scoffs of men who grovel upon the earth? They sang on in the ear and the bosom of God.
They were kept in prison in Fredericksburg forty three days for quoting the Word of God.
Other counties continued for some time imprisoning Baptist preachers, Spotsylvania never dared to repeat the experiment.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. ( Thompson/Cummins)pp. 230 -231.