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September 06, 2005

This Week in Church History

A double-shot in this post. This is a big week in Baptist history, especially.

September 5, 1651. Obadiah Holmes is whipped publically in Boston. Thirty lashes. The charge? Being a Baptist in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony. Holmes was arrested because he came to Boston to minister to a Baptist man who was dying.

Holmes became a convinced Baptist while living in Massachusetts, and actually was a leader of the early Baptist movement in that colony. Unfortunately, the colony leadership wasn't sympathetic (even though Puritans and Baptists worked together quite well in England, in the struggle against the established church there) -- he was forbidden to baptise or ordain, or even to meet on Sunday to observe communion. And this beating didn't discourage him -- he went to Rhode Island and became pastor of the first (or second, the jury is still out) Baptist church in the New World -- Newport Baptist Church.

This story is a perfect illustration of the dangers of an established church, and shows why Baptists have always been against the establishment of a government church. Baptists have also always been supporters of the right to everyone to practice his or her own faith. This doesn't mean that proseletyzing is out of the question -- it simply means that conversion can never be coerced. We still believe that; it's in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

The other major event this week happened on September 8, 1767. An incredibly important event in the history of Baptists. On that date, at one of George Whitefield's revival meetings, John Ryland, Jr. became a Chrisitian. Five days later his own father baptized him in the Nene River. Ryland Jr. was 14.

Within three years, he started preaching, eventually taking over his father's church. He baptized William Carey in 1783, and was instrumental in Carey's missionary work. With Carey, Andrew Fuller, Samuel Pearce, and John Sutcliffe, Ryland Jr. helped Particular Baptists in England to shake off the false, hyper Calvinism that had contributed to the church's stagnation in England, and led the way to a resurgance of evangelical Calvinism that is still going on today.

These five men have come to be heroes of mine, even though I'd never heard of any but Carey until two years ago. Reading their sermons and polemic writings is very productive, and it's amazing to see how much of what they faced over two hundred years ago is still being dealt with by the Church today.

Posted by Warren Kelly at September 6, 2005 11:46 PM | TrackBack
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