As Burning Fire Blog

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Church that Defied Two Laws

The First Baptist Church of Boston.

Due to unbelievable Boston traffic and shortage of time, we were not able to stop at the Church building, but we pray that you will be challenged by the founders of this church who sought to "obey God rather than men!"

In 1665, two women and seven men organized a Baptist church based on their strong commitment as disciples of Jesus Christ and their determination to worship God with freedom of conscience (soul liberty). They organized this church, the third church of any kind to be founded in Boston and the fifth Baptist church in all America, on June 7th, 1665. The first pastor, Thomas Gould, and three others were baptized on that day, the others having been baptized in England.

The Church was formed in defiance of two laws, passed by the General Court: (1) That all persons wishing to form churches must first obtain consent of the "magistrates and elders of the greater part of the churches within this jurisdiction." (2) That "if any person or persons within this jurisdiction shall ... condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants... such person or persons shall be subject to banishment."

In the years that followed, many were punished for trying to practice the Baptist "heresy." They were arrested, jailed, publicly beaten, fined, and often were not allowed to speak in their own defense. Obadiah Holmes was one of these, and was publicly whipped on September 5, 1651.

At first, the group met in homes, usually at the home of Mr. Gould in Charlestown. Later, he built a house on Noddle's Island (now the location of Logan Airport, in East Boston) and the members rowed out to the island where they could meet in secrecy and relative security.

In 1679, the group built a meetinghouse in the North End of Boston, at the corner of Salem and Stillman Streets. It was a modest wooden building resembling a house. One Sunday in 1680 the worshippers found the doors nailed up by order of the General Court, the following notice (see copy in narthex) posted:

"All persons are to take notice that by order of the Court the doors of this house are shut up and that they are inhibited to hold any meeting therein or to open the doors thereof, without license from Authority, til the General Court take further order as they will answer the contrary at their peril, dated in Boston 8th March, 1680, by order of the Council."

Undaunted, they met outdoors in the cold and rain. But the following Sunday, inexplicably, the doors were found open and they were never again closed by the authorities.


Disclaimer: We do not know exactly where this church stands doctrinally today. Sadly, it is affiliated with The American Baptist Churches which no longer stands uncompromisingly upon the Bible. This should encourage each one of us to hold fast to the inspired, infallible Word of God as our sole authority.


Monday, November 30, 2009

First President of Harvard "Fired" for Baptist Beliefs

"And that is why I refuse to present my child for baptism." With those words of explanation Henry Dunster sealed his fate as president of Harvard.

Henry Dunster was born in 1612 [the actual year was 1609*] in England. He arrived in Boston in 1640 and was given the job of establishing Cambridge College which later became Harvard. He was one of the greatest masters of the Oriental languages in his day. When he arrived in the New World he was a Congregationalist. The arrest of Pastor Clarke, Mr. Crandall, and Mr. Holmes for Baptist beliefs in 1651 challenged him to study the truth of scriptural baptism. The fact that the State clergy refused to answer Pastor Clarke caused many in the New World to wonder why they were afraid of these men. After careful study Henry refused to have his child baptized and thereby set off a controversy. He then stood in the Congregational Church of Cambridge and explained from Scripture his convictions. Henry said that infant baptism "Is not according to the institution of Christ...That there were such corruptions stealing into the Church, which every faithful Christian ought to their witness against." His arguments were so powerful that the pastor of the church was visibly shaken and testified that he was "strangely confused and sickly of spirit." The whole community was in an uproar but nobody came forth with any Biblical arguments. However, that explanation was the beginning of the end of his presidency of Harvard. He was compelled to resign in 1657. After being forced out of his position he moved to Scituate in Plymouth Colony and was driven to a Baptist position by studying the scriptures. He passed away in 1659.

Little did Holmes, Crandall and Pastor Clarke realize their testimonies would bear such fruit! Henry Dunster served with great distinction at Harvard and was only removed because of the bigotry against the Bible. But he stood faithful!

Written by Doug Hammett

Special Note: This month marks the 400th birthday of Henry Dunster.

*The plaque (dedicated in 1993) on Dunster grave has the incorrect year of his birth. The correct year is 1609 (America's Oldest Corporation and First CEO: Harvard and Henry Dunster 2008, pp. 23-25).

Keep following the Baptist Freedom Trail! Next Stop: The Church that Defied Two Laws!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Obadiah Holmes, "Ye have beaten me as with roses"

Born 1606 in Reddish, Lancashire County, England. Obadiah was the son of Robert and Catherine Johnson Homes. In 1638, Holmes came to New England. Settling first in Salem, and later in Rehobeth, Massachusetts.

While in Rehobeth, Holmes attained the status of Freeman. Which gave him voice and vote as a citizen. It was also in Rehobeth that Holmes attained freedom in his soul. After his conversion, Holmes united with the Baptists and moved to Rhode Island in search of religious liberty.

In 1651, Holmes accompanied John Clarke and John Crandall to Lynn, Massachusetts to worship in the home of William Witter. This trip would yield one of the greatest contributions to religious liberty in American history!

On July 20, 1651, while Clarke preached, the three were arrested and charged with "seducing and drawing aside others after their erroneous judgment and practices." They were fined and if the fines were not paid they were to be well whipped. Holmes viewed the payment of the fine as a admission of guilt and chose instead to suffer for conscience sake.

On September 5, 1651, Holmes was led to the post in Boston and there, with his blood, he sealed what he believed. He was given thirty lashes with a three-corded whip, the executioner using all his strength. Holmes said, "As the man began to lay the strokes upon my back, I said to the people, though my flesh should fail, yet God will not fail. So it pleased the Lord to come in, and fill my heart and tongue as a vessel full. And with audible voice I break forth, praying the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge. And telling the people I found he did not fail me, and therefore now I should trust him forever who failed me not. For in truth, as the strokes fell upon me, I had such a spiritual manifestation of God's presence as I never had before, and the outward pain was so removed from me, that I could well bear it. Yea, and in a manner felt it not, although it was grievous."

When he was released from the post, he said to the Magistrates, "Ye have beaten me as with roses."

Holmes was the second pastor of the Baptist Church in Newport. He and his wife, Catherine Hyde, were blessed with ten children. Their posterity includes Abraham Lincoln and the "Browns of Providence Plantations."

He died October 15, 1682.

For this is thankworthy. If a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 1 Peter 2:19

Marker placed by the Baptist History preservation Society - May 6, 2003
Location: Calvary Baptist Church, 4 Ludlow Terrace, Middletown, RI

Holmes was beaten behind the Boston Statehouse, pictured above.

We had quite an adventure finding Obadiah Holmes' grave site since it had no definite "address." We finally found it on Summerfield Lane just behind 178 Vaucluse Lane in Middletown, RI. For those interested here are the coordinates +41° 30' 40.98", -71° 14' 33.72"


Monday, October 26, 2009

Boston, MA Trip

Stephen had a business trip to Boston last week. During his off hours, we were able to enjoy the sights and adventures of Boston with Jonathan and Bethany and their two boys. Following the Boston Freedom Trail and seeing the other sights of Boston with two strollers, two young boys, and a baby was quite an adventure!

This week was also our first wedding anniversary. We celebrated it over the weekend by finding and following the "Baptist Freedom Trail." The Baptist History Preservation Society is a church ministry that traces Baptist history in the United States and they graciously provided us with information regarding places of interest.

Religious persecution was prevalent in the early days of America. The religious liberty that we enjoy in this nation today was spearheaded by Baptist ministers who believed in individual soul liberty. Some even shed their own blood to secure our religious liberty.

Over the next few weeks, we invite you to follow our blog as we follow the Baptist Freedom Trail and tell the little known history of religious liberty in America.