Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 185

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 186

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 187

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 188
This Christian Nation Archives - Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

Isaac Backus

Isaac Backus

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

Long ago, my husband Terry purchased a little known book, Pilgrims in Their Own Land by Martin Marty. I daresay that many of the saints profiled in the book are little known, yet their impact was great. One descendant of the Mayflower passenger Josiah Winslow broke new ground with other religious separatists in forming the Baptist movement in the colonies.

Isaac Backus was called to preach in the late 1740’s during what was commonly referred to as The Great Awakening, spurred by Jonathan Edwards. Backus had grown up in the Congregationalist church, but as he learned more about his own beliefs, he chose to form a church of separatists. One of his primary reasons for this was his belief that no church ought to be the “official church” of any community or state. The General assembly of Connecticut tried to fine Backus for not paying taxes to the official church, at that time a mix of Puritan and Congregational religions. Backus argued that he was exempt from government interference with religion and won his case. He then moved his group of dissenters to Massachusetts.

It was also during this time of argument with the official church that Backus came to the conclusion that the Baptists held the correct perspective on baptism, that it is a command for the believer, not an act that makes one such. Backus became instrumental in the spread of the Baptist congregations of New England. He was outspoken against any state established religion or practice that even hinted at one. His views on separation are attributed in part to the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

He took a firm stand with the colonies’ separation from England following the battles of Lexington and Concord. His support of the war was based on the principle of religious independence and separation of churches.   Backus was too old to serve in the army when the Revolution broke out, but he immediately volunteered as a Chaplain to the troops and according to history, was among many Baptist ministers who faithfully prayed with the troops, preached to them daily, converting many who thought they had to belong to a church in order to receive real salvation. The book hails Backus as the “most influential and outspoken figure in the long battle for religious freedom in Massachusetts.”

 

Robert Charles Winthrop

Robert Charles Winthrop

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

It is often the case that a prominent man whose great respect for the Word of God is praised for his avenue of prominence but not for his affinity in the Word. In fact, adherence to the Word is seen by the world as a character weakness. Such is the case with some of our early politicians and public servants. Robert Charles Winthrop, a contemporary and close associate of Daniel Webster, was a seventh generation founder in the family line of John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Upon completion of his term as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and speaking to the Massachusetts Bible Society, Winthrop noted the two distinct philosophies he had observed within that political body he served:

“Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of men; either by the Bible or the bayonet.”

The notable success of Winthrop is not his political service, which ended bitterly when forces opposing his positions gathered a political army to end his career, but it is the continued faithfulness to the Word he so strongly lived by. For thirty years serving as a founder in the Bible Society, he taught that the principles of the Bible are the necessary tools for a truly free society, that man cannot govern without them, nor can he ignore them and escape calamity. While his ancestor Governor Winthrop was probably too legalistic in the Puritan stronghold of the Bay Colony, he was still a firm proponent of biblical law to hold his colony together. For over 200 years, the family had consistently held the Word of God as the final authority for all matters, especially governing society. Both Winthrops saw the merit of a nation whose God is the Lord. So when Robert Winthrop was drummed out of the Congress by the opposition, he picked up the mantle and carried on, spreading the Word as a lay preacher until his death in 1894.

 

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ” so stated Patrick Henry to the House of Burgesses in 1775. One of our most outspoken and biblically-grounded founding fathers had great respect for the effect of the Word, very often referring to God as the ultimate source of encouragement and supplication going into the Revolution. He was often noted for speaking and quoting Scripture unashamedly.

The oldest of ten children, Henry was schooled at home by his father. He served in both the House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress where he was a strong advocate of citizen’s rights. During his younger years as a lawyer, Henry came to the attention of the Colonists when he argued, in a case involving George III, that a king who would veto a good law was not a father to his people (again using the biblical parallel of Father and child) but rather a tyrant who forfeits allegiance, and we like the Israelites who begged for a king.

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood before the House of Burgesses to inspire the men before the start of the American Revolution:

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

How have we come so far from independent and individual liberty granted to us by the Almighty? Evangelists, politicians, and speakers often quote biblical phrases like “the truth shall make you free” taking it out of context, and skewing the meaning to fit their positional or political purposes. Patrick Henry understood that God could supply all our needs, even freedom from tyranny, if we would trust in Him with all our heart the truth found in His word (Proverbs 3:5). Look carefully at the quote again and notice that Henry appeals to God for freedom from the slavery of an overbearing Crown and equates a peaceful life in chains of tyranny with death.

 

The New Rule of Law

The New Rule of Law

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

Little is known about the Boston Massacre of 1768 by the majority of American history students. Yes, we learn that Redcoats shot Boston citizens and that there was return fire, but to this day, no one knows who fired first. However, most students don’t learn the Christian principle that settled the matter. True, the British government had given orders to the soldiers in the colonies to collect severe taxes, to enforce the laws of England, and the wishes of the King. It is no secret that these British soldiers were hated, even though most of them were probably just carrying out orders as good soldiers do.

Some background on the Boston Massacre gives better perspective. In response to the famous Boston Tea Party, the British enacted a Port Bill  designed to starve Boston of its commerce and thereby force the colonists to repent, pay the tax, and submit to British enforcement. When tensions rose over the blockade, shots were fired in King Street, and eight British soldiers were in jail for murder. However, if no one knew the origin of the shots, and if shots were fired both ways, who was truly guilty? These were the thoughts of John Adams, then an attorney in Boston, who agreed to defend the British soldiers. Yes, he would defend them and angry Bostonians wanted to know why.

Here is a great testament to our system of justice, founded upon the biblical principles of the equal position of man before Almighty God. Adams told the people of Boston that if they intended, in their new country, to adopt the principle that a man was innocent until proven guilty, rather than by a single King’s decree they so despised, then they were bound to show the world that their system was the better. He also cleverly read from Britain’s own law that stated, better it be that all those on trial be acquitted though guilty than one innocent person be wrongly convicted. How could a Christian community think otherwise, he argued? Adams secured a verdict of 6 innocent and 2 on involuntary manslaughter from the jury by proving that there was insufficient evidence of their lone guilt. The soldiers were freed and a new respect for law and order restored the peace in Boston.

 

The Brainerd Brothers

The Brainerd Brothers

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

The Brainerd brothers David and John have been nearly lost to our history. Only a stone monument, a lone building at Yale University, bears the name of two great men of faith. These 18th Century men were quite possibly the catalysts for bringing Christianity to the majority of Native Americans.

David Brainerd (1718-1747) trained in theology and quickly felt a desire to follow in the footsteps of the great missionary to the Indians, John Eliot (1604-1690). It was Eliot who composed the first Bible in the language of the Algonquian Indians and was dubbed the “apostle to the Indians.” Brainerd assumed a life in the woods among the tribes near Albany, New York. Later he would preach in the Delaware Valley, again assuming the tribal life. In one year, he recorded seventy-seven baptisms and throughout his ministry led many to Christ. It was Brainerd’s efforts that opened the door for future ministries among the Indian tribes in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. His dedication was so great that he neglected his own health, often giving his time and efforts without basic necessities. His short life of 29 years became a testament to his love of the Word and the desire to share it.

It was John who was appointed by the Scottish Society to take his brother’s place among the Delaware tribes. At one point, he convinced tribes from as far away as Wyoming to move closer to his northeast ministry. He formed a school, worked to establish the family unit, but eventually became discouraged when few souls were converted. John did not continue to live among the tribes as his brother David had, but faithfully worked to establish funds and train future missionaries to work with various tribes in the northeast. Haddam, Connecticut, houses a small memorial and museum to the memory of these two great missionaries.

 

 

Dependence on God

Dependence on God

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

When the Continental Congress of 1774 met to begin the formation of a free republic, they didn’t rely on their business acumen, on their well-known faces, or on their own merits as great orators. They relied on prayer and the guidance of God, and historical records confirm this. John Adams described how at the first meeting, the first order of business was to request that a minister of solid reputation be invited to open the deliberations with prayer, not with great speeches or people-pleasing platitudes, but with humble requests for God’s guiding hand in all their deliberations.

It was Reverend Jacob Duche of Philadelphia’s Christ Church who was called. Although a few, according to Adams, objected to the particular religion of the minister, in the end, all agreed that it was the prayer that was necessary. Adams continues to describe the prayer’s effect by saying that he had never seen such a pronounced response from an audience even at church. The attitude of the entire group changed, says Adams. They understood the 31st Psalm read by Duche and took heed as he applied the words to the group: “In you, O Lord, we put our trust; let us not be ashamed (v.1), and in verse 5 that they commit their spirit to the Lord, adding “be Thou our rock for a house of defense to save us”(v2). Thus, says Adams (and so did Washington) the whole assembly bowed in humble guidance to the Lord’s leading.

What became of that prayerful beginning need not be retold. Jacob Duche admonished the men of that Congress of 1774, as described by Webster:

“Some were kneeling, some standing, but all praying, and looking toward Heaven for wisdom and counsel in this hour of doubt, anxiety, and responsibility; Washington, Henry, and others kneeling, and all invoking wisdom from above.”

Another curious bit of history rarely told is that this same Continental Congress passed a motion (on July 15, 1775) that required them to attend divine service as a body (all of them together), sometimes twice a day!

What God wrought from that humble prayer beginning He can restore if men of God will lead and will seek His guidance on their knees.

 

Chief Justice John Jay

Chief Justice John Jay

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

Literally forgotten among our founding fathers is our first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay. In selecting Mr. Jay, President Washington carefully considered men who were fully qualified both in law and the newly written Constitution, but who also were sound in the moral ground Washington saw as necessary for justice to be administered properly.

John Jay is best known outside his role of Chief Justice as the author “Publius” in The Federalist Papers, a work in which Jay, Madison, and Hamilton provided history with the inner thoughts and decisions which formed the U.S. Constitution and many of our government practices. It was through these letters, responses to questions, and essays that we find many of our “original intent” ideas.

Religiously, it was Jay who expressed the most opposition to any one particular religion being used for prayer or devotions in the Continental Congress or otherwise. It was his firm belief that freedom to worship as one chose was the foundation they sought to create and that the Congress should “make no law” or practice to take sides one way or another. Errant historians often use this part of Jay’s history to argue that he was not religious or that he was a Deist. Quite the contrary, Jay was very active in church affairs, often writing church policy and defending the practice of religious freedom for all. His son William was founder of the American Bible Society, still in existence today, and for which John Jay became one of the early Presidents.

In his early years, Jay responded to the Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, criticizing it for the deistic approach to the problems of the colonies and Paine specifically for his departure from the truth of the Word. Jay showed his belief in the Providence that God had provided in this newly formed nation even before it became official. In an 1811 letter to his friend John Bristed, Jay remarks on the success of the United States because of its moral compass: “If we believe there is no God there could be no moral obligations, and I do not see how society can subsist without them.”

 

Noah Webster

Noah Webster

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

A reprint of the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language has been available for more than a decade now. A dear friend gave me one, and I suggest that every Christian home have one. Why buy an old dictionary? This volume was the completed work of Noah Webster and became the source for educational vocabulary definitions throughout the states. Within the definitions one will find the reason for owning it. Words are defined with their language root, with their verb tense, with their etymology evolution, and often with a Bible verse added for use in context. Most modern dictionaries have begun to drop all of these added bits of knowledge, and of course, the Bible is assumed to be inferior in its use of contextual definition in favor of anything else. The biblical world view presented in various definitions, such as Webster’s lengthy examples for the word study, includes quotes from Milton, Temple, Dryden, and Swift along with I Thessalonians, showing the common use in classic literature of the same biblical sense. When the reader then goes to the classic work, he has that biblical framework of etymology.

There are some interesting facts about Noah Webster that many students will enjoy. He was a Yale educated lawyer and became interested in language to the point that he published a three-part work of spelling, grammar, and reading which took the nickname the Blue-backed Speller because of its dark blue cover. It was the only such publication in the states in 1785 and sold close to 100 million copies, making Webster a household name. He was related to William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Plantation on his mother’s side, and often used Puritan tradition in his writings. Upon his death, his family did not have enough interest in his works to keep them and sold the rights to the Merriam brothers. It is only out of their good will (and possibly needing the use of the famous name) that the name Webster remains on the dictionary: the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

 

John Harvard

John Harvard

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

It is common knowledge that the majority of schools in the new American colonies were founded as institutions for religious training. So important was this training to the new colonists that upon settling in, they immediately began to think of their spiritual growth and future. This required pastors steeped in the Word who would be trained in all areas of caring for a local church community. They knew that without this strong spiritual foundation in their midst, other philosophies would soon usurp the minds of the next generation.

So as early as 1636, while many of the Massachusetts’ colonists were still arriving and building settlements, a college for religious teaching was established. From England came a wealthy young man of deep religious conviction, John Harvard, who upon his death left 1700 pounds towards the building of the school. He also donated his entire library, one of the largest even in his homeland at the time. It was appropriate that the new institution should bear his name. The building committee selected Cambridge as the site, noting that it had beauty and grace in its pastoral fields. The college classes included Greek, Latin, and the study of the Hebrew Bible.

The college committee also inscribed in the Charter this vision statement:

“Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”

John Harvard was born in Southwark, England, and baptized at Southwark Cathedral in 1607. His maternal grandfather was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. Both were learned men and students of the Bible, but used that knowledge in vastly differing paths. Harvard’s entire family was taken in the Plague, leaving him great wealth. Instead of squandering it on luxuries, Harvard purchased a huge library of religious and philosophical books which he took with him to America. He died young at 31 and did not live to see his legacy. Sadly, a 1764 fire destroyed most of the volumes donated by John Harvard.

 

Baptist Settlers

Baptist Settlers

by Debra Conley

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

It is often the case that a prominent man whose great respect for the Word of God is praised for his avenue of prominence but not for his affinity in the Word. In fact, adherence to the Word is seen by the world as a character weakness. Such is the case with some of our early politicians and public servants. Robert Charles Winthrop, a contemporary and close associate of Daniel Webster, was a seventh generation founder in the family line of John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Upon completion of his term as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and speaking to the Massachusetts Bible Society, Winthrop noted the two distinct philosophies he had observed within that political body he served:

“Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of men; either by the Bible or the bayonet.”

The notable success of Winthrop is not his political service, which ended bitterly when forces opposing his positions gathered a political army to end his career, but it is the continued faithfulness to the Word he so strongly lived by. For thirty years serving as a founder in the Bible Society, he taught that the principles of the Bible are the necessary tools for a truly free society, that man cannot govern without them, nor can he ignore them and escape calamity. While his ancestor Governor Winthrop was probably too legalistic in the Puritan stronghold of the Bay Colony, he was still a firm proponent of biblical law to hold his colony together. For over 200 years, the family had consistently held the Word of God as the final authority for all matters, especially governing society. Both Winthrops saw the merit of a nation whose God is the Lord. So when Robert Winthrop was drummed out of the Congress by the opposition, he picked up the mantle and carried on, spreading the Word as a lay preacher until his death in 1894.