Baptists and the American Constitution

Baptists and the American Constitution

July 5th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM

Isaiah 51:1-2

Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Isaiah 51:1-2

7-5-64    10:50 a.m.


On radio, on television, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 oclock morning message entitled Baptists and the American Constitution.  On the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the death of Dr. George W. Truett, who for forty-seven years was pastor of this church, and the most far-famed and gifted of all the men ever produced by our Southern Baptist Association of Churches, on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the death of Dr. Truett, I deliver an address, a message, on some facet of our denominational life in which he was vitally interested.  This will be the twentieth year that I have done that.

Dr. Truett died the seventh day of July in 1944.  I was called to be pastor of the church in September of that year, and this is the twentieth year that I have delivered an address on some vital phase of the life of Dr. Truett, or of the denomination he so marvelously and wondrously served.  For example, the Annuity Board was organized in this church, in this building, and one of the dedicated addresses concerned the launching of our Annuity Board, our pension board.  Some of the messages have concerned the great worldwide mission ministry of our Lord and the missionary enterprise.  One of the messages concerned his devotion to evangelism, one to the church that he loved, and so on.  And this year the address is entitled Baptists and the American Constitution.

In the fifty-first chapter of Isaiah, in the first and second verses, the prophet calls his people back to a remembrance of their forefathers.  “Look,” he said:

Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn,

and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.

Look onto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you.

Look to the rock from whence ye are hewn,

and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.

[Isaiah 51:1-2]

No nation ever had, nor were any people ever worthy of a great destiny who forgot their past.  So this message this morning concerns our people, our people called Baptists, and the formation of this nation, and the writing of the American Constitution.

On the twentieth day of May in 1920, from the steps of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., the illustrious and far-famed pastor of this First Baptist Church stood up to deliver an address.  Before him were gathered more than fifteen thousand people.  They included justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, the executive offices of our government: senators, legislators, congressmen.  The address was one of the greatest ever delivered in human history.  It is entitled Baptists and Religious Liberty.

From that address I quote one of the most unique and interesting approaches to this subject that mind could imagine.  From the silver tongue of Dr. Truett, I now quote:

Much of the time were Baptists pitiably alone in their age-long struggle for religious liberty.  We would now and always make our most grateful acknowledgment to any and all who came to the side of our Baptist fathers, whether early or late, in this destiny-determining struggle.  But I take it that every informed man on the subject, whatever his religious faith, will be willing to pay tribute to our Baptist people as being the chief instrumentality in God’s hand in winning the battle for religious liberty.

Do you recall Tennyson’s little poem, in which he sets forth the history of the seed of freedom, kept its philosophy?

            Once in a golden hour

            I cast to earth a seed.

            Up there came a flower,

            The people said, a weed.

            To and fro they went

            Thro’ my garden-bower,

            And muttering discontent

            Cursed me and my flower.

Then it grew so tall

It wore a crown of light,

But thieves from o’er the wall

Stole my seed by night;

Sow’d it far and wide

By every town and tower,

Till all the people cried,

“Splendid is the flower.”

Read my little fable:

He who runs may read.

Most can grow the flower now

For all have got the seed.

[from The Flower,Alfred, Lord Tennyson]


We are very happy for all our fellow religionists of every denomination and creed to have this splendid flower of religious liberty.  But you will allow us to remind you that you got the seed in our Baptist garden.

This is a part of that unique and marvelous address.

The purpose of my message this morning is to implement what Dr. Truett said, to illustrate it: that religious liberty is a gift to America and to the world by our Baptist forefathers.

In these addresses past—and I have delivered five of them, this is the sixth—in these addresses past on our Baptist heritage, I have recounted the suffering of our Baptist people in the thirteen American colonies.  Nine of those colonies, out of the thirteen, had faith-established churches, and in all of them there was bitter religious persecution, save in the little Baptist colony of Rhode Island and in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania.

It was not until 1833, years after the colonies had formed the states of the American Union, that religious persecution, the banishment and fining of those who refused to pay a tax to support a state-established church, was taken away.  The last colony, the last state, to give it up was Massachusetts.

For two hundred twenty years in this continent, religious intolerance and persecution was the daily history of our people, a history of intolerance and persecution far longer than our history as a nation.  The years of that bitterest persecution were from 1753 to 1774.  Illustrative of that bitterness against our Baptist people is the story of our churches in Virginia.  There the congregations, with their pastors, were stoned.  They were imprisoned.  They were scattered abroad.  They were fined.  They were persecuted.  They were hated and despised.

James Ireland, for example, was placed in Culpepper jail, and every attempt was made to destroy the life of that Baptist preacher.  They put gunpowder under the floor of the cell to blow him up.  They poured sulphur fumes into the cell to suffocate him.  They put poison in his food to poison him.  After months and months of imprisonment, he barely escaped with his life.

Here, for example, is a letter that James Madison wrote to a friend in Philadelphia.  I quote from James Madison:

That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of religious persecution rages among us, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota for such purposes.  There are at the present time, in the adjacent county, not less than five or six preachers of the gospel in close jail for proclaiming their religious convictions, which are, in the main, quite orthodox.

[From a letter to William Bradford, Jr., January 23, 1774]

For our Baptist people in those days past were imprisoned for no other reason than preaching the gospel of the Son of God.  It is a thrilling story that I wish I had time to recount of the crowds that gathered around the jails in Virginia, Fredericksburg, King and Queen County, Middlesex, Essex, Caroline, Culpepper, listening to the preachers as they proclaimed the Word of God through the iron grates in their cell doors and cell windows.

They preached with power.  Many were saved.  Many brought under conviction.  And in those days of the bitter persecution of our Baptist people, God raised up two intrepid and valiant and mighty champions of the freedom of heart and soul and conscience.  Both of them were born in New England.  One remained in Massachusetts.  The younger gave his life for the cause in Virginia.

The first is Isaac Backus, Baptist historian and pastor of intrepidity beyond compare.  And the second, John Leland, under whose towering frame and mighty mind and heart, the Constitution gave birth to the religious liberty we enjoy today.

First, Isaac Backus: Isaac Backus was born in 1724, died in 1806.  You can see that he lived through the entire span of the revolutionary period.  He lived to see his brethren free, as well as his fellow countrymen.  For over fifty years he was a pastor in the Baptist church at Middleborough, Massachusetts.

Upon a dreary, cold, and rainy night there came an officer, a sheriff, and took a widow from her children and her home, and cast her in prison for no other reason than that for conscience sake, she refused to pay a tax upon her home to support an established religion in which she did not believe.  That was the mother of Isaac Backus.

And that widow in prison wrote to her son, saying:

Oh, the condescension of heaven!  Though I was bound when cast into this furnace, yet I was loosed and found Jesus in the midst of the furnace with me.  Now the prison looks like a palace to me … Deacon Griswold was put in prison the eighth of October; and yesterday old Brother Grover, and the officers are in pursuit of others.  The Baptist church has appointed the thirteenth day of November to be spent in prayer and fasting.

Isaac Backus, the son to whom that widowed mother addressed the letter from her jail, Isaac Backus gave himself to the struggle for religious liberty in New England, and especially in the colony of Massachusetts.  Time and again to the governor’s mansion, again and again to the State House, wherever men were gathered, there was Isaac Backus, delivering petition after petition in behalf of religious freedom.  He was bogged down always by the legal political maneuvering of the Adamses, the cousins, John and Samuel, and other politicians who were defending the state-established church.  But Isaac Backus never wearied, and he never turned aside.  The Adamses, as others, were unhappy and uneasy.  Isaac Backus was a thorn in their side, but he never desisted, and he never abated.

In the fall of 1774, the First Continental Congress gathered in the little city of Philadelphia.  All thirteen colonies had elected delegates there who had gathered to see if there was some way by which they could defend themselves against the gross injustices and oppressive measures of the mother country, Great Britain.

In that group, George Washington, Patrick Henry, represented Virginia.  Thomas Jefferson was sick.  In that group, Benjamin Franklin, the first and leading citizen of Philadelphia, and of Pennsylvania said he had just returned home from England where he had done his best to make peace between the mother country and the colonies, but in despair had come back home.  And from his lips, and from other lips of the delegates, was often repeated that word, “independence.”  Independence: the Stamp Act, parliament, King George III—the injustices against the American colonies.

Upon a day, after these delegates had deliberated for several days, upon a day at noontime, they dismissed for a noonday meal, and as they filed out of Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia, John Adams stopped and turned pale.  He pulled at the coat of his cousin, Samuel, and with a trembling finger pointed to a man.  And when the eye of Samuel Adams followed the finger of John Adams, his eyes fell upon the figure of Isaac Backus on the brick walk talking to a little group around him.

That night, when the delegates met, reassembled in Carpenter’s Hall, the place was jammed with Baptists.  The three day associational meeting of the Philadelphia Baptist Association had dismissed in order to attend the session of that First Continental Congress.  Isaac Backus had won from the majority of the delegates a right to speak in petition for the liberties of soul and conscience.

The evening began, and Dr. James Manning, president of Rhode Island College—now Brown University—Dr. James Manning stood up and read a letter of petition in behalf of the persecuted Baptists of the American colonies.  Then he introduced Isaac Backus.  And Isaac Backus, the intrepid preacher of Christ, stood up and recounted the sufferings of his fellow Baptist people.  As he recounted them, incident after incident, and finally of their oppression they felt in Massachusetts, when Isaac Backus sat down, all eyes turned toward the two Adams cousins, delegates from the colony of Massachusetts.

Samuel Adams slowly arose to his feet.  What would he say?  For it had not been but a few months previously, when that same Samuel Adams had stood up and cried against England for their attempt to force upon Massachusetts, bishops from the Anglican Church; he pled for liberty then of soul and conscience.  What would he do now?  Samuel Adams stood up and he minimized all that Isaac Backus had said, as though it were nothing.

Isaac Backus stood up again and recounted some of the bitter trials that our Baptist people were suffering in Massachusetts.  Samuel Adams stood and said, “These are matters for the general court of our colony to decide, and they have no pertinency to this Continental Congress.  Isaac Backus stood up and said, “Are we not met here, in this Continental Congress, for liberty?  Then if we are here to seek liberty, this is the place for our Baptist people in the colonies to make appeal for liberty of soul and of religion.”  Then John Adams spoke up and said, “Sooner will there be a change in the solar system of this universe then there will be a change in the established church in the colony of Massachusetts.”

The Continental Congress dispersed, and the Adamses went home, and Isaac Backus also returned to the same colony at home.  But the Baptists were greatly discouraged.  Many of those Baptists leaders felt that they had done no other thing but to engender bitterness and to jeopardize their final cause, in making appeal before the Continental Congress of the thirteen colonies.

But, but those Baptists had done far better than they knew for three reasons.  One, they won the friendship of Patrick Henry, and George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison from Virginia, and they won the everlasting friendship of Benjamin Franklin, who committed himself to the cause of religious liberty; second, because of the Baptist support of the Revolutionary War, to the last man of them; and third, because God raised up, as a disciple and follower of Isaac Backus, one of the greatest statesmen the Baptist people have ever produced, John Leland.

Now I speak of those three.  First, the Baptists and the Revolutionary War.  To a man, I have said, they supported the conflict for independence and freedom in America.  You can see that in three ways.  First, though they were a small minority in the colony population, one third of all of the chaplains of the Revolutionary War were Baptists.  The favorite chaplain, and the most respected by General Washington, was a Baptist preacher named John Gano.  Because of the great contribution that Baptist chaplain made to the armies of Washington, Washington was inspired to say the Baptist chaplains were the most prominent and the most useful in the war that has liberated our country.

You see it again, the Baptist contribution to the American revolutionary cause, in the little Baptist colony of Rhode Island.  Rhode Island had nothing to gain from the success of the war.  Rhode Island had no governor appointed by the Crown.  Rhode Island enjoyed full liberties through all of the processes of law.  To lose the Revolutionary War would have meant for the little Baptist colony of Rhode Island to lose every liberty that they had won.  But two months before the fourth day of July in 1776, two days before the Declaration of Independence, the little Baptist colony of Rhode Island declared herself free from the oppressive laws of Great Britain.  And the little colony of Rhode Island threw into the Revolutionary War all of the energies of her estate.

You see it, third, the Baptists and that Revolutionary War, you see it in the contempt and the bitterness of the British army against our Baptist churches.  Wherever the British won, wherever the Union Jack was hoisted, wherever they occupied any territory in the colonies, one of the first things they did was to destroy, to burn down, to obliterate, all of the Baptist meeting houses, and the pastors and the congregations fled before the British army.  For example, in disdain and contempt, when the British won New York City, they took the First Baptist Church of New York City and made it a stable for their mules and for their horses.  The Baptist people, to a man, entered the American Revolutionary War and poured in it their lives and their fortunes.

The second thing: they won the friendship of those great patriotic citizens, Patrick Henry.  Wherever a Baptist was haled into court, there you would find Patrick Henry with his eloquent voice, defending them.

George Washington, because of their support of the Revolutionary War and because of their loyalty to the armies of the great general, they won his abiding, enduring esteem and affection.

Third, Thomas Jefferson.  The sister of the mother of Thomas Jefferson was a Baptist.  She was the favorite aunt of the young man Jefferson and as a boy, when this aunt attended church, little young Thomas Jefferson was by her side.  Not far away from his home in Albemarle County near Monticello there was a Baptist church, and young Thomas Jefferson loved to attend its business sessions and its other meetings.  And he openly said to friends and neighbors that his ideas of democracy he gained from the pure democracy and democratic processes he had seen in that Baptist church.

Upon a day, the pastor of the Baptist Church asked young Thomas Jefferson what he thought of their church government, and Jefferson replied that he was greatly and strongly impressed thereby.  He said, “I look upon it as the purest democracy existing in the world today,” and he said, “I think it would be a paragon for the government of our American colonies.”

And James Madison.  The brother of James Madison, General Madison, was a Baptist,, and the family of the Madisons followed the course of the struggles of the denomination for liberty with great and enduring interest.  And this leads us to the writing of the American Constitution.  James Madison, the delegate from Virginia, one of them, to the Constitutional Convention, penned the American Constitution.

In September of 1787, the Constitutional Convention, presided over by General Washington, meeting in Philadelphia,  completed all of the articles and all of the paragraphs that we call our American Constitution, and it was given to the colonies for ratification.  Nine out of thirteen were needed to ratify.  But—but, there was one tremendous flaw in the Constitution as it was written by our forefathers.  John Leland, who had picked up the cause of Isaac Backus and had moved to Virginia, there to wage a battle for religious freedom, John Leland stood up and said—I quote from him:

There is no Bill of Rights.  Whenever a number of men enter into a state of society, a number of individual rights must be given up to that society.  But there should be a memorial of those not surrendered; otherwise every natural and domestic right becomes alienable!  What is clearest of all, said John Leland, of this proposed Constitution given to the colonies to ratify,

what is clearest of all, religious liberty is not sufficiently secured!  If a majority of Congress with a president, favors one system more than another, they may oblige all others to pay for the support of their system.  If oppression does not ensue, it will be owing to the mildness of the administration and not to any constitutional defense.  It is very dangerous, leaving religious liberty to their mercy!

May I quote again, from that same giant preacher, John Leland:

An individual’s belief or unbelief is simply outside the state’s sphere of sovereignty.  Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has to do with the principles of mathematics.  Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith.

Experience has informed us that the fondness of magistrates to force their Christianity has done it more harm than the persecution ever did.  Persecution, like a lion, tears the saints to death but leaves Christianity pure.  State establishment of religion, like a bear, hugs the saints but corrupts Christianity.

So in keeping with that sentiment, John Leland was nominated to the ratifying convention in Virginia to run against James Madison.  James Madison was in Philadelphia with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton writing those papers that we know of as the Federalist Papers, papers seeking to vindicate the American Constitution and to get it ratified.  And when James Madison returned to his home in Virginia, he found that John Leland, the tremendous preacher and popular orator, had been nominated to run against him, opposing ratification of the Constitution.

In those days—this is 1788, March—in those days James Madison made a trip to Mount Vernon to visit with his friend George Washington.  And when he returned home he stopped at the inn in Fredericksburg.  And as he sat at the evening table to break bread, a breathless messenger entered into the inn and asked for James Madison.  He was directed to the table where he sat, and the messenger placed in the hands of Madison a letter.  He broke the seal, and he read:

Dear Sir,

This is sent to warn you.  You are going to be defeated for the seat in the ratifying convention unless you and your friends exert yourselves.  I would advise you to call on Elder Leland and spend a few hours with him, since his home is near yours in Orange County.  See him on your way from Fredericksburg.

Respectfully yours,

Madison folded up the letter, placed it in his pocket, and immediately retired.  And the next morning before anybody was astir, he mounted his horse and rode away, forty miles that day, and when he came to Orange, he sent for Elder Leland.  They met under a giant oak tree, and the preacher dismounted from his sturdy horse and walked to the place where Madison was waiting.  Leland was a giant of a man.  Madison was very slender and very small.  He towered over him like a giant.

Madison said to Leland, “I have a question to ask.  Do you seek this place because of personal ambition, or because of religious convictions?”  And the Baptist preacher replied, “I have no personal ambition for political preferment at all.  It is just because and in behalf of religious liberty.  There is no provision in the Constitution guaranteeing to men freedom of conscience.”  Madison thought for a while and then said, “Elder Leland, if I promise you that if elected to the ratifying convention—and that will also carry with it an election to a seat in Congress—if I promise you that I will do my best to write into the Constitution a Bill of Rights, will you withdraw from the race and support me in my appeal?”

Leland thought for a moment, then extended his big hand, and in that big hand the small slender hand of James Madison was placed.  And Leland said, “I will withdraw from the race.  I will support you if you make a faithful promise that when you are elected, and the Constitution is ratified, and you are a member of Congress, that you will do your utmost to write into the Constitution a Bill of Rights.”  Madison faithfully promised.

In the next day or so at the big political rally in his home county of Orange, on a hogshead of tobacco James Madison mounted, and for two hours explained to the people that there was no article in the American Constitution guaranteeing religious liberty, because he was afraid that it would jeopardize the ratification of the Constitution, lest state colonies like Massachusetts and others that had state churches would not ratify it.  “But,” he said, “I have promised, if elected, the first thing I will do, I will seek to incorporate into that document a Bill of Rights.”

For two hours Madison, who was not an eloquent man at all, spoke to the people explaining that position.  And when Madison got down from the barrel, big John Leland stood up, and he said, “I believe in the promise of James Madison, and in behalf of what he will do, and has promised to do, I withdraw from the race, and ask all of our people to get behind and support the election of James Madison.”

It was electric.  Madison was elected to the Constitutional Convention of Virginia that ratified the Constitution.  He was elected to the Congress of the United States, and the first thing that Madison did was to see his friend George Washington.

And George Washington gave word, saying, “I will help you, James Madison.”  And under the guiding hand of George Washington, James Madison set himself to the task of writing into the Constitution its Bill of Rights guaranteeing religious liberty.

The Baptists of Virginia made an appeal to George Washington, and George Washington replied to the general committee representing the Baptist churches of Virginia:

I have often expressed my sentiments that any man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious convictions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.  I recollect with satisfaction that the religious society of which you are members have been, throughout America, uniformly the firm friends to civil liberty, and the promoter of our glorious revolution.  I assure you that you may rely upon my best wishes and endeavors to advance your prosperity.

I am, gentlemen, your most obedient servant,

George Washington

And under the guiding hand and with the encouragement of the president of the United States, General Washington, in March of 1788 Madison stood on the floor of Congress and introduced what we call the Bill of Rights, Article One of which is this, I quote: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

It was bitterly opposed in the Congress, but under the guiding hand of George Washington, and under the guiding hand of James Madison, and with the others that the Baptists had entrusted their destiny to, that became a matter of ratification!  Those ten articles, those ten amendments, became a matter of ratification on the part of the thirteen states in September, 1789.  And from November of that year until December of 1891—those, ‘89, ‘90, ’91—a little over two years, in those little more than two years, eleven of the thirteen states had ratified those ten amendments guaranteeing religious liberty.

That hated and despised doctrine of soul liberty, for which our Baptist forefathers had given their lives, had finally become the chief cornerstone of the greatest document of government any nation had ever produced; and it has been since then, the chief cornerstone of the government of the United States of America.  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the right of the press, or of free speech, or of the people to assemble,”  the very basis of the liberties we know in this glorious democracy.

That is why, on the twentieth day of November in May of 1920, Dr. George W. Truett stood on the steps of the Congress, of the Capitol Building of the United States of America and said, “It is a gift to our country, and through our country to the world, freedom of conscience, freedom of soul, freedom to worship God according to a man’s own personal faith.”

In support of that may I add a little addendum which has become a word that you read all the time in the magazines and in the newspapers of our present day.  Thomas Jefferson was elected president of the United States.  And in the days of his presidency, there came an inquiry from our Baptist people in Connecticut regarding soul liberty, and the Constitution of the United States, and their battle for it in the state of Connecticut.  Thomas Jefferson took the question to his attorney general, and under the careful surveillance of the attorney general, this is what the great democrat wrote to our Baptist people in Connecticut.  Addressing the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, Jefferson wrote, I quote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State!

  That is in a letter of Thomas Jefferson to the Baptist Association at Danbury, Connecticut.  “Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man . . . his natural rights.”  Could you say it better than Thomas Jefferson?  “. . . thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

I must close.  The time is done.  I have an opportunity to speak of the pecking away at that wall, the pecking away at that wall, chipping away at that wall, chipping away at that wall.

In the city of Dallas is a great institution built by a denomination.  Where did the money come for that institution?  They took it out of your income taxes, millions of dollars.  Did you want to give them the money for the building of that institution?  They never asked me.  They took it out of my taxes and gave it to the denomination, chipping away at the wall of separation between church and state.  Chipping away, three buses for the parochial school system; chipping away, taking taxes to support a church institution, taking our tax money and lending money for the building of denominational church-related institutions, schools; chipping away at the wall of separation between

church and state.  And now that everlasting, unending pressure by day and by night, trying to get tax money for the support of the parochial school system in the United States of America, chipping away at that wall of separation between church and state.  And it never ends.  It did not end in the day when our Baptist forefathers died for the principle.  It has never ended since.  It is a continuing, an unending fight and battle to keep what we have won.  No government ought to support any religious institution, whatever it is.  And the institution is a part of the church.  You can never separate the church and the institution, the institutions of the church, or the church itself.  And when tax money is taken to support religious institutions you are beginning to put in government religion itself, the support of religion by the power of government.  And finally, it leads to the disintegrations and the corruptions that we have known in generations and ages past, in all of the centuries and countries of Europe in the times that have gone by.  Ah!  What a day.  What a day.

This is a time for our Baptist people to speak up, to stand up, to be as loyal and as faithful to that great, that great article written into the Constitution by James Madison and adopted by those colonies.  Today is a day when we ought to stand up for it as earnestly and as faithfully as did our forefathers back in the year of 1788 and ‘89.

I am not ashamed to be a Baptist.  I am proud to God of my predecessor, Dr. George W. Truett, of the marvelous address that he made on religious liberty.  I am grateful to God; I am grateful to God for the marvelous gift wrought by the hands of our Baptist forefathers to the framing or our American nation.  I just humbly pray for me and for our people that we are worthy the incomparable heritage we have received from their gracious hands.

It was the pastor of the Baptist church at Newton, Massachusetts, who wrote the hymn that you sang just now:

Our father’s God, to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing:

Long may our land be bright

With freedom’s holy light;

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God, our King!

[My Country, Tis of Thee,” Samuel F. Smith]

And now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10, 13], to put his life into the fellowship of the church.  As the Spirit of Jesus shall lead in the way, as God shall open the door, taking Jesus as your Savior, announcing it openly, publicly, unashamedly; or to put your life in the fellowship of this great congregation.  On the first note of the first stanza, in the balcony round, on the lower floor, as the Spirit of Jesus shall lead, make it now.  “Here I come, pastor, and here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W. A.



I.          Religious
liberty a gift by our Baptist forefathers

A.  Religious intolerance
and persecution most bitter 1753 to 1774

Pastors and congregations stoned, imprisoned, fined

2.  God
raised up two champions

II.         Isaac

A.  Gave himself to the struggle
for religious liberty

B.  Appealed to first
Continental Congress

C.  Results of his appeal

1.  Baptists
and the Revolutionary War

a. One-third of chaplains
were Baptists

b. Colony of Rhode Island

c. Contempt of British army
against Baptist churches

2.  Friendship of great
patriotic citizens

a. Patrick Henry

b. George Washington

c. Thomas Jefferson

d. James Madison

3.  God raised up as a
follower of Backus, John Leland

a. Fought for religious
freedom at Constitutional Convention

b. Convinced James Madison
to write Bill of Rights

c. Doctrine of soul liberty
became cornerstone of our government

III.        Separation
of church and state

A.  Struggle exists today
to keep what we have won