Five Friends of Freedom
From Our Baptist Heritage:
In I Corinthians 9:19, we see a paradox that Paul presents to the Corinthians. He was free from all men while being bound to all men. His freedom related to his position as an apostle (I Corinthians 9:1- “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?”) and his nationality as an Israelite. Paul’s bonds referred to his obligation to preach the gospel and teach disciples the ways of the Lord. What a tremendous illustration this presents to believers of our day in the fact that while we enjoy the liberties of America, we still have an obligation to preach the gospel to every creature.
Paul referred to his liberty in Christ several times throughout the epistles. However, he expressed the national liberty in this verse that we will focus on in this article. We should be thankful for the freedom that we enjoy in the United States of America! Citizens must remember that this was not always the case.
In the early beginnings of America, people did not possess or enjoy the freedom that we do today. Not only was there political bondage from King George of England, but there was religious oppression as well. Protestant state churches inflicted persecution upon the Baptists in colonial America. These believers would not conform to their heretical Protestant doctrine. They did not have the liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience. When they did, there was severe persecution.
Some of the “clerical” laws of the land seemed to be directed toward the Baptists. For example, in 1638 the Puritan clergy influenced Massachusetts lawmakers to pass into law,
“If any person or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance…every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment.”
Even the first permanent colony in American history (Jamestown, Virginia—1607), only five years after its settlement, passed into law that it was mandatory to attend their state “church”. They had brought across the Atlantic Ocean the same tyrannical mentality that England practiced which led to many persecutions and martyrdoms. If an individual were guilty of missing a service he or she,
“…so offending shall remaine, the Gourernour shall cause the offender for the first time of refusal, to be whipt, for the second time to be whipt twice, and to acknowledge his fault vpon the Saboth day, in the assembly of the congregation, and for the third time, to be whipt every day, vntil he hath made the same acknowledgement, and asked forgiueness for the same, and shall repaire vnto the Minister, to be further instructed as aforesaid: and vpon the Saboth when the Minister shall catechise, and of him demand any question concerning his faith and knowledge, he shall not refuse to make answere vpon the same perill.”[sic]
Many other laws began to pass that made the Church of England (Anglican) the political and religious authority on American soil. For example, in 1643 a law passed in Virginia that forbad any preacher to teach or preach against a minister of the Church of England. Its design was to “preserve purity of doctrine, and unity of the church”. This is shown in another decree accepted in 1655.
“A levy of fifteen pounds of tobacco per poll was laid…upon all tithables; the surplus of which after paying the minister’s salary, was to be laid out in purchasing a glebe and stock for the minister.”
Through this law, the state ministers would be entitled to anyone’s tithes and all tithes were to be paid to them for their salary, land, and stock. What was a Baptist church member to do with their tithe? Were they to give it to a state church that did not preach the Word of God?