Book Reviewed: Baptists and the American Revolution
Author: Caleb Garraway, Remnant Publishing ~ Copyright 2014
ISBN: 978-9914963-2-7 pp 127. Website – http://remnantministriesonline.com/product/baptists-and-the-american-revolution
Reviewed By: Pastor Tim Crockett
Being a student of history I particularly enjoy reading the historical accounts of the Baptists throughout the ages. I also enjoy good books regarding the founding of our nation and the events leading up to and including the Revolutionary War – Two entities both fighting for the same thing – FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY!
I saw this book recommended on twitter and decided to give it a go. Not disappointed! This little book covers details not found in many if any of the modern histories concerning the founding of America and how we came to have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In fact it would be stretch to say there were any references regarding the contributions of the Baptists contained in the secular histories. History is being re-written and important details are purposively being left out. Works like this help to fill in some of those missing details.
The forward by Pastor Tyson states a reality few are willing to accept or deal with, “the church has been weakened by apathy and ignorance: apathy regarding their Baptist Heritage and ignorance about what it really is!” pg, 5-6 “Weakened” Baptists from a historical perspective have been a people who desired peace and freedom. In many respects they were the persistent avant-garde in politics, civil rights, education and charitable causes. History bears witness to this. Some things need to be revisited and relearned!
The author mentions the book that goes by this same title, written by William Cathcart. I would recommend reading both this one and Cathcart’s. They are a short read and yes it will, to quote the words of the author, “deepen your appreciation for our denomination’s heritage in America.” And I might add, deepen your appreciation for religious liberty!
The section titled A Brief Background and while not comprehensive does cover church history leading up to the main theme of the book – The American Revolution. The author shows that throughout history there have always been religious groups who have, among other things, desired nothing more than to worship God freely without any restrictions on the conscience or fear of persecution.
The main body of the book briefly outlines the history of the colonies including some of the challenges that they faced especially those challenges when they acted outside the state sponsored religion. Baptism was definitely at the top of the list. Believer’s Baptism was a big no-no. Infant baptism was mandatory, as was church attendance there was also a tax which went to support the state church and its minister this among other things. The honorable mentions included, Elder John Leland, Obadiah Holmes, Roger Williams, Isaac Backus and many others. These labored for liberty of conscience.
With regards to the actual war for independence the author goes on to describe the mood leading up to the Revolution. While not all were for the war there were many who were as they understood what needed to be done to obtain freedom. Preachers served as chaplains ministering and fighting. Many good men from a variety of denominations and backgrounds also engaged in the war. Those who could not take up arms found other ways to support the soldiers
While the author mentions pastors from my home state of including MA, Dr. Hezekiah Smith from Haverhill, I was surprised not to see the name of Jonas Clark the pastor of the Lexington church who ,alongside a number of men from the church, withstood the British on the church’s lawn. This is where the expression the “shot heard around the world” inspired. This was a significant engagement! I’ve visited Lexington and it is an interesting place to visit
The author covers the post revolutionary details leading up to the Constitution being voted in and the follow up to that with the Bill Right An interesting account with enough info to whet your appetite for more knowledge in this and other areas concerning the War for Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
The book is short thus making it an easy read and the material much easier to digest. The endnote section is quite comprehensive with 91 references being listed. Plenty of books to purchase of Amazon I guess.
In the back of the book there is a section titled “What We Believe” with a short summary of the fundamentals of the faith and a section on the Baptist Distinctives. While some may resort to creeds and such, many Baptists will make reference the Distinctives as a note of conviction, practice and polity. These are what generally set Baptists apart as being distinct.
Things I have learned:
This was a short but instructive read. For all those interested in this stage of history I would recommend this and the other book by the same title written by William Cathcart. The trials and sacrifices made leading up to and through the American Revolution was an eye opener to me. This is a reminder of how far we have come, not only as a religious body in America, but as a nation. Our liberties are systematically being undermined by laws designed to usurp the Governing Law of the land – The Constitution of the United States of America. How far do we have to digress before we begin the journey back? While I don’t have all the answers I can do my small part. Take Care!