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Early Baptist Persecution in Virginia
By Richard Cook, 1884
      Sometimes the leading men of the state church would attend Baptist meetings to argue, with the preachers, as men of a a baser sort used force, and would call them false prophets in sheep's clothing. "John Waller and the other preachers boldly and readily replied, that if they were wolves in sheep's clothing and their opponents were the true sheep, it was quite unaccountable that they were persecuted and cast into prison: it was well known that wolves would destroy sheep, but never till then that sheep would prey upon wolves."

      The Baptist General Association of Virginia, after existing in other forms and under other names from 1771, was organized as at present, June 9, 1823. At its grand jubilee meeting held in Richmond, May, 1873, Dr. J. L. M. Curry, during his masterly speech, showed a spoon used by Waller, while a prisoner for conscience' sake, and a brick from the foundation of the old jail at Urbana, Middlesex County, in which were imprisoned several Baptist preachers. He asked that the brick might go into the foundation of the monument to be erected to the memory of these noble sufferers for Christ. He also held up the lock and key of the old Culpeper jail, where James Ireland, Elijah Craig, John Corbeley and Thomas Ammon, preachers, and Adam Banks and Thomas Maxfieid, laymen, and John Delaney, were imprisoned. The latter, though not a member of the church, was arrested for allowing a prayer meeting to be held in his house, and the others for conducting it.

      The Baptist church at Culpepper now stands on the site of the old jail. Preaching began there long before the meeting-house was erected. James Ireland, a godly and eminent man while in prison, though greatly enfeebled by cruelties, preached through the grated windows, to the people, who had gathered outside to hear him. Tbis noble man dated his letters while in prison: "From my palace in Culpepper." This reminds us of these lines:

"And prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus would dwell with me there."

      He had much to endure during his confinement. Several attempts were made to murder him. They first put powder under the floor of his room to blow him up, then tried to suffocate him by filling his cell with the fumes of burning brimstone, and finally with the aid of a physician poisoned him; but his life was spared.


[From Richard Cook, The Story of the Baptists, 1884, pp. 226-227. Document provided by Ron Crisp; scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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