Copyright © December 31, 2012
Click here to go to the entire history of religious liberty in America.
Note. This is a modified version of Section IV, Chapter 11 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application. Audio Teachings on the History of the First Amendment has links to the audio teaching of Jerald Finney on the history of the First Amendment.
Early in the colonial period, the first government in history which provided for religious liberty and separation of church and state was formed as a result of the conflict of the two currents which flowed in opposite directions.
“A large number of people fled out of the old world into this wilderness for religious liberty; but had not been here long before some put in high claims for power, under the name of orthodoxy; to whom others made fierce opposition professedly from the light within; and their clashings were so great that several lives were lost in the fray. This made a terrible noise on the other side of the water. But as self-defence is a natural principle, each party wrote volume after volume to clear themselves from blame; and they both conspired to cast a great part of it upon one singular man [Roger Williams], whom they called a weathercock and a windmill. Now let the curious find out if they can, first how men of university learning, or of divine inspiration, came to write great volumes against a windmill and a weathercock? secondly, how such a strange creature came to be an overmatch for them all, and to carry his point against the arts of priestcraft, the intrigues of court, the flights of enthusiasm and the power of factions, so as after he had pulled down ruin upon himself and his friends, yet to be able, in the midst of heathen savages, to erect the best form of civil government that the world had seen in sixteen hundred years? thirdly, how he and his ruined friends came to lie under those reproaches for a hundred years, and yet that their plan should then be adopted by thirteen colonies, to whom these despised people could afford senators of principal note, as well as commanders by sea and land? The excellency of this scene above those which many are bewitched with, consists in its being founded upon facts and not fictions; being not the creature of distempered brains, but of an unerring Providence” (Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 1 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), pp. 408-409).
Besides Roger Williams, many brave men and women, with Baptists at the forefront, paid a high price on the path to religious liberty and freedom of speech, association, and the press. One should not forget that those people were motivated by a deep love for God and His Word, not by earthly concerns.
As a result of the fight, Christians (and everyone else) in America have religious freedom. The United States Supreme Court to this day still upholds the wall of separation between church and state and freedom of conscience (See Section V of God Betrayed or the upcoming reproduction of that section on this website. See Jerald Finney’s audio teaching, Religion Clause Jurisprudence,” which summarizes the teaching in Section V of God Betrayed.). Christians in America have been blessed above measure and can choose to please God and not be persecuted for it. The brief time mankind as a whole will be on earth is miniscule compared to eternity past and eternity future. The time an individual Christian is here is nothing more than a blink of the eye.
“A Christian will never have another opportunity like this. Every breath he takes out of God’s will is a wasted breath. When he gets to heaven, it will be nothing but praising God naturally. He will not praise God as a matter of choice. This is his one chance during his eternal existence to live for Christ of his own free will. This is the one shot he has to choose to please the Lord, to praise Him, to glorify Him. When he gets to heaven, he will glorify God, but he may remember that he never glorified Him when he had the choice” (From sermon preached at Capitol City Baptist Church in Austin, Texas by Evangelist Samuel Gipp, February 17, 2008).
Oh how the Savior must be pleased when a church uses this opportunity to exercise her free will and glorify Him, her Husband/Bridegroom/Head.