Pilgrim’s Keyboard

November 28, 2017

Obadiah Holmes

Filed under: Baptist Heritage ...,Bruce — pilgrimskeyboard @ 3:47 pm

Obadiah Holmes (1607?-1682) Baptist Pioneer Piety –
“In 1639 – the year after Dr. JOhn Clarke and others settles on Aquidneck Island in Narragnsett Bay – a sturdy Englishman in his early thirties arrived in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife and three year old son. This man was Obadiah Holmes, his wife Catherine, and their son Jonathan…. Upon arrival in Salem … Soon {1640} Holmes and his family united with the Puritan Church in Salem, and records indicate that he became identified with the prominent people of the community … In 1645 Holmes and his family moved to Rehobeth, a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony outside the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay authorities…. Here he and Catherine united with the local church, also of Puritan persuasion…. however, he became almost immediately embroiled in controversy with the pastor, Samuel Newman…. So intense was the conflict … he soon was excommunicated from this congregation.

Baptist activity in Newport, Rhode Island, was gaining strength, with the arrival of Mark Lucar, a member of John Spilsbury’s Baptist Church in England in 1648.Newport’s religious leaders began to reach out to Massachusetts and to Plymouth Colony, and in particular to the nearby Rehobeth settlement. While the Puritans saw the Baptists as a source of much disruption and conflict, the efforts of Lucar, Clarke, and others brought a long-sought sense of peace to Obadiah Holmes.  He wrote of the experience, ‘It pleased the Father of Light, after a long continuance of mine in death and darkness to cause life and immortality to be brought to light in my soul.’

Sometime during this period, Dr. John Clarke visited Rehobeth, and there found people hold essentially Baptist views, among them Obadiah Holmes. Clarke baptized Holmes and eight other men, and they formed a congregation in Rehobeth … although they were technically members of the Newport Church. Soon the group was prevented from conducting public services y the Grand Jury of Plymouth Colony. To escape this kind of religious persecution, Holmes and his growing family moved once again – this time to Newport, in the fall of 1650…. early in the summer of 1651 he found himself in the midst of the situation for which he is most remembered. In the month of July, Holmes, Clarke, and John Crandall, journeyed to Lynn, Massachusetts, to visit William Witter, an elderly man who was a ‘brother in the Church (in Newport), but by reason of his age could not undertake so great a journey as to visit the church.’

The three arrived at Witter’s home, about two miles from the center of the village, on Saturday … to spend the Lord’s Day there with their brother…. for it was determined that they should have religious services at Witter’s home. While Dr. Clark was preaching, ‘Two constables came into the house, who with their clamours [sic] for the arrest of Holmes, Clarke, and Crandall, carried them away to the alehouse …’ Later that day they compelled to attend the meeting of the local Puritan Church, although they indicated that they should be compelled to go, they would declare their dissent by word and by deed.’ The words were spoken by Clarke, who disrupted the congregation at worship, and the three persisted at the wearing their hats, even during the time the congregation was praying…. the next day they were sent to Boston.

After two weeks in prison, the courts imposed sentence: Crandall-5 pounds; Clarke-20 pounds, and Holmes-30 pounds, if they did not pay their fines, they would be publicly whipped. All three refused to pay the fines…. Clarke’s was paid by someone unknown to him. Crandall was released on his promise to pay … Holmes not only refused to pay the pay the fine himself, but he vigorously protested the efforts of his friends to pay for him.

He was led to the whipping post behind the Old State House in Boston, where he spoke to the crowd assembled, ‘Though my flesh should fail, and my spirit, should fail, yet my God will not fail.’ With this, the whipping began. The man wield a three-part whip, and with each blow he spat upon his hands three times. When finally the torment was ended and Holmes was released, he addressed the magistrate, ‘You have struck me as with roses.’ His body was bruised and bleeding, and for months afterward he ‘could take no rest except as he lay on his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed where he lay.’

Holmes returned to Newport soon after his ordeal, and resume his work in the Baptist Church there, under the pastor and his close friend, John Clarke. …

Following Clarke’s death in 1676, Holmes became the second pastor of one of the oldest Baptist Churches in the New World {According to … J. R.Graves … this is the first and oldest Baptist Church in the New World}. … He died October 15, 1682.


[Gleaned from “A Pioneer of Religious Liberty: Obadiah Holmes – by L. Edgar Stone (“The Landmark Baptist” publication, Vol. 16, Number 3, May/June 2015), 1-5; Cf. “Baptist Piety: The Last Will and Testimony of Obadiah Holmes,” edited by – Edwin S. Gaustad (Christian University Press, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978).]


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: