Isaac Backus


January 9, 1724 - November 20, 1806

Baptist Preacher who campaigned against state-established churches in New England and helped to found Brown University

From Norwich, Connecticut
Served in Middleborough, Massachusetts
Affiliation: Baptist

"The scheme we oppose evidently tends to destroy the purity and life of religion; for the inspired apostle assures us, that the church is espoused as a chaste virgin to Christ, and is obliged to be subject to him in every thing, as a true wife is to her husband."

Isaac Backus was a Baptist leader in colonial America and a defender of religious freedom. Born on Jan. 9, 1724, in Norwich, Conn. Converted in 1741 during the Great Awakening. He became a Baptist in 1751. Founded a Baptist congregation at Middleboro, Mass., in 1756 and served as its pastor until his death. Favored separation of church and state and on this issue voted to ratify the United States Constitution at the Massachusetts ratifying convention in 1788. Died in Middleboro on Nov. 20, 1806.

During his life, Baptists were subject to great persecution by the civil powers of Mass. They were taxed to support the state churches and when they refused to pay, their houses, land and possessions were confiscated. They were put in prison for refusing to support false religion! In 1774 Isaac was asked by the Baptists to represent them in this matter, both in Mass. and the new Congress. For 10 years he labored for religious liberty. In 1774 he went to the Continental Congress and set forth the oppressions that Baptists were under. His pleas were misconstrued and vicious lies were told. He was accused of presenting false charges of oppression to keep the colonies from uniting in defending liberty. He then went back to the Congress and secured a document declaring what he had said and clarifying the issue. He spent the next five years writing articles to explain the need of religious liberty. Finally a new constitution was adopted which allowed Baptists, if they gave in certificates to the ruling sect that they belonged to a Baptist society, and desired their money to go to the minister thereof, he, the minister, could sue the money out of the hands of those who took it. In 1785 Isaac went back to the congressional committee of grievances to object to this compromise. However the committee refused to listen. It was not for almost 50 years until full religious liberty was finally granted. Although he saw some relief, the entire fruit of his work was not enjoyed until 1833 following his death. We owe our religious liberty to the tireless efforts of this great man of God.

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