John Leland (Baptist)

John Leland (Baptist)

John Leland (May 14 1754 – January 14 1841) was a Baptist minister in Massachusetts and Virginia. He was an important figure in the struggle for religious liberty in the United States. Leland also later opposed the rise of missionary societies among Baptists.

Leland was born on May 14, 1754,in Grafton, Massachusetts. He describes his father as a Presbyterian and his mother as a "separate new-light" Christian. He was baptized in June 1774 by Elder Noah Alden. Leland joined the Baptist Church in Bellingham, Massachusetts in 1775. He left for Virginia around 1775/1776, and ministered there until 1791, when he returned to Massachusetts.

A well-known secular incident in Leland's life was The Mammoth Cheese. The people of Cheshire, Massachusetts made and sent a giant cheese to President Thomas Jefferson. Leland took the cheese from Cheshire to Washington, D. C., and presented it to President Jefferson on January 1, 1802. While there, Leland was even invited to preach to the Congress and the president. Of this incident he wrote, "In November, 1801, I journeyed to the south, as far as Washington, in charge of a cheese, sent to President Jefferson. Notwithstanding my trust, I preached all the way there and on my return. I had large congregations; let in part by curiosity to hear the Mammoth Priest, as I was called."

Leland held, in seminal form, to what has been called the "liberty of conscience" position on public policy theology. See John Cobin (2006), "Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience", Alertness Books.

Leland died on January 14, 1841 in Cheshire, Massachusetts, six days after preaching his last sermon. His tombstone reads, "Here lies the body of John Leland, who labored 67 years to promote piety and vindicate the civil and religious rights of all men." Several of Leland's hymns are preserved in the Sacred Harp.

Excerpts from his writings

baptist*"The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever...Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians." - "A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia".

*"Truth disdains the aid of law for its defense — it will stand upon its own merits." - "Right of Conscience Inalienable".

*"Every man must give account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise, let men be free." - "Right of Conscience Inalienable".

*"Resolved, that slavery is a violent deprivation of rights of nature and inconsistent with a republican government, and therefore, recommend it to our brethren to make use of every legal measure to extirpate this horrid evil from the land; and pray Almighty God that our honorable legislature may have it in their power to proclaim the great jubilee, consistent with the principles of good policy." - Resolution for the "General Committee of Virginia Baptists" meeting in Richmond, Virginia in 1789.

External links

* [http://logosresourcepages.org/IronPen/madison.htm John Leland and James Madison]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/1668/john_leland.html Writing of John Leland Web Site] - (a work in progress)
* [http://www.brucegourley.com/writings/lelandslavery1.htm John Leland: Evolving Views of Slavery]
* [http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/l/e/l/leland_j.htm Hymns by John Leland]


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