Hell-conceived Principle of Persecution
On this day – January 24 – in 1774, James Madison, a citizen of Orange County, Virginia wrote a letter to a friend named Bradford in Philadelphia. The future president of the United States wrote: “I want again to breathe your free air. I expect it will mend my constitution and confirm my principles. I have, indeed, as good an atmosphere at home as the climate will allow, but have nothing to brag of as to the state and liberty of my country. Poverty and luxury prevail among all sorts; pride, ignorance and knavery among the priesthood, and vice and wickedness among the laity. This is bad enough; but it is not the worst I have to tell you. That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and, to their eternal infamy the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such purposes. This vexes me the worst of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent country not less than five or six well-meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which, in the main, are very orthodox. I have neither patience to hear, talk, or think, anything relative to his matter, for I have squabbled and scolded, abused and ridiculed so long about it, to little purpose, that I am without common patience. So I must beg you to pity me, and pray for liberty of conscience [to revive among us.]” The five or six men, to whom Madison referred were Baptists Elijah Craig and others who were then in Culpeper jail for preaching the gospel of Christ according to the principles of the New Testament.
Dr. Dale R. Hart, from: The Baptist Standard Bearer: The Baptist History Collection”