The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

This Day in HIS-story: March 25

 

1525

HT: Dan Graves

When Conrad Grebel arrived at St. Gall Switzerland, on this day March 25, 1525, he began to speak on the need for repentance and baptism. Hundreds turned out to hear him preach and over the next few months, he baptized five hundred. What was significant about this was that most of them had already been baptized as infants.

Grebel was in exile from Zurich. Well-educated, he had studied the Bible with Uhlrich Zwingli, the reformer of Zurich, and stood by him as he made changes in the city. However, Grebel thought that Zwingli moved too slow in implementing reforms based on the Bible.

And Conrad Grebel became convinced from Scripture that infant baptism was wrong. In order to exercise faith, a person had to be old enough to understand the Gospel. Baptism could only have meaning for a person who understood why he or she was being baptized. Those who thought this way were called Anabaptists.

Zwingli and Grebel held public debates on the issue, but Zwingli stuck with infant baptism and so did Zurich. Consequently, Conrad Grebel and a number of others decided to obey their consciences. Grebel is often called the “Father of the Anabaptists” because on January 21, 1525, he re-baptized George Blaurock, a former priest. It was the first such adult baptism in Zurich.

Immediately the Zurich authorities forbade the Anabaptists to speak about their beliefs on adult baptism. Shortly afterward, they drove the Anabaptists out. Soon they would be killing them, often by drowning. Grebel went to St. Gall, where he found immediate success.

Seventh months later, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison. Friends helped him escape, but his life was destined to be short all the same. He could not outrun the plague, which carried him off less than two years after he baptized George Blaurock. He was only about 29 years old.

Although Conrad Grebel left few writings, he left many converts. A college in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada is named for Conrad Grebel. It was founded by Mennonites–spiritual offspring of the early Anabaptist reformer.

1740

HT: Diane Severance

Jesus told his followers that true disciples would be known by their fruits. The life of a genuine Christian’s life will produce an abundance of good works. Such works were clearly evident following the spiritual revivals of the eighteenth century. All of society was improved by the activity and work of those who had been transformed by God’s grace. Children fared better afterwards, too, for the evangelicals showed an increased concern for child welfare.

When evangelist George Whitefield was only 25, he led the way with the establishment of an orphanage in the newly-founded colony of Georgia. Whitefield called the orphanage Bethesda, which means “House of Mercy,” for he hoped many acts of mercy would be shown there. Set on 500 acres of land, the orphanage was built about 10 miles north of Savannah. On this day, March 25, 1740, construction began on the orphanage buildings. The main house was to be two stories high with twenty rooms. Two smaller buildings behind the orphanage were designed to be an infirmary and a workhouse.

Whitefield wanted the orphanage to be a place of strong Gospel influence, with a wholesome atmosphere and strong discipline. The youngsters were to be taught trades so that on becoming adults they could earn their own living. Younger children learned spinning and carding and all of the boys were taught mechanics and agriculture. Whitefield hoped that the orphanage would eventually become the foundation of a university.

Although the children grew most of their own food, the orphanage proved to be more expensive than anticipated. It became a burden to Whitefield, wearing him down with debt. Benjamin Franklin said that because of the scarcity of workmen and materials in Georgia, it would have been better to have built the orphanage in Philadelphia and moved the children there! However, Whitefield remained faithful to his contributors, who had given money specifically for the Georgia project.

At his death, Whitefield bequeathed the orphanage to Lady Huntingdon, a charitable sponsor in England. He asked that she continue the orphanage’s principles and establish a college. However, from 3,000 miles away without modern communications, she was not able to provide the oversight the work needed and it almost folded.

In 1773, fire destroyed the home. Three years later, the American Revolution stymied plans to add a college. After several administrative changes, a new building and society, the Bethesda Home for Boys, was established on the same site. It continues to this day.

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