Bolles, John

Bolles, John a layman prominent among the early Baptists of this country, was born at New London, Conn., in August, 1677. His mother and only brother and sister were murdered by a young lad named John Stoddard, leaving him the only surviving child of his father, Thomas Bolles. When he had reached the age of thirty he became dissatisfied with the religious tenets of the "standing order," and joined the Seventh-day Baptist Society, being immersed by John Rogers the elder. Well educated, familiar with the Bible, independent in fortune, earnest in his convictions, and of a proselytizing spirit, bold, and fond of discussion, Mr. Bolles engaged very actively in polemical controversy, and wrote and published many books and pamphlets, some of which, yet extant, prove him to have been fluent with the pen and adroit in argument. A man of so much decision and earnest conviction on the subject of Church and State was sure to meet with persecution. For going, with several others of like faith, from Groton and New London to attend Baptist worship at Lebanon, he was arrested, imprisoned, then heavily fined — the sentence being that if fine and costs were not paid he should be flogged on the bare back for nonpayment of fine, and then lie in jail until payment of costs. He received fifteen stripes, and his companions ten each. The knowledge of this outrage was spread far and wide, and, especially in Rhode Island, the land of religious freedom, awakened the greatest indignation. It has been well said by Hon John A. Bolles, a descendant of John Bolles: "There seems to be a sort of poetical justice in the fact that justice Backus's [the trial justice in the case of John Bolles] grandson, a child of eighteen months at the date of this flogging, became himself a Baptist preacher and the historian of the Baptists." Mr. Bolles died at New. London, Jan. 7, 1797. Among the productions of his pen, were, A Message to the General Court at Boston. (May, 1754): — True Liberty of Conscience,, etc.: — A Reply to Jacob Johnson's Answer to my Booke, etc.: — A Brief Account of Persecutions in Boston and Connecticut Governments (1758 ): — Objections to the Confession of Faith of the "Standing Order." Another of the books of Mr. Bolles is called Good News from a Far Country, designed to prove Roger Williams's doctrine that the civil government "has no authority from God to judge in cases of conscience." See Bolles Genealogy, p. 8-11. (J C. S.)

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