Strict Baptists have for a long time played an important role in the religious life of the county of Suffolk. In no small measure, this is a legacy of the work of George Wright of Beccles.
George was born at Framlingham in Suffolk on 19 May 1789. In 1810 he left there to work in Southwold where he was converted among the Wesleyan Methodists and in May 1814 he was put on their preaching plan.
His preaching was well received by them but by 1818 through examining the Bible he became convinced that some of the doctrines held by them especially their rejection of the doctrine of election were not scriptural. This caused him mental conflict for two years and was only resolved when he began to take the Word of God as his only rule. With doing that he began to make those truths known. Soon he received a letter from the Superintendent Preacher stating that his services as a class leader and local preacher were dispensed with.
In 1821 his attention was directed to the subject of baptism. After searching the Bible thoroughly he became convinced that baptism by immersion for believers only was the only baptism which Christ had given. He resolved to obey the command to be baptised. Accordingly on 17th March 1822 he was so baptised.
The Church at Beccles soon requested that he preach for them, which he did on 21st April 1822. In August 1822 he agreed to preach for them for three months. This was extended for further periods until 1823 when he was unanimously requested to take the pastorate. This lasted until April 1870 when he needed to retire. In the early years, he considered himself as a village evangelist and he regularly preached at eight mission stations as well as in Beccles. Many people were converted but he was not able to sustain this level of work because his health gave way. From then on he concentrated on being the Pastor of the Church. Many blessings followed and the work increased.
George Wright was much involved in the rupture with the old Association of Suffolk Baptist Churches believing that some Churches were departing from “evangelical truth.” Seven Churches met together at Beccles during 1830 to form the new Association “The Suffolk and Norfolk Association of Strict Baptist Churches”. Beccles was a founder member and George was its Secretary for nearly 36 years.
After his retirement, he continued to live in Beccles until he passed away on 7 October 1873.
For further reading:
Bland, S K (ed), Memorials of George Wright. London 1875
Klaiber, A J, The Story of the Suffolk Baptists, London 1931
Dix, K, Strict and Particular, Didcot 2001
Earles, K, Beccles Baptist Church 1808 to 2008, Halesworth 2008