Spencer H. Cone: “I was baptized in the Patapsco… the ice having been cut for the purpose”

On Saturday morning, February 4th, 1814, I was baptized in the Patapsco, by Elder Lewis Richards, the ice having been cut for the purpose. It was more than a foot thick, and the spectators, with many of my old companions among them, stood on the ice within a few yards of where I was buried, and went away saying, ‘He is mad ; he’ll not stick to that long.’

A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Spencer Houghton Cone moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore in 1812. He left behind a successful career as a actor and found work as the treasurer and bookkeeper for the Baltimore American newspaper and soon, together with his brother-in-law John Norvell, decided to purchase the Baltimore Whig.

In November 1813, after months of religious reflection, Cone found a copy of the Works of John Newton at a local book auction. Inspired by John Newton (a former slave ship captain who composed the hymn Amazing Grace), Cone began to hear voices and pray intensely. One night in early February, he paced back and forth in his attic until finally he had a vision for his own salvation:

I felt as if plunged into a bath of blood divine — I was cleansed from head to foot — guilt and the apprehension of punishment were both put away ; tears of gratitude gushed from my eyes in copious streams.

Just a few days later, Spencer Cone joined the First Baptist Church and, undeterred by the cold weather, insisted on being baptized immediately in the frozen Patapsco River.

Spencer H. Cone
The life of Spencer H. Cone (1857)

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