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History Highlight—Week of May 21

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” —Psalm 33:12

“Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” —Psalm 2:10-12

The Constitutional Convention, May 25, 1787

Asecret cabal of rich white men — mostly slave-drivers — met secretly behind locked doors in Philadelphia to overthrow the new American government, and create a new document designed to protect their own economic interests and give themselves supreme power over the people… or so goes the current view of the Constitutional Convention from both the radical neo-Marxists and the conspiracy-theory revisionists of the right. Their constitutional convention was a coup d’état. One might find it difficult to credit their theories when the document and government they produced, although not perfect, were products of several thousand years of English common law, Christian republicanism, states’ rights and experience — not to mention the enshrinement of liberty, order and justice.


Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,
by Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)

Representatives of seven states met to amend the document that had guided the United States since its coming into force in 1783, The Articles of Confederation; it had exhibited weaknesses they feared were fatal to the survival of the Republic. Before the conclave finished their work, twelve states were represented—some of the most patriotic, brilliant and able men ever assembled in one place in America—and they had created a new instrument to guide the thirteen states, and those which would be added, for generations to come. The result has been the wonder and admiration of the entire world.


The Assembly Room Inside Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Detail of the Signatures Section on Page 4 of the United States Constitution

The Constitution resulted from a bundle of compromises that kept the smaller states happy with equal representation, the larger ones with proportional representation based on population, the states in general kept happy by possessing all the rights not mentioned as exclusive to the central government, as well as the power to select the Senate—a federal system. The founders built in checks and balances so one branch of government could not tyrannize over another.


Independence Hall in Philadelphia, by Ferdinand Richardt, c. 1858-63

Men such as Patrick Henry of Virginia, who opposed ratification, foresaw the possibility of liberty so dearly won in eight years of war, being taken away by a unitary state. The Bill of Rights was added to guarantee those liberties, prohibiting the new central government from establishing a state church or restricting the people from gun ownership, or preventing fair and swift trials etc. The founders established a government of laws, not of men, so a tyrannical mob, “the majority,” could not force their will on the minority, a glorious Republic and not a democracy.

Through the amending process, through the Court granting itself extraordinary power over the states, and the Congress forfeiting its responsibilities to the President as well as the President acting without consent of the governed, the Constitution of the Fathers has been ignored, battered, and overpowered at various times in American history, but the foresight of the founders, and the original intentions of their wisdom, have enabled the Republic to survive till now. The nation as it was created was designed for “a virtuous people” and the purpose of the Constitution still stands, though at times feebly so—to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for a common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to posterity.

Learn more about the signing of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, as well as other key events in America’s struggle for liberty in the Cradle of Liberty Tour (MP3 Album), just $9.99 for over 5 hours of tour audio in the Landmark Events download store!


Watch for our Philadelphia Tour coming in 2018!

2017-05-22T21:16:15+00:00 May 22nd, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of May 14

“There the ships move along, and Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.“ —Psalm 104:26

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters…” —Psalm 127:3

The Death of St. Brendan, May 16, 587

As the patron saint of sailors and travelers, superstitious people have appealed to Saint Brendan for help and safety for more than 16 centuries. Known as “Brendan the Bold” or “Brendan the Navigator,” his epic voyages and the mythology that goes with them have inspired songs, stories, and adoration in Ireland, Scotland, and America. How much of Brendan’s life can be substantiated by original documents from his day remains nil; the first references to his life came about two hundred years after he lived and the first references to his voyages, two hundred years after that. Lack of evidence from his own time, however, does not preclude the reality of his existence or some of his basic story. Oral tradition is often based on facts and in a closed community such as a monastery, where there may have been scribes, and which may have suffered barbarian attack and subsequent destruction of material evidence, the written story could be lost but the oral account still passed down.


“St. Brendan of the Gael” in Fenit, County Kerry, Ireland

Brendan was born near Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland in the 5th century. “St. Erc” trained him at Clonfert and ordained him as a priest in A.D. 512. As one of the “twelve apostles of Ireland” Brendan founded monasteries at Ardfert and Shanakeel, training other monks to preach the Gospel and live ascetic lives devoted to God’s service. The Celtic Church was known for its evangelical zeal, not just in the Emerald Isle and surrounding islands, but Scotland and Britain as well. According to later tales, copied and retold many times, Brendan’s travelogue exceeded all the other missionaries. Although there is no hard proof, centuries of tradition assert that he embarked on a seven-year voyage with fellow adventurers searching for “Terra Repromissionis” or Paradise Island — a land of lush vegetation. He allegedly set sail aboard a Curragh, a boat of wood frame covered by hides. He and his mariners visited many islands including a fake one that turned out to be a sea monster! Eventually he found the Island of Paradise and made it home to Ireland again.


St. Brendan’s Voyage


Ardfert Cathedral, Ardfert, County Kerry, Ireland

Mythology aside, it is reasonable that Brendan may have landed in the Azores and other small islands in the Atlantic. Celtic runes and biblical passages from the early centuries have been found in various places in North America, indicating the presence of Celtic Christians long before the coming of the Spanish in the 15th century. It is possible that missionaries arrived on the American shores bringing the Gospel to the native tribes, the history of which is entirely lost and now only hinted at in mountain carvings of ancient origin. Legends are often given birth by real-life events.

There are traces of Brendan’s visits to Wales and Iona and it is believed he founded a few more monasteries in Ireland before he died in the mid-sixth century. Whether he braved the oceans and found his fair isle or not does not detract from the impact Brendan probably had in a day of daring missionary expeditions.

Listen to the Mick Moloney & Eugene O’Donnell Rendition of
“St. Brendan’s Fair Isle“, by Jimmy Driftwood

You are invited to tour the Emerald Isle with a small group of fellow Christians exploring the vibrant scenery and tumultuous history of this unique land. We will be traversing a wide range of history from the Stone Age to the early 20th century and you’ll be encouraged and amazed as we reveal the remarkable ways God has used these fiery-spirited people to change the world.

2017-05-16T16:58:08+00:00 May 16th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of May 7

“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” —Proverbs 6:16-19, ESV

The Sinking of the RMS Lusitania, May 7, 1915

The headlines were as lurid as any in the 20th Century, and the tragedy rivaled only by the sinking of RMS Titanic three years earlier:

 

The United States had declined to enter the world war raging in the trenches of Europe and now the dirty Hun had torpedoed an innocent passenger ship, with many Americans aboard. Many in the press and the numerous Anglophiles of the United States began baying for war against Germany.

Until this tragic incident, Americans had remained sharply divided on who were the good guys and who the bad in the madness that was World War I. The millions of Americans of German or English ancestry, (very often a combination of both) believed America should remain neutral and the Wilson administration agreed. The following year, in fact, Wilson would stump for reelection on the slogan “He kept us out of war.” At least until after the election.


Postcard c. 1910 of RMS Lusitania at Chelsea Piers, New York


RMS Lusitania Arrives in New York
on Her Maiden Voyage

The war on the high seas had gone badly for the Germans. England still ruled the oceans of the world, upon which her empire was dependent. Germany had geared up for war on the high seas, but her surface raiders had been swept from the oceans and the fleet was bottled up in harbor. They would venture out for a test of strength with Britain in 1916 but the Battle of Jutland that resulted proved inconclusive, and they returned to sulk out the rest of the war. The use of submarines against allied merchants assumed first place importance for the blue water navy.

As a declared neutral, the United States — according to international law and precedent — was not permitted to supply war materials to any of the belligerents. Nonetheless, the Americans were sending a steady supply of armaments to England, and the Germans were made well aware of it from their spies in the U.S. and Britain. Germany issued stern warnings to the Wilson administration and were given assurances that the country would comply with the international rules of neutrality. Frustrated at non-compliance, Germany declared unlimited submarine warfare in the waters around the United Kingdom. Violators would suffer the consequences.


William Thomas Turner (1856-1933)
Captain of the RSM Lusitania


The Sinking of the RMS Lusitania
May 7, 1915

RMS Lusitania of the Cunard Line had been launched in 1906 and competed in the trans-Atlantic passenger trade with the German companies and with the White Star Line of Britain, of which the RMS Titanic was the Queen for the briefest of time. When the war began in 1914, Lusitania had secret compartments constructed to carry munitions as a merchantman but remained in service as a passenger liner. In the first year of the war, the German submarines complied with the old “Cruiser Rules” which included warnings before attack, and neutral ships would be left alone. In 1915, all merchants of the allied nations became fair game in the waters around the U.K.


Two Divers Prepare to Explore the Wreckage of the Lusitania, 1935

Lusitania left New York on her 102nd trans-Atlantic voyage on the first of May. Although the United States and Britain denied her having any war materials, the Germans claimed she was loaded with munitions and took out ads in newspapers across the United States warning people not to sail on Lusitania. Eleven miles off the south coast of Ireland, U-20 struck her with one torpedo and then a secondary explosion inside the ship occurred. The ship’s bow struck the ocean floor 18 minutes later. Almost 1,200 people were lost, including 128 Americans. The outrage in America and Britain drowned out all discussion of the cargo, which both nations claimed was passengers only. In 2008, divers found 4 million U.S. manufactured Remington rounds of .303 ammunition still in the hold designated for the killing of German soldiers on the western front. In 1917, Congress declared war on the Central Powers, citing in speeches but not the actual declaration, the unprovoked sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania as one of the reasons.

Journey with Landmark Events to Cobh, Ireland to see the Lusitania Memorial and learn how the people of the town rose to the huge challenge of rescue, comforting the shocked and injured survivors, and identifying, repatriating and burying the dead.

2017-05-13T01:03:43+00:00 May 8th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 30

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” —1 Corinthians 10:31

Stonewall Jackson’s Mortal Wounding, May 2, 1863

In the recent book The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, by historian Robert Krick, we see, from a human perspective, an event that many historians, and Southerners in particular, believed changed history in such a way that subsequent events were just running out the clock after the All-American player had been removed from the team. Whether Stonewall Jackson’s death after the Battle of Chancellorsville “doomed” the nation or not, his removal from history secured his reputation and importance in Civil War historiography and American culture until recent times.


Jackson’s Mill, Jackson’s Boyhood Home


“Stonewall” Jackson as a Young Man

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was one of an untold number of young men born of Scots-Irish parents in the mountains of the Alleghenies in the 19th century. His grandparents had been transported by the English for alleged crimes in the old country and had settled in the mountains of western Virginia, raised a family in the desperate times of Indian attacks, war against Britain, and extremely high infant mortality rates. Both of Jackson’s parents died when he was young and he was raised by his Uncle Cummins, a somewhat roguish but tough parent for Thomas. Although indifferently schooled, Jackson acquired an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Awkward and unschooled, but possessing an iron will and unrelenting perseverance, Jackson had astonished his classmates in moving from last place to graduating 17th of 59 in his graduating class of 1846.


General Jackson and His Officers


Jackson with His Horse, Sorrel

From the Point, to fearless heroic performance in the Mexican War, to the classroom as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, Jackson probably would likely have been only a footnote in history had not the Civil War plucked him from obscurity to high command in the Confederate Army. Thomas became “Stonewall” as a result of his brigade’s stand at 1st Manassas in 1861. Independent command followed and with it the “Valley Campaign.” Still studied in military history courses around the world, Stonewall Jackson with far inferior numbers of troops, bamboozled three Union armies, froze another in place, and drove the Yankees from the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862.

Learn more about “Stonewall” Jackson in Living All of Life for the Glory of God: The Testimony of General Stonewall Jackson, by historian Bill Potter. Just $1.99 in the Landmark Events download store!

General Jackson was no ordinary soldier. As a devout Christian, he gave all praise to God for his successes and organized his entire life around service to Christ in all things. From his exemplary marriage to Mary Anna, to his “colored Sunday School,” to his service as deacon in his church, Jackson lived a consistent Christian life. In the army, he supported Gospel preaching by encouraging his chaplains, writing the denomination to send more preachers, and by attendance at worship services with his men. He trusted in the providence of God for the results of all his endeavors, personal and military.


Jackson Encouraged Gospel Preaching Amongst the Army

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson, under orders of his superior, Robert E. Lee, made a forced march around a far superior Union army and attacked on their flank, wrecking all the plans of the enemy and driving his right wing from the field. In the process, Jackson received a mortal wound in the dead of night when he made an ill-advised reconnaissance of the lines. Men of his own command carrying smoothbore muskets, mistook him for enemy cavalry and fired a volley. In a week’s time, after amputation of his arm, Jackson died of sepsis, confident in his faith. His last words were “let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”


Robert E. Lee at Jackson’s Grave


General Lee’s “Right Hand”

His ability to maneuver his Corps under the able instructions of General Lee had helped transform the Southern Army into an almost unbeatable military force on the brink of winning independence. With Jackson’s death, the dynamics of command changed and his successors never really measured up to the standard he had set. Although he was a humble Christian just doing his duty and giving God the credit, Stonewall Jackson had nonetheless earned the respect and adulation of the world, including his enemies.

Join Us This Month in Virginia!

Learn more about Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on our Shenandoah Valley Tour! Stops include many important places in Jackson’s life including his house, church, grave, Virginia Military Institute and Port Republic Battlefield.

Learn More and Register for the Shenandoah Valley Tour

2017-05-08T18:26:22+00:00 April 30th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 23

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground; yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” —Job 5:6,7

The Easter Rising, April 24-29, 1916

Until Henry VIII, England was virtually powerless in most of Ireland. By the end of his reign, the Tudor King and his successors would possess undisputed rule of the whole island. And so it would remain, though disputed from time to time, often violently, until 1922. After Henry though, the “viceroy” would be English. After the fall of the Fitzgeralds in 1541, the Irish Parliament declared Henry VIII the King of all Ireland.


Irish Citizen Army group outside
Liberty Hall, Dublin 1914


Dublin in the aftermath of the
Easter Rising, 1916

Resistance by the Catholic lords of Ireland continued over the next forty years, however, and suffered final defeat with O’Niell’s submission in 1603. The 17th Century would be a witch’s brew of complexity and rival interests, as well as more warfare; the Irish, the old English, the new English, the royalists, the parliamentarians, and the Scots would all vie for survival or power, depending on the circumstances in England at the time. The Restoration of Charles II did not settle the disagreements, for he tried to please everyone and pleased no one. William III smashed the Catholic rebellion at the Battle of the Boyne.

This unquiet history continued till the 20th Century, always with secret Roman Catholic factions and discontented people, some of whom fought a guerrilla war with the English as opportunity afforded. Some of the men who longed for independence from Britain never gave up hope of a peaceful, parliamentary solution. Others believed they must seize independence by force of arms. With Britain embroiled in the First World War, the Irish Republican Brotherhood decided to make a violent bid to throw off English rule.


Thomas Clarke (1858-1916)
Executed at age 58 at Kilmainham Gaol


Sean MacDermott (1883-1916)
Executed at age 33 at Kilmainham Gaol

Legislation promoting self-rule for Ireland had been proposed in Parliament on a number of occasions in the previous thirty years but for one reason or another had been defeated or shelved, the latest as a result of going to war in 1914. The independence movement in Ireland was plagued with the same historic problems that had thwarted such attempts through the centuries: factionalism, private rivalry, sympathy for the union, apathy, and, ultimately, the failure to agree on timing, tactics and leadership.

A headquarters staff was chosen with Tom Clarke and Sean MacDermott in charge of planning. Roger Casement met with the German ambassador to the United States and even travelled to Germany to try and cement an alliance. The Germans promised arms and ammunition. The director of military organization Patrick Pearse called for a secret mobilization during the funeral of an old Fenian leader from America. The Irish Volunteers were called out for parades and maneuvers on Easter Sunday, 1916. A German arms shipment of 20,000 rifles and ammunition sailed for County Kerry.


Michael Collins (1890-1922) present during the Easter Rising, later became a leading figure in the struggle for Irish independence


Members of the Irish Army march past in the Easter Rising Centenary Parade, 2016

The Royal Navy, having been tipped off about the shipment waylaid the boat, which was promptly scuttled by the captain, and the crew captured. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin — the nerve center of British control of Ireland — was put on alert, but before measures could be taken for defense, the rising began on Easter Monday. Twelve hundred armed Irish volunteers assembled in Dublin and began sealing off streets and seizing strategic locations near the town center. Soldiers and police were gunned down when they tried to respond, and the city of Dublin became a war zone. The rebels failed to capture the castle or the ports, probably for lack of men, but held the post office as headquarters till it caught fire from canon shells and burned down, leaving only the façade. The fighting was street-to-street and house-to-house. Smaller risings across Ireland were also attempted but with very little success. British reinforcements overwhelmed the rebels and a truce was struck six days after the fighting began.

About 485 people died in the rising, more than half of them civilians. About 2,600 were wounded. The reprisals were deadly. Secret trials condemned ninety to death, the British authorities carried out fifteen executions, including most of the leaders of the Irish Brotherhood, and several others, without previous judicial warrant. The executions engendered much sympathy from Ireland, Britain and America. Irish independence organizations resorted to arms again in 1921, with many more casualties and horrors visited on Ireland by both sides. Britain created the Irish Free State in 1922. For all practical purposes, Henry VIII and his successors were history, at least in the counties below Ulster.

Just a Few Seats Remaining!

Our Ireland Tour in June includes the General Post Office, Kilmainham Gaol, and many other sites of the Easter Rising. We will explain the religious differences that undergird much of the disagreement and mayhem of history and seek to evaluate the past with Christian eyes.

2017-04-24T22:33:36+00:00 April 24th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 16

Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775

The Lexington Green stands silent today, surrounded by stately homes, a church, visitors’ center and Buckman tavern. At the entrance to the green, facing traffic, stands the minuteman statue, an armed man in the clothes of a farmer or townsman, grim, holding a rifle like it is a tool he normally carries to work. A marker in the center of the commons lists the names of the men who gathered to defend their homes, including the names of those who died in battle on that ground. Just up the street on a hill overlooking the town stands the reconstructed tower whose bell summoned the men to arms. While many New England villages still have a commons and a similar look to Lexington — they did not hear the “shot heard round the world.”


Minuteman Statue at Lexington Green


Getting into the Spirit of the 1770s

Boston had been a hotbed of discontent ever since the British chose that city to host the Post-French and Indian War garrison, sent to “protect” the colonists and administer the new land gained from France. Along with the soldiers came new taxes, created by Parliament, restrictions on migration westward, issuance of general search warrants, and enforcement of the long dormant Navigation Acts. Violations of the Colonial Charter, subversion of rights that dated from the Magna Carta, and the normal contentions created by the red-coated English teenagers loosed in Boston, spawned the creation of a resistance movement that took several forms. Committees of Correspondence and Sons of Liberty operated clandestinely to keep other colonies informed, debated the issues in taverns, raised liberty poles, and wrote tracts and broadsides opposing British actions. The people were encouraged to boycott imported goods and evade taxes, and protests sometimes turned into riots, intimidation, and violence at one time or another from 1763-1775.


Paul Revere (1735-1818)


Samuel Adams (1722-1803)

Leadership of the resistance included men like James Otis, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren and others. The two “most wanted” by the British authorities were Adams and Hancock, both of whom had left Boston for the countryside and had a price on their head. In April, 1775, General Howe decided to track them down, rumored to be at Lexington, and to capture gunpowder stored in the town of Concord.

About 700 of the 3,000-man British Garrison left Boston for Lexington in the early morning hours of April 19. The task force contained companies from every infantry regiment plus Marines. The countryside was brought to “alarm” by riders from Boston, especially Paul Revere and William Dawes, and the two Patriot leaders in Lexington left before the Redcoats arrived. The local militia did not leave. They assembled on the Commons to await events.


Old North Concord Bridge


The British Advance Across the Bridge

Six light infantry companies under Major Pitcairn arrived in Lexington in the early morning to find about eighty militia drawn up to oppose them, led by Captain John Parker. When ordered to disperse, some of the Americans left, most remained. It was later alleged by a participant that Parker said “Stand your ground, don’t fire unless fired upon, if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot of the War for Independence — “the shot heard round the world” — but someone did fire a shot. The resulting skirmish killed a few of the defenders; none of the invaders were struck. Later in the day another battle began at Concord and before the sun set, almost 300 British soldiers were casualties and about a hundred Americans. There was no turning back from war now.

Landmark Events visits Lexington Green and Concord Bridge as part of our Plymouth/Boston Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims Tour November 13-17. We don’t just stand there, but charge and countercharge in our own little reenactment, and we remember the men and boys who stood their ground, and the wives and mothers who buried their men and supported those who still fought on for their liberty for the next eight years. Join us this November.

2017-04-24T21:18:58+00:00 April 17th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 9

“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” —Psalm 11:3

Noah Webster Publishes the American Dictionary of the English Language, April 14, 1828

If words are mere social constructs with no objective meaning, men and women bent on destroying Christian civilization and replacing it with subjective nonsense, myths and perversity will make great strides toward their goal. When words are defined by the social ethos of the moment, documents like the U.S. Constitution become nothing but historical curiosities, and biblical truth becomes irrelevant or evil by the lights of the humanistic cognoscenti. The ones who define the terms, win the argument. English, that most pliable and eclectic of all languages, reached its apogee of objective meaning with the publication of Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.


Noah Webster (1758-1843)


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

The English-speaking world of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries relied almost exclusively on Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language. A product of nine years (1746-55) of painstaking collecting of common and uncommon English words, their etymological derivations, and use in written documents of the past, the dictionary reflected Johnson’s brilliant wit and humor as well as singular scholarship. It became the standard of definition, including the words used in the United States Constitution and the generation that founded the American Republic. In the new American context, however, the English language expanded exponentially with the use of native words, and the “language of liberty and independence.”

 


“Noah Webster, The Schoolmaster of the Republic,” print by Root & Tinker

One of the American founders, Noah Webster, set out to improve on Johnson’s work in the new American context, and in 1828 published American Dictionary of the English Language. Although he relied heavily on Johnson’s tome, Webster simplified arcane spellings and defined the words that reflected the New World realities. Webster avoided slang and vulgar wit, but relied heavily on the Bible, an unassailable source of objective truth, and the first thing “in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.” Few books in history have so deeply established a standard of reference that undergird an entire civilization.

Connecticut-born Noah Webster descended from the first and one of the greatest of New England founders, Governor William Bradford. He graduated from Yale during the War for Independence and became one of the core defenders of the Federalist vision for America. His passion for educating American young people in the virtues and responsibilities of citizenship motivated him to write textbooks, including the best-selling blue-backed speller and others. Although just a peripatetic book-seller, he hob-knobbed with the writers of the Constitution in Philadelphia at the City Tavern, involving himself in the debates and discussions.

 


City Tavern in Philadelphia, est. 1773 and visited by the likes of George Washington, Paul Revere and others

As the father of American education, Webster pointed out that self-government and family government preceded any other type of government, and that the institution of the family needed to lay the foundation of the law and the gospel. For him the “Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” As one scholar has rightly asserted, “Noah Webster as a Christian scholar laid the foundation of etymology upon the Scriptures and his research into the origin of language stems from this premise.” His was a Christian philosophy of life, devoid of vulgarity and slang, but applicable to all Americans as they fulfilled the demands of a virtuous Republic with words that had specific meanings and did not change with the winds of fashion.

Image Credits:Noah Webster (Wikipedia.org); 2 Samuel Johnson (Wikipedia.org); 3 City Tavern (Wikipedia.org); 4 Schoolmaster (Wikipedia.org)

2017-04-24T21:32:57+00:00 April 10th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 2

The Marriage of
Pocahontas and John Rolfe, 1614

The 17th century Powhatan Princess Matoaka — today better known as Pocahontas — has become an iconic romantic figure to the current generation of young girls, thanks to Walt Disney studios’ cartoon epic, or she serves as the prototype feminist who took charge of her life, defied convention, and overcame the patriarchal tyrants of her day. Regardless of modern revisionist caricatures of the life of Pocahontas, she has always held a privileged place in the Jamestown story, whether she really did save John Smith from execution — as he asserted — or not. That she learned enough English to serve as a liaison for her father and tribe, helped John Smith, was held captive by the settlers, married tobacco businessman John Rolfe and met the King of England, seem beyond debate. Her marriage on the 5th of April, 1614, only seven years after the Jamestown settlers arrived, marked both an affirmation of ancient biblical precedent and the symbolic beginning of a new, though short-lived, period of peace and harmony in Virginia.


The Marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas

The English settlers landed in 1607 in a marshy area along the river they named after the King. Running through their stores too quickly, lack of knowledge how to fish, contention with the native tribes, and the presence of disease and starvation almost put an end to the gentlemen adventurers. Seeking to establish good relations with the natives and setting up effective trade arrangements taxed the settlers who did survive that first year. Pocahontas came into the picture, according to John Smith, when he was seized and threatened with execution, and she intervened to rescue him. In 1609 she was captured by the settlers and held in the fort during the first “Anglo-Powhatan” War.


Recreation of Jamestown Settlement


The Rescue of John Smith by Pocahontas

John Rolfe came to Jamestown on the third relief ship in 1609 with tobacco seeds for planting in the New World. If successful, Spain’s dominance of the tobacco trade could be challenged, and the profits looked for by the London Company might be recouped. The first four barrels of Virginia tobacco left the wharf of Varina Plantation, Rolfe’s home, in 1614. Wanting to marry the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas, threw Rolfe into a quandary. As a Christian man determined to follow biblical law, he knew he could not marry a pagan — unequal yoking. The Indian princess was willing to undergo teaching by the Rev. Alexander Whitaker, the local pastor, and thus heard the Gospel, learned the Catechism, and made a profession of her faith in Christ. Thus the major obstacle to their union disappeared and the first inter-cultural Christian marriage of the English colony ensued. The resulting peace between the natives and the English enabled the colony to expand and prosper.


The Baptism of Pocahontas


Portrait of Lady Rebecca Rolfe

The event is memorialized on the wall of the United States Capitol in a magnificent painting. How few realize the importance and solemnity of that Christian marriage, without “interracial” barriers. The King of England is said to have been displeased because Rolfe had married above his social station! Pocahontas took on the Christian name of Lady Rebecca, an action that horrifies modern pagan sensibilities. They had a son Thomas who has many descendants today. Pocahontas died in England at Gravesend and is buried there. Rolfe was murdered in the Powhatan uprising in 1622 in Virginia.

John Rolfe’s letter to Governor Sir Thomas Dale expressed his desire to follow God’s prescriptions for marriage.

Image Credits:Marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas (Wikipedia.org); 2 Jamestown Settlement (Wikipedia.org); 3 Pocahontas Rescuing John Rolfe (Wikipedia.org); 4 Lady Rebecca Rolfe (Wikipedia.org);

2017-04-24T21:35:29+00:00 April 3rd, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of March 13

“Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place that call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…” —I Corinthians 1:2

Saint Patrick (Allegedly) Died on this Day,
March 17, A.D. 461

Before the light of the Protestant Reformation dawned in the 16th century, many in the Christian Church believed that only a certain few Christians in history should be designated as “saints”, though the Bible explicitly teaches that every true believer possesses that title. That being said, in the pre-Reformation times, certain important historical men and women in the church were commonly only known by the “Sainthood” designations given them by the Church, such as St. Patrick, St. Augustine of Hippo, or St. Chrysostom. The best known in America, by far, is Patrick, primary patron saint of Ireland. But the reality is that few actually know his story, other than myths that accrued to his name after his death.


Patrick of Ireland (AD 385-461)


Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)

The Letters of Patrick

The phrases “cannot be fixed with certainty” and “there is no reliable documentation for” and other such expressions lie on almost every page concerning “super-saints” of pre-medieval times. The man who called himself Patricius, however, left two known documents for future generations to ponder: Confessio (Declaration) and Epistola (Letters to the soldiers of Caroticus). From these two sources — generally recognized by historians as authentic — we can glean a few useful details of Patrick’s life.

A Briton Slave to Irish Pirates

Christians brought the Gospel to Britain, probably in the apostolic or immediate post-apostolic era, during Roman occupation. Patrick lived in the fifth century, i.e. 450 years after Jesus Christ’s ascension. It seems he was born into a Briton Christian family but was not a believer himself till sometime after his capture by Irish pirates and being taken to Ireland as a slave. His grandfather was a priest and his father a deacon. He spent his time as a slave herding sheep and used his time wisely in contemplation and prayer. He claims that he became a true believer sometime in those six years. Patrick recorded that he heard a voice telling him to return home, so he ran away, got passage on a vessel, and returned home, age about twenty-one.

Bringing the Gospel Back Home to Ireland

Patrick received some type of theological training, perhaps on the continent, and returned to Ireland as a missionary. The stories of his peripatetic ministry have grown with the telling. Shrines to his work are found in many places in Ireland. He apparently founded a number of churches, one of the most important being in Armagh where two cathedrals there today bear testimony to his effectiveness — one Roman Catholic, and one Protestant.* It is probable that he was not the first Christian in Ireland but the extreme success of his promoters, ancient and modern, claim that he was. He faced down the Druidic cults that dominated Celtic society, and, so widespread was his ministry, that some claim all Ireland became Christian, or very nearly so.


St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Armagh


St. Patrick’s Protestant Cathedral in Armagh

Preaching Christ in Great Peril

I’ll not rehearse the legends of St. Patrick, they are easily found. What is certain though, in the Providence of God, is that a young British slave saw a need for the Gospel among the pagan Celts of Ireland and returned there in peril of his life and preached the Grace of Christ, building churches and monasteries from which the faith would continue after his death. His demise on March 17 is mere unverifiable tradition to which has stuck all sorts of other aspects — leprechauns, the color green, and questionable behavior — that have obscured the reality of a historical Christian saint. By God’s Grace, one man can sometimes make an almost unbelievable impact on the Kingdom of God. Ask Martin Luther.

 

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Image Credits:St. Patrick (Wikipedia.org); 2 St. Augustine (Wikipedia.org); 3 St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Catholic (Wikipedia.org); 4 St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Protestant (StPatricks-Cathedral.org)

2017-04-24T21:37:09+00:00 March 13th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of March 6

John Chrysostom Becomes Bishop of Constantinople, 397

Today, he looks down on a congregation of tourists from a frieze in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (formerly Constantinople). Dressed in white livery and holding a copy of the Scripture under his arm, the archbishop John Chrysostom is probably preparing to speak, for his name literally means “golden mouthed” in Greek. His life began in the middle of the Fourth Century A.D. and ended in 407 but his influence, wisdom, popularity and reputation is second only to Augustine of Hippo, among the church fathers of the post-apostolic era; he was “the prince of preachers” of his time.


1,000-year-old mosaic of John Chrysostom in the Hagia Sophia


The Hagia Sophia, constructed 532-537 AD

Raised in the ‘Nurture and Admonition of the Lord’

Chrysostom was born in Antioch, the second city of the Eastern Empire, Byzantium. When his father Secundus died, a Roman soldier in Syria, his twenty-year-old mother raised him in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” although all the heresies of the era were abundant in the city. He received the finest classical education available, especially in rhetoric, though most of it from pagan Greeks. The man who made the difference in his life, however, was the pastor and teacher Meletius, who preached the Word of God and taught him how to study the Scripture. About the year 370 (age c.23), John made profession of faith in Christ and was baptized. He was attracted to the ascetic life and became an anchorite, living in the caves of Antioch, praying and studying Scripture. His health ruined, he returned to the city to recover and picked up where he had left off as a lector (a reader in the church, preparatory to the diaconate).


Panoramic view of modern-day Istanbul with Hagia Sophia visible on the right

A Bold and Fearless Preacher

In 386 Chrysostom was ordained by the church and began a ministry of preaching that lasted for twelve years, in which time, his gift for preaching powerful and practical expository sermons benefited thousands and his written commentaries gained church-wide renown and are highly appreciated today. John Chrysostom finally became the Bishop of Constantinople, the most powerful position in the Eastern Church, where he preached plainly against corruption in the church and state. He raised money for the poor, founded hospitals, and rebuked the ungodly. His famous statement that “the road to hell is paved with the bones of the priests and monks, and the skulls of the bishops are the lampposts that light the way,” won him no friends among the clergy. His holding the civil authorities accountable to Christ, got him exiled by Empress Eudoxia. Chrysostom wrote about family life and children and, in a day when life was cheap and mercy a sign of weakness, he proclaimed that “to destroy the fetus is something worse than murder, the one who does this does not take away life that has already been born, but prevents it from being born.“ How is our age any better? We need the pulpits of our land to echo such belief.


Saint John Chrysostom and Empress Aelia Eudoxia, by Jean-Paul Laurens

A Heavenly Home

John Chrysostom was not as doctrinally pure as we would like. He believed that the Virgin Mary was instrumental in some way to a person’s salvation and he promoted the supposed escape from the world and the flesh practiced by monks and other ascetics. Nonetheless, he rightly proclaimed “I am a Christian. He who answers thus proclaims everything at once: his country, his profession, his family; the believer belongs to no city on earth, but to the heavenly Jerusalem.” He died in exile but the many lives he touched expanded Christ’s kingdom and showed the practical implications of biblical truth.

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Image Credits:John Chrysostom (Wikipedia.org); 2 Hagia Sophia Chrysostom (Wikipedia.org); 3 Constantinople (Modern-Day Istanbul) (Wikipedia.org); 4 John Chrysostom and Empress Eudoxia (Wikipedia.org)

2017-04-24T21:40:07+00:00 March 7th, 2017|History Highlights|