The Death of Thomas Boston, 1732

2019-05-18T20:30:45+00:00May 20, 2019|HH 2019|

“I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” —Psalm 40:10

The Death of Thomas Boston, May 20, 1732

Thomas Boston was born in 1676, in the midst of the “killing times” in Scotland, when the English King and his myrmidons in Scotland hunted down and persecuted the Covenanters. Thomas was born in the tiny parish of Duns in Berwickshire, in the Scottish borders, an area known for turbulence and rebellion. Thomas’s father John was a cooper by trade and a strict Presbyterian by conviction. Agents of the Crown arrested him for not conforming to the government’s demands regarding worship. Thomas remembered in his later years, visiting his father in prison. After the Act of Toleration in 1687, the Bostons began travelling to Whitsome, about four miles from their home, to hear Henry Erskine preach. Young Thomas was “spiritually awakened” at the age of eleven, after hearing preaching on John 1:29 and Matthew 3:7. He “loved reading the Bible” and began a lifelong study of Latin and Greek, to which in later years he added Hebrew.

Thomas Boston (1676-1732)

Boston attended Edinburgh University in the early 1690s and moved on to a theological education. After only one year, financial restraints compelled him to take a tutoring position, where his spare time was spent studying the Scriptures. Boston was licensed to preach in the Church of Scotland at the age of 22. His memoirs indicate he was a man of intense and constant prayer and a preacher of uncommon zeal. He served only two pastorates in his lifetime, Simprin and Ettrick, both in the Scottish borders.

University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582

Church historians have classified Boston as one of the great preachers of his age, though he labored in rural, relatively obscure parishes. He kept a diary for many years and his memoirs have been kept in print by Banner of Truth; he wrote out his sermons; a twelve volume collection was published in 1849. Several books he wrote became Christian classics and have never been out of print. Twentieth century historian and theologian J. I. Packer, considers Boston and Jonathan Edwards the last of the Puritans, “prolonging into the eighteenth century of pure Puritanism,” though one was Scottish and one American. Boston, according to Packer:

“…exhibited “a dazzling mastery of the text and teaching of the Bible; a profound knowledge of the human heart; great thoroughness and clarity in exposition; great skill in applicatory searching of the conscience; and a pervasive sense of the wonder and glory of God’s grace in Christ to such perverse sinners as ourselves.”

Boston served only two pastorates in his lifetime — Simprin and Ettrick, both in the Scottish borders

In Boston’s first call to the church in Simprin was the formative period of his life. “It was in the quiet of that secluded charge, and in the exercise of his calling among his ‘flock’ . . . that he first formed those habits of public work and private study from which he never deviated till the end.” That powerful and gifted preacher gave his all, regardless of the size of the congregation. He preached every week, held prayer and praise meetings in his home every Tuesday, catechized all over the parish and visited his family. When he accepted the call to the much larger parish of Ettrick, he did not deviate from his ministerial pattern. The new congregation, however, was “full of pride, self-assurance, and conceit.” The pulpit had been empty for four years and “the people had grown careless.” Through many hardships he persevered with very direct and convicting sermons to a congregation that began with under a hundred attendees, till at the end of his life had grown to over eight hundred.

View of Ettrick Village in the Scottish Borders

Ettrick Parish Church, where Boston was minister starting in 1707

Boston did not back down from confronting doctrinal compromise in the larger church, taking unpopular positions on theological issues of the day. His role in the so-called “Marrow Controversy” still resonates in some reformed churches today. He was criticized for too much enthusiasm in preaching and in pressing “heart religion” on his auditors. Dead orthodoxy had no place in Boston’s ministry. Today, Thomas Boston is probably best known for his work entitled Human Nature in Its Four-fold State, and The Crook in the Lot, concerning the suffering and setbacks in the Christian life. The Memoirs of Thomas Boston tell the profound story of a humble and devout pastor whose thirty-two years of ministry have blessed generations of Christians ever since. He died May 20, 1732.

“As to the crook in your lot, God has made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not change for all you can do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight.” —Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot; or, The sovereignty and wisdom of God displayed in the afflictions of men

Lewis and Clark Leave St. Louis, 1804

2019-05-11T18:42:07+00:00May 13, 2019|HH 2019|

“I will make my mountains a road, and my highways shall be raised up.” —Isaiah 49:11

Lewis and Clark Leave St. Louis, May 14, 1804

Thomas Jefferson, that brilliant and inquisitive President, political theorist, farmer, scientist, scholar, diplomat, inventor and traveler, devised a plan to explore the lands associated with the Louisiana territories. He chose two men to lead the enterprise, known to him for several years — men of courage, honesty, experience, strict self-discipline, and adaptability or, as Jefferson himself wrote concerning Lewis:

“it was impossible to find a character who to a complete science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adapted to the woods & a familiarity with the Indian manners and character, requisite for this undertaking. All the latter qualifications Capt. Lewis has.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in 1805

Their “Corps of Discovery” would eventually traverse more than eight thousand miles of death-defying wilderness, over a twenty-eight-month period, and lose but one man—to appendicitis!

President Jefferson’s instructions to Captain Meriwether Lewis “were the very model of the military five-paragraph order.” Their mission was to explore the Missouri River and follow it and its tributaries across the country, map their course, treat the natives in a friendly and conciliatory manner with the view in mind of future commerce. He had to take care of his men, reach the Pacific Ocean if practicable, and avoid fights if confronted with obstreperous tribes. They were to observe and collect flora and fauna and cultural artifacts as opportunity afforded.

Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
Captain in the U.S. Army and 2nd Governor of the Louisiana Territory

William Clark (1770-1838)
Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and 4th Governor of the Missouri Territory

In the course of the expedition, they made contact with at least twenty-four native tribes, and received help from them for food and directions, without which the Corps would have perished or at least foundered. With several war-like tribes they encountered, both the Corps and the natives practiced brinkmanship, but in each case, one side or the other backed off or backed down. Lewis and Clark built Fort Mandan in the Dakotas, from which they shipped samples of specimens of plants and animals unknown in the east. The white men spent the winter with Mandans and established a good working relationship with the tribe.

Reconstruction of Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark Memorial Park, North Dakota

the Lewis and Clark expedition reaches a Shoshone camp

They hired a French coureur des bois named Charbonneau, but his contribution paled next to that of his Shashone wife Sacagawea. She not only bore a son on the expedition, but was instrumental in saving supplies that got swept into a river, provided diplomatic assistance when the expedition met up with Shashones in the Rocky Mountains, and helped guide through the passes of the mountains.

Toussaint Charbonneau (1767-1843), French-Canadian explorer and trader, and husband of Sacagawea

Sacagawea (1788-1812) with Lewis and Clark

The Corps made it to the Pacific Ocean, built Fort Clatsop near the Columbia River, and flew the American flag, indicating the nation’s hegemony over the region. Lewis and Clark kept detailed journals throughout the expedition, a primary source of inestimable value to the government and to posterity. The arduous return journey brought them in contact with more previously unknown tribes and botanical specimens. A number of the men were disciplined by whipping and deprivations at various times. Strict discipline was observed, drunkenness punished. Most of the travelers fell sick sometime in the trek. The leaders’ rudimentary knowledge of medicine, and information acquired from the natives, enabled the men to overcome physical maladies, broken bones, and poisonous snakes. They arrived back in St. Louis on September 23, 1806.

Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia

The Corps of Discovery has been memorialized and lionized, especially in the twentieth century. Their incomparable story is one of perseverance and courage, unequaled in American history.

Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose

American Bible Society Founded, 1816

2019-05-06T13:44:33+00:00May 6, 2019|HH 2019|

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” —Hebrews 4:12

American Bible Society Founded, May 11, 1816

In the early years of the 19th Century, renewed interest in publication and distribution of Bibles, resulted in the creation of voluntary associations of Christians, in different states and regions of the United States, devoted to that end. By 1816, 130 Bible Societies has sprung up in twenty-four states and territories. Their chief purpose was to supply Bibles to Americans in their various languages. Although the Bible had been published in the United States since the previous century, most societies had to rely on the British and Foreign Bible Society to provide most of their stock for the insatiable demand. The Societies called for an umbrella organization to help them distribute Bibles around the world. The formation of the American Bible Society in New York City answered that call in 1816.

Adopting the template of the BFBS, the Americans created a board of majority laymen who chose as their first chairman one of the most active and well known of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Elias Boudinot. He had served as a lawyer, statesman, and delegate to the Continental Congress, a Colonel in the Continental army and Congressman in the new Republic, and director of the U.S. Mint, appointed by George Washington. Boudinot was happily self-conscious of his Huguenot roots and served as an elder in the Presbyterian Church; he was nationally known for his Christian testimony—in many ways the best man to lead the American Bible Society in its infancy. He was followed by John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), delegate to the first Continental Congress and first Chairman of the American Bible Society (1816-1821)

John Jay (1745-1829), first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and second Chairman of the American Bible Society (1821-1827)

The main purpose of the ABS was to help the existing societies get the Bible into every home in America. Within a year, forty-one societies became auxiliaries, looking to the parent Society to provide Bibles and money. As time passed, the auxiliary Societies folded into the ABS and it expanded to providing the Scriptures in foreign lands also. They teamed up with American missionaries around the globe, and secured the printing services of several publishers to meet the overwhelming demand for the Bible. The “King James Version” was their primary issuance in New Testaments, Psalms and the whole Bible, “without notes or comment.”

In May 1853, the American Bible Society opened the doors of its new Bible House on Astor Place in New York City. Costing over $300,000 to construct and occupying a full city block, the imposing structure, seen here in 1893, was demolished in 1956.

In 1806, the BFBS began using the “stereotype” printing process, which dramatically increased the number of Bibles that could be produced. When the ABS was formed they went to the same process quickly, enabling the production of sixty different forms of the KJV by 1850. In 1829 alone, the ABS printed 360,000 English Bibles and by 1860 were producing more than a million per year. By 1912, they were publishing Bibles in eighty-four languages, including those of Native American tribes.

With an easily readable format, good paper and sturdy binding, the goal of putting a Bible in every home in America seemed a reachable goal. In 1986, the ABS distributed almost 290 million Bibles in that year alone!

The Pony Express Bible, printed by the American Bible Society for the riders of the Pony Express

Title page of an 1860 Cherokee Bible printed by the American Bible Society

All was not smooth sailing for the ABS however, and the Society had to overcome both obstacles and opposition. In 1836, a breakaway group called the American Bible Union, formed a competing Society. Baptists insisted that the Greek word for “baptism” in the KJV be printed as “immersion,” but the Society decided not to print sectarian versions. The Baptists broke away and applied for a government patent to represent the true version of the Scriptures. They later split again over other words, some dissidents claiming that the KJV contained thousands of errors in terminology. Other contentions emerged over the years with calls for Roman Catholic versions, and Bibles based on higher criticism that some churches considered more accurate. The Civil War resulted in expedited and increased production for the soldiers in the field. The Confederacy ran the blockade to acquire Bibles from the BFBS warehouses in England.

The ABS was supported, at least verbally, by most Presidents of the United States; Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most vigorous and vocal proponents, for example. The Society today supports similar groups in several foreign countries and partners with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, continuing its worldwide expansion with assets worth more than 400 million dollars. The original vision of the founders continues unabated, and God has prospered their efforts and expanded His Kingdom, with the continued production and distribution of millions of two-edged swords.

The Death of J. Edgar Hoover, 1972

2019-04-29T14:14:07+00:00April 29, 2019|HH 2019|

“Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” —Proverbs 26:24-26

The Death of J. Edgar Hoover, May 2, 1972

John Edgar Hoover held the office of director of the FBI for forty-eight years, served under eight presidents and eighteen attorney generals. He amassed thousands of files on every sort of criminal, suspected communist subversive, politician, actor, and others whom he considered real or potential domestic threats to the United States. He centralized law-enforcement data, established huge numbers of finger-printing records and used the FBI files to intimidate, prosecute, and eliminate enemies. He was feared by colleagues and Presidents but not by the Mafia. His life and methods have undergone intense scrutiny and criticism, especially from the political left, and his legacy is a remarkable combination of intrigue, wiretaps legal and illegal, actions sometimes branded unconstitutional, and the receipt of many awards for diligence in protecting the Republic. No bureaucrat had a longer or more controversial career.

J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 1961

J. Edgar Hoover was born on New Year’s Day, 1895 in Washington, D.C., and lived there his entire life. His influence and power would, however, extend throughout all fifty states and in corners of the Republic unknown to most Americans. He began his working life as a go-fer in the Library of Congress, a half mile from his house. He later said it taught him the value of collating material, a talent that applied to collecting and collating information useful to the FBI. He attended high school and college in Washington, D.C., and at the age of twenty-two was hired by the Justice Department during the First World War.

Dickerson Naylor Hoover (1856–1921), J. Edgar Hoover’s father

His superiors assigned the zealous Hoover to monitor and track down radicals, especially those considered subversive of the war effort. He helped coordinate the “Palmer Raids,” to capture known or suspected communists during what became known as the “Red Scare.” Radical black activists, suspected Jewish subversives, and others were tracked by Hoover’s investigators. By 1924, he had become director of the Bureau of Investigation, taking over the running of more than four hundred agents. He fired all female agents and kept the agency all male henceforth. The Director courted collaborators among local law enforcement officers across the United States, and was unstinting in praise for the ones deemed most competent and effective.

In 1919, U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (1872-1936) recruited Hoover to head the newly created General Intelligence Unit and help conduct a series of raids against suspected anarchist and communist radicals

Both Prohibition and the Great Depression spawned their own forms of interstate lawlessness, from organized crime, based on bootlegging alcoholic beverages, prostitution, illegal gambling, and other vices to bank robbery and subverting law enforcers and politicians. In 1935, the word “Federal” was added to the Bureau of Investigation to become the FBI, with J. Edgar Hoover continuing as the director. While many successful prosecutions ensued from FBI evidence-gathering, the chief came under criticism for denying the existence of organized crime among the Sicilian Mafia in the United States. After 1957, however, the FBI cracked down on the crime bosses who operated with relative impunity in many of the largest cities.

A police raid of illegal alcohol during the Prohibition

A poverty-stricken family in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, 1936

World War II brought concentrated efforts, once again, on espionage and secret agents in the United States, and the Cold War put communist infiltrators front and center on the FBI targets list. The agency was supposed to just gather information and allow the criminal justice system to take over from there, but accusations of overstepping jurisdiction and selective enforcement constantly plagued the agency. Through wire-tapping the Rev. Martin Luther King, Hoover tried to discredit the NAACP as a potential threat to the United States. The intelligence gathered on Dr. King is still under lock and key, sealed in the FBI files, although the agency has promised to release the information on several occasions. Although under pressure to fire the zealous, (and some would say, out of control) law enforcer, Presidents Johnson and Nixon both made exceptions to the retirement age precedents for federal employees, and kept Hoover on well into his seventies, until he died in office in 1972. The political left hated him, the politicians feared to cross him, and the American people generally loved J. Edgar Hoover’s diligence in protecting the nation and pursuing those who would damage or destroy it. Some wish that he was still in office today, given the apparent perfidy of recent leadership.

J. Edgar Hoover (standing second from the left) and other officials meet in the Oval Office with President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss a response to the Detroit Riots, July 24, 1967

A few of his sayings reveal Hoover’s philosophy:

“A child who has been taught the laws of God, should have little trouble respecting the laws of men.”

“What we need in America today is a vigorous return to the God of our Fathers, and a most vigorous defense against the minion of godlessness and atheism.”

“No amount of law enforcement can solve a problem that goes back to the family. The Communist threat from without must not blind us to the Communist threat from within. The latter is reaching into the very heart of America through its espionage agents and a cunning, defiant, and lawless communist party, which is fanatically dedicated to the Marxist cause of world enslavement and destruction of the foundations of our republic.”

Library of Congress Established, 1800

2019-04-19T15:41:21+00:00April 22, 2019|HH 2019|

“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” —Ecclesiastes 12:12

Library of Congress Established,
April 24, 1800

James Madison suggested in 1783, following the securing of independence, the idea of a library for congressional use. In 1800, President John Adams signed into law the creation of The Library of Congress, along with an appropriations bill of $5,000.00 to get it started. They ordered 740 books and three maps from London, to be housed in the Capitol. Today there are 32 million catalogued books in 450 languages on more than 500 miles of shelves, and 5.3 million maps, not to speak of 61 million manuscripts, 6 million pieces of sheet music, 500,000 microfilm rolls; 15,000 items arrive every day of the year; (only 12,000 are added). The current annual budget for the Library of Congress is 684 million dollars. How did we get there?

James Madison (1751-1836)

Constructed between 1890 and 1897, the Thomas Jefferson Building is the oldest of the three main Library of Congress buildings

In 1800, most members of Congress had to travel for days, and some for weeks, to arrive in Washington. They brought few books, and their boardinghouse lives were not conducive to much study. Access to books was a practical measure, especially as it increased in number and relevancy. On August 24, 1814 the British army of the War of 1812 marched into Washington, D.C. President Madison, to whom the original idea of a congressional library is credited, fled the city, carrying the few rescued items from the Presidential Mansion. The Red Coats burned the Capitol, including the 3,000-volume National Library. Thomas Jefferson in splendid retirement, offered his full library to Congress for the sum of $23,950.00, which amounted to about $3.69 per volume, a bargain basement price. Congress hotly debated for four months whether to purchase the books and restore the lost collection. All the congressmen who were graduates of Yale and Harvard voted no, as did all the other representatives from New York and New England, excepting Vermont. It passed 81-71 thanks to the many congressmen who were not college graduates. His 6,487 volumes became the heart of the new Congressional Library.

Until the construction of the Jefferson Building in 1897, the Library was housed inside the Capitol Building as shown in this 1890 photograph

The burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814

On Christmas Eve in 1851, a faulty flue caught the library on fire again, destroying two-thirds of the 55,000 volumes, including about 4,000 of Jefferson’s books, as well as most of the art works — Stuart portraits of the first five Presidents, busts, and other irreplaceable artifacts. Congress responded quickly with appropriations of $168,700 to replace the books lost. Most of the Jefferson collection has been replaced over the years with the same editions he donated. His was a real scholar’s working library, not the haphazard showpiece of the typical gentleman’s library. Even in the 19th century, interior designers used books for a look, not practicality or usefulness.

After the Civil War, the institution under librarian Ainsworth Rand Spofford oversaw the construction of the magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building, the eclectic beaux arts style structure that contains much of the collection today, and is open for visitors. Completed in 1897 (with bi-partisan support!), it housed 840,000 volumes — 40% by “copy-write deposit.” They increased the staff from forty-two to one hundred eight. In the new century, the library persuaded Theodore Roosevelt to transfer by executive order the papers of the Founding Fathers from the State Department. The library began acquiring foreign language books and purchasing private collections, one of which included one of only three perfect vellum Gutenburg Bibles, which is usually on display in the Great Hall.

Photograph series showing the construction of the Thomas Jefferson Building from July 8, 1888 to May 15, 1894

Great Hall of the Library of Congress inside the Thomas Jefferson Building

The library expanded to the Adams, then the Madison Building and eventually, opened the Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia for all the audio-visual holdings, including classic movies. Librarian James Billington, appointed by President Reagan and unanimously approved by Congress, served until 2016, expanding the digital holdings exponentially, as well as acquiring a copy of Magna Carta on loan, the Bay Psalm Book, and other almost priceless artifacts. He also raised over five hundred million dollars in private donations.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress inside the Thomas Jefferson Building

Scholars and researchers, as well as Congressmen, can use the library, although only in the reading room itself, and following strict rules, including acquiring proper clearance. The Library of Congress is the largest general library in the world, and only getting larger. Safeguards are in place so it will not burn down again.

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