The Overthrow of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’uokalani, 1893

2021-01-18T10:52:21-06:00January 18, 2021|HH 2021, Uncategorized|

The Overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani,
January 17, 1893

British Captain James Cook is generally recognized as the first European to lay eyes on the islands he named after his patron, the Earl of Sandwich, in 1778. In time, the local name of the largest island, Hawai’i, gave its name to the eight isles that make up the modern American state of Hawaii. In common with Texas, it was the only other state that was an independent nation prior to statehood. Like Texas, it was a Christian nation. But unlike the Lone Star State, the Christian Queen of Hawaii was overthrown in a coup by American businessmen in collusion with the American government backed by United States Marines, in 1893. Although President Grover Cleveland determined that the coup was illegal, and tried to reinstate the Queen, the fait accompli prevailed, and the island kingdom became a protectorate of the United States, and in sixty-seven years, a state.


Captain James Cook (1728-1779), cartographer, navigator, explorer and captain in the British Royal Navy

The modern history of Hawaii began with internecine warfare in the last two decades of the 18th Century which ended in the triumph of King Kamehameha I, who established a monarchic dynasty which lasted until 1872 with the death of Kamehameha V. Two events had profound impact on the Hawaiian Islands in the 19th Century—the development of the sugar industry and the success of the Christian Gospel brought there by American missionaries.

Sugar exporting began shortly after the arrival of the British expeditions of Captain Cook. From 1835 to 1865, sugar plantations were constructed on the four largest islands and utterly dominated the economy of the nation. Both England and America competed for economic dominance on the other end of the world.


Kamehameha I, (c. 1736-1819) ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii


King Kamehameha II (1797-1824) abolished the ancient pagan “kapu” religious system. He died of measles at the young age of 26 during a diplomatic visit to London.

The ancient pagan “kapu” religious system continued to prevail during the reign of Kamehameha I but was abolished by his son and successor. The American board of Commissioners for Missions, an ecumenical Reformed missionary association based in New England, sent fourteen missionaries (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Dutch Reformed) on one ship to bring the Gospel to the Sandwich Islands. They arrived in April of 1820. After centuries of human sacrifice, cannibalism, and demon worship, the light of the Gospel shown on Hawaii and the Holy Spirit was pleased to bring many people to faith in Christ. With the approval of the king, Rev. Hiram Bingham led the missionaries to establish headquarters in Honolulu. They learned the language, created a written alphabet, taught it back to the natives, translated the Scriptures and preached to them in the vernacular. Succeeding waves of missionaries arrived throughout the century and most of the children of the missionaries remained there, establishing educational institutions, joining in business ventures, often sugar planting and trade, as well as intermarrying with Hawaiians. Within two generations, members of the royal family had become Christians also.


Hiram Bingham I (1789-1869) led the first wave of American missionaries introducing the Gospel to the islands


A stone chimney and foundation are all that remain of “The Old Sugar Mill”, Hawaii’s first commercially successful sugarcane plantation founded in 1835 on the island of Kauai.

The sugar barons were active in Hawaiian and American politics, and between 1887 and 1895, fomented a series of rebellions against the King of Hawaii. The “Reform Party” protested the growing debt of the kingdom, as well as the corrupt bargains made by the king himself with foreign interests. A coalition of cabinet members, sugar planters, and royal advisors imposed a constitution on the king, the so-called “bayonet constitution,” for they used United States Marines to force compliance by King Kalākaua. He was stripped of his powers and only wealthy Americans, Europeans and Hawaiians were given the right to vote. The king died on a visit to San Francisco in 1891 and his sister Lilioukalani became the Queen and ruler of Hawaii.


Kalākaua (1836-1891), King of the Hawaiin Islands from 1874 to 1891. He named his sister Lili’uokalani as his heir-apparent.


Lorrin Thurston (1858-1931), grandson of Christian missionaries to Hawaii and a key figure in the overthrow of Hawaii

The Queen believed that the majority of Hawaiians did not want the new constitution and took steps to rid the nation of the imposed document. A “Committee of Safety” in the “Name of the people” organized a coup with the American minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens. Citing imminent danger to Americans and their property, Marines and sailors of the U.S. Navy were brought to shore and the Queen was deposed on January 17, 1893. A provisional government was established by the Committee of Safety. The Queen wrote in response:

I Lili’uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.

That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the Provisional Government.

Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.


Queen Lil’uokalani (1838-1917), ruled as the Kingdom of Hawaii’s last sovereign from 1891 until the overthrow of the kingdom on January 17, 1893

After lengthy investigation, by the American Congress and President, the Republic of Hawaii was declared on the 4th of July, 1894, with Sanford Dole as President. The United States got their permanent naval base at Pearl Harbor.

The Death of General Hugh Mercer, 1777

2021-01-11T13:26:52-06:00January 11, 2021|HH 2021|

The Death of General Hugh Mercer,
January 12, 1777

Hugh Mercer was born fighting. His military service ranged over two continents and three different armies, which reflect his devotion to his calling as a doctor and a soldier, and a temporary change of heart regarding his loyalties. George Washington considered Mercer one of the best soldiers in North America and instigated his promotion to Brigadier General in the American Army. Mercer was at the sharpest end in his final battle, commanding the 3rd Virginia Infantry of the Continental Line, helping Washington win the great victory at Princeton at one of the moments of great crisis in the War for Independence.


General Hugh Mercer (1726-1777), as portrayed by his son Hugh, Jr. in a portrait based on a sketch by artist John Trumbull

Hugh was born near Aberdeen, Scotland in 1726, son of a Church of Scotland minister. After a rigorous classical education, he earned a master’s degree and trained to become a surgeon. The Mercer family, though Presbyterian, supported the dynastic claims of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Hugh joined the Jacobite army as an assistant surgeon. The military fortunes of the Pretender’s army declined until extinguished at the Battle of Culloden, where Hugh Mercer escaped the English pursuers and slipped aboard a merchant ship bound for America. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, Hugh travelled to the back-country and served as a country physician. He settled in the area now named after him—Mercersburg.


Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788), leader of the Jacobite Rising of 1745


The Battle of Culloden, April 16, 1746, effectively put an end the Jacobite Rebellion

General Edward Braddock had led British troops and American militia to a dazzling defeat at the hands of the French and Indians along the Monongahela River in Western Pennsylvania in 1755, thus opening the frontier to further incursions and war. Dr. Mercer obtained a Captain’s commission from his colony to fight against Britain’s frontier enemies. After an Indian ambush where he was the only survivor, Hugh made his way through a trackless one-hundred-mile wilderness with a shattered arm, and arrived in Philadelphia for treatment. He became a local hero, was promoted to Colonel, and ended up under the command of Virginian George Washington, a fellow Colonel. Mercer was assigned the road-building duties to Fort Duquesne, which eventually led him to guiding the construction of Fort Pitt at the confluence of three rivers, and the Fort at Presque Isle on Lake Erie.


Fort Duquesne in modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Mercer served for a time

Following the French and Indian War, Colonel Mercer settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia where he opened a very successful medical practice, especially among the substantial Scottish community. He married into a popular local family and acquired significant property holdings, including George Washington’s Fredericksburg farm. Active in the resistance movement from the start, Dr. Mercer led the Sons of Liberty and commanded a militia company, which became part of the 3rd Virginia Regiment, Continental Line, with Hugh appointed by Congress as Colonel and, within a year, General, under his friend and old comrade, George Washington. The old (age 35) Scottish Jacobite had come full circle and was again in the field against the British government.


General George Washington (1732-1799) under whom Mercer served


Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia—childhood home of George Washington, who sold it to Hugh Mercer in 1772

General Mercer supervised the building of Fort Washington and Fort Lee, both lost to the British in 1776. Some historians believe that the secret attack on Trenton on December 26, 1776 was originally Mercer’s idea, which Washington accepted and implemented. In any event, Mercer successfully led one of the columns in the attack, at the absolute nadir of American prospects, striking a physical and psychological blow that saved the Cause.


Battle of Trenton, December 26, 1776

Washington placed Mercer’s Brigade at the point in his maneuver to capture Princeton on January 3, ten days after Trenton. Bypassing the main British forces under Lord Cornwallis, Mercer took 350 men to seize a strategic bridge and cut off the post road—the British regiments’ main avenue of retreat. Spotting the Scotsman making the maneuver in the early morning fog, the British General deployed his men along a fence line and opened fire. General Mercer led his troops in a direct attack, driving the ad hoc group of the 17th Foot Regiment from their position. Mercer fell wounded and in the ensuing melee and retreat of his troops, General Mercer was bayonetted seven times, the British thinking they had killed Washington. Mercer lingered for nine days under the ministrations of fellow-doctor Benjamin Rush, before dying on January 12. George Washington had lost what biographer Douglas Southall Freeman said “was the peer, and perhaps the superior, of [Nathaniel] Greene”, considered second only to Washington himself.


General Mercer is wounded at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777. Mercer would survive another nine days, but eventually die on January 12.

Mercer left a widow and five children. His direct descendants include two Confederate generals as well as General George Patton of World War II fame. Seven counties are named after him, as well as five towns and at least three schools. Three wars on two continents, untold hundreds of medical patients, a patriotic and valorous progeny, and the thanks of a nation are among a legacy that ought not to be forgotten.


General George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945), direct descendant of Hugh Mercer

Decian Persecution of the Church Begins, AD 250

2021-01-07T11:14:42-06:00January 7, 2021|HH 2021|

“But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” —Proverbs 8:36

Decian Persecution of the Church Begins, January 3, AD 250

In the middle of the third century Anno Domini, Decius, a former senator, consul, governor, and now general, from the province of Illyricum in the Roman Empire, an area today within the borders of Serbia, fought and defeated an army of Balkan rebels led by one Pacatianus. The army of Decius then proclaimed Decius Emperor of Rome in response to his successes on the field of battle. When the true emperor led an army against him, Decius defeated and killed him, popularly known as Phillip the Arab, at the Battle of Verona in September of AD 249. Probably to solidify his takeover, as well as perhaps a jealousy of the increase of Christians, Decius decreed to all provincial governors that everyone in the Empire make sacrifices and burn incense to the gods of Rome, as an act of obedience, piety and worship. Christians were split on the issue of going along with the civil decree.


Philip the Arab (c. AD 204-249) Emperor of Rome (AD 244-249)


Trajan Decius (c. AD 201-251) Emperor of Rome AD 249-251

Protestant historian John Foxe in his famous Book of Martyrs, first published in 1563, noted that the Decian persecution was the seventh one by the Roman emperors. Church historian Philip Schaff described Decius as “an earnest and energetic emperor, in whom the old Roman spirit once more awoke, resolved to root out the Church as an atheistic and seditious sect.” This persecution, however, exceeded all previous ones since the edict covered the entire Empire. Former persecutions had often been provincial or just local; this one produced more Christian martyrs than all previous decrees and attacks, for “extent, consistency, and cruelty exceeded all before it.” The Emperor set a date for compliance: sacrifice to the gods and receive a certificate of obedience.


Saint Mercurius (d. AD 250), a Christian victim of the Decian persecution

Cyprian of Carthage wrote that many nominal Christians sacrificed to the gods of the State (sacrificati) or procured, illegally from a magistrate, a document (libellatici) stating that they had complied with the government orders. Many thousands of Christians fled to safer areas or simply refused the State’s demand to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Compromisers (lapsi) were often excommunicated. One of those who confessed Christ alone and refused to worship the State wrote to Cyprian, “what more glorious and blessed lot can fall to man by the grace of God, than to confess God the Lord amidst tortures and in the face of death itself; to confess Christ the Son of God with lacerated body and with a spirit departing, yet free; and to become fellow sufferers with Christ in the name of Christ?”


Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (c. AD 200-258)


Fabian, Bishop of Rome (martyred January 20, AD 250)


Babylas, Bishop of Antioch (martyred AD 253)


Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem (martyred AD 251)

The Romans martyred the bishops of Rome, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Other pastors hid out and the persecutors turned on their flocks for slaughter. Cyprian concealed himself for a time, but was seized and put on trial seven years later, and when accused of being an enemy of Roman gods and laws, replied “Deo Gratias.” He was executed with a sword.

At the same time as the persecution of the Church came a plague which killed up to five thousand Romans per day. Some people called it Cyprian’s plague and redoubled their efforts to punish Christians. Decius also faced new barbarian invasions, especially the Goths. He assembled his army and moved north to drive them away. In the course of campaign, he was killed in battle, the first Roman emperor to go to his eternal reward fighting enemies of Rome, having served as emperor for only two years. The persecution of Christians continued regardless of the political power brokers of the next two imperial administrations.


A Libellus papyrus discovered in Egypt dated AD 250 certifying that the bearer has sacrificed to the gods

The pagan emperors of Rome worshipped the State and its power. Christians believed that Jesus was Lord and the only one to be worshipped. When the State demanded worship or set the rules for worship in opposition to the Holy Scriptures, professing Christians were faced with choices that always had consequences. Some bent to the will of the civil authorities and kept their head out of the noose, at least for a while. Others defied the tyranny over the church and faced fines, arrest, torture and sometimes martyrdom. Within two hundred years, the Roman emperors were professing Christians, and the Church had grown exponentially under persecution. That seems to be a recurring pattern. Someday, the persecution will stop and all the enemies of Christ will be gone. Of His Kingdom there shall be no end.


Map showing the Gothic invasions of AD 250-251

The Death of J. Gresham Machen, 1937

2020-12-28T11:33:06-06:00December 28, 2020|HH 2020|

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” —Acts 17:11

The Death of J. Gresham Machen,
January 1, 1937

The First World War shattered, for many intellectuals, what remained of the philosophical and theological presuppositions that had undergirded Western Civilization for centuries. While those ideas had been under attack for generations, the utter devastation and slaughter of the War had profound implications for the cultural world that emerged in the 1920s. Liberal theologians, especially in Germany, seemed to have a free field of fire against the orthodox Christian views of the Bible’s authorship, inerrancy, historicity, and accuracy—an influence known appropriately as “Modernism.” Those challenges raged in the late 19th Century and early 20th, and now seemed poised to completely overwhelm the Church. A modest and brilliant champion from Princeton stepped into the lists to defend the Faith in America, John Gresham Machen. He became liberal Protestantism’s greatest nightmare.

J. Gresham Machen, as he was best known, was born to a very devout Southern Presbyterian mother, and grew up in a genteel social milieu in Baltimore, in the last decade of the 19th Century. He graduated first in his class at Johns Hopkins in the classics in 1901, and from Princeton Seminary in 1905. Machen then sailed to Europe to immerse himself in the courses taught by the greatest modernist seminary professors and philosophers in Germany. By God’s grace, he saw through the friendliness and camaraderie of the great liberals, to challenge and refute their heresies and false assumptions.


J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)

Upon his return to Princeton as Professor of New Testament in 1906, Machen developed a reputation for his challenges to both mainstream American pietistic Protestantism and the deadly cancer of European liberalism. His forthright apologetics came from a historic and Calvinistic foundation based on the virgin birth of Christ and the absolute historical integrity of the Bible. He took a year off to serve in the YMCA canteens in France during WWI. Upon his return, the intellectual challenges multiplied as did the controversies that followed his stands against the liberals.


Princeton Theological Seminary Class of 1922, during Machen’s tenure as Professor of New Testament (1906-1929)


Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1800s

Liberal Protestantism “reduced Christianity to a set of general religious principles regarding the moral teachings of Jesus,” and they emphasized God’s love over all of His attributes, especially justice and man’s accountability for his sin. Machen asserted that liberalism was not just a form of Christianity, but an entirely different religion—not the Christianity of the Bible. His beliefs were rapidly declining in adherents at Princeton and in the Presbyterian Church USA to which he belonged, as more and more biblical doctrines were rejected and replaced by modern philosophical presuppositions. Liberalism penetrated the foreign mission board of the PCUSA, and in response, Machen helped create a conservative but “Independent Board of Foreign Missions,” based on fidelity to the inspired Word of God. In 1935, he was tried in the Church Courts and suspended from the ministry for fomenting “schism” in the Church.


This Fundamentalist cartoon, first published in 1922, portrays Modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism

Machen was instrumental in the formation of what became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church denomination and the creation of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, to train ministers loyal to the Word of God and uncompromising on the historic Christian doctrines. A number of Princeton theologians joined with him in the endeavor.


Machen Hall, Westminster Theological Seminary—notable alumni of the seminary include Francis Schaeffer, Greg Bahnsen and Alistair Begg, among others

In December of 1936, he came down with pneumonia while preaching in North Dakota and died on January 1, 1937, aged 55. Throughout the post-war era, Machen became the champion of the “fundamentalists” of America for his ability to meet the liberals on their own grounds and bring a scholarly and profound defense of Reformation Protestant theology. While men from other denominations embraced his defense of the faith, his own church proceeded to disavow him and the Word on which he stood. J. Gresham Machen did not fit into the radical fundamentalist rejection of alcohol, tobacco, and other extra-biblical cultural appurtenances, but he fought to the death over the historicity of the Bible, the Virgin Birth, and the Deity of Christ. His bestselling books took their place among Christian classics: The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1921), Christianity and Liberalism (1923), and The Virgin Birth of Christ (1930), among several others. With the death of Machen, the Church lost a great champion who was raised up by God in a volatile time for the Church in America.


Machen’s 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism was named one of the top 100 books of the twentieth century by Christianity Today one of the top 100 books of the millennium by World magazine


Resources for Further Study

J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Study, by Ned Stonehouse (Eerdmans, 1954)

Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America, by D.G. Hart (P&R, 1994)


<smallImage Credits:J. Gresham Machen (Wikipedia.org)Princeton Class of 1922 (Wikipedia.org)Princeton Theological Seminary (Wikipedia.org)The Descent of the Modernists Cartoon (Wikipedia.org)Machen Hall, Westminster Theological Seminary (Wikipedia.org)Christianity and Liberalism (Amazon.com)

The Martyrdom of Hugh M’Kail, 1666

2020-12-21T11:11:40-06:00December 21, 2020|HH 2020|

“Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” —Rev. 2:10

The Martyrdom of Hugh M’Kail, December 22, 1666

The roll of Christian martyrs extends back in time to the days following the resurrection of Our Lord. It continues daily in many far-flung nations of the earth. Jesus Himself told the Apostles to expect to die for their faith, a prospect they embraced, not knowing the time, place, or character of their death. Some of the saddest and yet the most triumphant stories of the few martyrs we know by name, are the ones murdered in “Christian” countries by men claiming to be fellow-believers.


The Signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriars Churchyard, 1638
as portrayed by William Hole

Hugh M’Kail was born in 1640, and raised by his namesake uncle, in the midst of the “Second Reformation” in Scotland. The National Covenant had been recently circulated and signed by multiple thousands, the General Assembly had excommunicated the corrupt Anglican bishops in Scotland, the national legislature was filled with Church elders who were in almost total sympathy with the godly transformation of the Church and the culture, as the greatest spiritual revival since the days of John Knox swept through the nation. Hugh joined in the joyous triumph of spiritual renewal, even as the dark clouds of controversy and political disruption ensued in the 1650s.


Charles II of England (1630-1685)

Having lived through the turmoil of Cromwellian occupation and division in the churches, Hugh attended the University of Edinburgh, where he received intense training for taking his place in Scotland among the ministers still loyal to the Covenants. He ardently defended the belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, and the Bible determinative of how God should be worshipped. At the time of his graduation in 1660, such a belief was considered treason by the new King of England, Charles II, recently returned from European exile and determined to exert his headship and control over all the churches of the realm through the rule of his bishops, regardless of the resistance of Presbyterian Scotland. Twenty-year-old Hugh was licensed to preach by his presbytery in 1661, and began what would prove to be just one year of public preaching.


A Scottish conventicle (illegal church service)

Hugh M’Kail’s powerful and effective sermons came to an end in the High Church of Scotland, St. Giles, on the Sunday before more than 400 ministers were expelled from their pulpits in Scotland by order of the monarch. They had refused to renounce the National Covenant, at the heart of which was sworn affirmation of the “crown rights of Jesus Christ over the Church”. In his last sermon M’Kail said the Church and the people of God had been “persecuted by a Pharaoh upon the throne, a Haman in the State, and a Judas in the Church”. A party of horsemen were sent the next day to apprehend him, but Hugh escaped Edinburgh and hid out at his father’s house near Liberton, today a suburb of Edinburgh. For the next four years he managed to avoid arrest, for dissenting preachers continued to minister in conventicles (illegal worship services) and were attacked and punished by teams of commandos sent out by the government for that purpose.


“The Boot”, a device of torture, used to slowly crush the leg

In 1666, after a brutal attack on an elderly man in Dumfries, some young Covenanters rescued him and in the ensuing fracas, killed a soldier. Realizing fierce retribution would be coming, the men took up arms and called for others to join them. In the course of a long march to Edinburgh to seek a redress of grievances, the 900 Covenanters, mostly farmers, few with firearms, were met by an army of 3,000 soldiers who were called out to stop them, and a battle ensued at Rullion Green in the Pentland Hills. Hugh M’Kail joined the march briefly, although he was suffering from a wasting disease, exhausted and broken down. The day before the engagement, Hugh dropped out and left to return home.

Seized along the way, carrying a sword and mounted, the pastor was taken to Edinburgh and thrown in the tollbooth prison. The “Secret Council” interrogated him, demanding an account of his participation and the names of everyone that he knew who had joined in the armed protest. Refusing to or unable to comply, Hugh was encased in the most painful torture device of the times known as “The Boot”. That instrument destroyed his leg, with no result of information. He affirmed his loyalty to both King and Covenant, and declared his innocence of any rebellion. The Council convicted him of treason, nonetheless, for not agreeing to the Royal Supremacy over the Church and for joining a rebellion designed to overthrow his authority.


Hugh M’Kail tortured with the Boot


The original site of the “Mercat Cross”, High Street, Edinburgh, where many were martyred

On December 22, 1666 Hugh M’Kail went to the scaffold at the “Mercat Cross”, where other martyrs, like James Guthrie before him and Donald Cargill after, were executed. With praise on his lips to be counted worthy of dying for Christ, all of his last words were recorded by his father and cell-mates, as well as the multitude of weeping onlookers, for he was greatly beloved.


Scene of Hugh M’Kail’s execution, December 22, 1666, amid “such a lamentation”, says historian James Kirkton, “as was never known in Scotland before, not one dry cheek upon all the street, or in all the numberless windows in the market-place.”

It is not possible to know how much longer Hugh M’Kail would have lived, given his ill-health and his participation in the conventicles, had he not ridden out to satisfy his curiosity about the protesters marching on Edinburgh. Nonetheless, his forthright testimony, willingness to obey Christ regardless of the unbiblical dictates of the state to conform, and his confidence of his future in heaven, provide a sobering and faithful example for us today.


Resources for Further Study

The Scots Worthies by John Howie


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