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William H. Seward Purchases Alaska, 1868

2020-03-30T14:34:50-05:00March 30, 2020|HH 2020|

“By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened.” —Job 37:10

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail…?” —Job 38:22

William H. Seward Purchases Alaska, March 30, 1868

Providence surely is mysterious. But in looking back, we see the remarkable ways and means ordained of God to bring about the historical consequences. On the afternoon of April 5, 1865, the United States Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, with his son Fred, daughter Fanny and Fanny’s friend Mary Titus, drove in their carriage out Vermont Avenue in Washington, D.C. The carriage door kept flying open and one of the men ordered the driver to fix it. As soon as he alighted, the horses bolted full speed down the city street. Frederick jumped out immediately to help but was thrown to the ground. Secretary Seward jumped to stop the horses, but tripped and fell at high speed and suffered several severe injuries. A passing soldier stopped the carriage and Seward was taken to his home unconscious. His injuries were severe with a dislocated shoulder, his jaw broken on both sides, and one arm broken in several places.

William H. Seward (1801-1872), U.S. Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia

Four days after the accident, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox. The Secretary was beginning to recover when, on April 14, “Good Friday” an assassin, Lewis Powell, broke into his home and attacked Seward. Although Powell’s pistol misfired, he hurled himself on Secretary Seward, after wounding both Frederick and the butler. Powell cut the Secretary’s cheek badly, but the apparatus protecting his broken jaws deflected some of the potentially fatal blows. Fanny’s screams brought son Augustus and others to wrestle with the killer, driving him out of the house. That same night President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, the leader of the conspiracy. Seward barely survived the attack, although it took months for him to return full force to work as Secretary of State in the new administration.

Powell’s attack on Seward

Photograph of Lewis Powell (1844-1865), would-be assassin of Secretary Seward, and co-conspirator in the Abraham Lincoln assassination, taken aboard the USS Saugus, where he was confined for a time

William Henry Seward (1801-1872) was born into a slave-holding family in Orange County, New York. He served in Albany as a legislator from Auburn, New York, and was elected to the United States Senate in 1849. Seward joined the nascent Republican Party and rose through the ranks to become the foremost and favored potential candidate for President in 1860. So confident of election was he, that he took a European vacation during the campaigning months leading up to the election. He and four or five other candidates were defeated by the consummate politician of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln. Seward was so skilled and politically powerful, that after the election, Lincoln chose him as Secretary of State, a role he relished and excelled in, as expected, setting aside his personal ambitions, and remaining loyal to Lincoln’s administration.

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, April 14, 1865

After Lincoln’s death, Seward remained in Andrew Johnson’s cabinet and carried on an expansionist foreign policy, pursuing statehood for western territories, probing possibilities for annexing Canada, buying Iceland and Greenland, and negotiating with the Russians to acquire Alaska, at the time known as Russian America. Despite thousands of square miles of frozen waste, a vigorous fishing, whaling, and maritime culture, mostly Russian and native, clung to the shoreline and islands of the Aleutian archipelago. During the Civil War, Russia had supported the Union, even sending a naval squadron to visit in 1864. Seward had wined and dined the visitors and developed a very cordial and close relationship with the ambassador, Baron Eduard de Stoeckl. The Russian suggested during the war that Tsar Alexander II might be interested in selling Russian America, given its distance from Moscow, influx of American pioneers, and the economic hard times for the Russian government. Seward did not forget those discussions and after the war broached the subject with Stoeckl again.

Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) assumed the presidency on April 15, 1865 after the death of Abraham Lincoln

With White House approval, Seward negotiated a treaty with Russia to purchase Russian America, eventually agreeing to 7,000,000 dollars—about 2 cents per acre for a territory twice the size of Texas! The wily Secretary of State began lining up Senate support for ratification. The opponents of the treaty in the Senate based their objections on the expense involved, the need for concentrating attention on domestic affairs, and sheer hatred of the administration. At the same time the treaty was under debate, the radical Republican Senate brought impeachment charges against President Johnson, and anything he wanted, they tended to oppose. In the end, however, the treaty passed 37 to 2, a triumph for William H. Seward and the major accomplishment of the Andrew Johnson presidency.

Baron Eduard de Stoeckl (1804-1892) Russian diplomat best known for negotiating the sale of Alaska to the United States on behalf of Russia

The signing of the Alaska Treaty of Cessation on March 30, 1867

“Seward’s Ice Box,” got the name of Alaska, a corruption of an Aleut word meaning “mainland.” No other politician had his eye on acquiring Alaska for so long, and no other politician had the clout and skill to bring it to fruition. The New York lawyer who failed to become President, almost died in a carriage accident and had, almost miraculously, survived a powerful assassination attempt, providentially lived long enough to add a non-contiguous territory that long after his death erupted in a huge gold rush, provided a strategic stronghold of incalculable value a hundred years later, and continues to provide an abundance of fish, minerals, oil, and geologic wonders as the 49th State of the United States.

the $7.2 million check used to purchase for Alaska (roughly $110 million adjusted for inflation)

1868 map of the territory of Alaska (Russian America), ceded by Russia to the United States

Arthur St. Clair Born, 1737

2020-03-21T16:34:49-05:00March 23, 2020|HH 2020|

“For I say to every man that is among you, through the grace given unto me, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” —Romans 12:3

Arthur St. Clair Born, March 23, 1737

There are ten towns, three counties, three streets, and a hospital in the United States, and a three-star hotel in Caithness, Scotland named after Arthur St. Clair, but if you list American generals of the War for Independence, his name does not usually appear near the top of the list. He is noted by trivia buffs as the only President of the United States born in Europe, the first governor of the Northwest Territories, and the officer in command during the greatest defeat of an American army by native American forces, in history. He died in poverty in a one-room log cabin near Greensburg, Pennsylvania at the age of eighty-one.

Major General Arthur St. Clair (1737-1818)

St. Clair was born into a Highland Jacobite family in Caithness. He was eleven years old when his fellow-clansmen died fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden. Some historians believe he purchased his commission in the British Army in 1757 to learn the secrets of their success in order to fight them later. Arthur St. Clair came to America with his regiment and fought in the French and Indian War under General Wolfe at the decisive Battle for Quebec City. St. Clair resigned his commission and remained in the colonies, becoming the largest land-owner in Western Pennsylvania, living in the Ligonier Valley. He served in a variety of political positions until the mid-1770s when he identified with the American cause against Great Britain.

Location of historic County Caithness within Scotland

The Battle of Trenton, December 26, 1776

He began the war as a colonel of a Pennsylvania regiment but was swiftly promoted to Brigadier General and sent by George Washington to recruit and command the New Jersey militia. St. Clair participated in the Christmas Eve attack on Trenton, and he is credited with the strategy of flanking the British and attacking at Princeton, which turned into another American victory. Promoted to Major General at Washington’s urging, the Scottish soldier was given command of Fort Ticonderoga in Northeastern New York in 1777.

Fort Ticonderoga near the south end of Lake Champlain in northern New York

The fort was a key strategic point of defense of New York and New England. Though brave and experienced, St. Clair did not fare well in static defense. The British were able to sneak up close and batter the fort with artillery, forcing the Americans out. The patriotic commander had to undergo a court martial but was acquitted of all charges, with the support of General Washington. St. Clair’s portrait in uniform shows a determined and forceful personality, a man born to lead. Because of the lapse at Fort Ti, however, he never regained his status in field command.

Detail of a 1758 map showing the layout of Fort Ticonderoga

St. Clair was elected to the Congress in 1787 and appointed President under the Articles of Confederation, thus becoming the only man in that office who was not born on American soil. His congressional comrades appointed St. Clair the first Governor of the Northwest Territories, from which position he built forts and signed treaties with local tribes. In 1791, Arthur St. Clair again took to the field, this time against British-backed local tribes, as a General in command of a force of about a thousand men—frontier militia and United States Regulars, with a warning from President Washington to beware of ambushes.

Northwest Territory

A coalition of a thousand Delaware, Shawnee, and Miami warriors surprised St. Clair’s forces near the Wabash River in modern-day northeast Ohio; the militia had not deployed pickets outside the camp to warn of just such an attack. The Indians swept over the camps, annihilating the militia. Only a last, desperate bayonet charge by regulars enabled a handful of men to survive unscathed as they ran to the nearest fort. All of the nearly 200 camp followers were massacred and more than 97% of the army itself fell, most of them killed. Approximately one-quarter of the United States Army was wiped out. The defeat remains as the costliest battle in American history and became the first great challenge that the executive branch had to deal with regarding the defense of the country. All sorts of precedents were set by President Washington’s response.

An 1812 printing of an account of General St. Clair’s campaign against the Indians in 1791

Arthur St. Clair remained Governor of the Northwest Territories until 1803 when Thomas Jefferson removed him for defying the authority of Congress to govern the territories. Perhaps his Masonic connections had something to do with his keeping his post, but his autocratic ways were too Federalist for the times. He died in poverty in 1818 while living with a daughter in Western Pennsylvania. Had St. Clair been a little more cautious and less arrogant, he might have saved Fort Ticonderoga and secured his military reputation for the War of Independence. He falls to the second tier of leadership, however, and his mishandling of the conflict with the Indians in 1791 wrecked what successes he previously achieved. No doubt his kin-folk in Scotland would have been proud of his patriotic fight against the tyranny of the King, and would have recognized his defeat at the hands of the American equivalent of Highland clans.

The Cambridge Seven Arrive in Shanghai, 1885

2020-03-16T11:01:06-05:00March 16, 2020|HH 2020|

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” —John 4:35

The Cambridge Seven Arrive in Shanghai, March 18, 1885

Americans became aware of a great Scottish athlete by the name of Eric Liddell through a popular theatrical-release film in 1981, Chariots of Fire. He was the son of a missionary to China and was devoted to returning there himself, to preach the Gospel after graduating from the University of Edinburgh. He qualified to run in the 1924 summer Olympics in Paris, and won the gold medal in the 400 Meters race, and returned to China the following year. Liddell was not the first athlete to leave Britain for China to preach the Gospel. He was following in the footsteps of seven elite athletes from Cambridge University, who entered the ancient kingdom as missionaries together on March 18, 1885.

The Cambridge Seven in Mandarin garb, 1885

The seven missionaries were Montagu Harry Proctor Beauchamp, William Morton Cassells, Dixon Edward Hoste, Arthur T. Polehill-Turner, Cecil H. Polehill-Turner, Stanley P. Smith and Charles Thomas Studd (“C.T.”). Humanly speaking, it all began with the conversion of Smith in 1880, after he heard a sermon by visiting American evangelist Dwight L. Moody. He and a fellow Christian student witnessed to and prayed for the salvation of their friend Beauchamp, which occurred the following year. Both men were on the Cambridge rowing team, and, along with his brother, prayed for their teammate Dixon Hoste, who was also served as a commissioned officer in the British army. William Cassells was already a believer studying for the ministry and was also a rowing team member. Cecil Polehill-Turner, also an army officer and student at Cambridge, joined his brother Arthur to hear Moody preach on another occasion, and both were converted after a year-long spiritual struggle.

Charles Thomas “C.T.” Studd (1860-1931), one of the Cambridge Seven

C.T. Studd was the greatest cricket batsman in the world and son of a millionaire. His father had come to Christ in 1877, and shortly thereafter C.T. and his two brothers professed faith in Christ. His role as the captain of the cricket team and basking in the light of his own fame, C.T. realized he had drifted from the faith. In 1884 he renewed his total commitment to God and determined to serve in foreign missions. All seven athletes travelled the United Kingdom witnessing on college campuses, to the power of the Gospel and the necessity of repentance and faith.

The Studd Brothers

Hudson Taylor founded China Inland Missions (CIM) in 1865, to bring the Gospel to the millions of Chinese who had never heard of Jesus Christ. One by one the Cambridge Seven decided to join CIM and sail to China together. They served there, some of them to the end of their lives. Dixon Hoste accepted the directorship in 1900, after the Boxer Rebellion, in which fifty-eight CIM missionaries and twenty-one children were murdered by the revolutionaries.

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) at age 21 during his first visit to China

Charles Studd, a plain-spoken, manly athlete, gave away his inheritance to various Christian mission agencies, several million pounds by today’s standards, and joined with the other six Cambridge men. He married the daughter of a fellow missionary on the field and fathered four daughters, about whom he said: “to teach the Chinese the value of baby girls.” Speaking of his missionary work, Studd said:

“Some want to live within the sound of the chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

Dixon Edward Hoste (1861-1946), longest lived of the Cambridge Seven

His long missionary service also took him to pastorates in India and Africa. He conducted a tour of the United States in which he inspired many young people to be sensitive to God’s calling to enter the far-flung lands and peoples who were utter strangers to the Saviour.

The mission field can be terribly physically demanding, as well as spiritually difficult. God called out seven men at once, physically powerful, capable leaders, and spiritually devoted to Christ to bring thousands to Himself where He had a harvest awaiting the sowers.

William Wharton Cassels (1858-1925), member of the Cambridge Seven

The Ulster Revival, 1859

2020-03-09T12:56:33-05:00March 9, 2020|HH 2020|

“And it shall be that everyone that calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” —Acts 2:21

The Ulster Revival, March 14, 1859

The North of Ireland, known collectively as Ulster, had been settled in previous centuries primarily by Scottish immigrants. Some had been brought there by the English landlords to work the land, others fled persecution or economic dislocation in Scotland. Over several hundred years, the Protestant inhabitants had developed a distinctive culture known for hard work, biblical fidelity, and faithful attendance at their Presbyterian Churches. By the middle of the 19th Century, however, a certain complacency regarding their souls had set in, and one pastor wrote that the Church would either drift into infidelity and liberalism or God would send a revival of “heart religion” through the preaching of the Gospel, earnest conviction of sin and the widespread operation of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the spiritually unconcerned. A young minister and participant in what actually occurred in Ulster, later wrote a book entitled The Year of Grace, A History of the Ulster Revival of 1859.

Map of Ireland showing the nine counties comprising Ulster highlighted in light green, six counties of which constitute Northern Ireland, outlined in red

Stories abound regarding the “outpouring” of the Spirit of God that year. But the awakening did not occur overnight. In the spring of 1855, a young man began a prayer meeting in his home to pray for the unconverted of his neighborhood. The idea grew and, among small pockets of concerned believers in Ulster, gathering for prayer became an earnest practice. While faithful ministers still preached the Gospel and a few parishioners met to pray for the pastor and for the conversion of the lost, little change occurred as a few years passed. In March of 1859, in the town of Ballymena, a young man threw himself down in the public square and cried out for God’s mercy.

Church Street in Ballymena, around the turn of the century

James McQuilken, and his fellow prayers, in Ahoghill, just six miles away, invited everyone they knew to join them at the local church for a prayer meeting on the evening of March 14. Hundreds of people responded and the meeting had to move into the street outside. As the Gospel went forth and conviction of sin overcame the multitude, the first spiritual fruits of what became known as the Great Ulster revival, were brought to faith. As the awakening spread, young people responded by the dozens, as had happened during the Great Awakening in Colonial Massachusetts a hundred twenty years earlier. Street preaching reached multitudes with the Gospel over the next twelve months or more.

First Presbyterian Church Ahoghill where a March 14, 1859 thanksgiving service was held, attended by an estimated 3,000 people

As with all true revivals, the effects were felt instantly in the churches and in the society at large. All across Ulster, from Belfast to Londonderry, churches were packed and had to embark on building extensions. Pubs and distilleries were forced to close as alcoholism declined. The jails in many places remained empty; families returned to biblical patterns, and converts remained steadfast. Pastors estimated that well more than a hundred thousand people came to faith in Christ and joined the churches. A young man from Ballymena, a town of 6,000 inhabitants and the center of the linen trade, summarized what happened when the Holy Spirit wrought His saving work in that town in 1859:

“The week which began with May 17th, can never be forgotten . . .When the great outpouring came, worldly men were silent with an indefinite fear, and Christians found themselves borne onward in the current, with scarce time for any feeling but the outpouring conviction that a great revival had come at last. Careless men were bowed in unaffected earnestness, and sobbed like children. Drunkards and boasting blasphemers were awed into solemnity and silence. Sabbath-school teachers and scholars became seekers of Christ together; and languid believers were stirred up to unusual exertion. . . Every day many were hopefully converted: passing through an ordeal of conviction more or less severe, to realize their great deliverance, and to throw themselves with every energy into the work of warning others, or of leading them to the Lord. . . Every evening the churches were crowded, and family worship became almost universal. Part of the dinner hour was devoted to singing and prayer, and the sound from numerous groups of worshippers could be heard afar borne on the summer breezes. Long neglected Bibles came into general use. . .” —The Year of Grace, William Gibson

Ballymena thoroughfare with townhall in the background

Real revival has rarely been seen in our own country and our own times in such power. Years of earnest prayer preceded the outpouring. Faithful Gospel preaching of the whole counsel of God also preceded the awakening. Such a revival was seen as the only salvation of a society in Ireland that was already considered Christian but had fallen asleep and compromised the truth. The revival restored and reformed the culture for another generation or more. Pray, preach, repent, believe, restore.

Queen Mary Tudor Outlaws Protestantism in England, 1554

2020-03-02T12:54:27-06:00March 2, 2020|HH 2020|

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” —Genesis 50:20

Queen Mary Tudor Outlaws Protestantism in England, March 4, 1554

King Henry VIII married six times, hoping to father a male successor to the throne of England. In the process, he also abandoned his allegiance to the papacy in Rome, and established an English Church with himself as the new pontiff. As Providence would have it, his first two wives gave birth to daughters and the third one to a son. Edward VI succeeded to the throne of England at the age of nine, but died at fifteen. In his brief reign, however, the Protestant Reformation became solidified in England due to the influence of Edward VI’s Protestant Regency Council. Upon his death, his half-sister Mary, a devout Roman Catholic, succeeded to the throne, and, through the influence of her priests, determined to return England to papal oversite and make the Roman Church the official religion of England. In the course of her “Counter-Reformation” purge, about three hundred Christians were burned alive at the stake. It began with her declaration on March 4, 1552.

King Henry VIII (1491-1547)

All of Europe became inflamed with the passions of religious transformation and reaction and, by the mid-16th Century, so many people had been converted by the Gospel of Christ as preached by Protestant pastors and laymen that Pope Paul III called a church council at Trent. The council sought to define the beliefs of world-wide Roman Catholicism, and map out a course of response and reprisal to Protestantism, now declared a heresy that must be crushed. Historians consider this campaign to have lasted for about 103 years, ending only in 1648 with the termination of the Thirty Years War, which left about eight million dead in Europe.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563), an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church prompted by the Protestant Reformation

A contemplative Pope Paul III (1468-1549) stares at a portrait of Martin Luther

Mary Tudor became Queen of England in 1553, after Edward’s death, and quickly moved against the Protestant successor that her brother had named, Lady Jane Gray. She and her family were sent to the Tower of London and later beheaded. Mary wed His Most Catholic Majesty, King Phillip of Spain, an unpopular match to most Englishmen, but in theory combining the two states and establishing Roman Catholicism as the state religion in England.

Edward VI (1537-1553) son of King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

Queen Mary I “Bloody Mary” (1516-1558) was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive to adulthood

At first Mary declared freedom of conscience and tried to woo her Protestant subjects back to “Mother Church,” but their attachment to the basic Solas of the Reformation, and refusal to return to the superstition of Catholic worship, changed Mary’s olive branch to a cudgel. The Archbishop of Canterbury and other reformed officials whom she claimed were plotting to overthrow her reign, were burned at the stake. Many Protestant leaders in Britain fled the country, thus becoming known as “the Marian exiles.” John Knox, one of King Edward’s advisors, left for Geneva, Switzerland, where he sat under the tutelage of John Calvin.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Archbishop of Canterbury

Woodcut from the 1563 first printing of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs depicting Thomas Cranmer being burned at the stake (March 21, 1556)

With Mary’s Edict of 1554 outlawing Protestant worship and “other heresies,” and with her Protestant half-sister and potential successor Princess Elizabeth in the Tower, perhaps awaiting her own execution, it seemed that the Reformation in England might be doomed. Most of the people she executed were just common people who refused to convert to Catholicism, but among the people of England she became known as “Bloody Mary.” After her five-year reign of terror, Mary Tudor died, childless, of the flu. The first woman to rule England left a legacy of martyrdom and ultimate failure to roll back the Reformation. Her sister Elizabeth I, restored the Protestants to power, although she continued the Tudor tradition of obstinacy as she opposed any further Reformation, alienating the growing movement known as Puritanism.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603), half-sister of Mary Tudor was kept at the Tower of London and later at Woodstock under house arrest for nearly a year

Queen Mary I, c. 1555-58

Without the persecution, a number of men greatly used of God during the latter part of the century likely would not have been as influenced by the Genevan/Calvinistic Reformation, which would have changed the history of both Scotland and England, not to mention the American colonies of the future. The Marian persecution was part of God’s plan, and was cut short at just the right time.