Benjamin Keach Arrested, 1664

2019-10-07T16:06:44+00:00October 7, 2019|HH 2019|

“And now Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence.” —Acts 4:29

Benjamin Keach Arrested, October 9, 1664

The sixth decade of the 17th Century bode ill for Christians who defied the Anglican Church Bishops. King Charles II gave free reign to his churchmen to crack down on any preachers or laymen considered heterodox. Several thousand of their own clergy and the Presbyterians of Scotland were ejected from their pulpits. Men who preached in dissenting churches were especially singled out for persecution. One of those men was Benjamin Keach, a Baptist minister from Buckinghamshire

King Charles II of England (1630-1685)

Chief Justice Robert Hyde (1595-1665)

Associates described the tailor-turned-preacher as “earnest, self-educated, intensely evangelical, his outlook narrowed to the denomination . . ., but wielding great influence within those limits.” During his first pastorate at Winslow, Keach published his first work—a primer for children entitled The Child’s Instructor, in which he apparently set down doctrine not approved by the established church, probably concerning Believers’ baptism. He was arrested on October 9, 1664 and hauled before Lord Chief Justice Robert Hyde to answer for his crime. Failing to find just cause to have him executed, the judge sentenced Keach with these words:

“Benjamin Keach, you are here convicted for writing, printing, and publishing a seditious and schismatical book, for which the court’s judgment is that you go to jail for a fortnight without bail, and the next Saturday stand upon the pillory at Aylesbury in the open market for the space of two hours, with a paper upon your head with this inscription, ‘For writing, printing, and publishing a schismatical book entitled The Child’s Instructor, or A New and Easy Primer, and the next Thursday to stand in the same manner and for the same time in the market of Winslow; and then your book shall be openly burnt before your face by the common hangman in disgrace of you and your doctrine. And you shall forfeit to the king’s majesty the sum of twenty pounds; and shall remain in jail until you find sureties for your good behavior and appearance at the next assizes, there to renounce your doctrines and make such public submission as shall be enjoined upon you.”

Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) a Particular Baptist preacher and author in London

The only onlooker of the minister in the stocks who abused and rebuked him was the local vicar, who was in turn mocked by the crowd for his own immorality and hypocrisy. Pastor Keach was much loved and respected by the townsmen and did not cease preaching to them while in the stocks.

Keach’s catechism entitled The Child’s Instructor immediately brought him under persecution and he was fined and pilloried in 1664

Benjamin Keach went on to other pastorates, and further persecutions, although Judge Hyde suddenly dropped dead at the bench the following year and could not himself again pursue the Baptist preacher. Keach’s last thirty-six years were spent in the Baptist Church at Horselydown (pronounced horse-lie-down) where he wrote forty-two more books of theology and practical application, including a catechism for the much beloved children of his congregation. His church was likely the first Baptist Church to sing hymns, exclusive Psalmody being the rule.

The fearless minister died at the age of sixty-four in 1704, having providentially outlived all his persecutors, and the church he pastored eventually became the Metropolitan Tabernacle of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one hundred fifty years later. Spurgeon wrote a biography of Keach and used and promoted Keach’s Catechism for teaching doctrine to the children of his own Reformed Baptist congregation. Some Reformed Baptist congregations still use Keach’s works, especially the catechism, happily too late for the public hangman to burn them.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) c. 1870

The Death of Saint Jerome, A.D. 420

2019-09-28T18:51:10+00:00September 30, 2019|HH 2019|

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” —Hebrews 4:12

The Death of St. Jerome, September 30, A.D. 420

His given name was Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus but he has come down to us in history as Saint Jerome. Of course all Christians are saints according to the New Testament, but the Church has not always been punctilious about what the Scriptures actually teach. Born in A.D. 347 in a small town on the border of Dalmatia in northern Italy, He spoke Illyrian but learned Latin when he went to Rome for education. After living a life of sinful indulgence, he came under great conviction. Jerome took up personal studies with a scholar in Gaul and developed many Christian friendships as he pursued translation work. He left for the Middle East with several of those friends and settled in Antioch.

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, better known as Saint Jerome (c. A.D. 342 – A.D. 420) in his study

His desire for the solitary life led him to abandon his classical studies and join monastic teachers near the ancient town of Chalcis, where he studied and mastered Hebrew and Greek. His singular intensity of study and formidable intellectual understanding brought him to the notice of the Church hierarchy. They ordained him in Antioch and declared him a bishop “without pastoral responsibilities.” Jerome attached himself to a renowned Cappadocian father by the name of Gregory of Nazianzus, in the great city of Constantinople. His mastery of biblical theology under Nazianzus, and commitment to Trinitarian convictions, provided the groundwork of his life’s mission. After two years, Jerome returned to Rome and became secretary to Pope Damasus in 382.

Jerome moved to Chalcis, and later to Bethlehem

Pope Damasus (c. A.D. 305-384)

Jerome moved to Bethlehem, where he lived the rest of his memorable life. His immense scholarship led to broad correspondence with other fathers of the Church, as well as the compilation of a bibliography of Christian authors and his own commentaries on the books of the Bible. In the year 382, Pope Damasus commissioned the thirty-five-year-old scholar to produce a Bible in Latin translation that could be used by the entire Church. Most literate people of the Roman Empire spoke and wrote in that language, yet there were dozens of translations, some written by heretics with gnostic or Arian agendas.

As missionaries have done in other languages through the ages, Jerome began with translating the Gospels from Greek into Latin. He followed that project by completing a translation of the entire New Testament, perhaps with the help of other scholars of like Trinitarian convictions. He next tackled the Book of Psalms, and eventually the other books of the Old Testament from the Hebrew rather than the Septuagint. It took fourteen more years to complete the Old Testament in Latin. Fourteen religious books of the Jewish non-canonical tradition, known as the Apocrypha, were next on the agenda and were included as intertestamental readings.

Page from Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving complete manuscript of the Latin Vulgate Bible, produced c. A.D. 700

Jerome’s Latin translation became known as the Vulgate, and was used as the official standard text in the Church for the next thousand years, although there were a few vernacular translations in a few places in Christendom. At the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, the Pope called together a Church Council at Trent and there the Latin Vulgate with the Apocrypha was declared the authoritative Latin Bible. The Roman Catholic Church of today still respects and uses the Vulgate as the historic translation of the Scriptures but allows for modern updates of theological interpretation as scholarship deals with the original languages.

A the Council of Trent (1545–63) the Latin Vulgate with the Apocrypha was declared the authoritative Latin Bible

Jerome corresponded with other theologians of his day, especially Augustine. He excelled in apologetics also and defended Church dogma against challengers, affirming celibacy of the clergy, perpetual virginity of Mary, and other ascetics’ staples of dubious biblical origin. His writings are second only to Augustine in volume, and his commentaries and dogmatic productions are rejected by most Protestants as non-authoritative. Nonetheless, Jerome’s love of the Scriptures and lifetime pursuit of bringing a useful translation to Latin speakers, and to the liturgies of the church, make him a very important figure in Church history.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

Billy Graham Enters First Pastorate, 1939

2019-09-28T18:52:02+00:00September 23, 2019|HH 2019|

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” —Titus 3:5,6

Billy Graham Enters First Pastorate, September 28, 1939

The “Second Great Spiritual Awakening” in American history occurred throughout the first half of the 19th Century. During that time, several prominent white-hot evangelists succeeded in introducing innovative measures, rejected by “revivalist preachers” of past years as unbiblical accretions to the true Gospel message. Heretical theology often accompanied the “altar call” and “anxious seat,” standard practice of evangelical evangelism in the United States. The most successful evangelist to combine the Gospel message with the innovations of emotional appeal and physical response arose to prominence in the 20th Century—the Reverend Billy Graham. He began his ministry as a pastor in 1939, four weeks after the beginning of the Second World War.

William “Billy” Franklin Graham, Jr. (1918-2018) in 1966

Graham was born in 1918 in North Carolina four days before the end of World War I to parents who descended from people of the huge Scots-Irish immigration into the Charlotte area before the War for Independence. Raised on a dairy farm and in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Graham dated his conversion to Christ at the age of sixteen, from an evangelistic meeting led by Mordecai Ham. He attended Bob Jones College and then Florida Bible Institute, where he practiced preaching outdoors alone. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1943 and married his wife, Ruth Bell, the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary in China. Their marriage lasted sixty-four years and produced five children.

Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College

Ruth Bell Graham (1920-2007)

Ordained to the Gospel ministry by the Southern Baptists, Graham accepted a call to the Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois in in 1943 but left in two years to run a radio ministry, little realizing it would be his only pastoral charge. In 1948 he led a small college in Minnesota as the youngest college president in the nation. Graham conducted a series of “revival meetings” in a circus tent in Los Angeles in 1949, which lasted eight weeks and received national media coverage from the Hearst publication empire. That event became the beginning of a phenomenal rise to fame and recognition as a Gospel preacher, the likes of which the world has never seen before or since.

1966 Billy Graham Crusade in Oslo, Norway

The centerpiece of the messages preached by Evangelist Billy Graham included the “new birth,” brought about by a simple faith in Christ which resulted in a “relationship with God,” and a life characterized by “love and peace.” He emphasized the infallible, God-breathed Word of God, as the basis of truth, but in later years discarded the idea of biblical inerrancy. He taught that God superintended the general outlines of history but left man with an uncaused free-will to do as he pleased, including “accepting Christ as your Savior.” By the time he had retired in 2005, he had preached to 215 million people in person in ninety-nine countries, and to perhaps two billion through live closed-circuit telecasts. His “crusades” drew crowds of 185,000 (Wembley Stadium in the UK in 1955) and 250,000 (Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in 1974). A five-day meeting in Seoul, Korea drew three million attendees.

Billy Graham’s 1954 London Crusade at Wembley Stadium

Graham’s radio broadcast Hour of Decision, begun in 1950, became the most widely heard religious broadcast in the nation, streaming into twenty million homes every Sunday afternoon. His advice column, autobiography and thirty-one other books reached millions of people. He knew all eleven Presidents of the United States from Truman to Obama and had close personal relationships with LBJ, Nixon, Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Billy Graham in Düsseldorf, 1954

Graham’s tactics and beliefs brought criticism from both Conservatives and Liberals for different reasons. Christians of Reformed conviction disagreed with his “decisional regeneration” theology and its concomitant actions of “going forward” in meetings, as well as his Arminian views of Providence, dispensational eschatology, and disconnection from the local church. Fundamentalists opposed his bringing Roman Catholics to the stage with him and for joining with mainline pastors in ecumenical collaboration. Liberals rejected not only his theology, but his close ties to the Presidents, especially Richard Nixon. British pundit David Frost said that Graham was the “nearest thing that America has to an established church.”

Billy Graham knew all eleven U.S. Presidents from Truman to Obama

Nonetheless, Billy Graham’s preaching reached multitudes who had never heard the Gospel, and multiple thousands of people claim that God changed their heart after hearing the evangelist’s messages. A statue of the preacher will soon be enshrined in the “crypt” at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. as North Carolina’s greatest hero. The Billy Graham Library is the number one tourist attraction in his home state. Flawed though he was, and as we all are, God used the farmer’s son with the dulcet southern accent and powerful zeal for the Gospel, to expand His kingdom and proclaim the Gospel of salvation on a scale not equaled by any other Christian in history.

Billy Graham Library and grounds in North Carolina

Oklahoma Land Rush, 1893

2019-09-16T17:18:16+00:00September 16, 2019|HH 2019|

“He said, ‘Come what may, I want to run.’ So Joab said, ‘Run!’ Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.” —II Samuel 18:23

Oklahoma Land Rush, September 16, 1893

If you lived with your growing family in a rude, one-room cabin, perhaps rented, in the midst of a terrible economic depression, and the federal government offered you the opportunity to put a stake in the ground of a fertile, rolling prairie and you’d be given a multiple-acre plot for free, would you consider it? That is precisely what happened in 1893 in Oklahoma. The only catch was that a hundred thousand other people were lined up to do the same thing and it would be a race on horseback, wagons, trains, bicycles, and on foot, simultaneously, across the “Cherokee Strip” of some six million acres, with 40,000 homesteads available. If you participated, you would be known as a “Boomer.” If you snuck out to steal land before the official start, you were a “Sooner.” Between Boomer and Sooner, chaos would prevail.

“One minute before the start, Sep. 16th, 1893”

Like so many American stories, the Oklahoma Land rushes are embedded in historical contexts that date from earlier eras. In this case, from Native American treaties and relations from more than fifty years earlier. The State of Georgia had pursued the removal of the Cherokees from the early years of the century. In May of 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act.

Andrew Jackson (1757-1845), 7th President of the U.S., signed the Indian Removal Act

Through a series of byzantine negotiations, nullification of federal laws, Supreme Court rulings, divisions among the Cherokee leaders, and outright land theft, the Cherokee had finally met at their capitol at New Echota and signed the treaty that ended their sovereignty and attempts to retain their historic lands. They were given more than five million dollars and ordered to remove to new land given to them in what became known as “The Indian Territory,” which later became the state of Oklahoma. The treaty went into effect in March, 1836. Over the following three years, the Cherokee nation—which included people from Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas—were removed to their new homes in the Territory. More than 17,000 Cherokee and their 2,000 black slaves travelled to the Territory. Estimates of fatalities from the removal vary from 4-6,000, although those numbers are contested by historians, in both directions. They were joined by the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes in the massive forced removal from the Southern states.

1890 map of Indian Territory / Oklahoma

The series of forced relocations of Indians from the Southeastern U.S., collectively known as “The Trail of Tears” States, moved tribes west to areas designated as Indian Territory

Following the Civil War, intense pressure was placed on Congress by land speculators and railroads—often the same group—to offer land to the thousands and eventually, millions of people who wanted to move westward into the burgeoning prairies and the lands of the far west. The majority of Indians had sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, and radical Congressmen considered them a conquered province, ripe for exploitation. From 1870 to 1879, thirty-three bills were introduced in Congress to open the Territories for settlement. Four out of five western cattle trails from Texas came through the Territories. The first land rush opened the Indian lands to eastern settlers following the “Indians Appropriations Act of 1889.” The Run of 1892 had opened the former Creek and Seminole reservations. They had been sent packing by the federal government to lands in Colorado during Reconstruction.

The Oklahoma Land Rush, April 22, 1889, by John Steuart Curry depicts the smaller, earlier land rush of 1889

The 1893 Land Rush was the largest of the four sponsored by the government, this time across the Cherokee grazing lands of the northwest corner of the Territory. The tribe leased the land to cattle drovers, a lucrative deal, but Congress over-rode their possession with the new bills. President Grover Cleveland set the time for the run at precisely noon on September 16. The canon boomed (hence “Boomers”) and the race to take the land began. Photographs of the land rush show men on horseback and in wagons churning up the dust as they whipped their horses in a frenzy of land lust. Land-offices had been established in four towns and the United States Cavalry were scattered about to try and control the inevitable clashes that ensued. When men claimed the same land, or Sooners were already staking their claims, confusion and contusions flourished.

Settlers camp near Arkansas City and await the opening of the Cherokee Strip, September 1893

A Boomers camp is seen in Arkansas City, March 1, 1893 as settlers await the opening of the Cherokee Strip

One result was the overbuilding of towns by people with few resources to make a go at business in the midst of economic depression. Others discovered that their new land was not conducive to successful planting, and abandoned their claims. Other Boomers chose wisely, and established prosperous farms or businesses. New counties were established, although Oklahoma would not become a state until 1907.

The race began at noon on September 16, 1893 as more than 100,000 people gathered on the border to rush in and claim their homestead within the “Cherokee Strip” between Kansas and Oklahoma Territory

Every state has a unique history, and Oklahoma is no exception. The “Five Civilized Tribes” were among the first to be sent en masse to new lands, promised reserves in perpetuity. The Territory, however, proved as little sacrosanct as their original homes, when land-hungry easterners and railroads prevailed upon their compliant Congressmen to open the vast spaces to immigration. Oklahoma’s subsequent history was dependent on races, the winners establishing farmsteads across the prairies. The losers wondering why treaties could be so easily nullified through political expediency and economic rapacity.

Galveston Hurricane, 1900

2019-09-10T15:36:39+00:00September 10, 2019|HH 2019|

“Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong; like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters, he casts down to the earth with his hand.” —Isaiah 28:2

Galveston Hurricane, September 9, 1900

The greatest loss of life from a “natural disaster” in the United States occurred on September 9, 1900, when a category 4 hurricane struck the boom town of Galveston, Texas killing at least 8,000 people, destroying about 7,000 buildings and leaving more than 10,000 people homeless. In comparison, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 which struck the New Orleans area in 2005, killed about 1,800 and displaced about one million people. The city of Galveston as it was, never really recovered from the storm as Houston gradually took her place as the major metropolitan area of South Texas.

Constructed in 1882-83, Galveston’s Beach Hotel exemplified the prosperity of the booming port town

Established in 1847, the Ursuline Academy served as a shelter where over 1,000 people sought refuge from the hurricane

For centuries, the main source of information regarding the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes came from reports via incoming ships. Tragically, in spite of there being a “state-of-the-art” weather station in Havana in 1900, residual political tensions from the Spanish American War resulted in the U.S. Weather Bureau in D.C. blocking these reports. The bureau’s analysts predicted the storm would travel up the east coast of the U.S. However, the hurricane curved into the Gulf of Mexico with increased strength and came ashore on Friday September 9, at about 140 mph. The residents of Galveston were wholly unprepared.

Markers indicating track and intensity of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, remnants of which were recorded as far as Iceland

Galveston had been a prosperous community and so much so that “The Strand,” a strip of majestic iron-front buildings was known as the “Wall Street of the South”. The city was built on a low, flat island and connected to the mainland by multiple bridges. Residents knew full well that it had survived hurricanes in the past.

A mother is seen fleeing with her baby in her arms as flood waters rise in Galveston

View of the hurricane’s aftermath

As the storm made its imminent approach, two brave men ignored the Central Bureau’s official reports and took matters into their own hands: City of Galveston Chief Meteorologist Isaac Cline chose to stay behind and rode along the Galveston beaches on horseback, warning residents to flee to higher ground. John Blagden, a meteorologist on temporary assignment in the area, wrote in a letter the day after the hurricane that he spent all day Thursday phoning people and telling all who would listen to evacuate.

Residents rummage through rubble of destroyed homes in Galveston after the hurricane

When the hurricane came roaring ashore, the storm surge was more than fifteen feet deep on an island whose highest natural point was a little over eight feet. Ten nuns at the St. Mary’s orphanage, in a heroic attempt to save the ninety-three orphans, tied themselves to the children with clothesline to keep the little ones from being swept away as the waters overwhelmed the building. All of the sisters were killed and only three of the children survived.

In the aftermath, the U.S. Army erected tents on the beach for survivors to live in. Others were able to salvage enough debris to build rudimentary huts. Money to assist survivors poured in from generous citizens across the United States, from foreign countries and American philanthropists. Seventy-eight-year-old Clara Barton arrived with the Red Cross and provided tons of needed supplies.

The Sunset Route Sea Wall, Galveston, Texas, c. 1900-1908

1900 film footage of crews searching for bodies in Galveston in the aftermath of the storm

Galveston eventually recovered after many years but never returned to its former wealth or glory and as a constant prompt, many memorials still dot the island and remind us that man does not control either the weather or his own final destiny.