Mary Slessor, the “White Queen of Calabar” Dies, 1915

2019-01-14T18:21:13+00:00January 14, 2019|HH 2019|

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” —Romans 1:17a

Mary Slessor, the “White Queen of Calabar” Dies, January 13, 1915

Missionaries from the United Kingdom and the United States have been in the forefront of Protestant foreign missionary endeavors of the last two hundred years. Some of those men and women became household names in their own day — David Livingstone, John G. Paton, Hudson Taylor, William Carey and Adoniram Judson, for instance. Among women missionaries, Mary Slessor:

“…is entitled to a place in the front ranks of the heroines of history, and if goodness be counted an essential element of true greatness, if eminence be reckoned by love and self-sacrifice, by years of endurance and suffering, by a life of sustained heroism and purest devotion, it will be found difficult, if not impossible, to name her equal.” —J.H. Morrison

Born near Aberdeen, Scotland in 1848, in the midst of the industrial revolution, Mary’s family lived on the financial edge due to her alcoholic father, a shoemaker. At eleven the “red-haired girl with bright blue eyes,” went to work in the jute mills of Dundee, and by the age of fourteen, her father and two brothers were dead from pneumonia, leaving only Mary and her mother to work and take care of two younger sisters. Due to her mother’s devoted Christian witness and their faithfulness in attending worship in the Wishart United Presbyterian Church (later known as United Free Church of Scotland), Mary also became a devout believer and avid Bible reader. At the age of twenty seven, after hearing of the death of the missionary David Livingstone, Mary determined to become a missionary in Africa.

Mary Slessor (1848-1915)

Mary Slessor and the Ekenge people in the Calabar region of Nigeria

She had been teaching Sunday school classes for several years and developed both a deep and lasting knowledge of the Scriptures as well as a passion to witness to the lost. Convinced of her calling to foreign missions, her denomination’s mission board sent Mary to the Calabar region in southern Nigeria. She settled among the Efik people and quickly mastered their language and developed an understanding of their pagan culture. The former Scottish mill-worker was appalled by several practices of that tribe; her love for the people and willingness to suffer and sacrifice to bring change, nonetheless, endeared her to many of the Efiks and other tribes in Calabar. She prayed:

“Lord, the task is impossible for me but not for Thee. Lead the way and I will follow. Why should I fear? I am on a Royal Mission. I am in the service of the King of kings.”

1870s map of Africa with the Calabar Region indicated by a pin

Mary Slessor stands just outside Ikotobong court house, which can be seen with its thatched roof on the right side of the photograph. In 1889 the British Government established a Protectorate in Calabar and, on account of her unique influence, she was invited to take up the office of magistrate and superintendent of the district court. It had already become customary for locals to refer their disputes to her for settlement.

Pots in which twin babies were exposed due to the superstitions of the natives (photo c. 1880)

During her forty-year ministry in Africa, Mary Slessor contracted malaria (which never left her), as well as other fevers and health-wracking illnesses. She ministered to head-hunters and cannibals. She interceded in inter-tribal warfare and she saved countless babies who were left to die in the jungle due to the superstitions of the natives. The birth of twins among the Efiks had always resulted in infanticide because they believed it was the result of a great sin by the mother and evidence of a curse. They would be abandoned in the jungle to wild animals. Mary rescued a number of twins and raised them herself, saving numerous lives. On one occasion she nursed a chief back to health, to the great relief of his wives, all of whom would have been sacrificed if he had died. They gathered around her to ask about her wonderful powers and she replied:

“I have come to you because I love and worship Jesus Christ, the Great Physician and Saviour, the Son of the Father God who made all things. I want you to know this Father and to receive the eternal life which Jesus offers to all those with contrite and believing hearts. To know Jesus means to love Him, and with His love in our hearts we love everybody. Eternal life means peace and joy in this world and a wonderful home in the next world. My heart longs for you to believe in Jesus, to walk in His paths, and to know the blessings of eternal life through Him.”

Mary Slessor stands with a number of villagers outside her house in Ekenge

Mary Slessor died in 1915 in Nigeria, having led hundreds to Christ. So great was her loving and powerful ministry in Calabar that she was given what amounted to a state funeral by the British colonial government, and flags were flown at half-mast. The Efiks called her the Queen of Okoyong and there are memorials to her in Calabar including a church, statues with her holding twins, and schools. God gave Mary forty years of unrelenting sacrifice and Gospel witness in a region known as “the white man’s grave;” but she did not die until her tasks for Him were done.

A church in Calabar was originally built in 1905 by Onoyom Iya Nya, a wealthy trader who became a Christian under the work of Mary Mitchell Slessor. The original church, however, was flooded in 1906, prompting the construction of a new church on higher ground. It is unclear which church is represented in this photo from c. 1900-1910.

Archbishop William Laud Is Executed, 1645

2019-01-14T18:15:25+00:00January 7, 2019|HH 2019|

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” —Matthew 7:15

Archbishop William Laud Is Executed, January 10, 1645

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest Episcopal office in England, apart from the King or Queen, who were so designated by King Henry VIII as the “Supreme Head of the Church.” One of the most controversial and important Archbishops, William Laud (1573-1645), was executed for treason. Historian D.H. Pennington says of him:

“Laud was never much liked, even by his allies. A humourless, dwarflike figure, uninterested in court pleasures, unmarried, [likely homosexual], tactlessly impartial in his condemnations, he could never establish a party of influential supporters. During the war and interregnum, royalists and peacemakers generally preferred to forget him.”

Why should we remember him?

Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud (1573-1645)

William Laud was the only son of a Berkshire clothier. He developed a love of learning at an early age and spent the rest of his life pursuing scholarship and serving as a churchman. After graduating from St. John’s College, Oxford, he began his ecclesiastical career: deacon (1601), President of St. John’s (1611), Dean of Gloucester (1616), Bishop of the see of St. David’s, 1621 (a lowly appointment since King James considered Laud a troublemaker), Dean of the Chapel Royal (1626), Privy Councilor (1627), Bishop of London (1628), and, of course, a member of the House of Lords in Parliament. The résumé seems like a typical pedestrian rise through the hierarchy of the Church of England. Much depended upon favoritism shown by various leading noblemen and the approval of the Crown, as well as the ability to politically outflank his opponents and competitors. Laud’s attachment to Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford, took on especial importance into the reign of King Charles I. What really set William Laud apart from many others was his theological attachment to Arminianism, high church outlook, and adamant opposition to the Puritans, who were still seeking to purify the church of non-biblical ceremonies and superstition.

St. John’s College, Oxford

Title page from a 1637 copy of The Book of Common Prayer

King Charles I of England (1600-1649)

Laud incrementally sought to return the church to rites and beliefs reminiscent of its Roman Catholic past. He demanded adherence to external aspects of worship like strict use of The Book of Common Prayer, wearing the surplice, bowing at the name of Jesus, consecrating churches, etc. In 1633 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Charles I, a position from which he could extend his persecution of Puritans across England and Scotland. He suppressed Puritan books and tracts, arrested what he called “propagandists,” Alexander Leighton and William Prynne and had them mutilated and thrown in prison; he rejected any changes proposed by Puritans. Though short in stature, William Laud loomed large in the Church of England to remake it away from the Reformation.

Alexander Leighton (1570-1649)

William Prynne (1600-1669)

Laud was especially opposed to the Puritan emphasis on preaching and tried to curtail it wherever possible. It militated against his desire to amalgamate church and state and led to sedition. Laud worked hard to place bishops and clergy sympathetic to his ideas and plans in as many churches as possible, though he met constant resistance from the more Reformed elements of the English Church. The popular support for the Puritan cause was much larger than those who agreed with Laud. The more action he took against them, the more the rebellion against his policies.

In 1639 King Charles went to war with Scotland over these very issues. They had rejected and sacked his bishops and declared Christ the Head of the Church, separating the State from the Church. He called Parliament into session for the first time in eleven years, to raise money for war, but they refused. They were dissolved after convening for only three weeks. A few months later, Charles again called Parliament together, seeking money after the disastrous “Bishop’s War” with Scotland. This time they would not be dissolved by the King. The MPs demanded the arrest of the Earl of Strafford and of his close ally and supporter William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. Both were impeached for High Treason. Strafford was beheaded shortly thereafter. Laud suffered the same fate four years later, after languishing in the Tower of London. In both cases it proved difficult to prove treason; a bill of attainder from Parliament resulted in their conviction and execution. Historians have not been particularly kind to the Archbishop “a ridiculous old bigot,” (Macaulay). As one royal wit said “Give praise to the Lord, and little Laud to the devil.”

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (1593-1641)

The execution of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford, May 12, 1641, was by some estimates attended by as many as 300,000

He had been integral in trying to roll back the Reformation and impose an Anglo-Catholicism on England and Scotland. The resulting Bishop’s Wars and the English Civil Wars resulted from his and the inept King’s policies. Had Laud reinforced the Calvinistic Puritan movement and not pursued belligerent schemes to return the Church in a papal direction, there may never have been a Cromwell in England or Covenanters in Scotland — but then such speculation is unsafely questioning Providence.

The trial of Archbishop Laud (above) ended without a verdict, having proved impossible to identify any specific act of treason. Parliament eventually passed a bill of attainder under which he was beheaded on January 10, 1645 on Tower Hill, despite being granted a royal pardon

Ellis Island Immigration Station Opens, 1892

2018-12-30T02:00:59+00:00December 31, 2018|HH 2018|

“And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.’” —Exodus 13:14

Ellis Island Immigration Station Opens, January 1, 1892

In December, 1891 seventeen-year-old Annie Moore of County Cork, climbed aboard the USS Nevada, along with her two younger brothers, in Queensland, Ireland (now known as Cobh). On January 1, 1892 they disembarked to join their parents in New York, the first of seven hundred new immigrants to enter the United States through Ellis Island, formerly considered part of New York but declared by a judge, New Jersey-owned in 1998. By the year of its closure in 1954, more than twelve million more would follow Annie through the portals of the reception area to become United States citizens. The last was a Norwegian merchant-seaman named Arne Peterson.

View of Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay with Lower Manhattan in the background

In the years prior to 1892, New York City had processed immigrants through Castle Garden Immigration Depot, perhaps as many as eight million people. There were other ports of entry along the eastern and western seaboards, but the state system was collapsing when the Federal government took control of immigration in 1890. They consolidated the approved entryways and funneled the steerage passengers (1st and 2nd class could be processed aboard ship and disembark directly on Manhattan) through Ellis Island. They conducted a landfill project, doubling its size to six acres and constructed a processing station, which opened the first day of 1892.

An immigrant family in the baggage room of Ellis Island Immigration Station, 1905

The first Ellis Island immigrant station, opened on January 1, 1892 was completely destroyed by fire on June 15, 1897

The second Ellis Island immigration station, as seen in this 1905 photograph, opened on December 17, 1900

The new immigrants came from all the nations of Europe, with noticeable increases from lands of Southern Europe and Russia. Approximately one million arrived every year from 1905-1912. In 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Act, greatly reducing the number of immigrants allowed in and moving much of the processing overseas at the U.S. embassies. They established quotas, seeking to reduce the number of people entering the United States, especially Jews, Italians, and Slavs from Southern and Eastern Europe. The American Eugenics movement played a role in persuading Congress to assist in keeping out people they considered defective or undesirable.


Footage showing immigrants disembarking from a steam ferryboat, July 9, 1903

Newly arrived immigrants await inspection at the Ellis Island Immigrant Building, 1904

Part of the regular processing of new immigrants, culled from their ranks those with communicable diseases, those who were foreign criminals escaping law enforcement, and the obviously indigent who were not considered able-bodied or did not possess enough money to get a new start in the United States. A fairly rigorous medical inspection sent about 2% of the passengers back to their port of origin. About three thousand died in the Ellis Island hospital during the years of the Island’s operation. Estimates of the number of Americans descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island range up to one hundred million people.

Aerial view of Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island in the foreground, downtown Jersey City on the left and Manhattan, mostly out of view, on the right

After about thirty two years of operation, with the controversial Immigration Act, the use of Ellis Island as port of entry declined. By the 1930s it was used primarily for detention and deportation processing and for POWs of the Second World War. Today, a museum on the island interprets the history of immigration in the United States, especially as it relates to Ellis Island. While foreigners entering the United States to settle also occurred through other ports, Ellis Island has become the symbolic place for people fleeing persecution, poverty and hopelessness to seek a new life of freedom in the United States — to work hard and create a healthier and more prosperous future for their families.

Immigrants bound for Ellis Island approach New York City, with the Statue of Liberty in the background

Memorial to Annie Moore and her siblings in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland

There is a lovely statue in the town of Cobh of Annie Moore and her little brothers, with their bundle and hope, leaving to join their parents who preceded them to New York. They are an appropriate symbol themselves of those whom Providence would bring to these shores to continue the building of a nation unlike any other in history. Think of how God brought your forebearers here and eventually established your family to serve God and raise up new generations.

Johannes Kepler Is Born, 1571

2018-12-22T21:21:56+00:00December 24, 2018|HH 2018|

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” —Psalm 19:1

Johannes Kepler Is Born, December 27, 1571

Johannes Kepler’s achievements in mathematical theory and scientific application astound even the casual observer. In Kepler’s day, princes subsidized geniuses and kept them close to the throne, for such men brought prestige to the state and reflected glory on the political leaders as men of Renaissance wisdom and intelligence. But the Reformation had divided Europe into religiously diverse states and woe betide the scientist whose faith identified him as holding doctrines opposite those of the prince. Kepler’s Lutheran, and then Calvinist, convictions in Catholic jurisdictions, during the Thirty Years War, made for a life beset with problems unrelated to astronomic calculations.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer

Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt, a free imperial city in Swabia, a southwest German state in the Holy Roman Empire. The region had divided over the Reformation, between Protestant and Catholic. Kepler was raised by poor but devout Lutheran parents. His father was a mercenary and left when Johannes was only five years old. He likely died in the eighty-year war for Dutch independence. As a young boy, he contracted smallpox which left him with crippled hands and weak eyesight. His love of mathematics and interest in the heavens was encouraged by his mother and grandfather. Based on his superior work in local schools, Kepler was awarded a scholarship to Tubingen University to study for the Lutheran ministry, but that course was providentially altered.

Kepler’s birthplace in Weil der Stadt

The Holy Roman Empire at its zenith overlaid on modern European national borders

While a college/seminary student, Kepler was introduced to the work of Nicolaus Copernicus who had written that planets orbit the sun rather than the Earth, a revolutionary break from Church dogma and astronomic belief. With his brilliant mathematical skills and astrological acumen, Kepler was invited to become, at the age of twenty-three, professor of mathematics at the Protestant seminary in Graz, Austria. In his spare time he studied astronomy and astrology (considered nearly the same discipline in that era). He took a public stand for the heliocentric Copernican theories in his first published work, in opposition to both Luther’s and the Catholic Church’s belief. So dangerous was his theory considered that he and his first wife, Barbara, wrote to one another in code to minimize the chance of persecution.

Nickolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Polish mathematician and astronomer known for his heliocentric model of the universe

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630

Barbara Kepler (née Müller) (1574-1611)

Kepler was skilled at ingratiating himself with men who could promote his career, and he received the benefits of several patrons. He also married an heiress, twice widowed, and together they had five children. Kepler corresponded with other prominent astronomers and ran afoul of Tycho Brahe, one of the foremost scientists of his day, a wealthy Danish nobleman-astronomer. They debated Copernican theory and eventually came together at Tycho’s new observatory near Prague, after Kepler fled Graz for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism. Brahe added Kepler to his growing cadre of assistants, but was careful not to reveal to him all that he had discovered about planetary motion. Upon Tycho’s death that very year, Kepler was appointed Imperial Mathematician and given the task of completing Tycho’s work.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Danish nobleman, astronomer, and writer known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations

Over the following eleven years Kepler came into his own using Brahe’s notes and his own observations. Kepler was so respected that he was permitted his Lutheran convictions though the emperor’s court was Catholic. His duties included “reading the stars” and giving astrological advice to the Emperor, as he continued serious astronomical calculations and collegial contact with the other mathematicians of Europe. It took him eight years to solve the problem of explaining the unusual Mars orbit. He discovered the planets travelled in ellipses rather than circles, now known as Kepler’s First Law. He figured out that planets further from the sun moved more slowly, Kepler’s second law (1609). In comparing the orbits of two planets he found that “The square of the ratio of the period of two planets is equal to the cube of the ratio of their radius” (Third Law, 1619).

Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire (1552-1612)

Kepler’ First Law of Planetary Motion states that the orbits of planetary bodies are ellipses with the sun at one of the two foci of the ellipse (exaggerated for illustration purposes)

He wrote many other works, some of which still hold up. Kepler’s contributions to astronomy accorded him the title of “Father of Astronomy” by historians. Tubingen would not let him return because his Calvinist beliefs conflicted with strict Lutheranism and eventually he had to move to Linz. During the Thirty Years War, Linz was laid siege to by Catholic armies and he had to move again. Ironically, Kepler became an advisor to the Catholic General Wallenstein but failed to predict Wallenstein’s assassination. Kepler’s gravesite was lost when the Swedish army destroyed Regensburg, where he had died in 1630. It was this great Christian astronomer who is said to have remarked that “I think God’s thoughts after him,” a central tenet of twentieth century Reformed presuppositional apologetics.

Albrecth von Wallenstein (1583-1634)

Thomas Paine’s First American Crisis Article Published, 1776

2018-12-17T17:01:06+00:00December 17, 2018|HH 2018|

“Act as free men, but do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves to God.” —I Peter 2:16

Thomas Paine’s First American Crisis Article Published, December 19, 1776

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

So began the first in a series of articles written by Thomas Paine over a seven-year period during the American War for Independence. That first essay so inspired George Washington that he had it read aloud to the troops at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776-77. There is very little in the early life of Thomas Paine to indicate he would write pamphlets that would bring fire to the minds and hearts of American patriots and become a Founding Father of the United States.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English-born American philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary

Born in Thetford, Norfolk, England in 1736, Paine apprenticed with his father, a Quaker, making stays, that is, stay ropes for the shipping trades. He received a rudimentary education at a local school, but spent a brief time at sea with a privateer before settling down into his own stay-making business. He worked at an excise office but was fired for false reporting. He married his landlord’s daughter and started a tobacco business, which failed. He was forced to sell all his possessions to avoid debtor’s prison.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Paine separated from his wife and moved to London where a friend introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, the colonial representative of Pennsylvania. The American advised Paine to move to the colonies for a new start. He arrived in Pennsylvania half dead from the sickly voyage and spent six weeks recovering. The working man from England accepted a job as the editor of the first real American magazine, The Pennsylvania Gazette, from which he began publishing articles subversive of English political control and of social convention.

His pamphlet titled Common Sense, attacked monarchy and advocated democracy, radical ideas that helped fuel the rebellion against Britain. Paine was vilified by prominent Tories, but his pamphlet eventually sold more than a half million copies, a phenomenal success without peer in America.

A 1792 political cartoon shows Thomas Paine penning his “The Rights of Man” and “Common Nonsense”, etc. while surrounded by injustices such as “rebellion”, “anarchy”, “atheism”, and trampling such concepts as “loyalty”, “religion”, and “Magna Carta”

In late 1776 he published his first essay of The American Crisis, cited above. Paine designed his writing to inspire Americans to join the fight for liberty. He used all the code words that patriots adopted to garner support. His writings and popularity led to election as secretary of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs. He published secret information and ran afoul of fellow congressmen Robert Morris and Silas Deane and was fired from his position. His scandalous fight with them continued into the future.

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Pamphlet

Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis Pamphlet

Paine served briefly as an aide-de-camp to General Nathaniel Greene, and accompanied John Laurens to France in 1781, seeking financial aid to continue the war against Britain. In this endeavor he was successful and was duly rewarded by Congress. Paine’s essays continued to provoke and inspire throughout the war. In time, however, the stay-rope maker, turned radical pamphleteer and revolutionary, revealed himself an enemy of Christianity and a promoter of radical revolution. He wrote two major works explaining his theories, The Rights of Man (1791, 1792) and The Age of Reason (1794-1807). Paine was elected to the French Revolutionary government but was eventually arrested; he barely escaped the guillotine.

Major General Nathanael Greene (1742-1786)

An embittered defender of radical democracy, Paine attacked George Washington in print and returned to the United States at the end of the century, where he was vilified, especially by Christians and Federalists. Thomas Paine’s commitment to an American Republic combined with a facility with words that inspired and motivated the Patriot cause made him an important factor in the founding of the nation. His ongoing radical ideology and revolutionary zeal to destroy the church and elevate the common man to positions of authority and power, ultimately brought his downfall. One obituary stated that “he had lived long, did some good, and much harm.” His bones were taken back to England by a friend but were eventually lost; he has no known grave.

Thomas Paine sitting for one of a series of portraits of twelve notable revolutionaries, including the Comte de Mirabeau, by the French artist Laurent Dabos