Africans Arrive at Jamestown, 1619

Africans Arrive at Jamestown, August 20, 1619

The history of Africans in America is a far more interesting and complex story than most historians care to admit. In fact, the distortions, farragos of deceit, and myths they have created, seem to have more to do with modern political and social agendas than honest examination and interpretation of the past. The story of the first Africans brought to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia does not conform to the typical narrative so readily advanced in most textbooks.


Africans arriving at Jamestown in 1619


African participation in the slave trade

In the early 17th Century, Portugal and Spain dominated the African slave trade. Over the course of several hundred years, about 95% of the slave cargoes purchased from African dealers ended up in South and Central America and the Caribbean islands. England was the newcomer to New World plantations; Jamestown, founded in 1607, being the first to survive. English “sea dogs” though, raided the Spanish Main, seizing valuable cargoes of gold and silver, and occasionally African slaves. King James of England prohibited the seizure of Spanish ships, and stopped issuing letters of marque that allowed for such depredations. In 1619, two English-flagged ships, White Lion and Treasurer, waylaid the San Juan Batista and the African survivors of the “middle passage,” destined for slavery in South America. Aware of the King’s prohibitions, and fearing exposure, the English captain sailed to Jamestown where the governor took the Africans off his hands.


The Spanish San Juan Bautista Battles the English Treasurer and White Lion

Thirty-two Ndongo tribesmen, victims of the Imbangala, “a rampaging class of renegade marauders,” and their Portuguese slave merchants, made landfall in Jamestown on August 20, 1619, where some were kept as slaves and others indentured out to plantations along the James and York Rivers. The seventeen females and fifteen male Angolan natives proved expert cattlemen and traders, and the stories of their subsequent years of working off the indentures, marrying with Powhatan natives, English, and one another, provide a number of amazing Providential stories of success.


English “sea dogs” like Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596) operated under the protection of Queen Elizabeth I, but to the Spanish were little more than pirates


King James I (1566-1625) stopped issuing the letters of marque previously issued under Elizabeth I that sanctioned the activities of the English “sea dogs”

According to Tim Hashaw, author of The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown, they called themselves Mulungus, “comrades who came over the sea from the same homeland in the same ship.” Some of them purchased their own freedom from slavery, others purchased slaves themselves. Their descendants included some of the first cowboys to enter Texas from the United States (“dogie” is a Bantu word for cow), the doctor of colonial Jamestown, soldiers in many of America’s wars, including at least one Confederate general. Some remained Roman Catholic (a legacy of Portuguese missionaries in Africa), and many became Baptists. A few even moved to the Pilgrim Colony in Massachusetts.

It is likely that the descendants of those Africans who started their American sojourn as indentured servants never experienced slavery again after their arrival in Virginia. Once again, Providence overruled the plans of men, and provided a rich and interesting heritage for those willing to dig out the truth buried under the river of time.


Image Credits:Africans Landing at Jamestown (Wikipedia.org); 2 African participation in the slave trade (Wikipedia.org); 3 Battle of San Juan Bautista (KinFolkDetective.org); 4 Sir Francis Drake (Wikipedia.org); 5 James I of England (Wikipedia.org)

2017-08-17T17:42:27+00:00 August 14, 2017|HH 2017|

Francis Asbury Answers the Call, 1771

“I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of his power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach.” —Ephesians 3:7, 8a

Francis Asbury Answers the Call, August 6, 1771

Our brethren in America cry aloud for help. Who are willing to go over and help them?” So pleaded the Rev. John Wesley on August 6, 1771 in a Methodist conference meeting in Bristol, England. Twenty-six-year-old, circuit-riding preacher Francis Asbury stepped forward. Wesley decided Asbury was just the man to send. And so Asbury’s journey began, one that would take him more than 300,000 miles during a forty-five-year ministry in America that would span “the times that tried men’s souls” through the “second war for American Independence” and the “Second Great Awakening.”


Francis Asbury (1745-1816)


John Wesley (1703-1791)

Francis Asbury’s life seemed typically pedestrian — of a working-class Anglican family, son of a “jobbing gardener,” and apprenticed to a “chape-maker” (steel buckles) at the age of 12. He and his mother attended Methodist meetings in their town, and at the age of sixteen he recorded that he was “spiritually awakened.” He became a local Methodist preacher, eventually entering the itinerancy in 1766, at age twenty-one. Asbury’s call to preach in America brought him to the colonies, roiled in controversy and rebellion, containing only about six hundred Methodists. Asbury laid low and even hid out during the War for Independence, and by its end he was the only English-born Methodist minister still in the former colonies.


The Ordination of Bishop Asbury

The young country continued moving westward into the frontier of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Ohio Valley. Asbury determined to take the Gospel to the scattered villages and homesteads that had outrun the eastern churches, most of whom could not provide enough missionaries and pastors to keep up with the demand of the rapidly moving American pioneers. John Wesley’s “Methodist” movement, however, did not require a seminary-trained clergy. Young men — even the most recent of converts — who “felt the call to preach,” could receive a circuit to ride, serving the spiritual needs of families remote from regular civilization. In his lifetime, it is estimated that Asbury — known as Bishop Asbury — with control over American Methodism, ordained between three and four thousand men to preaching ministry in the course of his own leadership of American Methodism.


Stained Glass Memorializing Charles Wesley, John Wesley, and Francis Asbury

Asbury himself maintained a “a celibate and relentless itinerant lifestyle to match the rugged terrain and scattered population.” He wrested control of American Methodism from “daddy Wesley” and, through his considerable organizational gifts, built that denomination into the largest in the United States, numbering about 1.5 million by the beginning of the Civil War. According to his biographer, Ezra Tipple, Asbury’s preaching was more zeal than art, and highly effective. There were occasions when “under the rush of his utterance, people sprang to their feet as if summoned to the judgement bar of God.”


Boyhood Home of Francis Asbury, West Bromwich, England


The Francis Asbury Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Asbury launched five schools and encouraged “Sunday schools,” though he himself was not formally educated. He hated slavery and petitioned politicians to enact anti-slavery legislation. He wore himself out travelling, seemingly suffering a never-ending string of maladies from colds to fevers and eventually chronic rheumatism which drove him from horseback to buggy. Asbury inspired men to service and sacrifice and several became famous in their own itinerant and rough-and-tumble ministries.

One man named Francis Asbury abandoned making buckles for the fashion-conscious, accepted a call to a foreign country to preach the Gospel, and changed history, by the Grace of God.


Image Credits:Francis Asbury (gcah.org); 2 John Wesley (Wikipedia.org); 4 Asbury Ordination (Wikipedia.org); 3 Stained glass (Wikipedia.org); 5 Asbury Statue (Wikipedia.org); 6 Boyhood Home (Wikipedia.org)

2017-08-05T15:08:58+00:00 August 7, 2017|HH 2017|

John Witherspoon Preaches on ‘The Dominion of Providence’, 1776

“Surely the Wrath of Man shall praise thee; the remainder of Wrath shalt thou restrain.” —Psalm 76:10

John Witherspoon Preaches on
‘The Dominion of Providence’, July 31, 1776

While many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence spoke of their Christian faith and were members in good standing of various churches, one of them was an ordained minister of the Gospel. He was no ordinary minister. The Rev. John Knox Witherspoon, age 45, had arrived in America from Scotland in 1768 to begin his role as the President of the College of New Jersey at Princeton. He stated that “I became an American the moment I landed.” He was the son of a minister and grandson of a Covenanter minister. His great-great grandfather was John Knox. Contrary to the modern historical attempt to only identify Witherspoon with “Scottish Enlightenment” philosophy, he brought with him to Princeton a Scottish, Reformed, Covenantal, and vital Evangelical Faith, which he sought to impart to all his charges.


John Knox Witherspoon (1723-1794)


Sermon Title Page

Some historians believe Witherspoon became the most influential college president in American history, since nine of the fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention were former students of his; also from among his personally-taught Princeton students came three Supreme Court Justices, ten cabinet officers, twelve members of the Continental Congress, twenty-eight United States Senators and forty-nine members of the U. S. House of Representatives.

On July 31, 1776, two months after he was elected to the Continental Congress, John Witherspoon’s sermon entitled The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men was printed in Philadelphia. “It caused a great stir.” It was preached in response to the Congress’s call for a day of fasting and prayer and dedicated to John Hancock, the President.


The President’s House at Princeton University, where Witherspoon resided from 1768 to 1779

He defined divine providence and explained its extent:

“It extends not only to things which we may think of great moment, and therefore worthy of notice, but t things the most indifferent and inconsiderable. It extends not only to things beneficial and salutary, or to the direction and assistance of those who are the servants of the living God; but to things seemingly most hurtful and destructive, and to persons the most refractory and disobedient. He over-rules all his creatures, and all their actions. . . .I am to point out to you in some particulars, how the wrath of man praises God. I say in some instances, because it is far from being in my power, either to mention or explain the whole. There is an unsearchable depth in the divine counsels, which it is impossible for us to penetrate.”


John Witherspoon Statue at Princeton University

He shows the various ways the wrath of men praise God and cites the times in which they were then living in America—at war with Britain and struggling to gain independence. He calls for his fellow Americans to repent and have faith in Christ, and hearkens to other times in the past when God’s providence changed history in dramatic fashion. Witherspoon’s dynamic sermon concluded with encouragement and hope for the desperate times in which he lived:

“I beseech you to make a wise improvement of the present threatening aspect of public affairs, and to remember that your duty to God, to your country, to your families, and to yourselves is the same. True religion is nothing else but an inward temper and outward conduct suited to your state and circumstance in providence at any time. And as peace with God and conformity to him adds to the sweetness of created comforts while we possess them, so in times of difficulty and trial, it is in the man of piety and inward principle, that we may expect to find the uncorrupted patriot, the useful citizen and the invincible soldier. God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both.

The Doctrine of Providence is a great comfort and these are good words for our times.

View Full Sermon Transcript Here

Visit Princeton University on Our Cradle of Liberty Tour!

Walk the halls of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) where John Witherspoon trained one-fifth of the members of the Constitutional Convention, and visit the nearby graveyard where such godly luminaries as Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, Samuel Davies, and Ashbel Green are laid to rest. More details forthcoming!

2017-08-04T20:53:49+00:00 July 31, 2017|HH 2017|

Jenny Geddes Starts a Revolution, 1637

“You are my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob. Through you we will push back our adversaries; through your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.” —Psalm 44:4, 5

Jenny Geddes Starts a Revolution, July 23, 1637

Inside the greatest cathedral in Scotland — St. Giles in Edinburgh — are memorials one might expect to see in such a historically significant site. There is a life-size bronze statue of the Reformer John Knox and the tombs of two bitter enemies buried on either side of the transept (it’s Scotland, after all): the Duke of Argyll, defender of the Covenant and the Marquis of Montrose, warrior of the King. The monument that takes you by surprise, however, is what appears to be a bronze three-legged milking stool on a pedestal next to the help-desk. It was presented to the Cathedral in 1992 by a group of forty Scotswomen. The hurling of a stool at the Cathedral Dean, by Jenny Geddes, as he read from the Prayer Book on July 23, 1637, started a revolution.


St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland


Panoramic interior image of St. Giles Cathedral

In March of 1625, Charles Stuart, son of King James I, acceded to the throne of England as King Charles I. While he continued many of the policies of his father, he had neither the tact nor the cleverness of his sire. He promoted the high church proclivities he had inherited, increasing the distrust of his Puritan subjects by marrying a Roman Catholic princess (Roman Catholicism was banned in England), dismissed Parliament and ruled by “divine right” without them. He chose as the new Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, who promoted ceremonies, liturgies, and pomp reminiscent of the papal church.


Charles I of England (1600-1649)


James I of England (1566-1625)

In Scotland, the reaction to King Charles and his Laudian ecclesiastical innovations met with outrage from the pastors and elders of the Church of Scotland, most of whom were still presbyterian in polity and doctrine. Laud believed the Scottish Kirk should conform to the prelatical system established in England and, for the Scots, became the personification of what Alexander Henderson called a conspiracy of corrupt bishops “to misinform the king of the liturgy and ecclesiology of the Scottish Kirk.” Arminian doctrine was central to the attempted uniformity of religion being imposed by Laud, and the Scots saw it as tantamount to the beliefs of the papal Church.


Jenny Geddes hurls a stool at the Cathedral Dean

On 23 July, 1637 Dean Hannay rose to read the new liturgy in the High Church of Edinburgh, St. Giles. The liturgy had nineteen chapters within its forty-three pages “detailing how the church should be governed, from the King gaining his position from God, down to the renaming of ministers, kirk sessions, and presbyteries with terms taken from the Episcopal Church.” As the pastor began intoning from the prayer book, Jenny Geddes, allegedly a local street vendor, stood up and yelled, “Wha dur say mass in my lug!” (How dare you say the Mass in my ear) and flung her three-legged stool at the minister. Pandemonium broke out as others followed suit and the prelatical entourage fled the scene out a back door. The town guard had to rescue the bishop from the rioters. Similar scenes were enacted in other Scottish towns where the liturgy was read.


Rioting at St. Giles in 1637

The Scots had not experienced a thoroughgoing Reformation seventy years before, just to see it succumb to the heresies of a foreign archbishop and a King usurping the “Crown Rights of King Jesus.” The next year the General Assembly issued the National Covenant, assuring the King of their complete loyalty to him in his proper jurisdiction, but denying his authority over Christ’s Church and the biblical principles of worship. War ensued for the better part of ten years, but the Kirk remained free till the Restoration of the next King, Charles II, when persecution would ensue for about 27 years more.

Stroll down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to see St. Giles Cathedral, the home of Reformer John Knox, Greyfriars Kirkyard and the majestic Edinburgh Castle on our 2018 Scotland Adventure!

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2017-08-04T20:42:25+00:00 July 24, 2017|HH 2017|

First Walk on the Moon, 1969

“When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained. What is man that You are mindful of him?” —Psalm 8:3, 4a

First Walk on the Moon

On the 20th of July, 1969 two United States Astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin disembarked from their lunar module and stepped onto the moon. Some people believed it was the greatest achievement that man accomplished in history. Some believe it was the most colossal waste of money ever conceived by a government; still others believe it never happened and that NASA bamboozled all the people on earth (except those who claim it did not happen). Whoever is right, or none of the above, the success of the Apollo space program provided an event that billions of people watched or followed in print and which has turned history in a direction formerly found only in the imagination of science fiction writers.


Neil Armstrong works at the LM in one of the few photos taken of him on the moon

The official motivation for landing a man on the moon — as far as the public was concerned — came from President John F. Kennedy who cast the vision in 1961 in a speech before Congress, the text of which came from NASA, calling for a moon landing within a decade. Plenty of preparation had already been fulfilled during the Eisenhower administration with the Mercury unmanned space program, but the first astronaut to fly in space occurred only one month before Kennedy’s speech. The Apollo Program to land men on the moon itself lasted from 1961-1972. Apollo 8 carried the first men to circle the moon and return safely, Apollo 11 landed men on the moon and the program concluded with Apollo 17. Six successful moon landings were conducted in the course of the program.


Liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle from Kennedy Space Center


Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module

The spacecraft for Apollo 11 had three components — a command module, Columbia, with a cabin for the three astronauts (the only part that would actually return to earth), a service module which provided propulsion, electrical power, oxygen and water, and a two-part lunar module named the Eagle which carried two of the men to the surface of the moon and returned them to the command module. A Saturn V rocket blasted the spacecraft into orbit.


The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, (L-R) Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and “Buzz” Aldrin, lunar module pilot

The whole world watched breathlessly on television till the lunar module landed softly in the “Sea of Tranquility” on the moon’s surface. As Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon he uttered the now iconic phrase, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The benefits of spending billions of dollars to accomplish the task have been debated ever since. New commercial products were developed in the course of space R & D, the space race with the Soviet Union was declared over, and several tons of rocks and dust from the moon were brought to earth for people to ooh and ahh over in the Smithsonian Museum. The astonishing complexity and ingenious physics of space travel have spawned movies, new theories of the origin of the universe, and renewed efforts in unmanned space exploration. None of it changes one iota of…

“Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” —Genesis 1: 16-19

Watch Neil Armstrong’s Historic Moon Landing

2017-08-04T20:28:47+00:00 July 17, 2017|HH 2017|