Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

2019-11-11T22:12:50+00:00November 11, 2019|HH 2019|

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” —Hebrews 11:13

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620

2020 marks the Quadricentennial of the landing of the dissenting English Puritans known as Pilgrims, north of Cape Cod, where they established a colony they named Plymouth, after the port from which they sailed from England. Because their charter indicated they would join the Virginia colony along its projected northern boundary, no preparations had been made to create a new government, Virginia having established one in 1607. God controls his creation, including, and especially, the weather, the wind and the waves, which drove the little ship the Mayflower north of the Virginia boundaries into terrra incognita, as far as the Pilgrims were concerned. They recognized that the men would need to establish a civil government before settling the colony.

Though the original Mayflower Compact is lost to history, the text was transcribed in numerous places, including this hand-written copy included by William Bradford in his Of Plymouth Plantation

Of the 102 souls aboard the ship, 41 belonged to a Separatist congregation that worshipped in the Dutch Netherlands as ex-patriot Englishmen. They had fled to the continent with their pastor, John Robinson, to escape persecution from the Crown of England and the Anglican establishment. They were granted freedom of worship in Holland. It was not long before the local church leaders in the new host country grew to respect the character and scholarship of the pastor, and welcomed the hard working and godly Englishmen. After several years of sojourn, the congregation decided to sail for the New World, if God would so ordain. Pastor Robinson chose not to leave for the Virginia Colony on the first shipload of his emigrating parishioners, but the highly competent elder William Brewster joined the group. The rest of the passengers aboard were not members of the congregation and were known by the Pilgrims as “strangers.”

Ruins of the Vrouwekerk—a 14th-century church in Leiden where the Pilgrims attended during their time in Holland

The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

After a harrowing passage of more than two months, the Mayflower rode at anchor near Cape Cod. Preparing to land about two hundred fifty miles north of the planned settlement area, they were outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, the joint stock venture that had granted them the patent. Some of the strangers aboard did not like the idea of settling with the Pilgrims without some kind of legal boundaries. Historians have suggested that perhaps Stephen Hopkins or the “knave” John Billington instigated the grumblings of mutiny. The recorder of the voyage and settlement, William Bradford in his firsthand account entitled Of Plymouth Plantation never named the discontented but did say that some of the strangers made it known that no one would tell them what to do!

William Bradford (1590-1657), Mayflower passenger, Plymouth Colony Governor and author of Of Plymouth Plantation

The Pilgrims come ashore in the New World

The Pilgrims consulted together and wrote out a brief constitution to serve as the basis for civil government when they landed. It has become known as The Mayflower Compact, the original copy of which has been lost to history. The opening line stated “In the Name of God, Amen” declaring the ultimate source of authority in God Himself. They furthermore stated their obedience to King James who held his position “by the Grace of God.” The signers covenanted to combine into civil body politic and to “establish just and equal Laws . . . for the general good of the colony.” Their chief purpose of the colony was to promote “the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.” In so doing, they were following the counsel of their pastor and committing themselves to self-government for the “general Good of the Colony” to which they all would submit.

The signing of the Mayflower Compact

Forty-one men signed the Compact, including most of the strangers, and elected John Carver governor of the plantation. Carver was a devoted church deacon who had proved himself wise and devout, and had represented the Pilgrims before the merchant adventurers. The rest of the story is well known by those who study American history. They landed at a spot they called Plymouth, set up camp and suffered terrible privation through the first winter, many of them dying in the effort. In God’s good Providence, the colony survived. The descendants of the survivors of the Mayflower number an estimated thirty-eight million Americans today and the Compact they drew up symbolizes voluntary representative government which has inspired nations around the world, and is considered by many as the historic cornerstone of law and government in the United States.

William Carey’s India Mission, 1793

2019-11-04T20:45:23+00:00November 4, 2019|HH 2019|

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” —Proverbs 3:6

William Carey’s India Mission, November 8, 1793

“He was an industrialist, an economist, a medical humanitarian, a media pioneer, an educator, a moral reformer, a botanist, and a Christian missionary. And he did more for the transformation of the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries than any other individual before or since.

So states evangelist Vishal Mangalwadi, one of India’s foremost Christian intellectuals, who carries on Carey’s work in India today. On November 8, 1793, The English missionary William Carey snuck ashore with his wife and children in a rowboat near Calcutta, avoiding the patrols of the East India Company, which had forbade Christian missions in India, the crown jewel of the British Empire. Who was this intrepid Baptist minister of the Gospel, why did he disobey the Company rules, and what did he achieve in the years spent on the subcontinent, so dominated by millions of Hindus and Muslims?

William Carey (1761-1834)

William Carey was born to a weaver’s family in Northamptonshire in 1761 (during the Seven Years War). He possessed a natural gift for languages, teaching himself Latin. Apprenticed to a cordwainer at the age of fourteen, he became a Dissenter from the Anglican Church, eventually joining a Baptist congregation and becoming a cobbler. By the age of twenty-four Carey had accepted the pastorate of a Calvinist Baptist Church, married an illiterate peasant girl named Dorothy (with whom he had seven children) and mastered Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Dutch and French while repairing shoes. Impressed and inspired by the stories of missionaries to the American Indians, David Brainard and John Eliot, and by the globe-trotting exploits of Captain James Cook, Carey formulated a theory of foreign missions which he set down in a book entitled An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

Northamptonshire (highlighted in red), the birthplace of William Carey

A view of the Calcutta port in 1848

Carey and three other men formed a missionary society in England, which in turn sent him to India to preach the Gospel. The British East India Company controlled the subcontinent politically and militarily and banned Christian missionaries from their territories. It seems that where Christians preached the Gospel, lives were changed, natives abandoned their pagan ways, riots by the unconverted heathens caused civil disruption, and the Company had to quell the disorders. Sailing from England in 1793, Carey and his family secretly landed in Calcutta to begin mission work. He got work on an indigo plantation, where he began his translation of the Bible into the Bengali language. His plea for more men to join him on the field was requited by school teachers and a printer, who had to settle in the Danish colony in Serampore, where Carey joined them in 1800.

In 1793, Carey and his family secretly landed in Calcutta to begin mission work

Serampore College, started by William Carey, William Ward and Joshua Marshman with 37 students in 1818

Carey’s wife had a mental breakdown from which she never recovered, dying seven years later. Several of their children also died, and the four sons who survived grew up virtually unsupervised, for which he was roundly criticized. William Carey, like all men, had his weaknesses and flaws of character, but he persevered through all the difficulties. In the course of his forty-one years of ministry in India without a furlough, he and his family suffered greatly from malnutrition, disease, persecution, and death of family members. He married twice more on the mission field.

William Carey lived here at the Serampore College which he founded

William Carey sketch portrait by Colesworthey Grant (1813-1880)

Cary learned Sanskrit and translated the Bible into that native tongue, spoken by millions of Indians, and the official language of India today. The English Baptist missionary supervised the translation of the Bible into thirty-three other Asian languages, wrote dictionaries and grammars in four Indian languages, started the Horticultural Society of India, founded nineteen mission stations, more than one hundred schools (which included education for girls as well as boys—strongly opposed by the Hindu upper classes) two colleges, and the first newspaper in India. He fought hard against suttee, the sacrificial burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyres, a practice not outlawed until the 1840s. He also started churches and many Sunday Schools for children.

The cobbler got off his bench and God directed his steps, for He had many people in India to save and institutions to create, that still operate today. It was a providential window in history, and Carey took advantage of it. William Carey’s personal motto became an oft-quoted aphorism by Christians around the world:

“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”

Servetus Burned at the Stake in Geneva, 1553

2019-10-28T21:21:13+00:00October 28, 2019|HH 2019|

“But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” —Hebrews 1:8

Servetus Burned at the Stake in Geneva, October 27, 1553

Reformed Churches admire and revere John Calvin, the pastor in Geneva, Switzerland in the mid-16th Century. People who hate Calvin, especially historians, if they know anything at all about the great reformer and the Reformed Church, instantly point to Michael Servetus as the victim of intolerant and bigoted Calvinists, yea, of Calvin himself. Servetus was executed by Geneva for inciting public disorder, by trying to lead people astray. Since Calvin was the main pastor in town, it must have been all his fault that the innocent and powerless dissenter was burned at the stake on October 27, 1553. Who was Servetus, what is the back-story and who is to blame for his death?

Michael Servetus (1511-1553)

Michael Servetus (Miguel Serveto) was born in Spain and was likely educated in his early years by both Dominican and Franciscan friars. He showed a facility with languages, including Greek and Hebrew, characteristic of Renaissance scholars. Some historians have suggested he had Jewish ancestry due to his Spanish origins and his beliefs regarding Jesus Christ.

As part of the retinue of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the young scholar travelled Europe and at some point came in contact with some of the Reformation doctrines being discussed behind closed doors among dissenting scholars. A man of voracious intellectual curiosity, Servetus studied medicine and astrology, theology and law. He became a practicing physician. Servetus identified with the Protestant reformers of the Church, but adopted a pseudonym to escape the Catholic Church, which condemned him for heresy.

The traditional birthplace of Michael Servetus in Villanueva de Sigena in Aragon, Spain, now a museum and exhibition hall

Servetus met with some of the preeminent reformers and he corresponded with John Calvin over several years, until his intransigence caused Calvin to break off contact. The Spanish heretic spoke and wrote boldly concerning his belief that Jesus was not God—he denied the Trinity in such a way that he was accused of seeking to revive Arianism. In Calvin’s letters to other reformers, he referred often to the arrogance and self-centeredness of Servetus, and in his replies to the errant scholar counseled him to repent of his reckless hubris as well as his heterodox beliefs. At times Servetus also seemed to be saying that God was identical to His creation and could be seen in the rocks and the trees. He also spent much time studying the Book of Revelation, and believed the Second Coming of Christ was imminent, setting dates for the apocalypse several times. Not a few of his opponents thought him mad.

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Both Protestants and Catholics declared Servetus a “public enemy of Christendom”, a capital offense in every nation of Europe. He published a heterodox theological book entitled Christianismi Restitutio, in which he set down his theological beliefs. Arrested in Lyon to be tried by the Catholics, he escaped over the rooftops. The idea of religious “pluralism” and tolerance did not really exist (at least officially) at that time in history; Servetus was a marked man for his beliefs and teaching, though he appears to have lived an exemplary personal life. He turned up in Geneva in 1553.

The civil magistrates had the Spaniard arrested and tried for subverting public order and blasphemy. Calvin was called to testify and he counseled Servetus to repent of his heretical views. When the civil authorities condemned Servetus to be burned at the stake, Calvin remonstrated that his death should be swift. They did not heed the pastor. Servetus is considered a father of Unitarianism and there is an organization in his honor today, headquartered at his former home in Spain. In a time when hundreds of people accused of witchcraft were being executed in France, Spain, Germany and Britain and multiple thousands were being persecuted or murdered for their religious beliefs, across Europe, the one execution that occurred in Geneva has been trumpeted, and continues to be, as evidence of the intolerance and “evil hypocrite” that was John Calvin, by enemies of the Reformation.

Title page of Servetus’s 1553 Christianismi Restitutio

Calvin tries to persuade Servetus to repent

The Death of Herbert Hoover, 1964

2019-10-21T21:47:00+00:00October 21, 2019|HH 2019|

“He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” —Proverbs 22:9

The Death of Herbert Hoover, 1964

Herbert Hoover strode the world stage as a colossus of business, enterprise, and philanthropy before being humiliated and hounded for almost two decades by a ruthless and unprincipled political enemy, and then by historians who took up the cause of his opponents. It is unlikely any single human in history is responsible for saving more lives than the man who would become the “Quaker President.” Recent biographies have returned him to his proper standing in history, but he has become the special target of libertarians, the very ones that his life exemplified before his political ascendancy. Who was this man who excited such passions?

Herbert Hoover was born into a devout Quaker family in Iowa in 1874. His parents died before he was eight years old; at the age of eleven he travelled to Oregon to live with his Uncle, John Minthorn, a physician. Herbert dropped out of school at thirteen to work for his uncle, not uncommon among Quakers of his day. A voracious reader and hungry for knowledge, Herbert was allowed to attend night school and studied mathematics, typing and other courses he deemed necessary for his education. Hoover entered Stanford University with the first class, and graduated first in his class in four years, with an engineering degree. And At Stanford, he met and married the love of his life, Lou Henry, who bore him two children and proved his perfect match through their forty-six years of marriage.

Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) in 1877 at age 3

When the First World War began, Hoover and his family were at one of his international offices in England. In the previous seventeen or so years he had become one of the best known and respected mining engineers, mining consultants, and financiers in the world. He had rationalized and developed gold, coal, bauxite, silver, lead, and zinc mines in many countries and had amassed a personal fortune of more than five hundred million dollars by today’s standards. He was a master at identifying men who could run that economic empire, and as an organizer and leader, through hard work, genius, and personal integrity, few could question the decisions of “The Chief.”

Herbert Hoover in his 30s in 1917 while a mining engineer

With the sudden cataclysm of war upon them, thousands of Americans were trapped in Europe. The British banks would not honor checks and ships were unavailable for transport home. The American legation turned to Hoover for help. He organized a relief effort for stranded Americans, loaning them cash for a signed IOU (he got most of it back eventually) and providing ships to transport them home. He later said from that moment on his public life began and his business life ended.

1917 poster for Belgian relief

Poster requesting clothing for occupied France and Belgium

The civilian tragedy that enveloped Europe brought a plea for Hoover to establish relief efforts to prevent mass starvation. In conjunction with Congress and Belgian and French relief workers, he fed nine million people for almost four years of war. He worked fourteen hours a day from London and was the only man on earth that had no national boundaries in his travels to negotiate with the warring countries. When the United States entered the war, the Wilson administration appointed him “food czar” to insure American production and distribution. He mobilized hundreds of thousands of women to help in the enterprise.

The Committee for Relief in Belgium in Lille, France, 1916

When the war ended, he continued his relief efforts for the starving millions of Germans, having to overcome the resistance of England, France and the United States to those efforts. Hoover supported the winning Republican candidate for President in 1920, Warren Harding, and was rewarded with the little known and minor post of Secretary of Commerce, a post he would also hold under Calvin Coolidge. The mining engineer’s politics followed the soft progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt. He supported women’s suffrage, government/private business cooperation, minimum wage, child labor laws, etc.

Hoover listens to a radio receiver, 1925

The American electorate put Hoover in the Presidency in 1938, just in time for the crash of the stock market seven months later. He received 100 percent of the blame for the Great Depression from the other Party, who “rode to the rescue” of the nation in 1942 with Franklin Roosevelt. Attacked from all sides during his four-year presidency, and vilified by FDR until 1945, Hoover nonetheless became the elder statesman of the Republican Party, offering advice to those who would listen, and writing thirty books in his lifetime, including an autobiography and multi-volume account of the relief efforts of the First World War. President Eisenhower sought his counsel; his books on mining engineering are still used today.

Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, en route to the Capitol for Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933

Hoover’s inauguration as 31st U.S. President at the Capitol, March 4, 1929

One man, willing to spend his fortune and sacrifice his businesses for a greater cause, fed millions of people in Europe during the great tragedy of the First World War. The virtues and values of his youth never left him, though he exited that nurturing environment to take his place in the world. Hoover never dreamed the directions that Providence would lead him, nor that his name would become synonymous with homelessness and reckless economic policies—demonized by the unscrupulous termagants that characterize American politics. He kept his poise and his faith and left a record worth examining and a character rare in the annals of our history. He outlived all his opponents, dying at the age of ninety on October 20, 1964.

The Birth of the American Navy, 1775

2019-10-14T23:29:51+00:00October 14, 2019|HH 2019|

“At the time of the end shall the king of the south contend with him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass through.” —Daniel 11:40

The Birth of the American Navy, October 13, 1775

In 1775, England boasted the mightiest navy in the world. The borders of empire had expanded by more than a third as a result of the Seven Years War, ending in 1763. Her army, however, could count only about 36,000 men to defend that empire twelve years later, so the dependence upon the naval forces was paramount to maintaining the Empire. With the American colonies in rebellion, one Parliamentarian assured his colleagues that the Royal Navy could handle the conquest of the rebels and drive them back into harmony with the mother country. The Americans eventually would put almost 250,000 men in the field, but at the start, they had no navy whatsoever. The colonists, however, possessed a merchant marine of over a thousand ships. John Adams of Massachusetts proposed to the Continental Congress the creation of naval forces to contest Britain on the high seas in the coming conflict. In October of that year Congress agreed, but they had little or no money to actually build a navy.

British bombardment of Morro Castle in Havana, July 1, 1762 during the Seven Years War

George Washington takes command of the American army, July 1775

George Washington had taken command of the American army outside Boston on the rainy Sunday of July 2, 1775. It is likely that not a single soldier among the 14,000 encamped in their siege works around Boston knew what the tall Virginian looked like. He wasted no time in issuing what were the first of 12,000 orders he would write in the course of the War for Independence. Washington heartily approved of the thirty-three New England whale boats which attacked British outposts along the shoreline. He encouraged privateers, usually merchant ships equipped with a cannon or two to pounce on supply ships or infantry transports, as Providence afforded. Congress had encouraged the colonies to provide their own navies to protect their shores. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia had all responded positively, but the magnitude of the problem to defend the shores could not be successfully borne by the colonies alone.

The creation of the American Navy officially dates from October 13, though it proceeded through the years in fits and starts, and did not really come into its own until the following century. Nonetheless, ship battle captains made their mark in the War for Independence, some in dramatic fashion.

“In addition to protecting American trade from British blockade and predation, the committee also made recommendations for intercepting British ships laden with supplies for the king’s forces in North America. Within hours, the Congress approved the committee’s recommendation that Massachusetts supply General George Washington, then stationed in Massachusetts, with an armed schooner and a sloop for the purpose of seizing British supplies.”

Emblem of the United States Navy, founded October 13, 1775

The naval committee received more funds by the end of the year and took upon itself the drawing up of regulations and rules for marines. The so-called Olive Branch Petition was rejected by the king, the last attempt at a peaceful solution to most of the Congressmen and other supporters of independence. The fledgling American coastal raiders had some signal successes, both blockade-running and waylaying British supply ships. In the course of a few months they seized ships with thousands of muskets and tons of power, the most precious commodity needed. About six hundred British Highlanders were captured in three separate ambushes on the ocean, along with their supplies and equipment.

Signature page of the Olive Branch Petition, with John Hancock’s prominent signature at the top

Five official armed vessels of the American Navy were commissioned by the end of 1775—USS Doria, USS Alfred, USS Andrew, USS Columbia, and USS Cabot. By April of 1776, the Continental Naval Squadron had eight ships and Congress called for thirteen frigates to be built, rather than refitted merchantmen, as soon as possible. Protecting American commerce and capturing British commerce were the chief duties of the naval forces. Several notable battles also occurred between ships of the line, and Captain John Paul Jones became one of the early American naval heroes.

Rear Admiral John Paul Jones (1747-1792)

John Paul Jones raises the “Grand Union” flag as Alfred is placed in commission in Philadelphia, December 1775. Originally a merchant vessel launched in 1774 and named Black Prince the navy renamed her Alfred after 9th century English monarch Alfred the Great.

When the war ended, the navy was all but abandoned, not to be restored till 1794. The founders did not anticipate the states aggressively interfering in the affairs of other nations and saw no need for naval forces such as the British Empire required. In fact, Britain continued to rule the oceans of the world until the 20th Century, and the Americans did not initiate aggression against non-belligerent nations until the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The naval campaigns and combats of the War for Independence preserve a tradition that included both victory and defeat. The intervention of the French Navy on behalf of the Americans proved decisive in bringing Lord Cornwallis to bay at Yorktown in 1781, but the individual warships fought it out on a small scale for eight years, despite losses, until independence was achieved.

The USS Constitution, commissioned and named by President Washington in 1794

The Battle of the Saintes, April 9-12, 1782 fought between French and British naval forces in the Caribbean during the War for Independence