The Death of Sir Isaac Newton, 1727

2019-03-14T17:09:31+00:00March 18, 2019|HH 2019|

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” —Psalm 33:6

The Death of Sir Isaac Newton, March 20, 1727

English poet Alexander Pope penned this couplet in regards to Sir Isaac Newton and his place in science and history:


“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night
God said ‘let Newton be,’ and all was light.”

Sir Isaac Newton has been declared, over and over again, the greatest contributor to science in all of man’s history. His only competitor was Albert Einstein, who kept a portrait of Newton on his own wall. Newton himself declared in a letter to fellow philosopher and scientist Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further, it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants.” By anyone’s measure, Isaac Newton transformed mathematical studies, especially calculus, the study of astronomy, optics, and classical mechanics. Some contemporaries and others through history claimed that Sir Isaac Newton was the most brilliant man in history. He died March 20, 1737.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

Isaac Newton was born in 1643 in Lincolnshire, England, three months after the death of his father and in the midst of the English Civil War. His mother remarried and had three more children, but Isaac remained with his maternal grandmother during his formative years. His mother married a minister with a well-stocked library and Isaac made good use of it when he visited her. After his mother was widowed for the second time, he withdrew from school to run the family farm to provide for her and his three siblings. She remarried, and Newton was able to attend Trinity College, Cambridge because of his proven intellect — but had to work as a servant there to pay tuition.

Cambridge University’ Trinity College, founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII

The work of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) influenced Newton’s ideas

King Charles II had been restored to the English throne by the time Isaac Newton passed through Trinity and began work in the Masters’ Degree program in the 1660s. The universities shut down when the plague reared up again in the cities. Newton returned home to the farm and set to work on calculus and astronomical theories he had explored after reading Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and other philosophers and scientists who were questioning the academic dogmatism of Aristotelian-based education. When Newton returned for his MA program, he was quickly recognized for his advanced math theorems and scientific ideas, and was made a fellow at Trinity and, after his MA, a member of the Royal Society.

Newton developed a new mathematical calculus that revolutionized math and science. He did so at the same time German scientist Gottfried Leibniz did the same, using a different method. His study of optics resulted in the first telescope using curved lenses. His experiments to prove his theories pushed the boundaries of science in various directions. Newton’s possessed great knowledge of the Bible and its importance in understanding God’s created order. In order to continue teaching, the law required he be ordained in the Anglican Church, a political as well as religious hurdle. He did not believe politics should be involved in scientific investigation and resisted ordination because he did not hold to all of the Anglican tenets. The King granted him a special dispensation to continue his work without the ordination.

King Charles II (1630-1685)

Historians have tried to put Sir Isaac Newton outside the Christian faith. He has been accused of denying the Trinity and other basic Christian doctrines in a quest to divorce science and Christianity. Perhaps Newton should just speak for himself

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being…. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of His dominion He is wont to be called “Lord God” Παντοκράτωρ or “Universal Ruler…. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect.”

Newton also affirmed Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to be God; he affirmed the teaching of the Anglican 39 Articles several times in his life.

Newton’s own first edition copy of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica with his handwritten corrections for the twentieth edition

Newton’s major written work The Principia Mathematica is still considered one of the most brilliant mathematics works of all time. His achievements, persecution, difficulties, and trials are a matter of the historical record. His attitude toward such events in his life was expressed in these words:

“Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise Physician gives because we need them; and the proportions, the frequency, and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust His skill and thank Him for the prescription.”

Sir Isaac Newton died in 1727 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Newton’s tomb monument in Westminster Abbey

The Pilgrims Meet Samoset, 1621

2019-03-09T00:06:19+00:00March 11, 2019|HH 2019|

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians 12:9

The Pilgrims Meet Samoset, March 16, 1621

The pleasantly named ship, the Mayflower, had been rocking at anchor in the harbor since November of 1620. The three-masted, three-decked, and well-armed merchant ship brought one hundred three passengers and its crew of about thirty to Provincetown harbor after a perilous two-month journey across the Atlantic. Fatal, contagious diseases carried off fifty-three of the passengers and about half the crew in the four months they had braved out the “New England” winter. Most of the dead had been buried in the frozen ground at night, since the new settlers knew almost nothing about the natives of the land and did not want them to know their sad attrition rate. The English Pilgrims set up a makeshift camp along the shore and on a hill above a valley cut by a brisk stream. They called their hopeful settlement Plymouth.

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

The Englishmen gathered on February 17 to hold their first official meeting about defending themselves in case of attack. Short, red-headed Miles Standish had been appointed captain and immediately took up his musket when two natives were spotted on the other hill above the creek. They fled when he approached, though he could hear many others in the near distance. Previous accounts of European contacts with the native inhabitants of coastal North America, in some cases, had included kidnapping and killing.

A recreation of Plimoth Plantation

Captain Myles Standish (c. 1584-1656)

The master of the Mayflower ordered the iron cannons from the ship be mounted on the high hill from which the burgeoning colony would be constructed down to the harbor’s edge. On March 16 the men met again to discuss military matters when a stalwart native man emerged from the forest. He did not flee, but walked fearlessly toward the gathered colonists. He strode directly up Cole’s Hill toward the gathering and was stopped just short of the women and children. The colonists were likely fingering their muskets and swords, wondering what came next. The native raised his arm and said, “Welcome, Englishmen” to the utter astonishment of the Pilgrims.

Samoset enters the village and exclaims in broken English, “Welcome, Englishmen!”

The black-haired native interlocutor towering over them was Samoset, a subordinate chief of the Abenaki tribe. He was apparently on a diplomatic mission to Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoags, who lived just south of Plymouth. Samoset had learned just enough English to converse, from English fishermen and sailors of trading vessels who developed commercial interests with his tribe. He informed the Englishmen, in his rudimentary English, that they were settling an area known as Patuxet and that their near tribal neighbors were the Wampanoag and Nauset tribes. The Pilgrims gave him a knife, ring, and bracelet for his friendly advice and information. They also fed him with biscuit, butter, cheese, pudding, roasted duck, and beer, “all of which he liked well.”

The meeting of Governor Carver and Chief Massasoit

Tisquantum “Squanto” (c. 1585-1622)

The following day, Samoset returned with five more natives carrying furs and returning tools they had earlier stolen from the Englishmen. He informed them that the people the Pilgrims had stolen corn from on their entry into the area were called Nausets, and that they were not kindly disposed to them. A previous expedition into the area by Englishmen had kidnapped twenty or so tribal members. Samoset spent the night with Stephen Hopkins and his family. He promised to return with some of Massasoit’s men and another native who was more fluent in English, a man named Squanto.

Samoset handed off the diplomatic challenge to Squanto, a man more proficient in English, and a representative for Massasoit, who came the following afternoon to be introduced and exchange gifts. The Englishmen and the Wampanoag Chief agreed to a treaty of mutual defense and trade, which lasted about fifty years. Samoset continued to live as a diplomat the rest of his life, making trade agreements and brokering land deals with settlers. Historians believe he died around 1653, having been the providential first contact with the Pilgrims of Plymouth — a meeting that kept the peace for many years, till Massasoit’s son Metacomet (known as King Philip) declared war on the European interlopers and initiated a bloody conflict. Samoset was providentially placed in the right moment in history to fulfill a task of diplomacy and peace that would have wonderful implications for future generations.

Natives attack the town of Sudbury in 1676 during King Philip’s War

John Adams Inaugurated, 1797

2019-02-27T19:55:02+00:00March 4, 2019|HH 2019|

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” —Matthew 5:44

John Adams Inaugurated, March 4, 1797

A New Jersey delegate to the Second Continental Congress said it best:

“The man to whom the country is most indebted for the great measure of independence is Mr. John Adams . . . I call him the Atlas of American independence. He it was who sustained the debate, and by force of his reasoning demonstrated not only the justice, but the expediency of the measure.”

Adams, the man who hung his father’s hat, which he inherited, on the same peg in church, would leave a legacy to succeeding generations which lives on today as the United States of America. From assisting James Otis with his opposition to the Writs of Assistance, to helping negotiate the peace treaty with England in 1783, Adams represented the “mind” of the Revolution. That alone would make him one of the greatest men of our history. He also served as Vice President under George Washington. On March 4, 1797 John Adams was inaugurated as President of the United States.

John Adams (1735-1826), was an attorney, diplomat, and Founding Father of the United States, who served as the first Vice President (1789-1797) and as the second President (1797-1801)

After graduation from Harvard, Adams taught school, read law, and married Abigail Smith, a loving bond which lasted fifty-four years and produced five children. Adams never flinched from controversy, especially when principle was involved. He defended the British soldiers after the “Boston Massacre” and won his case in a hostile environment. Eschewing the promotion and privileges offered him by the Royal authorities, the Boston lawyer published essays against the stamp tax levied by Parliament, thus identifying himself with the burgeoning resistance to Imperial tyranny. No one knew more about constitutional law than Adams and he deployed his arguments on behalf of Massachusetts. He was elected to both the First and Second Continental Congresses meeting in Philadelphia, where he served on thirty different committees. Although he was “a man built for friendships,” his unvarnished opinions clashed with his more conservative brethren. Behind the scenes, he wrote his wife about the various members of the Congress, a delightful and honest evaluation that entertains and informs scholars today.

Depiction of the Boston Massacre engraved by Paul Revere (1735-1818)

His closest friend in the Congress, Thomas Jefferson, wrote that Adams’s speech for independence, countering John Dickinson’s appeal for caution and time, was so powerful “it moved us from our seats . . . he was a Colossus on the floor.” He drafted the Massachusetts Constitution in 1779 and was sent by Congress to Europe on a diplomatic mission to appeal to the French and Dutch for financial aid and recognition of the new United States. He played a key role in the negotiation of the Treaty ending the War for Independence.

Adams lived a life of moderation, frugality, fortitude and industry — character traits that derived from the Puritan New England family culture bequeathed by his ancestors. Dissimulation had no place in his world — as one historian aptly put it, “unable to meet falsehoods halfway and unwilling to stop short of the truth, Adams was in constant battle with the accepted, the conventional, the fashionable, and the popular.” Personal integrity and seeking justice went hand in hand.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), diplomat, architect, and Founding Father of the United States, who served as the second Vice President (1797-1801) and as the third President (1801-1809)

George Washington (1732-1799) and John Adams (1735-1826)

Twice elected Vice-President, he worked alongside George Washington, giving counsel and support. His admiration for Great Britain, disdain of the French Revolution, and attraction to a strong executive under the Constitution brought him into conflict with his friend Jefferson, a relationship that broke after the latter’s election to the Presidency in 1800. As President, Adams avoided all alliances with Europe save commercial relations. He met with strong opposition when he supported the Alien and Sedition Acts of Congress; unsurprisingly, his presidency proved combative and controversial.

We know more about Adams’s family life than that of most Presidents. His correspondence with his wife and the success of his descendants in literary and public life provide insights absent in most men of his stature. One of his sons died in grievous alcoholism, estranged from his father. His son John Quincy became President in his own right and is renowned today for his enormous intellect (and library), experience in government which began with his father in his young teen years, and opposition to slavery, in concert with his father’s beliefs. While Adams knew and admired the Bible, and compelled his children to memorize it as much as possible he, nonetheless, denied the Trinity and ridiculed those who did believe.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), second oldest of John and Abigail Adams’s six children, and sixth President of the United States (1825-1829)

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are among those depicted at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, August 2, 1776

After their presidencies, Adams and Jefferson resumed their relationship with regular correspondence, available for reading today as an enlightening and enjoyable look into the friendship that made the Republic. They both died on the Fourth of July, 1826 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — a fitting end that only Providence could have orchestrated.

The final portrait of John Adams, made at the request of his son John Quincy, in 1823 three years before his father’s death

Theodosius Makes Christianity the Official Faith of the Roman Empire, 380 A.D.

2019-02-21T21:14:18+00:00February 25, 2019|HH 2019|

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” —Daniel 4:37

Theodosius Makes Christianity the Official Faith of the Roman Empire, February 27, 380 A.D.

Flavius Theodosius was born in northwestern Spain to a high-ranking Roman Officer. As a young man he traveled with the army of his father on campaign in Britain and elsewhere, where he witnessed the slaughter of the battlefield and learned the strategies and tactics that brought victory. In 373 he was appointed governor of the Roman Province of Upper Moesia, which he defended successfully from the various Germanic invaders. Blond, elegant, articulate, and skilled in both governing and fighting, Theodosius nonetheless kept a low profile amidst the chaos of misrule and anarchy among the emperors and claimants to the Roman Empire. After the death of both co-rulers of the Empire, the sons of one of them invited Theodosius to take command of the Illyrian Army, effectively making him co-Augustus of the Eastern jurisdiction of the Empire. Theodosius became Emperor in the East in 383 and West in 394. He would be the last Roman Emperor to rule both halves together (with assistance from his sons), though only for four months.

Flavius Theodosius Augustus (347-395 A.D.), last emperor to rule over both the Eastern and the Western halves of the Roman Empire

The cohesion of the Roman Empire had proven precarious for many years and did not possess enough loyal Romans in the Army to hold it together. Theodosius, as the emperors before him, had to rely upon barbarian soldiers to fill the legions. Those non-Romans were often unreliable and rebellious, but were pitted against other Germanic tribes to keep the peace. Large sums were required to buy the fidelity, if not the patriotism, of the non-Romans who fought under the Roman banners. They were given land and provisions also. Theodosius levied heavy taxes in order to pay for such mercenary defenders of the Empire.

The Roman Empire circa 395 A.D.

Early in his reign, Theodosius contracted an illness that almost carried him off. He subsequently underwent Christian baptism and declared himself a Christian of the Nicene Creed. Not since Constantine had the Empire seen a serious Christian emperor. Not only tax cheats fell under his sometimes deadly gaze, but also heretics and pagans. This little-known Christian emperor would change the church in two ways. First, He called a Church Council at Constantinople and put an official end to the heresy of Arianism, codifying the Nicene Creed as we know it today, thus officially enforcing orthodox Christianity on the Empire. Secondly, he placed his power under that of the Church, which set a standard (with periodic challenge), lasting more than a thousand years. He closed pagan temples and forbade pagan worship. The dominant heresies of the day were driven underground throughout the Roman Empire.

Emperor Theodosius on Roman Coin

In this 9th century Byzantine manuscript illumination, Emperor Theodosius and a crowd of bishops sit on a semicircular bench on either side of an enthroned Gospel Book at the First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.)

Politically, Theodosius was able to forge an alliance with the Visigoth invaders and defeated the Ostrogoths in battle. In 390, the population of the city of Thessalonica rioted, some said over a controversial gladiator, others claimed in anger over a barbarian garrison in the city. Whatever the issue, the raging anger that was a weakness of the Emperor, displayed itself in his ordering a massacre of citizens of the city trapped in the coliseum. The Goths killed seven thousand people without regard to sex, age, or innocence.

“Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan who was a spiritual and political adviser to Theodosius, was furious. He refused to give Theodosius Communion until the emperor performed public penance: he must put aside his royal garments, don a shroud, and publicly plead for God’s mercy. When Theodosius consented, it marked a new chapter in the history of church and state. For the first time, a secular ruler submitted to the church. Less than a century earlier, emperors were trying to wipe out the church.” (Christian History Magazine)

Aurelius Ambrosius (c. 317-340 – 397 A.D.) Bishop of Milan

Ambrose is supposed to have said, “The Emperor is in the Church, not above it.”

Emperor Theodosius, clad in armor and a laurel wreath, is barred by Bishop Ambrose (c. 340-397 A.D.), from entering Milan Cathedral following the massacre in Thessalonica

When Theodosius died in 395, the army, mostly Goths, Scythians, and other non-Romans, fell apart, as did the Empire itself. He had given the Church, especially in the East, a few years of thriving without persecution. With the disintegration of the Empire itself, the era of the “Middle Ages” began, but with a stronger Church thanks to the General turned Emperor, a man of gigantic flaws but desiring Christ’s Glory to triumph in the Church.

Aaron Burr Arrested for Treason, 1807

2019-02-19T18:17:55+00:00February 18, 2019|HH 2019|

“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” —Proverbs 6:16-19

Aaron Burr Arrested for Treason,
February 19, 1807

Most Vice Presidents of the United States both serve out their term and then die in obscurity. There are exceptions — fourteen became President, eight of them because the President died during their term. Some of the Veeps lived interesting lives — John Tyler, for instance, had opposite political convictions of his own party and became the original Dr. No by using the presidential veto against his own Whig-dominated Congress. Another, Theodore Roosevelt, became one of the most famous and powerful Presidents of American history. The life of Vice President, Aaron Burr, however, took a dramatic nose-dive after his considerable political successes. He was accused of murder by both New York and New Jersey for killing Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Two years after his Vice Presidency, Burr was arrested for joining a conspiracy to lead a rebellion against the United States and he stood trial for treason. Former Vice President Aaron Burr died in New York City, remembered much more for vice than presidency.

Aaron Burr, Jr. (1756-1836), third Vice President of the United States (1801-1805) under President Thomas Jefferson

Aaron Burr, Jr., was born in Newark, New Jersey with all the advantages a son could have: his father was one of the foremost Presbyterian ministers in America and second president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). His mother was Esther Edwards, the daughter of the famous preacher, Jonathan Edwards. His mother, father, and grandfather all died within a year of each other, leaving two-year-old Aaron an orphan. He was taken in by his twenty-one-year-old uncle, Timothy Edwards. Aaron entered Princeton as a sophomore at the age of thirteen, and excelled in all his classes. He then studied for two years for the Gospel ministry before giving that up to read law and enter that profession. He was well suited — a powerful orator and formidable intellect.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), maternal grandfather of Aaron Burr, Jr.

Aaron Burr, Sr. (1716-1757), Presbyterian minister and a founder of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University)

Esther Burr, née Edwards (1732-1758), third oldest of eleven children of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards

When the War for Independence began, he quickly joined the fight, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel for his zeal, courage, and perseverance on the battlefield. He began his political career as a New York State Assemblyman, then Attorney General and then Senator from New York. He ran for President in 1796, finishing fourth and again in 1800, when he received tying electoral votes with Thomas Jefferson. Congress chose Jefferson. Burr became Vice President, but now spurned by his political party for opposing Jefferson. By all accounts, he was a fair and impartial Senator and VP, but a man of decided opinions who made political enemies easily. He founded the Manhattan Company Bank and used it to finance Democratic-Republican Party candidates.

Burr fought two duels. In the second, while Vice President, he killed Alexander Hamilton, infuriating the Federalists. After leaving the Vice Presidency in 1805, under a cloud of debt for failed land speculation and a man without a political party, with murder charges hanging over him in New Jersey and New York for the death of Hamilton (he was never tried), Burr travelled to the western frontier. He organized a small expeditionary armed force with which he hoped to claim land for speculation, and with which he said he would be ready to fight if the United States went to war with Spain over Florida. He joined with General James Wilkinson, American commander in chief of American forces in New Orleans, an arch conspirator himself. Wilkinson told President Jefferson that Burr was up to no good, receiving pay from Spain and conspiring against the United States. Arrested and released twice by federal officers, Burr fled toward Florida but was arrested in the Mississippi Territory now a part of Alabama.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third President of the United States (1801-1809)

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel to the death, 1804

Evidence seemed to indicate that Burr had created a filibustering expedition to set up an independent country in Mexican territory, and tempt western states to join him — a misdemeanor violation of the Neutrality Act. President Jefferson, however, wanted a treason conviction, and, after four attempts, got a grand jury to agree to a trial to be held in Federal District Court in Richmond, Virginia. The treason trial was one of the first test cases of the Treason Clause in the Constitution, with all-star casts of lawyers on both sides, with Thomas Jefferson calling the shots for the prosecution from the White House. John Marshall, chief Justice of the Supreme Court presided. Despite complicated details of Burr’s movements and apparent plans for the future, Marshall declared, in a narrow ruling, that Burr’s case did not meet the Constitution’s definition of treason. Although acquitted, Burr fled to England to escape creditors, and traveled through many countries of Europe. He even tried to drum up support to overthrow the Mexican government. After four years and a rebuff from Napoleon Bonaparte, England sent him packing. He returned to New York under an assumed name and returned to his law practice. The colorful and enigmatic Aaron Burr did not live up to his family heritage, and he died virtually unknown and un-mourned.