"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 3, Number 2, February 2000

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  They may also be downloaded at http://www.kjvonly.org.

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

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THE STRANGE CASE OF ROBERT ROBINSON

 

We all have sung--

 

"Come thou font of every blessing,

tune my heart to sing thy praise! 

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

call for songs of loudest praise! 

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

sung by flaming tongues above. 

Praise that mount, I'm fixed upon it,

mount of thy redeeming love!"

 

And no doubt nearly all of us have also puzzled over the strange line in the second verse, "Here I raise my Eben-ezer."  Just what is an "ebenezer" and why would a person raise one?  The explanation of this biblical allusion is to be found in I Samuel 7:12, which the reader may consult for enlightenment.

 

This centuries-old hymn was written by English Baptist pastor Robert Robinson (1735-1790).  Having been educated in a grammar school (which in those days meant Latin grammar and usually Greek as well), upon his father's death, Robinson was apprenticed at age 14 to a London hair-dresser for seven years.  During this time, in 1752 (age 16), he came under the preaching of George Whitefield, whose sermon on Matthew 3:7 brought deep conviction upon him.  This issued in Robinson's religious conversion in December 1755.  For the next two years, Robinson was regularly in attendance in the congregation at Whitefield's London tabernacle. 

 

In 1758, Robinson left London, returning to his home region, where he began to preach.  His hearers were soon numbered in the hundreds and his converts by the score.  When challenged on the matter of infant baptism, which he had accepted as a matter of course (being raised an Anglican and later associated with the Methodists), personal study led him to the view that believer's baptism alone was Biblical, and he was subsequently immersed. 

 

Robinson began preaching in a declining Baptist church in Cambridge in 1759, where, after a two-year probationary period, he was called as pastor.  He remained in this pastorate until his death in 1790.  Under his ministry, the congregation soon outgrew its run-down premises and a new building was erected.  His hearers regularly numbered 600-700, including not a few of the students from nearby Cambridge University.  Some came only to mock, but they stayed to be instructed. 

 

It was no small accomplishment for an unschooled Baptist pastor to draw the hyper-critical college crowd to hear him, but Robinson was ever the diligent student (he learned 4 or 5 languages) and a zealous reader, even from his youth, and he was a public speaker of no small ability.  Besides his Cambridge congregation, Robinson had some 15 preaching stations in the villages around Cambridge.  Week-days found him evangelizing the residents in these locations.

 

For a time, Robinson had been engaged by the Baptist pastors of London to undertake research at the British Museum with a view to writing a history of the Baptists.  When the theological drift of Robinson away from orthodoxy toward the end of his life was discovered, this sponsorship was quickly withdrawn.  Robinson continued these labors on his own behalf after he obtained permission to make use of the university library in Cambridge.  The fruit of this research was two immense volumes, both published posthumously, namely, The History of Baptism (1790), and Ecclesiastical Researches (1792), the latter of which is highly prized by Landmark Baptists, though it is throughout a defense of the orthodoxy of Unitarianism.

 

Though Robinson had published a vigorous defense of the Deity of Christ in 1776, he soon became enamored with Socinian and Arian errors (denials of the Deity of Christ and of the Deity and personality of the Holy Spirit), influenced in part by Joseph Priestly.  Once having abandoned Trinitarianism, Robinson became increasingly brazen in his attacks on this orthodox doctrine.  The last sermon he ever preached was in Priestly's meeting-house in Birmingham, in which sermon Robinson ridiculed and mocked the doctrine of the Trinity with sarcasm and invective far stronger than anything Priestly, by his own admission, had ever said or written.  The following Tuesday, Robinson was found dead in bed in the home of William Russell, a prominent member of Priestly's church, where he had been staying.  God thereby said, "Enough of your blasphemy!"

 

What shall we say of Mr. Robinson?  Was he a saved man who fell into grievous error, or a wolf in sheep's clothing whose true nature was at last exposed?  I am inclined to believe that his conviction and conversion under Whitefield's influence were genuine, but the pride of life and the allurement and siren song of "intellectual" speculations loosed him from his theological moorings until he drifted far from shore, and became shipwrecked in heresy.  Perhaps the last verse of the hymn is Robinson's own testimony-

 

"O to grace how great a debtor

daily I'm constrained to be

Let thy goodness like a fetter

bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, God I feel it,

prone to leave the God I love.

Here's my heart, o take and seal it,

seal it for thy courts above."

 

May his sad end and marred legacy be ever a warning to us that we are to bring every thought into submission to God, and that we must never abandon the revealed and written truth of God for the empty and vain speculations of men.

                                                ---Doug Kutilek

 

[Some account of Robinson's life may be found in:

--J. M. Cramp, BAPTIST HISTORY (London: Elliot Stock, 1871), pp. 445-6;

--William Cathcart, THE BAPTIST ENCYCLOPEDIA (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 188), pp. 996-7;

--John M'Clintock and James Strong, ed., CYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL LITERATURE (New York: Harper Brothers, 1894), vol. IX, p. 55;

--Samuel M. Jackson, ed., THE NEW SCHAFF-HERZOG RELIGIOUS ENCYCLOPEDIA (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964 reprint), vol. X, p. 61;

--A. C. Underwood, A HISTORY OF ENGLISH BAPTISTS (London: Baptist Union Publication Department, 1947), pp. 139-40;

--Alexander Gordon, "Robinson, Robert (1735-1790)" in THE COMPACT EDITION OF THE DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (Oxford: University Press, 1975), vol. II, p. 17]

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THE ABOMINABLE AFFIRMATION, or JAY ADAMS VERSUS JESUS CHRIST

 

Dr. Jay Adams, whose training is in speech but whose writings are chiefly in the area of counseling, has made what is to me the most abominable, evil comment that I have ever read in the writings of any person identifying himself as an evangelical Christian.

 

In his surely misnamed book COMPETENT TO COUNSEL (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), Adams matter-of-factly declares, "As a reformed Christian, the writer believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, for they cannot say that.  No man knows except Christ himself who are his elect for whom he died" (p. 70).

 

For the unsaved whose lives are in ruins or on the verge, and who in their desperation have come to a Christian counselor seeking help, we have, according to the reformed Dr. Adams, no sure message of hope or consolation or Divine help.  This perspective is cut from the same cloth as Arthur Pink's affirmation that God does not love the non-elect, John Gill's refusal to offer Christ freely to the "non-elect," and even approaches to John MacArthur's caricatured "three points of hyper-Calvinism"--"1. God hates you; 2. He has a terrible plan for your life; and 3. there is nothing you can do about it."  What MacArthur said in jest, Adams virtually affirms. 

 

In absolutely stark contrast to this, we have the plain-as-day declaration from Jesus, aptly called "the Great Invitation," in Matthew 11:28-30: " Come unto me ALL ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

 

While Dr. Adams holds out no certain hope for his unsaved counselees, Jesus proclaims the universal invitation to every troubled soul.  He invites all, He welcomes all, and He promises to all who come to Him that spiritual rest, consolation, and comfort which Dr. Adam's reformed theology will not let him offer to just anybody.  And I, by the way, thirty years ago this month--the very year Adams first published his book--put these precious words of Jesus to the test, and found Him true to His promise.  I came, and I found rest for my troubled, sinful soul.

 

Adams is not typical of all who classify themselves as Calvinists.  Spurgeon, for example, in the spirit of Christ, would have had nothing but rebuke for Adams' declaration.  He wrote, "We know that, for every case of spiritual sickness, we have an infallible cure; we need not say to any man, 'We have no good news from God for you.' " (C. H. Spurgeon, AN ALL-ROUND MINISTRY.  Pasadena, Tex.: Pilgrim Publications, 1973, p. 17)

 

I do not dispute that Dr. Adams' position is consistent with his reformed presuppositions.  But therein is exactly the problem: his reformed presuppositions are diametrically opposed to the unmistakably clear words of Jesus in Matthew 11.  Faced with the choice of believing Jesus or adopting reformed theology, the choice is as quickly made as it is presented.  Carried to their logical results, the presuppositions of reformed theology yield poisonous fruit, and are nothing less than abominable.

                                                            ---Doug Kutilek

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A. H. STRONG on the Extent of the Atonement

 

"The Scriptures represent the atonement as having been made for all men, and as sufficient for the salvation of all.  Not the atonement therefore is limited, but the application of the atonement through the work of the Holy Spirit. . . .The atonement is unlimited,--the whole human race might be saved through it; the application of the atonement is limited,--only those who repent and believe are actually saved by it."

 

Augustus Hopkins Strong

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY

Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1907 

Pp. 771, 773

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AN INCIDENT FROM THE LIFE OF CHARLES SPURGEON

 

"We wish also to say that the Spirit of God coming from Christ moves men to high and noble thoughts.  Selfishness no longer rules the man who believes in Christ; he loves his fellow-men, he desires their good, he can forgive them if they persecute him, he can lay down his life for them.  Have we not had many who have gone forth among the heathen, and laid down their lives for Christ?  I was speaking with a brother from the Congo on Monday, and I spoke of the many deaths there, and he said, 'Yes, it looks a sad thing that so many missionaries should die; but, sir,' he added, 'that is the first thing that we have done in Africa that is really hopeful.  I have often heard the natives say to me, "These men must believe a true religion, or else they would not come here to die for us poor black men." ' "

Charles H. Spurgeon

METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT

vol. 39, 1893, p. 500

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THE STUDY OF ENGLISH

 

The student of Scripture is necessarily a student of words.  For the student of the Bible in English those words are necessarily English words.  The teacher of Scripture employs words to communicate Divine truth to his hearers, and his competence or incompetence in the understanding and use of words will in great measure determine the effectiveness and accuracy of his communication.

 

By definition, those who study and those who teach the Bible in English are compelled to be students of English words and English grammar.  Any preacher or Bible teacher who has contempt for the study of English grammar and English words should get into some other line of work immediately, or repent of his short-sighted folly.  Whole systems of heresy have been constructed on foundations of bad grammar and misunderstood words.

 

For myself, I have long been fascinated with English words and English grammar--though I will allow that I wasn't entirely fascinated with grammar in high school.  Words have meaning and if we are to comprehend well, we must understand well the meaning of words taken individually and as they are used in conjunction with other words: in phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs.  I cannot teach well God's revelation if I do not first understand it well.  To understand it well is worth any price paid in the study of English etymology and grammar.

 

Native speakers of any given language use that language, and use it for the most part correctly, without giving much regard to "how it works."  They correctly use verb forms, cases, idiomatic expressions, particles and the rest unconsciously, having absorbed their use by linguistic osmosis.  They grew up immersed in that language, hearing it spoken all around and its proper use followed as a matter of course (pity that adults cannot learn a foreign language the same way!).  One great weakness in all this is that there is no conscious understanding of how the grammar works, nor any knowledge of how words developed into their present usages. 

 

Not a few times, I with my meager knowledge of Romanian have shown Romanians things about their own grammar which they had never noticed, and many times I have asked Romanian preachers and translators for an explanation of some point of grammar which they could not explain.  I have discovered one dependable source for explanations of Romanian grammar--a school teacher who teaches Romanian grammar and also Latin, and who has had some Greek and Hebrew.  She thinks like a grammarian, and so notices details which others are blind to.

 

What is true of most Romanians is also true of the great majority of native speakers of English.  We have grown up with the language and use it more or less accurately (or, perhaps, I should say, "adequately") but with no deliberate attempt to analyze or comprehend its structure.  But an "adequate" use of English is inadequate for one who must be a close and careful user of language.  Hence the great necessity that the teacher of the Bible in English be a close and careful student of the English language.

 

How shall this study of English be undertaken?

 

I myself took "English" all through my public school days and on into college, but I learned more and obtained a more precise understanding of English grammar during my first year of studying Greek than in all the previous studies taken cumulatively.  Why?  Because in learning Greek, I had to focus on cases, tenses, grammatical structure and the interrelationship of words if I was to understand.  And as a by-product of this close attention to details, I began to see in the English language things I had never seen before, though they were always "right there" before my very eyes.  There is no more effective method of enhancing one's grasp of our native English than the extended study of a foreign language.  And it isn't especially important which foreign language it is--German, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Romanian--though certain of these would have certain inherent advantages.

 

I was motivated in Bible college to study Greek because it is the inspired language of the New Testament, and I wanted above all else the capacity to examine the Scriptures in the original language for myself.  I was, in short, a highly motivated student.  This factor alone made the learning of Greek more of a delight than a chore.  Greek serves well to enhance our understanding of English first because we have a sizable amount of our English vocabulary, especially in the sciences, derived from Greek.  Grammatically, Greek is not that far removed from English (in many respects it is closer than Latin). 

 

A second choice would be Latin (and how I regret now the poor application of myself during two years of high school Latin), for upwards of 70% of the vocabulary of English is derived from Latin, often mediated through French.  Add to this the fact that the most influential Bible translation ever made--Jerome's Vulgate version of the early fifth century--is in Latin (and its influence is clearly evident on every page of the King James Version), and the value to the student of Latin becomes obvious.

 

Of modern languages, French and German are great aids in understanding English, and not simply because of the forced attention to grammatical details.  English is a "hybrid" between Anglo-Saxon--a sister language to German--and Norman French.  As a consequence of this hybridization, on the one hand, our pronouns and our verbal system are essentially Germanic (all of our auxiliary verbs--can, will, may, would, should, etc.--are Germanic), as are 90% of our thousand most commonly used words, which usually have close German "cousins"--mother/Mutter, garden/Garten, sister/Schwester, water/Wasser, usw.  On the other hand, most of our vocabulary (and at something over a million words, English has by far the largest vocabulary of any language in history) is derived from French and/or Latin, the parent language of French.  So, if you want to understand how English developed, and how it is related to other languages, German and French are highly valuable tools.

 

For the history of English, there are a number of books available.  Of those I have read, the most instructive was Mario Pei, THE STORY OF ENGLISH (Fawcett Books, 1962), though it is a bit "dated" now.  Pei was a master linguist.  His book, THE STORY OF LANGUAGE (Lippincott, 1965) is all that one could ask for in one volume.  Two worthy more recent books are Bill Bryson, THE MOTHER TONGUE: ENGLISH AND HOW IT GOT THAT WAY (William Morrow, 1990), and Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, THE STORY OF ENGLISH (Viking, 1986), which was written for a PBS series.

 

On the use and development of individual words and idioms, for contemporary usage especially, nothing is better than the series of books by William Safire, which reproduce his New York Times column, "On Language."  The books, all with tongue-in-check titles such as COMING TO TERMS (Doubleday, 1991), TAKE MY WORD FOR IT (Times Books, 1986), WHAT'S THE GOOD WORD (Times Books, 1982), and IN LOVE WITH NORMA LOQUENDI (Random House, 1994), are a delight to read for the lover of English.  I might also mention a pair of older books which are equally entertaining to read on contemporary English, by newsman Edwin Newman, STRICTLY SPEAKING (Warner Books, 1974) and A CIVIL TONGUE (Warner Books, 1977).  James J. Kilpatrick's THE WRITER'S ART (Andrew, McMeel and Parker, 1984) is also of real merit

 

Perhaps the most massive work by any one individual on the development of English is THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE by H. L. Mencken (Knopf, 1937, fourth edition, with two supplementary volumes, 1944, 1948).  Mencken brought together a vast amount of quite diverse information.  I was two months in reading the first volume.  While naturally "dated" by the passing of more than half a century, and at times delving into coarse and profane parts of the language, it is still filled with insights for the student of English (where, for example, did the word "okay"--now part of almost every language--come from?).

 

Before I end, I would be remiss if I failed to say a word about English dictionaries.  The ultimate is of course the huge OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (Oxford University Press, 1989, 2nd edition), in 20 thick volumes, with over 21,700 pages covering 500,000 words and phrases and now available on CD-ROM.  If you want to know the origin, development and usage of any English word or phrase at any period in its history, this is the place to look.  All good public and school libraries (and the better private ones) have the OED.  Don't neglect to read the introduction of this marvelous work.  A second dictionary of merit is WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY (Merriam-Webster, 1971) in 3 volumes.  These two will leave little more to be desired.

 

(I could add that the reading of well-written books and articles by accomplished authors is another essential element in developing a solid command of English, but that would take us beyond our present self-imposed limits).

 

By way of conclusion, then--being so well-served with opportunities and books to stir us up to better, fuller, and richer use of our mother tongue, let us, then, love and learn and master this great English language which it is our good fortune to be native speakers of.  Its riches are at our command, if we will only learn to use them effectively.

                                                            ---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

THE STORY OF MY LIFE by Oswald J. Smith.  London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1968.  128 pp., paperback.

 

Though probably scarcely known to most contemporary Christians, Oswald J. Smith was a household name in an earlier era in churches that were serious-minded about world evangelism.

 

Oswald Smith (1889-1986) was born in rural Canada, the first of ten children.  His father worked for the railroad.  As a teen-ager, Smith heard of the great crusade of Torrey and Alexander in Toronto, and with his mother's permission and encouragement, he and a younger brother took the train the 94 miles to Toronto for the final two weeks of the campaign.  It was during this meeting that Smith became a believer in Jesus Christ.  Though with limited opportunities to hear good Bible teaching, Smith did grow as a result of personal study, and limited opportunities to teach others the Bible.  At age 18, he was invited by a Methodist preacher to fill the pulpit (his first time preaching, ever, though the preacher did not know that), and preached three different extemporaneous sermons that day!

 

Smith became a colporteur in far western Canada for a Bible society, selling Bibles house-to-house and witnessing for Christ.  This led to a winter's labors as missionary among Indians along the Pacific coast when he was 19.  Smith attended two Bible colleges and then McCormick Seminary in Chicago, where he also pastored.  He also served one summer ministering to the hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

 

Smith's great work was in the city of Toronto, where he was associated with three different works, the first for three years and a half, the second for five years and a half, and the third for nearly sixty years, with periods outside Toronto between these periods of labor.  Though ordained as a Presbyterian minister, most of Smith's ministry was outside that denomination.  Smith's interest in missions was stirred and deepened by the regular reading of missionary biographies--Brainerd, McCheyne, and others.

 

Smith founded and was longest associated with The People's Church in Toronto, which during his ministry was the pre-eminent missions-giving church in Canada and likely in the entire world (Smith popularized the concept of "faith promise" missions).  This large congregation numbering in the thousands averaged giving 76% of its total income to missions, and for a time even gave 85% (it has been well said that a church is not a missionary church until it spends more on missions than on itself).  Smith did not found a mission board or agency, but worked through existing agencies, particularly the "faith missions" because, as Smith put it, "they are absolutely free of modernism and higher criticism.  They are true to the Word of God" (p. 99).

 

Not only did the People's Church contribute greatly to the cause of world evangelism, thousands of individuals in the church over the decades surrendered their lives to become missionaries.  Regarding missions in the local church, it is apparently quite true that everything rises and falls on pastoral leadership.

 

As a missionary statesman, Smith was in great demand, holding conferences all over North America, indeed all over the world, traveling at least seven times across the ocean to preach and minister (in over 70 countries!).  His aim was ever and always to stir up Christians and churches to do more for world evangelism.  That we would do as much for missions as Smith did!

 

Smith also wrote a number of hymns--more than 1,200--but perhaps the only one still widely sung today is "Deeper and Deeper."

 

The book is not without its shortcomings.  First, it lacks any accounting of the last 2 decades of Smith's long life (I am not aware of any up-dated edition), and has no index.  And, as the work of a man approaching 80, some parts of the book are not as clear, balanced or full as they might have been, had the work been written either earlier in his life or in collaboration with another writer.  In short, the book would have been improved by the labor of a skilled editor.

 

One strange "wrinkle" is the twice-reported fact that before their marriage, Smith's wife was a preacher of some note and ability.  Nothing further is stated about this circumstance.

 

While a better biography of Smith could be written, what we learn here about him and his work should be enough to stir us up to do far more than we currently are for world evangelism.

                                                ---Doug Kutilek

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Some quotes--

 

"I ha[d] been reading the 'Autobiography of Charles G. Finney', and God . . .used it to awaken me.  I ha[d] discovered that I must lay the very greatest stress on prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit to convert men.  But oh, how weak and feeble I am." (p. 38)

 

"It would be impossible for me to tell of the blessing received through the reading of biography.  I studied the lives of some of God's choicest saints, both missionaries and evangelists, and received wonderful inspiration and help." (p. 41)

 

"Take [away] Heaven and there is nothing to live for.  Life would indeed be dark and desolate.  But Heaven compensates for all." (p. 53)

 

"As a result of reading the biography of Robert Murray McCheyne, The New Acts of the Apostles, and Quo Vadis, I became greatly burdened for revival and missions." (p. 61)

 

"The reason for this new burden has been the reading of the great works of the Puritans, . . . . Oh, what mighty preachers they were!  Joseph Alleine's 'An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners,' Richard Baxter's 'A Call to the Unconverted,' and John Angell James' 'The Anxious Inquirer After Salvation'--these are the books.  'I will spend the day for eternity,' write Joseph Alleine.  'May it be your whole study to gain souls, and to build them up in holiness.'  " (p. 65)

 

"We felt that we should not waste God's money in a beautiful church building, and let Missions suffer." (p. 81)

 

"We see to it that we give more to missions than we spend on ourselves, and there never has been a year since I have been pastor of The Peoples Church when we have kept as much for ourselves for our current expenses as we have given for missions.  For instance, in 1962 we spent $53,000 on ourselves, and over $318,000 for missions, more than six times as much.  For many years our missionary obligation was so heavy that we felt we could not afford a paid assistant pastor.  More than 76% of our total income has gone to missions--well over 6.5 million dollars." (p. 101)  [editor's note: adjusted for inflation, this figure would be increased 4 or 5 times higher in today's dollars]

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JOHN JASPER: THE UNMATCHED NEGRO PHILOSOPHER AND PREACHER by William E. Hatcher.  St. John, Ind.: Christian Book Gallery reprint.  196 pp. $4.00, paperback.

 

John Jasper was born into slavery in Virginia in 1812, the 24th (and final) child of his parents.  His father died two months before his birth.  His godly mother raised him in the fear of the Lord, though he did not experience conversion until he was 27.

 

Jasper became the property of Sam Hargrove, a Baptist layman in Richmond, Virginia, and Jasper went to work in his tobacco factory.  While there, Jasper was converted--and I mean really converted--after six long weeks of deep conviction of sin.  He immediately began telling everyone in the factory what God had done for his soul.  Mars Hargrove heard the commotion in the factory and came to investigate, and when he learned that Jasper was telling his co-laborers what God had done for him, Hargrove (who had been praying for Jasper's conversion) gave him the afternoon free so that he could tell everyone about his salvation.

 

Almost immediately, Jasper felt God's call to preach, which, in spite of the double handicaps of being a slave and being illiterate, he commenced to do.  A fellow-slave taught Jasper how to read out of an old grammar, and with his owner's permission, Jasper began to preach frequently, especially at slave funerals.  His audiences were often composed of both black and white hearers.

 

With his limited education, Jasper became in truth "a man of one book," namely the Bible.  He implicitly and fully trusted it, read it, memorized it, searched it daily, and preached it with soul-gripping fervency.  Though his grammar was often very poor, yet his transparent honesty, personal integrity, and pious devotion always had a strong impact on those who heard him.

 

After 52 years as a slave, 25 of those as a preacher, Jasper was emancipated at the end of the Civil War.  He soon began the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church.  [The book doesn't contain my favorite Jasper anecdote.  When asked why they had chosen the name "Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church,"--were there five other Mount Zion Baptist churches? the inquirer wanted to know--Jasper is reported to have replied, "No, we jes' liked dat name."]  This church was easily the largest Negro congregation in Richmond, reaching over 2,000 members.  Here Jasper preached for 35 years, gaining great notoriety and many admirers.

 

Jasper's most famous sermon, "The Sun Do Move," which he preached over 250 times, was a zealous but misguided attempt to prove from the Scriptures that the sun orbits the earth.  Jasper here fell into the hermeneutical error of not recognizing that the Bible, employing human language, sometimes speaks in the language of appearances and phenomena, not in the strict language of scientific precision.  This sermon, both in dialect and in standardized English, is reproduced in part in the book.

 

William E. Hatcher, author of this book (first published in 1908), was a prominent Baptist pastor in Richmond, and was a long-time friend of Jasper's.  The biography he compiled and published is largely anecdotal, and is not as well-arranged and presented as it might be.  A significant portion of the book is sermons by Jasper or information taken from a member of Jasper's church, unfortunately all presented in dialect (that is, an attempt is made to reproduce in print the pronunciation of words as spoken by Jasper, such as "Gord"--his pronunciation of "God").  Frankly, this made the book rather tedious reading in spots.  Had the dialect portions been limited to, say, "The Sun Do Move" (so that the reader can get some idea of how Jasper spoke), the volume would thereby have been improved.  A newspaper reporter's account of going to hear Jasper which is included is by far the most interesting part of the book.

 

What can we learn from John Jasper?  We can learn that whatever the limitations we have by our life's circumstances, God can make great use of us, if we are diligent in studying His word, obedient to His commands, and fervent in telling others what He has done for us and can do for them.

 

The publisher, Christian Book Gallery, is a Christian ministry run by Larry Harrison.  They have reprinted a number of excellent Christian books, and sell them at very low prices.  The reader should write and ask for a list of books they have available.  The address is: Christian Book Gallery, 9066 Knickerbocker, St. John, IN 46373

                                                ---Doug Kutilek

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