Samuel Crowther as God’s Slave

This is the day that … Samuel Crowther was consecrated as a bishop, in 1864.

Adijah was 13 years of age, a black boy living inland near the west coast of Africa, when the slave traders attacked. He never saw his father again, and it would be 25 years before he was to again meet his mother … and lead her to Christ. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

At the age of 14 he was crammed into a Portuguese slave ship, chains around his neck, with 186 others, bound for South America.

But 14 years previously, in 1807, Britain had abolished the slave trade and the British Navy was out to enforce the law. The Portuguese trading vessel was captured by a British man-of-war – and young Adijah was free again. In Liberia he was cared for in a Church Missionary Society home, and was truly converted. At his baptism he was given a new name – Samuel Crowther, the name of a C.M.S. pioneer. And it was here he met Asano, also a freed slave, whose name was changed to Susanna, who later became his wife.

Eventually Samuel Crowther was ordained in the Church of England (1843), and on this day, in 1864, he was consecrated as bishop of the new African diocese. This red-letter day took place in Canterbury Cathedral, and among those present was Admiral Leeke of the British Navy, who had rescued him from the Portuguese slave ship 42 years previously.

Back in Africa Bishop Crowther reached many inland tribes with the gospel, and there he found his mother. “Crowther’s mother was one of the first people in Abeokuta to be baptised a follower of Jesus Christ. The new name chosen for her by her son Samuel was Hannah …” (Saints Without Haloes, by L. Dox, page 95).

This “African St Paul”, as some have called him, evangelised and translated the Scriptures. His son, Dandeson Crowther, shared in the ministry. Dr A.T. Pierson, Spurgeon’s successor at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, wrote: “Wherever he went he brought and left a blessing, and no man perhaps did more than he for the elevation and salvation of his fellow countrymen” (Great Missionaries, by C. Creegan, page 140).

In his final years racism reared its ugly head among the C.M.S. leaders in England. They insisted that the Niger Mission was to be under “white supervision”. The pressure upon Crowther led to a “stroke and made him into a sick man”. He was in the midst of the conflict with the C.M.S. committee when he died on 31 December, 1891.

Of the half-a-dozen books dealing with Samuel Crowther scattered around me, only one mentions the sadness of his final years, The Missionaries, by G. Moorhouse, pages 284-286. Even Jesse Page in his 190-page biography of Samuel Crowther does not mention it.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

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