Daniel Webster Whittle the One Arm Convert

Daniel Webster Whittle was born at Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts on November 22 in Massachusetts, in 1840, named after the American politician Daniel Webster.

During the Civil War he marched with General Sherman as he blazed his way through the Southern States. At the battle of Vicksburg Whittle lost his right arm and was taken prisoner by the Confederate Army.

But like thousands of others – in both the Northern and Southern troops – Whittle came to a saving knowledge of Christ. It has been estimated that over 100,000 were converted in the Union Army … and approximately 150,000 among the Confederates (Christian History Magazine, Volume 33).

While in the Confederate hospital, recovering from his injury, Whittle looked for something to read and found a New Testament. Its message touched him but he resisted faith in Christ.

One night a hospital orderly woke him with the news that a dying prisoner wanted someone to pray with him. When Whittle declined the orderly said, “But I thought you were a Christian. I have seen you reading the Bible.” Whittle then decided to go to the dying man.

“I dropped on my knees and held the boy’s hand in mine. In a few broken words I confessed my sins and asked Christ to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me. I then prayed earnestly for the boy. He became quiet and pressed my hand as I prayed and pleaded God’s promises. When I arose from my knees, he was dead. A look of peace had come over his troubled face, and I cannot but believe that God who used him to bring me to the Savior, used me to lead him to trust Christ’s precious blood and find pardon. I hope to meet him in heaven.”

Near the close of that awful war, Whittle was promoted to the rank of major, and so he was known as “Major” Whittle from then on. He became well- known in Christian circles as an evangelist. He also wrote about 200 gospel songs, under his own name and also under the pseudonym of “El Nathan” – many still popular today:
“There shall be showers of blessing,” “Have you any room for Jesus?”, “I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me hath been made known”, “There’s a royal banner given for display”.

After the war, Whittle worked as the treasurer for the Elgin Watch Company in Chicago, Illinois. Less than ten years later, however, he dedicated himself to serve in evangelism.

Whittle describes this decision, saying that one day while at work, he “went into the vault and in the dead silence of the quietest of places I gave my life to my Heavenly Father to use as He would.”

In his evangelism ministry Whittle worked with musicians Phillip Bliss and James McGranahan. His daughter, May Moody (married to a son of evangelist D.L. Moody) also wrote music for some of his lyrics.

At the Chicago World Fair in 1893, his friend Henry Varley commented to Major Whittle how he did not like the hymn, “I need Thee every hour..” Varley declared, “I need Him every moment!”

So Major Whittle wrote:
Moment by moment I’m kept in His love,
Moment by moment I’ve life from above…

The melody was composed by his daughter, May.

The works of Major Whittle, El Nathan, Elias Nathan and D.W.W. ended on March 4, 1901, at Northfield, Massachusetts.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Jacob DeShazer Bombs Japan then Evangelises Japan

Jacob Daniel DeShazer was born in West Stayton, Oregon on November 15 in 1912, not long before World War One. He was to become a famous name in the next World War.

The son of a Free Methodist preacher, Jacob was raised in church but strayed from the faith in his high school years. In 1940 he enlisted in the US air force and trained as a bombardier.

April 18, 1942 DeShazer flew as a bombardier on a B-25 bomber with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s “Doolittle Raiders”, in the first air attack on Japan in World War II.

On the way back from that raid the B-25, on which he was bombardier, ran out of fuel and was one of two planes that did not make it home. The crew bailed out over enemy occupied territory, and were taken prisoners.

As DeShazer was parachuting from his plane his mother woke with a sense of falling and prayed earnestly, not knowing anything of the raid, or of her son’s danger. When she felt at peace, she went back to sleep. Meanwhile, as the young airman plunged toward the ground, DeShazer thought it would be “dishonest” to pray. So he didn’t. He had not kept up a walk with God and didn’t think he had the right to call on God’s help.

Regarded as “war criminals”, rather than POW’s, the men were harshly treated and beaten. Three of DeShazer’s buddies were shot before a firing squad. Of DeShazer’s 40 months as a prisoner, he spent 36 in solitary confinement. Another member of crew starved to death, but not before witnessing to DeShazer.

In May, 1944, after two years’ imprisonment, some small concessions were given to the men and so DeShazer asked a guard for a Bible. He devoured the Bible, reading it through multiple times and searching out the fulfilment of every prophecy that he found. He was determined to find out it the Bible was what it was claimed to be.

He not only found the Bible to be all he hoped it could be, but he also found salvation through Christ, reading Romans 10:9 on 8 June, 1944. Then, as he made his solitary journey into faith, based only on the Word of God, he was challenged to live out Christ’s teachings, starting with the command to “love your enemies”. He began being friendly to the cruellest guard. Within days the man’s attitude toward him changed.

Tutored only by the Word and the Spirit, harvesting the godly training of his childhood, DeShazer grew in faith and accepted God’s call to reach out to the Japanese. He recalls, “When I was a prisoner, I was afraid I was going to die and I told God ‘I don’t want to go up there with empty hands; I want to do something for Jesus.”

On 20 August, 1945, the war ended. Before long, DeShazer was re-united with his family and then, at the age of 34, he entered Seattle Pacific (Bible) College to train for missionary service. And the field? Japan.

DeShazer married Florence, a fellow Bible College student, and headed to Japan for 30 years of effective ministry. Before arriving in Japan DeShazer wrote a tract titled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan”, which told his story. It was translated into Japanese and widely distributed.

General MacArthur had told the Japanese that they ought to be Christians. This opened the door for Christian preaching. When the Japanese Emperor told the Japanese that he was not divine, in 1946, this lead to tremendous instability in many Japanese lives (and suicide as well), which, compounded by their defeat, gave great opportunity for the gospel. It is estimated there were 30,000 conversions during DeShazer’s first year in Japan.

The most notary convert to come from DeShazer’s testimony was Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941. After reading “I Was a Prisoner of Japan” Fuchida studied the Bible, became a Christian and spent the rest of his life as a missionary.

The 1972 edition of DeShazer’s biography contains a photo of DeShazer and his wife, just before their third furlough. “I love these beautiful Japanese people so much” he is quoted as saying. “They all look beautiful to me. They need Jesus.”

DeShazer passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 15, 2008, at the age of 95.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Charles McCallon Alexander Music and Bibles

This is the day that Charles McCallon Alexander was born in a log house near Cloyd’s Creek, East Tennessee, USA, in 1867.

His father, John Darius Alexander, played the ‘fiddle’ and led the singing at the local Presbyterian Church. He also taught Charles to read music at a young age and to beat time with his hands. His mother was also a great influence, reading Moody’s sermons and talking much with him and his siblings. By the age of 9, he had read the entire Bible.

At the age of 13 young Charles “rose and walked timidly to the front (of the church) and made his first public confession of Christ” (C.M. Alexander, by his wife, Helen, page 21).

He studied music at Maryville University and eventually became a Professor of Music. His father’s death was pivotal in clinching his life of ministry. Doubting his father’s salvation, Charles asked God to confirm it to him, promising to serve the Lord if He did. When that assurance came to his heart as he peered up to the stars, Charles kept his word and engaged in Christian ministry.

After studying at Moody Bible Institute, he did evangelistic work with Mr. M. B. Williams, Georgia State Secretary for the YMCA for 8 years. He was also Billy Sunday’s song leader in Chicago.

In 1902 he found himself on a worldwide tour with Dr R.A. Torrey, starting in Australia before heading to England the following year. It was Alexander who led the massed choirs (“The Glory Song” became a firm favourite!) – and compiled the hymnbook that bears his name.

In Birmingham he married Helen Cadbury (her family having revolutionised the chocolate industry), and later travelled the world again, leading choirs for J. Wilbur Chapman.

Charles wanted to promote Bible reading, confident that it would lead people to faith. In 1906 he heard news of the “Testament Circles” in Philadelphia and that prompted Helen to tell her husband about her school initiative with “The Pocket Testament League”.

Alexander decided to revive his wife’s earlier initiative and in 1908 it was launched in Philadelphia and actively begun in Melbourne, Australia in 1909. During The Great War thousands of British and American soldiers were impacted by the league, and many testimonies of salvations poured in.

C.M. Alexander died in Birmingham, England, on 13 October, 1920, at the age of 53.

Helen continued the work of The Pocket Testament League and by 1936, there were 5 million members in TPTL. She died in 1969 at the age of 92, having seen millions of New Testaments carried in many pockets.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Book of Books

I am staggered at my ongoing discovery of the Bible as a profound and amazing gift from eternity. So let me extol to you just some of the wonders of this amazing Book of Books.

My Background

As a lad I heard people say that the Bible is the “Book of Books”. I knew that they held it dear, but I could not understand why. It seemed to me that maybe they were the ‘sentimental’ type, or had less personal resource to draw from and so needed something else to assist them.

I was given my first Bible for my tenth birthday, by my Sunday School teacher. She told me she had a wonderful gift to give me for my birthday. When it turned out to be just a Bible I was visibly disappointed. She tried to enthuse me with the wonder of this profound book, but I just couldn’t get excited. I am not sure I was even thankful.

Book of Books

When I heard the term ‘Book of Books’ I realised it was ambiguous. The Bible was both a collection of 66 books written by diverse authors over several millennia, and also a book that stood supreme over all other books. It was “the book” among all books.

I gradually learned to appreciate the Bible. My journey in that direction was painfully slow, despite my regular church attendance and attempts to establish daily Bible reading using the Scripture Union notes. I most often ended up cramming several days’ worth in a dash to catch up on forgotten reading. My main motivation was fear and guilt, not a love for the Bible. I thought that reading the Bible would make a good impression on God and save me from any nasty things I might rather avoid.

New Discovery

Just recently, however, I was excited to discover the true meaning of the term ‘Book of Books’! I am surprised I never saw this before and the discovery quite intrigues and motivates me.

What I came to see is that the Bible is so rich in and of itself that it is able to speak into people’s lives and circumstances as if it was a set of diverse texts, not just what it appears to be. That’s a long way to say it, but I’ll try to explain. I want you to catch the same sense of discovery, assuming you haven’t already caught this insight. Maybe you’re wondering why I’m so excited about something you knew all along. If that’s the case please bear with me.

The Obvious Book

The Bible is obviously a religious text. It is full of things religious people quote and study all the time. So it is most readily relegated to the religious section of any library. It is a book for the religious boffins and devotees who care for such literature. It contains prophecies, regulations, prescriptions for rituals, esoteric spiritual stuff that doesn’t have immediate practical application, a religious vocabulary and much more that attests to its place as a Religious Text.

Now it has been used for much more than religion, but the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the Bible should be put alongside the Koran, Hindu texts and texts about Confucius, Buddha, etc.

But the Bible is much, much more than a religious book. It is a religious text. That is its persona as one of the books it can serve as. But it is able to be pulled off the shelf as other books as well.

A Library in Itself

Imagine having one book on your shelf. When you want a cooking book you grab that one book and open it up. There you find recipes. Then, when you want a handyman book you grab the same text and open it, to find that it is full of drawings and instructions about home maintenance. Suppose then you need a book on managing your home finances. You reach for the same book, open it up and find that it has instructions on budgeting, managing bank accounts, and so on.

That book would be a library in itself. And, in a similar but different way the Bible is just that kind of library in one book. What has impressed me is a sense for just how profound the Bible can be to a diverse range of applications.

The Familiar Diversity

Stories: We are all familiar with the stories recorded in the Bible. Many children, including me, were enthralled by the amazing and wonderful historical accounts given in the Bible. David and Goliath is a perennial favourite, along with Daniel in the lion’s den, the crossing of the Red Sea and the miracles of Jesus. This is a story book par excellence.

History: We are also familiar with the historicity of the Bible. The events described in the Bible are mostly of historical account. They inform us of events and practices which we have next to no other record of. Historians rely on the Bible as a source book for cultural and historical insights.

Poetry: We are all familiar with the Bible as a source of poetry. There are various books in the Bible which are categorised as Hebrew poetry. Other portions are so beautiful and sweet in their content that they are often used as readings in such ceremonies as weddings, funerals and religious observances. So the Bible can be pulled off the shelf when someone wants some deeply beautiful and meaningful poetry.

Wisdom: We are also familiar with the Bible as a source of wisdom. Some books in the Bible are referred to as Wisdom literature. These books, incidentally, are also in the poetic category. Wisdom about relationships, problem solving, avoiding trouble, maintaining the peace, and so on, can be found in the pages of the Bible. So many people who need wisdom for their lives turn to the Bible as a valued resource.

Guidance: We are also familiar with the idea of the Bible being used for guidance. A girl I knew in primary school told me that her mother would open the Bible and point at the page, expecting whatever she chanced upon to be a word from God for her. This is not a recommended practice, as it tends to turn the Bible into a fortune-telling tool, contrary to God’s curse upon such activity. Many Christians, however, do prayerfully put their questions before God and then read their daily Bible reading with expectation that something will speak into their situation.

Moral Mentoring: We have all heard people refer to the moral standards given us in the Bible. Many people have acknowledged Jesus Christ the most exemplary person to have ever lived. He is spoken of as the “greatest man that ever lived” and His life has been studied by many, even when they did not believe Him to be the Son of God. The Bible could be used by every youth, not as a religious text, but as a text to guide them toward exemplary moral character.

From these examples you can see that the one book functions as multiple books, on hand for different applications.

What about ….

The Bible speaks into many other subjects as well, so have you ever considered the Bible as a text book on those things?

What about health and medicine? The Bible promotes sanitation and various health regulations. Certain foods are promoted over others. Is the Bible not a worthy resource text for such things?

And what about government? The Bible has much to say about leadership, forms of government, responsibilities within social order, and so on. So maybe the Bible could be taken off the shelf and studied just as a text for governmental order.

Then, what about business administration? There are many instructions to do with payment of employees, delegation of authority, enterprise and the like. These are business matters which are so valuable in themselves as to recommend the Bible as a business text book too. The Character First organisation applies the character qualities given in the Bible as a means of improving business efficiency and productivity. There may be many applications

The Bible has much to say about legal matters, so the Bible is a worthy Law textbook.

If you were to embrace the Bible for any one of these and other applications you may find that it comes alive in your hands as a much more valuable and richer text than you have ever counted it to be.

If that were the case it would become to you a Book of Books!