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.

George Whitefield, Revival Preacher

This is the day that … George Whitefield was ordained by Bishop Benson in 1736. The place was Gloucester Cathedral, it was “Trinity Sunday,” and Whitefield was 21 years of age. He tells us in his journal that he had spent the day previous in prayer and fasting … and “prayed fervently for about two hours” on a hill outside the town.

On the Sunday he “arose early and prayed over St Paul’s Epistle to Timothy, especially that precept ‘let no man despise thy youth’.” Thus it was in fear and trembling young Whitefield approached the sacred office.

The following Sunday he was to preach his first sermon and the gospel was powerfully presented. “I have since heard that a complaint had been made to the bishop that I drove 15 people mad the first sermon…” he wrote.

Mad? Or overjoyed that they had come to know the Saviour!

There would be many more – thousands more – who would experience a holy joy before Whitefield preached his last sermon 34 years later.

And Bishop Benson was clearly a leader who stood by his men. His reply to those who complained after that first sermon was that he hoped the madness might not be forgotten by the next Sunday.

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.

John Hunt to Fiji

This is the day that … John Hunt was born in England, in 1812, to illiterate and irreligious parents.

Converted at the age of 17 when he came into contact with the Methodists, he was soon preaching in their meetings. At the age of 23 he entered their “Theological Institution” for missionary training, and on 29 April, 1838, he and his new bride, Hannah, sailed for the South Seas.

Fiji! “Those hills which they viewed upon their arrival contained the ovens in which human beings were roasted for cannibal feasts. There … widows had been strangled to accompany the dead chiefs to their ‘Paradise’.”

“Cunning was the highest intelligence. War was their business. The religion of the Fijian required cannibalism” (They Knew Their God, Volume 4, page 61).

Thus it was John Hunt and his good wife, both in their mid-20’s, tackled the unwritten language of these people that they might tell them of the Saviour.

“I determine,” he wrote in his journal, “to make known nothing among the poor Fijians but Christ and Him crucified. Oh that my speech and my preaching may be with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (Biography of John Hunt, by G. Rowe, 1860, page 173).

The savage climate led to the death of their three children soon after birth. He wrote: “I have three now in Heaven. I thank God they are safe. I feel much my need of them now; but, oh, how awful the thought of their living to sin against my God and be lost!”

For 10 years John Hunt persevered. King Thakombau – “the butcher of his people” – was a fierce foe, and his wars and hostility toward the missionary seemed to make all success hopeless.

John’s translation of the New Testament in Fijian was completed in 1847 (though not published until 1854).

And God saw fit to pour out revival among these people. There was weeping and groaning “and a general calling upon God to have mercy” by many Fijians. Even Queen Viwa was converted.

John Hunt wrote: “One hundred converts the first week of the revival… The mats of the chapel were wet with the tears of the communicants of the table of the Lord…”

But a year later – 4 October, 1848 – John Hunt died, at the age of 36.

King Thakombau was baptised nine years later by a fellow missionary.

And the gospel continued to bring light and joy and peace to those who had lived in darkness.

“The mission to Fiji has been as remarkable for its success as any ever undertaken by the Christian world. At the jubilee of that mission there was not an avowed pagan left. Fifty years before there was not a single Christian in all Fiji” (Epoch Makers of Modern Missions, by A. McClean, page 171).

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.

Bishop Ryle’s Legacy

This is the day that …Bishop Ryle heard the Saviour’s “Well done, good and faithful servant!” It was 1900.

Born in 1816 at Macclesfield, England, John Charles Ryle was educated in his native town, then attended Eton and Oxford. It was in 1837, while finishing his Oxford studies that Ryle found faith. He was attending a parish church and, although there was nothing memorable about the sermon or the service in general, the New Testament Bible reading impacted him profoundly. The reader took pains to pause between each phrase of the same truth that so impacted Luther, ‘By grace are ye saved – through faith – and that not of yourselves – it is the gift of God.’ Four years later Ryle entered the Church of England ministry.

In 1880 Queen Victoria appointed him to the bishopric of the newly created Diocese of Liverpool. His evangelical and Protestant stance was soon evident. And the work flourished. Forty-two new churches and fifty new mission halls were opened during his ministry.

But it is as a writer his fame has continued to spread.

Three hundred tracts came from his pen – many of them defending the “glorious truths of the Reformation”. Larger works include his commentary on the Gospels (which is still in print!), Old Paths and Knots Untied … this latter volume often crossing swords with Romanist and Anglo-Catholic teachings.

His Christian Leaders of the 18th Century contains the biographies of some of England’s spiritual giants.

“It has been said,” writes B.C. Mowll, “that few in the 19th century did so much for God, for truth and righteousness, among Englishmen, as Bishop J.C. Ryle.”

Bishop Ryle served as Bishop until he was 83 years old, dying just four months after he retired.

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.

Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival

This is the day that …Evan Roberts was born in Wales in 1878.

Twenty-six years later God used this young Calvinistic-Methodist to ignite a revival fire across that land. With his “scorched Bible” (it had been damaged in a mine explosion), Evan Roberts prayed and preached. Sometimes he wept in the pulpit. Other times he simply talked in between songs and testimonies.

Converted in his teenage years, Roberts was faithful to Christian principles, church attendance, prayer and Bible study. He was known as an exemplary Christian young man. Leaving school at age 11, to work with his father in coal mines, he spent 12 years underground. Then for more than a year he was apprenticed to a blacksmith.

In the Spring of 1904 Evan experienced an increased sense of God’s presence. One night he woke from his sleep and was led into a deep communion with his Lord for hours. Every evening for the following months this experience was repeated.

Here is how Roberts described his experience to W.T. Stead in 1905: “For a long, long time I was much troubled in my soul and my heart by thinking over the failure of Christianity. Oh! it seemed such a failure—such a failure—and I prayed and prayed, but nothing seemed to give me any relief. But one night, after I had been in great distress praying about this, I went to sleep, and at one o’clock in the morning suddenly I was waked up out of my sleep, and I found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the very presence of the Almighty God. And for the space of four hours I was privileged to speak face to face with Him as a man speaks face to face with a friend. At five o’clock it seemed to me as if I again returned to earth.”

Feeling a calling to win people for Christ, his only available option for training was for the Presbyterian ministry. He attended a Grammar school to prepare for theological studies. A few weeks after arriving at the school he attended a Convention at nearby Blaenanerch and there he experienced what he called his “Baptism in the Spirit”, as he responded to the prayer “Bend me oh Lord”.

This experienced radicalised his life and turned him into the Welsh Revivalist. His initial message was simply: Confess all known sin; Deal with and get rid of anything ‘doubtful’ in your life; Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly; and Confess Christ publicly.

As he took that message to the valleys of South Wales, the 1904 Welsh Revival saw “100,000 outsiders converted and added to the Churches” within a year, writes Colin Whittaker (Great Revivals, page 95).

And then, some two years later, Evan Roberts faced health challenges and went to stay with Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis, a wealthy English lady, and her husband. Together they published a magazine, The Overcomer (God’s Generals, by R. Liardon, page 99) and he co-authored with her the book, War on the Saints. This book drew from his revival experiences and taught saints how to do spiritual warfare. Watchman Nee credited Roberts with recovering the truth of Spiritual Warfare to the church.

Evan Roberts eventually left the Penn-Lewis home, lived alone in Sussex, and wrote booklets. He devoted himself to prayer for the kingdom of God to be established. He saw that his health challenges led him to a private ministry of reclusive prayer.

Later he moved back to Wales, and died there, in January, 1951, at the age of 72. The impact of his private years of prayer ministry may not be known until we reach heaven.

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.