King of America

I am an Aussie and so I am not into American patriotism. I leave that to them. Since American influence over western culture is ubiquitous much is written and said that is tinged with that patriotism. What I am writing here is not to suggest any idolatry of the American nation, but simply to share with you something I recently found which honours God with a significant place in that nation.

But first, some background.

Nations have their own deities, leaders, values, etc. These things have more impact on the nation and its future than might be anticipated by some. So when a nation makes a strong statement about what it is and what it stands for or worships, you can be sure there will be repercussions in the future.

The nation of France, as an example, made a deliberate mockery of God, during the French Revolution. Catholicism had been France’s national religion, but on November 10, 1793 Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was rededicated as a Temple of Reason. An opera dancer, Mademoiselle Maillard, draped in the colours of the new republic, was enthroned as the goddess of reason on the altar of the Cathedral. The Cathedral was then used as a food warehouse during the revolution.

That rejection of Christianity in all its forms has had profound impact on France and Europe in the centuries since.

In 1606 the Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quiros arrived at the Pacific islands of New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) and dedicated all the lands from there to the South Pole as “Terra Australis del Espiritu Santu” – the “Great South Land of the Holy Spirit“. This dedication is held to have significant prophetic fulfilment yet to be enjoyed in Australia and New Zealand.

So, now to America. I was delighted to be shown the following excerpt from a tract titled “Common Sense”, written in 1791 by an Englishman who took up the revolutionary cause of the Americas. Thomas Paine uses the term “king of America” and directed it to acknowledge God’s significant role in that nation, which at that time had not yet developed its constitution or gained statehood.

Paine declares that God is the King of America and rules via His Law, which is found in the Bible. Thus a crown should be placed on the Bible itself, to show that God’s law is King and there should be no other. Then scatter the crown among the people to show that the law belongs to them.

“But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.” Thomas Paine “Common Sense”

(For a full text of this tract go to: http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/commonsense/text.html)

Thomas Paine proclaimed, before the formation of the fledgling nation, that God is the sovereign and God’s Word, the Bible, is the holy law upon which the nation is established.

That’s a wonderful start and is just part of what has made America a significant player in world affairs over the past 2 centuries. Note that the French mockery of religion dates to 1793, while Paine’s profession of God’s centrality occurred almost at the same time, 1791. In the 200 years since we can see that Reason did not produce the same national significance that godliness brought to America.

We need to be careful about what we dedicate ourselves to, at an official and practical level. Future generations are at stake.

Baedeker Preaches Across Europe

This is the day that … Frederick Wilhelm Baedeker was born in Germany, in 1823.

At the age of 25 we find him discharged from compulsory army training due to ill-health.

In 1851 he married, but, alas, his young bride died three months later.

Sick and distraught, Baedeker set sail on a French ship (which was nearly wrecked on the way) to Australia. He arrived “on crutches”.

Four years later a neighbour invited him to hear Lord Radstock, an evangelical Anglican, who was speaking at a series of meetings organised by the local Brethren assembly. He reluctantly consented to attend one meeting.

In Baedeker’s own words: “I went in a proud German infidel and came out a humble believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ambassadors for Christ, page 245).

His wife was also converted. For the next 40 years Baedeker preached the gospel across Europe … in Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Switzerland, Finland, and especially in Russia. Three times he crossed Siberia as far as the island of Sakhalin.

“Into every corner of Russia he penetrated with the gospel message. Permits were granted, through the influence of a Christian countess … which gave him access to all the prisons of Russia and Siberia …” (Chief Men Among the Brethren, page 145).

Thousands of Bibles and gospel portions, supplied by the British and Foreign Bible Society, were distributed.

But his ministry also took him into the homes of the aristocracy. Drawing-room meetings in palatial country homes would see him opening the Scriptures to “princesses, counts and barons”. Such meetings raised the opposition of the media and authors like Dostoevski and Tolstoy (Ambassadors for Christ, page 246).

“Forbidden by police to hold religious services in Riga, Baedeker obtained permission to lecture on ‘sin and salvation’!” (ibid, page 247).

Thousands packed into the hall night after night …

Despite this extensive missionary activity he lived most of his life in England, except when on evangelistic tours. He was a close friend of George Müller of Bristol and Lord Radstock, and was originally a member of the Plymouth Brethren (Open Brethren) but later worked as an independent. He worked with Radstock in the first St. Petersburg revival in 1874-1876.

During a two-day Brethren conference back in England, Dr Baedeker caught a chill and died soon after – 9 October, 1906 – at the age of 83.

To those who came to visit him during his last hours he would say: “I am going to see the King in His beauty” (Twelve Marvellous Men, page 20). And he surely did.

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.