Copyright by Robert C. Rogers and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
On December 16, 1811, the New Madrid earthquake, with its epicenter in New Madrid in southeast Missouri Territory, was felt over a million square miles, including Natchez, where clocks stopped, houses were damaged, and the river rose and fell rapidly. A New Orleans writer said, “the shake which the Natchezians have felt may be a mysterious visitation from the Author of all nature, on them for their sins.” It would seem that many people were truly shaken to their core, not only by the earthquake, but also the War of 1812. The United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812. In Mississippi the focus of the conflict was on the Indian tribes, especially the Creeks, who were supported by the British. In 1813, the Creeks attacked Fort Mims, north of Mobile, and massacred at least 250 people. The Creeks were eventually crushed by an army under General Andrew Jackson, but these dramatic events shook the souls of Mississippians. The annual Circular Letter of the Mississippi Baptist Association of October 1813, was on the subject of “The War.” It was a circular letter received from Ocmulgee Association in Georgia, republished with edits made by Mississippi pastors Ezra Courtney and Moses Hadley, because of “the distressed situation of our territory, and the nation in general.” It warned readers that perhaps “Divine Providence” had allowed Europe to “invade our rights” because of “our ingratitude, our avarice, and abuse of the rich blessings we have enjoyed.” It declared the war to be “a war of just and necessary defence [sic]; justifiable on every sound political and moral principle.” It called for unity to defend “the rich inheritance of freedom we possess,” and stressed how American liberty was unlike that of France, which had fallen into ungodly apostasy and lost its freedoms. “If history ever proved any one truth clearly, it is this: that no nation, without public and private virtue, ever retained its freedom long.” The message was clear: their freedoms were in danger, and if they wanted to keep their freedoms, Mississippians needed a fervent devotion to both God and country. It is not known how many people in the town of Natchez were shaken from their sins, but we do know that the territory experienced a religious revival. In 1813, 246 people were baptized into membership in the churches of the Mississippi Baptist Association, far more than any year in the decade before or after, and the total membership nearly doubled that year, from 494 to 914!
Copyright by Robert C. Rogers and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
Baptists have been the predominant faith in Mississippi so long, that nearly a century ago historian Jesse L. Boyd referred to Mississippi as a “Baptist empire.” Today, it is difficult for Baptists in the Magnolia State to imagine a time when their spiritual ancestors suffered hardships and persecution for their faith, but they did, even in Mississippi.
John Smyth established the first Baptist church in Amsterdam, Holland in 1609, after he fled persecution in England for being a Separatist Puritan. Thomas Helwys founded the first Baptist Church in England at London in 1611, and he landed in jail shortly thereafter for speaking out for religious freedom [McBeth, 38]. Roger Williams fled persecution in Massachusetts when he opposed the Congregationalist state church, so he started a new colony in Rhode Island with complete religious liberty, where he established the first Baptist church in America at Providence, Rhode Island in 1639. William Screven was banished from Maine for his Baptist faith, and he established the first Baptist church in the South at Charleston, South Carolina in 1696. Richard Curtis, Jr., migrated from South Carolina to the Natchez area in 1780, where he established the first Mississippi Baptist church in 1791, but he was arrested by Spanish authorities who only tolerated Catholicism, and he had to flee the region for three years.
Read this blog, as I will continue to unfold the story.
In Congress, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
(NOTE: This is the fourth blog post in a series on scriptures commonly misinterpreted.)
President James A. Garfield said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” The president was making a humorous allusion to the famous words of Jesus in John 8:32.
Unfortunately, this Bible verse is often taken out of context John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” This verse is engraved on courthouse entrances, implying that if a wise court can grant freedom by finding truth. This verse is cited by educators to say that knowledge is freedom, and it is quoted by investigative reporters who believe that freedom can be found in digging up the truth. While all of these are worthy goals, these interpretations ignore the verse immediately before it. So let’s read it again, this time in context:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32, NKJV)
What a difference verse 31 makes! This verse gives us the audience to whom Jesus was speaking, and the conditions Jesus laid down to know truth and freedom. Notice what they are:
1. The audience. The audience who first heard these words were believers. Jesus “said to those Jews who believed Him…” Thus this promise is not intended for the general public. It is a promise for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Yet there is more.
2. The conditions. Jesus laid down two conditions to knowing truth and freedom. They link together like links in a chain. First, “If you abide in My word.” The first link is to continually study and obey the words of Christ. The second link results from the first: discipleship. He said, “you are My disciples indeed.” Note the word “indeed.” That is, if we study and obey Christ, then we are real disciples. The third link is in verse 32: “And you shall know the truth.” What is that truth? When Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, He said, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice” (John 18:37). The governor asked, “What is truth?” Jesus had already answered that question in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The fourth link results from the third, of knowing the truth: “And the truth shall make you free.” As we have seen, the truth is Jesus. No wonder Christ said of Himself a few sentences later, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
So there you have it. If you believe in Jesus, then abide in Him. Study His word and obey it. If you do, you will be a real disciple. And if you are a real disciple, then you will really know the truth, for the truth is Jesus. And when you really know the truth in Jesus, you will truly be free.
Free from what? From from the power of death and the devil, from deception, and from deeds of sin. (See Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 2:11, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Galatians 5:13).
Engraved on the Statue of Liberty is a poem by Emma Lazarus that says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Millions of people have passed by the Statue of Liberty as they came into New York harbor, seeking freedom in America. But Jesus Christ has a better offer. He says to those who believe in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Real freedom comes from real discipleship, following the real Savior.
Can democracy flourish just as well in any society, no matter what the religious and cultural values, or does democracy depend on Biblical values to flourish and prosper?
Daniel Webster said, “Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”
Psalm 33:12 (HCSB) says, “Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh—the people He has chosen to be His own possession!”
We sing “God Bless America,” but then we tell people to choose your god: Buddha, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Krishna, Yahweh, take your pick.
That simply will not work! Look at the verse again. Notice that it says in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), “Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh.” Most Bible translations say “the LORD.” Whenever you see “LORD” in all capital letters, it means that the Hebrew word used is the actual name of God given to Moses at the burning bush: “I am,” which in Hebrew is Yahweh.
A nation whose God is not Yahweh, a nation that rejects the God of the Bible and Biblical values, rarely has a stable democracy. There are a few exceptions, such as Turkey, India, Japan, and Indonesia. But all over the world, we have seen that nation after nation that has put the Lord out of government is having a hard time putting democracy in. All across Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa, which have been dominated by communism and non-Christian world religions, we see most governments are dominated by dictators instead of democracy. In Iraq and Afghanistan, sectarian conflict is threatening democracy. In the Middle East, the “Arab Spring” of new democracies appears to be turning into a “Muslim Winter.”
Just as a life without Jesus will always fail, a government without Yahweh is often frail. But a nation that has the God of the Bible as its foundation has put into place the value system needed to support a successful democracy.
The Declaration of Independence contains four references to God: as Lawmaker (“the laws of nature and nature’s God”); as Creator (“endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”); as Supreme Judge (“the Supreme Judge of the world for our intentions”); and as Protector (“the protection of Divine Providence”).
In 1787, the Constitutional Congress was arguing over the writing of the Constitution of the United States, and they were getting nowhere. Finally, Ben Franklin rose and said,
“In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for divine protection. Our prayers were heard, and they were graciously answered . . . Have we now forgotten this powerful friend? Or do we no longer need his assistance?
I have lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
When George Washington took the oath of office as our first president in 1789, he asked that the Bible be opened, and he placed his hand on it to took the oath. Then he added to the oath the words, “So help me God,” and bent forward and kissed the Bible before him.
John Adams, our second president, said, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, said, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” These words are engraved in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
History has shown that democracies have done well in nations founded on Biblical values. Democracy flourishes in Europe, which has a Christian heritage, in Israel, where the values of the Old Testament are the basis of their government, and in North America, most of Latin America, Australia, and most of central and southern Africa that are dominated by Christianity. In South Africa, where the white minority gave up rule to the black majority, Bishop Desmond Tutu led them through a peaceful transition of power. Miraculously, bloodshed was avoided, unlike the conflict we see today in Iraq, a struggling democracy that does not have worship of the God of the Bible as its foundation. The key was that as Christians, South Africans were able to forgive.
Why is it that democracies tend to flourish where the culture is dominated by Biblical values?
Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Yet it is interesting that citizens of the heavenly kingdom make better citizens of earthly kingdoms.
Christians know they have a responsibility to contribute to their government. Jesus said, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).
“And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants… Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” (Romans 13:6-7)
Christians know that they have a responsibility to make a positive difference in their world.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
Christians know that they are to pray for their nation’s leaders. Paul says 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to pray for kings and all those in authority, and in Paul’s day, a pagan Roman was the emperor.
But because our highest citizenship is in heaven and not on earth, Christians also know that times may come when they have to stand up to godless and corrupt earthly rulers for the greater good of the nation.
Moses stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and demanded that Pharaoh give up his Hebrew slaves.
The prophet Nathan confronted King David to his face when he murdered Uriah and committed adultery with Bathsheba.
The prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab and condemned Queen Jezebel for worshipping false gods.
John the Baptist told the ruler, Herod Antipas, that he was wrong to divorce his wife, and for his boldness, John the Baptist lost his head.
It may not always be easy, but it is always best for a democracy if that nation is founded on faith in Yahweh, the God of the Bible, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we wander away from that faith, we put in peril our earthly livelihood and our eternal home.
As John F. Kennedy said, “This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.”
No wonder Daniel Webster said, “Whatever makes good Christians makes them good citizens.”
As Psalm 33:12 says, “Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh.”
(This guest blog is by my father, retired Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Robert H. Rogers, pictured here in 1969 with our family before he left for Vietnam, and as he looks today, with my mother. Here my Dad reflects upon Memorial Day through the harsh experiences of his first days as a chaplain in the Vietnam War. I appreciate my father’s service to our country. It was a great sacrifice for him and our family, as we spent a year apart from him while he was at war, and my mom had to take care of me, in the sixth grade, and my younger brother, Todd, and sister, Nancy. It was 1969-1970.)
I have many memories. Just a few days after I had arrived in Vietnam as a relatively young Army Chaplain, I was introduced to the reality of war. I flew out to a forward base in a helicopter and was dropped off with the expectation that I would come back to our base on the resupply helicopter later that day. But that helicopter never came because of a fire fight the company got into with a contingent of the North Vietnamese army. It was away from the compound where I and a few of the company waited. During this fight, the company commander and several others were killed. So after spending the night there I was asked to have a memorial service for those who had lost their lives. I did so even though I was totally unprepared both mentally and emotionally. That was the first of many memorial services I conducted during my year in Vietnam. I remember these and those who have died in all of our wars.
I also remember the sacrifice of those who fought but survived. I have some church friends who are veterans of Word War II. One of them spent about 24 hours floating with his life jacket after the ship he was on was shot out from under him. I remember his service and many others like him. I am grateful to them and to God for the free country we live in.
(This is a guest blog from my cousin, Brad Alford, shown here with his fiance, Laura Tucker. Brad is a Lieutenant in the United States Army, and veteran of Afghanistan. A big thanks to Brad for taking time to write his thoughts, and most of all for his service to our country.)
Memorial Day is definitely a day to sit and enjoy time with family. This is my first Memorial Day since my tour to Afghanistan. I can tell you that as a veteran now, holidays are much more special. Memorial Day is a day that is reserved for those who have fought but more importantly to me it is reserved for those who have died for our nation and its freedoms. I am currently out at a lake in Campbellsville, KY with my fiance and family. I couldn’t be happier than where I am at currently in my life. Holidays are important to enjoy with friends and family, but it is important to remember the reason for the holiday. Like Christmas, it is very much distorted sometimes into what is more convenient for everyone.
For me, Memorial Day is a day for me to spend time with family and friends, relax and take time away from the daily grind of work. Last year, I was in the middle of Kajran, Daykundi Province, Afghanistan. We were on a 2 day mission out to the district center to spread democracy and security for the locals. We would have weekly, sometimes bi weekly, shura’s about local security. No matter the pain of what I went through last year in Afghanistan, while a great sacrifice, pales in comparison to the ultimate sacrifice that those before me made and those after me will continue to make.