A solitary medical doctor urged his horse forward into the cold and foggy November night. Behind him lay the safety, warmth, and comfort of a fort. Ahead lay danger, mystery, and a long ride back to his isolated Presbyterian mission station called “Waiilatpu” – the place of rye grass. In the wee hours of the morning, Marcus Whitman rode into the mission compound at Waiilatpu. Ten years earlier, this had been a wilderness, inhabited only by wild beasts and wild men. Now there were cultivated fields, orchards, flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, and a gristmill. This clearing had come to represent a clash between two cultures. On one side of the clearing were the lodges of the Cayuse, where even now could be heard the muffled death wail of a bereaved Indian family. On the other side of the clearing were five covered wagons, a vivid picture of Westward expansion.
In the middle of these two cultures stood Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. Ten years ago, they had left their homes in rural New York to come into this wilderness with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some Cayuse had welcomed their influence, had abandoned their pagan ways, and had come to embrace Christianity. They had ceased their witchcraft, their murder, and the horrid practice of burying alive their unwanted children. These Cayuse had learned to cultivate the ground, to raise cattle, and to love their children. But some Cayuse had not appreciated the Whitmans’ sacrifice. Fear, resentment, and suspicion ran deep. In the last few weeks, muttered threats and secret pow-wows had broken out into open resentment. Indians were dying of a measles epidemic despite the best efforts of Marcus. It was a Cayuse custom to kill a “tewat” – medicine man, if his patient died. Marcus knew that the Indians also resented the growing influx of white men from the east. But Marcus could not change history. He could only do what he could to help the Indians adapt to a changing world.
Marcus dismounted at the T-shaped mission house. It was late, and Marcus was tired. But he sent his wife, Narcissa, to bed so that she could get some needed rest, her last on earth. Marcus took her place attending the sick children, white and red alike, who needed his aid through the rest of the night.
Perhaps a great flood of memories swept over Marcus that night. He recalled the day when he, as a young medical doctor sitting in a church in rural New York, first heard the missionary Samuel Parker tell of the tribes beyond the distant Rockies. He remembered the day that Narcissa Prentiss had agreed to become his wife. He remembered how, at their wedding, Narcissa had requested that the congregation sing the great missionary hymn, “Can I Leave You?” He remembered that, by the fifth verse, the song was stifled by sobs as his courageous bride sang alone this stanza:
In the deserts let me labor,
On the mountains let me tell,
How he died—the blessed Saviour
To redeem a world from hell!
Let me hasten, let me hasten,
Far in heathen lands to dwell.
They had already given so much. Narcissa, so young and eager, was already broken in health. Marcus too was worn with care and toil. And not far away, Alice Clarissa, their only child, rested in a shallow grave—drowned in the Walla Walla river at the tender age of two. The Whitmans had sacrificed wealth, home, family, friends, society, and their own health to come and labor here. But they still had one thing more they could give. The supreme test of their loyalty would come with the dawn of a new day.
The Whitman’s Mission
On November 29, 1847, a band of hostile Cayuse came to the main mission house, demanding medicine. Marcus had dealt with angry men before, and he hoped for the best. He could not deny their request and reached for his bag. One of the Cayuse warriors stepped behind Doctor Whitman, drew a concealed tomahawk from his belt, and slammed the blade into the base of the doctor’s skull. A shot was fired, and instantly all was confusion. Narcissa must have known what the gunshot meant. But she did not panic. Her first thought was not for herself, but for the little orphan girls of the Sager family who depended upon her. Bolting the door to her room, she gathered the children about her as a general massacre began outside. The fury of the murderers would not be restrained even by the sight of women and children. A gun was thrust into the window, and a bullet tore through Narcissa’s shoulder, wounding her severely.
Several of the immigrants from the east were slain in the yard. A ministerial student named Andrew Rogers, a descendant of Scottish Covenanters, could have escaped, but instead he ran toward the compound to defend the women and children and was mortally wounded in the process. With his life’s blood ebbing away, Andrew Rogers fought on. Getting Narcissa and the orphan girls upstairs into a loft, he kept the murderers at bay for over an hour with the broken end of a gun barrel. At last, the wounded Narcissa was lured out of the house by promises of safety. On the way out, she passed her husband lying in a pool of blood. Amazingly, he was yet alive. Their conversation was brief, but he assured her of his love for her and his confidence in God’s eternal purposes. As Narcissa came trustingly outside, a volley rang out and she was instantly pierced by several balls. She had given her all for the Cayuse. She had nursed the Indian children, taught them to read the Bible, taught them to pray, and to sing the name of Jesus. She had been faithful unto death, and now was to receive the crown of life.
The Death of Marcus Whitman
The massacre did not end with the killing of the Whitmans. All the able-bodied men the Indians were able to find were massacred. Helpless women and children were savagely abused and held ransom for almost a month. Finally, the women and children were saved after a thrilling rescue. After a search that took several years, justice was eventually served upon all of the murderers. Some of the murderers were tracked into the Blue Mountains by a Christian Nez Perce chief, and some of the guilty Cayuse were slain in battle. Five of the murderers, including the two men who personally slew Marcus and Narcissa, were brought to trial and convicted of capital murder by a jury that included converted Indians.
What became of the martyrdom of Doctor and Mrs. Whitman? Was their sacrifice in vain? Did a young doctor and his bride waste their potential when they went “far in heathen lands to dwell”?
The obscure mission station called Waiilatpu was obscure no more. Newspapers in the east were soon ablaze with the stirring account. In those days of slow mail, the newspaper was the way that relatives in New York first learned of the martyrdom. Judge Prentiss, as he read the headlines handed him by his grieving wife, must have remembered the image of his daughter, an eager young bride, singing:
In the deserts let me labor,
On the mountains let me tell,
How he died—the blessed Saviour
To redeem a world from hell!
A great wave of interest in missions swept across the United States in the coming years. Boys and girls, inspired by the courage of the Whitmans, took up the banner of Christ. Henry Spalding, a steadfast friend of the Whitmans who labored at Lapwai, a mission station east of Waiilatpu, returned to the field after the tragedy, reaping a great harvest that had been sown among the Cayuse and Nez Perce. A converted chief named Timothy became an earnest and dedicated Christian. Spalding’s church in Idaho still exists to this day as a testimony to the martyred missionaries.
In the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. stands a statue of Marcus Whitman, clad in buckskins. He holds a Bible in one hand, and saddlebags full of medical supplies in the other. His life and influence have not been in vain for Marcus and Narcissa served a God who has promised, “My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
Drawn from Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon by Clifford Drury
The Adventure – a replica of a colonial coastal trading vessel. These little ships were the mainstay of the American economy in the 1600’s.
#ship #adventure #charlestownelanding #schistory #earlyamericanhistory #maritime #sailing
It was the 4th of July in Boston. A middle-aged colonial leader stood on shore and looked out over a crowded Boston harbor. His countenance displayed a strange mingling of hope and despair. He was hopeful because of God’s recent manifest goodness, and he trusted that God would indeed prosper the cause of the colonists and establish a prosperous land where God’s Word was law. But he was also concerned. Only two days earlier he had lost a son. The harbor was filled with ships and he knew not the outcome of the hard struggles that lay ahead.
An important document had recently been drafted—a document that was vital to the prosperity of future Americans. But it was not the Declaration of Independence. Rather, it was a firm declaration of dependence upon the word of God.
On this 4th of July there were no gaudy fireworks filling the sky, no bands playing martial airs, no flags waving in the air, and no parades in the streets of Boston. The only sound that could be heard was the sound of psalms, the sound of praise rising from the ships where men, women, and children sang the songs of Zion. The scene is not 1776, but rather 1630. The ships that filled the harbor were the Puritan colonists who had come to Boston in the summer of 1630. The son who had recently died had not fallen on the battlefield, but had drowned as the boats landed. The important document recently written was the “Model of Christian Charity.” Its author, the leader overlooking Boston Harbor, was Governor John Winthrop. His struggle was not a struggle to preserve the rights of man, but a struggle to preserve the Law of God.
John Winthrop is one of the forgotten heroes of American history. His “Model of Christian Charity,” written on board the Arbella, sets forth the Puritan hopes of all that America would become as a “city set on a hill” – a model of righteousness based upon obedience to the Law of God. The civil ordinances of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were drawn directly from the Scripture, including the entire system of capital punishments given in the Old Testament and civil sanctions against blasphemy and idolatry.
The life of Winthrop is remarkable to read. Behind the image of the stern theonomic governor, we see a loving husband, a tender father, and a zealous Christian. His journal contains stirring accounts of wars, of religious controversies, and of plagues, but it also gives us a picture of the personal life of this remarkable man, and every Christian family should possess and read a copy of Winthrop’s journal. Winthrop lived to see a great deal of personal trials. He was widowed three times in life. A faithful son, already mentioned briefly, drowned just as the fleet of ships arrived in Boston. Winthrop narrates these things in his journal, always recognizing that “Jesus doeth all things well.” In his life, there were joys as well as troubles. Winthrop narrates with gratitude the time that God remarkably preserved two of his own small daughters when prompt obedience to their mother saved them from being crushed by a pile of logs. These accounts can be read in his journal.
It is sometimes hard for us to recognize that American history did not begin in 1776. The “founding fathers” of 1776 did not arise suddenly out of a historical vacuum. A century and a half transpired between the arrival of our Pilgrim and Puritan forefathers and the American Revolution. This period of 150 years between 1630 and 1780 is one of the most ignored and slighted periods of our history. As great as have been the differences between July 4 of 1776 and July 4 of 2016, just as great differences exist between the time of John Winthrop and Thomas Jefferson.
In fact, Governor Winthrop would have repudiated many of the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence. Governor Winthrop would have been shocked by the bold assertion “we hold these truths to be self-evident.” Many sincerely patriotic Christians quote these words without considering their real meaning. John Winthrop and the Puritans of his day would anathematize the very idea that any truth can be “self-evident.” To Winthrop, the only source of truth was the revealed Word of God.
Governor Winthrop would also protest the 1776 definition of the purpose of government. The Declaration of Independence states “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Again, many Christians quote these words blindly. Did God really ordain government for the purpose of securing human rights? Winthrop would maintain the Biblical view of the Reformers that governments were instituted by God for the punishment of evil and for the enforcement of the law of God.
Winthrop’s definition of liberty was very different from that held by modern Americans. True liberty is found only in dependence upon the Word of God. David says in Psalm 119:45, “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.” The Hebrew word for precepts here specifies the detailed Mosaic case laws of the Old Testament. Modern Christianity has repudiated these laws as the standard for truth.
In the 150 years that passed between 1630 and 1776, the Law of God was slowly and gradually abandoned. Rationalism replaced revelation. Human reason replaced divine law. We are still living with the devastating consequences of human autonomy.
Governor John Winthrop issued this warning, contrasting “natural liberty” and “lawful liberty.
I observe a great mistake in the country about liberty. The first kind of liberty, natural liberty, is common to man with beasts. By this, man as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he list. It is a liberty to do evil as well as good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint. The exercise of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts . . . If you stand for your own natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will murmur and oppose. But if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you in all the administrations of it for your good, wherein if we fail at any time, we hope we shall be willing, by God’s assistance, to hearken to good advice from any of you, or in any other way of God. So shall your liberties be preserved in upholding the honor and power of authority amongst you.
These words of Winthrop uphold the Biblical view that “lawful liberty” is found only in obedience to the will of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. It is not based upon rights, but rather upon duty. When this is understood, all questions of morality become crystal clear. Christians should not oppose abortion because babies have a “right to life.” Rather, we oppose abortion because God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” When we argue human rights, our enemies will take our own rationalistic argument and use it against us, demanding a right to worship as they please, a right to engage in immorality, and a right to speak and live as they choose. Winthrop again warns:
Beloved, there is now set before us life and good, death and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in His ways and to keep His Commandments and His Ordinance and His laws, and the Articles of our Covenant with Him that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land where we go to possess it.
Winthrop’s warning still stands true. If we as Christians will ever know again true liberty, we must know it in the terms of obedience to the Word of God. We must, with Governor John Winthrop, declare our dependence upon Divine Revelation.
The Journal of John Winthrop A Theological Interpretation of American History by C. Gregg Singer, published by Solid Ground Christian Books The Guise of Every Graceless Heart by Terrill Elniff, distributed by the Chalcedon Foundation
On March 6, 1776, this poem was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, as an advertisement to catch a young servant who had run away from his master:
This present instant, on the fourteenth day,
My apprentice boy did run away;
Thomas Stillenger he is called by name,
His indenture further testifies the same;
Small of his age, in his twelfth year,
My bargain of him has been very dear;
He has always been a vexatious lad,
One reason why he is so meanly clad;
Hat, shirt and breeches were almost new,
Sheeps russet stockings, and half worn shoes,
To describe the rest I am not inclin,
Cloth for a jacket he left behind;
Of apple pies with him he took but five,
For to preserve himself alive;
Three quarter dollars are missed of late,
Which perhaps he took to pay his freight;
Believe him not, if you be wise,
He is very artful in telling lies,
He is also guilty of another crime,
Of taking cloth from time to time,
And as he lived so far from sea,
Down Brandywine did it convey;
The freight whereof not being paid,
Sunk to the bottom and there it staid;
All which by chance is got again,
One piece doth only yet remain;
For which I whipt him, I thought severe,
But did no make him shed one tear.
Whoever doth him safely secure,
Of a reward they may be sure,
Six pence at least I do propose,
To give for him with all his clothes;
Or clear me of him for ever, and mine,
And his indenture away I will sign;
Now to inform you further still,
I keep a saw and fulling mill;
In East Fallowfield township and Chester county is the place of my abode,
I subscriber my name unto the same, and that is William Moode.
400 years ago today the Indian Pocahontas married John Rolfe of Jamestown, Virginia. She was the daughter of Powhatan, the native chief in the area. She was baptized and took on the name Rebecca. She and John Rolfe had one son. Rebecca Rolfe died of an illness contracted in England within three years.
The water front of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English speaking settlement in the New World, is dominated by a statue of Captain John Smith – adventurer, world traveler, soldier, explorer, and the man who made that settlement possible.