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There’s a Divinity that Shapes Our Ends

John Adams: There’s a Divinity that Shapes Our Ends

John Adams 9LIBERTY LETTERS, 1776

Daniel Webster records that in 1776, while some men vacillated as to Independence, John Adams, the “Voice of the Declaration,” arose and stirred the hearts of his countrymen with these immortal words:

Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. But there’s a Divinity which shapes our ends. . . . Why, then, should we defer the Declaration? . . . You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die; die Colonists, die slaves, die, it may be, ignominiously and on the scaffold.

Be it so. Be it so.

If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready. . . . But while I do live, let me have a country, or at least the hope of a country, and that a free country.

But whatever may be our fate, be assured . . . that this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood; but it will stand and it will richly compensate for both.

Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and illuminations. On its annual return they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude and of joy.

Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence now, and Independence forever.

Source: The Works of Daniel Webster, 4th ed., 1:133–:36 Adams speech was delivered before the Continental Congress.

Liberty Letters is a project of The Moral Liberal’s, Editor in Chief, Steve Farrell.

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111– April 21 – This Day in Baptist History


Ordination of “Colored” Billy Harriss


The history of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, records the fact that “colored deacons were elected, whose duty it was to watch over slave and free Negro members.  According to custom, the church licensed certain colored men who, by consecration and aptitude, seemed best fitted to ‘exercise their spiritual gifts in public.’ “ At least fifteen years prior to William Carey’s sailing for India, George Lisle, the “first ordained Baptist Negro in America,” went to Jamaica as a missionary. Lott Carey, member of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, purchased his and his children’s freedom for eight hundred and fifty dollars in 1813. Carey, along with Collin Teague, sailed in 1821 for Liberia and established the First Baptist Church in Monrovia. Prior to the Civil War, Abraham Marshall, pastor at Kiokee, ordained Andrew Bryan in Savannah.  It was prior to the Civil War that John Jasper was saved and sent by his “master” to preach the gospel.  However, the church minutes prior to the Civil war always alluded to blacks as “belonging to . . . “ and the name of the “master” followed. After the Civil War, the minutes named the black and then stated, “formerly the property of . . . .”   Following the Civil War, as before, blacks were still ordained into the gospel ministry. On April 21, 1867, we read from the Kiokee minutes:  “The Baptist Church of Christ at Kiokee met and proceeded to the ordination of Brother Billy Hariss, colored, to preach the Gospel.


Dr. Dale R. Hart Adapted from:  This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, p. 162



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Some of these pastors were former slaves
 The Ogeechee Baptist Church was formed in Savannah, Georgia on Jan. 02, 1803 with 250 members which was the third black Baptist church instituted in America.  The first black Baptist church in America was the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, the results of the ministry of Abraham Marshall and Jesse Peter ((black), who instituted the Kiokee Baptist Church in Appling, GA.  The pastor at Savannah was George Lisle (black), who eventually went as a missionary to Jamaica.  Some of these pastors were former slaves, like Lisle and John Jasper who had been given freedom by their masters.  However, when Rev. Henry Cunningham was called to the First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia (the sixth black church in America), his master wouldn’t release him.  Henry had been a deacon in the 2nd Baptist church in Savannah (black) and later served as its pastor before being called to the Philadelphia church.  Some members asked his master to let him go north to raise money to purchase his freedom but his master refused without surety, but there was no way that Henry could provide such a sum.  But thank God, two faithful members of 2nd church, who were free-born, stepped forward and gave themselves into servitude as surety for Henry.  The money was raised, the men were released and joined their beloved pastor in Philadelphia and formed the nucleus of the First African Baptist Church in Philadelphia.  “Greater love hath no man than this…”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. IIII: Cummins /, pp. 3-4.

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“…whatever be the consequences, I will speak.”

November 15, 1845 – Jacob Knibb, died after only four days of illness with the yellow fever. Over 8,000 assembled on the Island of Jamaica for the memorial service, because Knibb, known as “the lion-hearted” and having been exposed to the severest trials, had been the major instrument to bring spiritual and bodily liberty to the slaves. Opposition to knibb had come from the Roman and English clergy, the planters, the civil authorities and the soldiers. Knibb bravely met and conquered all his adversaries. Upon his departure from Bristol, England, his invalid mother sat at a window early one morning, watching her Baptist missionary son depart for the West Indies. Having bade farewell, she called him back and said, “Remember, William, I would rather hear that you perished at sea, than that you had disgraced the cause you go to serve.” With this admonition ringing in his heart, he arrived in Jamaica and was brought face to face with the horrors of slavery. His whole manhood revolted and he vowed that he would not rest until freedom was obtained. He wrote home, “The cursed blast of slavery has, like a pestilence, withered almost every moral bloom…” He also reported that the prayer meeting at 6 am every Wednesday. morning was attended by nearly a 1,000 slaves. Knibb was thrown into prison and was charged with inciting the slaves to rebellion. He declined to leave the island, though a way of escape was offered him. At last the Attorney General declared that there was no case against him. He returned to England on a holy crusade only to find that the missionary committee regarded slavery as a political question and required their representatives to remain silent on the subject. Knibb responded. “…whatever be the consequences, I will speak.” And speak he did. On July 31, 1838, 14,000 adult slaves and 5,000 children were liberated.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins /Thompson/, pp. 475-76.

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