Saturday, February 07, 2015

JOHN JASPER - ORDINARY MAN, EXTRAORDINARY GOD
...the great slave preacher

February is traditionally known as black history month. While some in our society unfortunately use it to play what has commonly become known as "the race card", as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can 'redeem' it by honoring one of the Lord's servants.

By God's grace, all who are Christ's were granted saving faith to salvation being reconciled to God through the once for all atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. And for that reason, He has also given us "the ministry of reconciliation" (proclaiming His gospel; urging all men everywhere to repent and follow Christ - 2 Cor. 5:17ff). Therefore, the powerful reality for the Christian, is that racism should not exist in the body of Christ. Why? God has chosen before the foundation of this world and marked out for Himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. In the church beloved, "there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian nor Scythian, slave nor free; but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:11). Amen? i would like to introduce you to the life and ministry of John Jasper (1812 – 1901).
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"If you is, what you was, then you ain’t."
-John Jasper, on genuine salvation must bear the fruit of a changed life.

"I have finished my work. I am waiting at the river, looking across for further orders." -John Jasper's last words.

John Jasper was born on July 4th in 1812. He was an African-American preacher, philosopher, and orator. He grew up in Fluvanna County, Virginia, the youngest of 24 children. He became a Christian on the July 4th 1839 in Capital Square of Richmond, Virginia. Tina, Jaspers mother - a godly woman, prayed that God would make her son a preacher as his father had been. For many years it seemed those prayers would not be answered. John had no interest in spiritual things. He had fallen in love with a girl from a neighboring plantation and been given permission to marry her. But on the day of their wedding, a slave uprising caused their masters to separate them, and John never saw her again. In bitterness he descended into evil living.

John was rebellious and constantly in trouble with his owners. It was while he was at work in a tobacco warehouse in 1839 that Jasper, stricken with "God's arrow of conviction," prayed and asked God to save him. Thirty days after his baptism in 1840, he was licensed to preach by the Old African Baptist Church, and he didn't stop for more than sixty years!
"My sins was piled on me like mountains; my feet was sinking down to the regions of despair, and I felt that of all sinners I was the worst. I thought that I would die right then, and with what I supposed was my last breath I flung up to heaven a cry for mercy..."
He was baptized in 1849 and on the same day, he preached a funeral, which immediately brought him fame. He taught himself to read and write, and although he delivered his sermons in the dialect of the southern slave, more educated ministers said that Jasper's vivid and dramatic sermons transcended "mere grammar."

One of the great Slave preachers, Jasper became a noted funeral preacher long before the Civil War. Noted for his fervid zeal, gifted imagery, and colorful oratory, as a speaker Jasper was much in demand. He preached in many sections of Virginia and adjoining states. During his August vacation, he conducted famous all-day camp meetings in the country. Sunday after Sunday he could be seen leading his flock to be baptized in the James River. He was known to have baptized as many as 300 people in four hours. He reached the height of his aspiration in 1867 when he organized the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church. He gained national distinction in 1878 when he first preached his famed "DE SUN DO MOVE" sermon, which he later delivered by invitation more than 250 times, and once before the entire Virginia General Assembly. This sermon was his effort to prove through biblical references that the sun revolves around the earth. Black men were not allowed to preach in regular churches in those days unless supervised by white ministers. But Jasper's pointed and powerful messages soon drew a growing crowd, black and white, to hear him preach.

The Third Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia asked Jasper to preach twice a month, and other churches noticed a decline in their attendance on those Sundays. During the closing days of the Civil War, Jasper was asked to preach to the Confederate soldiers in the hospitals around Richmond. When the war ended, Jasper continued to preach.

Life never proceeded smoothly for Jasper. In addition to the problems inherent in being a black man in the post-war South, he endured jealous colleagues, failed marriages, and worldwide ridicule of his religious beliefs. But, he persisted. More than that, he triumphed. His congregation had swelled into the thousands, more than one third of whom were white.

In March of 1901, John Jasper preached to his congregation for the last time on the subject, "Ye Must Be Born Again." He urged his people to prepare for death, which he knew was coming soon for him. At his funeral, Dr. Hatcher said, "Every motion of his was made to exalt the Lord of his life." At his funeral, Reverend Hatcher delivered the eulogy, calling him "a prince of his tribe." Jasper is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, which also is the final resting place of tennis great Arthur Ashe.

In 1867 he founded the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond. The church began with nine members. Fifteen years later there were more than 1,000 members, and at his death they numbered nearly 2,000. Sixth Mount Zion, the church he founded in 1867, is thriving today.

Source: here; here; and here.

13 comments:

donsands said...

Very encouraging. Look forward to seeing this brother in glory.

Matthew2323 said...

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."
(I Corinthians 1:25-31)

Oh, Lord we beseech Thee for a bold army of the ‘foolish’ and the ‘weak’ to Your honor and glory!

littlegal_66 said...

The church began with nine members. Fifteen years later there were more than 1,000 members, and at his death they numbered nearly 2,000.

How inspiring! No gimmicks, no added bells & whistles......just a simple, zealous man of God boldly proclaiming His word from the pulpit.

From the "De Sun Do Move," sermon:
"I fears I do lie sometimes-I'm so sinful, I find it hard ter do right; but my Gord doan't lie an' He ain' put no lie in de Book uv eternal truf, an' if I giv you wat de Bible say, den I boun' ter tell de truf."

So aware of his humanness, his weaknesses; so firm in the authority of God's word.

It would've been wonderful to have been able to hear this brother and gifted communicator preach, if only one sermon.

~Mark said...

Thank you brother Steve.

Carla Rolfe said...

"If I give you what the Bible says, then I'm bound to tell the truth".

Amen to that. What a great treat it was to step back in time and read this today.

RonaldJ said...

AMEN! Thanks for sharing this Steve. Never heard of John Jasper before today & I'm much better off for reading this.
Soli Deo Gloria!

R W S said...

This man was so open about his own weaknesses and sins but looked to Christ for his justification and his sanctification . Yes he struggled with sin but he fought it and honored the Savior with his honesty and struggle . God that we would have more like this dear brother. What a encouragement to my soul . Thanks Steve. RWS

Andrew Jones said...

LOVE church history. thanks for this story. hope that tornado missed you and your house. i thought of you when i heard the news.

Detoured By Travel said...

I don't mean to parrot others here, but many thanks for this.

I am reminded that I must continue to hold my own (personally obtainable) righteousness in contempt, and hold only to the righteousness that is obtainable in God through Christ.

Kurt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurt said...

Thank you! I wish that today's preachers were true slaves to Christ and winning the lost, instead of slaving for popularity, wealth, bigger buildings or increased attendance in their sanctuaries.

Thank God for a man like John Jasper.

PDS said...

I had never heard of John Jasper either. Good read.

Steve Martin said...

Our Lord surely uses sinners for His perfect will.

Thank you!