As I was doing my daily biographical reading the other day (something I would highly recommend to every Christian to humble us and keep us grounded on the fact that even the best of theologians are dependent on the Holy Spirit to illumine Scripture to themDavid Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference. The Puritans, Their Origins And Successors: Addresses Delivered At the Puritan And Westminster Conferences 1959-1978. Edinburgh … Continue reading I was struck with the amazing biographical sketch of Andrew Marshall (1755-1856) William Buell Sprague, 1795-1876. Annals of the American Baptist Pulpit, Or, Commemorative Notices of Distinguished Clergymen of the United States: From the Early Settlement of the Country to the … Continue reading.
Andrew Marshal was the Pastor of First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA from 1806-1856. He was well known for his great age, being over one-hundred when he died. Marshall had twenty children by his two marriages. He was separated from his first wife when his master, Governor Houston, died. Governor Houston had bequeathed his freedom in his will on account of Marshall having saved his life, but the executors of the will failed to carry this out and he was sold again. He ran away before the decision could be carried out but was subsequently caught and sold to Judge Clay. He was President George Washington’s personal body servant and driver when he came to visit Savannah. He was later sold to Mr. Bolton with the view of effecting his emancipation by advancing him $200 to pay for himself and his whole family.
He began to preach shortly after his conversion. Soon after he assumed the pastorate at Second Baptist Church the congregation grew to about a thousand colored members and over time grew to some three thousand, at which time it was thought best to divide them and he became pastor of the First African Baptist Church, where he remained until his death.
Reverend J. P Tunstin, D.D, who served as Mr. Marshall’s legal security to meet the ordinances of the state and municipality for colored ministers (and was thus intimately associated with him throughout his ministry), says:
The bent and tone of Mr. Marshall’s mind, was of the old Calvinistic order. His clear intellect was equal to the best distinctions in Theology; and though he was rather too fond of sometimes saying in public that he never had a day’s learning in his life, yet he had much of the discipline which every superior mind acquires and asserts for itself, by the very necessity and outgrowth of self-education for every mind that is truly educated, when we look at the last analysis, educates itself.
He owned a considerable number of books; and among those evidently the most used, were Dr. Gill’s Commentaries. In his treatment of a subject in some of his pulpit performances, there was observable the grasp of a mind which would be deservedly called great.
Reverend John M. Krebs, D.D., a Presbyterian minister, recalls the following of his visit to Mr. Marshall’s church:
On a certain Lord’s day, in May, 1855, I was in Savannah, on my way to the General Assembly. After preaching in the morning for the late Rev. Dr. Preston, then the Pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church, I attended in the afternoon, in company with a respected Ruling Elder of the First Presbyterian Church, and several other Christian friends, who were lodging at the same hotel with me, the worship in the African Baptist Church, which was under the pastoral care of Mr. Marshall, celebrated for his great age, his protracted evangelical labours, and his genuine Christian eloquence. On entering the Church, which was a neat substantial structure, accommodating, as I supposed, from eight hundred to a thousand persons, we were conducted to the pews reserved for white visiters (sic), in the middle tier, (immediately in front of the pulpit,) which were occupied by some twenty or twenty-five white persons. The house was crowded in every part with coloured people, whose neat and appropriate dress and decorous behaviour could not be surpassed by any congregation. It happened to be their Communion service, and the exercises were just beginning with a hymn, which was nobly read by the Pastor, and nobly sung by the people. The venerable minister was seated under the pulpit, only a few feet from us. His locks were gray with age, but his form was apparently hale and robust, though the furrows were in his cheeks. As he rose to offer prayer, he steadied himself upon his cane, while gradually he attained an erect position, every feature and every limb trembling, it may be not more with the weight of years than with powerful emotion. The prayer, uttered with clear articulation and with a strong voice, was somewhat long, but it was rich with Christian thought and feeling, appropriate in expression, and attracting the sympathy of the worshippers. The aged man of God proceeded with an address bearing upon the special service in which we were engaged. He made a modest remark in reference to his own illiteracy; but, although there was here and there a quaintness and homeliness of expression, neither out of place nor out of taste, — which, nevertheless, I could not here repeat without exciting a smile, it was not for a moment deficient in force or devotion, nor left any other impression than that of deep and tender solemnity. And if the preacher modestly estimated his own ability, it was clear to his hearers that he was “a man of one book,” mighty in the Scriptures, and taught of God. The subject of his address was the indispensable importance of the death of Christ, and the astonishing results which it accomplished. There might occasionally seem to be, to a very fastidious critic, a slight incoherence or fragmentary observation; but it was not so; there was a clear, full, consistent vein of thought running throughout the whole.
I do not attempt to give more than a specimen of his utterance. Referring to the promise of the Saviour’s coming couched in the declaration, — “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come,” he said: “My beloved brethren, when I read this promise, my poor trembling heart sometimes sinks within me. The Lord shall be revealed in all the grace and glory of the Redeemer and the King; but these aged eyes of mine will not continue their sight until that day. I am a hundred years old, and these tottering limbs of mine shall be laid in the dust long ere that bright vision shall gladden the face of his redeemed people. But I check myself and rebuke my impatient fear. Do I not read in his sure promise that, though I sleep in the dust of the earth, I shall lose nothing of the perfect grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, even because He shall lose nothing of all that the Father hath given Him, for He shall raise it up at the last day. My dead body shall arise in the vigour and immortality wherein it shall be fashioned like the glorified body of Jesus. And these dull ears shall hear the archangel’s trump, and these dim eyes shall see the King in his glory, as clearly and to as good advantage as any that shall be alive and remain upon the earth to hail that glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ!” Could any thing have been more inspiriting, more adapted to rouse up the faith and hope of the believer?
Again, in allusion to the plotting of the great adversary to destroy Christ, he said: — “At last he succeeded. He was nailed to his cross in agony and shame. Satan had bruised his heel, and thought that he had crushed his head. The fool! It was his own head that was broken then, and he has been a fool ever since; and the proof of all his wicked madness and folly in compassing the death of Christ became apparent. It was Christ that triumphed then, and spoiled the spoiler. The thief was rescued from the kingdom of darkness. The Heathen Centurion acknowledged the Son of God. His death multiplied his disciples. The thousands of Pentecost bowed before the salvation of the cross. Myriads upon myriads, that no man can number, have been delivered from the kingdom of Satan, and translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. That great salvation has made its way through the world; its blessed fruits are gathered abundantly on these Western shores. Our skins are dark, but our souls are washed white in the blood of the Lamb. Nor is He the propitiation for our sins only. My brethren, the time was in this city, and through this Southern country, when you would scarcely ever see the face of our white masters in a house of prayer; but how is it now? How many of those to whom we are subject in the flesh, have recognised our common Master in Heaven, and they are our masters no longer. They are fellow-heirs with us of the grace of life. They sit with us at the same table of our common Lord. They are our friends, our brethren, our guardians, our fathers; and we are travelling together to that blessed land where we shall dwell together in the presence of Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.“
Who could but be affected with such stirring Gospel eloquence; and my only regret was this — when the old man was surrounded by the Deacons, some ten in number, — a body of fine looking men, — the most of them intensely black, to receive from him the elements for distribution, I felt a pang, because I supposed the Baptist principle of Close Communion would exclude me from sharing in that feast of love. But this apprehension was quickly dissipated. Before proceeding to distribute, the aged servant of God announced that that was not a Baptist table, but Christ’s table, and that all who loved Him were welcome there. And when the bread and wine were handed round, first to the white occupants of the pews, all of whom appeared to be communicants in Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, and perhaps Episcopal, Churches, and then to the six hundred coloured communicants, — as devout and tender as any congregation I ever saw, — I declare to you that never did I administer these emblems of my Saviour’s love, nor never did I receive them from the hands of other ministers of Christ, with whatsoever canonical or apostolical authority ordained, with greater joy than I received them, that day, from the trembling hands of that poor, bowed down, weeping negro minister of Jesus Christ.
The service continued about two hours and a half, consisting variously of hymns, prayers, reading the Scriptures, and exhortation; and it was all conducted by Mr. Marshall. But it was not long, nor tedious. It was refreshment by the way, and food and strength for many days. And when, at the close, as the assembly orderly broke up, yet seeming loth to part with each other, I went forward to introduce myself to this aged father, I could rejoice, as speaking through tears, with steady, cheerful voice and happy heart, we exchanged the mutual prayer that it might be ours, with all the Israel of God, at our next probable meeting, to sit down together with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, at the marriage supper, when the Lamb Himself shall preside.
This is true ethnic reconciliation that only the blood of Jesus Christ can accomplish. No schemes of man, whether political or academic (including so-called critical race theory), can accomplish this. Only hearts changed by the blood of Jesus Christ can become one body with him as the head. No longer concerned about the dividing lines of Jew and Gentile, dark skin or light skin, male or female, but only seeing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and looking forward to the multiethnic celebration when people of all nations, tribes and tongue will gather around the throne to worship the one who alone is able to turn the sinful hearts of fallen men to want to love their neighbor as themselves. Andrew Marshall’s faith allowed him to be an overcomer rather than a victim and to strive for unity and reconciliation through Christ rather than dwelling on division. These men found their common identity in Christ alone which allowed them to love each other and worship together.
May we strive to focus on the only solution to ethnic division, the gospel, and not look to the schemes of man or political parties to solve what can only be solved by God giving us a new heart of flesh to replace the old heart of stone. Then we can perform the good works that were prepared for us; loving our neighbor as ourself and realizing that we are all truly one race the human race. We are all descended from Adam, both physically and spiritually, so we all need the same Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us focus on our gospel rights today rather than our civil rights, and thank the God of Heaven that he was gracious enough to save us from all our sins, including ethnic discrimination (racism).ruin
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|↑1||David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference. The Puritans, Their Origins And Successors: Addresses Delivered At the Puritan And Westminster Conferences 1959-1978. Edinburgh [Scotland]: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987,44. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, “Well, if I may say so with humility, the thing that has been of the greatest help to me has been to balance theological reading with the reading of biographies… Having read … some theological work … in the morning I felt before lunch that I was quite a considerable man, and that I had a great deal of knowledge which I would be able to display to others. There I was! But I remember very well … when I first stumbled across Jonathan Edwards in 1928… I soon discovered that you cannot read a page of Jonathan Edwards without feeling very small indeed. It completely corrected what had been happening in the morning. The best antidote to the poison of false knowledge is to read a biography like that of Jonathan Edwards or Whitefield or Fletcher or Medeley.|
|↑2||William Buell Sprague, 1795-1876. Annals of the American Baptist Pulpit, Or, Commemorative Notices of Distinguished Clergymen of the United States: From the Early Settlement of the Country to the Close of the Year Eighteen Hundred And Ninety-five: With an Historical Introduction. New York: R. Carter, 1860, 251-264.|