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The historic incidents, having an uplifting influence that occurred among the Choctaw Freedmen of Indian Territory, from the time of their first instruction in the Bible to the establishment and present development of Oak Hill Industrial Academy, when briefly summarized, seem like a reproduction on a miniature scale of those greater events that occurred among the Christian nations of Europe and America preceding the adoption of their systems of public instruction.
Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury, a generous hearted missionary to the Indians, having charge of a Church building at Doaksville, encourages the slaves in the vicinity to meet in it occasionally on Sabbath afternoons, for the purpose of receiving instruction in the Bible and shorter catechism.
This Bible instruction does not result in the organization of a Church at that place, but opportunity is given for the manifestation and development of the religious instinct of a number of persons, amongst whom there are two young men, who were destined later to become influential leaders among the enslaved people whom they represented.
After their emancipation, one locates on the west bank of the Kiamichi river and later becomes known as Parson Stewart, the organizer and circuit rider of a sufficient number of Churches, at the time of his decease in 1896, to form the Presbytery of Ki a mich i.
The other, accompanied by several personal friends, migrates fifteen miles eastward and founds a home in the Oak Hill neighborhood. In the course of a short time he is visited by the parson and his home becomes a house of worship, where a Church is organized and Henry Crittenden is ordained as its ruling elder.
A Sunday school for Bible instruction follows the establishment of public worship, and two years later it is followed by the establishment of a week-day school, for the benefit of all the children and youth in the neighborhood. Eight years later, when the trained missionary teacher arrives, the inspiration of a new life is infused into the Church and Sunday school, and the week-day school becomes an important industrial academy, where the Bible is the basis of the moral and religious instruction. In 1905 they receive an allotment of lands that they may become independent owners of their own homes. In 1908 statehood brings the rural public school and in 1912, an intelligent Freedman is entrusted with the management of the Industrial Academy, Church and farm.
This sequence of events includes the dark period of slavery and illiteracy followed by instruction in the Bible, the light of the world; the development of the native preacher of the gospel as a leader, the organization of the Church, followed by the Sunday school, the week-day school, the academy, normal, public school and finally a native superintendent of the academy and independent ownership of land.
The Dark Ages
The period from the 8th to the 12th centuries of the Christian era has been classed by historians as the “Dark Ages” of the world, because of the general prevalence in Europe of ignorance, superstition and barbarism. Some of the leading events that occurred during this gloomy period, immediately following the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, tended almost wholly to check the spread of intelligence and the prosperity of the people, rather than to promote their welfare. The Scriptures were neglected and the clergy as well as the people became worldly, ignorant, selfish and superstitious.
The Saracens And Normans
These unfavorable events included, at the beginning of this period, the invasion of Palestine and southern Europe including Spain, its most western state, by the Mohammedans of Arabia, often called Saracens and Infidels, who were fanatically inflamed with a passion to destroy with the sword all the people of the world, who would not obey Mohammed, their prophet. During the next century Germany, Britain, Holland and France, then called Gaul, were ruthlessly invaded by conquering hordes of the adventurous and barbarous Normans, who came from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, countries north of the Baltic Sea.
The Crusaders Or Cross-Bearers
These invasions were followed by the period of the Crusaders, 1096 to 1271, when as many as seven great armies or multitudes of people were assembled at the call of the popes, and wearing crosses on their shoulders, marched through the intervening countries to Palestine. Their object was to rescue the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre from the infidels. The first crusade was organized in France, and it enlisted an army of 800,000. Godfrey, duke of Lorraine, was placed in command, and the multitude was arranged for the march in three divisions. Peter, the hermit, a wrong-headed monk, was appointed leader of the first division and experienced an inglorious and irreparable defeat on the way. Godfrey, after the siege and conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, was chosen King to rule over Palestine and the holy city, as his kingdom. At the time of his coronation he made the noble remark, that,
“He could not bear the thought of wearing a crown of gold in that city, where the King of Kings had been crowned with thorns.”
The brave soldier and manly man, who gave expression to this noble sentiment, died the next year.
Under weak and unskillful chiefs the crusaders while on the way wandered about like undisciplined bands of robbers, plundering cities, committing the most abominable enormities, and spreading misery and desolation where-ever they passed. There was no kind of insolence, injustice and barbarity of which they were not guilty. The seven successive crusades drained the wealth of the fairest provinces and caused the loss of a prodigious number of people.
Those of the first crusade that remained in Palestine were divided by sordid ambition and avarice, and in 1187 Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria, the most valiant chief of the Mohammedan warriors, recaptured Jerusalem and subsequent crusaders were not able to regain it.
First Rays Of Light
The first rays of light, that serve to dispel the darkness of prevailing night, may be briefly summarized in the following leading events.
In 901 Alfred the Great, king of England, founds a seminary at Oxford to promote the study of sacred literature. Later it becomes a university, the first one in Europe, and it is still distinguished as one of the greatest institutions in the world for publishing the Scriptures in a form suited for the use of preachers and Christian teachers. Two centuries later the second university is founded at Cambridge, England.
About 1170 Peter Waldo of Lyons, France, committing to memory such portions of the Scriptures as he could obtain, and taking for his favorite saying, the command of our Lord to the rich youth, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me,” commences to preach the gospel, as the Apostles had done, in the homes of the people and in their market places. As he attracts followers, who also commit portions of the Scriptures, he sends them out like the seventy, two and two, to preach the Word of God. They are called Waldenses, after the name of their leader, and oppose corrupt doctrines and practices with the plain truths of the Word of God. They oppose the crusades, as fanatical expeditions on the part of those who were not Jews, and therefore were unjust and unlawful. They insist the Church consists not merely of the clergy or priests, but includes the whole family of believers.
The advocacy of these principles and by laymen, causes them to be excommunicated, then anathematized and finally to be condemned by a council at Rome in 1179. Peter Waldo, their leader, flees from land to land, preaching as he goes and dies in Bohemia in 1197.
In 1215, King John of England, yielding to the insistent demand of the barons, issued the Magna Charta, (Great Charter) the first grant of English constitutional liberty, pledging the right of trial by jury and protection of life, liberty and property from unlawful deprivation. It is immediately denounced by the pope, Innocent III, who absolves the king from all obligation to keep the pledges therein expressed and solemnized by the royal oath.
In 1366 John Wiclif, a graduate of Oxford and member of the English Parliament, presents to that body indisputable reasons, why, without the approval of the Parliament, not even the king of England could make their lands subject to a tax claimed by a foreign sovereign, representing the papacy. As a religious leader, he instructs his followers, called “poor priests,” to pass from village to village and city to city, and to preach, admonish and instruct the people in “God’s Law.” He accomplishes the translation of the Latin Vulgate into the English of his day, that his countrymen might have the Scriptures in their own language.
Charles V, king of France, has the scriptures translated into the French language, for the enlightenment of his people.
During this 14th century seventeen universities are founded and they include the one at Geneva in Switzerland, Heidelberg in Germany and Prague in Bohemia.
The Morning Star
In 1401 John Huss of Bohemia, the Morning Star or John Baptist of the Reformation, appears as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” His mother, left a widow in early life, gave him to the service of the Lord as he lay in the cradle, and later, like Hannah of old, took him to the school at Prague.
Lincoln University, Chester County, Pa.
When he became a preacher he found the Lord’s vineyard a desert, the ministers of religion, the priests, ignorant, worldly and dissolute, and the popes of that period no better than the priests. The people, designedly chained to the basest superstitions and following the example of their leaders, have cast aside the restraints of chastity and morality. His heart touched with pity at the sight of the religious destitution of the people, his anger, like that of Moses “waxed hot” against those, who should have given them the gospel of their salvation. Encouraged by the example of Wiclif to make known the truth, he affirms the supreme authority of the scriptures proclaims against the abuse of the clergy and endeavors to regenerate the religious life of both priests and people. His glowing zeal for the honor of God and the Church move the people in a way until then unknown; but the priests, unwilling to reform or longer endure his piercing protests, falsely accuse him of heresy. In 1416, after fifteen years of self denying and heroic service, he is condemned at Constance and suffers martyrdom at the stake. A century later Luther, who imbibed his heroic spirit, said of him, “The gospel we now have was born out of the blood of John Huss.”
The First Printed Bible
The art of printing is invented and the Vulgate, a Latin Bible, is the first book printed. It is issued in 1450 and is printed on a hand press at Mentz, Germany. Previous to this event and date all books were in the form of costly manuscripts and their number could be increased, only one copy at a time, by penmen called copyists.
The mariners compass is invented and in 1492 Columbus discovers America, and thirty years later Magellan sails around the world.
During this 15th century the universities of Glasgow and St. Andrews are founded in Scotland, Mentz and eighteen others, on the continent.
“Arise, shine, for thy Light is Come.”
In 1517, Martin Luther, the apostle of the German nation, a man of learning and undaunted courage, whose equal had not been known since the days of Paul, appears as the valiant and steadfast leader of the Reformation in Germany. In 1530 he becomes the founder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and aided by Melancthon, succeeds in translating and giving to the German people the Bible in their own language, and in preparing the Augsburg confession that has since served as a standard of faith and bond of union for the Lutheran Churches in Europe and America.
Emotion and imaginative piety have become the hand-maids of superstition; and patriotism, lacking courage, has covered its face. He writes hymns and patriotic songs that inspire the German heart with loyalty to the truth and devotion to their Fatherland.
In 1527, John Calvin, a man of great learning and glowing eloquence with burning zeal for the honor of his Master, appears as the leader of the Reformation in France, but nine years later, joins Farrel, the successor of the zealous but fallen Zwingli, in Switzerland, and becomes head of the university at Geneva. He secures the adoption of a constitution, that gave and also limited the authority of the Church to spiritual, and of the state to temporal matters; and thus prepares the way for the separation anew of Church and state, and the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty.
Educated for the priesthood, he is assigned a parish and there obtained a copy of the Scriptures. When he discovered the erroneous teaching and practices of the Church of Rome, he resigns his charge and completes a course in law and another in theology in the University of Paris. He becomes a man void of fear and is borne onward on the wings of a living faith. Following the example of Paul in his letters to the Churches, and of Augustine, bishop of Hippo (391-446) in North Africa, he undertakes to state in a systematic form the great facts and doctrines of the Bible, as one of the best means of opposing and overcoming prevailing errors and corrupt practices in Church and state.
He feels the Spirit of God moving him to blazon triumphantly, the thought of God’s sovereignty and man’s utter dependency, in order to dash in pieces the prevalent self righteousness. His writings, by emphasizing the supreme authority of the Divine Word, have tended to raise the moral standard of individuals and communities, and by emphasizing the moral law, to lessen the distinction between the “sins” of the Bible and “crimes” of the civil law. Their tendency has been to make the moral law the rule for states as well as persons.
Presbyterianism, or government of the Church by ruling elders and presbyters as in the apostolic period, and Republicanism, government by representatives, are advocated with transcendent ability, and success. After the death of Luther in 1546, Calvin exerts a great influence over the thinking men of that notable period in Switzerland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, England and Scotland. The young preachers, sent out from the university at Geneva, establish 2,150 reformed congregations in these countries, and in 1564, the last year of his life, the confession of the reformed Churches in France is officially recognized by the state.
An ardent and effective friend of civil liberty, he makes the city of his adoption the nursery of a pure, noble civilization; and the little republic of Geneva becomes the sun of the European world. Animated by his example and principles, William, prince of Orange, in 1580, establishes the Dutch Republic in Holland, and it becomes “the first free nation to put a girdle of empire around the world.”
Bancroft, the historian, in summarizing the influences that contributed to American Independence makes this creditable reference to Calvinism.
“We are proud of the free states that fringe the Atlantic. The Pilgrims of Plymouth were Calvinists; the best influences in South Carolina came from the Calvinists of France. William Penn was a disciple of the Huguenots; the ships from Holland, that in 1614 brought the first colonists to Manhattan (New York), were filled with Calvinists. He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American Liberty.”
In 1530 Henry VIII aided by William Tyndale, the new translator of the New Testament and Pentateuch, and in 1547 Edward VI, his successor, promote the establishment of the Reformation in England. A change of rulers in 1553 leads to the martyrdom of Archbishop Cranmer, bishops, Latimer and Ridley, and of John Rogers, the zealous reformer-four of the noblest men England ever produced.
It was the noble-hearted, youthful Tyndale who, when he came to perceive that the Word of God was the gift of God to all mankind and all had a right to read it, that declared to one of the clergy opposing him, “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do.”
In 1560, John Knox, a pupil of Calvin, establishes the Reformation in Scotland and under his leadership the Church of Scotland from the first adopts the system of doctrines and the forms of worship and of government established at Geneva.
Huguenots of France
In 1557, Admiral Coligny, taken prisoner at the battle of St. Quentin, is confined at Gaud in Spain. Securing a copy of the Scriptures he reads it, and, after his release, becomes the enthusiastic leader of the Huguenots of France. They represent the most moral, industrious and intelligent of the French people, but those who love the “Mass”, which involves no moral obligation, hate them on account of their chaste and devout lives. In 1572, when a bloody persecution arises against them, they begin to emigrate to England, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and the Colonies of North America.
It was Fenelon, one of the preachers of the Huguenots in France under the feudal system, about the year 1710, that gave utterance to the patriotic sentiment, emphasized in this country since the rise of the great trusts, “That governments exist and have a right to exist, only for the good of the people, and that the many are not made for the use and enjoyment of one.”
In 1559 the Puritans protest against the act of uniformity passed by the English Parliament, imposing uniformity in religious worship.
The Bible has now come to be regarded as of so much importance to the clergy and people, that as many as fifty-five learned men during this 16th century devote their time and attention to its exposition and illustration; and twenty-seven new universities are established.
The Reformation is an insurrection or revolution against ecclesiastical monarchy and absolute power in the Church, or spiritual matters. It establishes freedom of inquiry and liberty of mind in Europe. The Bible and theology occupy the attention of the greatest minds, and every question, whether philosophical, political or historical is considered from the religious point of view.
In 1235, Pope Gregory IX, establishes the Inquisition, a cruel court of inquiry for the suppression of those who question the authority of the papacy to rule over them in the Church. It becomes very active in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. It is not suppressed in France until 1834, after a period of six centuries.
In 1540, Ignatius Loy o la, an illiterate Spanish soldier and priest, with papal authority, organizes the society of the Jesuits, to require Christians to renounce whatever opinions may separate them, and, accepting the doctrines and worship of the Roman Catholic Church to acknowledge the pope as Christ’s sole vicegerent on earth.
The Inquisition had previously proved a bloody court but this order is intended to make it more effective in suppressing freedom of thought and action in matters relating to education and religion.
The events that occur during the period of the Inquisition are harrowing to relate. The historians of that period have recorded, among others, the following executions and massacres.
The duke of Alva, a Spanish general and persecutor, who died in 1582, condemned 36,000 of his countrymen to be executed.
On the night of August 24, 1572, the anniversary of St. Bartholomew, Charles IX, of France, by offering his sister in marriage to the prince of Navarro, a Huguenot, assembles at the nuptials in Paris five hundred of the most prominent of the Huguenots, including Admiral Coligny, their venerable leader, and, at a given signal an unparalleled scene of horror ensues. Before the break of day, these noble leaders and 10,000 of their faithful followers, in Paris that night, are ruthlessly slaughtered. The horrid carnage, against these defenseless friends of truth and right, is extended to Lyons, Orleans, Rouen and other cities until 50,000 are massacred at this particular time. The total loss of France by the Inquisition has been estimated at 100,000 persons.
It is estimated that, during a period of seven years Pope Julius II effected the massacre of 200,000 persons. The Irish massacre at Ulster in 1641 cost Ireland the loss of more than 100,000 of her best citizenship. It is estimated that during a period of thirty years as many as 900,000 persons suffered martyrdom for the truth at the hands of the secret order of Jesuits. During the entire period of persecution by the papacy, a vast multitude, numbering many millions in addition to these, were proscribed, banished, starved, suffocated, drowned, imprisoned for life, buried alive, burned at the stake or assassinated.1
These dark historic events illustrate the price that had to be paid for letting the light shine when darkness prevailed in the high places of the world. Every martyr for the truth was a torch bearer, whose light was extinguished. The countries that suffered the greatest loss of their best citizenship received a check of more than a century’s growth. The hand on the dial of progress was turned backward wherever the blighting inquisition was felt. Its blighting effects may yet be seen in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and other countries where the papacy exerts a controlling influence. Men, whose deeds are evil and they are unwilling to repent, hate the light and endeavor to suppress it, by killing the torch bearer, “lest their deeds should be reproved.”
A knowledge of these conditions that prevailed at the time is necessary to enable one to appreciate the importance and greatness of the work of the Reformers and their faithful followers during the 16th century in giving the Bible to the people at the risk of their lives.
Independent Ownership of Land
In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers, bringing with them the Bible as a precious treasure, establish a colony at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, where they hope to enjoy civil and religious liberty to a fuller extent than they were able to do elsewhere. Other colonies are established along the Atlantic coast, from New England to Georgia, but no one of them exerts a moral influence, quite so potent as this one, in the events and councils that precede the laying of the foundations for this great government.
They now enjoy individual or independent ownership of lands, a privilege they did not enjoy under the feudal system that had its rise in the 10th century and was continued until the French Revolution in 1799. Under the feudal system the land was owned by dukes, earls and barons, who, as members of the House of Lords, alone participated in the government.
The orators of the pulpit, commonly called preachers of the gospel, aside from the academies, colleges and universities, are the principal teachers of the people, and for the purpose of instruction, they use but one book-the Bible.
In 1635 other colonies of Puritans, under Roger Williams and Thomas Hooker settle Rhode Island and Connecticut, respectively; and religious liberty is accorded Rhode Island by its charter in 1663.
In 1648, the Westminster Assembly, convened by the Long Parliament five years previous, and composed of 10 Lords, 20 Commoners and 121 Clergymen, representing the Churches in England, Scotland and Ireland, to prepare a statement of the doctrines of the Bible, that might form the basis of religious liberty and a bond of union of the Protestant Churches, completes its work, by publishing a Confession of Faith, Form of Government, Larger and Shorter Catechisms. This confession does not give rise to any new denominations nor result in any union; but it is received and adopted as the standard of faith by all the branches of the Presbyterian Church in England, Scotland, Ireland and America. This confession is a natural sequence of the authorized King James Version of the Bible in 1611.
In 1704, the newspaper is established in America; and the first post office, in 1710.
Rise Of Methodism
In 1738 John and Charles Wesley, young preachers of the Church of England, having spent three years as missionaries among the Moravians in Georgia, return to London, where, preaching the gospel as a proclamation of free forgiveness to sinners, and with it, repentance and faith in Christ, they soon find the pulpits of that city closed against them. Supported by Lady Huntington and aided at the first by George Whitefield, the most gifted of their early associates and the first Methodist to preach in the open air, they lay the foundations that soon develop into the Methodist Church, by establishing now congregations and organizing them into classes, each under a local leader, who by means of weekly testimonies, exhortations and corrections was to look after the moral conduct and promote the spiritual life of the members.
Sunday Schools and Missionary Societies
In 1782 when there are a sufficient number of printed Bibles available for use, Robert Raikes of London makes the suggestion and Sunday schools are established, that the people in every worshipping congregation may co-operate with their preachers in instructing the young and rising generation in the great truths contained in the Bible.
From 1792 to 1800, the three great modern missionary societies of England are organized, and during the next ten years the first two are organized in this country.
In 1804, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and in 1816, the American Bible Society, are established in London and New York, to promote the multiplication and circulation of the Bible.
Civil and Religious Liberty
In 1776 the Declaration of Independence and American Revolution develop brave and patriotic leaders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, John Witherspoon and others, who fight the battles and solve the problems of civil and religious liberty in America. Liberty and independence become familiar watchwords.
In 1787 when the Constitution of the United States is adopted, civil and religious liberty is assured. Protection is to be given to religion but there shall be no taxation for its support in Church or school, and public education is left to the several states.
Those, who framed this remarkable Constitution and thus prepared the way for America to become the land of “Liberty Enlightening the World,” expressed their sentiments in regard to the urgent need of general instruction in the Bible, in the ordinance for the government of the Northwest-the country north of the Ohio, as follows: “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
In 1841 Congress makes provision for grants of unoccupied lands in the states for the better support of the public schools and the establishment of state universities.
In 1862 Congress makes provision by further grants of unoccupied lands for the establishment of State Agricultural Colleges. About this same period Normal Schools are established in the states and they gradually take the place of many of the Academies previously established by Christian people.
In 1863 Abraham Lincoln in order to maintain the Union “one and inseparable,” becomes the emancipator of 4,000,000 slaves; and America becomes “the land of the free” as well as “the home of the brave.”
The Boston News Letter, the first American newspaper is established in 1704, and the New England Courant, the second one in 1720. The first Colonial post office is established in 1710. In 1765, when the Stamp Act was passed, there are forty newspapers published in America; and one of the most influential of these is the Philadelphia Gazette, by Benjamin Franklin, the man who “wrested the lightning from heaven and scepters from tyrants.”
The religious papers of the Presbyterian Church are established a half century later, and as follows: The Herald and Presbyter, at Cincinnati in 1830; the Presbyterian at Philadelphia in 1831; and the Interior, now Continent, at Chicago in 1870. As a civilizing agency the press not only rivals but increases many fold the power of the pulpit.
The public press, especially the religious newspaper, noting the progress of events relating to the extension of the Redeemer’s Kingdom becomes a very potent factor in promoting an enlightened Christian civilization.
During the 19th century civilization receives a general and wonderful uplift as a result of many important inventions that, to a greater or less extent, are enjoyed by all the people. They include the steam engine, steamer, railway, telegraph, telephone, phonograph, cylinder printing press and folder, electric light and motor, gasoline and kerosene engines, cotton gin, spinning jenny, sewing machine, mower, reaper, steam thresher and separator, mammoth corn sheller, tractor, gang plow, typewriter, automobile, bicycle, aeroplane, vaccine, serum and wireless telegraph.
The intelligent American citizen of the present time is the product of all these forces, to the extent he has come under their uplifting influences. He is the product of centuries of enlightened struggle and successful effort. If the early Roman was proud of his history and privileges as a citizen much more profoundly thankful may be the American of this twentieth century.
The forces that have given him the uplift from the Dark Ages include the Bible in his own language, the faithful preacher of the Gospel, the Evangelical Reformer, the brave Military Leader, the God-fearing Statesman, the Church, Sunday school, the public, high and Normal school, the Academy, Christian College, Agricultural College, University, ownership of land, civil and religious liberty.
What these institutions have done for the intelligent American citizen they are now beginning to do for the Freedman, as he is brought under their uplifting influence. They suggest both to him and his friends, the greatest or most important needs of the Freedmen.
See Cottage Bible on Revelation XVII 6 ↩
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