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Full text of "John Jasper, the unmatched Negro philosopher and preacher"

JOHN JASPER 



WILLIAM E. HATCHER 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



JOHN JASPER 



JOHN JASPER 



The Unmatched Negro 
Philosopher and Preacher 



By 

WILLIAM E. HATCHER, LL. D. 




NEW YORK CHICAGO TORONTO 
Fleming H. Revell Company 



Copyright, 1908, by 
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY 



New York: 158 Fifth Avenue 
Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave. 
London: 21 Paternoster Square 
Edinburgh: 75 Princes Street 



o 



CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION 7 

I. JASPER PRESENTED 15 

II. JASPER HAS A THRILLING CONVERSION . 23 

III. How JASPER GOT His SCHOOLING . . 30 

IV. THE SLAVE PREACHER .... 36 

V. " WHAR SIN KUM FRUM ? " ... 47 

VI. JASPER SET FREE 58 

VII. THE PICTURE-MAKER .... 65 

VIII. JASPER'S STAR WITNESS . . . .72 

IX. JASPER'S SERMON ON "DEM SEBUN WIM- 

MIN*' ...... 89 

X. JASPER GLIMPSED UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS . 94 

XI. SERMON : THE STONE CUT OUT OF THE 

MOUNTAIN . . . . . .108 

XII. FACTS CONCERNING THE SERMON ON THE SUN 121 

XIII. THE SUN Do MOVE 133 

XIV. ONE JASPER DAY IN THE SPRING TIME 

OF 1878 150 

XV. JASPER'S PICTURE OF HEAVEN . . .174 



2201125 



INTRODUCTION 

READER ; stay a moment. A word with you 
before you begin to sample this book. We will 
tell you some things in advance, which may help 
you to decide whether it is worth while to read 
any further. These pages deal with a negro, 
and are not designed either to help or to hurt 
the negro race. They have only to do with one 
man. He was one of a class, without pedigree, 
and really without successors, except that he was 
so dominant and infectious that numbers of peo- 
ple affected his ways and dreamed that they were 
one of his sort. As a fact, they were simply of 
another and of a baser sort. 

The man in question was a negro, and if you 
cannot appreciate greatness in a black skin you 
would do well to turn your thoughts into some 
other channel. Moreover, he was a negro cov- 
ered over with ante bellum habits and ways of 
doing. He lived forty years before the war and 
for about forty years after it. He grew wonder- 
fully as a freeman ; but he never grew away from 
the tastes, dialects, and manners of the bondage 
times. He was a man left over from the old 
regime and never got infected with the new 
order. The air of the educated negro preacher 

7 



8 INTRODUCTION 

didn't set well upon him. The raw scholarship 
of the new " ish," as he called it, was sounding 
brass to him. As a fact, the new generation of 
negro preachers sent out by the schools drew 
back from this man. They branded him as an 
anachronism, and felt that his presence in the 
pulpit was a shock to religion and an offense to 
the ministry ; and yet not one of them ever at- 
tained the celebrity or achieved the results which 
came to this unlettered and grievously ungram- 
matical son of Africa. 

But do not be afraid that you are to be fooled 
into the fanatical camp. This story comes from 
the pen of a Virginian who claims no exemption 
from Southern prejudices and feels no call to 
sound the praises of the negro race. Indeed, he 
never intended to write what is contained within 
the covers of this book. It grew up spontaneously 
and most of the contents were written before the 
book was thought of. 

It is, perhaps, too much to expect that the 
meddlers with books will take the ipse dixit of 
an unaccredited stranger. They ought not to do 
it : they are not asked to do it. They can go on 
about their business, if they prefer ; but if they 
do, they will miss the story of the incomparable 
negro of the South. This is said with sobriety 
and after a half century spent in close observa- 
tion of the negro race. 

More than that, the writer of this never had 



INTRODUCTION 9 

any intention of bothering with this man when 
he first loomed up into notoriety. He got drawn 
in unexpectedly. He heard that there was a 
marvel of a man "over in Africa," a not too 
savoury portion of Richmond, Virginia, and 
one Sunday afternoon in company with a Scot- 
Irishman, who was a scholar and a critic, with a 
strong leaning towards ridicule, he went to hear 
him preach. Shades of our Anglo-Saxon fathers 1 
Did mortal lips ever gush with such torrents of 
horrible English ! Hardly a word came out 
clothed and in its right mind. And gestures ! 
He circled around the pulpit with his ankle in his 
hand ; and laughed and sang and shouted and 
acted about a dozen characters within the space 
of three minutes. Meanwhile, in spite of these 
things, he was pouring out a gospel sermon, red 
hot, full of love, full of invective, full of tender- 
ness, full of bitterness, full of tears, full of every 
passion that ever flamed in the human breast. 
He was a theatre within himself, with the stage 
crowded with actors. He was a battle-field ; 
himself the general, the staff, the officers, the com- 
mon soldiery, the thundering artillery and the rat- 
tling musketry. He was the preacher ; likewise 
the church and the choir and the deacons and the 
congregation. The Scot-Irishman surrendered in 
fifteen minutes after the affair commenced, but the 
other man was hard-hearted and stubborn and re- 
fused to commit himself. He preferred to wait 



10 INTKODUCTION 

until he got out of doors and let the wind blow on 
him and see what was left. He determined to go 
again ; and he went and kept going, off and on, 
for twenty years. That was before the negro 
became a national figure. It was before he 
startled his race with his philosophy as to the 
rotation of the sun. It was before he became a 
lecturer and a sensation, sought after from all 
parts of the country. Then it was that he cap- 
tured the Scot-Irish and the other man also. 
What is written here constitutes the gatherings 
of nearly a quarter of a century, and, frankly 
speaking, is a tribute to the brother in black, 
the one unmatched, unapproachable, and won- 
derful brother. 

But possibly the reader is of the practical sort. 
He would like to get the worldly view of this 
African genius and to find out of what stuff he 
was made. Very well ; he will be gratified ! 
Newspapers are heartlessly practical. They are 
grudging of editorial commendation, and in 
Richmond, at the period, they were sparing of 
references of any kind to negroes. You could 
hardly expect them to say anything commenda- 
tory of a negro, if he was a negro, with odd and 
impossible notions. Now this man was of that 
very sort. He got it into his big skull that the 
earth was flat, and that the sun rotated ; a sci- 
entific absurdity ! But you see he proved it by 
the Bible. He ransacked the whole book and 



INTRODUCTION 11 

got up ever so many passages. He took them 
just as he found them. It never occurred to him 
that the Bible was not dealing with natural sci- 
ence, and that it was written in an age and 
country when astronomy was unknown and 
therefore written in the language of the time. 
Intelligent people understand this very well, but 
this miracle of his race was behind his era. He 
took the Bible literally, and, with it in hand, he 
fought his battles about the sun. Literally, but 
not scientifically, he proved his position, and he 
gave some of his devout antagonists a world of 
botheration by the tenacity with which he held 
to his views and the power with which he stated 
his case. Scientifically, he was one of the ancients, 
but that did not interfere with his piety and did 
not at all eclipse his views. His perfect honesty 
was most apparent in all of his contentions ; and, 
while some laughed at what they called his 
vagaries, those who knew him best respected him 
none the less, but rather the more, for his astro- 
nomical combat. There was something in his 
love of the Bible, his faith in every letter of it, 
and his courage, that drew to him the good will 
and lofty respect of uncounted thousands and, 
probably, it might be said, of uncounted millions. 
Now when this man died it was as the fall of a 
tower. It was a crash, heard and felt farther 
than was the collapse of the famous tower at 
Venice. If the dubious, undecided reader has 



12 INTRODUCTION 

not broken down on the road but has come this 
far, he is invited to look at the subjoined editorial 
from Tke Richmond Dispatch, the leading morn- 
ing paper of Richmond, Va., which published at 
the time an article on this lofty figure, now national 
in its proportions and imperishable in its fame, 
when it bowed to the solemn edict of death. 

(From The Richmond Dispatch} 

" It is a sad coincidence that the destruction 
of the Jefferson Hotel and the death of the 
Rev. John Jasper should have fallen upon the 
same day. John Jasper was a Richmond Insti- 
tution, as surely so as was Major Ginter's fine 
hotel. He was a national character, and he and 
his philosophy were known from one end of the 
land to the other. Some people have the im- 
pression that John Jasper was famous simply be- 
cause he flew in the face of the scientists and de- 
clared that the sun moved. In one sense, that is 
true, but it is also true that his fame was due, in 
great measure, to a strong personality, to a deep, 
earnest conviction, as well as to a devout Chris- 
tian character. Some preachers might have 
made this assertion about the sun's motion with- 
out having attracted any special attention. The 
people would have laughed over it, and the in- 
cident would have passed by as a summer breeze. 
But John Jasper made an impression upon his 
generation, because he was sincerely and deeply 



INTRODUCTION 13 

in earnest in all that he said. No man could 
talk with him in private, or listen to him from 
the pulpit, without being thoroughly convinced 
of that fact. His implicit trust in the Bible and 
everything in it, was beautiful and impressive. 
He had no other lamp by which his feet were 
guided. He had no other science, no other 
philosophy. He took the Bible in its literal sig- 
nificance ; he accepted it as the inspired word of 
God ; he trusted it with all his heart and soul 
and mind ; he believed nothing that was in con- 
flict with the teachings of the Bible scientists 
and philosophers and theologians to the contrary 
notwithstanding. 

" ' They tried to make it appear,' said he, in the 
last talk we had with him on the subject, ' that 
John Jasper was a fool and a liar when he said 
that the sun moved. I paid no attention to it at 
first, because I did not believe that the so-called 
scientists were in earnest. I did not think that 
there was any man in the world fool enough to 
believe that the sun did not move, for everybody 
had seen it move. But when I found that these 
so-called scientists were in earnest I took down 
my old Bible and proved that they, and not John 
Jasper, were the fools and the liars.' And there 
was no more doubt in his mind on that subject 
than there was of his existence. John Jasper had 
the faith that removed mountains. He knew the 
literal Bible as well as Bible scholars did. He 



14: INTRODUCTION 

did not understand it from the scientific point of 
view, but he knew its teachings and understood 
its spirit, and he believed in it. He accepted it 
as the true word of God, and he preached it with 
unction and with power. 

" John Jasper became famous by accident, but 
he was a most interesting man apart from his 
solar theory. He was a man of deep convictions, 
a man with a purpose in life, a man who earnestly 
desired to save souls for heaven. He followed 
his divine calling with faithfulness, with a de- 
termination, as far as he could, to make the ways 
of his God known unto men, His saving health 
among all nations. And the Lord poured upon 
His servant, Jasper, ' the continual dew of His 
blessing.' " 



JASPER PRESENTED 

JOHN JASPER, the negro preacher of Richmond, 
Virginia, stands preeminent among the preachers 
of the negro race in the South. He was for fifty 
years a slave, and a preacher during twenty-five 
years of his slavery, and distinctly of the old 
plantation type. Freedom came full-handed to 
him, but it did not in any notable degree change 
him in his style, language, or manner of preach- 
ing. He was the ante bellum preacher until 
eighty-nine years of age, when he preached his 
last sermon on "Regeneration," and with quiet 
dignity laid off his mortal coil and entered the 
world invisible. He was the last of his type, and 
we shall not look upon his like again. It has 
been my cherished purpose for some time to 
embalm the memory of this extraordinary genius 
in some form that would preserve it from oblivion. 
I would give to the American people a picture 
of the God-made preacher who was great in his 
bondage and became immortal in his freedom. 

This is not to be done in biographic form, but 
rather in vagrant articles which find their kin- 
ship only in the fact that they present some dis- 
tinct view of a man, hampered by early limita- 

'5 



16 JOHN JASPER 

tions, denied the graces of culture, and cut off 
even from the advantages of a common educa- 
tion, but who was munificently endowed by na- 
ture, filled with vigour and self-reliance, and who 
achieved greatness in spite of almost limitless 
adversities. I account him genuinely great 
among the sons of men, but I am quite sure that 
the public can never apprehend the force and 
gist of his rare manhood without first being 
made acquainted with certain facts appertaining 
to his early life. 

Jasper was born a slave. He grew up on a 
plantation and was a toiler in the fields up to his 
manhood. When he came to Richmond, now 
grown to a man, he was untutored, full of dan- 
gerous energies, almost gigantic in his muscle, 
set on pleasure, and without the fear of God be- 
fore his eyes. From his own account of himself, 
he was fond of display, a gay coxcomb among 
the women of his race, a fun-maker by nature, 
with a self-assertion that made him a leader 
within the circles of his freedom. 

We meet him first as one of the " hands " in 
the tobacco factory of Mr. Samuel Hargrove, 
an enterprising and prosperous manufacturer in 
the city of Richmond. Jasper occupied the 
obscure position of " a stemmer," which means 
that his part was to take the well-cured tobacco 
leaf and eliminate the stem, with a view to pre- 
paring what was left to be worked into " the 



JASPER PRESENTED 1? 

plug" which is the glory of the tobacco-chewer. 
This position had one advantage for this quick-: 
witted and alert young slave. It threw him into 
contact with a multitude of his own race, and 
as nature had made him a lover of his kind his 
social qualities found ample scope for exercise. 
In his early days he went at a perilous pace and 
found in the path of the sinful many fountains 
of common joy. Indeed, he made evil things 
fearfully fascinating by the zestful and remorse- 
less way in which he indulged them. 

It was always a joy renewed for him to tell 
the story of his conversion. As described by 
him, his initial religious experiences, while aw- 
fully mystical and solemn to him, were grotesque 
and ludicrous enough. They partook of the 
extravagances of the times, yet were so honest 
in their nature, and so soundly Scriptural in their 
doctrines, and so reverential in their tone, that 
not even the most captious sceptic could hear 
him tell of them, in his moments of exalted in- 
spiration, without feeling profoundly moved by 
them. 

It ought to be borne in mind that this odd and 
forcible man was a preacher in Richmond for a 
half century, and that during all that time, 
whether in slavery or in freedom, he lived up to 
his religion, maintaining his integrity, defying 
the unscrupulous efforts of jealous foes to des- 
troy him, and walking the high path of spotless 



18 JOHN JASPER 

and incorruptible honour. Not that he was al- 
ways popular among his race. He was too de- 
cided, too aggressive, too intolerant towards 
meanness, and too unpitying in his castigation of 
vice, to be popular. His life, in the nature of the 
case, had to be a warfare, and it may be truly 
said that he slept with his sword buckled on. 

Emancipation did not turn his head. He was 
the same high-minded, isolated, thoughtful Jas- 
per. His way of preaching became an offense to 
the " edicated " preachers of the new order, and 
with their new sense of power these double- 
breasted, Prince-Albert-coated, high hat and 
kid-gloved clergymen needed telescopes to look 
as far down as Jasper was, to get a sight of him. 
They verily thought that it would be a simple 
process to transfix him with their sneers, and 
flaunt their new grandeurs before him, in order 
to annihilate him. Many of these new-fledged 
preachers, who came from the schools to be pas- 
tors in Richmond, resented Jasper's prominence 
and fame. They felt that he was a reproach to 
the race, and they did not fail to fling at him 
their flippant sneers. 

But Jasper's mountain stood strong. He 
looked this new tribe of his adversaries over 
and marked them as a calcimined and fictitious 
type of culture. To him they were shop-made 
and unworthy of respect. They called forth the 
storm of his indignant wrath. He opened his 



JASPER PRESENTED 19 

batteries upon them, and, for quite a while, the 
thunder of his guns fairly shook the steeples on 
the other negro churches of Richmond. And 
yet it will never do to think of him as the incar- 
nation of a vindictive and malevolent spirit. 
He dealt terrific blows, and it is hardly too much 
to say that many of his adversaries found it 
necessary to get out of the range of his guns. 
But, after all, there was a predominant good 
nature about him. His humour was inexhaust- 
ible, and irresistible as well. If by his fiery 
denunciations he made his people ready to " fight 
Philip," he was quite apt before he finished to let 
fly some of his odd comparisons, his laughable 
stories, or his humorous mimicries. He could 
laugh off his own grievances, and could make 
his own people " take the same medicine." 

Jasper was something of a hermit, given to 
seclusion, imperturbably calm in his manner, 
quite ascetic in his tastes, and a cormorant in 
his devouring study of the Bible. Naturally, 
Jasper was as proud as Lucifer, too proud 
to be egotistic and too candid and self-assert- 
ive to affect a humility which he did not 
feel. He walked heights where company was 
scarce, and seemed to love his solitude. Jasper 
was as brave as a lion and possibly not a little 
proud of his bravery. He fought in the open 
and set no traps for his adversaries. He be- 
lieved in himself, felt the dignity of his posi- 



20 JOHN JASPER 

tion, and never let himself down to what was 
little or unseemly. 

The most remarkable fact in Jasper's history is 
connected with his extraordinary performances in 
connection with his tersely expressed theory, 
THE SUN DO MOVE! We would think in ad- 
vance that any man who would come forward to 
champion that view would be hooted out of court. 
It was not so with Jasper. His bearing through 
all that excitement was so dignified, so sincere, 
so consistent and heroic, that he actually did win 
the rank of a true philosopher. This result, so 
surprising, is possibly the most handsome tribute 
to his inherent excellence and nobility of charac- 
ter. One could not fail to see that his fight on a 
technical question was so manifestly devout, so 
filled with zeal for the honour of religion, and so 
courageous in the presence of overwhelming 
odds, that those who did not agree with him 
learned to love and honour him. 

The sensation which he awakened fairly flew 
around the country. It is said that he preached 
the sermon 250 times, and it would be hard to 
estimate how many thousands of people heard 
him. The papers, religious and secular, had 
much to say about him. Many of them pub- 
lished his sermons, some of them at first plying 
him with derision, but about all of them rounding 
up with the admission of a good deal of faith in 
Jasper. So vast was his popularity that a mer- 



JASPER PRESENTED 21 

cenary syndicate once undertook to traffic on his 
popularity by sending him forth as a public lec- 
turer. The movement proved weak on its feet, 
and after a little travel he hobbled back richer in 
experience than in purse. 

As seen in the pulpit or in the street Jasper 
was an odd picture to look upon. His figure 
was uncouth ; he was rather loosely put together ; 
his limbs were fearfully long and his body strik- 
ingly short, a sort of nexus to hold his head and 
limbs in place. He was black, but his face saved 
him. It was open, luminous, thoughtful, and in 
moments of animation it glowed with a radiance 
and exultation that was most attractive. 

Jasper's career as a preacher after the war was 
a poem. The story is found later on and marks 
him as a man of rare originality, and of patience 
born of a better world. He left a church almost 
entirely the creation of his own productive life, 
that holds a high rank in Richmond and that 
time will find it hard to estrange from his spirit 
and influence. For quite a while he was hardly 
on cooperative terms with the neighbouring 
churches, and it is possible that he ought to share 
somewhat in the responsibility for the estrange- 
ment which so long existed ; though it might be 
safely said that if they had left Jasper alone he 
would not have bothered them. Let it be said 
that the animosities of those days gradually gave 
away to the gracious and softening influence of 



22 JOHN JASPER 

time, and, when his end came, all the churches 
and ministers of the city most cordially and lov- 
ingly united in honouring his memory. 

It may betoken the regard in which Jasper 
was held by the white people if I should be frank 
enough to say that I was the pastor of the Grace 
Street Baptist Church, one of the largest eccle- 
siastical bodies in the city at the time of Jasper's 
death, and the simple announcement in the morn- 
ing papers that I would deliver an address in 
honour of this negro preacher who had been car- 
ried to his grave during the previous week 
brought together a representative and deeply 
sympathetic audience which overflowed the 
largest church auditorium in the city. With the 
utmost affection and warmth I put forth my lofty 
appreciation of this wonderful prince of his tribe, 
and so far as known there was never an adverse 
criticism offered as to the propriety or justice of 
the tribute which was paid him. 

It is of this unusual man, this prodigy of his 
race, and this eminent type of the Christian 
negro, that the somewhat random articles of this 
volume are to treat. His life jumped the com- 
mon grooves and ran on heights not often trod. 
His life went by bounds and gave surprises with 
each succeeding leap. 



II 

JASPER HAS A THRILLING CONVERSION 

LET us bear in mind that at the time of his 
conversion John Jasper was a slave, illiterate and 
working in a tobacco factory in Richmond. It 
need hardly be said that he shared the super- 
stitions and indulged in the extravagances of his 
race, and these in many cases have been so 
blatant and unreasonable that they have caused 
some to doubt the negro's capacity for true re- 
ligion. But from the beginning Jasper's re- 
ligious experiences showed forth the Lord Jesus 
as their source and centre. His thoughts went 
to the Cross. His hope was founded on the 
sacrificial blood, and his noisy and rhapsodic 
demonstrations sounded a distinct note in honour 
of his Redeemer. 

Jasper's conviction as to his call to the ministry 
was clear-cut and intense. He believed that his 
call came straight from God. His boast and 
glory was that he was a God-made preacher. 
In his fierce warfares with the educated preachers 
of his race " the new issue," as he contemptu- 
ously called them he rested his claim on the 
ground that God had put him into the ministry ; 
and so reverential, so full of noble assertion and 

23 



24 JOHN JASPER 

so irresistibly eloquent was he in setting forth 
his ministerial authority that even his most 
sceptical critics were constrained to admit that, 
like John the Baptist, he was " a man sent from 
God." 

And yet Jasper knew the human side of his 
call. It was a part of his greatness that he could 
see truth in its relations and completeness, and 
while often he presented one side of a truth, as 
if it were all of it, he also saw the other side. 
With him a paradox was not a contradiction. 
He gratefully recognized the human influences 
which helped him to enter the ministry. While 
preaching one Sunday afternoon Jasper suddenly 
stopped, his face lighted as with a vision, a rich 
laugh rippled from his lips while his eyes flashed 
with soulful fire. He then said, in a manner 
never to be reported : " Mars Sam Hargrove 
called me to preach de Gospel he was my old 
marster, and he started me out wid my message." 
Instantly the audience quivered with quickened 
attention, for they knew at once that the man in 
the pulpit had something great to tell. 

" I was seekin' God six long weeks jes 1 
'cause I was sich a fool I couldn't see de way, 
De Lord struck me fus' on Cap'tal Squar', an' I 
left thar badly crippled. One July mornin' 
somethin' happen' d. I was a tobarker-stemmer 
dat is, I took de tobarker leaf, an' tor'd de 
stem out, an* dey won't no one in dat fac'ry 



A THRILLING CONVERSION 25 

could beat me at dat work. But dat mornin' de 
steins wouldn't come out to save me, an' I tor'd 
up tobarker by de poun' an' flung it under de 
table. Fac' is, bruthr'n, de darkness of death 
was in my soul dat mornin'. My sins was piled 
on me like mount'ns ; my feet was sinkin' down 
to de reguns of despar, an' I felt dat of all sinners 
I was de wust. I tho't dat I would die right den, 
an' wid what I supposed was my lars breath I 
flung up to heav'n a cry for mercy. 'Fore I 
kno'd it, de light broke ; I was light as a feather ; 
my feet was on de mount'n; salvation rol'd like a 
flood thru my soul, an' I felt as if I could 'nock 
off de fact'ry roof wid my shouts. 

" But I sez to mysef, I gwine to hoi' still till 
dinner, an' so I cried, an' laffed, an' tore up de 
tobarker. Pres'ntly I looked up de table, an' 
dar was a old man he luv me, an' tried hard to 
lead me out de darkness, an' I slip roun' to 
whar he was, an' I sez in his ear as low as I 
could : ' Hallelujah ; my soul is redeemed ! ' 
Den I jump back quick to my work, but after I 
once open my mouf it was hard to keep it shet 
any mo'. 'Twan' long 'fore I looked up de line 
agin, an' dar was a good oP woman dar dat 
knew all my sorrers, an' had been prayin' fur me 
all de time. Der was no use er talkin* ; I had to 
tell her, an' so I skip along up quiet as a breeze, 
an' start' d to whisper in her ear, but just den de 
holin-back straps of Jasper's breachin' broke, an* 



26 JOHN JASPER 

what I tho't would be a whisper was loud enuf to 
be hearn clean 'cross Jeems River to Manchester. 
One man sed he tho't de factory was fallin' down ; 
all I know'd I had raise my fust shout to de 
glory of my Redeemer. 

" But for one thing thar would er been a jin'ral 
revival in de fact'ry dat mornin'. Dat one thing 
was de overseer. He bulg'd into de room, an' 
wid a voice dat sounded like he had his breakfus 
dat mornin' on rasps an' files, bellowed out : 
' What's all dis row 'bout?' Somebody shouted 
out dat John Jasper dun got religun, but dat 
didn't wurk 'tall wid de boss. He tell me to git 
back to my table, an' as he had sumpthin' in his 
hand dat looked ugly, it was no time fur makin' 
fine pints, so I sed: 'Yes, sir, I will; I ain't 
meant no harm ; de fus taste of salvation got de 
better un me, but I'll git back to my work.' An' 
I tell you I got back quick. 

" Bout dat time Mars Sam he come out'n his 
orfis, an' he say : ' What's de matter out here? ' 
An' I hear de overseer tellin' him : ' John Jasper 
kick up a fuss, an' say he dun got religun, but I 
dun fix him, an' he got back to his table.' De 
devil toF me to hate de overseer dat mornin', but 
de luv of God was rollin' thru my soul, an' some- 
how I didn't mind what he sed. 

" Little aft'r I hear Mars Sam tell de overseer 
he want to see Jasper. Mars Sam was a good 
man ; he was a Baptis', an' one of de hed men 



A THRILLING CONVERSION 27 

of de old Fust Church down here, an' I was glad 
when I hear Mars Sam say he want to see me. 
When I git in his orfis, he say : ' John, what was 
de matter out dar jes' now ? ' and his voice was 
sof like, an' it seem'd to have a little song in it 
which playM. into my soul like an angel's harp. 
I sez to him : ' Mars Sam, ever sence de fourth of 
July I ben cryin' after de Lord, six long weeks, 
an' jes' now out dar at de table God tuk my sins 
away, an' set my feet on a rock. I didn't mean 
to make no noise, Mars Sam, but 'fore I know'd 
it de fires broke out in my soul, an' I jes' let go 
one shout to de glory of my Saviour/ 

" Mars Sam was settin' wid his eyes a little 
down to de flo', an' wid a pritty quiv'r in his 
voice he say very slo' : ' John, I b'leve dat way 
myself. I luv de Saviour dat you have jes' 
foun', an' I wan' to tell you dat I do'n complain 
'cause you made de noise jes' now as you did.' 
Den Mars Sam did er thing dat nearly made me 
drop to de flo'. He git out of his chair, an' walk 
over to me and giv' me his han', and he say : 
' John, I wish you mighty well. Your Saviour is 
mine, an' we are bruthers in de Lord.' When he 
say dat, I turn 'round an' put my arm agin de 
wall, an' held my mouf to keep from shoutin'. 
Mars Sam well know de good he dun me. 

" Art'r awhile he say : ' John, did you tell eny 
of 'em in thar 'bout your conversion ? ' And I 
say : ' Yes, Mars Sam, I tell 'em fore I kno'd it, 



28 JOHN JASPER 

an' I feel like tellin' eberybody in de worl' about 
it.' Den he say : ' John, you may tell it. Go 
back in dar an' go up an' down de tables, an' tell 
all of 'em. An' den if you wan' to, go up-stars 
an' tell 'em all 'bout it, an' den down-stars an' 
tell de hogshed men an' de drivers an' everybody 
what de Lord has dun for yor.' 

" By dis time Mars Sam's face was rainin' tears, 
an' he say : ' John, you needn' work no mo' to- 
day. I giv' you holiday. Aft'r you git thru 
tellin' it here at de fact'ry, go up to de house, an' 
tell your folks ; go roun' to your neighbours, an' 
tell dem ; go enywhere you wan' to, an' tell de 
good news. It'll do you good, do dem good, an' 
help to hon'r your Lord an' Saviour.' 

" Oh, dat happy day ! Can I ever forgit it ? 
Dat was my conversion mornin', an' dat day de 
Lord sent me out wid de good news of de king- 
dom. For mo' den forty years I've ben tellin' de 
story. My step is gittin' ruther slo', my voice 
breaks down, an' sometimes I am awful tired, 
but still I'm tellin' it. My lips shall proclaim de 
dyin' luv of de Lam' wid my las' expirin' breath. 

" Ah, my dear ol' marster ! He sleeps out 
yonder in de ol' cemetery, an' in dis worl' I shall 
see his face no mo', but I don't forgit him. He 
give me a holiday, an' sent me out to tell my 
friends what great things God had dun for my 
soul. Oft'n as I preach I feel that I'm doin' what 
my ol' marster tol' me to do. If he was here 



A THRILLING CONVERSION 29 

now, I think he would lif up dem kin' black eyes 
of his, an' say : * Dat's right, John ; still tellin' 
it ; fly like de angel, an' wherever you go carry 
de Gospel to de people.' Farewell, my ol' 
marster, when I Ian' in de heav'nly city, I'll call 
at your mansion dat de Lord had ready for you 
when you got dar, an' I shall say : ' Mars Sam, 
I did what you toP me, an' many of 'em is comin' 
up here wid da' robes wash'd in de blood of de 
Lam' dat was led into de way by my preachin', 
an' as you started me I want you to shar* in de 
glory of da' salvation.' An' I tell you what I 
reck'n, dat when Mars Sam sees me, he'll say : 
' John, call me marster no mo'; we're bruthers 
now, an' we'll live forever roun' de throne of 
God.' " 

This is Jasper's story, but largely in his own 
broken words. When he told it, it swept over 
the great crowd like a celestial gale. The people 
seemed fascinated and transfigured. His homely 
way of putting the Gospel came home to them. 
Let me add that his allusions to his old master 
were in keeping with his kindly and conciliatory 
tone in all that he had to say about the white 
people after the emancipation of the slaves. He 
loved the white people, and among them his 
friends and lovers were counted by the thousand. 



Ill 

HOW JASPER GOT HIS SCHOOLING 

THESE chapters disclaim outright any preten- 
sion to biography. They deal with a weird, in- 
describable and mysterious genius, standing out 
in gloomy grandeur, and not needing the setting 
forth of ordinary incidents. At the same time, 
when an extraordinary man comes along and 
does masterful things, there be some who are 
ready to ask questions. Was he educated? 
Well, yes, he was. He had rare educational ad- 
vantages, not in the schools ; but what of that ? 
A genius has no use for a school, except so far as 
it teaches him the art of thinking. If we run 
back to the boyhood of Jasper and look him over 
we find that he had, after all, distinct educational 
advantages. 

It is another case of a good mother. We 
know that her name was Nina, and that she was 
the wife of Philip Jasper, and if tradition tells 
the truth she was the mother of twenty-four chil- 
dren a premature applicant for the Rooseveltian 
prize. John was the last, and was not born until 
two months after his father's death. Truly grace 
as well as genius was needed in his case, or he 
would have struck the wrong road. 

30 



HOW JASPER GOT HIS SCHOOLING 31 

That mother was the head of the working 
women on the Fluvanna farm and learned to 
govern by reason of the position she held. Her 
appointment bespoke her character, and her work 
improved it. Later on, she became in another 
home the chief of the servant force in a rich 
family. It was quite a good place. It brought 
her in contact with cultivated people and the 
imitative quality in the negro helped her to learn 
the manners and to imbibe the spirit of the lady. 
Later on still, she became a nurse to look after 
the sick at the Negro Quarters. There she had 
to do with doctors, medicines and counsellors 
and helpers. Add to all this, she was a sober, 
thoughtful, godly woman, and you will quite 
soon reach the conclusion that she was a very 
excellent teacher for John ; and John coming 
latest in the domestic procession found her rich 
in experience, matured in motherliness, and en- 
larged in her outlook of life. 

John's father was a preacher. Harsh things, 
and some of them needlessly false, are said of the 
fact that there were no negro preachers in the 
times of the slaveholding. It is true, that the 
laws of the country did not allow independent 
organizations of negroes, and negro preachers 
were not allowed, except by the consent of their 
masters, to go abroad preaching the Gospel. 
They could not accept pastoral charges, and were 
hampered, as ail must admit, by grievous restrio 



32 JOHN JASPER 

tions, but there were negro preachers in that day 
just the same, scores of them, and in one way 
and another they had many privileges and did 
good and effective service. One thing about the 
negro preacher of the ante bellum era was his 
high character. It is true that the owner of 
slaves was not in all cases adapted to determine 
the moral character of the slave who wanted to 
preach, and too often, it may be admitted, his 
prejudices and self-interest may have ruled out 
some men who ought to have been allowed to 
preach. It is a pity if this were true. But this 
strictness had one advantage. When the master 
of a negro man allowed him to preach it was an 
endorsement, acceptable and satisfactory, wher- 
ever the man went. If they thought he was all 
right at home, he could pass muster elsewhere. 

Now, concerning John's father, tradition has 
proved exceedingly partial. It has glorified Tina 
the mother with fine extravagance, but it has cut 
Philip unmercifully. John could get little out of 
his father, for they were not contemporaries, and 
as his brothers and sisters seemed to have been 
born for oblivion, we can trace little of his dis- 
tinction to the old household in Fluvanna. 

But we dare say that Philip, the preacher, re- 
membered chiefly because he was a preacher, had 
something to do in a subtle way with John's 
training. Nor must we fail to remember that 
Jasper himself grew up in contact with a fine old 



HOW JASPER GOT HIS SCHOOLING 33 

Virginia family. Fools there be many who love 
to talk of the shattering of the old aristocracy of 
Virginia. The "F. F. V.'s" l have been the sport 
of the vulgar, and their downfall has been a 
tragedy which the envious greedily turned into a 
comedy. But people ought to have some sense. 
They ought to see things in their proper relation. 
They ought to know that in the atmosphere of 
the old Virginia home the negroes, and especially 
those who served in person the heads of the 
family, caught the cue of the gentleman and the 
lady. I can stand on the streets of Richmond 
to-day and pick out the coloured men and women 
who grew up in homes of refinement, and who still 
bear about them the signs of it. Bent by age, 
and many of them tortured by infirmity, they 
still bear the marks of their old masters. They 
constitute a class quite apart from those of later 
times and are unequalled by them. I rejoice in 
all the comforts and advantages which have come 
to the negroes, most heartily I thank heaven 
for their freedom and for all that freedom has 
brought them ; but I do not hesitate to say that 
one of the losses was that contact with courtly, 
dignified, and royal people which many of them 
had before the Civil War. And even those on 
the plantations, while removed farther from the 
lights of the great castles in which their masters 
lived, walked not in darkness entirely, but un- 

1 First Families of Virginia. 



34 JOHN JASPER 

consciously felt the transforming power of those 
times. 

John Jasper was himself an aristocrat. His 
mode of dress, his manner of walking, his lofty 
dignity, all told the story. He received an aris- 
tocratic education, and he never lost it. Besides 
this, he had a most varied experience as a slave. 
He grew up on the farm, and knew what it was 
to be a plantation hand. He learned to work in 
the tobacco factory. He worked also in the 
foundries, and also served around the houses of 
the families with whom he lived ; for it must be 
understood that after the breaking up of the 
Peachy family he changed owners and lived in 
different places. These things enlarged his scope, 
and with that keen desire to know things ht 
learned at every turn of life. 

After his conversion he became a passionate 
student. He acknowledges one who sought to 
teach him to read, and after he became a preacher 
he spelled out the Bible for himself. He was 
eager to hear other men preach and to talk with 
those who were wiser than he. And so he kept 
on learning as long as he lived, though of course 
he missed the help of the schools, and never 
crossed the threshold of worldly science in his 
pursuit of knowledge. 

It may be well to say here that Jasper never 
lost his pride in white people. He delighted to 
be with them. Thousands upon thousands went 



HOW JASPER GOT HIS SCHOOLING 35 

to hear him, and while there was a strain of 
curiosity in many of them there was an under-note 
of respect and kindliness which always thrilled 
his heart and did him good. Time and again 
he spoke to me personally of white people, and 
always with a beautiful appreciation. It is note- 
worthy that the old man rode his high horse 
when his house was partly filled with white peo- 
ple, and it would be no exaggeration to say that 
not since the end of the war has any negro been 
so much loved or so thoroughly believed in as 
John Jasper. 



IV 

THE SLAVE PREACHER 

IT is as a preacher that John Jasper is most in- 
teresting. His personality was notable and full 
of force anywhere, but the pulpit was the stage 
of his chief performance. It is worth while to 
bear in mind that he began to preach in 1839 and 
that was twenty-five years before the coming of 
freedom. For a quarter of a century, therefore, 
he was a preacher while yet a slave. His time, 
of course, under the law belonged to his master, 
and under the laws of the period, he could preach 
only under very serious limitations. He could 
go only when his master said he might, and he 
could preach only when some white minister or 
committee was present to see that things were 
conducted in an orderly way. This is the hard 
way of stating the case, but there are many ways 
of getting around such regulations. The man who 
could preach, though a negro, rarely failed of an 
opportunity to preach. The man who was fit for 
the work had friends who enabled him to " shy 
around " his limitations. 

There was one thing which the negro greatly 
insisted upon, and which not even the most hard- 

36 



THE SLAVE PREACHER 37 

hearted masters were ever quite willing to deny 
them. They could never bear that their dead 
should be put away without a funeral. Not that 
they expected, at the time of the burial, to have 
the funeral service. Indeed, they did not desire 
it, and it was never according to their notions. 
A funeral to them was a pageant. It was a 
thing to be arranged for a long time ahead. 
It was to be marked by the gathering of the 
kindred and friends from far and wide. It was 
not satisfactory unless there was a vast and ex- 
citable crowd. It usually meant an all-day meet- 
ing, and often a meeting in a grove, and it 
drew white and black alike, sometimes almost in 
equal numbers. Another demand in the case, 
for the slaves knew how to make their demands, 
was that the negro preacher " should preach 
the funeral," as they called it. In things like this, 
the wishes of the slaves generally prevailed. 
" The funeral " loomed up weeks in advance, 
and although marked by sable garments, mourn- 
ful manners and sorrowful outcries, it had about 
it hints of an elaborate social function with festive 
accompaniments. There was much staked on, 
the fame of the officiating brother. He must be 
one of their own colour, and a man of reputation. 
They must have a man to plough up their 
emotional depths, and they must have freedom 
to indulge in the extravagancies of their sorrow. 
These demonstrations were their tribute to their 



38 JOHN JASPER 

dead and were expected to be fully adequate to 
do honour to the family. 

It was in this way that Jasper's fame began. 
At first, his tempestuous, ungrammatical elo- 
quence was restricted to Richmond, and there 
it was hedged in with many humbling limita- 
tions. But gradually the news concerning this 
fiery and thrilling orator sifted itself into the 
country, and many invitations came for him to 
officiate at country funerals. 

He was preeminently a funeral preacher. A 
negro funeral without an uproar, without shouts 
and groans, without fainting women and shout- 
ing men, without pictures of triumphant death- 
beds and the judgment day, and without the 
gates of heaven wide open and the subjects of 
the funeral dressed in white and rejoicing a round 
the throne of the Lamb, was no funeral at all. 
Jasper was a master from the outset at this work. 
One of his favourite texts, as a young preacher, 
was that which was recorded in Revelations, 
sixth chapter, and second verse : " And I saw 
and beheld a white horse ; and he that sat upon 
him had a bow, and a crown was given unto 
him, and he went forth conquering and to con- 
quer." Before the torrent of his florid and 
spectacular eloquence the people were swept 
down to the ground, and sometimes for hours 
many seemed to be in trances, not a few lying 
as if they were dead. 



THE SLAVE PREACHER 39 

Jasper's first visit to the country as a preacher 
of which we have any account was to Hanover 
.County. A prominent and wealthy slaveholder 
had the custom of allowing his servants to have 
imposing funerals, when their kindred and friends 
died ; but those services were always conducted 
by a white minister. In some way the fame of 
Jasper had penetrated that community, and one 
of the slaves asked his master to let Jasper come 
and attend the funeral. But to this the master 
made an objection. He knew nothing about 
Jasper, and did not believe that any negro was 
capable of preaching the Gospel with good effect. 
This negro was not discouraged by the refusal 
of the proprietor of the great plantation to grant 
his request. He went out and collected a 
number of most trustworthy and influential 
negro men and they came in a body to his 
master and renewed the plea. They told him 
in their way about what a great man Jasper was, 
how anxious they were to hear him, what a 
comfort his presence would be to the afflicted 
family, and how thankful they would be to have 
their request honoured. They won their point 
in part. He said to them, as if yielding reluc- 
tantly, " very well, let him come." They how- 
ever had something more to say. They knew 
Jasper would need to have a good reason in 
order to get his master's consent for him to 
come, and they knew that Jasper would not 



40 JOHN JASPER 

come unless he came under the invitation and 
protection of the white people, and therefore 
they asked the gentleman if he would not write 
a letter inviting him to come. Accordingly, 
in a spirit of compromise and courtesy very 
pleasing to the coloured people, the letter was 
written and Jasper came. 

The news of his expected coming spread like a 
flame. Not only the country people in large 
numbers, but quite a few of the Richmond 
people, made ready to attend the great occasion. 
Jasper went out in a private conveyance, the 
distance not being great, and, in his kind wish 
to take along as many friends as possible, he 
overloaded the wagon and had a breakdown. 
The delay in his arrival was very long and un- 
explained ; but still the people lingered and 
beguiled the time with informal religious serv- 
ices. 

At length the Richmond celebrity appeared 
on the scene late in the day. The desire to hear 
him was imperative, and John Jasper was equal 
to the occasion. Late as the hour was, and 
wearied as were the people, he spoke with over- 
mastering power. The owner of the great 
company of slaves on that plantation was among 
his hearers, and he could not resist the spell of 
devout eloquence which poured from the lips of 
the unscholared Jasper. It was a sermon from 
the heart, full of personal passion and hot with 



THE SLAVE PREACHER 41 

gospel fervour, and the heart of the lord of the 
plantation was powerfully moved. He under- 
took to engage Jasper to preach on the succeed- 
ing Sunday and handed the blushing preacher 
quite a substantial monetary token of his appre- 
ciation. 

The day was accounted memorable by reason 
of the impression which Jasper made. Indeed, 
Jasper was a master of assemblies. No poli- 
tician could handle a crowd with more con- 
summate tact than he. He was the king of 
hearts and could sway throngs as the wind shakes 
the trees. 

There is a facetious story abroad among the 
negroes that in those days Jasper went to Farm- 
ville to officiate on a funeral occasion where 
quite a number of the dead were to have their 
virtues commemorated and where their " mourn- 
ing friends," as Jasper in time came to call them, 
were to be comforted. The news that Jasper 
was to be there went out on the wings of the 
wind and vast throngs attended. Of course, a 
white minister was present and understood that 
he was the master of ceremonies. The story is, 
that he felt that it would not be safe to entrust an 
occasion so vastly interesting to the hands of 
Jasper, and he decided that he would quiet Jas- 
per and satisfy the public demands by calling on 
Jasper to pray. As a fact, Jasper was about as 
much of an orator in speaking to heaven as he 



42 JOHN JASPER 

was in speaking to mortal men. His prayer 
had such contagious and irresistible eloquence 
that whatever the Lord did about it, it surely 
brought quite a resistless response from the 
crowd. When the white preacher ended his 
tame and sapless address, the multitude cried 
out for Jasper. Inspired by the occasion and 
emboldened by the evident disposition to shut 
him out, Jasper took fire and on eagle wings he 
mounted into the heavens and gave such a 
brilliant and captivating address that the vast 
crowd went wild with joy and enthusiasm. 

There is yet another story of a time when Jas- 
per was called into the country where he and a 
white minister were to take part in one of the 
combined funerals so common at that time. 
Upon arriving at the church the white minister 
was unutterably shocked to find that his associate 
in the services was a negro. That was too much 
for him, and he decided on the spot that if he 
went in, Jasper would have to stay out, and he 
decided that he would go in and would stay in 
until the time was over and leave Jasper to his 
reflections on the outside. For two hours the 
white brother beat the air, killed time, and quite 
wearied the crowd by his lumbering and tire- 
some discourse. After he had arrived at the 
point where it seemed that no more could be 
said, the exhausted and exhausting brother 
closed his sermon and was arranging to end 



THE SLAVE PREACHER 43 

the service. But the people would not have it 
so. Tumultuously they cried out for Jasper, a 
cry in which the whites outdid the blacks. It 
was not in Jasper to ignore such appreciation. Of 
all men, he had the least desire or idea of being 
snubbed or side-tracked. With that mischievous 
smile which was born of the jubilant courage of 
his soul, Jasper came forth. He knew well the 
boundaries of his rights, and needed no danger 
signals to warn him off hostile ground. For 
fifteen or twenty minutes he poured forth a tor- 
rent of passionate oratory, not empty and 
frivolous words, but a message rich with comfort 
and help, and uttered only as he could utter it. 
The effect was electrical. The white people 
crowded around him to congratulate and thank 
him, and went away telling the story of his 
greatness. 

Tradition has failed to give us the name of the 
ill-fated brother who in seeking to kill time, 
seemed to have got knocked into oblivion. It is 
worth while to say that the white ministers were 
within the law in attending occasions like those 
described above and felt the necessity of care and 
discretion in managing the exercises, lest the 
hostilities of irreligious people should be excited 
against the negroes. It is due to the white peo- 
ple, and especially to that denomination to which 
John Jasper was associated, to say that under 
their influence the negroes, who were practically 



44 JOHN JASPER 

barbarians when they were brought into the 
South, were civilized and Christianized. A large 
proportion of them were well-mannered and 
nobly-behaved Christians at the time their slavery 
ended. The church buildings were always con- 
structed so that the white people and the negroes 
could worship in the same house. They were 
baptized by the same minister, they sat down 
together at the communion table, they heard the 
same sermons, sang the same songs, were con- 
verted at the same meetings, and were baptized 
at the same time. Ofttimes, and in almost all 
places, they were allowed to have services to 
themselves. In this, of course, they enjoyed a 
larger freedom than when they met in the same 
house with the white people. 

They know little of the facts who imagine that 
there was estrangement and alienation between 
the negroes and the whites in the matter of re- 
ligion. Far from it. There was much of good 
fellowship between the whites and negroes in the 
churches, and the white ministers took notable 
interest in the religious welfare of the slaves. 
They often visited them pastorally and gladly 
talked with them about their salvation. These 
chapters are not intended either to defend or to 
condemn slavery; but in picturing the condition 
of things which encompassed Jasper during the 
days of slavery, it is worth while to let it be 
understood that it was during their bondage 



THE SLAVE PREACHER 45 

and under the Christian influence of Southern 
people, that the negroes of the South were made 
a Christian people. It was the best piece of 
missionary work ever yet done upon the face of 
the earth. 

Another fact should be referred to here. 
Jasper was a pastor in the City of Petersburg 
even before the breaking out of the Civil War. 
He had charge of one of the less prominent 
negro churches and went over from Richmond 
for two Sundays in each month. This, of course, 
showed the enlargement of his liberty, that he 
could take the time to leave the city so often 
in pursuance of his ministerial work. 

It need hardly be mentioned that his presence 
in Petersburg brought unusual agitation. He 
fairly depopulated the other negro churches and 
drew crowds that could not be accommodated. 
When it was rumoured that Jasper was to preach 
for the first time on Sunday afternoon, the Rev. 
Dr. Keene, of the First Baptist Church, and 
many other white people attended. They were 
much concerned lest his coming should produce 
a disturbance, and they went with the idea of 
preventing any undue excitement. Jasper, flam- 
ing with fervid zeal and exhilarated with the 
freedom of the truth, carried everything before 
him. He had not preached long before the critical 
white people were stirred to the depths of their 
souls and their emotion showed in their weeping. 



46 JOHN JASPER 

They beheld and felt the wonderful power of the 
man. It is said that Dr. Keene was completely 
captivated, and recognized in Jasper a man whom 
God had called. 



"WHAR SIN KUM FRUM?" 

MY first sight of Jasper must always remain 
in the chapter of unforgotten things. The oc- 
casion was Sunday afternoon, and the crowd was 
overflowing. Let me add that it was one of his 
days of spiritual intoxication, and he played on 
every key in the gamut of the human soul. 

Two questions had been shot at him, and they 
both took effect. The first had to do with creation. 
For a half hour he pounded away on the creator- 
ship of God. His address was very strong and 
had in it both argument and eloquence. He 
marshalled the Scriptures with consummate 
skill, and built an argument easily understood 
by the rudest of his hearers ; and yet so com- 
pact and tactful was he, that his most cultured 
hearers bent beneath his force. 

But the second question brought on the pyro- 
technics. It had to do with the origin of sin, > 
" Whar sin kum frum ? " as he cogently put it. 
It was here that a riotous liberty possessed him t 
and he preached with every faculty of his mind, 
with every passion and sentiment of his soul, with 
every nerve, every muscle, and every feature 

47 



48 JOHN JASPER 

of his body. For nearly an hour the air cracked 
with excitement and the crowd melted beneath 
his spell. It was my first experience of that 
unusual power of his to move people in all pos- 
sible ways by a single effort. 

Jasper knew the fundamental doctrines of the 
Bible admirably, and always lived in vital con- 
tact with their essence. There was a kinship 
between the Bible and himself, and, untaught 
of the schools, he studied himself in the light 
of the Bible and studied the Bible in the dark- 
ness of himself. This kept him in contact with 
people and whenever he preached he invaded 
their experience and made conscious their wants 
to themselves. And so it came to pass that 
questions which perplexed them they had the 
habit of bringing to him. This question as to 
the origin of sin had been spurring and nagging 
some of his speculative hearers. They had 
wrangled over it, and they unloaded their per- 
plexity upon him. So it was with this burden 
heavy upon him that he came to the pulpit on 
this occasion. 

It may have been a touch of his dramatic art, 
but at any rate he showed an amiable irritation, 
in view of his being under constant fire from his 
controversial church-members, and so he started 
in as if he had a grievance. It gave pith and 
excitement to his bearing, as he faced the issue 
thus thrust upon him. As a fact, he knew that 



"WHAR SIN KUM FRUM?" 49 

many inquirers sought to entangle him by their 
questions and this opened the way for his say- 
ing, with cutting effect, that they would do better 
to inquire, " whar sin wuz gwine ter kerry 'em, 
instid uv whar it kum frum." 

" An' yer wants ter know whar sin kum frum, 
yer say. Why shud yer be broozin' eroun' wid 
sich a questun as dat ? Dar ain' but wun place 
in de univus uv Gord whar yer kin git any in- 
fermashun on dis pint, and dar, I am free ter tel 
yer, yer kin git all dat yer wish ter know, an' 
maybe a good deal mo'. De place whar de 
nollidge yer need kin be got iz in de Word uv 
Gord. I knows wat sum dat hav' bin talkin* 
'bout dis thing iz arter. I know de side uv de 
questun dey iz struttin' up on. Dey say, or dey 
kinder hint, dat de Lord Gord iz de orthur uv 
sin. Dat's wat dey iz wispurrin* roun' dis town. 
Dey can't fool Jasper ; but I tell you de debbul 
iz playin' pranks on um an' will drag um down 
ter de pit uv hell, ef dey.doan luk out mity 
quick. De Lord Gord know'd frum de beginnin' 
dat sum uv dese debbullish people wud bring 
up dis very charge an' say dat He had tendid 
dat dar shud be sin frum de beginnin'. He done 
speak His mind 'bout dat thing, an' ef yer luk in 
de fust chaptur uv Jeems yer'll find de solum 
uttrunce on dis subjik an' it kleers Gord furevur 
frum dis base slandur. * Let no man say,' says 
de Lord, ' wen he is temptid dat he is temptid 



50 JOHN JASPER 

uv Gord, fur Gord kin not be temptid uv any 
man, an' neethur tempts He any man.' Did yer 
hear dat? Dat's de Lord's own wurds. It 
spressly says dat people will be temptid, every- 
body is temptid ; I bin havin' my temptashuns all 
my life, an' I haz um yit, a heap uv um, an' sum 
uv um awful bad, but yer ain' ketchin' Jasper er 
sayin' dat Gord is at de bottum uv um. Ef I 
shud say it, it wud be a lie, an' all iz liars wen 
dey say dat Gord tempts um? De sinnur is 
gettin' towurds de wust wen he iz willin' ter lay 
de blame uv hiz sins on de Lord. Do it ef yer 
will, but de cuss uv Gord will be erpun yez wen 
yer try ter mek de Lord Gord sich es you iz ; an' 
ter mek b'liev dat de Lord gits orf His throne 
an' kums down in ter mire an' clay uv your 
wicked life an' tries ter jog an' ter fool yer inter 
sin. I trimbul ter think uv sich a thing! I 
wonder dat de Lord duzn't forge new thunder- 
bolts uv Hiz rath an' crush de heds uv dem dat 
charge 'im wid de folly uv human sin. 

"Sum uv yer wud be mity glad ter git Gord 
mix'd up in yer sins an' ter feel dat He iz es bad 
es you iz. It jes' shows how base, how lost, 
how ded, you'se bekum. Wudn't we hev a 
pritty Gord ef He wuz willin' ter git out in de 
nite an' go plungin' down inter de horribul an' 
minus transgresshuns in wich sum men indulg'. 
Let me kleer dis thing up befo' I quit it. Bar in 
mine, dat Gord kin not be temptid uv any man. 



"WHAR SIN KUM FRUM?" 51 

Try it ef yer chuze, an' He will fling yer in ter de 
lowes' hell, an' don't yer dar evur ter say, or ter 
think, or ter hope, dat de temtashun ter du rong 
things kum ter yer from Gord. It do not kum 
frum erbuv, but it kum out uv your foul an' sinful 
hart. Dey iz born dar, born uv your bad 
thoughts, born uv your hell-born lusts, an' dey 
gits strong in yer 'caus' yer don't strangul um at 
de start. 

"Butwhyshud dar be trubble'bout dis subjic? 
Wat duz de Bibul say on dis here mattur 'bout 
whar sin kum frum ? We kin git de troof out uv 
dat buk, fur it kuntains de Wurd uv Gord. Our 
Gord kin not lie ; He nevur hav' lied frum de 
foundashun uv de wurF. He iz de troof an' de 
life an' He nevur lies. 

" Now, wat do He say kunsarnin' dis serus 
questun dat is plowin' de souls uv sum uv my 
brudderin. Ter de Bibul, ter de Bibul, we'll go 
an' wat do we git wen we git dar ? De Bibul 
say dat Eve wuz obur dar in de gardin uv Edun 
one day an' dat she wuz dar by hersef. De Lord 
med Eve, 'caus' it worn't gud fer Adum ter be 
erloan, an' it luks frum dis kase dat it wuz not 
quite safe fer Eve ter be lef at home by hersef. 
But Adum worn't wid her ; doan know whar he 
wuz, gorn bogin' orf sumwhars. He better bin 
at home tendin' ter his fambly. Dat ain' de only 
time, by a long shot, dat dar haz bin de debbul 
ter pay at home wen de man hev gorn gaddin' 



52 JOHN JASPER 

eroun', instid uv stayin' at home an' lookin' arter 
hiz fambly. 

" While Eve wuz sauntrin' an' roamin' eroun' in 
de buterful gardin, de ole sarpint, dyked up ter 
kill, karri gallervantin' down de road an' he 
kotch'd site uv Eve an' luk lik he surpriz'd very 
much but not sorry in de leas'. Now yer mus' 
kno' dat ole sarpint wuz de trickles' an' de arties' 
uv all de beas' uv de feiF, de ole debbul, dat's 
wat he wuz. An' wat he do but go struttin' up 
ter Eve in a mity frien'ly way, scrapin' an' bo win' 
lik a fool ded in luv. 

" ' How yer do ? ' He tries ter be perlite, an* 
puts on hiz sweetes' airs. Oh, dat wuz an orful 
momint in de life uv Eve an' in de histurry uv 
dis po' los' wurl uv ours. In dat momint de 
pizun eat thru her flesh, struk in her blud, an' 
went ter her hart. At fust she wuz kinder 
shame' ; but she wuz kinder loansum, an' she 
wuz pleas' d an' tickl'd ter git notic'd in dat way 
an' so she stay'd dar instid uv runnin' fer her 
life. 

" ' Ve'y wel, I thanks yer,' she say ertremblin', 
' how iz you dis mornin' ? ' De sarpint farly 
shouts wid joy. He dun got her tenshun an' she 
lek ter hear 'im, an' he feel he got hiz chanz an' 
so goes on : 

" ' Nice gardin yer got dar/ he say in er ad- 
mirin' way. ' Yer got heap uv nice appuls obur 
dar.' 



WHAR SIN KUM FRUM?" 53 

" ' Oh, yes, indeed,' Eve replies. ' We got 
lots uv um.' 

" Eve spoke dese wurds lik she wuz proud ter 
deth 'caus' de sarpint lik de gardin. Dar stood 
de sarpint ve'y quiut tel, suddin lek, he juk eroun' 
an' he says ter Eve : 

" ' Kin yer eat all de appuls yer got obur dar ? ' 

" ' No, hindeed,' says Eve, ' we can't eat um 
all. We got moar'n we kin 'stroy save our lives. 
Dey gittin' ripe all de time ; we hev jus' hogshids 
uv um.' 

" ' Oh, I didn't mean dat,' spoke de sarpint, es 
ef shock'd by not bein' understud. ' My p'int iz, 
iz yer 'low'd ter eat um all ? Dat's wat I want ter 
know. As ter yer laws an' rites in de gardin, 
duz dey all sute yer ? ' 

" Per a minnit de 'oman jump'd same es if sum- 
budy struk her a blow. De col' chils run down 
her bak, an' she luk lik she wan ter run, but 
sumhow de eye uv de sarpint dun got a charm 
on her. Dar wuz a struggul, er reglur Bull Run 
battul, gwine on in her soul at dat momint. 

" ' Wat yer ax me dat questun fur ? ' Eve axed, 
gaspin' w'ile she spoke. Den de debbul luk off. 
He tri ter be kam an' ter speak lo an' kine, but 
dar wuz a glar' in hiz eyes. ' I begs many par- 
duns,' he says, 'skuse me, I did not mean ter 
meddul wid yer privit buzniz. I'd bettur skuse 
mysef, I reckin, and try an' git erlong.' 

" ' No ; doan go,' Eve sed. ' Yer havn't hurt 



54 JOHN JASPER 

my feelin's. Wat yer say jes' put new thoughts 
in my min' an' kinder shuk me up at fust. But 
I doan min' talkinV 

" ' Ef dat be de kase,' speaks up de debbul, 
quite brave-lek, ' begs you skuse me ter ask agin 
ef de rules uv de gardin 'lows yer ter eat any uv 
dem appuls yer got in de gardin? I haz my 
reasuns fer axin' dis.' 

" Eve stud darshivurrin' lik she freezin' an' pale 
es de marbul toomstoan. But arter a gud wile 
she pint her han obur to er tree, on de hill on de 
rite, an' she tel 'im, es ef she wuz mity 'fraid, dat 
dar wuz a tree obur dar uv de Nollidge an' uv de 
Deestinxshun, an' she say, ' De Lord Gord He 
tel us we mus' not eat dem appuls ; dey pisun us, 
an' de day we eat um we got to die.' 

" Oh, my brudderin, worn't times mity serus den ? 
'Twuz de hour wen de powurs uv darknis wuz git- 
tin' in an' de foundashuns uv human hopes wuz 
givin' way. Den it wuz he git up close ter Eve 
an' wispur in her ear : 

'"Did de Lord Gord tel yer dat? Doan tel 
nobody, but I wan' ter tel yer dat it ain't so. 
Doan yer b'liev it. Doan let 'im fool yer ! He 
know dat's de bes' fruit in all de gardin, de fruit 
uv de Nollidge an' de Deestinxshun, an' dat wen 
yer eats it yer will know es much es He do. Yer 
reckin He wants yer ter know es much es He do ? 
Na-a-w ; an' dat's why He say wat He do say. 
Vou go git um. Dey's de choysis' fruit in de 



"WHAR, SIN KUM FKUM?" 55 

gardin, an' wen yer eats um yer will be equ'ul 
ter Gord.' 

" Erlas, erlas ! po' deluded an' foolish Eve ! It 
wuz de momint uv her evurlastin' downfall. 
Clouds uv darknis shrouds her min' an' de ebul 
sperrit leap inter her soul an' locks de do' behin' 
him. Dat dedly day she bruk 'way frum de 
Gord dat made her, Eve did, an* purtuk uv de 
fruit dat brought sin an' ruin an' hell inter de 
wurl'." 

" Po' foolish Eve 1 In dat momunt darknis fils 
her min', evul leaps in ter er heart, an' she pluck 
de appul, bruk de kumman uv Gord, and ate de 
fatul fruit wat brought death ter all our race. 

" Artur er wile, Adum kum walkin' up de gar- 
din and Eve she runs out ter meet 'im. Wen he 
kum near she hoi* up er appul in her han' and 
tell him it iz gud ter eat. Oh, blin' and silly 
womun ! First deceived herself, she turn roun' 
and deceives Adum. Dat's de way ; we gits 
wrong, an' den we pulls udder folks down wid 
us. We rarly goes down by oursefs. 

"But whar wuz de rong? Whar, indeed? It 
wuz in Eve's believin' de debbul and not believin' 
Gord. It wuz doin* wat de debbul sed an' not 
doin' wat Gord sed. An' yer kum here and ax 
me whar sin kum frum ! Yer see now, doan' sher? 
It kum out uv de pit uv hell whar it wuz hatched 
'mong de ainjuls dat wuz flung out uv heav'n 
'caus dey disurbeyd Gord. It kum from dat land 



56 JOHH JASPER 

whar de name uv our Gord is hated. It wuz 
brought by dat ole sarpint, de fathur uv lies, and 
he brung it dat he mite fool de woman, an' in 
dat way sot up on de urth de wurks uv de deb- 
bul. Sin iz de black chile uv de pit, it is. It 
kum frum de ole sarpint at fust, but it's here 
now, rite in po' Jasper's hart and in your harf ; 
wharevur dar iz a man or a woman in dis dark 
wurF in tears dar iz sin, sin dat insults Gord, 
tars down His law, and brings woes ter evrybody. 

"An' you, stung by de sarpint, wid Gord's 
rath on yer and yer feet in de paf uv deth, axin' 
whar sin kum frum ? Yer bettur fly de rath uv 
de judgmint day. 

" But dis iz ernuff. I jes' tuk time ter tell whar 
sin kum frum. But my tong carnt refuse ter stop 
ter tel yer dat de blud uv de Lam' slain frum de 
foundashun uv de wurl' is grettur dan sin and 
mitier dan hell. It kin wash erway our sins, mek 
us whitur dan de drivin snow, dress us in redem- 
shun robes, bring us wid shouts and allerluejurs 
bak ter dat fellership wid our Fathur, dat kin 
nevur be brokin long ez 'ternity rolls." 

This outbreak of fiery eloquence was not the 
event of the afternoon, but simply an incident 
It came towards the end of the service, and its 
delivery took not much more time than is re- 
quired to read this record of it. His language 
was perhaps never more broken ; but what he 
said flamed with terrific light. While there were 



"WHAR SIN KUM FRUM?" 57 

touches of humour in his description of the scene 
in the Garden, his message gathered a serious- 
ness and solemnity which became simply over- 
powering. No words can describe the crushing 
and alarming effect which his weird story of the 
entrance of sin into the world had upon his audi- 
ence. Men sobbed and fell to the floor in abject 
shame, and frightened cries for mercy rang wild 
through the church. Possibly never a sweeter 
gospel note sounded than that closing reference 
which he made to the cleansing power of the 
blood shed from the foundation of the world. 

There were many white persons present, and 
they went away filled with a sense of the great- 
ness and power of the Gospel. 



VI 

JASPER SET FREE 

JASPER came to the verge of his greatness after 
he had passed the half century line. Freedom 
had come and to him brought nothing except 
the opportunity to carve out his own fortune. 
His ministry had been migratory, restricted and 
chiefly of ungathered fruit. He found himself in 
Richmond without money and without a home. 
By daily toil he was picking up his bread. He 
was dead set on doing something in the way he 
wanted to do it. He was of the constructive 
sort, and never had done well when building on 
another man's foundation. 

His ambition was to build a church. Down 
on the James River, where the big furnaces were 
run, there was a little island, and on the island a 
little house, and scattered along the canal and 
river were many of the newly liberated and un- 
cared for people of his race. 

He began to hold religious services on the 
island, said by some to have been held in a 
private house, and by others in a deserted stable, 
which was fitted up to accommodate the increas- 
ing crowds. Things went well with him. The 
joy of building flamed his soul, and beneath the tide 

58 




THE SIXTH MOUNT ZION CHURCH 



JASPER SET FREE 59 

of the river he baptized many converts. Happy 
days they were! The people were wild with 
enthusiasm, and the shouts of his congregation 
mingled with the noise of the James River Falls. 
It was to Jasper as the gate of heaven, and he 
walked as the King's ambassador among his ad- 
miring flock. 

But it could not be that way long. There was 
not room enough to contain the people, and yet 
the church was poverty itself, and what could 
they do ? Happily they found a deserted build- 
ing beyond the canal and accessible to the grow- 
ing company of his lovers in the city. There 
things went with a snap and a roar. From every 
quarter the people came to hear this African 
Boanerges. The crowds and songs and riotous 
shouts of his young church filled the neighbour- 
hood. Constant processions, with Jasper at the 
head, visited the river or canal, to give baptism 
to the multiplying converts. 

Meanwhile, however, the northern part of the 
city was fast becoming the Africa of Richmond. 
Into its meaner outskirts at first the tide began 
to roll, but in a little while the white people be- 
gan to retreat, street after street, until a vast area 
was given up to the coloured people. Jasper's 
people, also, as they prospered, began to settle 
in this new Africa, and Jasper found once more 
that he was simply dwelling in tents, when the 
time was coming for the building of the temple. 



60 JOHN JASPER 

Jasper was on the outlook for a new location. 
Finally he hit upon an old brick church building, 
at the corner of Duval and St. John Streets. The 
Presbyterians, who had started this mission years 
before, had despaired of success under the 
changed conditions and they offered the house 
for sale, the price being $2,025. The sense of 
growth and progress fairly maddened this unique 
and fascinating preacher with enthusiasm. He 
had found a home for his people at last, and yet, 
in point of fact, he had not. The house was a 
magnificent gain on their old quarters, and yet 
every Sunday afternoon found most of his crowd 
on the outside. Quite soon his people had to 
enlarge and remodel the house, and this they did 
at a cost of $6,000. By that time the member- 
ship was well on towards 2,000. There they 
dwelt for a number of years until the church be- 
came the centre of the religious life in that part 
of the town. " John Jasper," as he was univer- 
sally called, had easily become the most attrac- 
tive and popular minister of his race in the city. 
By this time he was over sixty years of age, and 
it would have taken much to have quenched the 
yet unwasted buoyancy and vitality of his min- 
istry. Necessity demanded another building, 
and in the later prime of his kingly manhood, 
and very largely by his personal forcefulness and 
intrepid leadership, he led a movement for a 
house of worship that would be respectable in al- 



JASPER SET FEEE 61 

most any part of Richmond. What was more 
';o his purpose, it was very capacious, wisely 
adapted to the wants of his people and a fitting 
monument to his constructive resource and 
enthusiasm. It is said that he, out of his own 
slender resources, gave $3,000 to the building 
fund, and this was probably in addition to great 
sums of money given him by white people who 
went to hear him preach and who delighted to 
honour and cheer the old man. I suppose that 
thousands of dollars were given him from no mo- 
tive save that of kindness towards him, and the 
donours would just as soon have given the 
money directly to him and for his own use. They 
helped to build the church simply to please the 
old man whose eloquence and honesty had won 
their hearts. His love for his church amounted 
to devotion. He had seen it grow from the 
most insignificant beginning, had watched the 
tottering steps of its childhood, and with pride 
natural and affectionate had gloried in its pros- 
perity. 

But be it said to the old man's honour that he 
was too great to be conceited. He had no sense 
of boastfulness or self-glorification about the 
church. He had the frankness to tell the truth 
about things when it was necessary, but he had 
too much manly modesty to claim distinction for 
the part he had borne in the building up of the 
church. Indeed, he was strangely silent about 



62 JOHN JASPER 

his relations with the church, and his dominant 
feeling was one of affectionate solicitude for the 
future of the church rather than of self-satisfaction 
on account of its history. 

There was a strain of severity in Jasper. He 
had some of the temper of the reformer. He 
was quick, often too quick in condemning 
those who criticised him. The fact is, he was so 
unfeignedly honest that he could not be patient 
towards those whose sincerity or honesty he 
doubted. For those who plotted against the 
church or gave trouble in other ways he had 
little charity. Those that would not work in 
harness, and help to move things along, he was 
quite willing to show to the church door. For 
his part, he could not love those very warmly 
who did not love the " Sixth Mount Zion." 

This may be the right place to say a word or 
two as to Jasper's enemies. He was a man of 
war, and it may be that his prejudices sometimes 
got in the saddle. But not very often. Possibly, 
his most striking characteristic was his bottom 
sense of justice. He told the truth by instinct, 
and it never occurred to him to take an undue 
advantage. If, however, a man wronged him, 
he was simply terrible in bringing the fellow to 
book. There was a case, in which it is better not 
to mention names, in which an insidious and 
grievous accusation was brought against this 
sturdy old friend of the faith. The charge sought 



JASPER SET FREE 63 

to fasten falsehood upon Jasper. That was 
enough for him, it amounted to a declaration 
of war, and at once he entered upon the conflict. 
Never did he cease the strife until the charge 
was unsaid. Nothing, in short, could terrify 
him. 

It must not be inferred that those who assailed 
him with questions and arguments were put into 
the category of personal enemies. Controversy 
was exactly to his taste. All he asked of the 
other man was to state his proposition, and he 
was ready for the contest. Not that he went 
into it pell-mell. By no means ; he took time 
for preparation, and when he spoke it was hard 
to answer him. This, of course, applies when 
the questions were theological and Scriptural, 
and not scientific. His knowledge of the Scrip- 
tures was remarkable, and his spiritual insight 
into the doctrines of the Bible was extraordinary. 
When he preached, he supported every point 
with Scriptural quotations, invariably giving the 
chapter and verse, and often adding, " Ef yer don' 
find it jes' ezackly ez I tells yer, yer kin meet 
me on de street nex' week an' say ter me : ' John 
Jasper, you ar er Her,' an' I won' say er wurd." 

What gave to Jasper an exalted and impress- 
ive presence was his insistent claim that he was 
a God-sent man. This he asserted in almost 
every sermon, and with such evident conviction 
that he forced other people to believe it Even 



64 JOHN JASPER 

those who differed with him were constrained 
to own his sincerity and Godliness. It was im- 
possible to be with him much without being im- 
pressed that he was anointed of God for his 
work. It was in this that his people gloried. 
Their faith in him was preeminent, far above 
every question and he was also full of in- 
spiration. You may talk with his disciples 
now, wherever you meet them, and they are 
quick to tell you that " Brer Jasper was certinly 
aninted uv God," and even the more intelligent 
of the people ascribed his greatness to the fact 
that he was under the power of the Holy Ghost. 
Many wicked people heard him preach, and 
some of them still went their wicked way, but 
they felt that the power of God was with Jasper, 
and they were always ready to say so. In 
many points, John Jasper was strikingly like 
John the Baptist, a just man and holy, and 
the people revered him in a way I never met 
with in any other man. 



vn 

THE PICTURE-MAKER 

IN the circle of Jasper's gifts his imagination 
was preeminent. It was the mammoth lamp 
in the tower of his being. A matchless painter 
was he. He could flash out a scene, colouring 
every feature, denning every incident and un- 
veiling every detail. Time played no part in 
the performance, it was done before you knew 
it. Language itself was of second moment. 
His vocabulary was poverty itself, his grammar 
a riot of errors, his pronunciation a dialectic 
wreck, his gestures wild and unmeaning, his 
grunts and heavings terrible to hear. At times 
he hardly talked but simply emitted ; his pictures 
were simply himself in flame. His entire frame 
seemed to glow with living light, and almost 
wordlessly he wrought his miracles. But do 
not misunderstand. Some insisted on saying 
that education would have stripped John of his 
genius by subduing the riot of his power and 
chastening the fierceness of his imagination. I 
think not, for John in a good sense was educated. 
He was a reverential and laborious student for 
half-a-century. He worked on his sermons with 
a marked assiduity and acquired the skill and 

65 



66 JOHN JASPER 

mastership of faithful struggle. Even his imagi- 
nation had to work, and its products were the 
fruit of toil. There was no mark of the abnormal 
or disproportionate in his sky, but all the stars 
were big and bright. He was well ballasted in 
his mental make-up, and in his most radiant 
pictures there was an ethical regard for facts, 
and an instinctive respect for the truth. More- 
over, his ministrations fairly covered the theo- 
logical field, were strongly doctrinal, and he 
grappled with honest vigour the deepest prin- 
ciples of the Gospel. He was also intensely 
practical, scourging sin, lashing neglect, and 
with lofty authority demanding high and faithful 
living. 

Think not of Jasper merely as a pictorial 
preacher. There were wrought into his pictures 
great principles and rich lessons. But now and 
then he would present a sermon which was 
largely a series of pictures from beginning to 
end. His imagination would be on duty all the 
time and yet never flag. I cannot forget his 
sermon on Joseph and his Brethren. It was a 
stirring presentation of the varied scenes in that 
memorable piece of history. He opened on the 
favouritism of Jacob, and was exceedingly strong 
in condemning partiality, as unhappily expressed 
in the coat of many colours. That brief part 
was a sermon itself for parents. From that he 
passed quickly to the envy of his brothers. 



THE PICTURE-MAKER 67 

jealousy was a demon creeping in among 
them, inflicting poisonous stings, and spreading 
his malignant power, until murder rankled in 
every heart. Then came Joseph, innocent and 
ignorant of offending, to fall a victim to their 
conspiracy, with the casting of him into the pit, 
the selling of him to the travelling tradesmen^ 
the showing to Jacob of the blood-stained coat, 
with scene after scene until the happy meeting 
at last between Jacob and his long lost son. 

One almost lived a lifetime under the spell of 
that sermon. It was eloquent, pathetic, terrific 
in its denunications, rich in homely piety, and 
with strains of sweetness that was as balm to 
sorrowing souls. The effects were as varied as 
human thoughts and sentiments. The audience 
went through all moods. Now they were bent 
down as if crushed with burdens ; now they 
were laughing in tumults at the surprises and 
charms of heavenly truth ; anon they were sob- 
bing as if all hearts were broken, and in a mo- 
ment hundreds were on their feet shaking hands, 
shouting, and giving forth snatches of jubilant 
song. This all seems extravagant, without so- 
briety entirely, but those that were there, per- 
haps without an exception, felt that it was the 
veritable house of God and the gate of heaven. 

At other times, Jasper's sermons were sober 
and deliberate, sometimes even dull ; but rarely 
did the end come without a burst of eloquence 



68 JOHN JASPER 

or an attractive, entertaining picture. But, re- 
member, that his pictures were never foreign to 
his theme. They were not lugged in to fill up. 
They had in them the might of destiny and fitted 
their places, and fitted them well. Often they 
came unheralded, but they were evidently born 
for their part. On one occasion his sermon was 
on Enoch. It started out at a plodding gait and 
seemed for a time doomed to dullness, for Jasper 
could be dull sometimes. At one time he brought 
a smile to the faces of the audience, in speaking 
of Enoch's age, by the remark : " Dem ole folks 
back dar cud beat de presunt ginerashun livin' 
all ter pieces." 

As he approached the end of his sermon, his 
face lighted up and took on a new grace and 
passion, and he went out with Enoch on his last 
walk. That walk bore him away to the border 
of things visible ; earthly scenes were lost to 
view ; light from the higher hills gilded the 
plains. Enoch caught sight of the face of God, 
heard the music and the shouting of a great host, 
and saw the Lamb of God seated on the throne. 
The scene was too fair to lose, and Enoch's walk 
quickened into a run which landed him in his 
father's house. It was a quick, short story, told 
in soft and mellow tones, and lifted the audience 
up so far that the people shouted and sang as if 
they were themselves entering the gates of 
heaven. 



THE PICTURE-MAKER 69 

One of his more elaborate descriptions, far too 
rich to be reproduced, celebrated the ascension of 
Elijah. There was the oppressive unworldliness 
of the old prophet, his efforts to shake off Elisha, 
and Elisha's wise persistence in clamouring for a 
blessing from his spiritual father. But it was 
when the old prophet began to ascend that 
Jasper, standing off like one apart from the scene, 
described it so thrillingly that everything was as 
plain as open day. To the people, the prophet 
was actually and visibly going away. They saw 
him quit the earth, saw him rise above the moun- 
tain tops, sweeping grandly over the vast fields 
of space, and finally saw him as he passed the 
moon and stars. Then something happened. In 
the fraction of a second Jasper was transmuted 
into Elijah and was actually in the chariot and 
singing with extraordinary power the old chorus : 
" Going up to heaven in a chariot of fire." The 
scene was overmastering 1 For a time I thought 
that Jasper was the real Elijah, and my distinct 
feeling was that the song which he sang could 
be heard around the world. Of course, it was 
not so ; but there was something in the experi- 
ence of the moment that has abided with me ever 
since. 

At a funeral one Sunday I saw Jasper at- 
tempt a dialogue with death, himself speaking 
for both. The line of thought brought him 
face to face with death and the grave. The 



70 JOHN JASPER 

scene was solemnized by a dead body in a coffin. 
He put his hands over his mouth and stooped 
down and addressed death. Oh, death death, 
speak to me. Where is thy sting? And then 
with the effect of a clairvoyant he made reply : 
" Once my sting was keen and bitter, but now it 
is gone. Christ Jesus has plucked it out, and I 
have no more power to hurt His children. I am 
only the gatekeeper to open the gateway to let 
His children pass." In closing this chapter an 
incident will largely justify my seemingly extra- 
ordinary statements as to the platform power of 
this unschooled negro preacher in Virginia. 

In company with a friend I went very often 
Sunday afternoons to hear Jasper and the fact was 
bruited about quite extensively, and somewhat 
to the chagrin of some of my church-members. 
Two of them, a professor in Richmond College 
and a lawyer well-known in the city, took me to 
task about it. They told me in somewhat de- 
cided tones that my action was advertising a 
man to his injury, and other things of a similar 
sort. I cared but little for their criticism, but 
told them that if they would go to hear him when 
he was at his best, and if afterwards they felt 
about him as they then felt, I would consider 
their complaints. They went the next Sunday. 
The house was overflowing, and Jasper walked 
the mountain tops that day. His theme was 
"The raising of Lazarus" and by steps majestic 



THE PICTUKE-MAKER 71 

he took us along until he began to describe the 
act of raising Lazarus from the dead. It hap- 
pened that the good professor was accompanied 
by his son, a sprightly lad of about ten, who was 
sitting between his father and myself. Suddenly 
the boy, evidently agitated, turned to me and 
begged that we go home at once. I sought to 
soothe him, but all in vain, for as he proceeded 
the boy urgently renewed his request to go home. 
His father observed his disquietude and putting 
an arm around him restored him to calmness. 
After the service ended and we had reached the 
street, I said to him : " Look here, boy, what 
put you into such a fidget to quit the church be- 
fore the end of the service ? " " Oh, doctor, I 
thought he had a dead man under the pulpit and 
was going to take him out," he said. My lawyer 
brother heard the sermon and with profound 
feeling said, " Hear that, and let me say to you 
that in a lifetime I have heard nothing like it, 
and you ought to hear that man whenever you 
can." 

I heard no later criticisms from any man con- 
cerning my conduct in evincing such cordial 
interest in this eloquent son of Fluvanna. 

It was only necessary to persuade Jasper's 
critics to hear him, to remove all question as 
to his genuine character and effective spiritual 
ministry. 



VIII 

JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 

THE domestic history of this rare and gifted 
man was not without its tragical incidents. One 
of the worst features of slavery, as an institution 
in the South, was the inevitable legislation which 
it necessitated, and under which many grievous 
wrongs were perpetrated. The right of the slave 
owner to the person of the slave carried with it 
the authority to separate man and wife at the 
dictate of self-interest, and that was often done, 
though it ought to be said that thousands of kind- 
hearted men and women did their utmost to 
mitigate the wrongs which such legislation legal- 
ized. In the sale of the negroes regard was often 
had for the marriage relation, and it was arranged 
so that the man and wife might not be torn 
asunder. But it was not always this way. Too 
often the sanctity of marriage and the laws of 
God concerning it were sacrificed to the greed of 
the slaveholder. 

If the tradition of Mr. Jasper's first marriage is 
to be accepted as history, then he was the victim 
of the cruel laws under which the institution of 
slavery was governed. In the changes which 

72 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 73 

came to him in the breaking up of the family to 
which he belonged his lot was cast for a while 
in the city of Williamsburg. The story is that 
he became enamoured of a maiden bearing the 
name of Elvy Weaden, and he was successful in 
his suit It chanced, however, that on the very 
day set for his marriage, he was required to go 
to Richmond to live. The marriage was duly 
solemnized and he was compelled to leave his bride 
abruptly, but was buoyed with the hope that fairer 
days would come when their lot would be cast 
together. The fleeting days quenched the hope 
and chilled the ardour of the bride, and in course 
of time the impatient woman notified Jasper that 
unless he would come to see her and they could 
live together, she would account herself free to 
seek another husband. He was not a man to 
brook mistreatment, and he made short work of 
the matter. He wrote her that he saw no hope 
of returning to Williamsburg, and that she must 
go ahead and work out her own fate. Naturally 
enough, the difficulties under which the married 
life had to be maintained served to weaken seri- 
ously the marital tie and to imperil the virtue of 
the slaves. But this remark ought not to be 
made without recalling the fact that there were 
thousands and tens of thousands of happy and 
well-governed families among the slaves of the 
South. 
Jasper felt seriously the blight of this untimely 



74: JOHN JASPER 

marriage and he seems to have remained unmar- 
ried until after he united with the church and be- 
came a preacher. In time, his thoughts turned 
again to marriage. He was then a member of 
the First African Baptist Church of Richmond. 
He took the letter which his wife had written him 
some time before and presented it to the church 
and asked what was his duty under the circum- 
stances. It was a complex and vexing question, 
but his brethren, after soberly weighing the mat- 
ter, passed a resolution expressing the conviction 
that it would be entirely proper for him to marry 
again. Accordingly, about five years after his 
conversion, he married a woman bearing the un- 
usual name of Candus Jordan. According to all 
reports, this marriage was far more fruitful in 
children than in the matter of connubial peace 
and bliss for the high-strung and ambitious Jasper. 
It seems that the case must have had some re- 
volting features, as in due time Jasper secured a 
divorce and was fully justified by his brethren 
and friends in taking this action. Evidently this 
separation from his wife, which was purely vol- 
untary, in no way weakened him in the confi- 
dence and good-will of the people. 

Years after his divorce, Jasper married Mrs. 
Mary Anne Cole. There were no children by 
this marriage, but his wife had a daughter by her 
former marriage who took the name of Jasper, and 
was adopted in fact and in heart as the daugh- 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 75 

ter of this now eminent and beloved minister. 
This wife died in 1874, and Jasper married once 
more. His widow survived him and still lives, 
a worthy and honoured woman whose highest 
earthly joy is the recollection of having been the 
wife of Elder John Jasper, and also the solace and 
cheer of his old age. This is a checkered story of 
a matrimonial career, but justice loudly demands 
the statement that through it all John Jasper 
walked the lofty path of virtue and honour. It 
was impossible, however, for a man like Jasper 
to escape the arrows of the archer. Jealousy, 
envy, and slander were often busy with his name, 
and if foul charges could have befouled him none 
could have been fouler than he. But his daily 
life was a clean and unanswerable story. Re- 
proaches would not stick to him, and the dead- 
liest darts fell harmless at his feet. His noble 
seriousness, his absorption in the study of the 
Bible, his enthusiasm in the ministry, and, most 
of all, his quiet walk with God, saved him from 
the grosser temptations of life. 

Perhaps the finest incident in all the story of 
his life was the perfect faith of the people in 
Jasper. This was true everywhere that he was 
known, but it was most powerfully true among 
those who stood nearest to him and knew him 
best. Jasper, to them, was the incarnation of 
goodness. They felt his goodness, revelled in it, 
and lived on it. Their best earthly inspirations 



76 JOHN JASPER 

sprang out of the fair and incorruptible character 
of their pastor. If his enemies sought to under- 
mine and defame him, they rallied around him 
and fought his battles. Little cared he for the ill 
things said about him personally. Conscious of 
his rectitude, and, embosomed in the love of his 
great church, he walked serenely and trium- 
phantly in the way of the Lord. He believed in 
the sanctity of his home, and he hallowed it by 
the purity, honesty, and charity of his brethren. 

Anxious to get some living testimony in 
regard to the personal character of Jasper, I de- 
termined to get in contact with a few persons 
who stood very close to him, and that, for many 
years. In what follows is found the testimony 
of a truly excellent woman, to whom I was di- 
rected, with the assurance that what she said 
might be taken as thoroughly trustworthy. She 
gave her name as Virginia Adams, and, judging 
from her appearance and manner, one would 
probably write her down as not far from three- 
score and ten. She was for many years a mem- 
ber of his church. The following story from her 
lips is not connected, but it is simply the unmethod- 
ical testimony of a sensible woman, bearing about 
it the marks of sincerity, intelligence, and rev- 
erential affection. 

" Brer' Jasper was as straightfor'd a man es 
you cud see, and yer cud rely 'pon ev'ry word 
he told yer. He made it so plain dat watuver 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 77 

he tol* yer in his sermon yer cud read it right 
thar in yer heart, jes' like he had planted and 
stamped it in yer. I can't read myse'f, but I kno' 
well when anybody mek any mistake 'bout de 
passages which Brer Jasper used to preach 'bout. 
I've got 'em jes' de same es if I had 'em printed 
on my mem'ry. His mi'ty sermon on Elijer is 
in me jes' es he preached it. I kin see Elijer es 
Elisha is runnin' arter him, kin see de cheryot 
es it kum down, see Brer Jasper es he wuz pintin' 
ter de cheryot es it riz in its grand flight up de 
skies, see Elijer es he flung his mantul out es 
he went up, and I tell yer when Brer Jasper be- 
gan ter sing 'bout goin' up ter heaven in a 
cheryot uv fire I cud see everything jes' es bright 
es day, and de people riz such a shout dat I 
thought all de wurl' wuz shoutin'. Yes, Brer 
Jasper wuz de kindes' man I reckon on de urth. 
Yer cudn't finish tellin' him 'bout folks dat wuz 
in trouble and want, befo' he'd be gittin' out his 
money. He didn't look lik he keer much 'bout 
money, he warn't no money-seeker, and yit he 
look lik he allus hev money, and he wuz allus de 
fust ter give. Jes' tell him wat wuz needed, and 
he begun fer to scratch in his pocket. 

" Brer Jasper kep' things lively. People wuz 
talkin' all de time 'bout his sermons, and yer cud 
hear their argiments while yer wuz gwine 'long 
de streets. Often his members an' udder folks 
too wud git tangled up 'bout his doctrines and 



I 
78 JOHN JASPER 

dey wud git up texs an' subjiks an' git him ter 
preach 'bout 'em. Ef any uv his brutherin had 
trubbul wid passiges uv de scripshur and went 
ter him 'bout 'em, you'd sure hear frum him nex 
Sunday. He luv ter splain things fer his bruth- 
erin. 

" It wuz Bruther Woodson, de sexton uv de 
church, and anudder man dat got Brer Jasper in 
ter dat gret 'citemint 'bout de sun. Dey got in- 
ter a spute es to wheddur de sun went 'roun' de 
wurF ur not, and dey took it ter our pastor, and 
really I thought I nevur wud hear de end of dat 
thing. Folks got arter Brer Jasper in de papurs 
and every whar ; but I tell yer dey nevur skeered 
him. He wuz es brave es a lion, an' I don' kno' 
how often he preached dat sermon. It look lik 
all de people in de wurl' want to kum. 

" No, Brer Jasper wuz no money-grabbur. 
When de church wuz weak and cudn't raze much 
money, he nevur sot no salary. Yer cudn't git 
him ter do it. He tell 'em not ter trubble 'em- 
selves, but jes' giv him wat dey chuze ter put in 
de baskit and he nevur made no kumplaint. Wen 
de church got richer dey crowd 'im hard ter kno' 
how much he wantid, and he at las' tell 'em dat 
he wud take $62.50 a month, and dat he didn't 
want no more dan dat. Wen de gret crowds 
got ter kummin* and de white folks too, and de 
money po'ed in so fas' de brutherin farly quarl'd 
wid him ter git his sal'ry raz'd, but he say No J 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 79 

I git nuff now, and I want no more. I'm not 
here to gouge my people out of es much money 
es I kin. He say he got nuff money to pay his 
taxes and buy wat he needed, and if dey got 
more dan dey wantid let 'em take it and help de 
Lord's pore. Sometimes we used ter ' poun' ' de 
ole man, kerryin' 'im all kinds uv good things ter 
eat. He didn't lik it at all, but tuk de things and 
sont 'em 'roun' ter de pore people. 

" Brer Jasper wuz nun uv yer parshul preachers. 
His church wuz his family, and he had no 
favrites. He did not bow down ter de high nor 
hoi' 'imsef 'bove de low. Enny uv his people 
cud kum ter him 'bout all dere struggles and 
sorrers. He hated erroneyus doctrines. His 
faith in de Bibul wuz powerful, and he luved it 
'bove everything. He had awful dreds 'bout 
wat mite kum ter de church wen he wuz gone. 
He sometimes said in a mity solem way, ' Wen I 
am daid and gone, yer will look out ter whar 
my ashes lay and wish I wuz back here ter 'part 
ter yer de pure wurd uv Gord agin. I got a fear 
dat dose dat kum arter me will try ter pull down 
wat I built up. I pray Gord, my children will 
stand by de ship uv Zion wen I's gone.' 

' ' Brer Jasper got troubles 'bout de way young 
childun wuz got inter de church. He say 'all 
yer got ter do is to pitty-pat em (making the 
motion in the pulpit with his hands) on dere 
haids and dey are in de kingdom. Sum uv yer 



80 JOHN JASPER 

duz the convertin' of dese little uns fnstid er 
leavin' it ter God ter do de work.' He believed 
in regenerashum of folks. He preach'd ter de 
very last on being born agin, and he didn't 
want nobody ter kum inter his church wat ain't 
felt -de power uv de sperrit in dere souls. 

" But Brer Jasper wuz a mity luver uv de 
childun. He had a great way of stoppin' and 
talkin' ter dem on de street. He wuz a beauti- 
ful story-teller, and de childrun often flocked ter 
his house ter hear 'im tell nice stories and all 
kine uv good tales. He kept pennies in his 
pockets and often dropped 'em along for de 
chilrun he had great ways, til de chilrun 
ud think he wuz de greatest man dat ever put 
foot on de yearth. 

" Brer Jasper wuz sosherbul wid everybody, and 
nobody cud beat him as a talker. He knew lots 
'bout Richmond, and de ole times, and he had 
de grandest stories and jokes dat he luved ter 
tell and dat de folks went wild ter hear. He 
wuz great on jokes and cracked 'em in sech a 
funny way dat folks most killed de 'sefs laughin'. 
But yer mus' kno' dat he wuz mity keerful 'bout 
how he talked. Yer neer hear no bad words 
frum his mouth. His stories he could tell enny- 
whar, and wuz jes' as nice ter de ladies as ter 
der men. He didn't b'leve in no Sercities. Dey 
tried ter git 'im in de Masons, and I don't kno' 
wat all, but he ain't tech none uv 'em. He sez 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 81 

oar ain't but one Grand Past Master and dat is 
King Jesus. 

"* Dey orf'n wanted 'im at de big public suppers 
war dey et an' drank an' made speeches, but he 
wouldn't go near ; and den our high people had 
der big suppers in dere houses and wanted de 
'onur uv entertainin' Brer Jasper, but he didn't 
hanker arter dose kind uv things. He wanted 
his meals simple and reglur and uv de plain 
sort, and as fer dese high ferlootin' feasts dey 
didn't suit his taste. 

" It look lik Brer Jasper couldn't stop preachin'. 
It wuz his food and drink, an' enny time he'd git 
way beyond his strength. I've seen 'im wen it 
looked lik de las' bref hed gone out' en his body, 
and sometimes some uv de brutherin say he did 
not look like a natchul man. He seemed more in 
hevun dan on urth. I most reckun some uv 
de brutherin thought he wuz gone up in ter 
heavun like Lijer. Dey go in de pulpit and tek 
hoi' uv 'im and say Brer Jasper yer dun preached 
nuff. Don't wear yerself down. Tek yer seat 
and res' yersef. He knew dey did it fer luv, and 
he took it kind, but he didn't always stop at once. 

" Brer Jasper had a walk mity remarkbul. Wen 
ne went in de streets he wuz so stately and 
grave lik dat he walk diffrunt from all de 
people. Folks wud run out uv all de stores, or 
out on der porches, or turn back ter look wen 
Jasper kum 'long. Oh, it made us proud ter 



82 JOHN JASPER 

look at him. No other preacher could walk like 
him. Yer felt de ground got holy war he went 
'long. Sum uv 'em say it wuz ekul ter a re- 
vival ter see John Jasper moving lik a king 
'long de street. Often he seemed ter be wrappd 
up in his thoughts and hardly to know whar he 
wuz. De people feared 'im so much, wid sech 
a luvin' kind uv fear, dat dey hardly dared to 
speak ter him. 

" Brer Jasper wuz mity fond uv walkin' in de 
pulpit. It wuz a great large place, and he 
frisked round most lik he wuz a boy. Wen he 
filled up wid de rousement of the Gospel on him, 
it was just glor'us to see him as he whirled 
about the stand ; the faces of his folks shone 
wid de brightness of de sun, and they ofen 
made the house ring with laughter and with 
their shouts. 

" One thing he did dat always made his congre- 
gasons rock wid joy, an' dat wuz ter sing wile 
he wuz preachin'. He wuz mos' ninety years 
old, but he never lost his power ter sing, an' 
wen he struck er tune de note uv it shot in de 
people lik arrurs from anguls quivur. Yer 
cudn't hoi' still wen Jasper sung. Soon as he 
started, de people would 'gin to swing an' jine 
in tel de music filled de house. He cud sing a 
heap uv songs, but he had a few great songs. 
Yer orter to hear him sing by hiself his favrite 
piece." Here it is : 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 83 

EV'BUDY GOT TER RISE TER MEET 
KING JESUS IN DE MORNIN' 

" ' Ev'budy got ter rise ter meet King Jesus in 

de mornin' ; 
De high and de lo' ; 
De rich and de po', 
De bond and de free, 
As well as me. 

" < Yer got ter rise ter meet King Jesus in de 

mornin', 

Weddur yer iz purparred er no, 
Ter Gord's trirbewnul 
Yer got ter go, 

Yer got ter rise ter meet King Jesus in de 
mornin'. 

" ' De lurnid and de unlurnid, 
Barbareun, Jentile and de Jew, 
Hev yer red hit in Hiz wurd, 
Dat de peepul wuz drondid in de flud, 
Ev'budy got ter rise ter meet King Jesus in 
de mornin'.' 



" Dar wuz a song dat Jasper made hisself. 
Some called it a ballard, and udders said it wuz a 
poem ; but wat evur twuz, it wuz glory ter hear 
him sing it. It went dis way : 



" ' I beheld and lo 

A grate multertude dat no man kin number, 
Thousuns and thousuns, an' ten thousun times 

ten thousun, 
Standin' befo' de Lam' , 
And dey had pams in dere hans. 



84 JOHN JASPER 

" ' Dey nevur restid day nur night, 

Cryin' Holy, Holy, Holy, iz de Lord, Gord uv 

Sabbuth 

Dat wuz, an' iz, and iz ter kum, 
I saw a mi'ty ainjel flyin' through de midst uv 

heaven, 

Cryin' wid a loud voice, 
Sayin' Woe ! Woe ! Woe ! be unto de earth by 

reazun uv de trumpit, 
Dat which is yet ter soun'. 
And when de las' trumpit shall soun', 
See de great men and noble, 
De rich, and de po', de bond and de free, 
Gueddur 'ernselves terguedder, cryin' ter de 

rocks, an' ter de mountins, 
Ter fall 'pon 'em an' hide 'em, 
From de face uv Him dat sitteth on de throne, 
De great day uv His rath hav kum an' who shall 

be able ter stan' ? ' 



" And den, too, he had his shoutin' song. He 
never sung it 'cept wen de heavenly fires wuz 
burnin' all over his soul. He kept tune wid his 
walkin' and wid de clappin' uv his hands. Dis 
song never got in 'cept at de close uv sermons 
dat had heaven in 'em, and somehow he jumped 
from de sermon all at once in ter de song an' it 
would hev fairly kilt yer wid joy ter hear it. 
Here is de way he put it : 

" ' My soul will mount higher in a chariot of fire, 
And de wurl' is put under my feet.' 

" Dis wuz the start uv it, but dere wuz heaps 
more. 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 85 

" It wuz an awful time ter us wen we begun ter 
see dat our ole pastor wuz near ter de end uv his 
race. We had been a-dreddin' it by degrees and 
it broke on us more and more. I think de dere 
man tried ter git us reddy fer it. He kep sayin' 
to us : ' My chilrun, my work on de earth is 
dun. I doan ask death no more odds dan a 
horse-fly.' But den he'd preach so powerful 
dat we'd hope dat he'd hoi' out a good deal 
longer. He said ter me one day : ' Compar- 
tivly speakin', my time in dis wurl' is skin deep,' 
and I look at my hand and think how thin de 
skin is, and I feel dat sho' nuff he mus' soon be 
goin'. 

" One night at de church he turned hissef loos. 
He said dat as fer 'imself it mattered nuthin'. He 
had paid all his debts, dat he did not keer whar 
or when he dropped ; but he wanted everybody 
ter know dat he wud be wid Jesus. Dat wuz one 
uv de things dat he luved ter say. Den he told 
de church dat dar wuz nuthin' lef uv him, dat 
he wanted 'em to git tergedder and pay off der 
church debt and live tergedder lik little chil'run 
He wuz mity gret dat night, an' it looked lik de 
powers uv de wurl' ter kum wuz dar. 

" De people went out silent lik an' dey said dat 
de gud ole pastor preached his own funeral dat 
night. He allus thought uv hissef es de servant 
uv King Jesus. Dat wuz a slavery dat he liked 
and nevur wished to git free from it. Towards 



86 JOHN JASPER 

de las' he wuz all de time sayin' : ' I am now 
at de river's brink and waitin' fer furder orders. 
It's de same ter me ter go or stay, jes' es Gord 
commands ' 

" Some folks said dat he wuz conceited. Dey 
did not know him. He wuz too full uv de fear 
uv Gord to think he wuz sum great body, an' he 
know'd his own sins an' troubles too well ter 
boast. He must hev known dat Gord made him 
more uv a man dan de gen'ral run. He had ter 
kno' dat, 'caus' it wuz proved ter him every day, 
an' in a heap uv ways. Besides dat, he hilt his- 
self up high. He had good respec' for hisself 
and felt dat a man lik he wuz had got ter be- 
have hisself 'cordin' ter wat he wuz. But dat 
wuz very different from bein' one uv dese giddy 
little fops dat is always trancin' aroun' showin' 
hisself off, and braggin' 'bout everything. I often 
wondered how Jasper could be so umble lik, wen 
so many cacklin' fools wuz bodderin' 'im. 

" Brer Jasper could git up big things wen he 
tried. Wen dey got in a tight place 'bout de 
church an' had to have money, he got up a skur- 
shun ter Washington. He sent out de members 
ter sell tickets, an' dey sold so many dat dey had 
ter have two trains ter carry 'em, and jes' think, 
sir, he cleared $1,500 fer his church by dat skur- 
shun, and he got up anudder to Staunton dat 
wuz mos' as good as de udder one. Ah, he wuz 
a leader, I tell you he wuz. We never could 



JASPER'S STAR WITNESS 87 

have had our fine church if it had not bin fer 
him. 

" It's mity easy fer folks ter forget things. Some 
folks are teerin' 'roun' as if the church b'longed 
ter 'em now, and dey are ready ter tell you dat 
Jasper made mistakes and all dat, but sum uv us 
knows well dat Jasper built dat church. You 
need nevur spectter hear any more sech preachin' 
in dat pulpit as dat grand ole man uv God used 
ter give us. 

" You know Brer Jasper got convicted uv his 
sins fer de first time on de 4th of July in Capitol 
Squar', Richmond. He use ter tell us 'bout it 
many a time. While de folks wuz swarmin' 
'roun' and laffin' and hurrahin', an arrer uv con- 
vicshun went in ter his proud heart an' brought 
'im low. He never forgot dat place, and when 
he got ter be an ole man he wuz kinder drawn 
ter Capitol Squar. He luv ter go down dar. 
He like de cool shade uv de trees and 'joyed de 
res', dozin' sometimes wen he wuz tired. De 
people, and speshully de chilrun, used ter git 
'roun' him an' ask him questions an' make him 
talk. He lik things lik dat. Some uv de Jews 
used ter kum ter hear Brer Jasper preach. They 
called him Father Abraham and showed gret gud 
feelin' fur 'im. Some uv 'em used ter meet him 
in de Cap'tol Squar* an' dey would have great 
ole talks tergudder, an' he didn't mind tellin' 'em 
de truth an' he told 'em dat dey wuz de chilrun 



88 JOHN JASPER 

uv Abraham, but dat dey had gone all te 
pieces. 

" Dey tell me he never went ter skule 'cep' six 
months, an' I hear dat he jes' studied wid a man 
dat taught him in a New York Speller book ; but 
when he spoke at de Y. M. C. A. and many uv 
de white gemmen went ter hear 'im, they 
say he certainly used ellergunt language. I 
know he could handle great words when he 
wanted to, an' he could talk in de old way, an' 
he often loved to do dat." 



IX 

JASPER'S SERMON ON DEM SEBUN WIMMIN" 

" DID yer ebur git yer mine on wat Iz'er say in 
chapter fo' an' vurs wun ? Listen ter hiz wurds : 
' An' sebun wimmin shall tek hoi' uv wun man 
in dat day, sayin' we will eat our own bread 
an' wear our own 'parrel ; only let us be called 
by Thy name ; tek Thou erway our reproach.' 
De Profit iz furloserfizin' 'bout de mattur uv 
wimmin, speshully wen dar is sebun in de Ian', 
wen wars dun thin out de men and de wimmins 
feels de stings an' bites uv reproach. I tell yer, 
yer bettur not fling yer gibes an' sneers at er 
'omun. She wuzn't made ter stan' it, an' wats 
mo', she ain't gwine ter stan' it. Shure ez yer iz 
settin' on dat bench she will fly erway an' hide 
hersef, or she will fly at yer, an' den, ole fellur, 
yer had bettur be pullin' out fer de tall timbur 
fast. Gord dun settled it dat wun 'omun iz nuff 
fer a man, an' two iz er war on yer hans, bles 
yer, it is. 

" But dar kums times wen it goze hard wid 
wimmin. Dey iz lef out uv de lottry uv heavun, 
dey draws blanks an' dey gits ter be a laughin' 
stock uv de ungodly. Not dat dey iz crazy ter 
marry an' not dat dey iz uv dat flautin', slatturn 

89 



90 

lot dat's allus gallantin' eroun' ertryin' ter git a 
man ter 'sport um. Dese wuz squar, alrite 
wimmin. Wurk wud not skeer um. Dey wuz 
willin' ter mek dere bread an' does, ter pay dere 
own way, purvidid dey cud be Mrs. Sumbody, 
an' in dat way 'skape de dev'lish jeers an' slites 
uv base men. Fur my part, I feels quite sorry 
fur dat class uv ladiz, an' I kinder feels my blud 
gittin' up wen I finds folks castin' reproachiz on 
dere fair names. 

" But my mastur in de skies 1 Dis pikshur 
here uv de Profit iz too much fer me. It mek 
me feel lik tekin' ter de woods, in quick ordur. 
Lord, wat wud I do ef I wuz pursued by er army 
uv seben wimmin axin me ter 'low each wun uv 
um ter be call'd Mrs. Jasper? It may be dat 
each wun wuz fer hersef ter de limit, an' hoped 
ter shet out de udder six an* hev de man ter 
hersef ; an' ef she wuz ter hev 'im ertall she ort 
ter hav all uv im. Dar iz not nuff ter d'vide ; I 
tel yer, dar ain't, an' wen yer git er haf intrest in 
er man yer iz po' indeed, an' ef only wun sevunth 
iz yourn, yer had es wel start on ter de po' house 
'fo yer git yer dinner. 

" A gud 'omun can't byar ter be oberluked. It 
ain't her nature, an' it iz a site fer de anguls ter 
see wat sort uv men sum wimmin wil tek sooner 
dan be lef out inti'ly. 

" But wat gits me arter all iz a man. I see 'im 
in de quiet uv de day, de Sabbuth day. He 



DEM SEBUN WIMMIN 91 

teks a strole fer de koolin' uv hiz mine, erwearin* 
uv hiz nice does, an' feelin' lik a new man in de 
City Kounsil ; de fust thing he know'd a lady 
glide up ter 'im an' put her han' lite on hiz arm. 
He jump 'roun' an' she say, mity flush'd up, 
' 'skuse me ! ' 

"He see at wunst she er lady, but he wuz kinder 
lo' in hiz sperrit, an' yit he wish in hiz hart dat 
she had gon ter de udder en uv de rode, but he 
want ter hear her out. 

"She tel 'im de site uv a man wuz medsin 
fer bad eyes, dat nurly all uv 'em wuz cut down 
in de war an' dat in konsquens it wuz er lonesum 
time fer wimmin ; dey hev nobody now ringin' 
de do' bells in de eebnin ; no boys sendin' 'em 
flowers an* 'fekshuns ; no sweetarts tekin' 'em 
walkin' on Sunday arternoons, an' weddins 
gwine out er fashun. An' dis ain't de wust uv 
it. It mek us shamed. De wives, dey purrades 
'roun' an' brags 'bout dere ' ole mans ' an' cuts der 
eye at us skornful ; an' de husban's iz mity nigh 
es bad, erpokin' fun at us an' axin erbout de 
chillun. 

" She say yer needn' think we're crazy ter 
marry ; tain't dat, an' tain't dat we want yer ter 
'sport us, no, no ! We hev money an' kin fun- 
nish our own vittuls an' cloes, an' we kin wuk ; but 
it iz dat reproach dey kas' on us, de wear an' tear 
uv bein' laff'd at dat cuts us so deep. Ef I cud 
be Mrs. Sumbody, had sum proof dat I had 



92 JOHN JASPER 

de name uv sum un, sumthin' ter rub off de 
reproach. Oat's it, dis ding-dongin' uv de 
fokes at me, 

" De man wuz pale es linnin, an* wuz hopin' ter 
ansur, but fo' de wud floo frum his lips ernudder 
'omun hooked 'im on de ter side. Mursy uv de 
Lord 1 two uv 'em had 'im an' it luk lik dey wuz 
gwine ter rip 'im in tew an' each tek a haf. De 
las' wun tel her tale jes' lik de fust wun an' wuss. 
She brung in tears es part uv her argurmint, an' 
de ter wun got fretted an' used wuds dat wud 
hevkonkurred 'im ef jes' den two mo', two mo', 
mine yer, mekin' fo' in all, hed not kum up an' 
gits er grip on de gemmun, an' hiz eyes luk lik 
dey'd pop out his hed ; wun on each side an' 
two ter hiz face, an' it seems he gwine ter faint. 

" ' Yer ladiz,' he says, ' may be rite in yer 
'thuzasm, but yer iz too menny. Up ter dis time 
I hev bin shy uv wun, but ef I cud be erlowed 
ter choose jes' wun I mite try it.' 

" Den de fo' wimmins begun ter git shaky wen 
a nur wun sailed in, dat's five, den ernudder ; 
dat's six, and den wun mo' SEBUN ! 

" Luk, will yer 1 Sevun got wun man. It izn't 
sed wedder de wimmin wuz fer a partnurship wid 
de man es de kapertul, or wedder each uv 'em 
hoped ter beat out de udder six ; but wun thing 
we know an' dat iz dat de po' man iz in de low 
grounds uv sorrur. Ter my min', de pikshur iz 
mity seerus, ebun do it mek us smile. Fur my 



" DEM SEBUN WIMMIN " 93 

pel' part, I iz glad we lives in fairer times. In 
our day mens iz awful plen'ful wid us, tho' I kin 
not say dat de qualty iz fust class in ve'y menny. 
But I thanks de Lord dat mos' enny nice leddy 
kin git merrid in dese times ef dey choose, an' 
dat wid out gwine out sparkin' fur de man. I 
notis dat ef she stay ter home, ten her buznis, 
min' her mudder, an' not sweep de streets too 
off'n wid her skirts, in de long run her modes' 
sperrit will win de day. I ubsurv ernudder 
thing ; de unmerrid lady, de ole maid es sum 
calls her, need not hang her haid. Jes' let her 
be quiet an' surv de Lord; jes' not fret 'bout 
wat fools says, dey duz er heep uv talkin', but 
it iz lik de cracklin' uv de burnin' sticks under de 
pot, a big fuss an' a littul heat. Per my part, I 
honners de 'oman dat b'haves hersef, briduls her 
tongue, duz her wuk, an' sings es she goes erlong. 
Her contentid sperrit beats a lazy husbun' ebry 
time, an' mity off'n it brings er gud husbun' er- 
long. 

" Es fer dese fokes dat flurts an' skouts at ole 
maids dey ain' fitten ter live, an' ort ter be in de 
bottum uv Jeems Rivur, 'cept'n' dey'd spile de 
watur. No gemmun nur no lady wud do it. 

" Now dis iz my wud 'bout de wimmin, an' I 
hope yer lik it, but if yer doant, jes' 'member dat 
Jasper sed it, an' will stan' by it, til de cows in de 
lo'er feil' kums home." 



X 

JASPER GLIMPSED UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 

JASPER'S mother was near the century line 
when she died, and he attained unto the extra- 
ordinary age of eighty- nine. Truly there must 
have been rare endurance in the texture of the 
stock. Jasper's thoughts did not turn to religion 
until he was twenty-seven and yet by reason of 
his longevity he was a preacher for sixty years. 
During twenty-five years of that time he was a 
slave, and he had about thirty-five years of per- 
sonal civil freedom, during which he won the 
distinctions that will make him a figure slow to 
pass out of history. 

Jasper can have no successor. Freedom did 
not change him. It came too late for him to be 
seriously affected by its transforming hand. It 
never dazzled him by its festive charms nor 
crooked him with prejudice against the white 
people. There was far more for him in the 
traditions, sentiments, and habits of his bondage- 
days than in the new things which emancipation 
offered. He never took up with gaudy displays 
which marked his race in the morning of their 
freedom. This was especially true as to his 

94 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 95 

ministry. He clung without apology to the old 
ways. In preaching, he spurned the new pulpit 
manners, the new style of dress, and all new- 
fangled tricks, which so fascinated his race. He 
intoned his sermons, at least, in their more ten- 
der passages sang the old revival songs of the 
plantations and factories, and felt it a part of his 
religion to smash, with giant hand, the innova- 
tions which the new order was bringing in. Of 
all the men whom I have known this weird, in- 
describable man cared the least for opposition ; 
unless he believed it touched his personal honour 
or was likely to injure the cause of religion. In- 
deed, he liked it. He was a born fighter and a 
stranger to fear. There was a charm in his re- 
sentments : they were of a high order, and in- 
evitably commanded manly sympathy. He in- 
stinctively identified himself with the Lord and 
felt that when he fought he was fighting the 
Lord's battles. Satire and sarcasm were like 
Toledo blades in his hands. He often softened 
his attacks upon his enemies by such ludicrous 
hits and provoking jests that you felt that, after 
all, his hostility lacked the roots of hatred. He 
was far more prone to despise than to hate his 
enemies. 

There is a curious fact in connection with Jas- 
per's language Evidently in his early days 
his speech was atrociously un grammatical. His 
dialect, while possessing an element of fascina- 



96 JOHN JASPER 

tion, was almost unspellable. During his long 
ministerial life his reading and contact with edu- 
cated people rooted out many of his linguistic 
excrescences. There were times when he spoke 
with approximate accuracy, and even with ele- 
gance ; and yet he delighted, if indeed he was 
conscious of it, in returning to his dialect and in 
pouring it forth unblushingly in its worst shape, 
and yet always with telling effect But the won- 
der of his speaking was his practical inde- 
pendence of language. When he became thor- 
oughly impassioned and his face lit with the 
orator's glory, he seemed to mount above the 
bondage of words : his feet, his eyes, indeed every 
feature of his outer being became to him a new 
language. If he used words, you did not notice 
it. You were simply entranced and borne along 
on the mountain-tide of his passion. You saw 
nothing but him. You heard him ; you felt him, 
and the glow of his soul was language enough to 
bring to you his message. It ought to be added 
that no man ever used the pause more eloquently 
or effectively than Jasper, and his smile was 
logic ; it was rhetoric ; it was blissful conviction. 
Those who thought that Jasper was a mere 
raver did not know. Logic was his tower of 
strength. He never heard of a syllogism, but he 
had a way of marshalling his facts and texts 
which set forth his view as clear as the beaming 
sun. The Bible was to him the source of all 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 97 

authority, while his belief in the justice and truth 
of God was something unworldly. He under- 
stood well enough his frailties, his fallibility, and 
the tendency of the human soul towards unfair- 
ness and deceit. I heard him say once with irre- 
sistible effect : " Brutherin, Gord never lies ; 
He can't lie. Men lie. I lie sometimes, I am 
very sorry to say it. I oughtn't to lie, and it 
hurts me when I do. I am tryin' ter git ober it, 
and I think I will by Gord's grace, but de Lord 
nevur lies." His tone in saying this was so 
humble and candid that I am sure the people 
loved him and believed in him more for what he 
said. A hypocrite could never have said it. 
Jasper could never be put into words. As he 
could speak without words so it is true that 
words could never contain him, never tell his 
matchless story, never make those who did not 
hear him and see him fully understand the man 
that he was. 

A notable and pathetic episode in Jasper's his- 
tory was the fact that during the bitter days of 
the Confederacy when Richmond was crowded 
with hospitals, hospitals themselves crowded 
with the suffering, Jasper used to go in and 
preach to them. It was no idle entertainment 
provided by a grotesque player. He always had 
a message for the sorrowful. There is no ex- 
tended record of his labours in the hospitals, but 
the simple fact is that he, a negro labourer with 



98 JOHN JASPER 

rude speech, was welcomed by these sufferers 
and heard with undying interest ; no wonder 
they liked him. His songs were so mellow, so 
tender, so reminiscent of the southern plantation 
and of the homes from which these men came. 
His sermons had the ring of the old gospel 
preaching so common in the South. He had 
caught his manner of preaching from the white 
preachers and they too had been his only theo- 
logical teachers. We can easily understand how 
his genius, seasoned with religious reverence, 
made him a winsome figure to the men who 
languished through the weary days on the 
cots. It cannot be said too often that Jasper was 
the white man's preacher. Wherever he went, 
the Anglo-Saxon waived all racial prejudices and 
drank the truth in as it poured in crystal streams 
from his lips. 

Quite a pretty story is told of Jasper at the be- 
ginnings of his ministry. It seems that he went 
down into the eastern part of his town one Sun- 
day to preach and some boisterous ruffians inter- 
fered, declaring that a negro had no right to go 
into the pulpit and that they would not allow 
Jasper to preach. A sailor who chanced to be 
present and knew Jasper faced these disorderly 
men and declared to them that Jasper was the 
smartest man in Virginia and that if he could 
take him to the country from whence he had 
come he would be treated with honour and dis- 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 99 

tinction. There was also a small white boy 
standing by, and touched by the sincerity and 
power of Jasper, he pluckily jumped into the 
scene and exclaimed, " Yes, let him go on ; what 
he says is all right. I have read it all in the 
Bible, and why shouldn't he speak ? " The in- 
cipient mob was dispersed, and his audience was 
fringed with a multitude of white people who 
were attracted to the scene. 

It is not intended by these things said, con- 
cerning Jasper's favour with the white people, to 
indicate that Jasper, in the least degree, was not 
with his own race. Far from that. He loved 
his own people and was thoroughly identified 
with them ; but he was larger than his race. He 
loved all men. He had grown up with that 
pleasing pride that the coloured people who 
lived in prominent families had about white peo- 
ple. Then, too, he had always been a man who 
had won favour wherever he went, and the white 
race had always had a respect and affection for 
him. Jasper was never ungrateful. 

There were sometimes hard passages in the 
road which Jasper travelled. At the end of the 
war he was left high and dry, like driftwood on 
the shore. He had no church ; no place to 
preach ; no occupation. His relations with the 
white race were shattered, and things were grim 
enough ; but ill-fortune could not break him. 
A large part of Richmond was in ashes, and in 



100 JOHN JASPER 

some places at least the work of rebuilding com- 
menced at once, or rather a clearing off of the 
debris with a view to rebuilding. Jasper walked 
out and engaged himself to clean bricks. Dur- 
ing the Egyptian bondage the Hebrews made 
bricks and thought they had a hard lot ; but 
Jasper spent the first days of his freedom in the 
brick business, a transient expedient for keep- 
ing soul and body together until he could get 
on his feet again. Little thought the eager men 
who were trying to lay the foundations for their 
future fortunes that in the tall serious negro who 
sat whacking hour after hour at the bricks was 
one of God's intellectual noblemen. Born in 
bondage, lowly in his liberty and yet great in 
the gifts with which God had endowed him, it 
was Jasper's nature to be almost as cheerful 
when squatted on a pile of bricks and tugging 
at their cleaning as if he had a seat in a palace 
and was feeding on royal dainties. He carried 
the contented spirit, and that too while he as- 
pired after the highest. He did not uselessly 
kick against the inevitable, but he always strove 
for the best that was in his reach. 

One of the most serious jars of Jasper's life 
was his conflict with some of his brethren in 
connection with his notable and regrettable 
sermon on the motion of the sun. Intelligent 
people do not need to be told that Jasper knew 
nothing of natural science, and that his venture 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 101 

into the field of astronomy was a blunder. It 
was a matter that did not in the least involve 
his piety or his salvation, nor even his minis- 
terial efficiency. His whole bearing in the mat- 
ter was so evidently sincere, and his respect for 
the Bible, as he understood it, was so unmeasured 
that it set him off rather to an advantage than 
to a disadvantage. It is told in another place 
how he was drawn into the preaching of that 
sermon which gave him an odd, and yet a 
genuine, celebrity. It was no love for sensation 
and no attempt to show his learning, but simply 
an attempt to vindicate the Bible as he under- 
stood it. When the sermon was first delivered 
it created a wide-spread sensation. Some of the 
coloured ministers of Richmond were shocked 
out of their equanimity, and they felt that some- 
thing must be done. It was a case of hysterics. 
In a fit of freakish courage some of them made 
an attack on Jasper. A letter was written to a 
Richmond paper and signed by several prominent 
negro Baptists, one of them being the pastor of 
a strong church. In this letter Jasper's sermons 
were bitterly denounced, and they were spoken 
of as "a base fabrication," out of time and 
place, and doing more harm than good. It 
was said further that these sermons had drawn 
such crowds that it had resulted in the injury 
of a number of persons, and that a better 
way for the author of these sermons would be 



102 JOHN JASPER 

for him to preach Jesus Christ and Him cru- 
cified. 

Some time after this the Ebenezer Baptist 
Church called a conference to consider the situa- 
tion and to see if matters could not be adjusted. 
Jasper was an ardent believer in the independ 
ence of the individual Baptist church, and he 
was summoned to appear before that conference. 
He refused to go, saying that he did not recog- 
nize the authority of the church to interfere with 
him. Thereupon they sent a committee to him 
inviting him to come and make any statement 
that he wished to make concerning the question 
at issue. 

He went. The point in the published letter 
concerning Jasper that was most offensive to him 
was the statement as to " base fabrication." 
That hit him between the joints of the harness. 
His soul was stirred with a furious resentment, 
and when he got before that council and fell 
afoul of the three men who had charged him with 
" a base fabrication " it was a day not to be for- 
gotten. When he had got through it would be 
hard to say how many baskets would have been 
required to hold the fragments. The man who 
had really written the letter suddenly discovered 
that it had no reference on the earth to Brother 
Jasper. It was intended to answer something 
that had been said in a paper in New York. At- 
tempts were made to refresh his memory. Quite 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 103 

a respectable minister reminded this letter writer 
that they had talked together concerning this 
letter, and that the attention of the writer was 
called to the " base fabrication " part of it, but 
the memory of the brother could not be revived. 
No stimulant could reach the case. Other folks 
might charge Brother Jasper with base fabrica- 
tion, but not this man. It was a lamentable and 
discreditable conclusion. He was crippled in 
both feet and respected by none. This ended 
the matter. Jasper strode away from the coun- 
cil with the marks of victory about him ; and 
while bad feeling could not die at once, yet the 
attacks on Jasper went entirely out of fashion. 
Let it be added that there were multitudes who 
shared the prejudice against this old warrior, but 
little cared he. On he went his fine way, grow- 
ing in nobleness, and loving the God in whom 
he believed. 

Jasper's pleasures were of the meditative sort. 
For a long time his church gave him an ample 
vacation in the summer. He retired to the coun- 
try and courted its quiet. His only sport was 
fishing along the streams, and that suited his 
task. If the fish didn't bite, his thoughts always 
did. Like the fish they ran in schools, but unlike 
the fish they ran in all weathers and in all seasons. 
But Jasper never achieved marked success in the 
art of recreation. Go where he might, his fame 
was there to confront and to entangle him. De- 



104 JOHN JASPER 

mands for him to oreach always came in hot and 
thick, and there was hardly a Sunday when 
Jasper was in the country that he was not sur- 
rounded by a crowd and preaching with ever- 
glowing fervour and delight Indeed, Jasper was 
sought after to dedicate churches, deliver lectures 
and to preach special sermons in every part of 
Virginia, and often beyond it. It was said that 
he preached in almost every county and city in 
Virginia. He was the one ever sought Virginia 
preacher, and in that respect he stood unmatched 
by any man of his race. 

As a rule, Jasper did not preach very long ser- 
mons. His Sunday afternoon sermons very 
rarely exceeded fifty minutes in length, but on 
extraordinary occasions he took no note of time. 
Jasper was not a sermon-maker. He did not 
write them, and homiletics was a thing of which 
he had never heard. He was fond of pictorial 
preaching and often selected historical topics, such 
as " Joseph and His Brethren " or " Daniel in the 
Lion's Den," or " The Raising of Lazarus." He 
had quite a large stock of special sermons, ser- 
mons which had grown by special use, and which 
embodied the choicest creations of his mind. 
These he preached over and over again and in his 
own pulpit, and without apology to anybody. 
But after all the themes which interested him 
most profoundly and on which he preached with 
unsurpassed ardour and rapture were the funda- 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 105 

mental doctrines of the Scriptures. The last ser- 
mon he ever preached was on Regeneration ; and 
on many phases of the Christian system he 
preached with consummate ability. He believed 
fully in the doctrine of future punishment, and 
his description of the fate of the lost made the 
unbelieving quake with terror and consternation. 
His preaching was of that fervid, startling, and 
threatening sort, well suited to awaken religious 
anxieties and to bring the people to a public con- 
fession. He was his own evangelist, did chiefly 
the work of bringing his congregation to repent- 
ance, and the growth of his church consisted al- 
most entirely of the fruit of his own ministry. 
His church on the island began with nine mem- 
bers, and it was reported that there were over 
2,000 at the time of his death. He had uncom- 
mon caution about receiving people into his 
church. He was not willing to take people to 
count, and he preached searchingly to those who 
were thinking of applying for membership. 

Just two little and yet important things call for 
a place in this chapter. Jasper was an inexorable 
debt-payer. The only debt that he could toler- 
ate was a church debt, and he could ill tolerate 
that. The unsettled account of his great new 
church building grappled him like a nightmare. 
It was his burden in the day and his torturing 
dream at night. Even during his dying days 
the church debt haunted and depressed him, and 



106 JOHN JASPER 

loud among his parting exhortations was his in- 
sistent plea that the church debt should be 
speedily paid. 

In his early life Jasper contracted the use of to- 
bacco, as, indeed, almost his entire race did, 
and he was also quite free with the use of alco- 
holic drinks, though never, so far as is known, 
to the extent of intoxication. No question as to 
his sobriety has ever ridden the air. But these 
habits lingered with him long after he entered 
the ministry, and even until he was winning 
enviable and far-spreading favour as a preacher. 
So far as known, these facts did not becloud his 
reputation nor interfere with his work. Of 
course, he never entered a barroom, and never 
drank convivially, but he kept liquor in his 
house, and took it as his choice dictated. But 
gradually it worked itself into his conscience that 
these things were not for the best, and without 
the least ostentation or even publicity he abso- 
lutely abandoned the use both of tobacco and 
alcoholic drinks. He made no parade about it, 
and took on no fanatical airs. Just as he thought 
it was wrong to owe money which he could not 
pay and therefore hated a debt, so he felt that 
these habits, useless at best, might really be 
harmful to him and to others, and therefore he 
gave them up. 

His moral and religious ideals were very lofty, 
and he lived up to them to a degree not true of 




MONUMENT OVER JOHN JASPER'S GRAVE 



UNDER VARIOUS LIGHTS 107 

many. Not long after his death a really mag- 
nificent monument was erected over his grave. 
It was quite costly, and the money for it was 
raised by his church people and other lovers of 
whom he had legions. While he lived, legis- 
lators, judges, governors, and many men of emi- 
nent distinction, went to hear him preach. Many 
of the most distinguished white ministers of the 
country made it a point to go to his church on 
Sunday afternoon whenever they were in the 
city, and he was justly ranked as one of the at- 
tractions of Richmond. 

Now that he has found his grave not far from 
the site of his church, and this stately shaft has 
been placed as a sentinel over his dust, multi- 
tudes as they come and go will visit the tomb of 
the most original, masterful, and powerful negro 
preacher of the old sort that this country has ever 
produced. 



XI 

SERMON : THE STONE CUT OUT OF THE 

MOUNTAIN 
(Text, Daniel 2 : 



THIS rugged specimen of historical eloquence 
constituted the sermon delivered on Sunday 
afternoon, July 20, 1884. Jasper mounted the 
pulpit with the dash of an athlete and tripped 
around the platform during the preliminaries with 
the air of a racer. A sense of strength imparted 
to his face the triumphant glow. A smile parted 
his lips, and told the secret of an animated and 
aggressive courage. 

" I Stan's befo' you to-day on legs of iron and 
nun kin stay me from preachin' de Gospil uv de 
Lord Gord. I know well nuff dat de ole devul 
is mad as a tempest 'bout my bein' here ; he 
knows dat my call ter preach kums frum Gord, 
and dat's wat meks 'im so mad wen he sees 
Jasper 'scend de pulpit, fur he knows dat de 
people is gwine ter hear a messige straight frum 
heaven. I don't git my sermuns out uv gram- 
mars an' reterricks, but de Sperrit uv de Lord 
puts 'em in my mind an' meks 'em burn in my 
soul." 

His manner was radiant, courageous, defiant, 
108 



SERMON 109 

and was prophetic of one of his greatest dis- 
courses. 

"" It hev always bin one uv de ways uv Gord 
ter set up men as rulers uv de people. Yer know 
dat Gord ordains kings and rulers an', wat 
kinder bodders sum uv us, He don't always mek 
it a p'int ter put up good men. Yer know dat 
our Lord giv Judis a place 'mong de twelve, an' 
he turn'd out ter be one uv de grandes' raskils 
under de sun. 

" Jes' so Nebukidnezzur was pinted uv de Lord 
ter be king uv Babylon, dat same robbur dat 
tuk de vessuls out uv de temple at Jerusalem an' 
lugged 'em away ter his own country. Dat man 
had wun uv de powerfullest kingdums evur 
known on dis flat earth. He ruled over many 
countries and many smaller kingdums, an' even 
had under his hands de servunts on deplantashun 
an' de beasts uv de feiF. He was one uv dese 
unlimertid monnuks. He axed nobody no 
odds, an' did jes' wat he wanted ter do, an' I kin- 
not stop ter tell yer wid wat a strong hand an' 
outstretched arm he ruled de people wid an irun 
rod. It kum ter pass dat one time dis king dat 
did not fear Gord (tho' Gord had sot him up), 
had a dream. Dreams iz awfully curus things. 
Dey used ter frighten folks out'n dere senses an' 
I tell yer dey sometimes frighten folks now. 
I've had many dreams in my day dat got 
mity close ter me. Dey gravuled inter de very 



110 JOHN JASPER 

cords uv my soul, an' made me feel lik de 
groun' under my feet wuz libul ter giv way any 
time, an' I don't dout dat hundreds uv yer dat 
hear me now hev bin frightened an' cud not eat 
nor sleep nor wuk wid any peace 'caus' yer done 
hev strange dreams. Yer better watch dem 
dreams. In de anshient days de Lord spoke ter 
folks in dreams. He warned dem, an' I don't 
dout dat He duz dat way sometimes now. 

" Neberkidnezzur's dream stirred him powerful. 
He rolled all night an' did not sleep a wink. So 
he sent out an' got de magishuns an' de strolgurs 
an' de sorserers an' de Kaldeuns, an' dey wuz 
brought unter him. He tell 'em dat he had 
dreamed a dream dat had trubbled his sperrit. 
An' de Kaldeuns axed him wat de dream wuz. 
De king say dat de dream done gone clear out'n 
him, an' he can't cotch de straight uv it ter save 
his soul. He tell 'em, moreovur, dat dey got ter 
dig up de dream an' work up de meanin' too, an' 
dat ef dey don't dat he gwine ter have 'em cut 
all ter pieces an' turn dere houses inter a dung- 
hill, an' den he tell 'em dat ef dey will git de 
dream back fur him an' give de explernashun he 
gwine ter give 'em nice gifs an' put gret honurs 
on 'em. It waz too much fer de Kaldeuns. 
Dey cudn't dream de king's dream fer 'im, an* 
dey kum squar out an' tell Nebukidnezzur dat no 
man on de earth cud show sich a matter ter de 
king, an' dat in dere erpinyun dar is no king on 



SERMON 1H 

de earth dat wud ax fer sich a thing frum proffit 
or magishun. 

" Den Nebukidnezzur got high. He went on a 
tare an' yer know wen a king gits mad yer bet- 
ter git out er his way. He is got de power ; an' 
so he up an' sent out a decree through all de 
regiuns uv de kingdom dat all de wise men 
everywhar shud be slain. Jes* see wat a mad 
man will do wen he git furius mad. Dey got 
no mo' sens dan a mad tiger or a roarin' lion. 
Jes' befo' de slaughter uv de wise men kum on, 
Daniel hear 'bout it, an' he axed de king's cap- 
tin wat it wuz all 'bout an' why de king wuz so 
hasty, an' de captin tol' Dan'l all 'bout it. Dan'l 
brushed hissef up quick and struck out to see de 
king an' ax him ter hoi' up de exercushun uv his 
bloody profesy, an' he'd promise to splain his 
dream ter him. Den Dan'l goes off an' gits" all 
his Godly frien's togedder an' ax 'em ter pray 
ter de Gord uv heaven dat he an' his frien's shucj 
not perish in de slaughter uv de tricksters uv 
dat country. One thing de Lord can't do ; He 
can't refuse ter answer de cries uv His people ; an* 
wen all dat prayin' wuz gwine on Gord appeared 
to Dan'l in de nite an' revealed ter him de 
secret uv de king, an' wat yer reckin ? Wen 
de Lord giv Dan'l dat dream an' de hinterperta- 
shun dar of, Dan'l raised a gret shout an' giv 
thanks to Gord for wat de Lord had done fer 
him. But he didn't shout long, fer he had im- 



112 JOHN JASPER 

portant bisnis ter attend ter ; an' very soon he 
went ter de king an* kerried wid him de secrit 
dat de king had demandid at de han's uv de 
erstrolgers an' magishuns. He told de king rite 
ter his face de thing dat he had dreamed, an* 
wat Gord meant by it. Truly Dan'l did behave 
hissef befo' de king in a very pretty an' becomin' 
manner. He tel de king he did not hav no mo 
sens dan udder people, an' dat he wuz not per- 
par'd to do things dat udder men cud do, but 
dat it wuz by de power uv Gord dat all dis mat- 
ter had bin made known ter him. He tol' de 
king dat wat he saw wuz a gret imige ; dat de 
imige wuz brite an' splendid an' de form uv it 
wuz terrerbul ; dat de hed wuz uv fine gold, his 
brest and arms uv silvur, his belly an' thize uv 
brass, an' his legs uv irun and his feet part uv 
irun an' part uv clay. An' he tel de king f udder 
dat he saw er stone dat wuz cut widout han's 
out'n de mountin an' dat de stone smote de 
imige erpun his feet an' broke 'em in pieces, an' 
dat de stone dat brok de imige became a gret 
mountin an' filled all de wurl'. Den Dan'l, 
dat brave an' feerles bruther, dat nevur quailed 
befo' de mitiest ruler uv de earth, faced de 
king an' tel 'im an orful an' a warnin' troof. 
He say ter 'im, ' Yer is a gret king now. Yer 
hav er mity country an' all power, an' thy glory 
civers de groun'. Man an' beas' an' foul obey 
yer. Yer iz de hed uv gold, but arter yer 



SERMON 113 

will kum anudder kingdum dat shall not be lik 
yourn, but still it shal be big an' dar shall kum 
anudder kingdum and dar shall be a fo'th king- 
dom strong as irun, an' dis kingdum shall brooz 
an' smash all de udder kingdums.' 

" An' den Dan'l gits ter de big pint. He tels 
de king dat de Lord is gwine ter set up er king- 
dum an' dat in de times ter kum dat kingdum 
shall crush an' cornsume all de udder kingdums. 
Dat shall be de kingdum uv Gord on de earth, 
an' dat kingdum shall stan' fer evur an' evur. 
You knows how yer saw de stone dat wuz 
cut lut'n de mountin an' how dat broke in 
pi ~ts de irun, de bras, de clay, de silvur, an' de 
gOii, an' my Gord hev made known ter you, O 
king, wat shall tek place in de gret herearter, 
and dis is de dream an' de hinterpertashun dar 
of. 

" Dat wuz a mity sermon dat Dan'l preached 
ter Nebukidnezzur. It ort ter hev saved 'im, but 
it look lik it med 'im wuss. De debbul got 'im 
fer dat time an' he turn rite agin de Lord Gord 
an' sot at nort His stashutes an' countid His ways 
onholy. 

" Yer know 'bout dat imige. It wuz med uv 
gold, an' wuz threescore cubits high and six 
cubits wide, an' twuz sot up in de plain uv Durer, 
not fer frum Bablun. Yer know er cubit is about 
eighteen inchis, an' ef yer multerply dat by three- 
score cubits yer git 1080 inches, wich mean dat de 



114 JOHN JASPER 

imige wuz ninety foot high an' nine feet broad. 
So yer see Nebukidnezzur got ter be a Gord- 
makur, an' wen he got dis gret imige bilt he sont 
out ter git all de princis an' guvnurs an' all de 
res' uv de swell folks ter kum an' bow down an' 
wurshep dat gret imige dat he had sot up. Now 
dis wuz de gret folly an' shame uv de king. By 
dat deed he defied de Lord Gord an' de raff uv 
de Lord wuz stirr'd agin 'im. 

" An' now, my brudderin, yer member Dan'l 
toP de king dat de imige dat he saw in his dream 
wuz 'imsef rulin' over all de udder kingdums. 
He tol' 'im also dat dat stone dat wuz cut o ;t uv 
de mountin an' kum rollin* down de crv ?y 
sides an' broke in pieces de irun, de brass ar de 
clay, dat dat wuz de kingdum uv de Lord Jesus 
Christ. An' he tel 'im, fuddermo, dat de kum- 
min' uv de stone ter be a great mountin means de 
growth uv de kingdum uv our Lord tel it shall 
fil dis wurP an' shall triumf over all de udder 
kingdums. Dan'l tel de king dat his kingdum 
wuz gwine ter be taken frum him, 'caus' he had 
not feared de Gord uv heaven, an' in his folly an' 
crimes he turned away frum dat Gord dat rules 
in de heaven an' hols de nashuns uv de earth in 
de pams uv His han's. He tol' 'im dat de king- 
dum uv Satun, dat arch ennimy uv Gord, wuz 
gwine ter tumbul flat, 'caus' dat stone cut out uv 
de mountin wud roll over Satun's derminyuns an' 
crush it in ter flinders. 



SERMON 115 

" Glory ter Gord in de highis' ; dat stone cut 
out uv de mountin is a mity roller. Nuthin kin 
stay its terribul progris ! Dey dat fite erginst Jer- 
hover had bettur look out, dat stone is still 
rollin* an' de fust thing dey know it will crush 
down erpon 'em an' dey will sink ter rise no mo'. 
Our Gord is er cornsumin' fire, an' He will over- 
turn an' overturn tel de foundashuns uv sin iz 
brokin up. Yer jes' wait er little. De time is 
fas' rollin' on. Evun now I hear my Saviour sayin' 
ter His Father, ' Father, I kin stay here no longer ; 
I mus' git up dis mornin' ; I am gwine out 
ter call My people frum de fell' ; dey hav ben 
abused and laughed at an' bin med a scomn' long 
nuff fer My name's sake. I kin stay no longer. 
My soul cries fer My chillun. Gabrul, git down 
yer trumpit dis mornin' ; I want yer ter do some 
blowin'. Blow gently an' easy at fust, but let My 
people hear your goldin notes. Dey will kum 
wen I call.' 

" Ah, my brutherin, you an' I wil be dar wen 
dat trumpit soun's. I don' think I shall be er- 
larm'd, 'caus' I shall know it iz my king marshal- 
lin' His people home. It won't frighten you my 
sisters ; it will hev de sweetnis uv Jesus vois ter 
yer; an', oh, how it will ring out dat happy 
mornin' wen our king shall kum to gather de 
ransomed uv de Lord ter 'imsef. Den yer shall 
hev a new an' holy body, an* wid it your glori- 
fied sperrit shall be united, an' on dat day we 



116 JOHN JASPER 

shall go in ter see de Father an' He shall smile 
an' say : ' Dese iz My chillun ; dey hav washed 
dere robes and made dem white in de blood uv 
de Lamb ; dey hav kum out uv gret tribberla- 
shun an' dey shall be wid Me for ever an* ever.' 
I speck ter be dar. 

" ' Well, Jasper/ yer say, * why yer spec ter be 
dar. How yer know?' Yer read de foteenth 
chapter uv John, will yer? ' I go ter prepar er 
place fer yer,' an' dat word is ter rule ; an' so 
yer will see ole John Jasper rite dar, an' King 
Jesus shall kum out ter meet us an' tek us in an' 
sho' us de manshuns dat He hav prepared fer 
us. 

" O Lusifer how thou hav fallin 1 You proud 
ones will find den dat your days iz over, an' ye 
dat hav despised de chillun uv my Gord wil sink 
down inter hell, jes' as low es it is posserbul ter 
git Yer needn't tel 'im dat yer hev preached in 
His name, an' in His name done many won- 
derful works, Yer can't fool Him ! He'll frown 
down at yer an' say : I don't know yer, an' I 
don't wan ter know yer, an' I don' wan ter 
see yer. Git out uv My site forever, an' go 
ter your place ermong de lost 

" Ah, truly, it is a mity stone, bin rollin' all 
dese senshuriz, rollin' to-day. May it roll through 
the kingdum uv darknis and crush de enemis uv 
Gord. Dat stone done got so big dat it is higher 
dan heav'n, broader dan de earth, and deeper 



SERMON 117 

dan hell hitsef. But don't be deceived. Don't 
think dat I don' let yer off. I got somethin' more 
fer yer yit 

" Yer member Dan'l and Shadrick, Meeshick an' 
Erbedniggo. Dey all stubbonly fused to bow 
down ter Nebukidnezzur's golden imige. Dey 
stood straight up. Dey wudn't bend a knee nor 
cruk a toe, an' dem Kaldeeuns wuz waatchin' um. 
Dat's de way hit always iz ; de debbul's folks iz al- 
ways er watchin' us an' tryin' ter git sumthin' on 
us an' ter git us inter trubbul an' wid too many 
uv us dey succeed. Dey saw dat Dan'l an' his 
friens wud not git down lik dey dun, an' up dey 
jumped an' away dey cut an' kum ter de king. 

" ' Oh, king, liv ferevur,' dey say. ' Yer know, 
O king, wat yer sed, dat dercree dat yer made, 
dat at de soun' uv de kornit, de flute, de harp, de 
sackbut, de saltry an' de dulsermur an' orl kinea 
uv musik, dat ev'ry body shud fall down an' 
wurshep de goldin imige, an' dat dose dat duz 
not fall down an' worshep shud be put in de fur- 
nis ; an' now, oh, king, dey say dat a lot uv dose 
men dun refews. Dey doan regard yer. Dey 
hate yer Gods an' spize de imige dat yer sot up.' 

" Coarse de ole king got mad agin an' in his 
fury dey brought dese three befo' him. He axed 
um ef wat he had heerd 'bout um wuz so, 
'bout dere not worsheppin' de goldin knige. 
' Mayby yer med a mistake,' de king say, 4 but 
we gwine ter hev it ovur agin, an' ef wen de ban' 



113 JOHN JASPER 

strikes up nex' time yer will git down an' wor- 
shep it'll go eezy wid yer, an' ef yer doant de 
fires in de furnis will be startid quick es litenin' 
an' inter it ev'ry one uv yer shall go.' 

" Dese wuz yung men, but, ah, I tel yer, dey 
wuz uv de loyul stock. Dey wuz jes' es kam es 
sunrise in de mornin'. Dey sed : ' Oh, king, we 
ain' keerful ter anser 'bout dis mattur. Ef yer 
lik ter cas' us inter de furnis, our Gord dat we 
surv iz abul ter git us out. We ain' gwine ter 
bow, an' we nevur will bow ter your Gord, an' 
yer jes' es well understan'.' 

" Rite den de men went ter heet up de furnis. 
Dey wuz tol' ter heet it up sevun times hottur 
dan wuz de ginrul rule an' dey hed sum jiunts 
ter tie Shedrak, Meeshik, an' Erbedniggo, an' 
dey tuk de yung men away inter de furnis. De 
heet wuz so terribul dat de flames shot out an' 
sot fire ter de men dat had put de Hebru chillun 
in an' de po' retchiz wuz burn'd up, but not a 
hair uv de three yung men wuz sing'd, an' dey 
kum out er smilin' an' not a blistur on um frum 
hed ter fut. Dey did not evun hev any smell uv 
fire 'bout dere pussuns, an' dey luk jes' lik dey 
jes' kum out uv dressin' rums. 

" Neberkidnezzur wuz dar, an' he say : ' Luk 
in dat furnis dar. We didn't put but three pus- 
sons in dar, did we ? ' an' dey tol' 'im dat wuz 
so. Den he tun pale an* luk skeered lik he 
gwine ter die an' he say : 



SERMON 119 

" 4 Luk dar ; I see fo' men inside an* walkin' 
through de fire, an' de form uv de fourth is lik 
de Son uv Gord,' an' it luk lik de king got kun- 
vurtid dat day, fur he lif up his vois an' shout 
de praiz uv de Gord uv Shedrak, Meeshik an' 
Erbedniggo. 

" Ah, gret iz dis story ; dey dat trus' in Gord 
shall nevur be put ter kornfushun. De righteous 
alwaz kums out konkerurs an' more dan kon- 
kerurs. Kings may hate yer, frien's spize yer, an' 
cowurds bakbite yer, but Gord iz yer durlivrur. 

" But I dun forgit. Dis ole time rerlijun iz 
not gud nuff fer sum folks in dese las' days. Sum 
call dis kine uv talk foolishnis, but hif dat be troo 
den de Bibul, an' hevun, an' dese Christun's 
hearts, iz ful uv dat kine uv foolishnis. Ef dis 
be ole fogy rerlijun, den I want my church 
crowdid wid ole fogiz. 

" Wat did John see ober dar in Patmos ? He 
say he saw de fo' an' twenty eldurs seatid roun' 
de throne uv Gord an' castin' dere glittrin' crowns 
uv gold at de feet uv King Jesus, an' he say dat 
out uv de throne kum lightnin' an' thundurs 
an' voicis an' de sevun lamps burnin' befo' de 
throne uv Gord. An' dar befo' de throne wuz 
de sea uv glass, an' roun' 'bout de throne wuz 
de fo' livin' creaturs ful uv eyes befo' an' be- 
hine, an' dey nevur cea*> cryin' : ' Holy, Holy, 
Holy, iz de Lord Gord almity dat died ter tek 
away de sins uv de wurl' ! ' 



130 JOHN JASPER 

"Yer call dat ole fogy. Jes' luk away ober 
yondur in de future. Duz yer see dat sea uv 
glass an' de saints uv Gord dat wuz all bruised 
an 1 mangul'd by de fi'ry darts uv de wickid. 
I hear um singin' ! Wat iz dere song? Oh, 
how it rolls ! an' de korus iz : ' Redeemed, re- 
deemed, wash'd in de blud uv de Lam'. Call 
dem ole fogiz, do yer ? Wei yer may, fer dey 
iz bin doin' dat way frum de time dat Abel, de 
fust man, a saved soul told de news uv salvashun 
ter de anjuls. 

" ' Wei, Jasper, hev yer got any rerlijun ter 
giv way ? ' 

" I'se free ter say dat I ain't got es much es I 
want. Fur forty-five years I bin beggin' fur 
mo', an' I ax fur mo' in dis tryin' hour. But, 
bless Gord, I's got rerlijun ter giv way. De 
Lord hev fil'd my hands wid de Gorspil, an' I 
stan' here ter offur free salvashun ter any dat 
wii kum. Ef in dis big crowd dar iz one lost 
sinnur dat hev not felt de klinsin' tech uv my 
Saviur's blud, I ax 'im ter kum terday an' he 
shall nevur die." 



XII 

FACTS CONCERNING THE SERMON 
ON THE SUN 

LET me say in frankness that when I originally 
began this appreciation of John Jasper it was 
my full purpose to omit from it all reference to 
his very notorious sermon on "The Sun Do 
Move." That was the one thing in his life I 
most regretted an episode that I was quite 
willing to commit to oblivion. I felt that it 
was a distinct discredit to him. But upon further 
reflection I have concluded that the omission 
might hurt him far more than the facts in the 
case possibly could. Inasmuch also as it was 
that very sermon which drew to him such wide- 
spread attention, and since there are those who 
never heard him, nor heard of him except in con- 
nection with that sermon, I have decided to 
give the public the facts in the case and the 
sermon itself. In this chapter I will give a 
history of the sermon, and in the next I will give 
the substance of the sermon. It is due to my 
old friend and brother, Jasper, to say that he 
really never intended to create a sensation by 
preaching on an exciting or unusual topic. This 

121 



122 JOHN JASPER 

he most solemnly declared, and while he was 
several sensations himself in a single bunch, and 
while almost every sermon that he preached 
produced wild and thrilling sensations, he did 
not work for that He started his chief sen- 
sations by preaching the Gospel in such a hot, 
pungent, and overmastering way that his people 
could not contain themselves. Jasper tells us 
how it all came about. Two of his brethren, 
members of his flock, fell into a friendly dispute 
as to whether the sun did revolve around the 
earth or not. As they could not decide the 
question, and neither would yield, they finally 
agreed to submit the question to their old pastor, 
solemnly believing, I dare say, that there was 
no mystery in earth, sea, or sky that he could 
not fathom. 

When Jasper's theme went abroad it called 
forth some very scornful criticisms from one of 
his Baptist neighbours one of the " eddicatid 
preachers," as Jasper delighted to call them, 
though in certain moods he often finished his 
sentence by branding them as eddicatid fools. 
When he heard of the strictures mentioned 
above, he let fly some shot at white heat as a 
response to the attacks on him. When he got a 
thing in his blood the amenities of controversy 
sometimes lost their place in his memory. He 
'vould let fly flings of satire that would be tooth- 
\>me topics for street gossip for many summer 



SERMON ON THE SUN 123 

Sundays. Things for zestful chat rarely ran 
short when Jasper was about. He expressed 
much regret that he had come in conflict with 
the " furlosofurs " of the day, freely confessing 
his ignorance in the matter of " book-larnin'." 
His knowledge, he said, was limited to the Bible, 
and much of that he did not feel that he could 
explain. But on the question about the sun he 
was sure that he possessed the true light. " I 
knows de way uv de sun, as de Wurd of Gord 
tells me," he declared in his warlike manner, 
" an' ef I don' pruv' dat de sun moves den yer 
may pos' me as er Her on ev'ry street in Rich- 
mun'." By this time his war paint was plainly 
visible, and his noble defiance rang out like a 
battle call. 

The occasion on which I heard his "astro- 
nomical sermon," as one of his opponents derid- 
ingly dubbed it, was not at its first presentation. 
He had delivered it repeatedly before and knew 
his ground. The gleam of confidence and victory 
shone clear and strong on his face. 

The audience looked like a small nation. Long 
before the solemn janitor, proud of his place, 
strict to the minute, swung open the front doors, 
the adjacent streets swarmed with the eager 
throngs. Instantly there was a rush, and in 
surged the people, each anxious to get a seat 
The spacious house was utterly inadequate to 
the exigencies of the hour. Many crowded the 



134 JOHN JASPER 

aisles, disposed themselves around the pulpit, 
sat on pew-arms, or in friendly laps. 

Jasper's entrance was quite picturesque. He 
appeared in the long aisle wearing a cape over- 
coat, with a beaver in one hand, and his cane in. 
the other, and with a dignity not entirely un- 
conscious. His officers rose to welcome him, 
one removing his great coat, another his head 
piece, and yet another his cane. As he as- 
cended the pulpit he turned and waved a happy 
greeting to his charge and it fairly set his emo- 
tional constituents to shouting. Many loving 
words were said out in a rattling chorus in token 
of their happiness at seeing him. 

It is more than probable that some of Jasper's 
young people had notions of their own as to his 
views of the sun ; but never a word would they 
let slip that could mortify their beloved old pas- 
tor, or give a whisper of comfort to his critics. 
They were for Jasper, and the sun might go its 
way. They believed in their pastor, believed in 
his goodness, his honesty, and his greatness. 

In the opening exercises there occurred several 
characteristic incidents. He requested his choir 
to open by singing, " The Heavens Declare the 
Glory of God." This was at once a proof of his 
seriousness and of his sense of the fitting. 

When he arose to read the Scriptures, he 
glanced around at his audience, and bowing in 
pleased recognition of the many white people 



SERMON ON THE SUN 125 

present, he said with unaffected modesty that he 
hoped that the " kin' frens who'd come ter hur 
me would 'scuse my urrors in readin'. My eyes 
is gitting weak an' dim, and Fse slow in making 
out de hard wurds." Then he proceeded with 
utmost reverence to read the passage selected 
for the service= He was not a good reader, but 
there was a sobriety and humility in his manner 
of reading the Scriptures that made one always 
feel a peculiar respect for him. 

There may be place here for a passing word 
about this most original and picturesque repre- 
sentative of his race. Jasper had a respect for 
himself that was simply tremendous. Uncon- 
sciously he carried a lofty crest, and yet you 
knew there was no silly conceit in it. His walk 
along the street was not that of a little man who 
thought all eyes were upon him, but of a giant 
who would hide from himself and from others the 
evidences of his power. His conversation carried 
an assertion of seriousness his tones were full 
of dignity his bearing seemed to forbid any un- 
seemly freedom and in public you saw at once 
that he was holding himself up to a high standard. 
Of course, when he was in the high frenzy of 
public speech and towering to his finest heights 
he lost the sense of himself, but he was then riding 
the wind and cleaving the sky and no rules made 
by men could apply to him. But along with self- 
appreciation, always one of his attractions to 



126 JOHN JASPER 

me, was a noble and delicate respect for others. 
He loved his own people, and they lived in the 
pride of it, but he had a peculiarly hospitable and 
winsome attitude towards strangers. He was 
quite free in his cordiality towards men, and I 
delighted to see how my coming to hear him 
pleased him. In his off-hand way, he said to me 
one Sunday afternoon as he welcomed me to the 
pulpit : " Glad to see you ; it does me good to 
have folks around whar got sense ; it heps me 
ter preach better. Mighty tough to talk to folks 
whar ain* got no brains in de head." 

He had a double consciousness that was always 
interesting to me. He was always full of solici- 
tude about his sermon. It lay a burden on him, 
and it required no expert to discover it. He had 
so much sincerity that his heart told its secrets 
through his face. But think not that this made 
him oblivious to his surroundings. His heart 
was up towards the throne, and his soul was cry- 
ing for strength, but his eye was open to the 
scene before him. The sight of the audience in- 
toxicated him ; the presence of notable people 
caught his gaze and gladdened him ; tokens of 
appreciation cheered him, and he paid good 
price in the way of smiles and glances to those 
who showed that he was doing them good. It 
made a rare combination his concern for his 
message, and his happy pride in his constituents. 
It gave a depth to his feeling and a height to his 



SERMON ON THE SUN 127 

exultation. He swung between two great emo- 
tions and felt the enrichment of both. 

The text for his sermon was a long cry from his 
topic. It was : " The Lord God is a man of war ; 
The Lord is His name." He was too good a ser- 
mon-maker to announce a text and abandon 
it entirely, and so he roamed the Old Testament 
to gather illustrations of the all-conquering power 
of God. This took him over a half hour to 
develop, and as it took even much longer to 
formulate his argument as to the rotation of the 
sun it made his sermon not only incongruous, 
but intolerably long far longer than any other 
sermon that I ever knew him to preach. The 
two parts of the discourse had no special kinship, 
while the first part tired the people before he 
reached the thing they came for. It was an error 
in judgment, but his power to entertain an audi- 
ence went far to save him from the consequences 
of his mistake. 

The intelligent reader will readily understand 
the drift of his contention about the sun. What 
he said, of course, was based on the literal state- 
ments of the Old Testament, written many cen- 
turies ago, not as a treatise on astronomy, but in 
language fitted to express ideas from the stand- 
point of the times in which it was used. Jasper 
knew of no later discoveries in the natural world, 
and, therefore, very sincerely believed with re 
ligious sincerity, and all the dogmatism of igno 



128 JOHN JASPER 

ranee, that the declarations of the old Scriptures 
were true in very jot and tittle. It is apparent 
enough that to the enlightened people who went 
to hear the address merely for amusement there 
was rare fun in the whole performance. To 
them, Jasper was an ignorant old simpleton, a 
buffoon of the pulpit, a weakling to be laughed 
at. And yet hardly that. He was so dead in 
earnest, and withal so shrewd in stating his 
case, so quick in turning a point, and brimming 
with such choice humour and sometimes flashing 
out such keen, telling strokes of sarcasm, that he 
compelled the admiration of his coldest critics. 
To the untutored people before him Jasper was 
the apostle of light. They believed every sylla- 
ble that fell from his lips he was the truth to 
them they stood where other honest and godly 
people stood for ages and saw things just as they 
saw them. Their opinion as to the sun did not 
in the least affect their piety, for, as a fact, they 
believed just exactly as the grandfathers of Jas- 
per's critics believed sixty years before. 

It was worth while being there. Jasper was in 
his most flexible, masterful mood, and he stormed 
the heights with his forces in full array. At times, 
the negroes would be sending forth peals of 
laughter and shouting in wildest response, " Yas, 
Lord : dat's so, Brer Jasper ; hit 'em ergin, bless 
God ! Glory, glory, tell us more, ole man ! " 
Then he would fly beyond the sun and give 



SERMON ON THE SUN 129 

them a glimpse of the New Jerusalem, and they 
would be crying and bursting forth with snatches 
of song until you would think the end had come. 
But not so by ever so much. A word from Jasper 
would bring the stillness of death, and he would 
be the master again and ready for new flights. 

When the excitement about the sermon was at 
its full blow, human greed, ever keen-scented, 
sensed money in Jasper and his sermon, and laid 
a scheme to trade on the old man and his mes- 
sage. A syndicate was formed to send him .out 
as a lecturer, hoping that the Northern love for 
the negro, and the catchiness of the subject, 
would fill vast halls with crowds to hear the old 
man, and turn in rich revenues, of which they 
would reap the larger part. 

Jasper, for reasons by no means mercenary, 
was tickled by this new turn in fortune. He was 
not wanting in the pride of successful ambition 
and this new proof of his growing distinction 
naturally pleased him. Fame was pinning her 
medals fast upon him, and he liked it. Not that 
he was infatuated with the notion of filling his 
private pocket. As a fact, he never uttered in 
my hearing one sentence that showed his love of 
money, or his eagerness to get it. But he was 
much wedded to the idea of a new house of wor- 
ship for his people, and any proper method that 
would aid in bringing this happy consummation 
was joy to his generous old soul. His heart 



130 JOHN JASPER 

dwelt with his flock, and to honour and cheer 
them was life to him. 

Of course, his church fell in with the idea. 
Anything to please "Brother Jasper" was the 
song of their lives. It looked wonderfully grand 
to them to see glory crowning their pastor and 
gold pouring in to build them a temple. It was 
with pomp and glee they sent him away. The 
day of his departure was celebrated with general 
excitement and with cheering groups at the train. 

But in some way providence did not get iden- 
tified with the new enterprise. The first half of 
his sermon was a trial to people set on sensation. 
The Lord in his military character did not ap- 
peal. Some actually retired after the first part, 
and an eclipse to hopes uncounted fell over the 
scene. Jasper, as a show, proved a failure, for 
which the devout may well give thanks. He got 
as far as Philadelphia, and even that historically 
languid city found life too brief and brisk to 
spend in listening for ninety-odd minutes to two 
uncongenial discourses loosely bundled into one. 
The old man had left the sweet inspiration of his 
demonstrative church in Richmond, and felt a 
chill of desolation when he set foot on alien soil. 
The tides of invisible seas fought against him, 
empty benches grinned at him, and he got home- 
sick. The caravan collapsed, the outfit tumbled 
into anarchy, the syndicate picked up the stage 
clothes and stole out in the night-gloom, the u? 



SERMON ON THE SUN 131 

daunted but chagrined Jasper made a straight 
shoot for Richmond ; ever after the Jasper Lecture 
Bureau was a myth, without ancestry or posterity. 

Think not that there was chill in the air when 
Jasper struck Richmond on his return. No word 
of censure awaited him. His steadfast adherents 
hailed him as a conqueror and his work went on. 
His enemies an envious crop ever being on 
hand tossed a few stones over the back fence, 
but Jasper had a keen relish for battle, and was 
finest when his foes were the fiercest. Antago- 
nism gave zest to his dramatic career. 

Permit the writer to slip in here a word as to 
Jasper's devotion to his old master, Mr. Samuel 
Hargrove. I knew Mr. Hargrove well. He was 
a man with a heart. I knew him as an old man 
while I was young. He had a suburban home 
near Manchester, his business and church were in 
Richmond. I often saw him in my congregation 
at the Bainbridge Street Baptist church, Man- 
chester, and thus often met him. Shrinking, 
without public gifts, full of kindliness, and high 
in his life, he commanded the heart of his servant 
who to the last delighted to honour his memory. 
Their relations did not prevent their mutual re- 
spect and affection. The hideous dogma of 
social equality never thrust itself into their life. 
They had good-will and esteem one for the other, 
and lived together in peace. Jasper was a lover 
and admirer of white people, and delighted to 



132 JOHN JASPER 

serve and honour them, and in return the white 
people were fond of him and glad to help him. 

I rejoice that this old minister, the quaint and 
stern veteran, came in God's time to a righteous 
fame. Public opinion is an eccentric and mys- 
terious judge. It has an unarticulated code for 
fixing the rank and fate of mortals. It is a large 
and ill-sorted jury, and its decisions often bring 
surprise at the time, but they never get reversed. 
The jurymen may wrangle during the trial, but 
when it emerges from the council room and ren- 
ders the verdict, no higher court ever reverses its 
final word. 

Hard and adverse was the life of Jasper ! For 
years many hostile forces sought to unhorse and- 
cripple him. It would require books to hold the 
slanders and scandals laid to his charge. The 
archers used poisoned arrows, and often tore his 
flesh and fancied that they had him, but his bow 
abode in strength. Meanwhile, the public, that 
jury of the many, sat still and watched, weighing 
the evidence, listening to the prosecutors, un- 
ravelling conflicting testimony, and feeling the 
way to justice. In the midst of it all, the brave 
old chieftain died, while the trial was yet going 
on. The jury was long silent, but it has spoken 
at last, and the verdict is, that the name of this 
veteran of the cross shall be enrolled among the 
fearless, the faithful, and the immortal. He en- 
dured as seeing the invisible and now he sees. 



XIII 

THE SUN DO MOVE 

IN presenting John Jasper's celebrated sermon 
on " De Sun Do Move," I beg to introduce it 
with several explanatory words. As intimated 
in a former chapter it is of a dual character. It 
includes an extended discussion, after his peculiar 
fashion, of the text, " The Lord God is a man of 
war ; the Lord is His name." Much that he said 
in that part of his sermon is omitted, only so 
much being retained as indicates his view of the 
rotation of the sun. It was really when he came 
into this part of his sermon that he showed to 
such great advantage, even though so manifestly 
in error as to the position which he tried so man- 
fully to antagonize. It was of that combative 
type of public speech which always put him be- 
fore the people at his best. I never heard this 
sermon but once, but I have been amply aided in 
reproducing it by an elaborate and altogether 
friendly report of the sermon published at the 
time by The Richmond Dispatch. Jasper opened 
his discourse with a tender reminiscence and 
quite an ingenious exordium. 

" Low me ter say," he spoke with an outward 
composure which revealed an inward but mas- 



134 JOHN JASPER 

tered swell of emotion, '*jdat when I wuz a young 
man and a slave, I knowed nuthin* wuth talkin' 
'bout consarnin' books. Dey wuz sealed mys- 
teries ter me, but I tell yer I longed ter break de 
seal. I thusted fer de bread uv learnin*. When 
I seen books I ached ter git in ter urn, fur I 
knowed dat dey had de stuff fer me, an' I wanted 
ter taste dere contents, but most of de time dey 
wuz bar'd aginst me. 

" By de mursy of de Lord a thing happened. 
I got er room-feller he wuz a slave, too, an' he 
had learn'd ter read. In de dead uv de night he 
giv me lessons outen de New York Spellin' 
book. It wuz hard pullin', I tell yer ; harder on 
him, fur he know'd jes' a leetle, an' it made him 
sweat ter try ter beat sumthin' inter my hard 
haid. It wuz wuss wid me. Up de hill ev'ry 
step, but when I got de light uv de less'n into 
my noodle I farly shouted, but I kno'd I wuz not 
a scholur. De consequens wuz I crep 'long 
mighty tejus, gittin' a crum here an* dar untel I 
cud read de Bible by skippin' de long words, 
tolerable well. Dat wuz de start uv my eddica- 
shun dat is, wat little I got. I mek menshun 
uv dat young man. De years hev fled erway 
sense den, but I ain't furgot my teachur, an' 
nevur shall. I thank mer Lord fur him, an' I 
carries his mem'ry in my heart. 

"'Bout seben months after my gittin' ter 
readin', Gord cun verted my soul, an* I reckin 



THE SUN DO MOVE 135 

'bout de fust an* main thing dat I begged de 
Lord ter give me wuz de power ter und'stan' His 
Word. I am' braggin', an' I hates self-praise, 
but I boun' ter speak de thankful word. I 
b'lieves in mer heart dat mer pra'r ter und' stand 
de Scripshur wuz heard. Sence dat time I ain't 
keer'd 'bout nuthin' 'cept ter study an' preach 
de Word uv God. 

" Not, my bruthrin, dat I'z de fool ter think I 
knows it all. Oh, mer Father, no ! Fur frum 
it. I don' hardly und'stan myse'f, nor ha'f uv 
de things roun' me, an' dar is milyuns uv things 
in de Bible too deep fur Jasper, an' sum uv 'em 
too deep fur ev'rybody. I doan't cerry de keys 
ter de Lord's closet, an' He ain' tell me ter peep 
in, an' ef I did I'm so stupid I wouldn't know it 
when I see it. No, frens, I knows my place at 
de feet uv my Marster, an' dar I stays. 

" But I kin read de Bible and git de things 
whar lay on de top uv de soil. Out'n de Bible I 
knows nuthin' extry 'bout de sun. I sees 'is 
courses as he rides up dar so gran' an' mighty 
in de sky, but dar is heaps 'bout dat flamin' orb 
dat is too much fer me. I know dat de sun 
shines powerfly an* po's down its light in floods, 
an' yet dat is nuthin' compared wid de light dat 
flashes in my min' frum de pages of Gord's 
book. But you knows all dat. I knows dat de 
sun burns oh, how it did burn in dem July 
days. I tell yer he cooked de skin on my back 



136 JOHN JASPER 

many er day when I wuz hoein' in de corn fell'. 
But you knows all dat, an' yet dat is nuthin' der 
to de divine fire dat burns in der souls uv Gord's 
chil'n. Can't yer feel it, bruthrin ? 

" But 'bout de courses uv de sun, I have got 
dat. I hev dun rang'd thru de whole blessed 
book an' scode down de las' thing de Bible has 
ter say 'bout de movements uv de sun. I got 
all dat pat an' safe. An' lemme say dat if I 
doan't giv it ter you straight, if I gits one word 
crooked or wrong, you jes' holler out, ' Hoi' on 
dar, Jasper, yer ain't got dat straight,' an' I'll 
beg pardon. If I doan't tell de truf, march up 
on dese steps here an' tell me I'z a liar, an' I'll 
take it. I fears I do lie sometimes I'm so sin- 
ful, 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. 

" I got ter take yer all dis arternoon on er 
skershun ter a great bat'l fell'. Mos' folks like 
ter see fights some is mighty fon' er gittin' 
inter fights, an' some is mighty quick ter run 
down de back alley when dar is a bat'l goin' on, 
fer de right. Dis time I'll 'scort yer ter a scene 
whar you shall witness a curus bat'l. It tuk 
place soon arter Isrel got in de Promus Lan'. 
Yer 'member de people uv Gibyun mak frens 
wid Gord's people when dey fust entered Canum 
an' dey wuz monsus smart ter do it. But, jes' de 



THE SUN DO MOVE 137 

same, it got 'em in ter an orful fuss. De cities 
roun' 'bout dar flar'd up at dat, an' dey all jined 
dere forces and say dey gwine ter mop de 
Gibyun people orf uv de groun', an* dey 
bunched all dar armies tergedder an' went up 
fer ter do it. Wen dey kum up so boF an' 
brave de Giby'nites wuz skeer'd out'n dere 
senses, an' dey saunt word ter Joshwer dat dey 
wuz in troubl' an' he mus' run up dar an' git 
'em out. Joshwer had de heart uv a lion an' he 
wuz up dar d'reckly. Dey had an orful fight, 
sharp an' bitter, but yer might know dat Ginr'l 
Joshwer wuz not up dar ter git whip't. He 
prayed an' he fought, an' de hours got erway 
too peart fer him, an' so he ask'd de Lord ter 
issure a speshul ordur dat de sun hoi' up 
erwhile an' dat de moon furnish plenty uv 
moonshine down on de lowes' part uv de fightin' 
groun's. As a fac', Joshwer wuz so drunk wid 
de bat'l, so thursty fer de blood uv de en'mies 
uv de Lord, an' so wild wid de vict'ry dat he tell 
de sun ter stan' still tel he cud finish his job. 
Wat did de sun do ? Did he glar down in fi'ry 
wrath an' say, ' What you talkin' 'bout my stop- 
pin' for, Joshwer ; I ain't navur startid yit. Bin 
here all de time, an' it wud smash up ev'ry thing 
if I wuz ter start ' ? Naw, he ain' say dat. But 
wat de Bible say ? Dat's wat I ax ter know. It 
say dat it wuz at de voice uv Joshwer dat it 
stopped. I don' say it stopt ; tain't fer Jasper 



138 JOHN JASPER 

ter say dat, but de Bible, de Book uv Gord, say 
so. But I say dis ; nuthin' kin stop untel it hez 
fust startid. So I knows wat I'm talkin' 'bout. 
De sun wuz travlin' long dar thru de sky wen de 
order come. He hitched his red ponies and 
made quite a call on de Ian' uv Gibyun. He 
purch up dar in de skies jes' as frenly as a 
naibur whar comes ter borrer sumthin', an' he 
stan' up dar an' he look lak he enjoyed de way 
Joshwer waxes dem wicked armies. An' de 
moon, she wait down in de low groun's dar, an' 
pours out her light and look jes' as ca'm an' 
happy as if she wuz waitin' fer her 'scort. Dey 
nevur budged, neither uv 'em, long as de Lord's 
army needed er light to kerry on de bat'l. 

" I doan't read when it wuz dat Joshwer hitch up 
an' drove on, but I 'spose it wuz when de Lord toF 
him ter go. Ennybody knows dat de sun didn' 
stay dar all de time. It stopt fur bizniz, an' 
went on when it got thru. Dis is 'bout all dat I 
has ter do wid dis perticl'r case. I dun show'd 
yer dat dis part uv de Lord's word teaches yer 
dat de sun stopt, which show dat he wuz movin' 
befo* dat, an' dat he went on art'rwuds. I toll 
yer dat I wud prove dis an' I's dun it, an ; I 
derfies ennybody to say dat my p'int ain't 
made. 

" I toF yer in de fust part uv dis discose dat 
de Lord Gord is a man uv war. I 'spec by now 
yer begin ter see it is so. Doan't yer admit it ? 



THE SUN DO MOVE 139 

When de Lord cum ter see Joshwer in de day 
uv his feers an* warfar, an' actu'ly mek de sun 
stop stone still in de heavuns, so de fight kin 
rage on tel all de foes is slain, yer bleeged ter 
und'rstan' dat de Gord uv peace is also de man 
uv war. He kin use bofe peace an' war ter hep 
de reichus, an' ter scattur de host uv de ailyuns. 
A man talked ter me las' week 'bout de laws uv 
nature, an' he say dey carn't poss'bly be up- 
sot, an' I had ter laugh right in his face. As if 
de laws uv ennythin' wuz greater dan my Gord 
who is de lawgiver fer ev'rything. My Lord 
is great ; He rules in de heavuns, in de earth, 
an' doun und'r de groun'. He is great, an' 
greatly ter be praised. Let all de people bow 
doun an' wurship befo' Him 1 

" But let us git erlong, for dar is quite a big 
lot mo' comin' on. Let us take nex' de case of 
Hezekier. He wuz one of dem kings of Juder 
er mighty sorry lot I mus' say dem kings wuz, 
fur de mos' part. I inclines ter think Hezekier 
wuz 'bout de highes' in de gin'ral avrig, an' he 
war no mighty man hisse'f. Well, Hezekier he 
got sick. I dar say dat a king when he gits his 
crown an' fin'ry off, an' when he is posterated 
wid mortal sickness, he gits 'bout es commun 
lookin' an' grunts an' rolls, an' is 'bout es skeery 
as de res' of us po' mortals. We know dat Heze- 
kier wuz in er low state uv min' ; full uv fears, 
an' in a tur'ble trub'le. De fac' is, de Lord strip 



140 JOHN JASPER 

him uv all his glory an' landed him in de dust. He 
toF him dat his hour had come, an' dat he had 
bettur squar up his affaars, fur death wuz at de 
do'. Den it wuz dat de king fell low befo' Gord ; 
he turn his face ter de wall ; he cry, he moan, 
he begM de Lord not ter take him out'n de worF 
yit. Oh, how good is our Gord ! De cry uv 
de king moved his heart, an' he tell him he 
gwine ter give him anudder show. Tain't only 
de kings dat de Lord hears. De cry uv de 
pris'nur, de wail uv de bondsman, de tears uv 
de dyin' robber, de prars uv de backslider, de 
sobs uv de womun dat wuz a sinner, mighty apt 
to tech de heart uv de Lord. It look lik it's 
hard fer de sinner ter git so fur orf or so fur 
down in de pit dat his cry can't reach de yere uv 
de mussiful Saviour. 

" But de Lord do evun better den dis fur 
Hezekier He tell him He gwine ter give him a 
sign by which he'd know dat what He sed wuz 
cummin' ter pars. I ain't erquainted wid dem 
sun diuls dat de Lord toll Hezekier 'bout, but 
ennybody dat hes got a grain uv sense knows 
dat dey wuz de clocks uv dem ole times an' dey 
marked de travuls uv de sun by dem diuls. When, 
darfo ; Gord toF de king dat He wud mek de 
shadder go back wud, it mus' hev bin jes' lak 
puttin' de han's uv de clock back, but, mark yer, 
Izaer 'spressly say dat de sun return'd ten der- 
grees. Thar yer are 1 Ain't dat de movement 



THE SUN DO MOVE 141 

uv de sun? Bless my soul. Hezekier's case 
beat Joshwer. Joshwer stop de sun, but heer de 
Lord mek de sun walk back ten dergrees ; an" 
yet dey say dat de sun stan' stone still an' nevur 
move er peg. It look ter me he move roun' 
mighty brisk an' is ready ter go ennyway dat 
de Lord ordurs him ter go. I wonder if enny 
uv dem furloserfers is roun' here dis arternoon. 
I'd lik ter take a squar' look at one uv dem an' 
ax him to 'splain dis mattur. He carn't do it, 
my bruthr'n. He knows a heap 'bout books, 
maps, riggers an' long distunces, but I derfy him 
ter take up Hezekier's case an' 'splain it orf. He 
carn't do it. De Word uv de Lord is my defense 
an' bulwurk, an' I fears not what men can say 
nor do ; my Gord gives me de vict'ry. 

" 'Low me, my frens, ter put mysef squar 'bout 
dis movement uv de sun. It ain't no bizniss 
uv mine wedder de sun move or stan' still, or 
wedder it stop or go back or rise or set. All 
dat is out er my han's 'tirely, an' I got nuthin' 
ter say. I got no the-o-ry on de subjik. All I 
ax is dat we will take wat de Lord say 'bout it 
an' let His will be dun 'bout ev'ry thing. Wat 
dat will is I karn't know 'cept He whisper inter 
my soul or write it in a book. Here's de Book. 
Dis is 'nough fer me, and wid it ter pilut me, I 
karn't git fur erstray. 

" But 1 ain't dun wid yer yit. As de song 
says, dere's mo' ter f oiler. I envite yer ter heer 



142 JOHN JASPER 

de fust vers in de sev'nth chaptur uv de book uv 
Reverlashuns. What do John, und'r de pow'r 
uv de Spirit, say? He say he saw fo' anguls 
standin' on de fo' corners uv de earth, holdin' 
de fo' win's uv de earth, an' so fo'th. 'Low me 
ter ax ef de earth is roun', whar do it keep its 
corners? Er flat, squar thing has corners, but 
tell me where is de cornur uv er appul, ur a 
marbul, ur a cannun ball, ur a silver dollar. Ef 
dar is enny one uv dem furloserfurs whar's been 
takin' so many cracks at my ole haid 'bout here, 
he is korjully envited ter step for'd an' squar 
up dis vexin' bizniss. I here tell you dat yer 
karn't squar a circul, but it looks lak dese great 
scolurs dun learn how ter circul de squar. Ef 
dey kin do it, let 'em step ter de front an' do de 
trick. But, mer brutherin, in my po' judgmint, 
dey karn't do it ; tain't in 'em ter do it. Dey is 
on der wrong side of de Bible ; dat's on de out- 
side uv de Bible, an' dar's whar de trubbul comes 
in wid 'em. Dey dun got out uv de bres'wuks 
uv de truf, an' ez long ez dey stay dar de light 
uv de Lord will not shine on der path. I ain't 
keer'n so much 'bout de sun, tho' it's mighty 
kunveenyunt ter hav it, but my trus' is in de 
Word uv de Lord. Long ez my feet is flat on 
de solid rock, no man kin move me. I'se gittin' 
my orders f'um de Gord of my salvashun. 

" Tother day er~man wid er hi coler and side 
whisk'rs cum ter my house. He was one nice 



THE SUN DO MOVE 143 

North'rn gemman wat think a heap of us col'rd 
people in de Souf. Da ar luvly folks and I 
honours 'em very much. He seem from de start 
kinder strictly an' cross wid me, and arter while, 
he brake out furi'us and frettid, an' he say : 
' Erlow me Mister Jasper ter gib you sum plain 
advise. Dis nonsans 'bout de sun movin' whar 
you ar gettin' is disgracin' yer race all ober de 
kuntry, an' as a fren of yer peopul, I cum ter 
say it's got ter stop.' Ha ! Ha ! Ha 1 Mars' 
Sam Hargrove nuvur hardly smash me dat way. 
It was equl to one ov dem ole overseurs way 
bac yondur. I tel him dat ef he'll sho me I'se 
wrong, I giv it all up. 

" My 1 My ! Ha ! Ha ! He sail in on me 
an' such er storm about science, nu 'scuv'ries, an' 
de Lord only knos wat all, I ner hur befo', an' 
den he tel me my race is ergin me an' po ole 
Jasper mus shet up 'is fule mouf. 

" Wen he got thru it look lak he nuvur wud, 
I tel him John Jasper ain' set up to be no scholur, 
an' doant kno de ferlosophiz, an' ain' tryin' ter 
hurt his peopul, but is wurkin' day an' night ter 
lif 'em up, but his foot is on de rock uv eternal 
truff. Dar he stan' and dar he is goin' ter stan' 
til Gabrul soun's de judgment note. So er say 
to de gemman wat scoPd me up so dat I hur him 
mek his remarks, but I ain' hur whar he get his 
Scriptu' from, an' dat 'tween him an' de wurd of 
de Lord I tek my stan' by de Word of Gord ebery 



144 JOHN JASPER 

time. Jasper am' mad : he am' fightin' nobody ; 
he ain' bin 'pinted janitur to run de sun : he 
nothin' but de servunt of Gord and a luver of de 
Everlasting Word. What I keer about de sun ? 
De day comes on wen de sun will be called frum 
his race-trac, and his light squincked out foruvur ; 
de moon shall turn ter blood, and this yearth be 
konsoomed wid fier. Let um go ; dat wont skeer 
me nor trubble Gord's erlect'd peopul, for de 
word uv de Lord shell aindu furivur, an' on 
dat Solid Rock we stan' an' shall not be tnuved. 
" Is I got yer satisfied yit ? Has I prooven my 
p'int? Oh, ye whose hearts is full uv unberlief ! 
Is yer still hoi' in' out? I reckun de reason yer 
say de sun don' move is 'cause yer are so hard 
ter move yerse'f. You is a reel triul ter me, but, 
nevur min' ; I ain't gi'n yer up yit, an' nevur will. 
Truf is mighty ; it kin break de heart uv stone, 
an' I mus' fire anudder arrur uv truf out'n de 
quivur uv de Lord. If yer haz er copy uv God's 
Word 'bout yer pussun, please tu'n ter dat miner 
profit, Malerki, wat writ der las' book in der ole 
Bible, an' look at chaptur de fust, vurs 'leben ; 
what do it say? I bet'r read it, fur I got er 
noshun yer critics doan't kerry enny Bible in 
thar pockits ev'ry day in de week. Here is wat 
it says : ' Fur from de risin' uv de sun evun 
unter de goin' doun uv de same My name shall 
be great 'mong de Gentiles. . . My name 
shall be great 'mong de heathun, sez de Lord uv 



THE SUN DO MOVE 145 

hosts.' How do dat suit yer ? It look lak dat 
ort ter fix it. Dis time it is de Lord uv hosts 
Hisse'f dat is doin' de talkin', an' He is talkin' 
on er wonderful an* glorious subjik. He is tellin' 
uv de spredin' uv His Gorspel, uv de kummin' 
uv His larst vict'ry ovur de Gentiles, an' de wurld- 
wide glories dat at de las' He is ter git. Oh, my 
bruddrin, wat er time dat will be. My soul teks 
wing es I erticipate wid joy dat merlenium day ! 
De glories as dey shine befo' my eyes blin's me, 
an' I furgits de sun an* moon an' stars. I jes' 
'members dat 'long 'bout dose las' days dat de 
sun an' moon will go out uv bizniss, fur dey won' 
be needed no mo'. Den will King Jesus come 
back ter see His people, an' He will be de suf- 
fishunt light uv de wurP. Joshwer's bat'ls will 
be ovur. Hezekier woan't need no sun diul, an* 
de sun an' moon will fade out befo' de glorius 
splendurs uv de New Jerruslem. 

" But wat der mattur wid Jasper. I mos' fur- 
git my bizniss, an' mos' gon' ter shoutin' ovur de 
far away glories uv de secun' cummin' uv my 
Lord. I beg pardun, an' will try ter git back ter 
my subjik. I hev ter do as de sun in Hezekier' s 
case fall back er few dergrees. In dat part uv 
de Word dat I gin yer frum Malerki dat de 
Lord Hisse'f spoke He klars dat His glory is 
gwine ter spred. Spred? Whar? Frum de 
risin' uv de sun ter de goin' down uv de same. 
Wat? Doan't say dat, duz it? Dat's edzakly 



146 JOHN JASPER 

wat it sez. Ain't dat cleer 'miff fer yer ? De 
Lord pity dese doubtin' Tommusses. Here is 
'nuff ter settul it all an' kure de wuss cases. 
Walk up yere, wise folks, an' git yer med'sin. 
Whar is dem high collar' d f urloserf urs no w ? Wat 
dey skulkin' roun' in de brush fer ? Why doan't 
yer git out in der broad arternoon light an' fight 
fer yer cullurs ? Ah, I un'stans it ; yer got no 
answer. De Bible is agin yer, an' in yer kon- 
shunses yer are convictid. 

" But I hears yer back dar. Wat yer wisprin' 
'bout ? I know ; yer say yer sont me sum papurs 
an' I nevur answer dem. Ha, ha, ha ! I got 'em. 
De differkulty 'bout dem papurs yer sont me is 
dat dey did not answer me. Dey nevur menshun 
de Bible one time. Yer think so much uv your- 
sef's an' so little uv de Lord Gord an' thinks wat 
yer say is so smart dat yer karn't even speak uv 
de Word uv de Lord. When yer ax me ter stop 
believin' in de Lord's Word an' ter pin my faith 
ter yo words, I ain't er gwine ter do it. I take 
my stan' by de Bible an' res' my case on wat it 
says. I take wat de Lord says 'bout my sins, 
'bout my Saviour, 'bout life, 'bout death, 'bout de 
wurF ter come, an' I take wat de Lord say 'bout 
de sun an' moon, an' I cares little wat de haters 
of mer Gord chooses ter say. Think dat I will 
fursake de Bible ? It is my only Book, my hope, 
de arsnel uv my soul's surplies, an' I wants 
nuthin' else. 



THE SUN DO MOVE 147 

" But I got ernudder wurd fur yer yit. I done 
wuk ovur dem papurs dat yer sont me widout 
date an' widout yer name. Yer deals in figgurs 
an' thinks yer are biggur dan de arkanjuls. 
Lemme see wat yer dun say. Yer set yerse'f 
up ter tell me how fur it is frum here ter de sun. 
Yer think yer got it down ter er nice p'int. Yer 
say it is 3,339,002 miles frum de earth ter desun. 
Dat's wat yer say. Nudder one say dat de dis- 
tuns is 12,000,000; nudder got it ter 27,000,000. 
I hers dat de great Isuk Nutun wuk't it up ter 
28,000,000, an' later on de furloserfurs gin ernud- 
der rippin' raze to 50,000,000. De las' one gits 
it bigger dan all de yuthers, up to 90,000,000. 
Doan't enny uv 'em ergree edzakly an' so dey 
runs a guess game, an' de las' guess is always 
de bigges'. Now, wen dese guessers kin hav a 
kunvenshun in Richmun' an' all ergree 'pun de 
same thing, I'd be glad ter hear frum yer ag*in, 
an' I duz hope dat by dat time yer won't be er- 
shamed uv yer name. 

" Heeps uv railroads hes bin built sense 
I saw de fust one wen I wuz fifteen yeers ole, 
but I ain't hear tell uv er railroad built yit 
ter de sun. I doan* see why ef dey kin meshur 
de distuns ter de sun, dey might not git up 
er railroad er a telurgraf an' enabul us ter fin' 
sumthin' else 'bout it den merely how fur orf de 
sun is. Dey tell me dat a kannun ball cu'd mek 
de trep ter de sun in twelve years. Why doan' 



148 JOHN JASPER 

dey send it ? It might be rigM up wid quarturs 
fur a few furloserfers on de inside an' fixed up fur 
er kumfurterble ride. Dey wud need twelve 
years' rashuns an' a heep uv changes uv ramint 
mighty thick clo'es wen dey start and mighty 
thin uns wen dey git dar. 

" Oh, mer bruthrin, dese things mek yer laugh, 
an' I doan' blem yerferlaughin', 'cept it's always 
sad ter laugh at der follies uv fools. If we cu'd 
laugh 'em out'n kount'nens, we might well laugh 
day an' night Wat cuts inter my soul is, dat all 
dese men seem ter me dat dey is hittin' at de 
Bible. Dat's wat sturs my soul an' fills me wid 
reichus wrath. Leetle keers I wat dey says 'bout 
de sun, purvided dey let de Word uv de Lord 
erlone. But nevur min'. Let de heethun rage 
an' de people 'madgin er vain thing. Our King 
shall break 'em in pieces an' dash r em down. 
But blessed be de name uv our Gord, de Word 
uv de Lord indurith furivur. Stars may fall, 
moons may turn ter blood, an' de sun set ter rise 
no mo', but Thy kingdom, oh, Lord, is frum 
evurlastin' ter evurlastin'. 

" But I has er word dis arternoon fer my own 
brutherin. Dey is de people fer whose souls I got 
ter watch fur dem I got ter stan' an' report at de 
last dey is my sheep an' Fse der shepherd, an' 
my soul is knit ter dem forever. 'Tain fer me ter 
be troublin' yer wid dese questions erbout dem 
heb'nly bodies. Our eyes goes far beyon' de 



THE SUN DO MOVE 149 

smaller stars ; our home is clean outer sight uv 
dem twinklin' orbs ; de chariot dat will cum ter 
take us to our Father's mansion will sweep out 
by dem flickerin' lights an' never halt till it brings 
us in clar view uv de throne uv de Lamb. Doan't 
hitch yer hopes to no sun nor stars ; yer home is 
got Jesus fer its light, an' yer hopes mus' trabel 
up dat way. I preach dis sermon jest fer ter 
settle de min's uv my few brutherin, an' repeats 
it 'cause kin' frens wish ter hear it, an' I hopes it 
will do honour ter de Lord's Word. But nuthin' 
short of de purly gates can satisfy me, an' I 
charge, my people, fix yer feet on de solid Rock, 
yer hearts on Calv'ry, an' yer eyes on de throne 
uv de Lamb. Dese strifes an' griefs '11 soon git 
ober ; we shall see de King in His glory an' be at 
ease. Go on, go on, ye ransom uv de Lord ; shout 
His praises as yer go, an' I shall meet yer in de 
city uv de New Jeruserlum, whar we shan't need 
the light uv de sun, fer de Lam' uv de Lord is de 
light uv de saints." 



XIV 

ONE JASPER DAY IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 

The Story of a Spectator 

THE paper which follows is a composite, em- 
bodying many incidents and facts connected with 
the Jasper sensation, and designed to reflect, so 
far as possible, the impression made by the fiery 
old philosopher upon those who though out of 
sympathy with his astronomical notions fell as 
helpless victims beneath the spell of his eloquence 
and honesty. 

For quite a while the Jasper sensation had 
grown acute in Richmond. Beginning as a freak, 
it bloomed into a fad, got in the air, and actually 
invaded private homes. It was a pentecost for 
the curious, a juicy apple for the hard-driven re- 
porter, a festival for the scoffer, and a roaring 
financial bonanza for the saints of Sixth Mount 
Zion. 

I confess that, for my part, it struck me as a 
ridiculous business at best, the big bubble of an 
hour, and that if not caught at the exact moment 
it would speedily disappear, and while I was a 
sprig of a reporter it was the sort of thing which 
did not come my way. Being, however, of a 
prying and curious turn of mind I determined 

150 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 151 

to take one glimpse at the black elephant. It 
took time, however, to get my purpose into 
working order, but my day came in due course. 
I awoke one morning to find the Saturday pa- 
pers " festering" with Jasper. He was in the ad- 
vertisements, in the communications, and in the 
local columns, and the show was to come off the 
next day. They told once more of his astronom- 
ical absurdities, as I believed them to be, and in- 
formed me that the exhibition would come off at 
3 P. M. on the next afternoon. At neon, I 
dropped into Reugers' for my lunch, and a table 
of hayseed legislators were filling the room, with 
noisy gabble about Jasper and his planetary 
crochets. I found that some of them had signed 
a paper asking for the approaching Jasperian 
exhibition, and others of them were twitting and 
punching them for their folly ; but I found that 
both sides of them were going. 

Later in the day, I got into a West Main Street 
car and found a seat next to three ladies who evi- 
dently had a serious attack of Jasper, and they, 
too, were bargaining to go. At the supper table 
in my boarding-house that evening I found a 
sickly old Yankee minister loafing in Richmond 
for his health, in a swivet of excitement about Jas- 
per and his coming oration. My landlady's four- 
teen year old boy told me that his mother had 
promised that he should go to hear Jasper, on 
the hampering condition that he could get some 



152 JOHN JASPER 

gentleman to go with him, and his appeal for my 
company would have beaten Jasper in the point 
of passionate eloquence. To me, it all seemed a 
stew of folly, and yet I found myself gratified to 
have this earnest lad as an excuse in favour of my 
going. 

I finally bargained with the eager youngster 
that I would waylay him the next morning on 
his early escape from the Sunday-school, and we 
would stroll out into the vicinity of the Sixth 
Mount Zion Church, and make a preliminary re- 
connoissance of the general situation. We did 
not find it quite a well-odoured stroll at all points, 
particularly as we got in the neighbourhood of the 
church, for we encountered a tangle of streets and 
alleys some of which were not in the best con- 
dition. 

Not long after crossing Broad Street we began 
to run afoul of squads and groups of coloured peo- 
ple, and the total strain of their chat was Jasper 
and what was coming later on. The nearer we 
came to the church, the combat, as the poet said, 
deepened, that is, the groups multiplied and the 
Jasperian element grew. A huge negro woman 
hanging on a side-gate on Clay Street was shout- 
ing in a piping voice about Jasper and the sun, 
and telling to several dumb listeners that " she 
wuz gwine ter be dar ef de Lord ' sparred ' her 
an' it wuz de las' thing she done on de yerth." 

I observed also several of those Virginia solons 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 153 

already mentioned, those big footed, badly 
shaven, and consequential legislators, prowling 
in the neighbourhood of the church, as if they were 
studying and planning for burglaries. As we 
meandered the crooked streets which admitted 
us to a sight of the great Sixth Mount Zion, we 
saw in every direction the sign of a prodigious 
expectancy. Front yards, streets, and alleys had 
their contingents, and you could not get within 
ear-shot without getting some novel and surpris- 
ing hints as to John Jasper and the Solar System. 
We could hear singing in the church, and we 
assumed that something in the way of worship 
was in process. That, however, was not IT. 
That was a tame and pithless performance, and 
if Jasper was in it at all he was evidently resting 
his better forces for the bigger battle at three 
o'clock in the impending afternoon. 

The attraction on the inside was out of gear 
and didn't draw. My young companion, who 
was vastly my superior as to the Jasper situation, 
informed me with marked conviction that the 
thing for us to do, and to do at once and with a 
rush, was to go back to the house, swallow our 
dinner, and get back with the utmost speed. We 
did not get away, however, before we noted that 
all avenues in the vicinity of the church seemed 
to be filling. Some were coming and going ; 
some were knotted into groups looking very 
solemn and apparently awestruck, and some were 



154: JOHN JASPER 

crowding in like late comers at a circus ; but 
whenever you caught a word it had to do with 
Jasper. As we walked away, the son of my 
landlady, full of the fidgets and outraged by my 
slow motion remarked sagely : " Ain't he got 
'em ? " I had to admit it ; he had 'em, by a 
grip tighter than if he had 'em by the nape of the 
neck. Evidently enough, he had them, and in a 
bunch as big as the town. 

But I didn't know it fully then. Being un- 
tutored in Jasper's holding power, I was fresh 
enough to suppose that all that buzzing, swarm- 
ing gang of negroes would scatter away to their 
frugal Sunday meal, and that the alleys and 
streets would empty into their usual vacancy, 
though the boy's mien of hurry and eagerness 
was warning me to the contrary. He mentioned 
several times that from what other boys had told 
him we must go very early, and in order to 
gratify him we got out of the boarding-house at 
a quarter after one, and we needed only fifteen 
minutes of quiet walking to get a front seat 

Shades of the Pharaohs and shadows of the 
Pyramids ! As we headed towards the seat of 
planetary conflict the streets looked like black 
rivers. Great lines of blacks, relieved here and 
there by companies of whites, thronged the side- 
walks. Were Hannibal's Carthagenian legions 
being turned loose in Richmond ? Or had some 
mighty earthquake ripped open the foundations 



IN THE SPEING TIME OF 1878 155 

of Richmond, and were the people, caked with 
the soot, fleeing for life ? It was more tranquil 
than that, thank heaven ! It was however the 
town, upheaved and agitated, striving fiercely 
for Sixth Mount Zion, to hear the supreme sen- 
sation of all his race, as I now began to realize 
he was. Squares before we got to the church we 
collided with the returning tide. "No use of go- 
ing," they said, " house already packed ; streets 
full, men fighting and women fainting," and a 
deal more of the same sort 

But these appalling things only urged me on. 
If there was to be a congestion or a catastrophe, 
it was just to my taste as well as to my profes- 
sion to attend. Besides, I had in me a desperate 
purpose to get into that house, and I promised 
the boy that we'd sink or swim together. I un- 
derstood it was perfectly scriptural to rip off the 
roof as the last resort. The occasion had jumped 
the common road, and it was folly to falter now 
before any obstacle. The fight through that mob 
has left me some marks to be noticed when I am 
dressed for my burial. My toes were tramped 
into jelly. At one time I was lifted by a rush, 
and one of my knees aches yet in bad weather as 
a consequence. Several times I thought the 
landlady's boy was doomed to become an un- 
recognizable mangle. It began to sift into me 
that Jasper was more than a man, and nothing 
short of an entire situation and a public men- 



156 JOHN JASPER 

ace. My business was more and more to see 
him. 

The church, when first seen, looked like a tall 
boat borne on the heads of thousands, and yet I 
pushed along. Now, right here, I have to drop 
my honesty and become a hypocrite. How I 
got into that house must not be told. There is 
a muscular, ginger-bread fellow who stays in the 
office down town, and he broke all rules and I 
know not how many bones, and, miraculous as it 
was, landed me and the boy into the pulpit with 
blood on the boy's nose. 

Now, excuse me from describing the music 
and the praying, though I would like to mention 
that the song that the old darkey in the Amen 
corner with the white nape and the quivering 
voice started up, and which it looked to me like 
all the people in the world were singing, rather 
jerked me out of myself and took me off on its 
waves, and when I got back I had to use my 
handkerchief in an unusual way. 

Jasper made a prayer also, and the way he 
talked to the Lord about his own meanness and 
his ignorance, knocked out of me about half of 
my notion that he was a dribbling old egotist and 
numbskull. He caused cold chills to pass up my 
back by several surprising things which he said 
to the Lord in a most serious way, and I have to 
own that by the time he said " Amen," I was a 
little prejudiced in his favour. 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 157 

Further, allow me to say right here that I 
know positively that I never saw so many people 
in a house of that size at one time as was in the 
church that afternoon. Women sat in each 
other's laps, the pulpit was piled up, and all the 
spaces chinked, packed, and doubled up. I 
ought to add that the look of eagerness, expecta- 
tion, and attention was oppressive. No whisper- 
ing, no looking around ; only silence, except 
when Jasper started them. Then you felt the 
mastery and the subduing sovereignty of the 
man. I saw that the white people had been 
favoured in getting seats, and there were hordes 
of them. The legislators abounded, and there 
were preachers, lawyers, notable men, fashionable 
women, and not a few strangers in Richmond, 
all herding together and very serious. It wasn't, 
I confess, what I expected I looked for a circus, 
and had hooked a funeral, no, not a funeral ; it 
wasn't dismal enough for that, but far more 
thoughtful and wakeful than a funeral can be. 

I looked Jasper over with a critical eye, and 
before he began to preach I had his age down for 
sixty-two, but when he began to career over the 
pulpit I knocked off ten years. He had an un- 
attractive bulge on his face around his cheek- 
bone, but his head looked like an alpine cliff. 
His eye, I noted, was an all sufficient redeemer, 
and its flash and laugh would cover acres of ug- 
liness. His whiskers were decidedly undistin- 



158 JOHN JASPER 

guished, except in their cut, and I marked his 
blood as unmixed. He dressed in a manner 
best suited to prevent people from noticing how 
he dressed, and his tall form and alert action 
made him attractive in the pulpit. 

During the sermon he had something to say 
about himself. " I'll be sixty-six years old on de 
fo'th day uv dis coming July. I set out ter seek 
de salvation uv my Gord in 1839. I have never 
been in any school, but I spent some months 
trying ter learn ter spell. I wuz converted in 
Marse Sam Hargrove's terbakur fac'try in dis city, 
on de 25th day uv July, 1839, and frum dat day 
I have know'd dat Gord had anintid me wid 
de Holy Ghost ter preach de Gorspil uv His Son." 

You couldn't hear Jasper say that and doubt. 
He seemed to assert a mastery over me from the 
start as to his sincerity. It was impossible, 
moreover, to question the honesty of anything 
he said. He made another remark at the outset 
which made everybody smile, but it was not a 
frivolous smile by a long shot. He said he was 
so ignorant when he first felt he must preach that 
he thought maybe God wouldn't want a man to 
preach who could not read, and that maybe the 
devil had put that notion into him. Then he 
stopped, and with a decided smile he said, " I 
got a notion dat ef de debbul put dis thing 
in me, den he wuz a bigger fool dan I ever 
thought he cud be. I don't think he hav made 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 159 

much by settin' me out ter preach ef he did 
fer I done knocked his kingdom hard blows 
many a day, but arter more dan forty years 
servin' my Gord I know who I hev b'lieved. 
I feel dat wenever I stan' up in His name, de 
Lord is wid me." 

After these remarks he gave out his text and 
started in. 

" Ef I don't prove ter you by de word uv my 
Gord ter day dat de sun do move, den I ergree 
never ter preach agin es long es my head is 
'bove de clods. I spek ebbry lady an' gentl'man 
presunt dis evenin' ter say wedder wat I say is 
so or not, arter dey hear wat I hav ter say. I'll 
speak out'n de Bibul, an' I want evrybody ter 
mark de words dat I giv 'em." 

I found that Jasper had a keen eye for 
business. He did things according to the book. 
He had ferreted out of the Bible every passage 
that bore upon the motions of the sun, and he 
had them all printed in a sort of tract. A copy 
of these passages he placed in the hands of every 
one who could read and wished to follow him. 
He stumbled considerably over the big words, 
but he skipped none, and kept along, and when 
he would read a passage he would ask to be 
corrected if, in any small degree, he had not 
read it as it ought to be. He was greatly set on 
doing clean work, and not seeming to be willing 
to fool anybody. 



160 JOHN JASPER 

After reading a passage, then " the fun " would 
begin. He would pluck out of it the part that 
helped his argument, and it was a sight to see 
him with this passage as if it were a broad sword. 
He would charge upon his antagonists, shouting 
and laughing, and whacking them as he went 
until he would close that part of his work in a 
storm of eloquence. How he did move the 
people 1 He moved with the stride of the con- 
queror. 

I am not skilled in religious reporting and can- 
not undertake to follow Jasper in that fusillade 
of comment and criticism with which, for a full 
hour and a half, he bore down upon his ad- 
versaries, crashing and scattering them as he 
went. A few of his sayings, however, stuck. 
He drove them into my flesh like fangs, and 
possibly a concrete show of them may help out- 
siders towards a conclusion as to what Jasper is 
after. 

His text, so far as I could see, was not within 
ninety-five millions of miles of the question as to 
the movement of the sun. It did however suit 
exactly for that part of his sermon which had to 
do with the Lord as the defender of His ancient 
people. He grew vivid in picturing ancient 
Israel travelling through the great wilderness, 
and in showing how God delivered them from 
all their foes. 

His wonder as an orator broke out in un- 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 161 

measured splendour as he portrayed the power of 
God at the crossing of the Red Sea. A pathetic 
spectacle were the Hebrew slaves, as they fled 
out of Egypt pursued by the embattled legions 
of Pharaoh. As the Lord's people, as he called 
them, got hemmed up with the sea in front of 
them and the great armies charging in the rear, 
he actually made the people cry in dread and 
terror lest these refugees should be totally ex- 
tinguished. The scene was so lifelike and over- 
mastering that shudders swept through the 
crowd, and women were wild with actual fright. 
Then when Moses came ; when the rod was 
stretched over the sea and the waters, as if ap- 
palled by the presence of the Lord God, be- 
gan to part and roll back until they left a clear 
passage between ; why everybody could see it. 
It was as plain as a great road in the broad day- 
light, and as the Hebrews, with revived hope, 
in solid columns, moved across, his people took 
fire ; they literally shouted the children of Israel 
over. Jasper himself was leading the host, 
cheering, shouting to them not to be afraid, and 
telling them that God would bring them safely 
through. It looked to me as if half of the 
women were clapping their hands or dancing, 
and the other half were rolling off the benches in 
the excess of their rapture, as the last of the 
children of Israel came trudging out upon the 
banks. 



162 JOHN JASPER 

But instantaneously Jasper brought a revulsion 
of feeling. He discovered the vast host of 
Pharaoh marching with music and with banners 
through the parted walls of the Red Sea. They 
were coming too ! After all, the people had 
shouted too soon. The triumphant Egyptians 
would soon be upon them, and the chosen of the 
Lord, after all, must be destroyed. 

Why, look 1 The host is half-across ; three- 
fourths now, getting nearer and nearer. " Oh, 
my God," Jasper cried, with a shriek of despair. 
" Help 1 help 1 or Thy people will be blotted 
out" 

All over the house there were sobs and groans 
and cries of fright. Once more the hand of the 
master was upon them, and he swayed them as 
he would. Then with a shout he cried : " De 
walls of de Red Sea are fallin' ! De partid 
waturs rush inter each udder's imbrace. Oh, 
ye heavens, shout an' let de earth be glad. Let 
hell ter its mos' remotes' dep's quake and cry : 
1 De Lord Gord is a man uv war. De Lord is 
His name ! ' Tell de tidin's. Shout it everywhar 
dat Gord hav' delivured His people." 

I have always liked fine speaking. Oratory 
has a resistless charm for me. I bow to the man 
who thrills me. If Jasper wasn't the soul of 
eloquence that day, then I know not what elo- 
quence is. He painted scene after scene. He 
lifted the people to the sun and sank them down 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 163 

to despair. He plucked them out of hard places 
and filled them with shouting. As long as I live 
all that Red Sea business, with Egypt and the 
fleeing Hebrews and Pharaoh and his great 
legions and the sea and the ruin and the great 
deliverance, are mine to keep as long as my 
mental powers can act. True, Jasper made me 
ridiculous three or four times by so convulsing 
me with laughter that I wanted to roll on the 
floor, but it didn't make me frivolous a bit. I 
never knew that wit was such a deep and serious 
thing before. 

The old orator had to stop " to blow " 
awhile, and it was a strictly original noise he 
made, as he refilled his exhausted lungs with a 
fresh supply of oxygen. The rush of air fairly 
shook the glass in the windows and could have 
been heard perhaps for a square off. All at 
once his face began to brighten with a smile, 
which almost amounted to an illumination. He 
said it " kinder 'mused him ter ubsurv Gord's 
keen way uv wurryin' Pharo' inter lettin' His 
people go." 

I am a failure on dialect, but this part of the 
afternoon's entertainment came with such sur- 
prise that it was photographed on my memory 
in a way it can never be blotted out. Jasper 
took up the several plagues which he asserted 
that God sent upon the Egyptian monarch, de- 
claring that as Pharo' was too much of a brute 



164 JOHN JASPER 

to hear reason, or to feel afraid, the Lord decided 
to tease and torment him with reptiles and in- 
sects, and then he added : "I tell yer, my 
brudderin, dis skeme did de buzniss fer Pharo,',, 
He kum frum ridin' one day an' wen he git in 
de pallis de hole hall is full uv frogs. Dey iz 
scamperrin' and hoppin* roun' tel dey farly kivur 
de groun' an' Pharo' put his big foot an' squash' d 
'em on de marbul flo'. He run inter his parler 
tryin' ter git away frum 'em. Dey wuz all 
erroun' ; on de fine chars, on de lounges, in de 
pianner. It shocked de king til' he git sick. 
Jes' den de dinner bell ring, an' in he go ter git 
his dinner. Ha, ha, ha 1 It's frogs, frogs, frogs 
all erroun' 1 Wen he sot down he felt de frogs 
squirmin' in de char; de frogs on de plates, 
squattin' up on de meat, playin' ovur de bred, 
an* wen he pick up his glas ter drink de watur 
de little frogs iz swimmin' in de tum'ler. Wen 
he tried ter stick up a pickul his fork stuck in a 
frog ; he felt him runnin' down his back. De 
queen she cried, and mos' faintid an' tol' Pharo' 
dat she wud quit de pallis befo' sundown ef he 
didn't do somthin' ter cler dem frogs out'n de 
house. She say she know wat iz de mattur ; 
twuz de Gord uv dem low-down Hebrews, an' 
she wantid him ter git 'em out uv de country. 
Pharo' say he wud, but he wuz an awful liar 
jes* es dey tel me dat mos' uv de pollitishuns 
iz." 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 18Y8 165 

Just then my vagrant eye caught the string 
of legislators who had high seats in the syna- 
gogue and it looked to me as if every Senegam- 
bian in that seething herd was sampling those 
rustic statesmen while they took on an awfully 
silly look ; or rather I think it was on most of 
them before. " I can't pikshur up all dem 
plagues, but I mus' giv you more 'sperunce uv 
dem brutish people in de pallis dat wuz so cruel 
ter de Hebrew folk. One mornin' de king wake 
up an' he wuz ackin' from hed ter foot He 
farly scratch' d his skin off his body, an' out he 
jumps, an' as I liv' he finds hisse'f farly civured 
ovur wid vermin. 'Bout dat time de queen, she 
springs up, an' sich scratchin' an' hollerrin' Pharo' 
nevur herd frum her befo', an' when he look at 
her dey is crawlin' all over her an' she, fergitten 
her queenship, iz dashin' erroun' de room shakin' 
her rappurs an' scratchin' and screamin' tel 
presn'tly she brek loose on de king agin. 'Bout 
dat time dar wuz a yell in de nussery, an' in 
kums de little Pharoes an' dey runs scratchin' 
and hollerin' an' kickin' ter der mudder. Der 
heds wuz full wid 'em ; dere hands wuz all bit an' 
swelFd, an' wen der mudder jerk'd off der nite 
gowns jes' thousans uv 'em iz runnin' over 'em 
frum hed ter foot. Pharo' wuz rich, but riches 
don't kill fleas. Pharo' had big armis, but sol- 
jeers can't conquer an army of lice. Pharo' had 
servunts by de thousans, but all uv 'em put to- 



166 JOHN JASPER 

gedder cudn't pertek' dem little Pharoes an* 
princesses frum dat plague dat an angry Gord 
sent ter skurge Pharo' an' mek 'im willin' ter let 
His chil'n go." 

This is a sample. Jasper's imagination was 
like a prairie on fire. The excitement in the con- 
gregation was of a new order ; he was tickling 
them in a new spot, or rather in forty spots at 
once, and the noise in the house was almost like 
the roar of a tempest I never was in such a 
conglomerate mood. His picture of the plagues 
convulsed me with laughter, would have killed 
me dead, I verily believe, but for the counteract- 
ing effect of the horror excited in me. And more 
than that, the trials of the Hebrew slaves loomed 
up before me all the time. I was subconsciously 
pitying them, and anxious to get my fingers on 
the damnable throat of the tyrant I never knew 
what it was, until that day, to have all sorts of 
feelings at the same time. It seemed to me that 
the strain would have to be ended without going 
further. 

But Jasper wasn't done, and things were com- 
ing on which it was impossible to foresee. Sud- 
denly I found Jasper on a new trail. This time 
it was what he called the assassination of Isaac. 
I discovered that Jasper could talk quite grammat- 
ically when he was on his dignity ; but, when he 
struck the abandon and lawlessness of his im- 
agination, he dropped back into his dialect and 



then he was at his greatest. I found also that he 
delighted in ponderous and sesquipidalian words. 
He rolled them under his tongue, save when 
the words themselves sometimes rolled his tongue 
up, and when he hit assassination, the pronun- 
ciation would have made a thoughtful mule 
smile. But the word was simply a bit of dyna- 
nite to blow up his crowd and to kindle new 
flames in his fancy. 

Jasper's picture of Abraham had the flavour of 
a poem. He stood him up on a lofty pedestal, 
painted him as a man without a vice ; the pink 
of a gentleman, the prince of his tribe, the com- 
panion of the Lord God, the faithful father and 
the Father of the Faithful. Since that day, when- 
ever I get tired or feel that I have done some- 
thing mean, and want to give my moral nature a 
set up, I recall Jasper's poem on Abraham. 

The incident upon which he fastened was the 
tragical story of the sacrifice of Isaac. He told 
how the Lord waked Abraham up at night and 
tickled the old gentleman with the thought that 
there were some new honours coming on for 
Isaac, and then in a flash, commanded him to 
take the boy and go on a three days' run to 
a mountain and kill and burn him up. The 
way he portrayed the mental and emotional 
conflicts of Abraham during those days was like 
a steel pointed plow in the soil of the soul. Then 
when they got in sight of the mountain and 



168 JOHN JASPER 

Abraham halted the cavalcade, and he and the 
boy, parting from the rest, set out to climb the 
mountain alone I got mad and felt like ripping 
the whole schedule into fragments. There was 
a deadly hush on the crowd. The air was tense, 
and all who were capable of it turned pale. Just 
then Jasper gave a slight jerk to the turn of 
things and came to my relief. 

" Why yer reckin Gord try dis thing on Abra- 
ham ? " Jasper asked in a singularly cool man- 
ner. " I tell yer why. Gord not only wants ter 
know His people iz all rite, but He wants de wurP 
ter know dat dey iz all rite, an' more dan dat, He 
wants His people ter hev de comfut dat dey is all 
rite too. Over in de Hebrews, most near de en' 
uv de Bibul, we iz inform' d dat by faith Aberham, 
wen he wuz tried, offur'd up Isuk. God know'd 
dat Aberham lov' Isuk better dan anything on 
de earth, an' dat he got mity big hopes 'bout his 
son's futur. So de Lord broke on 'im onexpectid 
an' order* d 'im ter git out ter Mount Morier an* 
put his son ter death. It look mity hard an' 
strange ter Aberham, but he wuk'd it out. He 
say ef Gord es gwine ter carry out de plan 'bout 
Isuk raisin* a gret nashun an* he kill Isuk, 
den de Lord hav ter rais' 'im up agin, an' so he 
say I'll do wat de Lord tel me an' ax no ques- 
tions. 

"By de way, yonder dey iz, on de top uv de 
mountin. Aberham put up thar a big altur an' 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 169 

he done tuk dat wood dat Isuk kerried an' put 
it under de altur to start de fire. He also got de 
knife laid out dar shinin' in de sun, sharp es a 
razer. He call Isuk an' Isuk walk up pert an' 
willin' an' mity intristid in wat's gwine on, an' 
wonderrin' whar his father gwine to git an offrin', 
whar de lam' fer de slaughter wuz. Den Aber- 
ham ondress Aisuk an' tie his feet an' han's an' 
lay 'im up on dat altur. Solem time, I tell yer. 
Den he turn roun' an' pick up dat blade an' he 
turn roun' ter de altur an : up he lif his gret arm 
high over his hed wid de knife in his han'. It 
stay up dar a sekkun', an' den wid a suddin flash 
down it starts. 

" Oh, my Gord ! Aberham's han' 's parrer- 
lized ; fer de earth farly shuk wid de mity 
vois uv de Lord Gord : ' Aberham, Aberham, 
hoi' on ! Lay not thy han' erpon de chile 
uv de Promis'. I jes' wan' ter try yer ! ' Wat 
dat out dar in de brush erblatin' and erscramb- 
lin' ? Gord had prepar'd de sacrerfice, an' Aber- 
ham, undoin' de boy's han's an' feet, hugs 'im 
ter his hart and cries and shouts tell it look lik 
de pillers uv de heavens trimbul'd wid de joy." 

Now this is the way I remember it, but Jasper 
was never put on paper. If you were not there, 
you don't understand. Of course, it was foolish 
in me, but that great crowd was in such a tumult, 
and John Jasper seemed in some way so transfig- 
ured, and, without knowing why, I was greatly 



170 JOHN JASPER 

tempted to let out one tremendous yell. There 
was something in me that needed to be let off, 
and I cannot tell what I really did, and no mat- 
ter any way. The strain was so pitiless that I 
wanted fresh air and would probably have gone 
out, except that it was the one thing that was 
physically impossible. 

Yet another scene comes back to me. Jasper 
had paraded his Scriptures in long array in sup- 
port of his view, that the sun do move, and he 
had such a tempestuous sense of victory that he 
turned loose all of his legions upon his scientific 
antagonists. He called them his " Ferloserfers " 
and talked hotly about the books which they 
were all the time sending him. He said that he 
would like to " huddle all dese books in a pile 
an' cornsine 'em ter de flames. Dat's wat ought 
ter be done. Dey ar weppuns wid wich Satun 
wud 'stroy de Word uv Gord." 

The approval of this radical proceeding was 
accentuated with groans, and shouts, and scorn- 
ful laughter, which surged through the house 
like a maddened river. As a fact, I am not 
much ahead of Jasper in scientific knowledge, 
but I am not one of those flabby sort who jumped 
up to say that Jasper was simply voicing what 
they had believed all the time. Through it all s 
I kept on believing in the rotation of the earth, 
just as I had before, and I really thought before 
I got there that I would get enough fun out of 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 1T1 

the occasion to supply me for scores of Sundays. 
The curious result of it all was that Jasper didn't 
convert me to his theory, nor did he convert me 
to his religion, but he did convert me to himself. 
I found myself turning to him with a respect and 
kindliness of feeling that greatly surprised me. 
I felt his greatness. I believed in his sincerity, 
and to me he was a philosopher, sound in his 
logic, mighty in his convictions, though he might 
be wrong in his premises. 

Now in plain contradiction of what I have said 
I must make an admission. In the triumph of 
his ending Jasper polled his crowd to see how 
his theory was prospering. He bade every- 
body who really endorsed his theory that the sun 
moved to show the hand. I stretched up my 
arm about four feet, and would have punched the 
ceiling with my fingers if it could have been 
done. Yes, I voted that the earth was flat and 
had four corners, and that the sun drove his 
steeds from the gates of the morning over to the 
barns in the West, and I never asked the ques- 
tion for a moment as to how the team was got 
back during the night. Call me a hypocrite, if 
it will comfort you to do it ; that's a very gentle 
way to speak to a reporter, but I was dead sin- 
cere. My vote was in favour of Jasper's logic, 
his genuineness, his originality, his philosophic 
honesty, and his religion. If it was hypocrisy to 
hold up the hand on that occasion, then there 



172 JOHN JASPER 

was a mammoth pile of hypocrites ; for it seemed 
to me that there were forty hundred of the 
Brirareus family present and that the last one of 
them tried to hold up each one of his hands 
higher than all of his other hands and higher 
than anybody else's hands. 

I got full wages for my vote. To look at old 
Jasper with his parted lips, his smile, which be- 
lied every sign of his oratorical ferocity and 
vengefulness, and his unspeakable aspect of con. 
quest and glory as the people wrung his hand 
and poured their happy benedictions upon him. 

After the sermon the old brother, with the 
snow-capped head and the shaking voice, struck 
up one of the prayer-meeting choral songs. He 
spun it out rather thin, but reinforcements came 
in, and by the time they struck the chorus the 
tramp of the feet all in unison seemed to me 
strong enough to crash down the bridge over 
Niagara, and as for the singing, its appeal was 
to the imagination, at least to mine, and I 
actually fancied that I could hear the invisible 
choirs in which armies of angels and nations of 
the ransomed were joining with full voice. 

I had Jasper for breakfast, dinner, and supper 
that week. Down at the office they called me 
" Jasper," and up at the boarding-house the land- 
lady's boy, who stayed in bed next day from his 
bruises, was constantly singing, and making me 
help him, the choral song with which the meet- 



IN THE SPRING TIME OF 1878 173 

ing broke up and the old Yankee preacher and 
the inevitable boy had me telling all the time 
of the multitudinous things that happened at 
Jasper's church. 

Months and months have since gone. The 
Jasperian uproar has ebbed, and I am still the 
bad reporter, and latterly have changed my desk 
and work on Sunday, but often and often I dream 
about Jasper, and every time I dream I fancy 
that I have joined his church and that he and I 
shouted when he baptized me. No, I have never 
been back. I do not wish to build on to my ex- 
perience, and I do not want it marred by finding 
Jasper less commanding and kinglike than he 
was on that spring time Sabbath that afternoon 
of '78. 



XV 

JASPER'S PICTURE OF HEAVEN 

I NEVER heard Jasper preach a sermon on 
heaven, nor did I ever hear of his doing so. So 
far as my observation goes, sermons on heaven 
have failed to edify the thoughtful sometimes 
proving distinctly disappointing. It was not to 
Jasper's taste to argue on heaven as a doctrine. 
With him it was as if he were camping outside 
of a beautiful city, knowing much of its history 
and inhabitants, and in joyous expectation of 
soon moving into it The immediate things of 
the kingdom chiefly occupied his attention ; but 
when his sermons took him into the neighbour- 
hood of heaven, he took fire at once and the 
glory of the celestial city lit his face and cheered 
his soul. This chapter deals only with one of 
his sermons which, while not on heaven, reveals 
his heart-belief in it, and its vital effect upon his 
character. 

Imagine a Sunday afternoon at his church a 
fair, inspiring day. His house was thronged to 
overflowing. It was the funeral of two persons 
William Ellyson and Mary Barnes. The text is 
forgotten, but the sermon is vividly recalled. 



JASPER'S PICTURE OF HEAVEN 175 

From the start Jasper showed a burden and a 
boldness that promised rich things for his people. 
At the beginning he betrayed some hesitation 
unusual for him. " Lemme say," he said, " a word 
about dis William Ellersin. I say it de fust an' 
git it orf mer min'. William Ellersin was no 
good man he didn't say he wus ; he didn't try 
to be good, an' de tell me he die as he live, 'out 
Gord an' 'out hope in de worl'. It's a bad tale 
to tell on 'im, but he fix de story hissef. As de 
tree falls dar mus it lay. Ef you wants folks who 
live wrong to be preached and sung to glory, 
don' bring 'em to Jasper. Gord comfut de monur 
and warn de onruly. 

" But, my bruthrin," he brightened as he spoke, 
" Mary Barnes wus difrunt. She wer wash'd in 
de blood of de Lam' and walk'd in white ; her 
r'ligion was of Gord. Yer could trust Mary any- 
whar ; nuv'r cotch 'er in dem playhouses ner 
friskin' in dem dances ; she wan' no street-walk'r 
trapsin' roun' at night. She love de house of de 
Lord ; her feet clung to de straight and narrer 
path ; I know'd her. I seen her at de prarmeetin' 
seed her at de supper seed her at de preachin', 
an' seed her tendin' de sick an' helpin' de mounin' 
sinn'rs. Our Sister Mary, good-bye. Yer race 
is run, but yer crown is shure." 

From this Jasper shot quite apart. He was 
full of fire, humour gleamed in his eye, and free- 
dom was the bread of his soul. By degrees he 



176 , T JOHN JASPER 

T. 

approached the realm of death, and he went as 
an invader. A note of defiant challenge rang in 
his voice and almost blazed on his lips. He es- 
corted the Christian to the court of death, and 
demanded of the monster king to exhibit his 
power to hurt. It was wonderful to see how he 
pictured the high courage of the child of God, 
marching up to the very face of the king of terrors 
and demanding that he come forth and do his 
worst. Death, on the other hand, was subdued, 
slow of speech, admitted his defeat, and pro- 
claimed his readiness to serve the children of 
Immanuel. Then he affected to put his mouth 
to the grave and cried aloud : " Grave ! Grave 1 
Er Grave 1 " he cried as if addressing a real per- 
son, " Whar's yer vict'ry ? I hur you got a 
mighty banner down dar, an' you turrurizes ev'ry- 
body wat comes long dis way. Bring out your 
armies an' furl fo'th your bann'rs of vict'ry. Show 
your han' an' let 'em see wat you kin do." Then 
he made the grave reply : " Ain't got no vict'ry 
now ; had vict'ry, but King Jesus pars'd through 
dis country an' tord my banners down. He 
says His peopF shan't be troubled no mo' forev'r ; 
an' He tell me ter op'n de gates an' let 'um pass 
on dar way to glory." 

" Oh, my Gord," Jasper exclaimed in thrilling 
voice, " did yer hur dat ? My Master Jesus done 
jerk'd de sting of death, done broke de scept'r of 
de king of tur*rs, an' He dun gone inter de grave 



JASPER'S PICTURE OF 1EAVEN 177 

an* rob it uv its victorous banners, an' fix'd nice 
an' smooth for His people ter pass through. Mo' 
en dat, He has writ a song, a shoutin' anthim for 
us to sing when we gothur, passin' suns an' stars, 
an' singin' dat song, ' Thanks be onter Gord be 
onter Gord who give us de vict'ry thru de Lord 
Jesus Christ.' " Too well I know that I do scant 
justice to the greatness of Jasper by this outline 
of his transcendent eloquence. The whole scene, 
distinct in every detail, was before the audience, 
and his responsive hearers were stirred into un- 
controllable excitement. 

" My bruthrin," Jasper resumed very soberly, 
" I oft'n ax myself how I'd behave merself ef I 
waster git to heav'n. I tell you I would tremble 
fo' de consequinces. Eben now when I gits er 
glimpse jist a peep into de palis of de King, it 
farly runs me ravin' 'stracted. What will I do ef 
I gits thar ? I 'spec I'll make er fool of myself, 
'cause I ain't got de pritty ways an' nice man- 
ners my ole Mars' Sam Hargrove used to have, 
but ef I git thar they ain't goin' to put me out. 
Mars' Sam'll speak fur me an' tell 'em to teach 
me how to do. I sometimes thinks if I's 'lowed 
to go free I 'specs to be free dar, I tell you, 
b'leve I'll jest do de town walkin' an' runnin' all 
roun' to see de home which Jesus dun built for 
His people. 

" Fust of all, I'd go down an' see de river of 
life. I lov's to go down to de ole muddy J ernes 



178 JOHN JASPER 

-mighty red an' muddy, but it goes 'long so 
gran' an' quiet like 'twas 'tendin' to business 
but dat ain't nothin' to the river which flows by 
de throne. I longs fer its chrystal waves, an' de 
trees on de banks, an' de all mann'rs of fruits. 
Dis old head of mine oft'n gits hot with fever, 
aches all night an' rolls on de piller, an' I has 
many times desired to cool it in that blessed 
stream as it kisses de banks of dat upper Canaan. 
Bl'ssed be de Lord ! De thought of seein' dat 
river, drinkin' its water an' restin' un'r dose 
trees " Then suddenly Jasper began to in- 
tone a chorus in a most affecting way, no part of 
which I can recall except the last line : " Oh, 
what mus' it be to be thar?" "Aft'r dat," 
Jasper continued with quickened note, " I'd turn 
out an' view de beauties of de city de home of 
my Father. I'd stroll up dem abenuse whar de 
children of Gord dwell an' view dar mansions. 
Father Abraham, I'm sure he got a grate pallis, 
an' Moses, what 'scorted de children of Israel 
out of bondige thru' de wilderness an' to de 
aidge of de promised Ian', he must be powerful 
set up being sich er man as he is ; an' David, 
de king dat made pritty songs, I'd like to see 'is 
home, an' Paul, de mighty scholar who got 
struck down out in de 'Mascus road, I want to 
see his mansion, an' all of 'em. Den I would 
cut roun' to de back streets an' look for de little 
home whar my Saviour set my mother up to 



JASPER'S PICTURE OF HEAVEN 1Y9 

housekeepin' when she got thar. I 'spec to 
know de house by de roses in de yard an' de 
vine on de poch." As Jasper was moving at 
feeling pace along the path of his thoughts, he 
stopped and cried : " Look dar ; mighty sweet 
house, ain't it lovely?" Suddenly he sprang 
back and began to shout with joyous clapping 
of hands,, " Look dar ; see dat on de do ; 
hallelujah, it's John Jasper. Said He was gwine 
to prepar a place for me ; dar it is. Too good 
for a po' sinner like me, but He built it for me, a 
turn-key job, an' mine forev'r." Instantly he 
was singing his mellow chorus ending as before 
with : " Oh, what mus' it be to be thar 1" 

From that scene he moved off to see the 
angelic host. There were the white plains of 
the heavenly Canaan a vast army of angels 
with their bands of music, their different ranks 
and grades, their worship before the throne and 
their pealing shouts as they broke around the 
throne of God. The charm of the scene was 
irresistible ; it lifted everybody to a sight of 
heaven, and it was all real to Jasper. He seemed 
entranced. As the picture began to fade up rose 
his inimitable chorus, closing as always : " Oh, 
what mus' it be to be thar ! " 

Then there was a long wait. But for the sub- 
dued and unworldly air of the old preacher full 
seventy years old then the delay would have 
dissolved the spell. "An* now, frenz," he said, 



180 JOHN JASPER 

still panting and seeking to becalm, "ef yer'll 
'scuse me, I'll take er trip to de throne an' see 
de King in 'is roy'l garmints." It was an event 
to study him at this point. His earnestness and 
reverence passed all speech, and grew as he 
went. The light from the throne dazzled him 
from afar. There was the great white throne 
there, the elders bowing in adoring wonder 
there, the archangels waiting in silence for the 
commands of the King there the King in His 
resplendent glory there in hosts innumerable 
were the ransomed. In point of vivid descrip- 
tion it surpassed all I had heard or read. By this 
time the old negro orator seemed glorified. 
Earth could hardly hold him. He sprang about 
the platform with a boy's alertness ; he was un- 
consciously waving his handkerchief as if greet- 
ing a conqueror ; his face was streaming with 
tears ; he was bowing before the Redeemer ; he 
was clapping his hands, laughing, shouting and 
wiping the blinding tears out of his eyes. It 
was a moment of transport and unmatched 
wonder to every one, and I felt as if it could 
never cease, when suddenly in a new note he 
broke into his chorus, ending with the soul-melt- 
ing words : " Oh, what mus' it be to be thar 1 " 
It was a climax of climaxes. I supposed noth- 
ing else could follow. We had been up so often 
and so high we could not be carried up again. 
But there stood Jasper, fully seeing the situation. 



JASPER'S PICTURE OF HEAVEN 181 

He had seen it in advance and was ready. " My 
bruthrin," said he as if in apology, " I dun f er- 
got somethin'. I got ter tek anuth'r trip. I ain't 
visit'd de ransum of de Lord. I can't slight dem. 
I knows heap ov 'em, an* I'm boun' to see 'em." 
In a moment he had us out on the celestial plains 
with the saints in line. There they were count- 
less and glorious ! We walked the whole line 
and had a sort of universal handshake in which 
no note of time was taken. " Here's Brer Abul, 
de fust man whar got here ; here's Brer Enoch 
whar took er stroll and straggled inter glory ; 
here's ole Ligie, whar had er carriage sent fur 'im 
an' corned a nigher way to de city." Thus he 
went on greeting patriarchs, prophets, apostles, 
martyrs, his brethren and loved ones gone before 
until suddenly he sprang back and raised a shout 
that fairly shook the roof. " Here she is ; I 
know'd sh'd git here ; why, Mary Barnes, you 
got home, did yer ? " A great handshake he 
gave her and for a moment it looked as if the 
newly-glorified Mary Barnes was the centre of 
Jasper's thoughts; but, as if by magic, things 
again changed and he was singing at the top of 
his voice the chorus which died away amid the 
shrieks and shouts of his crowd with his plaintive 
note : " Oh, what mus' it be to be thar ! " 

Jasper dropped exhausted into a chair and 
some chief singer of the old-time sort, in noble 
scorn of all choirs, struck that wondrous old 



182 JOHN JASPER 

song, "When Death Shall Shake My Frame," 
and in a moment the great building throbbed 
and trembled with the mighty old melody. It 
was sung only as Jasper's race can sing, and 
especially as only Jasper's emotional and im- 
passioned church could sing it. This was Jasper's 
greatest sermon. In length it was not short of 
an hour and a half maybe it was longer than 
that. He lifted things far above all thought of 
time, and not one sign of impatience was seen. 
The above sketch is all unworthy of the man or 
the sermon. As for the venerable old orator 
himself he was in his loftiest mood free in soul, 
alert as a boy, his imagination rioting, his action 
far outwent his words, and his pictures of celes- 
tial scenes glowed with unworldly lustre. He 
was in heaven that day, and took us around in 
his excursion wagon, and turning on the lights 
showed us the City of the Glorified. 

What is reported here very dimly hints at 
what he made us see. Not a few of Richmond's 
most thoughtful people, though some of them 
laid no claim to piety, were present and not one 
of them escaped the profound spiritual eloquence 
of this simple-hearted old soldier of the cross. 

Valiant, heroic old man ! He stood in his 
place and was not afraid. He gave his message 
in no uncertain words scourged error wherever 
it exposed its front stood sentinel over the word of 
God and was never caught sleeping at his post 



JASPER'S PICTURE OF HEAVEN 183 

When his work ended, he was ready to go up 
and see his Master face to face. 

The stern old orator, brave as a lion, rich in 
humour, grim, and a dreamer whose dreams were 
full of heaven, has uttered his last message and 
gone within the veil to see the wonders of the 
unseen. If the grapes of Eschol were so luscious 
to him here, " Oh, what must it be for him to 
be there." 



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