*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 24th of June 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
It was said of 19th century New England that it was filled with Saints, Sinners, and Beechers.
Before the Kardashians, the most famous family, exceedingly public family, and controversial family was that which came from the marriage of Lyman Beecher and his wife Roxanne. You may know Lyman as the last of the brand new England Puritans. You probably know Harriet Beecher Stowe- author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.
But for a season the most famous of the Beecher’s and perhaps the most famous man in America was the preacher Henry Ward Beecher. This length show cannot do justice to the man who was born on the 24th of June in 1813. Let’s break down a few of the most important and fascinating aspects of his life and career.
Destined to be a preacher
His father required him, as with all of his sons, to become a preacher.
However, Henry was terrified of the God of his father. He wrote that as a child he saw God as saying to him “I see you and am after you.”
Most Popular Preacher
Called to Brooklyn Heights by wealthy businessmen from his congregation in Indiana.
Visiting his church became so popular that the ferries from Manhattan to Brooklyn were called “Beecher Boats”.
His famous visitors included Ralph Waldo Emerson (he liked HWB) Henry David Thoreau (who didn’t like him) and Mark Twain even went on a tour of Europe and the Holy Land with Beecher and this became the basis for his “Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims Progress”.
Abraham Lincoln was a BIG fan. His famous Address at Cooper Union was supposed to be held at Beecher’s church but was moved on account of the weather. Lincoln also appreciated Beecher’s rabid abolitionism. Beecher’s church sent hundreds of rifles to the frontier to assist the abolitionist cause. These rifles were called “Beecher’s Bibles”.
Lincoln also had Beecher raise the American flag over Fort Sumter after the Union victory. This was the first American flag raised in former rebel territory.
He has been “forgotten” for a number of reasons but the chief reason is perhaps his role in the “Trial of the Century” in 1875 which involved his alleged affair with the wife of his protege Theodore Tilton. Beecher was found not guilty in a civil suit after hours of his own testimony to a sympathetic jury. It has been suggested with evidence that he had other affairs.
Not the brightest or most talented in his family he was able to use showmanship and opportunity to create what we might call today “a brand”. He was amongst the first of the “megachurch celebrity pastors” and it looks like… may have started something of a trend.
A man full of contradiction, well-intentioned but often getting in his own way, the most famous man in America was born on the 24th of June in 1813
The last word for today is from the Epistle to the Romans in the 4th chapter:
4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who, like Beecher, also fled the Hoosier state. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a direct descendant of the Dutch founders of Brooklyn, I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.