Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Christian Black History Month: Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley was the mother of African-American poetry. And she is a politically incorrect black heroine.

The fist to publish a book of poems as an African-slave, she was immediately popular in America. Her talent was recognized by George Washington, John Hancock and the governor of Massachusetts, Hutchinson. She was well-received in England as well.

Her slave-family showed some pity by educating her themselves. She was later set free by her family.
With her husband in debtor's prison and the loss of three children, tragically, she died at the age of 31,

Yet in spite of a sad life that would crush the strongest Christian today, her poetry demonstrates a heart sustained and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The lost of an infant did not crush her:

The gift of heav'n intrusted to your hand
Cheerful resign at the divine command:
(On the Death of J. C. an Infant)

She rested on the grace and gifts of God:

Who taught us prayer and gave us grace and faith
Who but the great and the Supreme who bless’d
(An Address to the Deists)

Her childhood slavery did not overwhelm her.  In amazing contrast with today's whining Americans, she wrote:

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic dye."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.´
(On being brought from Africa to America.)

Although the research does not specify her theological orientation, she was likely a Calvinist. Her church was the Old South Church in Boston. She wrote a poem lamenting the death of her pastor. She wrote another on the death of Whitefield.  And her poetic language (see above as well) uses well-known Reformed thought:

The Atheist sure no more can boast aloud
Of chance, or nature, and exclude the God;
As if the clay without the potter's aid
Should rise in various forms, and shapes self-made,
Or worlds above with orb o'er orb profound

Self-mov'd could run the everlasting round.
It cannot be -- unerring Wisdom guides
With eye propitious, and o'er all presides.
(To the Rev. DR. THOMAS AMORY…)

Here is a woman for our girls to emulate.  Here the beauty of Christ shined wonderfully through His chosen vessel and her poems.

(Her poems are here)

Black History Month Series:
1. Lemuel Haynes
2. Jupiter Hammon 
3. Phillis Wheately

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