GOD & TEXAS: 1839 Texas!
“How universal and incessant is this practice of chewing tobacco in Texas? High and low, rich and poor, young and old chew, chew, chew, spit, spit, spit all the blessed day and most of the night.” These were the unfavorable observations of English diplomat Francis Sheridan who was sent to evaluate the Republic of Texas in 1839 for possible recognition by England.
1839 was a turbulent year for the Republic of Texas. The revolution was still fresh on everyone’s mind, and there was the constant threat that enemies might unite to overthrow the fledgling Texas government.
In March, there was an uprising of Nacogdoches-area Tejanos, who opposed independence from Mexico, that led to the Cordova Rebellion. Later, President Mirabeau B. Lamar approved a war against the Cherokee Indians in July that led to their removal from Texas. The Texas Congress uprooted the capitol from Houston and had their first session in November in Austin, the new capitol of Texas.
The spiritual condition of the state was unsettled also. The Catholic Diocese had only three functioning churches in Texas, not counting the deteriorating missions that were built over one hundred years prior. With few priests in Texas, clergy was rarely available to perform their sacerdotal duties. And when they did, the priests charged exorbitant fees.
The Methodists, Episcopalians, and Baptists were also struggling for survival. Oscar Addison, a circuit-riding missionary, wrote in his journal in 1839 that as he made his rounds, he found “nothing cheering or encouraging, many of the members have backslidden, and are spiritually dead!”
The Houston newspaper, Morning Star, reported in their April 18, 1939, issue that Houston had a theater, a courthouse, a jail, and even a capitol, but not a single church. Even San Felipe, the first Anglo-American settlement, did not have a church.
However, throughout rural Texas, revivals were breaking out in camp meetings and brush arbors. Methodist minister Jesse Hord describes a revival meeting he conducted on January 31, 1839. After he preached a sermon on repentance and “fleeing the wrath to come,” attendees fell on their knees and asked forgiveness for their sins. The service continued until very late and marvelous Gifts of the Holy Spirit were seen. Joining others, Mrs. Tone “confessed her conversion in the language of praise and thanksgiving to God!”
In another meeting thirty miles north of Old Caney bottom, Rev. Hord stated that the people were “so hungry for the Gospel. They literally drank in the Word, all suffused in tears.” Texas needed to change, and God was setting it in motion.
The formula for spiritual restoration of a state or a nation is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Texas needs this revival today more than ever.
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