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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Redemptive Read

The size of a book has little to do with the insight and impact it can hold. This I learned while reading the short, auto-biographical work of Rev. John Williams, entitled "The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion." Excluding the appendix and notes, and additional biographical information on the life of Rev. Williams, his actual story totals only 92 pages. Although considered a short read, the treasure found within these 92 pages is of much greater worth than some lengthier tomes I have read.

"The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion" is the tale of Rev. John Williams' capture by Indians, captivity in Canada, and providential return to the American Colonies. During an Indian raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts in February of 1704, Rev. Williams and his family were taken captive along with many of their neighbors and transported to French-controlled Canada. Two of his children were mercilessly murdered in front of his eyes on the doorstep of his home, and his wife was brutally killed during the arduous trek to Canada. Yet never once did he complain.

Rev. Williams trusted implicitly in the sovereignty of God - no ifs, ands, or buts. Here lies the true treasure of this little story: come what may, Rev. Williams never lost perspective, knowing that God was ultimately in control of all.

Before she was chopped down by an Indian hatchet, Mrs. Williams shared with her husband her trust in submitting quietly to the will of God. These were not shallow words, but spoken with conviction by a woman who had just lost 2 children, saw her home destroyed, was herself a captive, and knew her time was drawing near. Of his beloved wife, Rev. Williams had this to say, "She never spake any discontented word as to what had befallen us, but with suitable expressions justified God in what had happened." This was a heroically virtuous woman.

After surviving the treacherous trek from Massachusetts to Canada, Rev. Williams was bought from his Indian captors by the "Popish" French. Physically, Rev. Williams fared much better during his time of captivity with the French, but the flames of spiritual persecution rose high. Forbidden to minister to the other nearby English captives and sorely tried by the Jesuit priests who offered reunification with his children in exchange for conversion to Catholicism, Rev. Williams never faltered. God was truly his refuge and strength.


One of the darkest periods of Rev. Williams' captivity was the day he received a letter from his also-captive son 200 miles away, announcing his conversion to Catholicism. Samuel, Rev. Williams' 15 year-old son, after much physical coercion on the part of his French schoolmaster, at last succumbed to the temptation to change religions. In response, the broken-hearted father wrote a beautiful apologetic dissertation of the Scriptures, deftly showing how many of the doctrines held by the Roman Catholic Church were false and not founded upon God's Word. Samuel's reply showed a repentant and contrite spirit, stating, "O, remember me in your prayers! I am your dutiful son, ready to take your council."

Following negotiations, in October of 1706, a vessel arrived to transport some of the English captives back to to Massachusetts. After enduring captivity for over 2 1/2 years, Rev. Williams and 2 of his 3 remaining children sailed for home. Sadly, the remaining child was his 10 year-old daughter, Eunice, whose Indian captors refused her release.

Reading this story of tragedy and triumph gives cause to praise God for our nation's heritage. Heroic womanhood, faithful fatherhood, and an unwavering trust in God's sovereignty - this was the legacy left by many of our forebears. Will we leave the same legacy to our posterity?

~Cara



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