Friday, August 16, 2013

Autobiography of Josiah Henson: An Inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom

I'm up early today with some welcome coolness in the air on this August morning. Today both of our sons head back to college (they attend same state university, but live in different places). My husband, Mary, and I are going too—in my case, more for me than them—as they are both incredibly independent!

I want to help them make their beds and help them decide where to put the lamps and the rug and pray together over them in their rooms for the upcoming year. We'll probably grab lunch at the popular hot dog place before the bittersweet goodbye! (they are happy as larks—bittersweet for me as I will miss them so much!)

I'll never forget what Jim Elliot told Elisabeth Elliot when he was going off on a jungle excursion as they both were missionaries in Equador. She commented to him that she was going to miss him, and he chided her for it. He said he was going to do God's will, and that her saying that made it harder on him to leave!

I'm not sure Elisabeth ever said "I'll miss you" after that! That Jim Elliot was one single-focused man! I think today while I feel the same way, I'll keep that to myself (and you!), to not take away from my sons' joy of the day. 

Last night there was a busy beehive of activity in our garage of packing up cars and trailers. When I walked in, my older son said, "Guess what, Mom?" I knew immediately! "You passed the real estate exam!" Yep! I was right. Thank you, Lord!

Going to College. Taking a real estate exam. May we not take your blessings for granted, Lord. Opportunities like these are blessings that are not available to everyone. They certainly were not available to a slave named Josiah Henson.

Josiah Henson's book, Autobiography of Josiah Henson: An Inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom is an excellent book. Harriet Beecher Stowe met Josiah, and based the character of Uncle Tom on Josiah (he devotes a chapter about meeting her in the book, and who some of Stowe's main characters actually were in real life).
Josiah wrote about his entire life. We hear how he heard the powerful words of scripture and how he entered into a personal relationship with Christ in his youth.

There's more good news! This is not a gloomy book of a man who suffered deeply. Yes, he is very candid about his suffering and his temptations—but what I love is the godly, intelligent man whose honorable character will inspire you in your walk with Christ.

Speaking about the remembrance of his wife from her deathbed scene:

We talked over our whole past life as far as her strength would permit, reviewing the many scenes of sorrow and trouble , as well as the many bright and happy days of our pilgrimage, until exhausted nature sought repose, and she sunk into a quiet sleep.
     I ... was permitted to close her eyes when the final summons came. She blessed me and blessed her children, commending us to the ever-watchful care of that Saviour who had sustained her in so many hours of trial; and ... after kissing me and each of of the children, she passed from earth to heaven without a pang or a groan, as gently as falling to sleep...
... I can truly and from an overflowing heart say, that she was a sincere and devoted Christian, a faithful and kind wife to me, even to the day of her death arranging all our domestic matters, in such a manner as to contribute as largely as possible to my comfort and happiness. 

And contrasting himself with the hero in Uncle Tom's Cabin and his gratefulness to God:

Though she (Stowe) made her hero die, it was fit that she did this to complete her story; and if God had not given me a giant's constitution, I should have died over and over again long before I reached Canada. I regard it as one of the most remarkable features of my life that I have rallied after so many exposures to all kinds of hardships. I am grateful to God for His abundant mercies to me in bringing me out of Egypt into the promised land, and I hope to be His faithful servant to my dying hour.

I highly recommend that you read it! I'd have a pencil handy so that you can go back and review key thoughts that Josiah so eloquently expressed that we can learn from and apply to our own lives from this man of outstanding Christian character. You will see the grace of God in this man. I look forward to meeting him in heaven.

I think today I'll pray as Josiah's wife prayed for our own children as we leave them in college to "the ever-watchful care of that Saviour" who sustains us.

Walk by Faith,


  1. Glad you were inspired by this book Juana! It's one of my favorite autobiographies. : )

    1. Hi Cathy, I am so thrilled that you replied because you needed to be part of this post. You are the reason I read Josiah's autobiography because you introduced me to him in your wonderful book blog! I'm so appreciative for it is now one of my favorite autobiographies as well! Keep writing your great blog on books! I think I have one more from your list that I read that I'll be covering.

  2. Hi Juana,
    When I was homeschooling my teen-agers, we read Uncle Tom's Cabin together, and it was such a good, solid, sad, victorious book about Jesus and His ability to comfort the oppressed. I never heard of this book about Josiah Henson, but I will buy it for sure. I want to read it. A book I truly loved about the same subject is one I read many years ago and it was out of print until last year. It's called The Emancipation of Robert Sadler, and my daughter recently reread it. It is also very powerful and it is a true story too.
    I know the feeling of sending your children off to college. I pray God will continue to give you peace at this bittersweet time.

    1. Oh thank you, Gail! You better believe I'm going to look up that book & read husband is reading Josiah's book now. You will LOVE it!!!


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