“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” (Joshua 10:13 KJV)
John Jasper (1812-1901) was undoubtedly Virginia’s most famous black preacher. After 25 years as a slave, Jasper was converted and followed the call of the Lord to preach. In 1867 he started the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church with only nine members. At the time of his death in 1901 the church had over 2000 members.
In 1882 Jasper preached his most famous sermon “De Sun Do Move and De Earth Am Flat”. It is said that the sermon was preached as a result of a question Jasper received from a member of the church regarding Joshua 10:12-13. Jasper reportedly told the member that he’d preach on the topic the following Sunday. That was the first of over 250 times the sermon had been preached. Jasper toured the US preaching the sermon to rich and poor, white and black, and even to the Virginia House of Representatives. In the sermon, which is said to have lasted approximately 90 minutes in length, Jasper tells of his inability to read and the roommate and fellow slave that God put I his path to change all that . He also tells of his prayer to the Lord asking for wisdom in understanding the Bible.
The sermon has been transcribed several times on line. Unfortunately however; the language used is supposed “authentic” and is said to reflect Jasper’s poor use of grammar. The transcriptions are littered with misspellings and phonetically spelled words. I feel that it does a tremendous disservice to Jasper and his sermon. I’ve included below a transcript of the sermon minus all the “authentic” errors. While the sermon drew praise – it also drew much ridicule from his fellow pastors. I believe that many thought the sermon nothing more than humor. Certainly science tells us the the matter was settled with regards to the sun’s supposed movement and position by Copernicus in 1543. According to Jasper and Joshua…that’s not the case.
Jasper’s demonstration of plain and simple faith should be an inspiration to us all. Never taking God’s word for granted -just simply taking God at his word.
Hebrews 11:3 tells us ” Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
So then what is faith ? Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
And where does this faith come from? Romans 10:17 (KJV) 17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Do you really believe what the Bible says? .. I mean… Do you [Really] believe what the Bible says?
JOHN JASPER “DE SUN DO MOVE” – Richmond 1882
Allow me to say that when I was a young man and a slave, I knew nothing worth talking about concerning books. They were sealed mysteries to me, but I tell you I longed to break the seal. I thirsted for the bread of learning. When I saw books, I ached to get in to them, for I knew that they had the stuff for me and I wanted to taste their contents, but most of the time, they were barred against me.
By the mercy of the Lord a thing happened. I got a room fellow – he was a slave too and he had learned to read. In the dead of the night he’d give me lessons out of the New York Spelling Book. It was hard puling, I tell you, harder on him, for he knew just a little and it made him sweat to try to beat something into my hard head. It was worse with me. Up the hill every step, but when I got the light of the lesson into my noodle, I fairly shouted, but I knew I was not a scholar. The consequence was I crept along mighty to just getting a crumb here and there until I could read the Bible by skipping long words, tolerable well. That was the start of my education – that is what little I got. I make mention of that young man. The years have fled away since then, but I haven’t forgot my teacher and never shall. I thank my Lord for him and I carry his memory in my heart.
About seven months after my getting to read, God converted my soul and I reckon about the first and main thing that I begged the Lord to give me was the power to understand His Word. I’m not bragging and I hate self praise, but I’m about to speak the thankful word. I believe in my heart that my prayer to understand the Scripture was heard. Since that time I haven’t cared about nothing except to study and preach the Word of God..
Not, my brethren, that I’m the fool to think that I know it all. Oh, my Father no!, Far from it. i don’t hardly understand myself, nor half of the things around me and there are millions of things in the Bible too deep for Jasper and some of them are too deep for everybody. I don’t carry the keys to the Lord’s closet and He hasn’t told me to peak in and if I did, I’m so stupid, I wojldn’t know if when it saw it. No, friends, I know my place at the feet of my Master and there I stay.
But I can read the Bible and get the things that lay on the top of the soil out of the Bible, I know nothing extra about the sun. I see its courses as he rides up there so grand and mighty in the sky, but there are heaps about that flaming orb that are too much for me. I know that the sun shines powerfully and pours its light in floods and yet, that is nothing compared with the light that flashes in my mind from the pages of God’s book. But you know all that. I know that the sun burns – Oh, how it did burn on those July days. I tell you he cooked the skin on my back many a day when i was hoeing in the cornfield. But you know all that and yet, that is nothing to the divine fire that burns in the souls of God’s children. Can you fell it brethren?
About the course of the sun, I’ve got that. I have done ranged through the whole blessed book and scoured down every last thing the Bible says about the movements of the sun. I’ve got all that pat and safe. And let me sat that if I don’t give it to you straight, if I get one word crooked wrong, you just holler out “Hold on, Jasper, you ain’t got that straight.” and I’ll beg pardon. If I don’t tell the truth, march right up on these steps here and tell me I’m a liar and I’ll take it. I fear I do lie sometimes. I’m so sinful I find it hard to do right, but my God doesn’t lie and He hasn’t put any lies in the Book of eternal truth and if I give you what the Bible says, then I’m bound to tell the truth.
I’ve got to take you all this afternoon on an excursion to a great battlefield. Most folks like to see fights, some are mighty fond of getting into fights and some are mighty quick to run down the back alley when there is a battle going on for the right. This time I’ll escort you to a scene where you shall witness a curious battle. It took place soon after Israel got into the Promised Land. You remember that the people of Gibeon made friends with Gods people when they first entered into Cannan and they were most smart to do it. But just the same, it got them into an awful fuss. The cities round about there flared up at that, and they all joined forces and said they were going to mop the Gideon people off of the ground and they bunched their armies together and went up for to do it. When they came up so bold and brave the Gibeonites were scared out of their senses and they sent word to Joshua that they were in trouble and he must have ran up there and got them out. Joshua had the heart of a lion and he was up there directly. They had an awful fight, sharp and bitter but you might know that General Joshua was not up there to get whipped. He prayed and he fought, and the hours got away too fast for him, and so he asked the Lord to issue a special order that the sun hold up for a while and that the moon would furnish plenty of moonshine down on the lower part of the fighting grounds. As a fact, Joshua was so drunk with the battle, so thirsty for the blood of the enemies of the Lord, and so wild with the victory that he told the sun to stand still until he could finish his job. What did the sun do? Did he glare down in fiery wrath and say “Why are you talking about my stopping, Joshua,. I have never started (moving) yet. Been here all the time, and it would smash everything up if I was to start?”
No, he didn’t say that, But what does the Bible say? Thats what I asked to know. It says that it was at the voice of Joshua that it stopped . I didn’t say it stopped, (that’s) not for Jasper to say but the Bible, the book of God, says so. But I say this – nothing can stop until it has first started. So I know what I’m talking about. The sun was traveling along there through the sky when the order came he hitched his red ponies and made quite a call on the land of Gibeon. He perched up there in the skies just as friendly as a neighbor when he comes to borrow something and he stood up there and he looked like he enjoyed the way Joshua waxed those wicked armies. And the moon – she waited down in the low grounds there, and poured out her light and looked just as calm and happy as if she was waiting for her escort. They never budged, neither of them, as long as the Lord’s army needed the light to carry on the battle.
I didn’t read when it was that Joshua hitched up and drove on – but I suppose it was when the Lord told him to go. Anybody knows that that the sun didn’t stay there all the time. It stopped for business and went on when it got through. This is about all that I have to do with this particular case. I’ve shown you that part of the Lord’s word teaches you that the sun stopped – which shows that he was moving before that and that he went on afterwards. I told you that I would prove this and i have and I defy anybody to say that my point hasn’t been made.
I told you in the first part of this discourse that the Lord God is a man of war. I expect by now that you’ve been to see it is so. Don’t you admit it? When the Lord came to see Joshua in the day of his fears and warfare and actually made the sun stop stone still in the heavens, so the fight could rage on until all the foes were slain, your obliged to understand that the God of peace is also the man of war. He can use both peace and war to help the righteous., and to scatter the host of the aliens. A man talked to me last week about the laws of nature and he said they can’t possibly be upset and i had to laugh right in his face. As if the laws of everything were greater than my God who is the lawgiver for everything. My Lord is great. He rules in the heavens, in the earth, and down under the ground. He is great and greatly to be praised. Let all the people bow down and worship before Him.
But let us get along, for there is quite a lot more coming on. Let us take next the case of Hezekiah. He was one of the kings of Judaea, mighty sorry, but what a mess those kings ere, for the most part. I am inclined to think that Hezekiah was one of the highest in the general average, and he was no mighty man himself. Well, Hezekiah got sick. I dare say that a king, when he gets his crown off, and when he is prostrated with mortal sickness, he gets about as common looking and grunts and rolls and is about as scary as the rest of us poor mortals. We know that Hezekiah was in a low state of mind, full of tears, and in a terrible trouble. The fact is, the Lord stripped him of all his glory and landed him in the dust. He told him that his hour had come and that he had better square up his affairs, for death was at the door. Then it was that the king fell low before God. He turned his face to the wall, he cried, he moaned, (and) he begged the Lord not to take him out of the world yet. Oh, how good is our God. The cry of the kind moved his heart and he told him he was going to give him another show. Its not only the kings that the Lord hears. The cry of the prisoners, the wail of the the bondsman, the tears of the dying robber, the prayers of the backslider, the sobs of the woman that was a sinner, mighty apt to touch the heart of the Lord. It looks like its hard for the sinner to get so far off or so far down in the pit that his cry can’t reach the ear of the merciful Savior.
But the Lord did even better for Hezekiah. He told him He was going to give him a sign by which he’d know that what He said was coming to pass. I’m not acquainted with ‘them sun dials that the Lord told Hezekiah about, but anybody thats got a grain of sense knows that they were the clocks of the old times and they marked the travels of the sun by those dials. When therefor God told the king that he would make the shadow go backward, it must have been just like putting the hands of the clock back, but Isaiah expressly said that the sun returned ten degrees. There you are! Isn’t that the movement of the sun? Bless my soul. Hezekiah’s case beat Joshua. Joshua stopped the sun, but here the Lord makes the sun walk back ten degrees and get they say that the sun stands stone still and never moves a peg. It looks to me that he moves around mighty brisk and is ready to go anyway that the Lord orders hims to go. I wonder if any of those philosophers are around here this afternoon? I’d like to a square look at one of them and ask him to explain this matter. He can’t do it, my brethren. He knows a heap about books, maps, figures and long distances, but i defy him to take up Hezekiah’s case and explain it off. He can’t do it. The Word of the Lord is my defense and bulwark and I fear not what men can say nor do; my God gives me the victory.
Allow me, my friends to put myself square about this movement of the sun. Its no business of mine whether the sun moves or stands still or whether it stops or goes back or rises or sets. All that is out of my hands entirely and I’ve got nothing to say. I’ve got no “The-o-ry” on the subject. All I ask is that we will take what the Lord says about it and let His will be done about everything. What that will is, I can’t know, except He whisper into my soul or write it in a book. Here’s the Book! – This is enough for me and with it to pilot me, I can’t get far astray.
But I’m not done with you yet. As the song says, theres more to follow. I invite you to the first verse in the seventh chapter of the book of Revelation. What does John, under the power of the spirit say? He says he saw four angels standing on the four corners of the the earth holding the four winds of the earth and so forth. Allow me to ask if the earth is round, where does it keep its corners? A flat square thing has corners, but tell me where is the corner of an apple, or a marble, or a cannon ball, or a silver dollar? If there is any one of those philosophers who have been talking so many cracks at my old head, he is cordially invited to step forward and square up this vexing business. I’m here to tell you that you can’t square a circle, but it looks like these great scholars have learned how to circle the square. If they can do it, let them step forward in front and do the trick. But my brethren, in my poor judgement, they can’t do it. Its not in them to do it. They are on the wrong side of the Bible – thats on the outside of the Bible, and this is where the trouble comes in with them. They’ve done got out of the breastworks of the truth, and as long as they stay there, the light of the Lord will not shine on their path. I don’t care so much about the sun, though its mighty convenient to have it, but my trust is in the the Word of the Lord. As long as my feet are on the solid rock, no man can move me. I’m getting my orders from the God of my salvation.
The other day a man with a hi collar and side whiskers came to my house. He was one nice Northern gentlemen – wouldn’t think a heap of us colored people in the South. They are lovely folks and I honor them very much. He seemed from the start kind of strict and cross with me and after a while, he broke out furious and fretted and he said, “Allow me Mr. Jasper to give you some plain advice, This nonsense about the sun moving wherever you’re getting it, is disgracing your race all over the country and as a friend of your people, I come to say its got to stop.” Ha! Ha! Ha! Mr. Sam Hargrove never hardly smashed me that way. It was equal to one of them old overseers way back yonder. I told him that if he’d show me I was wrong, I’d give it all up.
My, my! Ha! Ha! Ha!. He sailed in on me and such a storm about science, new discoveries and the Lord one knows what all, I never heard before and them he told me my race is urging me and poor old Jasper must shut up his fool mouth.
When he got through -it looked like he never would – I told him John jasper isn’t set up to be no scholar and doesn’t know the philosophies, and isn’t trying to hurt his people, but is working day and night to lift them up, but his foot is on the rock of eternal truth. There he stands and there he is going to stand till Gabriel sounds the judgement note. So I said to gentlemen that scolded me that I heard him make his remarks, but I haven’t heard where he gets his Scripture from and thats between him and the Word of the Lord. I take my stand by the Word of the God every time. Jasper isn’t mad; he isn’t going to fight nobody.; he hasn’t been appointed janitor to run the sun’ he is nothing but the servant of God and a lover of the Everlasting Word. What do I care about the sun? The day comes when the sun will be called from his race track and his light squinched out forever; the moon shall turn to blood and this here earth (will) be consumed with fire. Let them go; that won’t scare me nor trouble God’s elected people for the word of the Lord shall endure forever; and on that Solid Rock we stand and shall not be moved.
Have I satisfied you yet? Have I proven my point? Oh, ye whose hearts are full of unbelief, are you still holding out? I reckon the reason you say the sun doesn’t move is because you are so hard to move yourself. You are a real trial to me but never mind; I’m not giving you up yet and never will. Truth is mighty; it can break the heart of song and I must fire another arrow of truth out of the quiver of the Lord. If you have your copy of God’s Word about your person, please turn to that minor prophet, Malachi. What’s written there in the last book in the ole Bible, – look at chapter one, verse eleven, what does it say? I better read it, for i got a notion your critics don’t carry any Bible in their pockets every day in the week. Here is what is says: For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name shall be great amount the Gentiles….. My name shall be great among the heathen, said the Lord of hosts. How does that suite you? It looks like that ought to fix it. This time it is the Lord of hosts himself that is doing the talking and He’s is taking on a wonderful and glorious subject. He is telling of the spreading of His Gospel, of the coming of his last victory and the world wide glories that at the last, He is to get. Oh, my brethren, what time that will be. My soul takes wings as i anticipate with joy that millennium day! The glories as they shine before my eyes blind me, and I forget the sun and moon and stars. I just remember that long about those last days that the sun and moon will go out of business, for they won’t be needed no more. Then will King Jesus come back to see His people and He will be the sufficient light of the world. Joshua’s battle will be over. Hezekiah won’t need no sun dial and the sun and moon will fade out before the glorious splendors of the New Jerusalem.
But whats the matter with Jasper? I must have forgot my business and mostly got to shouting over the far away glories of the Second Coming of my Lord. I beg pardon and will try and get back to my subject. I have to do as the sun in Hezekiah’s case and fall back a few degrees. In that part of the Word that I am getting from Malachi, that the Lord Himself spoke, he declares that His glory is going to spread. Spread? Where? From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. What? It doesn’t say that does it? Thats exactly what it says. isn’t that clear enough for you? The Lord pities these doubting Thomas’. Here is enough to settle it all and cure the worse cases. Walk up here, wise folks and get your medicine. Where are those high collared philosophers now? What are they skulking around in the brush for? Why don’t you get out in the broad afternoon light and fight for your colors? Ah, I understand it, you’ve got no answer. The Bible is again your answer, and in your conscience you are convicted.
But I hear your back there. What are you whispering about? I know you’re saying you sent me some papers and I never answered them. Ha, Ha, Ha! I got them. The difficulty about those papers you sent me is that they did not answer me. They never mention the Bible one time. You think so much of yourselves and so little of the Lord God and think that what you say is so smart that you can’t even speak of the Word of the Lord. When you ask me to stop believing in the Lord’s Word and to pin my faith to your words, I’m not going to do it. I take my stand by the Bible and rest my case on what it says. I take what the Lord says about my sins, about my Savior, about life, about death, about the world to come, and I take what the Lord says about the sun and moon and I care little what the haters of my God choose to say. Think that I will forsake the Bible? It is my only book, my hope, the arsenal of my soul’s supply and I want nothing else.
But I got another word for you yet. I’ve done looked over those papers that you sent me without date and without your name. You deal in figures and think you are bigger than the archangels. Let me see what you’ve done said. You set yourself up to tell me how far it is from here to the sun. You think you’ve got it down to a nice point. You say it is 3,339,022 miles from the earth to the sun. Thats what you say. Another one says that the distance is 12,000,000, another has it at 27,000,000. I hear that the great Isaac Newton worked it up to 28,000,000 and later on the philosophers raised that to 50,000,000. The last one gets it bigger than all the others, up to 90,000,000. Don’t any of them agree exactly and so they run a guessing game and the last guess is always the biggest. Now when these guessers can have a convention in Richmond and all agree upon the same thing, I’d be glad to hear from you again and I do hope that by that time you won’t be ashamed of your name.
Heaps of railroads have been built since I first saw the first one when I was fifteen years old, but I’ve never heard tell of a railroad built to the sun. I don’t see why if they can measure the distance of to the sun, they might not get up a railroad and a telegraph and enable us to find something else about it then merely how far off the sun is. They tell me that a cannon ball could make the trip to the sun in twelve years. Why don’t they send it? It might be rigged up with quarters for a few philosophers on the inside and fixed up for a comfortable ride. They would need twelve years and a heap of changes of raiment – mighty thick clothes when they start and mighty thin ones when they get there.
“Oh my brethren, these things make you laugh, and I don’t blame you for laughing, except its always sad to laugh at the folly of fools. If we could laugh them out ,we might laugh day and night. What cuts into my soul is that all these men seem to me that they are hitting at the Bible. Thats what stirs my soul and fills me with righteous wrath. I care little about that the say about the sun, provided they let the Word of the Lord alone. But never mind. Let the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing. Our King shall break them them in pieces and dash them down. But blessed be the same of our God, the Word of the Lord endureth forever. Stars may fall, moons may turn to blood, and the sun set to rise no more, but Thy kingdom, oh Lord from everlasting to everlasting.
But I have a word this afternoon for my own brethren. They are the people for whose souls I get to watch, for them I got to stand and report at the last day. They are my sheep and I am their shepherd and my should is knit to them forever. Its not for me to be troubling you with these questions about them heavenly bodies. Our eyes go far beyond the smaller star, our home is clean out of sight of them twinkling orbs; the chariot that will come to take us to our Fathers mansion will sweep out by them flicking lights and never halt until it brings us in clear view of the the throne of the Lamb. Don’t hitch your hopes to no sun nor stars, Your home has Jesus for its light and your hopes must travel up that way. I preach this sermon just to settle the minds of my few brethren, and repeat it because kin’s friends wish to hear it and I hope I will do honor to the Lords Word. But nothing short of the the pearly gates can satisfy me and I charge my people (to) fix your feet on the solid Rock, your hearts on Calvary, and your eyes on the throne of the Lamb. These strifes and griefs I soon (will) get over, we shall see the King in his glory and be at ease. Go on, go on, ye ransom of the Lord; shout his praise as you go and I shall meet you in the city of the New Jerusalem, where we shall not need the light of the sun, for the Lamb of the Lord is the light of the saints.
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