Call for Candles

Let’s get on with the work of being His witness in these dark days.

Reading Spurgeon’s commentary on 1 Peter, I came across an illustration drawn from an event in American history. It’s a strong encouragement in “dark days” to be faithful.

On May 19, 1780, New England was thrown into complete darkness in the middle of the day. It was so dark that farm animals began nighttime routines, frogs and crickets began their songs, people had to abandon their outdoor work and those inside required candlelight. There were signs of the coming darkness in the skies for days before the event. Even George Washington made note of the “heavy and uncommon… clouds,” in his diary for May 18th. Today, scientists have a pretty good idea of what caused the blackout but for many New Englanders in that day it portended the arrival of divine judgment.

There was growing confusion and fear throughout the day. One clergyman wrote of people rushing “to the nearest church to confess their sins and say a prayer. Some even hunted down their local parson and demanded an impromptu sermon.” (1) The less religious folks began casting caution to the wind and urged debauchery as it seemed the world was ending.

In Connecticut, a number of the Governor’s Council were so shaken by the blackness around them that they proposed adjourning the meeting. Abraham Davenport, a colonel of Connecticut militia, refused to do so. He said: “The Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjourning; and if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.” (2)

John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker poet and abolitionist, recalled the event in a poem entitled with Davenport’s name:

Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
Sat the lawgivers of Connecticut,
Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
‘It is the Lord’s Great Day! Let us adjourn,’
Some said; and then, as if with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
The intolerable hush. ‘This well may be
The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
But be it so or not, I only know
My present duty, and my Lord’s command
To occupy till He come. So at the post
Where He hath set me in His providence,
I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, –
No faithless servant frightened from my task,
But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the candles.’ And they brought them in.

(2) – From “Abraham Davenport”

Spurgeon used this incident as an illustration regarding 1 Peter 1:13. He was urging believers to faithful determination in their walk with Christ. “The teaching necessary for today is this: ‘Prepare your minds for action’ (1 Pet 1:13). Brace yourselves up; pull yourselves together; be firm, compact, consistent, determined. Do not be like quicksilver, which keeps on dissolving and running into fractions. Do not fritter away life upon trifles, but live to purpose, with undivided heart and decided resolution.” (Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.)

Spurgeon turned to the account of Abraham Davenport to illustrate his point and concluded it with a paragraph that echoes down the years to the day we find ourselves in:

“It is dark. But whatever is going to happen, or whatever is not going to happen, let us be found girded, sober, and hopeful. In these dark political times, these dark religious times, I call for candles. For we mean to go on working.”

Yes indeed. Call for candles. Let’s continue to faithfully be salt and light. Let’s get on with the work of being His witness in these dark days.