Captain Bates Takes a Stand

by Chantal J. Klingbeil

There’s a hundred of us here, and there’s only two of them,” the man hissed. “We’ll teach them a lesson! We don’t want them telling our slaves that Jesus is coming. We don’t want them getting any ideas about being free.” At this a group of rough men began pushing their way into the hall at Kent Island in Maryland, where Captain Joseph Bates and his friend Mr. Gurney were just beginning a Bible study. 

Captain Bates began explaining the large chart hanging behind him. The chart was printed in bright colors, and there were strange beasts and a man with a golden head on the chart. Using the book of Daniel, Captain Bates explained what these beasts meant and how they showed that Jesus was coming soon. He invited the people to give their hearts to Jesus and be ready to meet Him. 

Many were touched by the message, but not the trouble makers. They began shouting insults at the preachers. Urged on by his friends, a big man came right up to Captain Bates and shouted a threat right in his face. These rough men were very capable of murder. Everyone held their breath. What would the preachers do? Would they panic and try to dash out the back door? Would one of them start a fight and try to defend himself? 

Without a trace of fear Captain Bates smiled and said that they had not come more than 600 miles through the snow and ice, paying their own way, without having thought things through. He said he knew that this trip could be dangerous, but that both he and Mr. Gurney wanted so much for each one there to be ready for Jesus’ coming that they were prepared to take the risk.  As for being afraid of what these rough men could do to them, Captain Bates said: “And now, if the Lord has no more for us to do, we could lie as well at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay as anywhere else until the Lord comes. But if He has any more work for us to do, you can’t touch us.”

Captain Bates’ answer completely surprised the big man. He had a confused look on his face as he looked around for his friends. Bullies generally are helpless when they can’t make someone afraid. Many in the crowd now began to shout at the big man and his friends, telling them they ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

Outside the hall, standing in the shadows, many slaves smiled to themselves and took courage as they saw the two men who refused to be afraid. They went away feeling that Jesus cared about them, and they
joyfully looked forward for Jesus to come.   

—This story can be found in the book Pioneer Stories, by Arthur W. Spalding, pp. 46-53.