GEN. LEW WALLACE - Indiana's greatest Hero
Interestingly enough, Gen. Lew Wallace, Indiana's greatest hero in the National Hall of Fame, is little known - yet his great work, Ben-Hur, has been translated into almost every language in the world, and has brought countless millions into the loving arms of their Messiah, Jesus Christ.
When asked by W.H. Warner for the "diamond sentence" in his famed book, General Wallace replied, "Here it is: 'I am the resurrection and the Life.' In Wallace's Autobiography , he writes the following concerning Ben-Hur:
"...The Christian world would not tolerate a novel with Jesus Christ its hero, and I knew it. Nevertheless, writing of Him was imperative, and He must appear, speak, and act. Further, and worse as a tribulation, I was required to keep Him before the reader, the object of superior interest throughout.
And there was to be no sermonizing. How could this be done without giving mortal offence? It does not become me to intimate any measure of success in the accomplishment; yet I may be pardoned for an outright confession of the rules I prescribed for my government in the dilemma. First, I determined to withhold the reappearance of the Saviour until the very last hours. Meantime, He should be always coming - to-day I would have Him, as it were just over the hill yonder; tomorrow He will be here, and then - tomorrow. To bring Balthasar up from Egypt, and have him preaching the Spiritual Kingdom, protesting the Master alive because His mission which was founding the kingdom, was as yet unfulfilled and looking for Him tearfully, and with an infinite yearning, might be an effective expedient. Next, He should not be present as an actor in any scene of my creation. The giving a cup of water to Ben-Hur at the well near Nazareth is the only violation of this rule. Finally, when He was come, I would be religiously careful that every word He uttered should be a literal quotation from one of His sainted biographers.
Of the more than seven years given the book, the least part was occupied in actual composition. Research and investigation consumed most of the appropriated time. I had to be so painstaking! The subject was the one known thoroughly by more scholars and thinkers than any other in the wide range of literature...
Nor must it be supposed I wrote day after day continuously. I wanted to; but through the whole period I was a bread-winner. Consequently my book-making hours were such as I could snatch from professional employment. Sometimes Ben-Hur or Simonides or Balthasar would call me imperiously; and there being no other means of pacifying them, I would play truant from court and clients. There are numberless paragraphs in the volume recognizable as having been blocked out on the cars 'between cities' or in the waits at lonesome stations...
Of course, most of the writing was done at Crawfordsville, with the night as the favoring time. Of summer days, business permitting, the preferred spot was beneath a beech-tree, one of the many kings of its kind...Its spreading branches droop to the ground, weighed down by their wealth of foliage, and under them I am shut in as by the walls of a towering green tent. How often, while lending me its protection and fragrant coolness, it has been the sole witness of my struggle to whip an obstinate thought into comeliness of expression; and how often, out of respect for me, it has maintained a dignified silence when it might have laughed at my discomfiture. I am under the great gray arms of the same tree at this present writing. The hum of singing things imparts life to the silence; the sunlight freckles the sward, the birds hunt their prey almost to my feet, all as when I wandered with Ben-Hur through the Grove of Daphne.
Everybody has heard of the old palace in Sante Fe, New Mexico. A rambling, one-story adobe structure, with walls in places six feet thick...The second floor from the west end plaza front opens into a spacious passage...Back of the executive office is an extensive room provided with a small window and one interior entrance. The walls were grimy, the undressed boards of the floor rested flat upon the ground; the cedar rafters, rain-stained, and overweighed by tons and tons of mud composing the roof, had a threatening downward curvature. Nevertheless, in that cavernous chamber I wrote the eighth and last book of Ben-Hur. My custom when night came was to lock the doors and bolt the windows of the office proper, and with a student's lamp, bury myself in the four soundless walls of the forbidding annex.
Once there, at my rough pine table, in the hush of that gloomy harborage, I beheld the Crucifixion, and strove to write what I beheld. The name Ben-Hur was chosen because it is Biblical, and easily spelled, printed and pronounced.
As this article is in the nature of confessions, here is one which the reader may excuse, and at the same time accept as a fitting conclusion: Long before I was through with my book, I became a believer in God and Christ..."
Ben-Hur - what a masterpiece! Lew Wallace - what an American hero!
Christopher Columbus - "Christ-bearer to Uncharted Isles"
Another example of faith in action is that of Christopher Columbus. Perhaps his least-known work is the only book he ever wrote, Libro de las Profecias or Book of Prophecies. A scholarly edition of the full text was found in the Raccolta di documenti e studi published in 1894 by a special Commission of the Italian Ministry of Public Education, on the occasion of the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of America. A great American scholar and man of God, Dr. August J. Kling, translated it for the first time into English from the original Latin and Spanish in the 1970's. Dr. Kling confirms that Columbus' Book of Prophecies was a careful compilation of all the teachings of the Bible on the subject of earth, distant lands, seas, population movement, undiscovered tribes, prophecies of the future spread of the Gospel throughout the world, prophecies of travel between distant places, prophecies of the end of the world and the establishment of the earthly kindgom of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. Columbus' entire world view was firmly grounded upon these Biblical teachings about geography and eschatology. He believed especially in the prophecies concerning the climax of world history and the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He believed that Christ's return and the formation of His universal kingdom could not take place until all nations and tribes of the distant isles had been evangelized. Only then could the promised new Kingdom come into being. Columbus believed that his own name was a special sign that God had predestined him to be the evangelist (Christophoros = Christ-bearer) who would open up the unreached tribes of the "distant isles" to the saving knowledge of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He believed that the Holy Spirit had given him special assistance in understanding both the Scriptures and the sciences of navigation and geography required for his life's mission.
The English translation of his Book of Prophecies gives credence to the above:
For Italian readers, this information became available in a book by Cesare de Lollis, Christoforo Colombo nella Leggenda e nella Storia, while the recent works of Samuel Eliot Morison have told the true story of Columbus' religious devotion but have failed to present details about
As Columbus urged his sailors to sail on through uncharted seas in the Fall of 1492, his zeal and assurance were not derived from love of adventure or greed for gold and glory, but were founded wholly upon the revealed Word of God in Scripture. Columbus named his first land discovery "San Salvador" (Holy Savior).
Throughout the later years of his life, continues Dr. Kling, Columbus' conflict and disappointment were caused by the failure of others to share his biblical and prophetic vision and strive to make it a reality. The soldiers and adventurers who followed him in later voyages to the new world had little interest in missionary work, in Bible studies, or in the preaching of the Gospel to new tribes and families of the isolated descendants of Adam and Noah. But while the larger part of mankind still spends its life, and exploits its fellowmen in the quest for gold and pleasure, the vision of Christopher Columbus is still bright wherever laymen "search the Scriptures" and expend their prayers and their treasures that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ may be preached throughout the "distant coastlands" and "islands of the seas" until the Savior Himself returns to rule the whole world in peace and justice.
That Christopher Columbus loved the Indians, treating them with dignity and kindness is all too apparent in his Journals and letters. Columbus' Journal entry dated Friday, 12th October, 1492, gives insight into his first encounter with the Indians:
The above original Journal account left to us by Christopher Columbus portrays a man of deep concern and compassion for the people of his newly-discovered America, to whom, above all, he desired to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the biography of his second son, Don Fernando, the following translation of a letter from Columbus to the government of Spain, sent prior to his last voyage, and dated 2nd of April, 1502, is here excerpted:
Christopher Columbus' signature glorified God in his abbreviation of the beautiful names of Almighty God: El Shaddai (Almighty God) and Adonai (Lord God) - prior to writing "Christ-bearer" above his own name.
The above letter once again shows Columbus giving God all the praise and honor for enabling him to take the Gospel to "uncharted isles."
Another letter, this time written to his son, Don Diego, is dated the 29th April, 1502. Here Columbus instructs his son to present, "...two marks of new gold of very large nuggets, bundled up in a cloth and sealed so that you shall hand it over to the Queen, our ruler...It is such a treasure that I would sooner suffer and renounce a thousand necessities rather than sell it or melt it, and all this in order to present it to the Queen, because she gave it to me once, but my conscience tells me that I should return it to her so that she may see the miracle of the Lord and remember to whom she ought to thank for it. Kiss her royal hands for me and give her this letter;...and now it remains no more but to pray to the Lord that He may have you in His holy care, the same as your brother, whom I recommend to you much. Your father who loves you as he loves himself."
From the above-quoted letter of Christopher Columbus to his son, Don Diego, we see that his primary adherence was to the Lord, indicative of his statement that the finding of the first nuggets of gold were "a miracle of the Lord," and that Queen Isabella should thank God for this discovery. This letter also shows Columbus as a man of prayer, who commended his children to God's capable care.
Throughout Queen Isabella's life, Columbus' loyalty to her and to her husband King Ferdinand, was unwavering, as evidenced by his letter to The Most Learned Doctor Nicolo Oderigo, written from Seville on the 27th December, 1504. It is here excerpted:
To further enhance the above documents, an 1886 Washington National Republican newspaper article, graphically discloses praises, admiration and the highest esteem, both from Italy and America, of the discoverer of the new world, Christopher Columbus, during the 400th anniversary celebrations. Now in the safekeeping of the Rare Book Collection of the Library of Congress, this treasure of American history records the following:
That Christopher Columbus, discoverer of America, was a great and noble Christian, dedicated to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to "unknown coastlands" is an undisputed fact. Christopher Columbus was chosen of the Lord to be the "Christ-bearer to Uncharted Isles" - a man of God.
(Copyright 2002 by Christian Heritage Ministries)