John Jasper (1812 - 1901)
"I have finished my work. I am waiting at the river, looking across for further orders."-John Jasper's last words."
On July 4, 1812, the 24th child of Philip and Tina Jasper came into this world. Philip, a slave and a lay minister, died a few months before John's birth.
Tina, a godly woman, prayed that God would make her son a preacher as his father had been. For many years it seemed those prayers would not be answered. John had no interest in spiritual things. He had fallen in love with a girl from a neighboring plantation and been given permission to marry her. But on the day of their wedding, a slave uprising caused their masters to separate them, and John never saw her again. In bitterness he descended into evil living.
John was rebellious and constantly in trouble with his owners. It was while he was at work in a tobacco warehouse in 1839 that Jasper, stricken with "God's arrow of conviction," prayed and asked God to save him. Thirty days after his baptism in 1840, he was licensed to preach by the Old African Baptist Church, and he didn't stop for more than sixty years!
Black men were not allowed to preach in regular churches in those days unless supervised by white ministers. But Jasper's pointed and powerful messages soon drew a growing crowd, black and white, to hear him preach.
The Third Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia asked Jasper to preach twice a month, and other churches noticed a decline in their attendance on those Sundays. During the closing days of the Civil War, Jasper was asked to preach to the Confederate soldiers in the hospitals around Richmond. When the war ended, Jasper continued to preach.
In 1867 he founded the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond. The church began with nine members. Fifteen years later there were more than 1,000 members, and at his death they numbered nearly 2,000.
Dr. William Hatcher, pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Richmond, was a close personal friend of Jasper. He spent many hours teaching the former slave about the things of God. When some of his members criticized him for going to hear the nearly illiterate former slave, Hatcher responded: "I do not go there to listen to Jasper's English. I go to hear him talk about his Jesus."
In March of 1901, John Jasper preached to his congregation for the last time on the subject, "Ye Must Be Born Again." He urged his people to prepare for death, which he knew was coming soon for him. At his funeral, Dr. Hatcher said, "Every motion of his was made to exalt the Lord of his life."