The following is from Francis Fedric’s Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky (1863), wherein he describes his own conversion to Christianity. It is just more confirmation of Peter Randolph’s conclusion quoted at length in an earlier post: “[a]fter such preaching, let no one say that the slaves have the Gospel of Jesus preached to them.”
One day, when I was between twenty-five and thirty years of age, an elderly lady, who was on a visit to my mistress, came into the kitchen, and, after speaking to me about things in general, for a short time, she took a Bible out of her pocket, and said, “Would you like to hear me read something about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?” I said, “Please, marm.” She said, “If your mistress should get to know that I have been reading to you, she would be very angry, and drive me from the house.” She then read that portion of Scripture, where it says, “All that forget God shall be turned into hell.” There was such an evident sincerity about the good old lady, and her manner was so kind, that every word which she either read or spoke to me went to my heart. Here was truth presented to me, by one whose only possible object could be to do me good.
I listened eagerly to every word which fell from her lips. She told me, if I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, I should be saved; that God was no respecter of persons; that He loved all His people, black as well as white. She told me, if I loved God, and showed it by my conduct, He would love me, and at last take me to heaven, to live with Him; that the Gospel was commanded, by our Saviour, to be preached to all people; and that He died for the sins of all men, that they, through Him, might be saved. And many such encouraging passages, she either quoted, or gave me the substance of. She promised, that, when she came again, she would give me a spelling-book.
She said, “I know you are allowed to go to the chapel, but there the preachers only preach what will be agreeable to your masters. The real naked truth of the Gospel, the glad tidings that were intended to comfort all hearts, you never hear.”
All this conversation was carried on in a secret manner, lest my master or mistress should have the slightest hint of any such thing.
At night, I turned over in my mind every word which had been said; and I resolved, from that time forward, to put my trust in God, and get to know as much as I possibly could about Jesus Christ.
At the end of the piece, Fedric speaks of his confidence that the Gospel will at length be received by his “race,” but only as it is preached in its purity, that is, as it was preached to his own ancestors long before it was preached to his masters’:
I was reading, the other day, the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and I found a passage there so interesting to me, that I cannot refrain from transcribing it, and asking you, candid reader, to see whether Philip—who is a greater authority, I have no doubt, with you, than all the slaveholders, and their clerical supporters, put together—objected to the Ethiopian, that his skin was black, and that he was of the African race?
No. No such things were suggested. The one thing required by Philip was, belief in the Lord Jesus Christ; and, in order to induce that belief, the Apostle himself preached, that is, explained, to the Ethiopian, the wondrous prophecy concerning our Lord contained in the fifty-third chapter of the Prophet Isaiah.
Thus, I find, long before the Gospel was known to the ancestors of the slaveholders, the Lord had sent His heavenly messenger, with the glad tidings to my countrymen in Africa. There can be no true controversy about this. It is so plain that he that runs may read; and, although my race may, by an inscrutable Providence, have been permitted to be oppressed for generations, yet, as they were among the first to receive His Spirit, I believe there is a good time at hand, when a fresh outpouring of it will be felt amongst them; the barriers being now breaking down, amidst the horrors of civil war.
Depend upon it, when the Gospel shall be preached to them, in its purity, the negro race will receive it, in its simplicity, and will show a higher Christian capacity than the world has given them credit for. The Gospel is just suited to their simple, forgiving, humane nature. May God hasten that time! is my sincere prayer.