MORE TRUTH ABOUT COLUMBUS
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
In a previous message we examined remarkable providences of God in the life of Columbus before his famous voyage. We saw how God detoured the Genoan to Lisbon, the center of overseas exploration.
We watched Columbus decide Ocean Sea could be crossed. We observed how God put him in the right place at the right moment to receive the dollars necessary to make an overseas voyage.
Providence continued to guide the explorer, who was now ready to undertake the first command assignment of his life. God’s hand was seen in. . . .
I. THE DEPARTURE
Columbus had trouble finding good ships because wealthy Jews had already purchased almost every large seaworthy ship in Spain. They were fleeing in panic.
Ferdinand and Isabella had determined Spain could be totally Christian only if the Jews, in addition to the Moors, were expelled. The monarchs, near the end of their war with the Moors, issued a decree banishing all Jews from Spain. The Jews complied and left in droves.
Through friends and a few fortunate events, Columbus finally mustered three ships for the voyage: the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.
Before dawn on August 3, 1492, Columbus and his ninety men attended Mass. This was the commander’s way of reminding them this expedition was religious as well as political and commercial. Columbus and his men fully expected to convert thousands in the Indies as a result of this voyage.
By dawn they were on their way. As the three ships left the river and entered the ocean, they passed near the last shipload of Jews leaving Spain. None of these sad Jews would ever have guessed those three ships were sailing to a land which would someday provide them a welcome haven.
As the voyage began, Columbus put into action a bit of skill which made the trip a success. He had observed something no one else in the world had thought of as being relevant to crossing Ocean Sea.
He had learned in his travels that in northern Ocean Sea, winds from the west prevailed; in southern Ocean Sea, as one approached the Tropic of Cancer, winds from the east predominated.
Based on these observations, he made this decision: the key to success was to take a southern route going and a northern route to return. Columbus was the first person to think of this, and he was absolutely right.
Columbus confessed this bit of knowledge had come as a direct revelation from the Lord, and he thanked God for it. The only man who knew the secret to success was now on his way.
Columbus completely bypassed the Azores, which was the launching site for all previous attempts to cross Ocean Sea. The explorer knew these islands were too far north. Western winds always drove ships back.
Spain, under whose flag Columbus was sailing, owned a small group of Islands several hundred miles south of the Azores. The commander decided to go to these Canary Islands, which happened to be just far enough south to enjoy winds from the east.
This turn of events was obviously from God. The only person in the world who knew the necessary secret was sailing under the flag of the only European country which had islands far enough south to catch the rightly directed winds.
II. THE DISCOVERY
On September 9 the three ships headed due west from the Canary Islands. Everything went well at first. Each morning at sunrise the men joyfully sang a hymn and said the Lord’s Prayer.
By October, morale had begun to slip. The crew was becoming restless. Farther from land than anyone had ever been before, they feared they would run out of rations before they could get back home.
By October 9 the situation was critical. The men were on the verge of mutiny. On this day the captains of the Pinta and Nina demanded an emergency meeting with Columbus, who was on the flag ship, Santa Maria.
The two captains knew rebellion was imminent. Afraid for their lives and Columbus’, they demanded a concession from the explorer before leaving.
Columbus had no choice. He consented to return to Spain, but on one condition. He asked for three more days. If land was not sighted by sunrise on the 12th, they would turn around. Everyone agreed to these terms.
On the 11th, the last full day to find land, tree branches floated by, as did a whole uprooted tree, and a small twig with roses on it. At 10 P.M. Columbus and one of the sailors spotted a tiny light far ahead of them, but soon it disappeared.
It was finally midnight. October 12 had arrived. Columbus had only six hours left to find land. The hours were fading, as were the dreams of one man’s lifetime.
Then it happened! At 2 A.M. someone on the Pinta cried, “Land! Land!” At the same instant Columbus had also spotted land in the moonlight. His dream had come true.
Where was the obvious hand of God in this? The answer is found in something which happened five days earlier, October 7, when the men saw large flocks of birds flying to the southwest. Knowing of other explorers who had found land by following the flight of birds, Columbus changed his course to the direction the birds were flying.
After a month of sailing due west, on October 7 he veered southwest. This small alteration in course led him directly to Watling Island in the Bahamas, the only island he had any chance of reaching by dawn, October 12.
It would have taken at least one more full day of sailing to reach any other island. Again, Columbus was in exactly the right place at just the right time.
III. THE DEDICATION
As day dawned, the three ships circled the southern end of the island and made their way up the lee side. The men were left completely speechless by the beauty of the island’s foliage.
Columbus, first to set foot on dry land, knew exactly where credit belonged for this safe trip. He and all his men knelt to pray.
Columbus prayed aloud, “O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, by your holy Word you have created heaven, earth, and sea; blessed and glorified be your Name, and praise be to your Majesty, which has condescended to use us, your humble servants, that your holy Name may be proclaimed in this second part of the earth” (see Light and Glory, p. 41).
Before long, natives stepped forward. Thinking he had reached the Indies, Columbus named the people Indians.
The commander’s first recorded command in this new land was that these natives should be treated kindly in order “that they might be well-disposed towards us, for I knew that they were a people to be delivered and converted to our holy faith rather by love than by force” (Light and Glory, p. 42).
God had ordained that the first two official acts performed on this continent were essentially a dedication of the land to God’s purposes. Columbus and his men first prayed and then decided to evangelize. From the very first, the Western world was set apart for God’s special use.
If this attitude had prevailed, what a difference there would have been. However, the spiritual attitude did not hold sway very long. The dedication was soon forgotten, and replaced by. . . .
IV. THE DEGENERATION
The situation deteriorated quickly. The natives were wearing gold ornaments in their noses. Soon the sight of this valuable material inflamed the greedy passions of the Spaniards.
Columbus immediately began a search for mines which produced the coveted substance. He searched a few islands. Columbus did not discover a huge source, but did find enough gold to impress Ferdinand and Isabella. He was thus eager to return to Spain with a glowing report.
While searching for gold, Columbus’ flag ship, the Santa Maria, became grounded on Christmas Day and was destroyed. Lacking enough room for all the sailors to return home, Columbus decided to leave a colony of men behind.
He had little trouble finding volunteers. Unfortunately, these men abused the Indian women and set the pattern for future settlers. Their actions were the beginning of the worst scourge a land ever endured.
God was not oblivious to the ravaging. He refused to turn a blind eye to this carnage. The unbridled lust and rape elicited a fitting punishment. Many of the men became infected by syphilis. They suffered lingering, excruciatingly painful, insanity and death.
The plague was carried to Spain, from whence it spread to the rest of Europe and ultimately to the ends of the earth. Later, tobacco was added to the list of punishments avenging atrocities committed against the first peoples of this land.
God saw to it the ravagers were chastised. A land dedicated to Himself could not be degenerated by people without their being disciplined. God ordained punishments appropriate to the crime.
“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). The men under Columbus had to learn this lesson the hard way.
Sometimes, whole nations have to, also. If America sows sin, she will reap God’s wrath. If she sows repentance, her harvest shall be His smile.