You, Too, Can Be Set Free!
Samuel Weir, born a Virginia slave in 1812, was the first African-American minister and ordained Elder in the German Baptist (Dunkard) Brethren (later Church of the Brethren) church. He was sold at age twelve (1824) for two hundred eighty dollars to Andrew McClure as his only slave. When he was thirty years old, his master’s son was thrown from a horse and killed. Shortly after that, Mr. and Mrs. McClure, after some evaluation of their lives, decided to apply for membership with the Dunkard Brethren but were told that the denomination would not receive any members who owned slaves. Sammy would have to be set free in order for them to become Brethren.
Hearing this, slave traders of the area offered up to fifteen hundred dollars for the hard-working Sammy but the McClures refused saying they wanted to free him. Their membership was approved and they were baptized. Sammy was freed but continued to work on the farm for them. He too was later baptized into the Dunkard Church. (Sammy was received with the “right hand of fellowship” but not the kiss that traditionally accompanied it.) Virginia law at the time held that any freed slave found in the state one year later could be re-sold into slavery! So the McClures gave Sammy a horse, saddle, clothes, money, everything he needed to start life anew in a “free state.” A minister from Ohio came to Virginia and he was convicted to take
Sammy back with him to the safety there. Brother B. F. Moomaw escorted him to Ohio. He told Sammy, “Sam, you are now a free man and on free soil where you can enjoy your freedom as all other free men.” The rest is history.* Lehman, James. The Old Brethren. The Brethren Press, Elgin, Ill., 1976.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Sammy had a new free life! Can you imagine how he felt after all the years of being a slave? This scripture text tells us that our lives can be just like Sammy’s. once a slave to sin, we can become a “new person” and begin a new life. Just like that. “That sounds too good to be true,” you might say. “Life just doesn’t work that way.”
Truth is, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work, God planned it that way. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” --Jeremiah 29:11. It’s the world that tells you this is nonsense, not the Christ whose sacrifice made your freedom possible. The world stalks the new Christian like a slave-trader, seeking to reaffix the old, rusty shackles. If you’re feeling this tug, I’ve got some advice for you: Resist! Run! Fight back with scripture and the confidence of a spirit submitted to God. Don’t hold out your hands feebly and punch your own ticket back to the cotton field!
Sammy Weir learned to read at age 30 (slaves were not even allowed this freedom) and he read his Bible through many times after his freedom was granted. It was even worn out and a new one given to him to replace the old worn-out one. His knowledge of the Bible was firmly founded. He started a church for “his people” and preached in Southern Ohio and was ordained to an eldership in the Dunkard Church before his death in March, 1884 at Frankfort, Ohio.
When Andrew McClure set Sammy Weir free, he set himself free, too–free to follow God while being loved and supported by a community of faith. Angels rejoiced in Heaven on the day you received your pardon. And they are waiting for God to issue another one. Could you help that process along in any way? Ask where your help is needed. Ask friends if they are committed to the message of our Savior and Lord. Let them know your concern for their souls and their way of living. Live the Jesus way! What would Jesus say to do? Read your Bible to learn.