1812 Born July 4, on Peachy Plantation, Fluvanna County, Virginia
1839 Converted in a dramatic religious experience
1865 Emancipated from slavery
1867 Became pastor of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia
1878 Preached sermon, “The Sun Do Move”
1901 Died March 28
Born a slave, John Jasper spent his life setting men free through the gospel. Poor in material possessions, he was rich in things of the spirit. Despised as a black, he led many to love his Lord. Few preachers have experienced the contrasts of John Jasper, famous Negro Baptist preacher.
Where does sin come from?
And you wants to know where sin come from, you say. Why should you be broozin’ aroun’ with such a question as that? There ain’t but one place in the universe of God where you can get any information on this point, and there, I am free to tell you, you can get all that you wish to know, and maybe a good deal more. The place where the knowledge you need can be got is in the Word of God.
I knows what some that have been talkin’ ’bout this thing is after. I know the side of the question they is struttin’ up on. They say, or they kinder hint, that the Lord God is the author of sin. That’s what they is whisperin’ roun’ this town. They can’t fool Jasper; but I tell you the devil is playin’ pranks on ’em and will drag ’em down to the pit of hell, if they doan look out mighty quick. The Lord God know’d from the beginnin’ that some of these devilish people would bring up this very charge and say that He had ‘tended that there should be sin from the beginnin’. He done speak His mind ’bout that thing, and if you look in the first chapter of James you’ll find the solemn utterance on this subject and it clears God forever from this base slander. “Let no man say,” says the Lord, “when he is tempted that he is tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted of any man, and neither tempts He any man.”
Did you hear that? That’s the Lord’s own words. It ‘spressly says that people will be tempted —everybody is tempted; I been havin’ my temptations all my life, and I has ’em yet, a heap of ’em, and some of ’em awful bad, but you ain’t catchin’ Jasper of sayin’ that God is at the bottom of ’em. If I should say it, it would be a he, and all is bars when they say that God tempts ’em. The sinner is gettin’ towards the worst when he is willin’ to lay the blame of his sins on the Lord. Do it if you will, but the curse of God will be upon you when you try to make the Lord God such as you is; and to make believe that the Lord gets off His throne and comes down in the mire and clay of your wicked life and tries to jog and to fool you into sin. I tremble to think of such a thing! I wonder that the Lord doesn’t forge new thunderbolts of His wrath and crush the heads of them that charge Him with the folly of human sin.
Some of you would be mighty glad to get God mixed up in your sins and to feel that He is as bad as you is. It just shows how base, how lost, how dead, you’se become. Wouldn’t we have a pretty God if He was willin’ to get out in the night and go plungin’ down into the horrible and ruinous transgressions in which some men indulge. Let me clear this thing up before I quit it. Bear in mind, that God cannot be tempted of any man. Try it if you choose, and He will fling you into the lowest hell, and don’t you dare ever to say, or to think, or to hope that the temptation to the wrong things come to you from God. It do not come from above, but it come out of your foul and sinful heart. They is born there, born of your bad thoughts, born of your hell-born lusts, and they gets strong in you ’cause you don’t strangle ’em at the start.
But why should there be trouble ’bout this subject? What does the Bible say on this here matter ’bout where sin come from? We can get the truth out of that book, for it contains the Word of God. Our God cannot he; He never have lied from the foundation of the world. He is the truth and the life and He never lies.
Now, what do He say concernin’ this serious question that is plowin’ the souls of some of my brudderin. To the Bible, to the Bible, we’ll go and what do we get when we get there? The Bible say that Eve was over there in the garden of Eden one day and that she was there by herself. The Lord made Eve, ’cause it weren’t good for Adam to be alone, and it looks from this case that it was not quite safe for Eve to be left at home by herself. But Adam weren’t with her; doan know where he was — gone bogin’ off somewheres. He better been at home tendin’ to his family. That ain’t the only time, by a long shot, that there has been the devil to pay at home when the man have gone gaddin’ aroun’, instead of stayin’ at home and lookin’ arter his family.
While Eve was saunterin’ and roamin’ aroun’ in the beautiful garden, the ole serpent, dyked up to kill, come gallivantin’ down the road and he catched sight of Eve and look hke he surprized very much but not sorry in the leas’. Now you mus’ know that ole serpent was the trickies’ and the arties’ of all the beas’ of the field —the ole devil, that’s what he was. And what he do but go struttin’ up to Eve in a mighty friendly way, scrapin’ and bowin’ like a fool dead in love.
“How you do?” He tries to be polite, and puts on his sweetes’ airs. Oh, that was an awful moment in the life of Eve and in the history of this poor lost world of ours. In that moment the poison eat through her flesh, struck in her blood, and went to her heart. At first she was kinder shame’; but she was kinder lonesome, and she was pleased and tickled to get noticed in that way and so she stayed there instead of runnin’ for her life.
“Very well, I thanks you,” she say ertremblin’, “how is you this mornin’?” The serpent fairly shouts with joy. He done got her ‘tention and she lek to hear ‘im, and he feel he got his chance and so goes on:
“Nice garden you got there,” he say in er admirin’ way. “You got heap of nice apples over there.”
“Oh, yes, indeed,” Eve replies. “We got lots of ’em.”
Eve spoke these words like she was proud to death ’cause the serpent like the garden. There stood the serpent very quiet till, sudden like, he juk aroun’ and he says to Eve:
“Can you eat all the apples you got over there?”
“No, indeed,” says Eve, “we can’t eat ’em all. We got more’n we can ‘stroy save our lives. They gettin’ ripe all the time; we have jus’ hogs-heds of ’em.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean that,” spoke the serpent, as if shocked by not bein’ understood. “My point is, is you ‘lowed to eat ’em all? That’s what I want to know. As to you laws and rights in the garden, does they all suit you?”
For a minute the woman jumped same as if somebody struck her a blow. The cold chills run down her back, and she look like she wan’ to run, but somehow the eye of the serpent done got a charm on her. There was a struggle, a regular Bull Run battle, gwine on in her soul at that moment.
“What you ask me that question for?” Eve asked, gaspin’ while she spoke. Then the devil look off. He try to be calm and to speak low and kind, but there was a glare in his eyes. “I begs many pardons,” he says, ‘”scuse me, I did not mean to meddle with your private business. I’d better ‘scuse myself, I reckon, and try and get along.”
“No; doan go,” Eve said. “You haven’t hurt my feelin’s. What you say just put new thoughts in my mind and kinder shook me up at first. But I doan mind talkin’.”
“If that be the case,” speaks up the devil, quite brave-like, “begs you ‘scuse me to ask again if the rules of the garden ‘lows you to eat any of them apples you got in the garden? I has my reasons for askin’ this.”
Eve stood there shiverin’ like she freezin’ and pale as the marble tombstone. But arter a good while she pint her hand over to er tree, on the hill on the right, and she tell him, as if she was mighty ‘fraid, that there was a tree over there of the Knowledge and of the Distinction, and she say, “The Lord God He tell us we mus’ not eat them apples; they poison us, and the day we eat ’em we got to die.”
“Oh, my brudderin, weren’t times mighty serious then? ‘Twas the hour when the powers of darkness was gettin’ in and the foundations of human hopes was givin’ way. Then it was he get up close to Eve and whisper in her ear:
“Did the Lord God tell you that? Doan tell nobody, but I want to tell you that it ain’t so. Doan you believe it. Doan let him fool you! He know that’s the bes’ fruit in all the garden —the fruit of the Knowledge and the Distinction, and that when you eats it you will know as much as He do. You reckon He wants you to know as much as He do? Na-a-w; and that’s why He say what He do say. You go get ’em. They’s the choicest fruit in the garden, and when you eats ’em you will be equal to God.”
Alas, alas! poor deluded and foolish Eve! It was the moment of her everlastin’ downfall. Clouds of darkness shrouds her mind and the evil spirit leap into her soul and locks the door behind him. That deadly day she broke ‘way from the God that made her, Eve did, and partook of the fruit that brought sin and ruin and hell into the world.
Poor foolish Eve! In that moment darkness fills her mind, evil leaps into her heart, and she pluck the apple, broke the covenant of God, and ate the fatal fruit what brought death to all our race.
After a while, Adam come walkin’ up the garden and Eve she runs out to meet him. When he come near she hold up her apple in her hand and tell him it is good to eat. Oh, blind and silly woman! First deceived herself, she turn roun’ and deceives Adam. That’s the way; we gets wrong, and then we pulls other folks down with us. We rarely goes down by ourselves.
But where was the wrong? Where, indeed? It was in Eve’s believin’ the devil and not believin’ God. It was doin’ what the devil said and not doin’ what God said. And you come here and ask me where sin come from! You see now, doan you? It come out of the pit of hell where it was hatched ‘mong the angels that was flung out of heaven ’cause they disobeyed God. It come from that land where the name of our God is hated. It was brought by that ole serpent, the father of lies, and he bring it that he might fool the woman, and in that way set up on the earth the works of the devil. Sin is the black child of the pit, it is. It come from the ole serpent at first, but it’s here now, right in poor Jasper’s heart and in your heart; wherever there is a man or a woman in this dark world in tears there is sin — sin that insults God, tears down His law, and brings woes to everybody.
And you, stung by the serpent, with God’s wrath on you and your feet in the path of death, askin’ where sin come from? You better fly the wrath of the judgment day.
But this is enough. I just took time to tell where sin come from. But my tongue can’t refuse to stop to tell you that the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world is greater than sin and mightier than hell. It can wash away our sins, make us whiter than the drivin’ snow, dress us in redemption robes, bring us with shouts and hallelujahs back to that fellowship with our Father, that can never be broken long as eternity rolls!
Excerpted from John Jasper by William E. Hatcher (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1908) and from some newspaper accounts