I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. Acts 26:16 NKJV
Said to have had the largest sale of any book, excepting the Bible, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is still in demand, and can be found on the shelves in the fictional section of many notable bookstores. Originally appearing in the anti-slavery paper, The National Era, in weekly installments from June 5, 1851 to April 1, 1852, the book first appeared in hardback, March 20, 1852, twelve days before the final Era installment. With little advance notice and virtually no reviews, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book sold three thousand copies the first day, ten thousand copies the first week, twenty thousand the third week, and after one year, it had sold over three hundred thousand copies, with three million worldwide! In today’s populous America, the book would have registered nearly twenty-five million sales!
Stowe’s remarkable work aroused anti-slavery feelings in the North, and around the world, unlike any other tool previously taken-up by anti-slavery organizations during the antebellum period. Charles Edward Stowe in his biography of his famous mother wrote, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, made enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law an impossibility. It aroused the public sentiment of the world by presenting in the concrete that which had been a mere series of abstract propositions. It was an appeal to imagination through a series of pictures. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, made the crack of the slave-driver’s whip, and the cries of the tortured blacks ring in every household in the land, till human hearts could endure it no longer.” It is commonly reported that when Stowe first met Abraham Lincoln, the President was to have said, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” What is not so commonly reported is the manner in which Stowe claims to have written her celebrated American classic.
On a chilly Sunday morning in February, 1851, while she sat in the Bowdoin College chapel for a Communion service, all at once she saw in her mind an old slave being maliciously beaten. The vision changed and she then saw the old dying slave forgive his merciless murderers and pray for the salvation of their miserable souls. Stowe was convinced God had given her this daytime dream. When further pressed concerning the divine inspiration behind her story, she would comment, “I the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin? No, indeed. The Lord Himself wrote it, and I was but the humblest of instruments in His hand. To Him alone should be given all the praise.”
When we reflect, and are challenged in our understanding of the actions of Providence through the life of one Civil War era citizen who had in her heart a sincere desire to bring an end to the awful affliction then ravishing the nation’s soul, and take note how one person with a dream made a difference in theirs and future generations, we too can be motivated to make a difference.
Oh Lord, help me see you have a plan for my life, a purpose to use me and my abilities you’ve given to impact the world. Help me be faithful to accomplish what you’ve destined for me and in the end to be found faithful!
Pioneers, knowing God has placed a divine dream in their souls, press headlong in their journey to obey and make a difference in their generation and those to come.
-Dennis L. Kutzner