Unveiling of the George Lisle Monument
In the presence of fully five thousand Negro Baptists, who stood in the street and in and around the Bryant Baptist church, the presidents of Baptist state conventions from more than twenty states pulled the cord which lifted the veil from the monument of what we believe to be the first foreign missionary from America to the people beyond the sea.
Before going into a detailed account of the brilliant scene, it is due the Rev. L. G. Jordan, the corresponding secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, that I say that the idea to erect such a monument originated with him.
About two years ago a commission was sent to Jamaica to inspect the work of the independent Baptist churches on the island and report their condition to the convention. The commission was composed of Rev. L. G. Jordan, D. D., and Rev. C. H. Parrish, D. D. They reported that they had found in Kingston, Jamaica, the church and building founded and built by George Lisle in 1790 and several other churches on the island which were the direct result of that first planting, and which had been organaized [sic] into a convention, auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention of the United States. They found that the people in Baptist churches in Jamaica honor the name of George Lisle and had in the best manner possible preserved the evidences of his consecrated labors, nothwithstanding the fact that the iron railing around his grave and the brick vault had been razed to the ground. It was doubtless this fact that inspired Dr. Jordan to propose to the Negro Baptists of the United States to erect a monument to the memory of that Christian hero.
The following letters obtained from the Baptist Annual Register for 1790-1793 throw much light on the achievements of George Lisle: "A poor Negro, commonly called among friends Brother George, has been so highly favored of God, as to plant the first Baptist church in Savannah and another in Jamaica." * * * "Rev. George Lisle, also called George Sharp, because his owner's name was Sharp, in a letter dated Kingston, December 18, 1791, says, 'I was born in Virginia, my father's name was Lisle, and my mother's name Nancy. I cannot ascertain much of them as I went to several parts of America when young and at length resided in new Georgia, but was informed by both white and black people, that my father was the only black person who knew the Lord in a spiritual way in that country. I always had a natural fear of God from my youth and was often checked in conscience with thoughts of death which barred me from many sins and bad company" * * * "Matthew Moore (white) baptized me and I continued in this church about four years, till the evacuation of Savannah by the British."
From the same source we got the following, which is from "History of the Baptist Churches in the United States", by A. H. Newman, 1894:"The first Baptist church in Georgia was organized in Savannah with the help of Abraham Marshall in 1788. The church was gathered through the labors of George Lisle (or Sharp), a remarkable man, who had been converted in Burke county about 1774 through the preaching of Matthew Moore, the loyalist."It may be seen from this brief extract that George Lisle was indeed a remarkable man, and though born a slave was a great preacher. His favorite text was "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
Immediately following the return of the commission from Jamaica came the suggestion to erect a monument in honor of this pioneer Baptist preacher, which met with a hearty response from the Negro Baptists in all parts of the country. It was suggested by Dr. Jordan that each state convention would furnish a stone to be put in the base of the monument, the stone to bear the name of the state and the president of the convention This was readily complied with and those who may visit the monument in years to come may read on this monument the names of those states which so cheerfully contributed toward the erection.
The stands to the west side in front of the Bryant Baptist Savannah church, Savannah, Georgia., which church is said to be the second Baptist church to be organized by the Negroes in the United States.
[From The Baptist World, October 26, 1916 p. 8; via Baylor U. digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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