More than eight thousand people attended the funeral service of William Knibb who died of yellow fever on this day (Nov. 15) in 1845.
Bro. Knibb served as one of the first Baptist missionaries in Jamaica. When he first reached his field, he was shocked at what he found. In a letter home, he wrote, “The cursed blast of slavery has, like a pestilence, withered almost every moral bloom. I know not how any person can feel a union with such a monster, such a child of hell. For myself, I feel a burning hatred against it, and look upon it as one of the most odious monsters that ever disgraced the earth.”
Driven by compassion, he immediately began his work of evangelism among the slaves. But in doing so he incurred the hatred of white planters, civil authorities, British soldiers and the Roman and English clergy. Despite the opposition against him, the Lord began to bless his labors. In addition to his Sunday services, he held Wednesday morning prayer meetings at which there were often more than a thousand slaves in attendance. With such influence, he was thrown in jail, unjustly charged with inciting the slaves to rebellion.
After several years, Bro. Knibb returned to England with the hopes of having slavery outlawed. He stirred many Baptist Churches to join him and earned the friendship of such men as William Wilberforce. Eventually success was achieved. Having returned to Jamaica, on July 31, 1838, twenty-five years before President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a mahogany coffin, packed with whips, branding irons and other symbols of slavery was lowered into a grave as Bro. Knibbs cried, “The monster is dying, the monster is dead; let us bury him.”
It was because of his love, dedication and evangelism that those eight thousand people attended the funeral of the 42-year-old missionary seven years later.