Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012 . . . "My only resolution, 'trust in Christ, daily and hourly'" . . . New Year's Day 1843 with "uncommon Christian" Mary E. Van Lennep (1821-1844)

Frontispiece to the
Memoir of Mrs. Mary E. Van Lennep.
With Mary's imprinted signature and vow,
"Jesus, I give my all to Thee."
From Port Angeles, Washington, USA, Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes you a Happy New Year!

To encourage and inspire the follower of the Lord Jesus Christ to continue to grow and mature in his or her faith in 2012 (Hebrews 6:1, 2 Peter 3:18--UCM's key Bible verses), here are some excerpts from the private journal of one of the earliest American missionaries to Turkey, Mary E. Van Lennep (1821-1844). The journal is dated January 1, 1843.

At the time of writing, Van Lennep was 21-years-old and just 8 months away from marriage and sailing overseas. She was in the midst of making final preparations for foreign missionary service in Turkey with her soon-to-be husband. As was somewhat common then, she left for overseas service (October 11, 1843) just weeks after getting married (September 4, 1843). The couple had their honeymoon in Niagara Falls, New York.

Twenty-one months after writing the journal entry, Van Lennep died at the age of 23.

Lord willing, one day I would like to write a biography on the "uncommon Christian" Van Lennep. For now, online excerpts such as this will have to suffice. (Van Lennep was born and raised only 4 miles from where I grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut, 1976-91).

About Van Lennep, the below biographical sketch is from the online Portraits of American Women in Religiona part of the Library Company of Philadelphia (est. 1731 by Benjamin Franklin). I have added some additional information to the sketch.


Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Mary Elizabeth Van Lennep graduated from the Hartford Female Seminary in 1838. (Hartford Female Seminary was founded in 1823 by Catherine Beecher, the older sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe.)

Her father, the Rev. Joel Hawes (1789-1867), who had studied theology at Andover Theological Seminary and was an influential Second Great Awakening pastor-author of the First Congregational Church in Hartford (est. 1632, called today Center Church or First Church of Christ), was an advocate of missionary work.

After battling a long illness which kept her bedridden through much of 1841, she spent a year teaching Sunday school to other females, and in 1843 married the widower Rev. Henry J. Van Lennep (1815-1889), a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM, est. 1810). Shortly thereafter, Mary sailed with him and her father to the mission in Smyrna, Turkey (modern-day Izmir). 

She died of dysentery in Constantinople, Turkey (modern-day Istanbul) a year later at the age of 23. Her grave remains at the Ferikoy-Istanbul Protestant Cemetery.

The Memoir of Mrs. Mary E. Van Lennep, Missionary in Turkey (1847) was compiled by her mother (Louisa Fisher Hawes) from her journals and correspondence. The preface quotes one of Mrs. Van Lennep’s friends about her character, which she believed made her a model for other young women.

*NOTE: The 382-page memoir is available online and at no cost via Google Books.

Memoir of Mrs. Mary E. Van Lennep

Sunday, January 1, 1843. This morning was our communion, and it did seem pleasant to have it come on the first day of the year. We sang "Our God, our help in ages past," a sublime hymn, and "On Jordan's stormy banks I stand."
My dear father's sermon was from Colossians 1:12; showing what was necessary in order to be prepared for the happiness of heaven. I could answer all the solemn tests with some satisfaction.
It was sweet to be around His table, and I did enter with my whole soul into the consecration of myself to Christ; and I did pray, that when the year came round again, I might be engaged for him [as a missionary] far away among the heathen. These precious privileges, these dear friends, are very dear to me, but I do hope I can leave them all, and I pray God that I may not be in the slightest thing deceived about my state.
I have resolved to go no step alone. I consecrate to Jesus, my time, my studies, my friends, my earthly store, and ask him to guide me every moment. O, he whose love brought him to die for us, will he not give us all things necessary to enable us to live for him? O, I know he will. My only resolution, or rather all my resolutions, are comprised in this one thing, 'trust in Christ, daily and hourly' . . . .
And now I give up myself, and all my dear friends, and my interests to Jesus, praying that this may be a year of the right hand of the Most High; that his kingdom may come, not only here, but in all our world. Amen.
I must notice the beautiful day which smiles upon us. The sky is bright and softly blue, and the snow lies upon the ground, and gives a sweet, home-like aspect to all the dwellings around. Yes, all is calm and bright and beautiful. My Father makes it all. And He who makes the natural world so lovely, is making the moral world shine brighter and brighter, and all the dark clouds of pollution shall be chased away.
One thing I like, and 'tis that I am learning to read the revealed word of God, as well as the natural word, and I am thankful that I am beginning better to comprehend and love its sacred pages.
*Taken from Louisa Fisher Hawes, Memoir of Mrs. Mary E. Van Lennep (Hartford, Conn.: Belknap & Hamersley, 1847), pages 175-76.

First Congregational Church (Center Church).
675 Main Street. Hartford, Connecticut.

Est. 1632.
The current (fourth) church structure built in 1807,
thus the church of Mary E. Van Lennep and her
pastor father, the Rev. Joel Hawes (1789-1867).
Inside of First Congregational Church (Center Church).
675 Main Street. Hartford, Connecticut.

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