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Equiano’s Religious Journey

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    Olaudah Equiano undertook an incredible journey during his lifetime. Facing many trials and tribulations he was pressed to the verge of death, but, as he would tell you “.. Through God’s Mercy” (Equiano and Edwards, Pg. 122) he was able to survive and earn his freedom. Equiano was baptized in February 1769 by his present name Gustavus Vasa at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster, England. Yet, whichever name one may refer to him as, one thing remains unquestionable, his faith in God. Equiano placed God as the center of many of his life’s choices and held up most importance in being in the good graces of the Lord.

    Throughout his lifetime Equiano justified many of the events he encountered by saying they would occur “if it should please God” (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 78). With this and many more examples Equiano showed he was well in touch with God and his religious practices. He proved he had a strong relationship with God and whole heartedly believed in the fatalism of Providence. Equiano’s religious journey began at about the age of 12, an innocent slave child questioning a foreign phenomenon that was to become known as snow.

    When questioning the function and origin of the snow he was answered by his captain who explained this cold white substance came from “a great man in the heavens, called God. ”(Equiano and Edwards, Pg. 34) Although young Equiano accepted this information, he was still at a loss for understanding. He was then taken to church, which only increased his confusion. Seeing a plethora of people worshipping God, he was filled with question. His friend Dick helped greatly in his understanding by serving as an interpreter.

    Equiano accompanied Dick’s translations with his own observations of the white people in the church. Seeing how wise they were, how they refrained from buying and selling each other, how sacrificing was not necessary, among other things; allowed Equiano to arrive at the realization that God was a supreme being that he should follow. It was then young Equiano gained a true desire to join the faith. After being told he could not go to heaven unless he was baptized (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 39) He wanted nothing more than to become baptized and expressed this desire.

    After some convincing from the kind Miss Guerin who he waited upon, he was thus allowed by his captain to be baptized in 1769 at age 14. During his travels, Equiano truly lived up to a nickname he was known as, the “ Black Christian”. (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 51) He constantly reminds himself and others that what he’s doing is at the grace of god, and he will accomplish what he wants if God sees it fit. From the treatment of his masters to the purchasing of his freedom, Equiano assured that honest means would allow God to carry his life to the right path.

    During his slavery Equiano was often blessed with merciful masters, some of the best around and he attributes this to God. ” From being thus employed during the time I served Mr. King, in going about the different estates on the island I had all the opportunity I could wish for to see the dreadful usage of the poor men, that reconciled me to my situation and made me bless God for the hands into which I had fallen. “(Equiano and Edwards, pg. 61) Equiano witnessed such mistreatment of slaves during his travels but he was one of the lucky ones and he accepted this as part of his fate.

    Yet of course encounters with others even under a good master sometimes were dreadful as Equiano was greatly mistreated. In which case he called upon god for assistance as shown by this excerpt after having his fruits unjustly taken from him; “I now, in the agony of distress and indignation, wished that the ire of God in his forked lightning might transfix these cruel oppressors among the dead. ” (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 72) In addition, Equiano did not stop at practicing christianity solely in his own life, he also sought out to instill the faith in people who did not believe or were presently unaware.

    Embarking on a journey to cultivate a plantation in Jamaica he found it necessary to find people who were away from the faith“… and hoped to be the instrument, under God, of bringing some poor sinner to my well beloved master, Jesus Christ. ” (Equiano and Edwards, Pg. 127) It was not enough to practice Christianity but it was also vastly important to give it to people who could not find it on their own. Thus leading up to this journey Equiano was encountered with 4 Indians that were to work for them.

    These Indians had been baptized but had no indication of the faith having no attention paid to their morals and never even having visited a church. With little time before embarking Equiano took it upon himself to take them to church and even take one of indians under his wing exemplified by the section “In our passage I took all the pains that I could to instruct the Indian prince in the doctrines of Christianity, of which he was entirely ignorant, and to my great joy he was quite attentive and received with gladness the truths that the lord enabled me to set forth to him. (Equiano and Edwards, Pg. 127) While it seemed his word was being taken and understood, it was not long before the word of satan corrupted the young Indian, but that did not steer Equiano from his own faith. He knew there existed the fatalism of Providence, which was prevalent during his entire life. As briefly mentioned previously, fate played a big role in the lifestyle of Equiano, and it was not long after adopting the faith before he saw the immediate providence of the Lord in his life.

    Equiano held great believe in the fatalism of providence, that is, our paths are set up for us through fate, and God will intervene when necessary to keep us on that path if he sees it fit. Equiano’s first recognized encounter with this intervention of god came not long after his baptism. While Equiano’s ship was under fire, he was sought to carry gunpowder across the ship amidst the cross fire to supply the ammo to return fire. While he was being faced with fear, he realized if it was meant to be fate would keep him alive, and he remained unscathed.

    On this same ship a gunner escaped death by seconds after having a bad dream that led him out of his cabin, his room was crushed immediately after. Both instances were interpositions of providence for the preservation of Equiano and the gunner Mr. Mondle (Equiano and Edwards, pgs. 45-46). This idea of providence continues to prevail during Equiano’s lifetime. In another instance Equiano was promised he would be able to buy bullocks to keep on the ship and resell when their ship reached their destination. To his dismay, the captain went against his promise due to space limitations and required him to purchase Turkeys.

    At the end of their journey all of the bullocks had died, and what was left was the Turkeys, which, Equiano was able to sell for 300 percent of what he paid. “…and I could not help looking on this otherwise trifling circumstance as a particular providence of God, and I was thankful accordingly. ” (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 94) Although it seemed his captain had done him wrong, by going back on his promise, in the end, everything worked out at the grace of God. One last instance of Providence was possibly the most important one. Equiano was facing death, engulfed in smoke and surrounded by flames in a room full of combustibles.

    He was solely writing in his journal when a spark jumped from his candle. Equiano was sure to perish “However, through God’s mercy, as I was nearly giving up all hopes, some people brought blanket and mattresses and threw them on the flames, by which means in a short time the fire was put out. ” (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 122). God’s providence in this case was the difference between life and death. All of these occurrences of providence attributed to Equiano’s fate and provided safety to him and others in many instances, which only supplemented his faith further.

    If one were to ask Equiano if he had expected his life to turn out the way it did, he would likely support his answer following his beliefs with his words“God only knew – I could not tell! ” (Equiano and Edwards, pg. 159) Equiano showed he was well in touch with God and his religious practices. He proved he had a strong relationship with God and whole heartedly believed in the fatalism of Providence. Equiano was a man of faith, and religion provided the essential backbone for him to live his life by.

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