This daguerreotype is one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen, for a reason that may not be readily apparent. And therein lies a tale…
This hand belongs to a man named Jonathan Walker who in 1844 attempted to rescue seven slaves from Pensacola, Florida. For this crime of wanting all men to be free, the U.S. Marshall of the District of Florida branded his hand with the letters SS so that everyone would know him to be a “Slave Stealer.”
Years later, John Greenleaf Whittier’s memorialized this brand in his poem “The Branded Hand” which says in part:
Why, that brand is highest honor! than its traces never yet
Upon old armorial hatchments was a prouder blazon set;
And thy unborn generations, as they tread our rocky strand,
Shall tell with pride the story of their father’s branded hand!
As I read about the bravery of Jonathan Walker, I cannot help but think of the parallels to how those who defy the masters of fundamentalism and strive to make souls free are often branded as well. It may be only a brand of flaming hateful words instead of heated iron, but the mark those words can leave deep scars upon the soul. Traitor. Apostate. Bitter. Unrighteous. Soul Stealer.
But when those who would bind men in the chains of legalist slavery shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, rejoice and be exceeding glad. For that brand you wear is no mere scar but stands as a badge of honor that you have been counted among those happy few who could no longer be content to stand by and do nothing when faced with evil men and spiritual seducers. Do no hide the marks you bear, but let them rather shine forth with a holy light. Faithful. Just. Loving. Righteous. Soul Saver.
Can a Christless church withstand, In the van of Freedom’s onset, the coming of that band?