Author page of John Jeas autobiography

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we are reading a poem by John Jea, a preacher and author. Jea was abducted and sold into slavery as a young child, before converting to Christianity. After his conversion he preached endlessly, to such an extent that he was sold to multiple different households before gaining his freedom. He believed in both the glory of God and that Christanity was perverted by those who used religion as a justification for slavery. He travelled extensively while preaching, first in the US and then in the UK and Ireland, where he probably set up the first black majority church in England.

Jea wrote his autobiography in his 30s. It detailed his horrific treatment at the hand of those who bought him, his conversion, and his subsequent ministering. It contains religious poems and hymns, as well Bible quotes woven throughout the text. It was rediscovered in the 1980s, and is now available online. Jea’s autobiography is one of a number of such works, commonly called “slave narratives,” which detailed the lives of those forced into slavery. As well as influencing abolitionist movements by documenting the inhumane treatment of people sold as slaves, and providing undeniable evidence of the intellect of the authors, these narratives are works of art in their own right.

Today’s poem is one of the religious poems found in Jea’s autobiography. Like the other compositions, it is intended as a way to preach and to honour the glory of the Christian God.

“The love of God did me constrain,
To seek the wandering souls of men;
With cries, intreaties, tears, to save,
To snatch them from the burning blaze.

For this let man revile my name,
No cross I shun, I fear no shame;
All hail reproach and welcome shame;
Only thy terrors Lord restrain.

My life, my blood, I here present,
If for thy truth they may be spent;
Fulfil thy sovereign counsel Lord,
Thy will be done, thy name ador’d.

Give me thy strength, O God of Pow’r
Then let winds blow, or thunders roar;
Thy faithful witness will I be,
They’re fixt, I can do all through thee.”

You can find Jea’s autobiography online here, which contains this poem and more information about his life.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!