May 3rd In Christian History – A.C. Hopkins and Hans Egede

Series: On This Day In Christian History

 Significant Events on This Day:

996: Gregory V became the first German pope. He was a nephew of emperor Otto III, whom he crowned. During an absence from Rome, rivals set up an antipope, but Gregory was able to overthrow him. There was a suspicion of foul play when Gregory died suddenly.

1512: The Fifth Lateran Council opened. Called by Pope Julius II, it was not accepted as legitimate by the French Church because it denied their claim to ancient liberties.

1738: Evangelist George Whitefield arrived in America from England, where he preached thousands of sermons. Whitefield described the theme of his sermons with these words: “Oh, the righteousness of Jesus Christ! I must be excused if I mention it in almost all my sermons!”

1832: Edward Irving was barred from his Presbyterian church, where he honored “prophets” and tongues-speakers. Later he was stripped of his ordination because of faulty teachings on the nature of Christ.

A.C. Hopkins: “To Serve the Armies”

Before the Civil War, few chaplains served with American armies. But on May 3, 1861, the Southern Congress approved Bill 102, stating, “There shall be appointed by the President chaplains to serve the armies of the Confederate States during the existing war.” On May 3, 1862, Rev. A. C. Hopkins, Presbyterian pastor from Martinsburg, West Virginia, joined them, commissioned as chaplain of the Second Virginia Regiment.

Hopkins wasted no time. On May 16 he led the men in a day of fasting and prayer. Two days later he conducted Sunday services at Mossy Creek. The ensuing week found him consumed by the wounded, dying, and dead.

During the Seven Days’ Battle near Richmond, he marched all day in the hot sun and spent a sleepless night ministering to the wounded and dying. The next morning, attempting to preach to his men on the line, he collapsed, strength gone. He was carried to the rear to recover, but when he returned to the front ten days later, he learned that his best friends were dead. Hopkins sank into despondency. Heavy losses at Malvern Hill further drained him, and Hopkins felt he could no longer continue.

He retreated for a season of intense prayer, and soon Bible classes were organized and flourished. Evangelists visited the brigade, and religious services were followed by group discussions, prayer meetings, and baptisms. Large sums were raised to provide Christian literature for ravaged cities. Generals and officers were saved, and prayer meetings were conducted three times daily.

In all, between 100,000 and 200,000 Union soldiers and approximately 150,000 Southern troops were converted during the Civil War revivals. Whole armies on both sides became vast fields, ready for harvest. And many of the soldiers who perished went to heaven through the efforts of chaplains like Rev. A. C. Hopkins, who continued hard in service until the bitter end.

With the Civil War, chaplains earned a lasting place with American troops around the world.

Don’t be afraid! I am with you. From both east and west I will bring you together. I will say to the north and to the south, “Free my sons and daughters! Let them return from distant lands. They are my people—I created each of them to bring honor to Me.” – Isaiah 43:5-7

About the Author: Robert J. Morgan, is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best-selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, Red Sea Rules, and On This Day – this article was adapted from the May 3rd entry in this excellent book. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country.

 “Hans Egede: The Apostle of Greenland”

Hans Egede was born in northeastern Norway in 1686. While serving as a Lutheran minister in Vaagan, Norway, Egede began studying about the old Norse Christian settlements in Greenland. During the Middle Ages a bishop had sent Norwegian settlers there, and these settlers had not had any contact with Europe since 1410. Egede wondered what had become of their descendents.

Egede became fascinated with the idea of resuming contact with the settlers and evangelizing them if they were no longer followers of Jesus. He felt that it was the duty of Norway and Denmark to bring the gospel to the descendants of the settlers and whoever else might live on the island. He tried to interest both the Danish king and the bishops in a missionary effort to Greenland, but they were not interested. When Egede changed his proposition to include more commercial purposes, such as colonizing, setting up trading posts, and investigating the natural resources of Greenland, he found support. He eventually succeeded in founding a company that supported both commercial and missionary endeavors, and he set sail for Greenland with his wife and two sons on May 3, 1721.

Upon his arrival in Greenland, Egede was shocked to find no Norse communities. No Europeans had survived the centuries, and solely Eskimos inhabited the island. Although surprised, he maintained his missionary purpose and attempted to learn the language and culture of the Eskimo people and present the gospel to them. He initially had very limited success. However, his optimism was clear in his founding of the colonial town of Godthab, which means “Good Hope.” Godthab today is known, as the capital city of Nuuk.

The evangelistic tides turned in 1733 when a smallpox epidemic killed thousands of Eskimos on the island. The selfless way that Egede and his family cared for the sick and buried the dead had a profound impact on the Eskimos. All of a sudden his message was received eagerly and many were won to Christ. Due to the difficult time that Egede had experienced learning the Eskimo language, it was his son Paul who did most of the preaching and the winning of souls to Christ. Having grown up with the Eskimos, he spoke their language as his own. After his father left Greenland, Paul remained as a missionary. Hans, Egede’s other son, Niels, his son-in-law, and two nephews also were missionaries to Greenland (Egede pictured on left).

Hans Egede returned to Denmark in 1736 to found a school for the training of missionaries to Greenland. He wrote ethnographic books on the history, folklore, geography, and language of Greenland that are still respected today. With Paul’s assistance he translated the New Testament into the Eskimo language and wrote an Eskimo grammar, a dictionary, and a catechism.

Moravian missionaries arrived in Greenland in 1733. They carried on the work for Christ that Egede and his family had pioneered. Due to the missionary efforts of Hans Egede, his family, and the Moravian missionaries that followed, all of Greenland’s Eskimos eventually became members of Christian churches!


Hans Egede’s ministry did not bear fruit quickly. Despite his initial lack of success, he trusted that God would reach the people of Greenland, and he did. It was Egede’s selfless actions and not his words that earned him a hearing. What can you learn from Hans Egede to apply to your own life?

“Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world.” – 1 Peter 2:11

Author’s of the Article Above: Mike and Sharon Rusten are not only marriage and business partners; they also share a love for history. Mike studied at Princeton (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Th.M.), and New York University (Ph.D.). Sharon studied at Beaver College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Minnesota (B.A.), and together with Mike has attended the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College). The Rusten’s have two grown children and live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This article was adapted from the May 3rd entry in their wonderful book The One Year Book of Christian History, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003.

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