Today in Christian History

November 19

November 19, 1861: At the suggestion of her minister, abolitionist Julia Ward Howe wrote "some good words to that tune" of the popular song "John Brown's Body." In February, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was published in the Atlantic Monthly and became very popular, especially after the Civil War (see issue 33: Christianity and the Civil War).

November 19, 1862: Baseball player-turned-revivalist William (Billy) Sunday is born in Iowa. An estimated 100 million people attended his 300 revivals, and he claimed that at least one million of them "hit the sawdust trail" to come forward and profess their conversion to Christ as a result of his preaching.

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February 23, 155 (traditional date): Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, is martyred. Reportedly a disciple of the Apostle John, at age 86 he was taken to be burned at the stake. "You try to frighten me with fire that burns for an hour and forget the fire of hell that never burns out," he said. The flames, legend says, would not touch him, and when he was run through with a sword, his blood put the fire out (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).

February 23, 303: Diocletian begins ...

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