Maps from the 15th century through the 19th century have precise latitudes but distorted longitudes. While spring wound pocket watches date back as far as the 1400’s it was not until the 1500’s that they actually produced simple pocket watches. Engineers with the British Royal Navy had suggested that a line of ships be set at intervals of 15 miles apart and ordered to fire off a cannon at noon to let naval and merchant ships calculate their longitude. Today that same principle is the basis of the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system.
The pocket watches of the 1500’s were worn as more a fashion statements, than true time pieces, notorious for being inaccurate, the face of the pocket watch did not even have the now familiar “minute” hand. In 1714 the British government set up a Board of Longitude and offered an astonishing prize of £20,000 for anyone who could produce a clock capable of keeping time at sea. The challenge caught the attention of John Harrison, a 21-year-old carpenter from Lincolnshire, who spent the next 60 years tinkering with clocks, in hopes of winning the prize.
In 1761 the official sea trial of Harrison’s clock on a voyage from England to Jamaica, was considered a statistical fluke, because the clock only lost 5 seconds during the entire transatlantic trip. The British government paid Harrison a paltry sum of £2500, for a life’s work. However, after the Board of Longitude built a replica of Harrison’s clock and ran further time trials, and at the insistence of lawyers he hired to pursue his claim to the prize, the entire £20,000 was awarded to Harrison in 1773 just months before his death.
Today pocket watches and wrist watches have been replaced by cell phones, but the contributions John Harrison, along with the works of other clock makers ultimately resulted in the first mass-produced precision time pieces in the world. At the time of the American Revolution pocket watches were considered family heirlooms, and are still treasured by families today. Pocket watches may no longer be “in vogue,” but the story of John Harrison’s life is still inspiring because of the obstacles he over came and his single minded devotion to his goal.
Another man known for his single –minded devotion to his goal, was a country boy from rural Northfield Massachusetts, who set off at the age of seventeen to seek his fortune in Boston. Fortunately, his uncle hired him to sell shoes, and he quickly proved himself an enthusiastic salesman, resulting in his promotion and subsequent transfer to Chicago. Arriving in Chicago he got involved with a local congregation, where he brought his enthusiasms to revitalizing their Sunday School program, and in the process discovered his true passion. Abandoning his lucrative sales career, in favor of working full time with children, and ultimately seeing people become followers of Christ.
D.L. Moody (1837-1899), is probably best known today for the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. However, during his life time his success in creating one of the largest Sunday School programs in America, propelled him into the vanguard of Christian education for children, and prompted him to start his own church. In spite of his lack of formal education, and being told repeatedly that public speaking was not his strongest skill, he went on to become one of the most prominent and influential Christian evangelist in America. While Moody had been a poor student as a boy, as an adult he became a dedicated scholar of the Bible. Seeking to improve his understanding of the Bible, and his effectiveness as a pastor, Moody thirst for knowledge took him to England.
During his first visit to England, in the course of a quiet conversation with British evangelist Henry Varley, while sitting on a park bench in Dublin, Moody heard something that would challenge him for years to come. Varley said “The world has yet to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is fully consecrated to Him.” Moody determined in his heart to be such a man.
In the ensuing years D.L. Moody continued to follow God’s calling on his life, and spent the next several decades as both an evangelist and founder of Christian schools in both Chicago and his boyhood home of Northfield, Massachusetts.
At the time of Moody’s passing in 1899 it was estimated that at least 100 million people had heard the message of the gospel from this man who’s single-minded devotion was not to a goal or task but to Jesus Christ. History is full of men and women who dedicated their lives to a single cause, often sacrificing relationships
and finical gains in pursuit of their dreams. However, in doing so they laid the foundations for many of the things we take for granted today. Clocks that could with stand the rigors of transatlantic voyages changed not only the accuracy of maps, but improved the lives of sailors, and ultimately consumers who’s goods
arrived on time. While time pieces come and go, the message of the gospel still
endures, and is still changing people’s lives today.
~ Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last ~
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