John Marrant was born June 15, 1755, in New York City. He converted to Christianity at 13. His family disagreed with his new religion, so he left home – wandering to find a place and being rescued by a Native American hunter. The tribe sentenced him to die, but his prayers and sermons reached their hearts, and they spared his life. He lived among the Native Americans, many converted. He was only 14 years old when he began this ministry.
In 1782 Marrant started training as a Methodist minister and was ordained in 1785. He was sent to Nova Scotia to minister to African-Americans who fled north. Marrant planted a church in the free black town of Birch Town (which Native Americans also attended) to ignite a fire among Blacks to walk in their divine destiny and authority. Marrant preached this message consistently during his three years in Nova Scotia. When Marrant left Nova Scotia, he moved to Boston and became chaplain of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons (African Masonic Lodge), one of the first institutions in Massachusetts to call for the abolition of slavery. Due to this group’s work, Boston abolished the slave trade in 1788.
He preached about the equality of men in Boston in 1789, one of his few sermons that have been preserved. His stay in Boston and his preaching on the dignity of all men infuriated some people, and Marrant lived amidst death threats and mobs.
Marrant authored three books. White writers often transcribed and resold with no financial benefit to Marrant.
- A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black, 1785. (a popular biographical memoir that printed 17 editions)
- A Sermon Preached on June 24, 1789…at the Request of the Right Worshipful the Grand Master Prince Hall, and the Rest of the Brethren of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, 1789. (noting the equality of men before God)
- A Journal of the Rev. John Marrant, from August 18, 1785, to March 16, 1790.
He died on April 15, 1791, in London.
“So we see here the greatest enemies of Christ’s church frequently make a great profession, and have a name or an office in the church, when at the same time are destitute of the vital power of true godliness; they live by a name themselves, and they want a great many names to be set down in their society books to make a fair shew; but they care nothing about real religion; from such religion as this, good Lord deliver us.” John Marrant