Pierre Francois le Courayer Defends Anglican Succession

Pierre Francois le Courayer was born in Rouen, France on November 17, 1681. He became a Catholic theologian. While canon regular and librarian of the abbey of St Genevieve at Paris, he conducted a correspondence with Archbishop Wake on the subject of episcopal succession in England. This supplied him with material for a dissertation proclaiming that the English clergy had legitimate claim to apostolic succession, “A Defense of the Validity of English Ordinations”.

The dissertation was an attempt to prove that there has been no break in the line of ordination from the apostles to the English clergy, thus demonstrating that England’s Protestant clergy descended in unbroken succession from the apostles (a strong point in proving their legitimacy).

Upon publication of his work in Brussels Pierre suffered persecution for his claims and with the help of Bishop Atterbury, then in exile in Paris, he took refuge in England, where he was presented by the University of Oxford with a doctor’s degree in 1723.

He was eager to see the reunification of Protestants and Catholics. His dissertation points out that the Catholic theologians held prejudices that affected their ability to accept historical facts that favoured the validity of Anglican succession.

He wrote, “How much soever separated we may be from each other, our reunion is nothing impossible.”

In 1736 he published a French translation of Paolo Sarpi’s History of the Council of Trent, and dedicated it to Queen Caroline, from whom he received a pension of £200 a year. Besides this he translated Sleidan’s History of the Reformation, and wrote several theological works.

At the time his Sleidan’s History was presented he described himself as “almost blind and deaf” and thus not fit to pay a visit to the Archbishop of Canterbury to present his work in person. He sent the work via his friend Dr Ducarel on May 30, 1769.

Although he always claimed to be a true Catholic, he rejected some Catholic ideas which he considered to be superstitious and he was excommunicated for his defence of the Anglican orders.

He died in London on the 17th of October 1776, and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. In his will, dated two years before his death, he declared himself still a member of the Roman Catholic Church, although dissenting from many of its opinions.

Jenny Geddes Throws a Stool

This is the day that … Jenny Geddes flung her stool at the Dean’s head in St Giles’ Kirk (church), Edinburgh! It was in 1637.

William Laud was both Archbishop of Canterbury and adviser of King Charles I of England, and he it was who was responsible for seeking to impose the Church of England Prayer Book and episcopacy (the government of the church by bishops) upon the Scottish believers.

Besides which, Laud had permitted such Romish practices as the setting up of images, crucifixes and bowing to the altar in the church. Eventually he was charged with treason and executed in 1645. But in the meantime the damage was done.

“Villain!” Jenny Geddes had cried. “Dost thou say the mass in my lug (ear)?” – and hurled her stool (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia, page 856).

Her action nearly started a riot with the Dean and the Bishop quickly withdrawing to the street. Many others followed her action by generating a volley of sticks and stones.

It is only fair to say that some historians have dismissed the incident as apocryphal (Dictionary of Christian Church, page 403).

But certainly the Scottish church took a strong stand against the inroads of Archbishop Laud’s innovations. And years of persecution bore upon them. But that’s another story …

St Giles Cathedral displays a three-legged stool sculpture in memory of Jenny Geddes impact on Scottish history.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Archbishop Robert Leighton in Turbulent Times

This is the day that … Archbishop Robert Leighton died in London, in 1684.

He was born in 1611 … the exact date being unknown. Nor are we sure of the place. His father, Alexander Leighton, was an outspoken Puritan who incurred the wrath of the infamous Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. As a result, Laud had him branded on the forehead, fined 10,000 pounds Sterling, publicly whipped, one ear cut off and one nostril split. Oh, yes, and life imprisonment! (Fathers of the Kirk, page 85).

Son, Robert, attended Edinburgh University from whence he was nearly expelled for writing “witty verse” in which the red nose of one of the faculty figured!

He entered the Church of Scotland (which at the time had bishops), spending 10 years on the Continent. He returned in 1641 to a Church of Scotland that had rejected episcopacy in favour of Presbyterianism. For seven years he fitted in, but in 1648 he resigned and became principal of Edinburgh University.

The year 1660 saw Charles II on the throne and episcopacy was re-introduced into the Scottish church. Two-thirds of the ministers accepted the change – including Leighton, who was consecrated as a bishop. Three hundred ministers refused to accept the king as “supreme in all causes civil and ecclesiastical” and were ejected from their parishes. History knows these faithful pastors and their followers as ‘the Covenanters’.

Robert Leighton met with some of these “non-conformists and sought to heal the breach, to no avail.”

Robert was also a writer of great influence. He was devotional in style and his works impacted many, including Coleridge.

Some quotes from Leighton. Faith is an humble, self-denying grace; it makes the Christian nothing in himself, and all in God. God’s sweet dews and showers of grace slide off the mountains of pride, and fall on the low valleys of humble hearts, and make them pleasant and fertile. Were the visage of sin seen at a full light, undressed and unpainted, it were impossible, while it so appeared, that any one soul could be in love with it, but would rather flee from it as hideous and abominable.

In 1674 he resigned his archbishopric and passed his final decade “in quiet study and meditation!”

On his tombstone is the inscription: “In an age of utmost strife, he adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour by a holy life and the meek and loving spirit which breathes through his writings.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

The Magna Carta Changes England

This is the day that …the Magna Carta was signed, “an ever memorable day to Englishmen and to all nations descended from Englishmen!” It was AD 1215!

Few Christians realize the spiritual significance of this landmark document.

Pope Innocent III had placed England under an interdict. (That could be compared to excommunication, not just for an individual, but a whole nation!) And it meant no more masses, no more Christian burials, no more confession, no more priestly absolution of sin … and more. For a people who had believed these unscriptural practices to be ‘gospel’, it was a matter of the gravest importance.

King John had rejected the papal Archbishop and appointed one of his own choosing!

The interdict had its desired effect. King John gave in – accepted the Pope’s choice of Archbishop of Canterbury, and surrendered the British Empire to Rome – and promised to pay annual tribute into the Roman coffers (English Church History, by C. Lane, page 207).

But by an amazing twist of circumstances, Stephen Langton (the Pope’s choice for Archbishop) then sided with the English barons – against the papal demands! It was he who had the Magna Carta drawn up – a charter that stated among other things, “The Church of England shall be free, and hold her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate!” In other words, there would be no interference or domination from the Pope.

Thus it was, at Runnymede, Archbishop Stephen Langton and the barons compelled King John to sign the document against his will! (New Guide to Knowledge of Church History, by M. Bloxam, page 156).

Because the actual document bears no date, some historians have suggested 19 June was the day it was signed.

In the Making of the Magna Carta (page 9), it records how “by 15 June it … had been completed and could be laid before the King for his formal acceptance… The date, 15 June, may well be that on which the sealing took place” (pages 7, 9).

The Pope fumed … condemning and annulling it in a Bull (24 August, 1215). “We do utterly reprobate and condemn this agreement … whereby the Apostolic See is brought into contempt.”

Despite the Pope’s indignation the Magna Carta prevails as a landmark of political and spiritual advancement. It was a stepping-stone toward the Reformation days when the ties with Rome would be finally broken.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.