Dr William Dodd, the Macaroni Parson

This is the day that … the ‘Macaroni Parson’ died, in 1777.

Dr William Dodd was a Church of England clergyman … “one of the most popular and successful preachers of the 18th century” says his biographer.

The nickname ‘Macaroni Parson’ was given to him because of his dandyish dress – the kind of attire worn on the Continent. But even royalty flocked to hear him preach. He became chaplain to King George III.

His oratory, like his dress sense, was flamboyant, and his socialite connections included Thomas Gainsborough (who painted his portrait), the Countess of Huntingdon, Samuel Johnson and Johann Sebastian Bach.

He founded charities, wrote voluminously, edited The Christian’s Magazine (in which he attacked John Wesley’s ‘perfectionist’ teachings), penned a commentary on the Bible, and forged a cheque for four thousand pounds sterling, signing Lord Chesterfield’s name! Found out … Dodd was tried at Old Bailey, found guilty, and visited in prison by John Wesley.

Speaking of Dodd’s composure under sentence of death, Wesley wrote, “Such a prisoner I scarce ever saw before, much less such a condemned malefactor.”

Augustus Montague Toplady (author of the hymn Rock of Ages) paid a visit, as did William Romaine.

Lady Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, wrote Dodd “a long and almost unreadable letter.”

Samuel Johnson and his friends gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition to save Dodd’s life, but to no avail. On 27 June, 1777, William Dodd was hung at Tyburn – at the age of 49.

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.

John Hunt to Fiji

This is the day that … John Hunt was born in England, in 1812, to illiterate and irreligious parents.

Converted at the age of 17 when he came into contact with the Methodists, he was soon preaching in their meetings. At the age of 23 he entered their “Theological Institution” for missionary training, and on 29 April, 1838, he and his new bride, Hannah, sailed for the South Seas.

Fiji! “Those hills which they viewed upon their arrival contained the ovens in which human beings were roasted for cannibal feasts. There … widows had been strangled to accompany the dead chiefs to their ‘Paradise’.”

“Cunning was the highest intelligence. War was their business. The religion of the Fijian required cannibalism” (They Knew Their God, Volume 4, page 61).

Thus it was John Hunt and his good wife, both in their mid-20’s, tackled the unwritten language of these people that they might tell them of the Saviour.

“I determine,” he wrote in his journal, “to make known nothing among the poor Fijians but Christ and Him crucified. Oh that my speech and my preaching may be with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (Biography of John Hunt, by G. Rowe, 1860, page 173).

The savage climate led to the death of their three children soon after birth. He wrote: “I have three now in Heaven. I thank God they are safe. I feel much my need of them now; but, oh, how awful the thought of their living to sin against my God and be lost!”

For 10 years John Hunt persevered. King Thakombau – “the butcher of his people” – was a fierce foe, and his wars and hostility toward the missionary seemed to make all success hopeless.

John’s translation of the New Testament in Fijian was completed in 1847 (though not published until 1854).

And God saw fit to pour out revival among these people. There was weeping and groaning “and a general calling upon God to have mercy” by many Fijians. Even Queen Viwa was converted.

John Hunt wrote: “One hundred converts the first week of the revival… The mats of the chapel were wet with the tears of the communicants of the table of the Lord…”

But a year later – 4 October, 1848 – John Hunt died, at the age of 36.

King Thakombau was baptised nine years later by a fellow missionary.

And the gospel continued to bring light and joy and peace to those who had lived in darkness.

“The mission to Fiji has been as remarkable for its success as any ever undertaken by the Christian world. At the jubilee of that mission there was not an avowed pagan left. Fifty years before there was not a single Christian in all Fiji” (Epoch Makers of Modern Missions, by A. McClean, page 171).

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.

Sudan Interior Mission

This is the day that … the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.) was born, in 1898.

“On 24 May, 1898,” Rowland Bingham later wrote, “Helen E. Blair entered with me into life partnership … we were married three days before the mission was born …” (Flame of Fire, by J. Hunter, page 66).

In the previous decades an awakening of missionary interest had been stimulated by the preaching of D.L. Moody and the Student Volunteer Movement (of which John Mott became the leader for over 30 years).

Literally thousands of young people caught the vision of evangelising the world – in their generation.  Among them was a young Englishman named Rowland Victor Bingham, who migrated to Canada … and then trained at A.B. Simpson’s Bible College.

With two other graduates, and without the backing of any Church or missionary society, Bingham sailed for Africa – the “white man’s grave”, as it was then known, and not without cause. 

Bingham, suffering from attacks of malaria, was the only one to survive.  He returned to Canada in February, 1895 … but that year of death, sickness and disappointment had not been wasted.

Other dedicated young men volunteered to go.  The S.I.M. was formed, and by 1900 Bingham was off again – with two other young men – to take the gospel to the Sudan.  Again the dreaded malaria struck – the mission was aborted.

But in 1901 another attempt was made … and success began to crown their efforts.

Less than a century later the S.I.M. has over 700 missionaries working under its banner.  “Over 6,700 congregations have come into being through S.I.M. ministry, all self-sustaining and self-governing” (Sixty Great Founders, by G. Hanks).

In 1954 S.I.M. set up Africa’s first missionary radio station and daily the gospel is beamed out across the airwaves from Radio ELWA.  And because its work now extends far beyond the Sudan, S.I.M. today stands for “Society of International Mission”.

St Dunstan – England

This is the day that … St Dunstan is remembered by some churches.  He is one of the 68 saints mentioned in the Anglican Prayer Book.

He is “the most famous of all Anglo-Saxon saints”, according to Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints (1756-1759).

Dunstan was born in Somerset, England, in the early part of the 10th century.  During his education at Glastonbury he alarmed the monks by sleep-walking on the roof of the church!  (Stars Appearing, by S. Harton, page 208).

He eventually became an abbot at Glastonbury and set about reforming the morals of a scandalous clergy.  This zeal for purity continued when he later became Archbishop of Canterbury (Butler, page 149).

But as was to be expected, there was plenty of opposition.  Especially when he rebuked King Edwy for his unseemly behaviour.  As a result Dunstan’s property was confiscated and he was sent into exile.  After Edwy’s death, King Edgar assumed the throne and Dunstan was re-instated.

And it was Dunstan who instituted bellringing on festival days, and who re-introduced organ playing into the church – “even taking a personal hand in their actual construction” (Harton, page 207).

The story is told (believe it or not!!) that on one occasion, whilst working at his forge, he saw the Devil peering through the window.  “So he pulled the red-hot tongs from the coals and pulled the Devil’s nose with them” (Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem, page 147;  Days and Customs of All Faiths, page 127).  Satan ran and dipped his nose in Tunbridge Wells to cool off – and “that is why the water in Tunbridge Wells, to this day, is sulphur water!”  (page 127).

In the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus at Mayfield they even have St Dunstan’s tongs!  (Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem, page 147).

And the dear old Archbishop is still regarded as the Patron Saint of blacksmiths.