John Knox Trumpets Protestantism

John Knox died on November 25 in 1572.

The exact date of his birth, even the year, is unknown. Biographers range from 1505 to 1514, but nobody knows for sure. His birth is generally accepted to be at Giffordgate, 16 miles east of Edinburgh, in 1513 to 1514.

John entered the University of Glasgow in 1522, where he studied under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time. In 1540 he was already ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and that he was a priest before he was 25 years of age.

John’s conversion to the Protestant faith likely came through the influence of George Wishart, the leader among the Scottish reformers, who met him in late 1545 and was burned at the stake shortly afterward. Wishart met Knox in December 1545.

John then spent some months as bodyguard (“drawn sword in hand”) to George Wishart. But on 29 February, 1546, Wishart was martyred.

John Knox was first called to the Protestant ministry at St. Andrews, which was throughout his life intimately associated with the Reformer’s career. The castle of St Andrews was attacked in July 1547 and Knox was arrested by the Roman Catholic authorities. Thus it was for 18 months that Knox found himself as a galley-slave on a French ship, the “Notre Dame”. The experience permanently injured his health.

In 1549 we find him preaching up a storm both in the British Isles and on the Continent. He then spent some years in Geneva, where Calvin was exercising a remarkable influence.

Knox returned to his native land “a Calvinist of the Calvinists”, and found himself in head-on collision with the Roman Catholic queen. When Mary, Queen of Scots, had mass celebrated in her palace chapel, the “thundering Scot” made known his feelings on this ‘sin of idolatry’ from the pulpit of St Giles.

His denunciations of the mass and Roman Catholicism in general did much to bring about a law, passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 August, 1560, establishing Protestantism as the religion of that country. It is probably true to say that Knox was a stern man, but he lived in an age that needed someone of his character to stem the inroads of Romanism.

Among his writings are: “History of the Reformation in Scotland”, “Against the Monstrous Rule of Women” and a long and elaborate treatise on predestination published in 1560.

Shortly before his death he asked his wife to read him John 17 – “for that is where I first cast my anchor”.

At his graveside the Earl of Mortoun, regent of Scotland, in the presence of an immense funeral procession, declared: “Here lyeth a man who in his life never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with dagger, but yet hath ended his dayes in peace and honour.”

Speaking of John Knox, Thomas Carlyle said: “And to be sure there is a power in unswerving conviction that inevitably arrests the attention of both men and nations. There is an almost indescribable appeal that attaches itself to uncompromising vision and principled passion. This fact was undoubtedly illustrated quite vividly all throughout the life and work of John Knox.”

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Martin Luther Nails His Theses to the Door

This is the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenburg in 1517, and, let it be said, nailed his colours to the mast at the same time!

Every one of those 95 arguments – for that’s what they were – was aimed against the infamous doctrine of “indulgences”, and he even expected Papal support for his crusade against this unholy traffic (Documents of the Christian Church, page 260). Instead the wrath of Rome descended upon him.

Reformation Day – “The most momentous day, as yet, in the history of Europe” is how Basil Atkinson describes it (Valiant in Fight, page 128).

Pope Leo X had sent Johann Tetzel to Germany to raise money for the rebuilding of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. To do that Tetzel marched through the streets with his entourage – a drummer calling the people to come and hear this amazing ditty:
Once the coin in the coffer rings
A soul from purgatory heavenward springs.

Official indulgence certificates were sold – authorised by the Pope himself – declaring that the purchaser could go immediately to Heaven at death, bypassing purgatory on the way. Or an indulgence could be bought for a departed loved one, thus delivering them from purgatorial fires.

Luther’s protest included such sallies as the following:

No. 21: “Those preachers of indulgences are in error who allege that through the indulgence of the Pope, a man is freed from every penalty.”

No. 27: “Those who assert that a soul straightway flies out (of purgatory) as a coin tinkles in the collection box are preaching an invention of man.”

No. 37: “Any true Christian living or dead partakes of all the benefits of Christ and the Church, which is the gift of God, even without letters of pardon.”

No. 52: “Confidence in salvation through letters of indulgence is vain … even if the Pope himself should pledge his soul as a guarantee.”

No. 66: “The treasures of indulgences are nets, with which they now fish for the riches of men.”

No. 86: “The Pope’s riches at this day far exceed the wealth of the richest millionaires, cannot he therefore build one single basilica of St Peter out of his own money, rather than out of the money of the faithful poor?”

And so the die was cast. The Church of Rome took action. Luther remained adamant. The Protestant Reformation was under way.

And many a Protestant church (though alas, not as many as should) will give thanks to God this day for the brave stand taken by Martin Luther.

The Roman Church still teaches the value of indulgences to enable one to bypass the torments of purgatory, though not, let it be confessed, as blatantly as Tetzel propagated the doctrine.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Jacob Arminius in Pursuit of Doctrinal Truth

This is the day that … Jacob Arminius was born in 1560.

Born Jacob Harmenszoon in Oudewater, Holland, the death of his father during Jacob’s infancy devastated the middle-class family. Then the Spanish massacre of Oudewater in 1575 claimed the lives of his mother and siblings.

Raised by friends, he eventually Latinized his name, after a 1st Century Germanic leader who resisted the Romans. Thus the Arminius name became a rallying point for those who resist Calvinist teachings, as Jacob did during his life.

During his studies he spent time in Geneva from 1592, under Beza, the 62 year-old who succeeded Calvin. Beza is responsible for introducing into Calvinist thought the particular emphases of predestination, the sovereignty of God and various ritualistic practices.

He later returned to Amsterdam and pastored the Old Church congregation. In 1590 he married the aristocratic Lijsbet Reael who ensured he kept close contact with the most influential merchants and leaders of the city.

He ministered in Amsterdam for 15 years and in Leiden for 6. He practiced his belief that being a pastor does more for the minister’s holiness than engagement in theological wrangling.

During that time he began to question the distinctive teachings of John Calvin, of which Holland was a stronghold.

Aminius left the pastorate and became Professor of Theology at Leiden, where his attack on Calvin’s view of predestination led to violent controversy.  The student body and Reformed pastors became polarised over the issue.

After his death in 1609 his followers issued a “Remonstrance” – so called because it remonstrated with Calvin’s teaching.  And the Reformed churches countered with their “Synod of Dort” condemning Arminians as heretics.

They were stormy days indeed, and in some circles today the battle still rages.

Note that Arminius had great regard for Calvin’s teachings in general. It seems that the points emphasised by Beza distorted something of the spirit of Calvin’s own insights. In affirmation of Calvin note this quote from Arminius. “I recommend that the Commentaries of Calvin be read…. For I affirm that in the interpretation of the Scriptures Calvin is incomparable and that his Commentaries are more to be valued than anything that is handed to us in the writings of the Fathers.”

Note too that Arminius, although a highly intellectual and widely studied man, was not distracted with theology for its own sake. His sole ambition was “to inquire in the Holy Scriptures for divine truth…for the purpose of winning some souls for Christ.”

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Catherine Booth one of the Army’s Best Men!

This is the day that … Catherine Booth died, in 1890.

Catherine Booth (nee Mumford), was born to a coachbuilder in Derbyshire, in 1829. She read the Bible eight times by the age of twelve, but was converted at the age of 15, when the words of a hymn led her to assurance of salvation.

At fourteen she developed spinal curvature and four years later, incipient tuberculosis. While ill in bed she began writing magazine articles against alcohol.

Catherine met William Booth, a Methodist minister in 1852. Catherine was impressed with both the sermon and the young preacher.

William believed ministers should be “loosing the chains of injustice, freeing the captive and oppressed, sharing food and home, clothing the naked, and carrying out family responsibilities.” While keen on social reform, Catherine, an avowed feminist, disagreed with William’s views on women. She objected to William describing women as the “weaker sex” and she argued that women should preach, while William opposed the idea. Despite their disagreements about the role of women in the church, the couple married on 16th June 1855.

Catherine first preached in1860 when a strange compulsion seized her and she felt she must rise and speak. The sermon so impressed William that he changed his mind about women preachers. Catherine Booth soon developed a reputation as an outstanding speaker but many Christians were outraged by the idea. Lord Shaftesbury regarded William as the antichrist for his promotion of women preachers. Booth later wrote, “some of the best men in my Army are women”!

When William created the Salvation Army she took her place as the beloved mother of the movement. She particularly inspired young ladies to preach and evangelise, including her own daughters. She journeyed to Paris to help her daughter Catherine and a handful of other young ladies set up the Salvation Army there.

Some said that Catherine’s sermons were as good as her husband’s. Certainly many were converted under her ministry.

For 30 years she and her husband waged war on sin and reached out a loving hand to England’s poor and needy.

She also took social action including the Food For A Million Shops, where poor could buy an inexpensive three-course meal. She was angered by the sweated labour that many women were subjected to, working 14 hours a day for a pittance. Bryant and May matches also used yellow phosphorous that poisoned the women working with it. She began a campaign that her husband completed after her death, to end the use of yellow phosphorous.

Eventually she found herself on the banks of ‘chilly Jordan’. She writes from her deathbed – to the 20,000 gathered in the Crystal Palace:

“My dear Children and Friends, My place is empty but my heart is with you. You are my joy and my crown. Your battles, sufferings and victories have been the chief interest of my life these 25 years. They are still. Go forward … live holy lives … love and seek the lost; bring them to the blood … I am dying under the Army flag; it is yours to live and fight under. God is my salvation and refuge in the storm. I send you my love and blessing. Catherine Booth.”

On Saturday, 4 October, 1890, the old General and his family gathered around Catherine’s bed. They prayed. They sang. Such grand old hymns as:
Calvary’s stream is flowing so free,
Flowing for you and for me.

“Go on,” Catherine said … and they sang some more –
Jesus, my Saviour, has died on the tree,
Died on the tree for me! Hallelujah!

Eventually, unable to speak, Catherine Booth pointed to the text hanging upon the wall, which read, “My Grace is sufficient for thee”. “That”, writes her biographer, “was her last testimony to God’s faithfulness.”

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard Impacts America’s Women

This is the day that … Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard was born in New York State, in 1839.

She was the middle of three children born to Josiah and Mary Willard in Churchville.

Being a red-headed tomboy, she preferred to be called “Frank”, but the day came when she outgrew that stage. “Next to being an angel” she said, “the greatest bestowment of God is to make one a woman!” (Women to Remember, by N. Olsen, page 77).

She inherited spiritual qualities from her godly parents, was converted in a Methodist ‘revival’ meeting, and joined the Church six months later – 5 May, 1861. And five years later she experienced the “second blessing”, being challenged by a holiness preacher, Phoebe Palmer, to lay all on the altar. “I unconditionally yielded my petty little jewels and … a conscious emotional presence of Christ held me,” she writes.

There was a temporary association with D.L. Moody … who invited her to preach at a Sunday afternoon meeting. She also led Bible study groups and women’s meetings.

But her main claim to fame is her involvement in the war against the liquor industry!

In 1874, “as if by magic, armies of women – delicate, cultured, home women – filled the streets of the cities and towns of Ohio … going to the saloons, singing, praying, preaching with the rum-sellers with all the eloquence of their mother hearts” (The Beautiful Life of Frances E. Willard, by A.A. Gordon, page 93).

The movement spread to other states, and eventually worldwide.

The driving force behind this was Frances Willard, who became the second National president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.), in 1879, and continued to give a powerful impetus to the movement until her death nearly 20 years later.

In 1895 she was introduced to a US Senate Committee as a “general with an army of 250,000.”

She campaigned for political issues and women in the pulpit, for prison reform and labour conditions … but after her death the W.C.T.U. resorted to just the alcohol issue.

In later years Miss Willard (or “Aunty Frank” as some of her disciples knew her) “espoused Christian Socialism” (Dictionary of Christianity in America, page 1256).

Preaching on the evils of alcohol without proclaiming the message of the Cross is not the theme of Scripture. What the sinner needs is not reformation but regeneration.

Frances Willard died on 17 February, 1898, and 80,000 people filed past her coffin in Willard Hall, Chicago.

Among her dying words are these: “Let me go away, let me be in peace: I am so safe with Him. He has other worlds and I want to go. I have always believed in Christ: He is the incarnation of God”. (A.A. Gordon, page 291). She was also heard to say: “How beautiful it is to be with God.”

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.