Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24, 2012

Julian Hernandez and the Bibles

When one first thinks of the country in which Protestants might have fared most poorly in the 16th century, Spain inevitably comes to mind. Though the correct answer would be France, where there was a large number of Protestants and thus greater persecution, Spain was known as the cruelest when dealing with “dissenters.” In this country the ideas of Luther and Calvin were never allowed to take root. The few men and women who dared to latch onto this new gospel and its life-giving message were quickly silenced, yet it is edifying to know that many did, indeed, try.

One such man was named Julian Hernandez. By all accounts he must have been fearless, receiving beloved Spanish Bibles in wine barrels before distributing them to people who had never read the words of Scripture for themselves. It must be remembered that the thought of daring to practice Protestantism or to be involved in Bible smuggling in the Spain of the 16th century brings shivers to Protestant hearts even today. Hernandez was closely involved with believers at San Isidro del Campo, a monastery in Seville known for those who thought a little differently.

Hernandez was thrilled to see even the tiniest spark of Reformation thought in Spain, thus he pressed on. We may never know for sure who alerted the Inquisition authorities to his activities; it seems to have been someone he trusted, which makes it all the more painful. For three years he found himself locked up and tormented with seemingly no hope of escape. Hernandez was constantly asked if he would convert. No doubt the Inquisitors sweetened the deal, reminding him that he would be immediately freed and would live the life he desired if he would only betray his beliefs.

What would one honestly expect of a man called “Julian the Little”? But appearances, as we know, are often deceiving. The height and depth of his love for Scripture, for God’s Word, far outweighed any physical characteristics. With that calm, lionhearted, steadfast conviction the Protestant martyrs cultivated in their hearts and souls by God’s mercy, he refused. On December 22nd, 1560, Hernandez was burned at the stake. He shared that fate with thirteen of his friends who also held fast to their beliefs even in the face of death. Yet the spark had been lit in seekers’ hearts. Though most were killed outright in Spain --- the faith never took hold amidst the careful research of the Holy Office --- many died having read the words of Scripture for themselves, in their own tongue.

I always get a thrill of peace and dare I say excitement of sorts when I realize that I can once again bring the names of these long-dead martyrs to life. They have never been forgotten, and, I hope, never will. It is of utmost importance that Protestants remember those who suffered, bled, and died for their faith. They are our legacy . . . our tradition . . . the firm and courageous foundation on which we are built. And underneath that foundation --- and above, and beyond --- is the bedrock of God, the highest of all, the orchestrator of every event. To God be the glory.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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