Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30, 2012

Chancellor Melchior Nicolai: German Theologian

In my post of September 25th I spoke of 17th century theologian Tobias Wagner and how men of his caliber shattered the illusion of Germans being uneducated backwoods peasants. I found the life of his father-in-law Melchior Nicolai to be just as fascinating . . .

Unlike Wagner, who was often set in his ways but rarely mentioned as being overly confrontational, Melchior Nicolai is described by the “Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia” as a “rather quarrelsome Wittenberg theologian of the Lutheran orthodox wing and a staunch fighter against Anabaptism in his home country”! Such a statement brings home the truth that, although Protestant groups would have done well to band together in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were often petty squabbles that characterized the lack of ecumenism of this time period.

Why was Melchior Nicolai named “quarrelsome”? He loved his own particular faith, Lutheranism, so well, that that love occasionally brought him into conflict with those of differing denominations. Nicolai was born in 1578 when Protestantism was still fairly new. Like his future son-in-law Tobias Wagner, he was a familiar face and trusted advisor at the University of Tubingen, also a professor of divinity. He was chancellor and dean before Wagner later took over that position. In about 1650, just nine years before his death, he was given the added responsibility of provost of Wittenberg.

Nicolai’s influence was great and his lasting works are impressive. Like most other German theologians, he could write prolifically in Latin, and often did so with the intent of defending the Lutheran faith against outside forces. “Colonial Families of Philadelphia,” involving one branch of the Nicolai-Wagner that moved to that area, says that “Dr. Melchoir Nicolai was an acute, independent, and very zealous theologian of great uprightness in his life and conversation.” It goes on to mention his fervent commentaries against Laurenz Forer, a noted Jesuit priest of Swiss extraction. Forer composed a number of works that boldly attacked Protestants, thus drawing Nicolai’s ire. I imagine their debates must have been quite colorful. Yet Tubingen’s chancellor never backed down.

He, along with Tobias Wagner, should be remembered for his fervent championing of the Lutheran faith.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29, 2012

September 29, 1565: The First Massacre at Matanzas

Sadly, this marker at Matanzas Inlet is incorrect The first massacre did take place on September 29,
but although half of Jean Ribault's men were killed, he himself was not. Also, if one looks closely at
 the marker (which cannot be done very well on this photo) people have etched their names and
other words onto the bronze tablet . . .

Even if the term “Murphy’s Law” was unknown to 16th century man, the concept of “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” was certainly familiar to the French Protestants of Florida. In September of 1565, Admiral Jean Ribault’s intrepid band of explorers had re-boarded their beautiful galleon Trinité in the hopes of destroying Spanish San Agustín before the Spaniards could destroy the French fortress of La Caroline. No such luck. A tempest later called the “San Mateo hurricane” sprang up, and the French went down.

One would think it a good thing that most of the Frenchmen survived the shipwreck and somehow managed to make it to shore. When one considers the fate that awaited them, however, survival seems somehow cruel. Ribault’s men came ashore in two groups. It is unknown if the two bands had contact with each other, or for how long. This first band --- this first sacrifice-in-waiting --- collapsed along the shoreline at a place that would ominously become known as “Matanzas,” “slaughters.” Their presence would not go undetected for long.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Spanish “adelantado” and veteran sailor, would tolerate neither foreigners nor Protestants in Spanish-claimed lands. Spanish chaplain Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales provides an eerie narrative of what happened next: (I have reproduced his exact commentary, even the grammatical no-no’s, for the sake of authenticity).

“As soon as he had called to them, one of them swam towards and spoke to him; told him of their having been shipwrecked, and the distress they were in; that they had not eaten bread for eight or ten days; and, what is more, stated that all, or at least the greater part of them, were Lutherans. Immediately the general sent him back to his countrymen, to say they must surrender, and give up their arms, or he would put them all to death. A French gentleman, who was a sergeant, brought back the reply that they would surrender on condition their lives should be spared.

After having parleyed a long time, our brave captain-general answered ‘that he would make no promises, that they must surrender unconditionally, and lay down their arms, because, if he spared their lives, he wanted them to be grateful for it, and, if they were put to death, that there should be no cause for complaint.’ Seeing that there was nothing else left for them to do, the sergeant returned to the camp; and soon after he brought all their arms and flags, and gave them up to the general, and surrendered unconditionally.

Finding they were all Lutherans, the captain-general ordered them all put to death; but, as I was a priest, and had bowels of mercy, I begged him to grant me the favor of sparing those whom we might find to be Christians. He granted it; and I made investigations, and found ten or twelve of the men Roman Catholics, whom we brought back. All the others were executed, because they were Lutherans and enemies of our Holy Catholic faith. All this took place on Saturday (St. Michael’s Day), September 29, 1565. I, Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, Chaplain of His Lordship, certify that the foregoing is a statement of what actually happened.”

That chilling narrative leaves little to the imagination. While many might have been tempted to paint the massacre with a broad brush in order to propagandize, this account is straight from the victors’ mouths, and there was no reason for them to make things sound worse than they actually were. In old St. Augustine there is a growing trend of remembering those who have gone before, both in violent ways and due to more natural causes. Burials of Englishmen, Spaniards, Africans, and Native Americans are analyzed and respected. Religious ceremonies are earnestly sought.

There has recently been a great interest in the martyrdom of Spanish priests who died in the early 18th century at the hands of non-Christian Indians. Yet the story of the martyrs of Matanzas, whether deliberately or as an oversight, is simply overlooked. It is one of the most gruesome tales in our nation’s history and one of the first scenes of religious violence in America, yet these men now die a second death . . . the death of being forgotten and dishonored. There is no handsome memorial for them. No religious service. No dignity. Their burial site has never been discovered, and a formal statement has never been made. It is my sincere hope that something might be done for these Protestant victims. I will continue to hope and pray that this will come to pass.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 28, 2012

In my quest to feature and contrast Protestant faiths of the 16th and 17th centuries and beyond, I took on the task of studying the Puritans, whose body of literature was so incredibly important in early America. Today I pulled out the book “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions” and chose a poem to share:

“A Present Salvation”
Creator and Redeemer God,
Author of all existence, source of all blessedness,
I adore thee for making me capable of knowing thee,
           for giving me reason and conscience,
           for leading me to desire thee;
I praise thee for the revelation of thyself in the gospel,
           for thy heart as a dwelling place of pity,
           for thy thoughts of peace toward me,
           for thy patience and thy graciousness,
           for the vastness of thy mercy.
Thou hast moved my conscience to know how
    the guilty can be pardoned,
    the unholy sanctified,
    the poor enriched.
May I be always amongst those who not only hear but know thee,
    who walk with and rejoice in thee,
    who take thee at thy word and find life there.
Keep me always longing
     for a present salvation in Holy Spirit comforts and rejoicings,
     for spiritual graces and blessings,
     for help to value my duties as well as my privileges.
May I cherish simplicity and godly sincerity of character.
Help me to be in reality before thee as in appearance I am before men,
           to be religious before I profess religion,
           to leave the world before I enter the church,
           to set my affections on things above,
           to shun forbidden follies and vanities,
           to be a dispenser as well as a partaker of grace,
           to be prepared to bear evil as well as to do good.
O God, make me worthy of this calling,
     that the name of Jesus may be glorified in me and I in Him.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September 27, 2012

Martyrs’ Mirror and Its Continued Importance

Recently I became interested in Anabaptists of the 16th and 17th centuries, and I began to research various historical and religious events that might have involved them. During this research I saw a lot of references to Martyrs’ Mirror. I had a basic idea of what it concerned but wanted to relearn the basic facts of this most-feted piece of history.

Martyrs’ Mirror is a very influential publication authored by Thieleman van Braght. It was first circulated in the 1660s due to the need for a book that would speak only of Anabaptist martyrs (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs rarely mentioned this particular denomination) and in the following centuries it became an Anabaptist standard. It was praised for being a much-needed memorial to those “Brethren” who had died for their faith. In the 1740s it became available in German. Many Mennonite and Amish families consider this book to be of utmost importance, and Protestants of all stripes will find it interesting.

Martyrs’ Mirror is available online at I found the “Index of Anabaptists Who Were Persecuted or Martyred 1525-1660” to be particularly interesting. I love the idea of illuminating names of martyrs and sufferers who have long been forgotten, thus I have included some random names to cherish and honor: Hendrick Aerts and his wife Janneken Cabiljaus . . . Uly Baumgartner . . . Henry Gutwol . . . Tanneken van der Leyen . . . Hans van Overdam (featured in my post of September 05th) . . . Jeronymus Schepens . . . Maritgen de Vette . . . and Maerten Zaeyweuer.

The online version of Martyrs’ Mirror is indispensible for those of Anabaptist heritage or for anyone studying Protestantism in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of my favorite sections was, “An Account of Those Who Suffered in the Sixteenth Century,” as this is my particular area of interest. Stories of primitive Christians and early “dissenters” that were injured and/or martyred for the faith throughout the centuries are also included. I recommend Martyrs’ Mirror simply for its invaluable place in early Protestant culture and for the enduring importance it still enjoys today.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 26, 2012

Reading the Bible In A Year

Yesterday I enjoyed a very important accomplishment: Thanks to the Bible Gateway reading plan I began on September 26, 2011,  I finished reading through the entire Bible! What a feeling. I am incredibly proud of my Protestant heritage and of the martyr-blood running through my veins, and to finish reading through the very same Bible that my ancestors and spiritual forerunners would have died to possess --- and often did --- was an incredible and soul-warming feeling. I learned some very important do’s and don’t’s concerning reading through the Bible in a year:

Do: Set aside time to read every day. If you don’t feel like it or have other things to do, do it anyway! Not to say that anyone should lament having to read the Bible, only that many people have different attention spans, get stressed with reading too much at a time, etc. But it takes only a short amount of time to read a section of the Old Testament and a section of the New Testament every day.

Do: Study. If you find a chapter or concept confusing, ask friends and family with religious backgrounds. Ask a pastor. Research online. It is a tremendous help to truly understand the context of what you are reading. There are many wonderful study Bibles and online study aids to get you started.

Don’t: Get discouraged. It may be difficult to read through the violence in the Old Testament and to read of certain ideas that people living in the 21st century might find difficult to grasp, but try to understand that everything has a purpose and came to pass for a reason. If you still find it hard, focus mostly on the New Testament until you get your “land legs” and want to try the Old Testament.

Don’t: Ever lose hope. It should be impossible to read the New Testament and not feel a warm, genuine sense of hope, peace, and joy, for “saved by grace through faith” is the most beautiful concept ever created!

One of my biggest stumbling blocks was the aforementioned Old Testament violence. I liken the Bible to a beloved family recipe . . . there are steps that are easy to follow, and there are steps that are difficult to follow. A cook might look at those difficult steps with wariness and consternation, but the truth is, without all steps, both difficult and easy, there will be no finished product and no tasty meal.

Scripture is like that. We all like the easy steps best. Jesus’ parables. The story of crucifixion and resurrection. The hauntingly powerful Psalms and Proverbs. Then there are the parts we may wave away as “too hard” to understand or “too harsh” to appreciate. But without them, the story would not be complete, and everything would not fall into place. The result of this eternal “recipe” is God’s love and mercy, baked on the hearth of Christian hearts on fire for God.

Amen and amen.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September 25, 2012

Spiritual Courage: Reverend Chancellor Tobias Wagner of Germany

When studying the 16th and 17th century I like to showcase Protestant individuals who “pop out” at me during my research or who particularly interest me. Today I researched Reverend Tobias Wagner. Born February 21, 1598, in Heidenheim, Germany, he had the distinction of being a direct descendant of Doctor Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora. An affinity for the ministry was certainly passed on to Tobias, who became the chancellor of Germany’s University in Tubingen in the early 1660s.

The young Wagner’s talents became obvious when he was rather young, as he was placed in Nordlingen’s Latin School. By age 23 he was tackling theology at Tubingen. His adulthood assignments included ministering in Esslingen and becoming, as “A History of the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania” says, “Dekan [Deacon] of the Tubingen Diocese.” He was also Doctor of Theology.

Chancellor Tobias Wagner’s claim to fame was his outstanding defense of the Lutheran faith. He also helped hold the University of Tubingen together in the dark years of the 17th century, where, although Protestantism was no longer new and vulnerable, it was violently under attack from outside sources and from Catholic academics that had set up shop in Germany. In that era it became increasingly difficult to know where one stood. Tobias Wagner knew exactly where he stood. The book “History of the University of Tubingen” by August Friedrich Boks states, “He was a profound scholar and as teacher and preacher on various occasions showed himself an accomplished theologian: he was singularly clear in his expositions and moderate in his treatment of controversial subjects.”

Boks goes on to say, “In theological casuistry he possessed extensive knowledge and experience, and for this reason his counsel was often sought from various and distant places in the most complicated cases.” Wagner authored about seventy-eight works, half of which were constructed in Latin. It is interesting that he was in a position of authority during the ravaging Thirty Years’ War. History is silent on what burdens he bore during that time, but it is safe to say that they were probably great. The theologian’s death came on August 12, 1680. Academics like Wagner shattered the 17th century image of Germans as backwards country peasants who could never keep up with times.

Chancellor Wagner lived and breathed one of the statements of his epitaph: Hie Evangelici conditur orbis honor. “This world is built on the honor of the gospel.”

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012

Georgian Englishmen and Floridian Spaniards: Religious Struggle or Land Grab?

In my posts I often speak of the battle against Protestantism that took place in Florida in 1565, when hundreds of French Protestant civilians and soldiers were killed by Spanish conquistadors at Fort Caroline and Matanzas Inlet. This religious struggle did not end there, however, for a new Protestant power came forth . . . the English. The fact that the English were a bit “tardy to the party” in the colonization effort meant little. By 1742, the Protestant east coast, which stretched from Maine to Georgia, felt itself in danger from the brooding presence of Catholic Spaniards in Florida.

Whether the war quaintly called the “War of Jenkins’ Ear” was religiously-based or not, religion certainly played a large part in prejudices. To the English, Spaniards were the carriers of the “Black Legend,” bold, cruel, fanatical individuals who would uphold their Catholic rituals so obsessively that they would kill Protestant believers without a second thought (which, fair enough, is what they did two centuries earlier at Matanzas). To the Spaniards, Englishmen were dandies and fops with heretical doctrines and arrogant notions. This mutual hatred came to a head in 1740, when English troops besieged the Spanish town of San Agustín (St. Augustine, Florida, the nation’s oldest city) and attacked the old Castillo de San Marcos.

This was not the only reason Spaniards were bitter against Englishmen. In 1702, during another such siege, British soldiers had burned and desecrated nearly every Spanish church. So the Spanish had that resentment under their belt, and the English despised the Spanish for their atrocities at Matanzas and beyond. (It did not help that in the siege of 1702, Protestant Englishmen who fell on the Castillo lawn were simply interred unceremoniously and forgotten, as Spaniards at that time did not believe that Protestants needed or deserved “legitimate” burials.

In July 1742 there was a clash at Saint Simons Island, Georgia, and an event that would become known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh (which coincidentally wasn’t that very bloody). The religious ideas behind the excursion were muted but still powerful. In England’s eyes, Catholic Spain, allowed to flourish and creep further up the coast, would be a direct threat to England’s many colonies, all of whom were Protestant and were filled with various settlers who were discomforted by the idea of Spaniards in America. The “War of Jenkins’ Ear” was not a religious struggle, but the spiritual struggles present between Spaniard and Briton were very obvious and definitely set the tone throughout the conflict.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 23, 2012

Huguenots and the Cape of Good Hope

It has consistently come up in my research that a rather large number of Huguenots fleeing the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 1680s settled in South Africa. The notion has always seemed strange to me . . . dark and wild Africa, as Europeans viewed it at the time, was hardly a place for pious-minded individuals. Or was it? While one might think of Africa in terms of savannas, hidden tribes, and exotic animals, there were bundles of beautiful farmland ripe for the taking. Just what those who had implemented the “Protestant work ethic” needed most. Many have argued that the slaughter and exile of French Protestants was detrimental to France’s financial health, few at that time in history there were perhaps no harder-worker individuals whose earnestness and integrity in business dealings gave them a name even among their enemies.

The only problem with this seemingly-perfect solution was that few of the Huguenot settlers were farmers, and many were venturing into an area they had never before attempted. There were other professions to champion in South Africa, of course . . . medical positions, shoemaking, carpentry, vineyard-tending, teaching, etc.

So why here? Prior to the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685, Huguenot travelers and businessmen developed a fascination for the Cape of Good Hope. Probably the first Huguenot in South Africa, Marie de la Quellerie, gained fame for settling at Table Bay. A portrait shows her as light-haired and plainly-dressed, with an unusual tab-fronted head-covering that marks her as a modest woman. Perhaps better known in the region was her husband, Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck. Their intercultural family setting was very common throughout the 1600s, as many Dutch Calvinists in New York and other areas married into Huguenot families.

Throughout the 1680s, both desiring colonists and knowing of the horrors French Protestants were facing, officials decided that South Africa would serve as a stab at religious freedom. Like many other regions in which the Huguenots settled, French was never elevated to the status of official tongue. The Dutch, who were proprietors of the Cape of Good Hope at that time, forbade any language but Dutch to be spoken professionally. Yet they looked upon the Huguenots --- fellow Calvinists --- fondly, and were quite generous with the land they bestowed. One particular region in South Africa where the Huguenots settled became known as “Franschhoek,” “French corner,” and today there is a large Huguenot memorial in that place.

At Franschhoek there is a large complex of memorials and museums. At the wine cellar complex, which symbolizes one of many trades in which the Huguenots flourished, there is a plaque that reads, “After darkness comes light.” In the later years of the 17th century (and indeed, throughout much of the 16th and 17th centuries) it must have seemed to the Huguenots as if there was nowhere to hide, as if they would eventually be funneled into the charnel-house of prejudice and intolerance.

I have randomly chosen a few of the family heads who settled in South Africa between the late 1600s and the mid-1700s: Pierre Dumont, an agriculturist, who was married to Cecile d’Atis; Jacques Naudé, a sailor, married to Suzanne Taillefert; Abraham Prévost, married to Anna van Marseveen; and Durand Sollier, a shoemaker, who was married first to Marthé Petel and secondly to Isabeau de Villiers. Interestingly, Abraham Prévost was born in 1670, thus he was only about eighteen when we arrived in South Africa. What an exciting life he must have led . . .

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 22, 2012

What’s In a Name? What Our Protestant Ancestors Called Themselves

The names that came to represent various Protestant denominations of the 16th century were not always the names our ancestors would have known or would have preferred to be called.

Anabaptists. Anabaptists had many names for themselves, including Brethren and simply Christians. Their enemies, however, called them “Anabaptists” (“re-baptizers”) or even “revolutionaries.”

Anglicans. In the 16th century, the Anglicans, much like the Huguenots, preferred the term “Reformers.” They also used “Protestants” to distinguish themselves from Catholics, whom they thought of as “old believers” or as belonging to the “old religion.”

Calvinists. Like Martin Luther, John Calvin’s followers balked at being called “Calvinists” as if they followed a man instead of God. Scottish Calvinists became known as Presbyterians, while French Calvinists, Huguenots, preferred “Reformed.” (Réformé)

Lutherans. Martin Luther fought against his followers being known as “Lutherans,” wanting all the praise and glory to go to God. He disliked the idea of lending his name to new evangelical doctrines. However, the term “Lutherans” soon became popular and was used even among believers.  Lutherans probably came to dislike the name when every 16th century Protestant, even those of the Calvinist faith, was referred to as “Lutherans” by enemies who simply did not care to learn the differences.

Huguenots. No one is exactly sure where this name came from, but it was first coined by Catholics and used in derision against their foes. Huguenots preferred to be called “Reformed.”

If one were to call 16th century Protestants by any of these controversial names, the calling might or might not have been offensive depending on the group. For instance, while “Calvinist” and “Lutheran” were not preferred, they were not particularly offensive. “Huguenot,” on the other hand, had become an epithet, although many Frenchman doubtlessly disregarded its origins and used it for themselves anyway.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21, 2012

Cuius Regio, Eius Religio: Why My Ancestors Left Germany

The reason that Germany, then known as the Holy Roman Empire, escaped widespread religious wars might be because of the following principle: Cuius Regio, Eius Religio. “Whose region, his religion.” It was a simple concept . . . in 1555, when the law was passed, Germany was divided into smaller regions ruled by princes. Whatever faith the prince of a particular territory held, that would be the only official --- and permitted --- religion in his sphere of influence. In theory it worked, but people were not and have never been cookie cutters.

It was difficult in those times to just pack up and move to another territory so your faith could be accommodated. Hard-working families could not bear to leave their mills, vineyards, and farms behind. So if you were Lutheran and your prince was Catholic, you might expect to be harassed --- or worse --- until you could somehow move to a Lutheran territory. Some were especially beleaguered by this new law. Calvinists, Anabaptists, and other splinter groups were not in the mix, so if your family happened to adhere to those beliefs, you would be hard-pressed to find a place to live at all. Over time, Germans grew tired of this hassle and decided it was a better bet to move to a place where Cuius Regio, Eius Religio was an unknown concept. They chose the beautiful “New World” currently being colonized by grand old England.

And the rest is history.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 20, 2012

The Attack on Fort Caroline, French Florida . . . Always Remember

The date was September 20th, 1565. The Great Siege of Malta had ended only nineteen days earlier. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was about to reach the ripe old age of five months. St. Augustine, Florida, the “Nation’s Oldest City,” was celebrating its twelfth day of life. William Shakespeare was nearly seventeen months old. It had been nineteen months since the death of the celebrated Michelangelo. September 20th was a “day that would live in infamy” for its brutalized residents, but a day that went sadly unnoticed throughout the rest of the world.

On the 19th of September, Fort de la Caroline, a French Protestant colony on the banks of the Riviere de Mai or St. Johns River in wild sixteenth century Florida, must not have looked like much to the untrained eye. It was rather small, flimsy, and ill-defended, and recent hurricane rains had caused significant damage.  Yet to the inhabitants it represented life in so many ways. First, it protected them from the outside world, from marauding natives, wild animals, ravaging weather, and Spanish conquistadors who bayed for their blood. Second, it was a bastion of dreams, of religious freedom, of hope of a new life.

When the 20th dawned, that ramshackle fort on which so many lives were staked was soon to be an ugly memory. The raid came without warning. Frenchmen slept exhaustedly after days of gale-force winds and unstoppable torrents. They sprawled out in tents, cottages, and makeshift hammocks. Children slept close to their mothers’ sides, and men in nightshirts, discarding the demands of the militia to play civilian even if just temporarily, guarded their families. “Butchers and bakers and candle-stick makers” slept and dreamed of equality.

Then the Spanish came.

It was a grossly-unmatched fight. Few Frenchmen managed to grab weapons, and women and children sought shelter while their husbands and fathers helplessly fought off the conquistadors. There had been no time to dress, no time to put on armor. The Spanish were fighting an ‘army’ of soldiers in nightshirts. The fight lasted only thirty minutes, and when that time had elapsed, a barren wasteland of nightmares emerged where a fresh new land of dreams had so recently existed. Most of the men were killed outright. The women and children were taken prisoner and hustled away to places unknown; their fates were never recorded. And little La Caroline, the pride and joy of her settlers despite her ramshackle state, somberly flew the Spanish flag.

Today let us remember the dead --- and the dreams that could never be.

Other posts about the subject:

March 29, 2012 (Fort Caroline pilgrimage)
April 19, 2012 (The women of Fort Caroline)
April 26, 2012 (Fort Caroline virtual tour)
July 17, 2012 (French Huguenots in Florida from beginning to end)

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 19, 2012

When I wrote about my Huguenot 9th-great grandmother two days past, I wanted to find a hymn that embodied the courage and faith that our Protestant immigrant ancestors so bravely showed by the grace of God. I also wanted to paint a picture of how they struggled with persecution daily. The following song, written in 1914, captures the spirit well.

O Church of God Triumphant
E. M. Bangs

O Church of God, triumphant
O’er human doubts and fears,
Which in the faith of ages
Comes marching thro’ the years;
Baptized with blood of martyrs,
With conflicts dearly won,
Beset with persecutions,
Yet ever marching on.

O Church of God, triumphant,
With conflicts dearly won,
Beset with persecution,
Yet ever marching on.

With backward look we see thee,
Thy scattered members few;
We see thee struggling ever
Their courage to renew;
Strong amid tribulation,
Uprising from each fall,
We see thee marching onward
Triumphant over all.

O Church of God, triumphant,
With conflicts dearly won,
Beset with persecution,
Yet ever marching on.

O refuge of the nations,
On thee our hope is stayed;
Thy courage thro’ the ages
Shall keep us unafraid;
And with thy strength increasing
Till earthly years are past,
God help thee to march onward
Triumphant to the last.

O Church of God, triumphant,
With conflicts dearly won,
Beset with persecution,
Yet ever marching on.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 18, 2012

1546: Death and Rebirth

What did the year 1546 mean for the Protestant world? In February, Martin Luther, that rough-around-the-edges, heartfelt, seasoned theologian, had thrown off the trappings of persecution to enter into eternal rest with the Savior he had championed. Without Luther one might think that the “new thought” would be crushed, that all looked bleak. But the wheels of change had already been turning so boldly and proudly that there was no stopping the Reformation now. Many other men and women had taken up Luther’s cause. The year 1546, though it may have seemed uneventful enough on the outside, sported a great many events that could have changed the course of history in one way or another.

For instance, in June, England and France, longtime rivals (despite copying each other at court) reconciled during the ‘Italian War’ with the Treaty of Ardres. Such concessions, no matter how small, gave Europe a break, because everyone knew that warring countries meant heartache even for those who were not directly involved. Yet in July, the Schmalkaldic War began in Germany. The name of this obscure war kept coming up while I was studying Martin Luther, and I had no idea what it was about. Apparently it was a religious war fought between Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth’s army and the Lutheran princes. The name ‘Schmalkaldic’ comes from the ‘Schmalkaldic League,’ headed by the Lutheran faction. This short war ended only a year later but further separated Germany’s Protestants and Catholics.

Also in 1546, George Wishart, Scottish martyr, died for refusing to pledge allegiance to Catholic doctrines. The date was March 01st. He was a friend of John Calvin and was known as a Scottish Protestant hero. Anne Askew (see post of March 20th) was burned for her Protestant beliefs on July 16th. To delve more into the Italian War mentioned above, France, whose king had committed the ultimate “unforgiveable sin” by siding with Ottoman Emperor Suleiman, butted heads with England and the Holy Roman Empire. Interestingly enough, at this time, France, who hated Protestantism and had thoroughly persecuted believers, was begging for intervention from a good many Protestants in Germany.

So 1546 was a busy year, for better and for worse. And it was certainly far from dull.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012

To my Huguenot 9th-Great Grandmother

Dear unnamed lady: You must have been a strong and amazing woman. First of all, you were a French Protestant of the seventeenth century, which was in itself a feat of bravery. Second of all, you were married to a Protestant, and intended to raise a child in your faith. It would have been easy for you to abjure the faith at any time, to take a stab at a “normal” life with all the rights and privileges your nation allowed those of the Catholic religion.

Whether or not you were personally touched by the king’s dragoons billeting in your home or the violence that often accompanied such bullying, you certainly knew those who were. You must have looked upon the complete lack of personal rights as a grief and fear too heavy to bear. You were considered a traitor to your king simply for adhering to the faith that was so near and dear to your heart. And of course, your little son, so very young, was in danger of being snatched away from your arms and raised in a monastery, brought up to abhor the same doctrines you have so lovingly taught.

I do not know your name, your background, your station in life, or if you had any other children. I assume not, or at least they have never been mentioned. You must have been sick with dread when, after escaping to Switzerland, your husband and the father of your child was detained and you were forced to go on ahead. But you never gave up . . . if you had, if you had lain down and died, if you had fallen plague to fear and gone back to France in the hopes of conversion, everything might have changed --- for the worse.

Instead, you pushed forward, and eventually felt the joy of seeing your husband again. Unnamed grandmother, I would love to have known you, for it is obvious you shared the same beloved principles of Scripture, faith, and truth as I do, that you revered Christ, admired the Reformation, and were strong and brave enough to even leave your homeland so you might believe freely.  

Readers, if you have Huguenot ancestors, stop and think about them. They were courageous and intrepid folk, risking everything to emigrate, facing not only physical dangers but the mental stresses of learning a new language, a new culture, and a new way of life. They could have succumbed and given into the norm just to have a “regular” life, but their faith, their interpretation of God and His commands, meant more to them than life itself.

What a proud heritage we claim!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16, 2012

The Munster Rebellion of 1534

As Anabaptists were the forerunners of modern-day Amish and Mennonites, they were a peaceful folk, disavowing war and political intrigue, seeking a very simple life. Yet in 1534 there were quite a few breakaway Anabaptists who believed, as their Calvinist and Lutheran brethren did, that force and rebellion was sometimes necessary to implement change in the local government. Thus began Germany’s Munster Rebellion. Many of these men equated the “New Jerusalem” with this old and venerable city --- though only they knew why.
This is where the story gets strange . . . and unexpected. Jan Matthys, a fanatical Anabaptist, recruited a handful of “holy soldiers” and stormed Munster, which, of course, did not go very well. He and his followers were slaughtered mercilessly. However, another man did succeed, and granted himself absolute power. His name was John of Leiden. Now, this was not the sort of man with whom ordinary Anabaptists wanted to identify. He, too, was a fanatic, but his polygamous personal life and insistence on absolute authority convinced foreign Anabaptists exactly what they should not strive to accomplish. John of Leiden was eventually convicted by the magistrates of Munster and was killed for his rebellion.  

Despite all this odd warfare, which lasted two years, there was a positive side: Anabaptists took note of the violence and bloodlust that offshoots such as Leiden and Matthys possessed, and when Menno Simons emerged as an eminent leader and preached mercy and peacekeeping, his words were duly heeded. He determined that the Anabaptists would cease being known for military force. Partially due to his influence, many gladly adopted the peaceful and amiable stance for which the Amish and Mennonites are known today. They had seen that they, too, were subject to the unattractiveness of minds gone astray. No religion is or was perfect . . . every Protestant denomination has its share of “black sheep.” What matters is that ill-gotten ideas were put away and Christ took highest precedence. 

Amen to that.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 15, 2012

The Edict of Amboise: March 18, 1563

Hard-pressed as they were, France’s Protestant community often received concessions that Protestants in other countries did not . . . they were often given edicts, which, though rarely fair to the Huguenot community, were designed to prevent warfare and overt bloodshed. One such edict was the 1563 “Edict of Amboise.” The event that triggered it was a tragic one, or rather, two. Troubles began in March 1562 with the massacre of Vassy (see post of August 30th) and the subsequent War of Religion.

In a bold move, queen mother Catherine de’ Medici, acting on behalf of her underage son, bestowed lukewarm religious freedom upon the Huguenots in the hopes that doing so would restore peace. The Edict of Amboise was rather liberal for the day, as Protestant nobility had the liberty of practicing their faith in the comfort of their homes without being subject to outside inquiries. For the benefit of common people, only certain townships were designated as “Protestants welcome.” (On second thought, “welcome” is too generous a word for the 16th century. One ought to say “Protestants tolerated only because the queen mother decreed it so.”) Paris stepped up and declared the Edict of Amboise an abomination, unwilling to grant such concessions even in the face of possible warfare.

There were various smaller events that took place as a consequence of the Edict of Amboise. For example, the Protestant Louis de Condé, a principle player in the War of Religion, was freed from captivity. He and others must have been wary of those who honored the peace only under great protest. Paris was not the only city that refused the edict. The majority of France was still unwilling to accept Protestants as Christian counterparts, and Rouen, Toulouse, and Dijon also bitterly decried the Edict of Amboise. Thankfully the document was eventually passed in every province. Those who had opposed it bitterly soon reaped the benefits of the edict, for there was no warfare until 1567. Even such a small handful of years free from bloodshed were a blessing in a time when religious conflicts began at the drop of a hat.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, September 14, 2012

September 14, 2012

Trouble in Germany: What Exactly Gave Birth to the Reformation?

I often imagine the explosion of excitement --- and danger --- that erupted so suddenly onto the European scene in the early 1500s and beyond. The Protestant Reformation was such a driving force, such a complete deviance from the norm, such a revolution, that it is difficult to imagine how exactly it unfolded. Germany was certainly not high on the list of “countries to make a splash” at the time. So why Germany? Why did Protestant thought flourish here in the Holy Roman Empire when countries such as France and Spain never accepted the “new religion”? I have a few ideas.

I have studied German history back to the Roman era and beyond, and one thing that became crystal clear was that Germans, “barbarians” as their enemies called them, violently resisted any form of Romanization. They had no intentions of accepting Roman rule as the Celts and other native tribes later would. Thus, as Christianity was spread on the tip of a sword via a fellow Germanic tribe known as the Franks, and as Roman church proceedings probably always remained foreign to German-speakers, there must have been a sense of uneasiness with Catholic doctrine that other countries might not have felt. Over time, however, it became so ingrained that the German populace became accustomed to it.

Another issue was the illiteracy of the common medieval German, and the fact that the average man or woman of the 16th century had little access to religious literature. People had no way to distinguish for themselves whether a new “fad” was beneficial or dangerous. They obediently believed whatever was pressed upon them. In Martin Luther’s era, the sale of indulgences skyrocketed, and men such as Johann Tetzel put a new spin on the idea. 

Tetzel appealed to German emotions by employing plays and posters that showed their loved ones in torment. He explained that if they did not pay a certain amount of money, their beloved departed friends and relatives would moan and lament that their own children did not desire to save them. Faced with this horror, Germans hurried to empty their pockets, playing right into the manipulation of those trying to raise money for Rome. This particular thought always bothers me, since, having mostly German ancestry, I think of my ancestors being subjected to these “skits” and feeling such great desperation that they needed to do whatever they could to save their loved ones. 

The average 16th century German was hard-working and devout, but he began to see that a great amount of his earnings never reached his family. The medieval Catholic Church funneled German coins into the construction of St. Peter’s and other projects. Perhaps without Martin Luther’s teachings ordinary Germans would have rebelled on their own, but Luther’s sudden promise of a Christian life without spending every coin on indulgences came like a godsend. They greedily drank up the idea that would be a Christian without the self-denial and blind obedience to which medieval and Renaissance man was subjected. 

When Protestant thought emerged, the German populace moved away from indulgences and began to ponder questions of a more theological nature. The printing press produced various pamphlets explaining the Reform and encouraging Germans to think for themselves instead of taking marching orders from local officials. It is indeed fascinating to ponder why Germany never suffered religious wars as did France, and never became a center for religious bloodshed as did France and Spain. Why, when Italy, Spain, and France remained unfailingly Catholic, did Germany, the “Holy Roman Empire,” cling so faithfully to the five solas of the Reformation? 

One might say that the Lord works in mysterious ways.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 13, 2012

"Massacre at Matanzas": Analyzing a Portrait Bit-By-Bit

On March 27, 2012, I stepped into the wilds of Matanzas Inlet, fourteen miles from St. Augustine, Florida, intending to honor the lives and memories of about 245 French Protestant men martyred here in September and October 1565. Though it was indeed an incredible feeling to see this marker for myself (above) I took note that there were a lot of things that did not really make sense on the portrait, things that may not be 100% accurate. So I decided to break down the image and see what was true and what was false. I apologize for the quality of the photos, as the marker is very old and at times hard to see.

What the marker shows: Every captured Frenchman except one is dressed in what appears to be dark trousers and blue shirts.

The probable truth: It is very unlikely that each man would be dressed exactly alike. Also, breeches were much more voluminous in this era, not fitted and to the knee like these appear to be. (There might have been some who wore more practical breeches, but there is nothing to suggest that these men did). While sailors might have all worn the same kind of shirts, they still would have been in various stages of disarray. 

What the marker shows: A man dressed in black kneeling in the bottom left. I do not know who this is supposed to represent. Is it one of the Catholic priests that came along on Pedro Menéndez de Avilés’ expedition? Is he praying for the men to be released or believing, as many did in those days, that the actions were justified? Is he meant to be a Protestant minister praying before his martyrdom? Is he meant to be French admiral Jean Ribault, whom I believe is wearing red and is featured up further on the portrait? If a priest, who? If a minister, there were no Protestant ministers at Matanzas.

The probable truth: Since I believe the man in red to be Jean Ribault, and the man in black standing at the top of the dunes to be Pedro Menéndez, the only logical explanation is that this was probably meant to be Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales, who was indeed present at the Matanzas massacres (at least the one in September) and wrote about the event in his annals.

What the marker shows: Two men lying dead, while the rest quietly await their martyrdom.

The probable truth: This is not how Matanzas happened. Men were ferried across Matanzas Inlet by tens and maneuvered behind the sands so their fellow Frenchmen would remain in the dark about Spanish intentions. There would not have been two men already vanquished while the rest stood and looked on.

What the marker shows: A man in red standing in the center right, dressed finely.

The probable truth: This is likely meant to be Admiral Jean Ribault. I imagine that even after a shipwreck he would have found some way to make himself presentable, and though he may not have worn bright red, it is fairly obvious that the figure is meant to be Ribault.

What the marker shows: A man standing at the top of the sand dunes, holding a sword and a Spanish flag. I cannot make out the flag. A red-and-white flag below, however, is probably the banner of Castile and Leon.

The probable truth: This is almost undoubtedly Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who “masterminded” the raid on French La Caroline and was responsible for both Matanzas massacres. He even looks ominous standing up there, waiting for more Frenchmen.

What the marker shows: Spanish soldiers carrying various weapons, as well as weapons sticking up out of the ground. Most appear to be spears. The soldier at the far bottom right carries a nasty-looking halberd
The probable truth: Conquistadors would have carried a wide range of weapons, including spears and halberds. Why exactly the artist chose to have them sticking in the ground, I am not sure.

In closing: The men were brought over in small boats, ten at a time (see small red boat in middle right of marker, and Frenchmen waiting on the other side of the inlet). They were forced to cross the Matanzas Inlet to get to the other side in the attempt of (what they thought was) surrendering. Though I am uncertain why a small “island” has been drawn in the middle of the inlet, the rest of the scenery is probably accurate . . . mostly sand, some beach grass, and plenty of water.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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