Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31, 2012

October 31, 1517 - October 31, 2012 . . .

Happy Reformation Day!

If there is one truly Protestant holiday, it is Reformation Day. But Reformation Day is about more than just “hammering the theses to the church door” and dressing up like Martin Luther. For those of us with Protestant ancestors and who still practice one of the “Reformation faiths” ourselves, it is a day of liberation, separation, new beginnings, and, of course, grace. It is more than just a silly alternative to Halloween. Many of our contemporaries might not be so keen on watching us celebrate a day of breaking from the norm, but we understand what it meant and means . . .

Freedom of conscience.

I am sure there were always those who did not feel quite right about the established order of the day. Perhaps they were scholars. Perhaps they were common men who for some reason had been given the rare gift of literacy. They did not condemn Catholic belief in others, but rather trekked along for lack of another option. Then suddenly, everything exploded all at once, and the Bible became available in German and in many other languages. Many people said, “This is it! This is what I believe! We are doing something that has never been done before!” Or perhaps they had believed in the ancient Church and had their minds changed by something, whatever it might have been, that became known to them throughout the Reformation.

I often imagine that era. I would not have wanted to live then . . . being Protestant, I doubtless would have anticipated some inglorious fate . . . but to somehow have seen those moments when people were affected by the Gospel and were able to choose their faith for themselves would be incredible. Many people do not give Reformation Day its due. They mourn it as a day of schism, or they attribute the evils that would come in the future to that sudden breaking point. But we should all be proud. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses did not fix things. They did not guarantee that everyone would respect these newfound Protestants, nor that every Protestant would be a model Christian. They did not safeguard against men and women of both sides ignoring the “better angels of their natures” and going haywire in the name of personal faith.

What they did do was introduce the five solas to the world: Faith alone, grace alone, for the glory of God alone, Christ alone, and Scripture alone. They gave people the freedom to choose. They brought a life of personal interpretation, a possibility of something new and daring and beautiful and stunning, into a world that knew only one interpretation. They produced martyrs --- and while the way in which these Protestant witnesses died was horrific, their steadfastness, grace, and love of God inspired all, even to this day. The Protestant work ethic was born. The quiet and sturdy heritage for which the Reformation is so well-known was propelled onto America’s shores and became the bedrock of our spiritual history.

Reformation Day is our heritage, our legacy. Our moment of understanding. Our moment of standing up for Scripture and saying, “This is how I will serve the Lord.” Our breaking away from the established orthodoxy and blazing a new path toward God. Happy Reformation Day!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30, 2012

In Defense of the Puritans

In my post of May 01, I mentioned the long-told tale of English Puritans banning Christmas. Today I decided to take a look at how the Puritans were perceived, why they did the things they did, and how others viewed their decisions. Christmas was not all the Puritans disliked. (And, of course, their dislike of the holiday had nothing to do with it being the birth of Christ but rather with the all-out merriment fest it had become). They also hated sports. But why? Think about it. Scantily-clad youths running around tackling each other, giving the women more of a show than they bargained for! And it got worse.

In 1618 King James published the “Declaration of Sports,” which cheered the practice of young men letting out pent-up energy by playing around on Sunday. Puritans had long been defenders of the Sabbath. Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy did not involve youngsters wrestling and screaming on the church lawn as they had done in the Middle Ages. One might be tempted to discredit the Puritans for decrying theater and dance as well. Many Christian communities still frown on dancing due to personal contact. And theater? In the 1600s, when the female populace had made a trend of dressing immodestly and carrying such fashions into theater, it would hardly have been Christian to support such a pastime.

The Anglicans and Lutherans who also called England home were not too pleased with these “troublemaking” Puritans and their strict laws. Whether or not they even considered them fellow Protestants, I have no idea. The Puritans viewed the Anglicans, at least, as not having gone far enough in the Reformation. Many people talk glowingly (and with great relief) about the time when somber Puritanism was banished as the law of the land and the partying style of the “English Restoration” went off again in full swing. “Normalcy” was cherished and Puritans were mocked and scorned as fun-hating, somberly-dressed wretches. I do not ascribe to Puritan beliefs, but I find this sad . . . and unfair. But, as the saying goes, “the victor writes the history”!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012

Time for another trek through Cyber Hymnal. I’ve begun to dig a little deeper, to go beyond the title and really analyze the song for what it’s worth. I particularly enjoy the songs and poems of Fanny Crosby, but lately I have been studying Isaac Watts’ spectacular hymnody. The old-fashioned flavor only makes the lines more pleasing --- at least in my opinion --- and I was pleased to find Watts’ “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” drawn from Psalm 123. I can imagine my Protestant ancestors taking great comfort in these words. As the hymn was written in 1719 and was already in existence when the majority of my ancestral families arrived in America, it is entirely possible that many of them did so.

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
Isaac Watts

My shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28, 2012

Four Swiss Sisters

I often look to martyrologies and other online resources to find Protestant martyrs and sufferers, and usually a name (or names) jumps out at me and silently begs to be remembered. But who to choose? Often it’s a name where my eyes fall, or an ancestor surname, or something I notice out of the blue. Today there was a very compelling story --- very unique, one such as I had never seen before.

One might forget that the Anabaptists were persecuted not only throughout the 1500s but the 1600s as well (this is when my own ancestors suffered under Swiss authority) and many martyrs were created during this time. Even those who survived death were treated horrendously. The unusual part is the four names I saw: Barbara and Elizabeth Meylin, Barbara Kolbin, and Ottila (Ottilia?) Mulerin. I’m not sure why two sisters would both be named Barbara (unless, as in German custom, one might have been Barbara and then one Anna Barbara, or something like that) but their story was intriguing. How old were they? Did they have living relatives who would have been horrified to see almost an entire family suffer out in such a way?

Sources say these four sisters (who were likely all born around the year 1586 in Zurich, Switzerland) eventually escaped torture, though they spent an awful amount of time in prison in 1639. A family genealogy site lists a Barbara Meili (very similar to Meylin) and states that this particular woman married Felix Lambrecht. Her parents were Jacob Meili and Verena Schuepp.

While Jacob and Verena did have daughters named Elizabeth and Barbara, there is no Ottila or second Barbara mentioned. This may or may not be the same family as the one mentioned in Martyrs’ Mirror. I also wondered if “sisters” might have been meant in the Christian way, such as “Christian sisters.” The article did not specify (though it seemed to mean “real” sisters) and I stand corrected if this is the case. Yet assuming they actually were related, did these “pious sisters” have husbands and children? Were their loved ones subjected to the same treatment? Some things will never be known.


(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October 27, 2012

French Wars of Religion: Battle of Moncontour, 1569

One of my big interests has always been Huguenot history, and I’ve recently become more interested in the French Wars of Religion that lasted from 1562 to 1598. Unfortunately, I haven’t definitively traced my Huguenot ancestry back that far, so I couldn’t say if I have any ancestors who fought in these epic battles, but it is a pretty good guess that either ancestors or relatives would have done so. The battle in question today is the Battle of Moncontour, which took place in October 1569.

What made this particular battle interesting was that Huguenot Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the hope of beleaguered French Protestants who needed a strong voice at court, turned to German Protestants to help in his quest against the enemy. Usually the French Wars of Religion were just that --- French --- and though many battles had foreign allies, they are seldom given credit. I find it odd that the Catholics’ allies, the Swiss, ended up inflicting heavy casualties on the Huguenots. Switzerland was known as a land of Reformed theology strongly associated with John Calvin and as a Protestant haven.

The Battle of Moncontour was a grueling one for French Protestants, and the Huguenots ended up surrendering before the enemy. One reason for their defeat was likely the crushing blow they had recently been dealt at the siege of Poitiers. Though Coligny was a practical man and had no desire to rush into things and incur more casualties, his men, likely fired up by stories of atrocities and perhaps having undergone injustice themselves, were ready to fight. This full-speed-ahead self-assurance would cost them the battle. And many lives. Germans Louis von Nassau and Wolrad von Mansfeld proved to be saviors in disguise, as it was partially due to their quick thinking that the remaining French Protestants were able to emerge in one piece and find safety.
History does not record all the details of how the Huguenots were treated, but considering it was only three years before the horrendous St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, one might guess there were ugly altercations on both sides. Admiral Coligny thankfully escaped. He determined not to give up the fight and he remained true to his word . . . soon the gates of Paris stood before him. But one thing was clear: If you were a Protestant in 16th century Paris, you were extremely unwelcome. Of course, if you were a Protestant in the 16th century, you were unwelcome nearly everywhere. We descendants can hardly study European history without being reminded of that sad, incomprehensible fact . . . 

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26, 2012

Massachusetts Natives and Christianity: The Church at Mashpee

Today I am thinking about churches. There is something ingrained in my spirit that I feel a swell of peace and excitement whenever I see a church of any denomination . . . I like to think it is that love of God and Scripture that was placed in my heart by my courageous Lutheran and Huguenot and Anabaptist ancestors. Whatever the case, I wanted to discover one of America’s oldest and most venerable churches. I came across a quite interesting structure called the “Old Indian Meeting House.” I’d never before seen anything like it . . . this church, located in Mashpee, Massachusetts, was actually built for Native Americans who had accepted Christianity. It has bravely stood the test of time.

The conversion of Native Indians is a story in itself. Unlike the Spanish Catholics further south, the predominately-Calvinist founding fathers did not establish mission systems, but they did encourage natives to come to Christianity of their own volition and to live as their white neighbors lived. Missionary efforts brought about such places as the Old Indian Meeting House. That church was constructed in the 1680s and dedicated by Deacon Hinckley.

The Wampanoags who used the church must have marveled at the distinct difference between these simple white frame English-style churches and the outdoors places of worship to which their own ancestors were accustomed. The church is still quite simple; two-story, with white siding, a pointed roof, and two windows on the second level, it also boasts two front doors. (One must wonder if the two doors were for men and women. Though I believe the colonial Quakers followed this practice, I have no idea if the New England Puritans did the same). A pair of simple windows on either side allowed sunlight to infiltrate the humble interior.

Hundreds of years ago the Old Indian Meeting House was found in a different part of town, but for some reason it became expedient to move it in the early 1700s. There is still a Wampanoag population attending this venerable old church. I found it interesting that the Wampanoags were closely associated with the landing of the Pilgrims. Corn-planting Squanto was a member of this tribe. As for particular denomination, it is indeed likely that Puritanism (Calvinism) was the original Christian faith of the Wampanoags, as most Europeans who settled in and around Mashpee held these tendencies.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25, 2012

Agnes Prest of Exeter: Protestant Pride

I often reflect that American Protestants owe a lot to England. Were it not for England first settling the northeast and allowing foreign Protestants to settle there as well, we very likely would not be living in America today. In fact, if our much-maligned Huguenot and Anabaptist ancestors had been forced to remain in Europe and would have suffered the same fates that many of their friends and relatives suffered, many of us would not even exist. Scary thought! With that realization in mind, I chose an English martyr to study, honor, and remember.

Her name was Agnes Prest, and by the time 1557 rolled around, the last few years must have been confusing to her. England had gone from Catholic to Protestant to Catholic in a very short time. Agnes took comfort in the “new faith” and embraced the Protestant Reformation . . . just when she believed it was safe to do so, as boy king Edward VI and many of his successive advisors had been Protestant as well, Queen Mary’s Catholic regime sought her out. Agnes was an honest woman who did not hesitate to speak her mind. A spinner by trade, she was Cornish by birth, setting up shop in Exeter. Yet even her quaint abode could not cheer her.

Agnes was married to a staunch Catholic and felt trapped in a household that espoused a religion she did not believe. Thus she fled her home to practice her Protestant faith freely. She lived with close companions and delved into the world of entrepreneurialism, pushing her rising troubles out of her mind when possible. As the 16th century did not allow for such freedom, she was dragged back, and legal troubles ensued. Launceton prison became her home.

“Heresy” was a word no one wanted to hear. That word meant death. Yet many, like Agnes, may have worn it as a badge of pride. It meant “being different.” Breaking the mold. Refusing to accept an official religion just for the sake of acceptance. The word “heresy,” from the Greek word haireisthai, actually means “a taking or choosing, a choice,” and that is what Protestants of this era did. They chose to break away and follow their consciences. They chose to die instead of living in what they considered error. Many lion-like men and women were produced during this time.

It was a hot August day in 1557 when Agnes’ fate was decided: she would be burned, a fate many Protestants during Mary’s reign had already undergone. She could have submitted to her husband’s faith. She could have kept quiet. But when she saw injustice, she spoke out. When she witnessed a practice she believed to be unscriptural, she protested.

Today there is a memorial dedicated to Agnes Prest and other Protestant martyrs in the English town of Exeter. Simple yet commanding, it puts one in mind of the sort of monument you might see on a battlefield --- a tall shaft with a descriptive plaque and a simple stone base surrounded by sparse trees and pavement. In a few days’ time, few strangers remembered Agnes’ name. Yet she lived on in spirit for her refusal to accept the status quo simply to regain favor. Like many early martyrs, her last words served to demean her enemies and to give courage to those who would follow in her footsteps: “I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith Christ. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that believeth in Me shall never die."

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 2012

The Huguenots As Galley-Slaves: Understanding the Galley Experience

By the seventeenth century the Huguenots of France were accustomed to all sorts of persecutions and torments, yet this era, characterized by the reign of the “Sun King” Louis XIV, produced a new kind of martyr: “Death by ship.” Being pronounced a galley slave was considered by many to be a long and tortuous death. Though it may seem kinder than being shot outright or burned at the stake, it had its own horrors.

Imagine it. Men were chained to the oars of a great galley, forced to row in tandem with other unfortunate souls, trapped for hours on end in the dark, shadowy bowels where little if any sunshine ever made its way through the cracks. If they prayed in the Protestant fashion, they were maligned, beaten, or whipped. If they complained, the same. If they shirked, fell asleep on duty, or were otherwise unable to do their work, they were often mercilessly tormented either unto unconsciousness or unto death.

Physical altercation was not the only worries. There was also the possibility of contracting some ravaging illness, which often happened. Infectious diseases spread like wildfire among so many ill and malnourished souls. This is what Huguenot men faced when they were named as galley slaves simply for refusing to recant their Protestant beliefs. So how did the survivors get through? The same way they got through everything else in life. The same way they remained strong, steadfast, and faithful though they were constantly treated as pariahs and slaughtered in their own country. They prayed. They hoped. They trusted.

My 9th-great grandfather Jean fled France in 1685; if he had not, the galley ships might have been his fate. I often wonder what would have happened to him if he had remained in Picardy and stayed Protestant. One of two things, most likely: Imprisonment or death. There was rarely a third option. Even in what might have seemed a more “modern” era full of scientific, musical, and philosophical breakthroughs, Protestants were much-hated. So Jean left. He knew there was no way to get ahead without betraying the faith he loved so well. He knew death and suffering awaited him, his wife, and their infant son. Yet it must have been frightening to travel to Switzerland, a country he likely knew very little about.

In some cases, fleeing is the most courageous thing a man can do.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23, 2012

Preparing For Reformation Day: Check-List

Are you planning to celebrate Reformation Day on October 31st? Many churches consider it a fun and meaningful substitute for Halloween, and, if you like, harvest elements can still be incorporated into the celebration. (For instance, I enjoy the “pumpkins, hay-bales, and spooky late-night hayrides with owls hooting in the bare branches” aspect of Halloween, but not the “bloody guts ’n gore” monster type of thing). If you have in mind to put together a Reformation Day party to honor the start of the Protestant movement and the heralding of the “five solas” of the Reformation, here are some ideas:

1.    Dress up. Anyone who dresses up for Halloween can certainly do it on Reformation Day. You might want to avoid the monster, vampire, and witch costumes and choose something a little more benign. Last year I dressed up as Martin Luther, complete with a hammer and the “95 Theses.” I would suggest a costume that isn’t immodest or overly “Halloween-y.” Making costumes is always fun, and they don’t have to be anything fancy or over budget. Use your imagination.

2.    Eat! German food (or Pennsylvania Dutch favorites) is always good and hearty. Putting together a 16th century buffet is another option. (Be prepared for big hunks of meat and delicately-constructed desserts with lots of marzipan). A Reformation Day bash doesn’t need food, but no party is quite so exciting without it.

3.    Study. Read the 95 Theses. Learn what they really mean, and speculate as to what Martin Luther meant when he penned them. Be a student of Reformation history and Reformation theology. Dig deep. Read the Bible and debate with yourself or with friends. After all, being able to read the Bible and interpret for oneself was a *huge* development of the Protestant movement.

4.    See if any area churches have anything planned. Many churches will mention Reformation Day or at least have some kind of a “harvest festival” that takes the edge off Halloween and its undue creepiness.

5.    Remember. Reformation Day is arguably the birthday of the Protestant Reformation (though of course there were many factors in place even earlier in time) and many lost their lives for the faiths that sprang from the Reformation. Find lists of martyrs; remember ancestors who might have been persecuted for their beliefs.

Have fun, be proud, and commemorate!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012

Little-Known Works By the Father of the Protestant Reformation

Having written about Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora’s wedding a few days past, I developed a new interest in Luther’s writings. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is only one of his works; there are many more, each one meaningful. Yesterday I discovered “God is Our Refuge in Distress”:

God is our refuge in distress,
Our shield of hope through every care,
Our Shepherd watching us to bless,
And therefore we will not despair;
Although the mountains shake,
And hills their place forsake,
And billows oe’r them break
Yet still we will not fear,
For Thou, O God, art ever near.

God is our hope and strength in woe,
Through earth He maketh wars to cease;
His power breaketh spear and bow;
His mercy sendeth endless peace,
Then though the earth remove,
And storms rage high above,
And seas tempestuous prove,
Yet still will we not fear,
The Lord of Hosts is ever near.

Luther was a go-to man. He never said anything he did not mean . . . he never wrote anything that was not from the heart, earthy, offensive, or irreverently witty as it may have been. He did not believe in mincing words. He wanted the world to see the real Luther, and he knew God valued him even when his detractors did not. Even Luther’s enemies ought to appreciate his strength of will!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21, 2012

The Huguenots of 1709-10: Why They Came and Where They Stayed

The French Protestants known as Huguenots played a huge part in the development of early America, and there were few places they didn’t settle . . . ironically, though, they generally avoided their fellow Frenchmen, preferring to remain among the Englishmen and Germans who accepted their views and shared their Protestant faith.

Colonies of Huguenots grew up around New Paltz, New York and Manakin, Virginia, among other sites. But the colonization was especially prolific in 1709-1710, when large numbers of French Protestants arrived from Germany and Switzerland. This particular group came as a response to England’s Queen Anne’s offer of new opportunities and religious freedom. Life for these settlers was harsh; they were forced to weather a “stopover” in London, and when they finally reached New York, many chose to move south to Pennsylvania.

Besides the “Queen Anne Huguenots” lead by Reverend Joshua Kocherthal, there were the aforementioned colonies at Manakin and New Paltz and additional settlements full of Huguenots in North Carolina. The North Carolina Huguenots camped out around the area of Neuse River and later founded New Bern, which was named for Bern, Switzerland. Many Huguenots came from Switzerland to America, having been born in that country rather than in France due to their families having fled persecution.

It is interesting to note that by this time in history there were large numbers of Huguenots in England, Scotland, and Germany, as well as America, and that South Africa still hosted a good many Huguenots or descendants of Huguenots. Their homeland of France may not have wanted them, but French Huguenots disseminated their values, faith, and industry across the globe, much to the benefit of those nations among whom they settled.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October 20, 2012

Died For the Cause: Leonhard Kaiser

He was one of many “new believers” just struggling to stay alive in a time of bloodshed and religious fanaticism. Leonhard Kaiser had adopted the Lutheran faith and there was no going back. In Sharding, which is now located in Austria but what was then part of heavily-Catholic Bavaria, his daring espousal of Protestantism caught up with him. It started when his father became ill . . . this circumstance would eventually take Leonhard’s own life, but in a far less predictable way. He was a Christian man and would not leave his father to fend for himself, thus he traveled back to Bavaria in the hopes of tolerance.

Unfortunately for Herr Kaiser, the civil magistrates had a strict policy: Life was for “true believers” . . . only death awaited those who dared to be different. Kaiser’s decision to teach Protestant doctrines, admirable but risky, did not help matters. He was arrested, questioned, and sentenced. Martin Luther himself got wind of Kaiser’s struggles and began writing words of encouragement. Many looked to Kaiser’s fortitude to strengthen their own convictions. There was a new breed of man in Europe, a breed not only accustomed to a martyr’s lot but strangely peaceful toward it, as they understood that in giving their life for the faith they would see Christ face-to-face.

Leonhard Kaiser was given no mercy. On August 16, 1527, in Scharding, he was burned at the stake. 

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19, 2012

Martin and Katie’s Wedding: The “Protestant Family” Prototype

If you had told Father Martin Luther and Sister Katharina von Bora that they would be married in a few years’ time and would eventually become the parents of six children, they would have likely condemned you for witchery . . . or at least have laughed in your face. Neither of these key players in the Protestant Reformation could have ever foreseen such a future. Katharina, placed in a nunnery at just five years of age, likely gave up on any dreams she might have had of becoming a mother. And then fate --- God’s hand --- reached out and plucked up these two faithful servants, melding them together in a relationship that would become legendary.

Martin Luther actually had some fairly colorful things to say about the possibility of marriage. Yet he saw the hand of God behind the sudden addition of Katharina von Bora in his life: “Suddenly, and while I was occupied with far different thoughts, the Lord has plunged me into marriage.” This tongue-in-cheek admittance of a higher power was so Luther . . . he may not have been prepared for it, but he would go with it, because he was powerless to second guess the God he so vehemently followed.

The wedding date was June 13, 1525. Neither was sure of their feelings for the other, but in the following months and years it would become very clear that a deep and abiding love was in the making. They took their vows before Johannes Bugenhagen, and though they were not the first reformers to marry, their marriage set the standard for the model Protestant family and for the pastor’s family as well. I read recently that Katie’s wedding ring was found on the grounds of the “Black Cloister” where the Luther family lived, and also that you can buy replicas of this ring (for a hefty price!) I wondered how she might have lost it and what story was behind that tragedy . . .

I sat silently while typing this post and wondered about the details that will never be known. Was there music? Dancing? Singing? What did “My Lord Katie,” as Luther would later call his indomitable bride, wear? What did Luther himself wear? Sadly, such details have been lost, or at least I have not yet discovered them. One thing was clear: neither Martin nor Katharina ever believed they would marry. Yet theirs was a loving marriage which was only enhanced by an occasional battle of wills . . . each respected the strength of character in the other. Even when it hurt!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18, 2012

Peace In the Valley

On my scattered bookshelves I have a variety of devotional books --- Lutheran, Puritan, and much in between --- and both fiction and non-fiction dedicated to faith in the Protestant tradition. One of the most touching of these is “The Valley of Vision,” from which I have already taken various writings for this blog. As there is little in this book that appeals *only* to those of the Calvinist persuasion, I believe most of it can be utilized by traditional Protestants of the “Reformation faiths.” Today’s selection is “The Valley of Vision,” the poem for which the book was named:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
    where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights,
    hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
    that the way down is the way up
    that to be low is to be high,
    that the broken heart is the healed heart,
    that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
    that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
    that to have nothing is to possess all,
    that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
    that to give is to receive,
    that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
    and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
                thy life in my death,
                thy joy in my sorrow,
                thy grace in my sin,
                thy riches in my poverty
                thy glory in my valley.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 2012

Martyr Thomas Bilney: Before Protestant England

Though England has long been known as a Protestant country, in the 1520s that was not yet the case. The newness of Protestant thought --- the emergence of Reformation doctrine --- flooded into a country that had seldom dared to think outside the box. Many were affected by this spreading faith. One such man was Thomas Bilney. Only thirty-two years old when his trials began, he had become a priest in 1519 at age twenty-four. In his personal writings he described the moment when his Scripture studies yielded unexpected fruit. “Immediately I felt a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch as my bruised bones lept for joy . . .” he admitted.

Suddenly on fire for such revolutionary concepts, he began teaching others, and many likeminded young men followed suit. Yet Bilney was about to be thoroughly tested by the Refiner’s fire. He used the priesthood to garner important positions of authority, then vehemently spoke against what he saw as error. As he did not break from the Catholic Church on every point, he was unbothered . . . at first. Eventually, though, Bilney was taken from St. George’s in Ipswich, England, forcibly removed from preaching. The dank old Tower of London became his home.

At this point Bilney’s story deviates a bit from the norm. He agreed to return to orthodox Catholicism, but in 1531 he became convinced that the doctrines of the Reformation were too powerful to deny. He again took up the Protestant banner --- in part. Bilney is an unusual martyr in that, despite loving many of the new doctrines, he never broke with Catholicism. Yet he appreciated Lutheranism and took up many Protestant nuances. He held sermons wherever and whenever he could find the time, risking life and limb to teach his followers of liberating grace. His actions, of course, did not go unnoticed. After a second arrest, his captors decreed that he should be burned. This took place at Lollards Pit in Norwich in summer 1531. He was thirty-six . . . yet his story is eternal.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012

The French Bible: How it Revolutionized the Huguenot World

Before 1523, only clergymen and those few lucky enough to be literate in the classical languages had any hope of reading Scripture for themselves. Many were interested, but few pursued the idea, both because they did not know how and because the idea of laymen reading the Bible for themselves was viewed as dangerous. Those who might have gotten their hands on a Latin translation would have doubtless been just as lost in the words as if they were reading an ancient Greek manual on horse-grooming. When Protestant thought first swept through Europe, Latin-alone was no longer acceptable.

1523 was a revolutionary year, though, considering the speed and excitement with which the Reformation gained momentum, nearly every year in the sixteenth century might be considered such. This was the year when Martin Luther’s future wife Katharina von Bora fled convent life; when the words of Christ became available to the German people; when the first Lutheran martyrs were killed for believing in “faith alone.”

Suddenly, when a French Bible appears, the masses of French men and women who were open to Protestant thought were given a beautiful gift. No more were the words of Scripture a jumble. Instead they read: ‘Car c’est par la grâce que vous âtes sauvés, par le moyen de la foi. Et cela ne vient pas de vous, c’est le don de Dieu.’ (For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God). Protestant followers read this new French Bible voraciously. They interpreted. They memorized. They cherished. They thrived. And nothing could separate them from the love of Christ. Even death itself.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15, 2012

Anabaptist Martyr Elisabeth Dirks

The early Reformation churches were full of women who dared to march to the beat of a different drum. No longer did they feel compelled to believe in the medieval Catholic Church, with which they had various doctrinal disagreements. Some women, such as Anabaptist Elisabeth Dirks, began life in a heavily Catholic atmosphere but still managed to take a stand for the Reformation. Elisabeth (also known as Lijsken) was from Friesland, a little-known province owned by the Netherlands. Like Martin Luther’s wife Katharina von Bora and many other women who later became committed Protestants, she spent many of her formative childhood years in a convent.

Sometime before adulthood, Elisabeth became inspired by accounts of martyrdom and began to wonder how anyone could love their faith so deeply that they would be willing to die for it. She soon came into possession of a Bible written in her own language. Now there was no going back. This young lady must have been rather outspoken about her disagreements, for her superiors began to suspect that she held contrary views. She finally escaped the convent under the guise of a milkmaid. The first thing she did was to become an official member of the Anabaptist fellowship. It must have been a relief. But it also opened up the door to all kinds of troubles.

Elisabeth settled in the town of Leeuwarden and moved in with a dear friend. She had a close relationship with reformer Menno Simons and was often found by his side. Officials rooted out Elisabeth and her forbidden Bible, and, believing her to be Simons’ wife, arrested her. At that point mistaken identity did not matter. Her faith targeted her whether or not she was who they said she was.

Now came out of those odd instances of “both discovered, one died, one lived.” Elisabeth’s friend somehow managed to flee, but Elisabeth bore an intense trial and many physical torments. Her captors wanted names. She gave none. “No, my Lords, do not press me on this point. Ask me about my faith and I will answer you gladly,” she said. That was all the concession she would make. After harsh words with her captors, where they asked if baptism alone merited salvation, she said, “All the water in the sea cannot save me. All my salvation is in Christ, who has commanded me love the Lord, my God, and my neighbor as myself.”

Even under torture she insisted that her modesty be respected, and, amazingly enough, her captors did her this favor. Finally it was decided that she should be drowned for her beliefs. Elisabeth did not shrink away from the fate which detractors mockingly called “the third baptism.” This horrific punishment was given on May 27th, 1549, yet even now, four hundred and sixty-three years later, her faith and courage are still respected, honored, and cherished.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14th, 2012

Elisabeth von Cruciger: Reformation Hymn-Writer and Proud German Woman

The 16th century was, in many ways, a man’s world. That is not to say that women in Christian households were never valued, but that, when it came to matters of faith, it was believe that they should “take the back seat.” Some women refused to do that. Some were so moved by the newness and excitement of Protestant thought, by the freedom to worship as they chose, that they bubbled over and simply refused to be silenced. One such woman was Elisabeth Cruciger, also spelled Creutziger.

A German woman born sometime around 1500, Elisabeth had a firsthand look at the new “model Protestant family” embodied by theologian Martin Luther, his wife “Katie,” a former nun, and their children. She considered Katharina von Bora Luther a close friend and had the privilege (or the detriment, considering whatever might have been the subject matter!) of being a frequent onlooker at Luther’s famous “Table Talks.” Like Katie, she had been sent to a nunnery as a child, and no doubt they often shared and compared experiences.

These things in and of themselves made Elisabeth an intriguing woman and a new brand of Christian. Yet her interest in songwriting put her in a different league than most women of her day. Many women enjoyed singing but few dared to write hymns . . . this was, after all, a man’s world. Elisabeth laughed and ignored tradition. Was that not what the Protestant Reformation was doing . . . ignoring traditions long set in stone, blazing a new path, setting out to do what no one had dared to do before? So she wrote. Her hymn, Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn (Lord Christ, the Only Son of God), was published in 1524 and was one of the oldest Protestant songs of worship ever penned. The year 1524 was a significant one for Elisabeth as it was also the year she married Caspar Cruciger the Elder, who had studied under Luther.

So why is Elisabeth Cruciger’s name so little-known? Women songwriters were often discredited or downright ignored. After friends and family were no longer alive to tell the truth, female authors’ rights were often superseded by others. Old stereotypes persisted from the Middle Ages, when women were to be seen and not heard. They had only a small place in church activities, and medieval Catholic hierarchy had little place for even the most devout believers. In early Protestantism, however, characterized by the “priesthood of believers,” women began to come forth and truly feel for this breakthrough faith of freedom and courageous new thought. They toiled alongside their husbands, wrote hymns, “held down the fort,” taught, preached, and witnessed. They were martyred, and showed just as much courage as their male counterparts.

So how did the first Reformation hymn written by a woman sound? What words did that Protestant wife and disciple pen?

The only Son from heaven,
Foretold by ancient seers,
By God the Father given,
In human form appears.
No sphere His light confining,
No star so brightly shining
As He, our Morning Star.

O time of God appointed,
O bright and holy morn!
He comes, the King anointed,
The Christ, the virgin-born,
Grim death to vanquish for us,
To open heav’n before us
And bring us life again.

O Lord, our hearts awaken
To know and love You more,
In faith to stand unshaken,
In Spirit to adore,
That we, through this world moving,
Each glimpse of heaven proving,
May reap its fullness there.

O Father, here before You
With God the Holy Ghost
And Jesus, we adore You,
O pride of angel host:
Before You mortals lowly
Cry, “Holy, holy, holy,
O blessed Trinity!”

The Protestant Reformation was truly blessed by women like Elisabeth Cruciger!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13, 2012

Huguenot History in the Strangest of Places

I often feel as if I am led to discover certain events, certain people, and even certain churches while embarking on my Reformation studies, and yesterday was no exception. I put the word “Huguenots” into YouTube to see if I could find any tours, informational videos, and the like. Instead I came across a lovely old church in Barnstaple, England called St. Anne’s Chapel. Like most of England’s old Protestant churches, it started life as a Catholic chapel, constructed in the 1400s. It was built as a chantry chapel.

King Henry VIII, at the start of the English Reformation, stifled such chapels and might have set the groundwork for St. Anne’s to be demolished. Yet the building persisted and became a school. Protestant history begins in earnest when French Huguenot immigrants were given permission to use the building as a house of worship. Nothing is known of how they might have felt over the idea of holding services in a chantry built for souls in purgatory, a teaching Calvinist Huguenots violently rebuffed.

St. Anne’s Chapel is one of those “must see someday” places. Located in Barnstaple in North Devon, it is, by appearance, exactly how one would expect a medieval English church to look. The small and blocky but well-accented brownstone structure can be reached by a side flight of steps that leads up into the building. The front of the church is of two sections, the left section with a medievalist three-arched window on bottom and a larger window on top, the right section with a few smaller windows.

Inside, the rounded ceiling and wooden medieval rafters are quite stunning and give testament to the chapel’s age. A handsome “mullioned” window done in the medieval style can be found at either end of the main room. The location of the former altar is probably where the Huguenots held their own services. These hardworking, ambitious silk-weavers, watch-makers, and silversmiths occupied the building from the late 1680s (when the Edict of Fontainebleau, destroying French Protestants’ rights, was published) to the early 1760s. As an added token of friendship, they were not pressed to worship in English, but rather were permitted to pray in the French fashion in their own language.

I saw an intriguing, creative documentary on YouTube that showed many rooms of St. Anne’s Chapel. The cellar, which may have been a charnel-house to store human bones when the cemetery was overrun, showed its age particularly well, still having many wooden medieval rafters and a very simple, whitewashed interior. Old tombstones were once used to patch walkways and various other exterior features of the chapel and can still be seen today. To recap, this old Catholic chapel, used as a chantry for a century, became a haven for Huguenots. Once again I am reminded that the Lord works in mysterious ways!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, October 12, 2012

October 12, 2012

October 12, 1565: The Second Massacre at Matanzas

Perhaps at this very spot, in these hallowed dunes,
about 245 French Protestants were killed for their beliefs
 and their nationality. On October 12th, 1565, over 100
men died in this manner. May they never be forgotten.
In my post of September 29th, I talked of the first Matanzas massacre near St. Augustine, Florida, and how over one hundred men were slaughtered for their Protestant beliefs and for upholding the French flag. That event was nearly too horrendous to be believed and certainly puts a different spin on early American history. Yet even more horrendous is that the exact same thing happened thirteen days later. The rest of Admiral Jean Ribault’s men were discovered near the same spot --- oddly enough --- and also became the subject of Spanish Captain-General Pedro Menéndez de Avilés’ scrutiny. He went forth to meet them and stood head-to-head with the great corsair Ribault.

At least in terms of prestige, the two men were evenly-matched, but Ribault’s troops were tattered, hopeless, and starving. It is said that Ribault was taken to see what had become of the previous company of Frenchmen. Unable to believe that the same fate would be his, he hoped for Menéndez’s mercy, trusting that perhaps for some reason this second band would not be seen as a threat. He agreed to surrender and advised that his men must each decide if they would do the same. Many of the men disappeared in the night, choosing to take their chances. Yet the rest, exhausted, bruised, and hoping for the best, agreed to surrender.

October 12th, 1565 dawned over the Florida shoreline. Menéndez, carefully planning the coming horrors in such a way that subsequent groups would not know their countrymen’s fates, ferried batches of ten Frenchmen across the Matanzas River. Ten by ten they came, silent, full of dread, apprehensive, and praying for mercy. The following account was penned by Father Gonzalo Solís de Merás, Menéndez’s brother-in-law: I have left the narrative exactly as I found it.

“The Adelantado immediately directed Captain Diego Flórez de Valdés, admiral of his armada, to bring them across ten at a time, as he had the others, and taking Juan Ribao behind the sand dunes among the shrubbery, where he had taken the others, the Adelantado made him bind Ribao’s hands behind him and thus it was also done to the others with him, as it had to the ones before, telling them they must march 4 leagues by hand, and at night, so that he could not permit them to go unbound; and when all were tied, he asked them if they were Catholics or Lutherans, and if there were any who wanted to confess.

Juan Ribao responded that he and all who were with him here were of the new religion, and he began to say the psalm of Domine memento mei; and having finished, he said that from earth he was and unto earth must they return; and twenty years more or less did not matter, the Adelantado should do what he wanted with them. The Adelantado commanded them to march, as he had the others, and with the same order, and at the same line that he had marked before in the sand, he commanded that what had been done to the others should be done to all; he spared only the fifers, drummers and trumpeters and four others who they said were Catholics, in all 16 persons; all the others were slain.”

I am particularly disturbed by the lack of acknowledgment that the French were indeed this nation’s first martyrs. They are many who are convinced that the killing of the Huguenots had little --- or even nothing --- to do with religion, that they were only being stopped before they could cause any damage to the very new Spanish settlement. It is quite difficult to believe Matanzas was not an act of religious violence, especially since, at La Caroline, Menéndez hanged men’s bodies with the inscription “not as to Frenchmen but as to Lutherans,” and boasted on burning a great many Protestant books. 

There are some who are unwilling to give the title “martyr” to Florida’s Huguenots. Examples are cited that Fort Caroline was not solely a religious base, that they “happened” to claim the Calvinist faith though it was not the reason they died. But I find that an odd assertion. The Huguenots of Matanzas were told they would be spared if they accepted Catholicism. Those who already claimed the faith were treated reasonably well, though taken captive. Those who refused were slaughtered. In my eyes there is no better proof of religious martyrdom.

After reading contemporary accounts by Father Mendoza Grajales and Father Gonzalo Solís de Merás, which state matter-of-factly that the Huguenot captives were killed for their Protestant faith, it seems fruitless to deny that this was indeed a martyrdom and should be remembered as such. The fact that they “happened to be Calvinists” was not some passing note . . . it was one of the major reasons Pedro Menéndez took the course he did. Also, if Fort Caroline was meant to be a military bastion alone, it is very doubtful that there would have been ministers, women, and children.

Those who detract from the Huguenots’ sacrifice cheapen their memory. Those who attempt to paint them as victims of circumstances, of “collateral” damage in the quest to prevent starvation by killing off unwanted prisoners, are stealing the honor these men should have enjoyed in death that they were never allowed to enjoy in life.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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