Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 03, 2012

Robert Barnes and the English Reformation

While I often feature Anabaptist, Huguenot, and occasionally Anglican martyrs of the Reformation era, I seldom mention Lutheran martyrs. This is only because for some reason, it seems more difficult to find such individuals when Anabaptism and Calvinism produced such an overabundance of witnesses. Yesterday I discovered Robert Barnes. Though not German as many Lutherans were at the time, he confessed the Lutheran creed, and this is his story.

Barnes was born in 1495 in Norfolk, England, placing him in the age bracket of many early reformers. Like many of the reformers and martyrs who started out with a strong Catholic education, Robert Barnes soon came to the Protestant faith and to Lutheranism in particular. It must be wondered if the reason for so many ecclesiastical converts had to do with the fact that those trained in the church were more literate and had studied religious matters more abundantly.

By the 1530s Barnes had taken his faith to the next level, gathering with friends for Scriptural debates and outwardly discussing Protestantism. Even his preaching began to reflect the Lutheran creed. This, according to his superiors, was a sign of alarm. Barnes found himself in Germany in the mid-1500s, probably in his late 30s or early 40s, and joyously celebrated his newfound faith with many others of like mind. He particularly cherished time spent with Doctor Martin Luther himself. Luther described Barnes as “our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest . . . this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

It was a dangerous time to be a Protestant, as every Reformation-minded individual well knew. Upon returning to his homeland Barnes initially worked between Germany and England and reveled in such a position. After a series of unfortunate political and religious events (many of which involved Henry VIII and his personal affairs) Robert Barnes found himself on the losing end. He was treated as a heretic and traitor, and the town of Smithfield became his final dwelling-place. He was burned here on July 30, 1540, aged about forty-five.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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