Monday, August 24, 2009

Bartholomew's Day Remembrance

In the history of the Christian Church, one of the darkest days on the calendar is August 24, known to some as St. Bartholomew's Day.

On August 24, 1572, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, began in Paris and spread throughout France, led to the slaughter of thousands (perhaps as many as 100,000) French Huguenots. Among the slain were some of the crème de la crème of France, including:
  • Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, statesman, military leader, visionary, who organized the first Protestant colonies in the New World, and whose murder triggered the massacre;
  • Claude Goudimel, composer who contributed to the widespread success of the Genevan Psalter; and
  • Pierre de la Ramée (Petrus Ramus), French scholar and educational reformer, whose "Ramist" methodology of rhetoric, logic and pedagogy influenced Puritan preaching.

On August 24, 1662, the Act of Uniformity went into effect mandating that all ministers in the Church of England submit to the Episcopal liturgy prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer or be deprived of office, resulting the Great Ejection of over 2,000 English nonconformist (mainly Presbyterian) ministers (another four hundred or so ministers were ejected from their pulpits in Scotland by the 1662 Act of Glasgow). Besides those ministers ejected, thousands were imprisoned for nonconformity, others were hunted, and many families suffered hunger and other deprivation. Those who would not conform were barred from all civil and ecclesiastical office within the kingdom. And so many were willing to sacrifice all for the sake of a pure conscience towards God that England, like France, almost a century before, lost a part of its soul that day. Besides the many farewell sermons recorded and not, Richard Baxter's poem The Resolution (found in his Poetical Fragments), which he says was "[w]ritten when I was silenced and cast out," tells of the pathos of that day, particularly in this one extract:

Must I be driven from my books?
From house, and goods, and dearest friends?
One of thy sweet and gracious looks,
For more than this will make amends.
The world's thy book: there I can read
Thy power, wisdom, and thy love;
And thence ascend by faith, and feed
Upon the better things above.

Philip Henry was among the ejected ministers and his journal records that he kept fast days on this sad anniversary in later years. Besides suffering persecution for righteousness' sake (Matt. 5.10-12), he did have another cause to rejoice soon after his ejection - on October 18, 1662, a son was born by the name of Matthew Henry, whose ministry to the world is still beloved today by many, particularly in the form of his commentary on the Bible.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding us of the anniversaries of those dark days in history....Ginny