THE ENGLISH BLACK BARTHOLOMEW
The 24th August is denominated in the calendar of the Papal apostasy, and also in that of the established Church of England, as the “Feast of Saint Bartholomew”. It was on that day, in the year
1572, that that premeditated and most infamous atrocity, the massacre of the Huguenots, the Protestants of France, was perpetrated, by order of Charles IX, when “the roads were rendered almost impassable from the corpses of men, women and childrenÂ—a new and appalling barricade”, and Paris became a sea of human blood, for which Pope Gregory and his cardinals rendered impious thanksgivings. By a strange infatuation. King Charles II, and the framers of the Act of Uniformity in 1662, ordered that it should be put into execution on the feast of Bartholomew; which was thus made thenceforth to be a day that should be doubly execrated by Protestants through all coming time. We are of the considered opinion that the very system of episcopacy, the lording over of God’s heritage by diocesan bishops having territorial jurisdiction, is one of the main pillars of Popery, is contrary to scripture, and carries within its bosom the seeds of corruption and decay.
When Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector in 1653, the object was to reform and cleanse the church. To this end, church livings were placed under the oversight of eminent divines, called “Tryers”, and faithful pastors appointed, after competent examination on the principal points of Christian faith and experience. Some of the ministers were Presbyterians, some Independents, and some Baptists, yet a remarkable uniformity of doctrine was preached. That system of Arminianism, which is the very life and soul of Popery, was not countenanced in their midst. When Oliver Cromwell died, his son Richard, unable to bear the heavy load which his father had sustained, was soon oppressed with the difficulties of his position, and abdicated the Protectorship. By treachery and intrigue, the Restoration was accomplished. Generally speaking, the Puritans were attached to a monarchy; its earlier overthrow had been occasioned not by them, but by the late misguided King Charles I, and on the death of Cromwell, most of the Puritans were agreeable to the government returning to its former course. At the death of Cromwell, 3rd September, 1658, Charles was an exile in Breda, Holland, and seizing a favourable opportunity to return as king, he issued a declaration, purposely drawn up to ensnare the unwary. Amongst other things he did “declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no more shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matters of religion which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom, and that we shall be ready to consent to such an Act of Parliament as upon mature deliberation shall be offered to us for the full granting of that indulgence”. However, the prelates were early restored to office, because Charles regarded episcopacy as one of the prime bulwarks of his throne. The Act of Uniformity was passed, and on the 19th May, 1662, the Royal Assent was given. The object was to force every beneficed minister to use and to declare his “unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the book entitled The Book of Common Prayer!” The day appointed was Michaelmas, but it was altered to Bartholomew, August 24th. On Michaelmas Day the tithes became due, and it was then that the
ministers were enabled to pay all accounts for the year. By altering the date to August 24th, the ministers would be compelled to leave their benefices without means to discharge their debts, and without money upon which to survive. Many of the Puritan ministers had no opportunity of perusing the Prayer Book prior to Bartholomew Day. The radical principle of Puritanism was reverence for the strict letter of scripture, as God’s direct message to each individual man, and as forming our sole, final, and absolute authority in religion. They had no fixed forms of prayer, because the scriptures have prescribed none; they observed no saints’ days, because the scriptures appointed none; they adhered to no rites and ceremonies but such as were appointed by the plain decrees of the New Testament. As might be expected, the ministry of ceremonies was displaced by the ministry of the Word, which included lengthy sermons. They objected to the sign of the cross in baptism, the compulsory wearing of a surplice, the forcing of people to receive the bread and wine kneeling; which practices savour of Popery and witchcraft, and with which Puritan sentiments we heartily agree to this day. John Bunyan was watching all this, and in the “Holy War” we are told how Diabolus remodelled the captured town of Mansoul turning out Mr. Conscience, the recorder, and bringing in a new set of Aldermen and Burgesses. The Puritans were betrayed, but they ought not to have been surprised. These Puritans were men indeedÂ—many were husbandsÂ—many were fathersÂ—they had their quiet studies, and saw their families in comfort. To leave these homes to exchange them for abject povertyÂ—there was a trial of faith, more easily talked of than thoroughly realised. The parsonages in many parts of England, as the corn was ripening in the summer of 1662, must have been the scenes of some remarkable struggles between conscience and care, faith and feeling. Good men were reduced to a sad dilemma. Some two thousand took their final station in the ranks of Nonconformity. We are told of the large, sorrowing congregations that assembled on the Sabbath before Bartholomew’s Day, to hear the farewell discourses of those faithful pastors who had resolved to leave, and there are two volumes of these affecting sermons still extant. “Brethren”, exclaimed Thomas Lye, of Allhallows, London, “I could do very much for the love I bear to you, but I dare not sin. I know they will tell you this is pride and peevishness in us, that we are tender of our reputation, and would fain be all bishops, and forty things more; but the Lord be witness between them and us in this. Beloved, I prefer my wife and children before a blast of air or people’s talk. I am very sensible of what it is to be reduced to a morsel of bread. Let the God of heaven and earth do what He will with me, if I could have subscribed with a good conscience I would: I would do anything to keep myself in the work of God: but to sin against God, I dare not do it”.
Peter Ince, ejected from Dunhead, Wiltshire, had to turn shepherd in the fields, and one day the wife of the master whom he served was taken dangerously ill. The authorised minister was sent for, but returned word that “he was going out with the hounds, and
would come when the hunt was over”. “Sir”, said one of the servants to the troubled husband, “our shepherd, if you will send for him, can pray very well; we have often heard him pray in the field”. The shepherd was summoned to the sick side of the sufferer, and prayed with such pertinency to the case of the afflicted lady, as greatly to astonish the husband and those present. When they rose, the husband said, “Your language and manner discover you to be a very different person to what your appearance indicates”, upon which Mr. Ince told him that he was one of the ministers ejected, and having nothing of his own left, he was content, for a livelihood, to submit to the peaceful employment of keeping sheep. The farmer thence became a good friend to Mr. Ince.
Most of the ejected pastors, however, felt that no human authority should silence them. Their language, therefore, was “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things we have heard and seen”. So, through the years of persecution occasioned by the Act, and successive penal enactments made to enforce it, they still assembled their scattered flocks for prayer in secluded houses, in out of the way valleys, and in the dark recesses of thick woods. But they were often hunted out and informed against by base wretches; who were paid for their villainyÂ—and have doubtless, also, had a subsequent reward.
Francis Bamfield, ejected from Sherbome, died in Newgate, whither he had been sentenced “for life, or during the King’s pleasure”, previously to which he had suffered eight years in Dorchester gaol. He was also founder of a Baptist church in London, which met at Pinners Hall. Thomas Worts of Burningham, Norfolk, was taken from thence to Norwich Castle with his legs chained under his horse’s stomach. Entering the old city, he was watched by a woman looking from a chamber window, who exclaimed in derision as he passed; “Worts, where’s now your God?” “Turn”, said the injured man, “to Micah 7, 10: ‘Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, where is the Lord thy God? Mine eye shall behold her; now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets'”. It is added that the woman, touched by this allusion, ceased from her enmity and became a kind friend to the man whom she had insulted.
Many other similar instances could be given of this ever memorable period of English history. Think of it! Two thousand pastors severed from their flocks, cast aside all hopes of earthly prosperity, left their homes, daily bread, libraries, with all their comforts, and went forth into the wildernessÂ—many to suffer from privation, to be hunted like partridges in the mountains, some to die in prison, and all because they could not sully their consciences by making a false oath and declaring their agreement with doctrines of man and ritual which were contrary to the Word of the Living God.